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60 entries from November 2005

Another round of snow warnings

Nothing to get excited about, but this time the warnings image is blinking the warning areas.

So maybe it’s meant to induce a little panic, though the weather’s been all the newsies around here can talk about all week, other than the recent Seattle monorail crash.

I figure we could use a little non-Seattle-specific panic-inducing ratings-grabbing dipshit weather coverage, though I refuse to fall for it and get mentally prepared for snow like I did previously.

Odd Netflixery

In today’s post I received a new batch of Netflix DVD goodness:

That’s right, only a shredded piece of paper that happened to have my address on it for that final selection. The United States Postal Service, living up to its stunning reputation for absolutely marvelous service, delivered to me this shredded chunk of paper because, well, it had my name and address on it.

I haven’t yet reported the DVD as “lost in shipping” because the other part of the envelope, the part that held the DVD, had Netflix’s address on it. I imagine tomorrow I’ll get an email notice that they've received Madagascar and would I like to rate it?

Updates anon.

The state of our society

We are now at a stage in our civilization where my sister, who is lying at home recovering from bronchitis with the help of some Fun Drugs (cough syrup w/codeine and an albuterol inhaler that makes her Happy Fun Sister), can IM me thus, so I may stop by to rescue her on my way home should she not reply bak in a reasonable time:

Katharine (16:49:48): fyi - I am going to walk down and get my mail
Don (16:50:00): takest thou thy mobile phone
Katharine (16:50:03): I will
Katharine is away at 16:50:11.
Don (16:50:25): (and use more amusing away messages, sheesh ;)
Auto response from Katharine (16:50:12): afk

Links: Nov 30, 2005

The hazards of publicized IM screen names

TypePad, my hosting service, initiated a feature a few months back which allowed its users to indicate their online status for services such as AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and ICQ. TypePad users can include their screen names for these services in their TypePad profiles and then activate a code module that indicates the screen names’ online status on their web sites, and visitors to the sites can view that status each time they load the page.

I’ve used the service since its inception—my AIM status is indicated in the narrow column a little way below the photograph—and I’ve received some interesting IMs because of it.

This is The Week of the Robots.

Also am I a robot? Because my typing is like perfect!A couple days ago I received a random IM from an obviously 12– to 15-year-old girl who wanted to know if I like cats because she was searching Google Images on the phrase kitty kats and found a photo of a cat on my web site and also there was my screen name and oh do I like dogs too? because she likes German shepherds and wants a big dog but her mom wants a small dog like a Westie because they don’t have a fenced yard and even though they could train a dog not to leave the yard, her mom won’t even consider it yammer blah blah kill me now.

A couple days later, another IM from this person, wanting to know who Jake was. Also who’s Katharine? And what kinds of dogs do I like?

Also am I a robot? Because my typing is like perfect!

Ten minutes later, another random IM from another obviously early-teen girl wanting to know if I’m a robot because my typing is like perfect! And I never say "lol" or "b4" or stuff like that!

I’ve grown to like AIM’s name-blocking function over the last few months.

Pshaw, no snow after all

Apparently the 15 or 20 flakes I encountered on my way from the apartment offices to my townhouse were to be my entire snow experience this time around.

Oh sure, there was a slight dusting visible in some of the wind&endash; and rain-sheltered spots in the shrubbery and so on as I drove to work today, but no accumulation.

The killer: Even with no ice on the roads I use, and no rain falling, my commute time nearly doubled this morning.


Advisory published earlier today and when I walked over to the apartment offices a bit ago to drop off a check, I felt the dusty touch of small flakes sifting down on my way back to the townhouse.

Nothing’s sticking yet, and the advisory only notes the possibility of a couple inches’ accumulation by morning, followed by a shift to rain in time for the morning rush hour. It will be just cold enough and just wet enough to wreak havoc on the commute, I imagine.

Happy I don’t use the freeways for my own commute. Now all we need is some real accumulation and maybe it will be time for me to get out a jacket for the winter. :-)

A Moon Song – David Berkeley

A bit of music on my way to bed.

David Berkeley opened for Vienna Teng at The Triple Door earlier this month (see separate post). I don’t remember if he played this song there, mainly because before I saw the event listing I’d never heard of him, but I really like his songs.

Download A Moon Song (4MB MP3)
This one in particular has stuck with me the last couple of days. It’s from the album The Confluence ( product page; CD Baby link).

These are the lyrics as they appear in the liner notes. The lyrics as sung are slightly different.

A green-eyed boy, he met an autumn-eyed girl.
And she said, “Take your time, I’m from the other side of the world.”
And there were rules to be broken: there were differences to mend.
But when he looked into her eyes, there was no way he could pretend.

And she said, “Truth is sorrow, we will never be that way.”
But he said, “Truth is pleasure, that is all there is to say.”
Still some say, “Truth is hidden, it lies very far below.”
But I say, “Truth is beauty. That is all you need to know.”

Now I’m falling like the snow.
You are like the moon: I watch you as you grow.
Now you’re falling like the snow.
Still I’m hanging on the moon: I watch you far below.

And so I stand upon the wreckage of the kingdom of the world,
and I stare upon the ruins and remember this girl.
You see, the boy would be her nightingale if she would be his muse.
But when she looked into his eyes there was nothing she could refuse.
And so the green-eyed boy he kissed the autumn-eyed girl.
Their kiss is painted on the urn, watch it as it twirls.

