Monday, January 31, 2011


This is what the Traveling Man is supposed to be doing - writing a blog while sitting in the airport, ready to get on an airplane. I am in Seattle going to Atlanta for the week. I say that the early morning flights are really just a way to get into the eastern time zone early. 3:30 am is just 6:30 in Atlanta, and here I go. Tomorrow I have to get up that early anyway! My flight is at 6:10, which is about 50 minutes from now. No problem. Traffic is light, and the latte stand was open (I was the first customer this morning).

This is a good week for me, with lots of things happening. I have this afternoon in the office, and Tuesday and Wednesday until early afternoon. Then down to the Hilton at the airport for the MOTAG-South meetings through until Friday afternoon. MOTAG is a meeting where all my pulp and a paper buddies come for an annual meeting just to network and to share stories. There is an actual technical program (on which I regularly present, but not this time), and dinners with your customers and friends. I have dinners scheduled for Wed and Thursday nights at this point, so there is always something to do. Fun.

Projects seem active. I have a couple that seem about to cut loose with PO's, so that is good. One in Stockton, CA, and another in OR. Lots of action on the West Coast.

Have fun this week.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hornets and Spiders in the Crawl Space

With a weekend of unfettered promise ahead of us, Judy and I started out the day with a trip to Trader Joe's. It doesn't sound like a lot of fun, but it always is. With $3 Chuck now down to $2.49, what's not to like?

I spent the day doing odd jobs, including replacing the thermostat on the 2nd water heater, cleaning up fallen insulation in the limited access walkway to that heater, and then working in the garage on a small woodworking project. I added a wood frame to the back of the Big Question Sign I put out in front of the house on BQ nights. The thin hardboard sheet had curved to the point it didn't want to stand on its own all that well. Now it looks Loud and Proud, as they say.

We watched the 3rd of the Steig Larsson movies last night, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest. As with the others, having read the book is almost required. There are big parts that are left out, and some sub-plots are started but not finished, such as the mysterious email'er who threatens Erica Berger and throws a brick though her window, but in the movie is never named and there is no closure on this. Strange. In the book Selander has a role to play in this mystery, and the person is revealed. In the movie all you get are the threats and the brick. And the role of the police investigator with whom Blomquist has an affair is almost non-existent. She is on screen 2-3 times, and is always 100% focused on work. At least they did a good job with the demise of Neidermann, and that is very satisfying.

Salix sat on our laps throughout the movie, and is getting to be a real lovey cat. We like this transition. And so does he, apparently. He comes when he is called, he follows me from room to room, he sits beside me while I am working at my desk downstairs, and is generally transforming into the Dog Cat we like around here. He is sitting on the counter behind the iPad as I write this, making sure I don't say anything bad about him, I'm sure.

Chief sent me a book review concerning a new book about and by Steven Hawking, and the review has some interesting topics and issues. I'm tempted to add this to my reading list, too. I will have more to say about this shortly, when I digest the ideas contained therein. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Warm breezes on my mind

Another Friday night at the Smith house. Fred's was OK this evening. We didn't really do much, but the wings were good and plentiful. I'm not hungry for dinner any time soon. I tried a winter beer called Never Summer, and it was way too sweet. I had the last 6 oz in the house, too. I'm all about free beer, but what is the victory it represents when it is one you don't like all that much?

I did my expense account for January this afternoon. I'm under an injunction against travel, mostly as a corporate decree to reduce costs. I have not ben traveling as much, I know, but seeing just how many days I spent in the office in January is a bit daunting. In fact when I did travel I stayed with Chief and Rose so I have no hotel bills for all of January, and vey little in restaurant bills. If I can alternate between Portland and Spokane as a base, maybe keeping a set of golf clubs in Spokane so I can spend Quality Time with Mark and Anne, I can make something of this job?

I had this humungo proposal I was working on which went to the customer today, but it hardly justifies staying home all that much. I will say that the paperwork side of the job has been increasing lately and I'm not getting to everything I need to do. Writing projects, papers, advertising projects, and just plain paperwork responses for customers has been daunting. I'd love to know my word count for this past 2 weeks. Maybe I don't want to know...

I do need to talk about the Village Theatre production we saw Wednesday night, Anne of Green Gables. Everybody has heard of the story, but I did not actually know what it was about. It is wonderful. The stage production is a musical, and the music is really good. There is a bit of stagecraft involved in the production, and I would say a minimum of the obligatory dancing scenes that are just prancing about and not moving the story ahead, but the series of vignettes of Anne's life and the interactions she has with her adoptive "parents" and the friends she makes on PEI (yes, it is Canadian!) are really good. I've downloaded the original story (free on Kindle) and started to read it in the original, and so far I would say the production and the story are the same. Very nice. I remain impressed (really impressed) with the professionalism and production quality of the Village Theatre company. Everything they do is First Class, and boy, can they sing! Wonderful stuff.

(A small note: the production company has several pretty girls in the group, but I swear they aren't over 5' 3". They are tiny! Put a microphone on them and they can belt our their parts, though, and they do a great job.)