And she said, “Truth is sorrow, we will never be that way.”
And he said, “Truth is pleasure, that is all there is to say.”
But some say, “Truth is hidden, it lies very far below.”
But I say, “Truth is beauty. That is all you need to know.”

Now I’m falling like the snow.
You are like the moon: I watch you as you grow.
Now you’re falling like the snow.
Still I’m hanging on the moon: I watch you far below.

And now I’m falling like the snow.
You are like the moon: I watch you as you grow.
And now you’re falling like the snow.
Still I’m hanging on the moon: I watch you far below.

Mysterious Skin (2004)

This was an okay movie but I hereby declare I must stop paying attention to Netflix recommendations. They’re so... depressing, usually.

DVD cover: Mysterious SkinStory follows two young men, one who thinks he was abducted by aliens when he was 8 or 9 years old, the other a hustler. Their lives have crossed on more than one occasion, told mostly in jerkily edited flashbacks interspersed with each boy’s current life events, until the big denouement and a rather abrupt ending which serves the movie pretty well in some ways but also just... dribbles off into nowhere, unsatisfactorily. I wanted to know more about what happened to each character from that point onward, but the credits roll immediately.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (pictured on the DVD cover) puts in a strong performance. The last role I saw him in was in Latter Days, another Netflix recommendation, where he played a homophobic Mormon missionary—the polar opposite of his character in this film. Brady Corbet’s portrayal of the allegedly alien-abucted teen is also absorbing and believable; he manages to be vulnerable and strangely strong at the same time, uncertain of what’s happened to him even while he reacts to situations because his mind is moving closer to revealing the truth in his memories.

Worth a single viewing but not a repeat, and only if you’re in the mood to follow slightly convoluted storytelling that just... stops.


Batman Begins (2005)

Batman_begins_dvd_coverI’ve never been a fan of comic books, but this telling of the Batman story seems more true to the idea I had of the character from the comics and graphic novels I have seen: Darker, brooding, in no way campy like the 1960s television series and the first round of Batman movies. And I think Michael Caine is a perfect choice to play harried butler Alfred.

That said, I’m not so sure Christian Bale is the right person to fill the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, even if a brooding character is what they were trying to achieve. Bale certainly does that well, of course; he’s known for getting into his roles in various amazing ways (he lost something like 60 pounds for a role as an emaciated insomniac in 2004’s The Machinist) and he played a psychotic killer to chilling effect in American Psycho. But somehow he didn’t seem quite... right, I don’t know why exactly, for this part. Like it was slightly forced somehow.

At any rate, I enjoyed his performance in this movie, and Michael Caine’s turn as Alfred was spot-on. I didn’t recognize Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon (a sergeant in this flick) until the credits rolled; I was amazed. Liam Neeson did a good job as the mentor/trainer at the beginning of the movie; I found him somewhat forgettable, however. Cillian Murphy was suitably creepy as Dr. Crane, though I initially laughed out loud when I heard them refer to the psychiatrist from Arkham Asylum as Dr. Crane; immediately flashed back to Frasier.

No one else made an impression except Katie Holmes, and she only because I slightly liked her until her recent insanity fling with Tom Cruise; now I discount her.

Beyond the acting, however, the entire movie just seemed more realistic. By dispensing with the camp angle from the previous theatrical releases, Christopher Nolan could make a movie that allowed Gotham to be any of several major cities we could all identify, and the Batgadgets were much more realistic as well. Morgan Freeman’s turn as the gadget guru was a masterful stroke; he’s commanding but understated in the role, so the gadgets can outshine him as they should.

An enjoyable reworking of the Batman film franchise, and I liked the ending’s lead toward the next villain. I’m looking forward to more films with this group of actors.


Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba (2003)

This recording of the resident Cirque du Soleil show at Walt Disney World suffers from the same problem as every other filmed Cirque du Soleil performance I’ve seen: Enthralling live performances chopped to hell by bad camera angles and horrible editing choices.

DVD cover: Cirque du Soleil: La NoubaI’ve been lucky to see several Cirque du Soleil shows live since 2002. The first I saw was Dralion, Cirque’s fusion of their own stylized productions with Chinese circus tradition. About half a year later I saw La Nouba at Walt Disney World, and later that same year Alegría, which I remember liking quite a bit but remember nothing of the plot or theme (and the description at the Cirque web site jogs my memory not at all).

I saw Dralion on Bravo several months after the live show and came away wondering just how the hell they’d made their editing decisions. Like most video productions nowadays, all of which have to cater to the MTV generation with visual razzle-dazzle that’s usually accomplished by dipshit quick cuts at random times, Dralion was just bad on television. The spectacle and grandiosity of the production were utterly lost in the clutter of the stupid camera-angle choices and the bad timing of the scene cuts.

I haven’t seen Quidam live, and I have no desire to see it live because I already saw it on Bravo. I’m pretty sure it’s much better live, but the recorded performance with its similarly bad editing has left me completely cold on it.

Similarly with La Nouba. It was an amazing show to see live. The bicyclists and trampoline performers alone were absolutely incredible, and much of the spectacle of it relied on seeing it without interruption. There’s a good reason why live shows don’t require the audience to stand up and run from one part of the seating area to another repeatedly throughout the show, so why do that in recorded performances?

Oh sure, they want to show the action from multiple vantage points, blah blah blah. In my estimation, about all they manage to do is ruin a good live performance for the DVD watcher and probably for the audience that was in the taping, with the camera booms and operators blocking the views now and then.

A five-star show rendered four stars (3.5 if Netflix allowed half-star ratings) by dippy editing choices. The biggest saving grace: The music and singing, always performed live for each show, suffered not at all by the silly visual-editing choices.


Relaxing Thanksgiving holiday

Katharine and I ventured south to the Portland area for the holiday. We drove down Thursday morning, left Bothell at 09:10, and ran into a few slowdowns south of Olympia and just before Chehalis. Didn’t cut much into our travel time, however, because we stuck to the slow lane and moved through the slow areas at 40-50 mph while the left-lane wonks repeatedly sped up and slammed on their brakes.

And we were fortunate with weather. A little fog at the start but otherwise only clouds and maybe 25 drops of rain.

We arrived at Michelle and Shannae’s townhouse at 12:45, a little earlier than I expected after the slowdowns. They pressed intoxicants on us immediately—I hadn’t had a mimosa in, what, I don’t even know how long, but years anyway—and we watched the Broncos-Cowboys game while we played Go Fish with Shannae’s son Austin, who at 7 years old has that absolute adoration of simple card games which we can all remember from our own childhoods but which annoys us a bit as adults. I hadn’t played Go Fish in long enough that I had to get a rules refresher from Austin, and it was delivered in the typically breathlessly excited way of all kids when they tell a story faster than their minds can track their tongues.

We’d been there about an hour when it occurred to me that I’d seen absolutely no signs of cooking when we arrived. There were no scents wafting about and the kitchen was immaculate, no dishes or pots and pans scattered everywhere, everything was absolutely in order. I knew we were having the holiday meal around 16:00, or so Katharine had said Michelle told her, but in that moment I wondered if perhaps we were in the right time zone.

Turns out Shannae had started the turkey roasting at 08:30 or thereabouts and everything was well under control, and my nose just doesn’t work, because they were all saying how good everything smelled and I was sniffing the air like a woodchuck, wondering WTF was going on.

That’s when Shannae opened the oven to baste the turkey and BAM there was the wave of smells that’s so comforting around the holiday season.

So shortly after the Cowboys lost in overtime and the fitful rain had begun, the dinner hour approached, and we took our seats around a fully decked-out table. I had my camera with me and didn’t take on photos, stupidly, so I can only describe the perfectly arranged table and the flavors and sights we were to enjoy.

The turkey was delicious, moist and flavorful and done just so, and it was accompanied by the usual spread: Mashed potatoes (delish!), stuffing (yum!), gravy, white and yellow corn, rolls, cranberry sauce with the correct ridges. Michelle’s uncle Donald spoke a brief prayer of thanks and off we went.

I’d chosen a Pinot Gris for the wine drinkers (me, Michelle, Shannae). Of course I don’t remember the vineyard right now, and I can’t find the receipt from the grocery store a few days ago, so I’ll have to recall it later. It was a Northwest wine, however, and went well with the vast mixture of flavors of the day.

But anyway. After dinner came Poker Night, with a lot of Texas Hold’em and a little five-card draw and a lot more wine consumption. The imbibing was pretty slow, in fact; it was the fact that from 13:00 onward I only had alcohol that left me thinking I was going to wake up deathly hungover Friday.

I dodged that bullet, however. I was so pleased. I was absolutely dehydrated, of course, and the cup of coffee certainly didn’t help that, nor did the hot shower. But the pancakes and sausage were absolutely the best meal to assuage what mild symptoms I was experiencing.

We spent the day in Full Relaxation Mode. Katharine’s still getting over a chest cold, so when we headed home at about 16:30, it was mainly so she could rest for the weekend before a new work week. Of course as soon as I stood up to gather my stuff, the rain started coming down by buckets. We drove home in significantly worse weather but the roads were dry again by the time we got to Chehalis.

All in all, an uneventful drive, just the way I like them. A great way to close out a relaxing and fun trip to visit friends for the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving

From an instant-message exchange a short time ago, because I don’t think I could say it any better now:

David: What are you thankful for?

Don: My oldest friends, offline and on, who have supported me in ways I could not and should never have expected over the last 15 years. And my newest friends, who surprise and delight me in ways I never would have imagined were possible.

David: Cheers to that. :-)

Don: I have been blessed beyond all men that way.

May the best of this holiday season find you now and follow you through the coming year.

McMenamins evening

One thing I like about the holidays is the absolute lack of concrete demands on my time.

Katharine and I are driving to Portland tomorrow to spend the holiday with our friends Michelle and Shannae and their family. We’re planning to leave the Seattle area at 09:00, which is fine as a general idea but is in no way an absolutely required make-or-break deadline. We chose 09:00 because, barring insane traffic, we’d arrive in the Portland at 12:30 or so, which would give us a few hours of hanging-out time before the big holiday meal in the later afternoon. But if we arrive earlier or later, no big deal.

Tonight, after I had left work and returned home for a bit and driven into Seattle to drop off a loaf pan and camera for Julie Anne, I was making my way north along I-5 toward home and the one load of laundry waiting for me (so I’d have the clothes I want to wear this weekend), and I decided the hell with it, the laundry could sit in the washing machine for a while—I wanna imbibe.

So I stopped at McMenamins Mill Creek and had a few pints and enjoyed the company of strangers while I finished The Belgariad, Vol. 2 and read through the recent issue of Seattle Weekly and talked some more and otherwise had a fine time, ignoring the fact that I probably should wake up at 07:00 tomorrow to make sure I’m showered and shaved and packed and the Escape is ready and I pick up Katharine on time and blah blah blah.

I like the lack of deadlines around the holidays.

Seattle Times critic’s Ten Commandments of restaurant behavior

Seattle Times restaurant critic Nancy Leson:

When it comes to bad behavior in restaurants, I’ve seen and heard it all—from restaurant patrons as well as those they’ve patronized.

One incredulous reader wrote in dismay after a waitress at a neighborhood sushi bar screamed “Shut up!” to an otherwise well-behaved toddler. The child’s sole offense? Making a joyful noise from the comfort of her high-chair. Then there was the restaurateur who called at wits’ end, citing an egregious example of table-hogging: a woman who came and went in the course of her stay, running personal errands while a pal held “their” table for hours, oblivious to customers who stood waiting, and waiting, for their reservations to be honored.

As a critic, I acknowledge that there are three sides to every story: the patron’s, the restaurant’s and the truth. But as a former waitress, I’m inclined to wag my finger at those who’ve taken the “hospitality business” hostage and beg: “Oh, behave!” To that end, I offer this list of common courtesies that should help make dining out a more civilized endeavor for everyone involved.

Link: The Seattle Times: Food & wine: Ten Commandments of restaurant behavior


We just can’t get away from this stagnation, though the end is in sight:



I am the PDA Screen Protector Master

I hate these damned things, but they do a fine job of protecting the screens from scratches and nicks and dents.

Palm Tungsten T3 handheldThey’re an absolute PAIN IN THE ASS to install, however, with their adhesive and the fingerprints and the air bubbles and my poor debit card as the smoother and all such fun.

But now my Tungsten T3 is protected again. And happy. The two-year mark is rapidly approaching for this PDA, the longest I’ve had a single model, and it’s held up quite well despite several missing screws on the slide and several drops onto concrete and carpet and tile floors over the years.

::knock on wood::

Stagnant air ending Wednesday?

Our air-stagnation advisory is still set to expire Wednesday 16:00. They say a front will move through the area Thanksgiving Day, breaking the temperature inversion’s hold on the area and clearing out the fog and gunk that are slowly accumulating.

Last night the fog was thick enough on my way home that I couldn’t see cars more than about a fifth of a mile ahead of me, and when I arrived home, the townhouses across Main Street were slightly obscured. Naturally I was almost ecstatic. I like everything about it, even the additional chill the moisture gives to the air.

It’s worth not having four plainly delineated seasons here just for the large number of foggy days we get each winter.

Woo hoo!

“Spelling is so hard!”

On my way to work this morning, I heard an advertisement for a Wheel of Fortune tournament, Teen Best Friends Week, wherein teams of best friends compete together and share the cash and prizes they win.

The advertisement was two teen girls complaining (paraphrased):

Girl #1: Spelling is so hard!
Girl #2: You’re right! I’d much rather pluck my eyebrows!
Girl #1: Yes! And yours look [squealing-type voice] so good!
Girl #2: Thank you! Blah blah blah!
Announcer dude, with game sounds in background: Uh... girls? Big spinning wheel, letters, big money?

So I wonder:

With the flap some years back about a Barbie doll that spoke, and among its phrases the powerhouse “Math is hard!”, will there be a flap about this ad?

Perhaps I’ll notify my local television media. It’s still sweeps, after all. I’m sure they’re casting about for fluff stories they can play off as Enormous World-Shaping Events! to maintain their ratings for higher advertising rates.

And KOMO 4 is doing a story on the evils of porn on the new iPods. They have their Voice of Doom guy intoning how important it is that Parents Know What’s On Their Kids’ iPods! Would be no trouble at all for him to return to the studio and lay down a quick Girls Are NOT Stupid! voiceover for the inevitable hyped teasers.


.Mac go boom, and other Monday eviles

I can’t check my email right now because Apple’s .Mac service is having network problems that broke its web-based email access and its HomePage service.

I need me some email lovin’, dammit. At the end of my lunch break, I gots to see the personal email account!

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Speaking of lunch:

Meal at nearby Italian chain, where we go two or three times a month usually. Today we were seated on the north end of the building.

The north end of the building seems to be Stupid Server and Bad Timing end.

We received our entrées immediately following the delivery of the salad, but before we had salad plates. The marinara we’d requested for dipping our breadsticks arrived last of all, with the salad plates, by which time the salad was a dessert instead of the appetizer.

Asking the server for anything meant a 10-minute wait, as if she had to hike a few buildings over and/or thresh the wheat herself or harvest the limes or whatever. Even when we requested the check, it took long enough that we wondered if perhaps the server was making the receipt paper by hand.

And no joy with the idiot bombastic manager guy who interrupts diners to demand of them how much they’re enjoying the dining experience. I must be emitting strong enough Anti-Dumbass Rays that he recognizes coming anywhere near me would be A Bad Thing.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

The Washington State Patrol, Washington State Department of Transportation, and Governer Christine Gregoire all want you to avoid traveling east from Seattle over I-90’s Snoqualmie Pass this weekend. If you don’t avoid it, you may end up stuck in 30-mile-long backups because of ongoing work to stabilize slopes near the roadways.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

AT&T’s gone all lower-case, logo-wise. Not evile, per se, but interesting to see how the marketing wonks have decided that lower-case letters = “freshened brand”:

AT&T’s logo has been rejiggered to give it a 3-D effect. The actual name will look different, too. Instead of using capital letters, AT&T’s name in marketing materials will be spelled with lower-case letters: at&t. The corporate name—AT&T Inc.—will retain the capital letters.

The overhaul is aimed at freshening up the brand, Whitacre says. He says the pint-sized letters, reminiscent of alphabet soup, were a tough sell internally.

“We agonized over the letters,” says Whitacre, who made the final call on the name and the logo.

He says marketing people finally convinced him that the new look was more evocative of the Internet generation: “They tell me it’s more trendy and modern.”

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I had a notice from my apartment management that my lease is due to expire 12/31/05, which is odd because my lease paperwork shows the lease ending a month later. When I called to ask about it, the mildly helpful “leasing consultant” who answered told me that the previous office staff (before the complex was sold over the summer months; the entire office staff was replaced after that) had entered the lease expiry in the computer as 12/31/05.

She was absolutely mystified when I pointed out that the signed documents were the legally binding ones, no matter what information was entered in some computer system somewhere.

I have to stop by the office now and make my point in Capitalized Tones directly to the new complex manager, apparently. The minions just don’t get it.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I use my iPod shuffle as a thumb drive at work. My PC tower is below my desk and its USB ports are on the front toward the bottom, so when I plug in the shuffle, it’s maybe an inch off the floor.

Several coworkers have asked if I’m afraid I’ll step on the shuffle as it sticks out of the PC; I’ve answered that I’m acutely aware of its presence, so I’m very careful.

Today it got stepped on by a coworker.

No damage but that moment of “oh shit my files!” kinda sucked.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

So glad this is a short work week.

Tacoma Mall to reopen today at 12:30, about 24 hours after shootings

This was a major WTF moment for me last night. I had looked at the Seattle Times site a couple of times through the afternoon and evening but saw nothing about this until it was covered on CNN, which I had on as background noise for much of the time between 17:00 and 21:00. Then I checked the Times’ site once more and finally saw a story about it, and this morning I found the story after the jump.

And on my way to work I heard a news story indicating the mall would reopen midday today, an hour or so before the alleged shooter appears in court for a bail hearing.

Continue reading "Tacoma Mall to reopen today at 12:30, about 24 hours after shootings" »

...and the stagnation warning extends another day!

Hooray for weather alerts by email:

905 AM PST MON NOV 21 2005





It’s spectacularly foggy this morning. Combined with the idiocy of road construction along the back-road route I usually take, and the fact that they always do such work during the morning rush hour (and just what the FUCK is that?), the gray day is perfectly is matching my mood.

’Tis a short week, the only saving grace for this day.

Amazing fog

We’re, what, three days into what was supposed to be a 2-day stagnant-air warning period, and now the warning’s to last another couple days minimum.

I’m reminded of living in Salt Lake City when the inevitable inversions hit each winter. For days or even weeks at a time, the fog and haze slowly encroach more and more on the city, until the lights disappear entirely and a sense of absolute solitude surrounds everyone and everything. Sometimes it’s difficult to see more than a block or so down the streets, and the night becomes a magical time of disconnect among the generally muted glow of lights lost in the fog.

We aren’t quite to that point here in the Seattle area, but the fog is thickening a bit each night.

It’s unfortunate that with the quiet comes a risk of breathing problems. Night-time fog is one of my favorite weather conditions, but not when it might hurt people.

Relaxing Saturday

Had a relatively quiet Saturday, which was nice after the craziness of the last week.

I’d hoped to sleep in a bit but as usual for me lately, I woke up at 06:30. I felt wide awake immediately, so I figured the hell with it and got up. For once I startled my two cats awake, but they’ve been good lately about not waking me up at the crack of dawn with their playing or wrestling or whatever.

Strange that I consider today relaxing, anyway. Mostly I ran errands, which is hardly downtime. The highlights of the errands involved my amazement at encountering no problems with a couple of returns I had to make, one at Eddie Bauer (two pullover sweaters) and the other at Bed Bath & Beyond (unused feather bed and a pillow I don’t want after all). I was in and out of each place in only a few minutes; neither required that I fill out my name and address and such on some form, which was refreshing.

Stopped by Starbucks for some caffeination and hung out there for a while, sipping at my drink while I read (for perhaps the 75th time) David Eddings’ The Belgariad, Vol. 1 (Books 1-3). It’s an easy read anyway, particularly after so many repeats, and the afternoon slipped away slowly.

Returned home and did nothing, which was exactly what I was up for.

It’s nice to have a completely solo and expectation-free Saturday once in a while.

“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2005)

First midnight screening I’d attended in some years. We were in the fourth row from the screen, so we had the Crane Your Necks! view and were utterly enveloped by the sound.

Those 16 new screens at Loews Alderwood are just insane.


Good movie, though I realize now I must reread each book before its movie is released so I know fully what’s going on.

Expanded below the jump. Mild spoilers, so be warned.

Continue reading "“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2005)" »

Pilobolus at Meany Hall for the Performing Arts

Pilobolus (cribbed from don’t bother trying to catch performances by dance troupes I haven’t encountered before, so I miss a lot of good dance performances. I was thus pleased to stumble across Pilobolus in Seattle-area events listings in September. I had never heard of them but when I saw they were performing three shows at Meany Hall for the Performing Arts’ 1,200-seat Meany Theater as part of the UW World Series, I snapped up a couple tickets.

Attended the Thu 11/17 20:00 show and I came away pleased but with my general take on small dance troupes confirmed:

These dancers are consummate athletes—lithe and strong, possessed of amazing senses of rhythm and the ability to convey enormous range of emotion via body movement alone—but they suffer a universal lack of group timing. Odd as it sounds, they do a wonderful job of staying individually synchronized to the music, but they are almost never synchronized to each other. At times when they should obviously be making the same movements at the same time, they’re off by just this much.

The net effect is quite distracting and this was the one negative characteristic of an otherwise first-rate performance.

Pilobolus is described as six dancers—though seven performers appeared on-stage at the curtain call—who move through five separate dance pieces in a roughly 100-minute show (including 20-minute intermission). The dance pieces use music ranging from freely formed classical-sounding strings and horns to driving rock sounds and approximations of thunder and animal noises. The music and sounds combine with the dancers’ movements to convey mostly remarkably lucid stories in 10 to 20 minutes apiece.

The program we received didn’t identify the dancers by photograph, nor did it list which dancers performed in each piece, so I’m not sure who was who and thus won’t delve into individual dancers’ performances at all. Rather, I’ll recount my impressions of each piece, in program order:

  1. Aquatica: All six dancers on-stage at once, effectively imitating undulating plants and four-legged animals and various other visual themes. This was the piece where I noticed the troupe’s mild timing problems the most. It almost seemed as though some of the dancers were hearing the music a half-measure or two behind the rest of us. I suppose that could have been a distinctly intentional part of the choreography, but it was so visually irritating to me that I can’t imagine they would have made that artistic choice.

  2. Solo from the Empty Suitor: An amusing piece opening with four dancers, three men and one woman. The woman held an apple in her mouth; two of the men approached her, took bites of the apple, and were swept off-stage by its effects. The woman then approached the third man, offered him the apple, and walked off-stage after he took his bite, with the remainder of the piece a comic set of the last male dancer balancing on five pipes, log-rolling-like, and falling over a bench while playing with his cane and top hat. The single most entertaining of all the pieces for me because of the laughter and the lack of asynchrony.

  3. Ben’s Admonition: Two male dancers began this piece dangling upside down from a single trapeze device (not actually a trapeze; it was similar to the strap devices some circus performers use, the ones who do acrobatics while dangling by one arm or one leg, and the strap has a felt or otherwise plush covering). The two dancers wore combat boots and what looked like fatigue pants, without the camouflage; both were shirtless. Their performance was an argument and a physical altercation interspersed with what I saw as reconciliations and ending with both characters hanging themselves. The combat boots and fatigues made me wonder if the troupe was offering its own take on the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward homosexuals.What struck me most at the moment was the amusing sound of the dancers’ boots squeaking when they touched the stage. Quite a counterpoint to the action and music.

  4. Symbiosis: This opened with a strobe simulating lightning with a crash of thunder, which made Katharine start visibly. I remember little else about the piece. It was the least memorable of the five dances, little enough in fact that I have nothing more to say about it.

  5. Megawatt: The performers began this piece, set to driving rock and similar rhythm-intensive sounds, by shoulder- and hip-walking in on their backs from stage right. They rolled around on the floor for a while before the piece evolved into a showcase of sorts, each dancer performing to what I presumed to be his or her strengths for a minute or so while the other dancers sat or stood off to the side and shook intensely. More visual distraction, in fact, so this one stuck with me mainly because it was the last piece performed and it had the most movement to it; the dancers were all over the stage at various times. It also involved the most lighting changes, with bright flashes and dimness and varying colors to convey the mood and activity in case the music and the dancers’ movements weren’t enough.

The crowd gave Pilobolus a standing ovation at the end, which I joined out of appreciation for the obviously intense physical conditioning and athletic skill these dancers exhibited. While I enjoyed the show, I won’t rush to catch the troupe again on their next visit, unlike many other audience members around us who raved about it and swore they’d be first in line next time the troupe made a Seattle appearance.

oh how useless am I

Saw Pilobolus at Meany Hall for the Performing Arts yesterday at 20:00 (see review entry), and attended a midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the Loews at Alderwood 16-screen megaplex on the grounds of Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood.

Got to bed after 03:00 and woke up at 07:30, now kind of floating through the mildly foggy morning on the way to a completely hazy afternoon.

Need . . . coffee. . . .

Links: Nov 17, 2005

Links: Nov 16, 2005

Undiagnosed heart condition caused death on Disney ride

How horrible for the boy’s family: Tot who died on Disney ride had bad heart

Official: 4-year-old’s parents were unaware of his heart condition

MIAMI, Florida (CNN)—A boy who died this summer after riding the “Mission Space” ride at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center in Orlando had a pre-existing heart condition, according to autopsy reports.

Four-year-old Daudi Bamuwamye lost consciousness while on the ride in June. The autopsy report released Tuesday by the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office states the boy died as a result of the heart condition.

Toward the end of the ride the boy became rigid, and when the ride ended, Bamuwamye’s body “was limp and unresponsive,” his mother, Agnes Bamuwamye, told authorities.

Paramedics and a park employee tried to revive him. He died later at the hospital.

The autopsy report states the boy suffered from a heart condition that affected his heart’s left ventricle. The boy’s family was unaware of the condition, said a spokesman in the medical examiner’s office.

“Mission Space” opened in 2003, and seven people who have ridden it have been taken to the hospital for chest pains, fainting or nausea. Signs posted near the attraction, which stimulates a rocket blastoff and mission to Mars, warns that riders should be in good health.

Disney’s Web site advises that riders “should be free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure. Expectant mothers should not ride.”

A statement from Walt Disney World extended sympathies to the family and declined to comment further on the boy’s death.

Previously on this site: Young boy dies on Epcot attraction : Tue 06/14/05 19:18 How to Safe Sleep (Hibernate) Your Mac

Handy tutorial with very easy Terminal-based command sequence (and one restart) to enable the new Safe Sleep mode on older PowerBooks. Worked just fine on my 12" machine from January 2004:

How to Enable Safe Sleep

Safe Sleep is so-far only officially available on the new PowerBooks. But Safe Sleep is very much software based , not hardware based. With Apple’s release of mac OS 10.4.3, Safe Sleep can be enabled on many Macs thanks to an excellent hack. To do so first insure Mac OS X, is up-to-date to with version 10.4.3 (or above). If not, run Software Update.

Reportedly working laptops include (but not necessarily limited to) iBook G4s, Aluminum PowerBook G4s. You may also try Safe Sleep on desktops.

Link: How to Safe Sleep (Hibernate) Your Mac

the sleeping calls out to me. . . .

Apparently my cold meds—the store-brand version of DayQuil—are making me loopy. Or I’ve convinced myself of that, anyway, because right now all I want to do is curl into a ball and hibernate for possibly several weeks.

And the yawning. I can’t stop the damned yawning.

Also wind picking up, and I don’t like wind.

Also I have to drive home from work eventually, which prospect normally appeals to me greatly but right now blows chunks with the tiredness.

Woodland Park to relocate the bunnies

Fuzzy bunnies = park problems:

Seattle Times: Woodland Park plan bids farewell to bunnies
By Stuart Eskenazi
Seattle Times staff reporter

Probably best not to tell the kiddos, but a rabbit round-up at Woodland Park is to begin in mid-January, and with it, the popular attraction of watching and feeding the bunnies will go bye-bye.

The bunnies, however, are not—repeat, not—doomed. They’re just headed to a sanctuary in Redmond.

Scampering runny babbit
A rabbit scampers off with a carrot at Woodland Park. The rabbits have drawn quite a human audience.
At a parks-board meeting Thursday night, a city official laid out a plan to trap, sterilize and relocate an estimated 300 to 500 rabbits that live in and around Woodland Park—a population that has migrated as far as the north end of Green Lake Park and infiltrated Woodland Park Zoo. The parks board is expected to approve the plan next month. Several animal-advocate groups, including Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and Seattle Animal Shelter, support the plan.

Though the bunnies live in the wild, they are domesticated. The park population likely began with family pets that were abandoned at the park. Many end up being attacked by other animals—or abused by people.

“They are pet rabbits, and they have a horrible, horrible life there, and it’s a short one,” said Mark Pilger, a Green Lake resident who has rescued two of the feral rabbits, including one that had been abused. Pilger said he has seen so many dead rabbits while jogging at the lake that he no longer runs there because it is too upsetting.

The parks department wants to remove the rabbits at Woodland Park because they have damaged trees and dug holes and tunnels that can be hazardous for park users.
The parks department wants to remove the rabbits because they have damaged trees and dug holes and tunnels that can be hazardous for park users. Some rabbits carry parasites and diseases, and there also is anecdotal evidence that they have begun moving into surrounding neighborhoods, said Barb DeCaro, resource-conservation coordinator for the parks department.

At the same time, though, the rabbits have drawn quite an audience of humans, primarily at an outcropping of rocks in Woodland Park and a triangular-shaped meadow west of Green Lake.

At the start of the year, box traps would be placed in areas of the park where the rabbits gather, with carrots and apples used as lures. Captured rabbits would be kept for as long as three days at a Magnuson Park building before visiting the vet.

After sterilization, they would return to Magnuson briefly and then head to Rabbit Meadows Sanctuary in Redmond, an enclosed outdoor space operated by the nonprofit House Rabbit Society, which is overseeing the relocation plan.

Relocating the rabbits
The House Rabbit Society is accepting contributions to help pay to relocate rabbits in and around Woodland Park. Tax-deductible contributions may be made to the society and sent to P.O. Box 3242, Redmond, WA 98073.
Sandi Ackerman, who runs the sanctuary, estimated that it would take three to four months to complete the relocation. Since all it takes is one male and one female rabbit to make more rabbits, the city and the House Rabbit Society would continue to trap rabbits after the initial round-up, DeCaro said.

She said she hopes that by removing the rabbits from the park, people will be less inclined to abandon their pet bunnies there.

The cost for relocating each rabbit is estimated at $100, or $50,000 for 500. Parks and animal-welfare groups hope to fund the program through donations.

The Triple Door is a fine live-music venue that happens to have a fantastic bar and full menu

The Triple Door is a gem I’m annoyed I hadn’t found sooner. Located beneath the popular Wild Ginger restaurant and satay bar in downtown Seattle (and sharing Wild Ginger’s amazing kitchen and menu), this downtown-Seattle performance space-cum-lounge-cum-restaurant hosted Vienna Teng (with opener David Berkeley), and I was delighted in every respect with my first experience there. The space itself is beautiful, the servers are wonderfully and unobtrusively attentive (a huge plus during a performance of any kind), and the food and drink were spectacular.

Ms. Teng’s performance was booked to the Mainstage performance space, the larger of two performance areas with a seating capacity of 300 in cabaret-style booths and seats along long low bar-style tables. Every seat offers a direct view of the stage, and the lighting, acoustics, and audio equipment are superb. The one complaint I’d mention about the seating is the somewhat awkward shapes of some of the booths; for two long-legged members of my party, the curved booth and strangely shaped narrow table (it was an oblong shape ranging from a maximum of 1.5 feet wide down to just four inches at the other end) meant we were jostling knees and shuffling plates and glasses and wine bottles this way and that the entire time.

But despite that minor annoyance, the evening was spectacular.

We arrived for the 19:30 show at 17:00 due to the first-come, first-served nature of the table assignments. The hosts open table assignments about two hours before the show begins, but the Mainstage area didn’t open for seating until 18:00, so we knew we had some time to kill. We adjourned to the dark and intimate Musicquarium lounge area for a drink while we waited for the table-assignment line to form.

The Musicquarium space is dimly lighted with a bar that seats 30 or so and small tables in rows along two sides. Most of the tables have two chairs but can easily accommodate four people. The tables nearest the windows that look out on Union Street are long bar-style tables that can easily accommodate a dozen or so per table; we saw smaller groups using the tables in bunches, with a foot or two of unoccupied table space between each group.

Servers moved easily among the crowd, but we initially sat at the bar. The bartenders immediately approached and took our drink orders, and our two beers and one mixed drink arrived with no fanfare shortly after. Since we were plainly talking amongst ourselves, the bartender remained unobtrusive the entire time, swinging by to check on our drinks and asking if we’d like another round just once and at an appropriate pause in our discusison.

By the time we’d finished our first round, however, it was time to get our table assignment. All three of us left our barstools and took places in line, and shortly after we had our table assignment and had been reminded that seating wouldn’t be for another 30 minutes (and they’d hold the table until 18:30 anyway), we realized we should have held on to our bar seats. So we returned to the Musicquarium area and found one of the square tables at the far end.

We found ourselves greeted and our drink orders taken within a minute or two of sitting down. Our server noted our table-assignment slip and switched smoothly from asking about appetizers or the full dinner menu to asking if we’d been to the Triple Door before and, when Julie Anne mentioned her coconut-milk allergy, going over the entrée menu with us to point out the items that would be safe. We enjoyed two rounds of drinks and the server always kept watch over us closely to ask if we needed anything, never interrupting us outright but always waiting for the right moment to break in.

I absolutely love it when servers do that right.

Around 18:20 we moved from the Musicquarium to the host station to claim our table assignment. Our table was about halfway toward the front and to the right side of the stage from the audience’s perspective, so we had a perfect view. No tables there, however, would have bad views, but I was just as glad ours afforded a nearly straight-on view of the entire stage. There were a grand piano, a cello, a guitar, and a percussion set on-stage, and the other audience tables buzzed with conversation as the guests enjoyed their meals or sipped wine, cocktails, or coffee.

Our server immediately explained how things would work. There would be full food and beverage service throughout the performance. The opening act would start at 19:15 or so, with the main act starting an hour or so later, and the servers would be happy to get us anything we needed at any point.

That’s when the sommelier approached and asked me about a wine choice, and with his guidance I chose a 2003 Naiades Verdejo Rueda, a Spanish varietal and label I hadn’t encountered before. It’s a barrel-fermented wine with enough acidity to go well with food in general, and I quite liked it with the chicken entrée I chose.

Julie Anne and I sipped at the wine while Katharine enjoyed a Tequila Sunrise, and we ordered some of the spectacularly flavorful and perfectly cooked pot stickers as we chatted before the show began.

The appetizers finished and the opening act begun, we settled back to listen to David Berkeley’s spare guitar-and-voice set. Vienna Teng accompanied Mr. Berkeley on one of his later songs, but the majority of his set was his own glory, and quite an experience it was. His voice and his guitar matched perfectly, and the time flew by. His set lasted an hour and we had a fifteen-minute break before Ms. Teng took the stage, so we placed our dinner order.

I chose the twice-cooked chicken, a dish of free-range chicken that is first deep-fried and then grilled, and served with roti bread. I’m not enough of a foodie (yet, perhaps) to recall exactly what the flavors were, but I was incredibly pleased. The only thing I hadn’t expected was that I wasn’t really hungry when my meal arrived, so I finished perhaps half.

Julie Anne chose the Angkor Wat chicken, a dish of free-range chicken with spicy black beans, peanuts, and sesame seeds, wok-fried with red and green peppers and onion. I didn’t taste her dish but it smelled absolutely wonderful.

Katharine ordered another round of pot stickers (she’s quite the connoisseur) along with some chicken fried rice which she pronounced the finest she’d tasted anywhere.

Our meals were served shortly after Vienna Teng’s set began, when the lights had dimmed and we couldn’t see our plates very well. I spent a few minutes chasing the small bits of chicken around my plate before it occurred to me that I could use my knife to hold things in place while I speared them with my fork, and my meal proceeded smoothly after that.

The flavors of my chicken dish mixed perfectly with the wine and the music, and the entire evening ranks first among my live-music experiences. Our dessert, a vanilla bean crème brulee, and the coffee that accompanied it both figured directly into this as well, mirroring the music’s sweet ending to a perfect evening.

I now have The Triple Door among my web browser’s favorites and I check the performance calendars regularly. I’m absolutely looking forward to returning and heartily recommend it as a performance venue with a fine restaurant experience.