I'm hoping to get on the bike this weekend if the weather cooperates. I have Cousin John's recumbent and I want to see if this is something I can ride. Or if Judy will ride it. It looks great sitting in my garage, but this is not what it is supposed to be doing. Riding, that is what bicycling is all about. Curse you, winter! Where are my warm spring winds and sunny days? Kenny, damn you, the weather in Phoenix these days is what I want!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The value of education

I missed my lunchtime workout today. I had planned to do my bicycle workout in the basement while watching The Greek and Persion Wars on DVD, which I am enjoying, but instead I was pulled into a 1.5 hour long conference call with a group of biomass consultants in Winnepeg, Thunder Bay, and Toronto. Nice guys, and a good meeting, but I'm missing my exercise. Maybe I'll be able to get an extra ride in tomorrow? Unlikely, but possible.

I got out a proposal today that I have been working on for several weeks. This does not mean that this is all I have been doing, but it certainly takes the time. It is a sort of thing that is never really done. I just decided that I have been working on it long enough and today was the day. I am doing this one in collaboration with a group in Oregon and now I have kicked it to them to add their parts and submit to the customer. It is the largest project in the companies history if they buy it as I have put it together, so I hope it goes. the actual project is in very wsouthern Oregon, so it is sort of local. It is in Lakeview, which is on the CA border, just above the point where CA and NV have a common border with OR. It will take something like 10 hours to drive there from home, so "local" is strictly a relative term.

I've been spending some time on the Bank of America site going through the Des and Judy Accounts over the past few months. I am very interested in just where our accounts have been going since the income is going to be very different in the next short while, at least. Some very interesting patterns occur. Have you listed all your expenses by category and then sorted by value, highest to lowest? I had no idea Internt costs at home were so high. Is a Comcast bill of $180 / month normal? Yikes! This one snuck up on me. I had no idea we were paying that much. No wonder some of you kids are opting not to use commercial TV but only internet sources. We are sitting around tonite deciding to play hardball with Comcast tomorrow to get our rates down. And insurance, and who knows what all!

Did you see the Dunesbury cartooon in Sunday's paper? Of course you didn't, because you don't read newspapers. In this particular column a university professor is giving a lecture and when he concludes a particularly difficutlt part he turns around and asks the class if they were able to follow his presentation while they texted and IM'ed each other? He points put that this one class is costing them about $175 each to hear. We all know this is what an education costs, but having it laid out like this is depressing. I emailed my professorial friend Joe and asked his opinion. He told me a story about when he kicked out a guy reading a newspaper in his class, and I guess this is similar. If students are into their phones and computers during class he takes note, and if they have problems with the exams and come to see him, he cuts them NO SLACK! I applaud him for this approach. It makes sense to me.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

An ordinary Saturday

First, I would suggest you check out the Big Questions blog concurring last night's meeting. This is what is on my mind this morning.

As for the funk I was in on Thursday, some of the fog was lifted Friday when my paycheck was deposited in the account. The amount was significantly less than in 2010 owing to a new compensation package that had been discussed in general terms with me, but not spelled out specifically. Now that I could see the base salary change, I contacted the home office for clarity about the rest. They assured me that the commission package "would make me happy", but I still have no specifics. I hope they do make me happy. Right now I am Not Happy.

Today a co-worker from Atlanta is arriving about now and we are to meet at the Redhook Brewery for lunch and a tour. Sounds like fun to me. I like this guy, and he is not at all involved in the mess of the previous paragraph. I'm not sure how the afternoon will play out, but I am hopeful he will be here for dinner. He is staying in Seattle tonight and Sunday nights, so he will have plenty of time to fool around in town if he wants to.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A moment of introspection

Why do I feel like things are speeding up, and I'm being left behind?

I once knew a guy who had previously been in posts that most people would think are pretty important; Sales Manager, General Manager, etc. When I met him he was a Territorieal Salesman at the age of 65. He once told me, "I don't care whose fingers I step on as I climb down the ladder of success!" I feel like this is happening to me, and I'm not ready for it! I still have too much to give, and I want to give it.

For the past couple of months I've been stuck in a sort of limbo where I am waiting for an offiail announcement concerning my employment fate. I wait, and I wait, and still I hear nothing. It put me into a sort of depression for a while, but I'm not one to stay down long. Still, here I am, ready to make a big difference in the company through my sales efforts and they can't seem to make a final official statement. I am ready to make a decision on my part if the ruling goes against me (meaning, if they cut my compensation by too much, I'm outta here). Still, it is not a bad job and I'd like to ride it out if I can.

Things go up, and things go down. Maybe Im having a low biorhythm day today. I d]guess sI am. I'll be up tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Metaphors, and the Moon

Tonite the moon is beautiful. I watched it come up over Pilchuck, actually seeing it rise moment to moment. The air was crystal clear, the moon was slightly yellow in color, and all the features of the surface were clear to see. It seemed that you would not need a telescope to see what Gallielo saw when he named the seas on the Moon.

It occurred to me as I watched it rise that this was exactly the situation about which the metaphor of "the Moon as a mistress" was first penned. Mistress? How would that happen? The Moon is certainly wonderful to see, but doesn't the concept of mistress have some sexual content that the Moon lacks? Looking into a lover's eyes is like looking into a dark pool of water, or some such. Where does the Moon fit into that scheme? You will have to help me understand.

Some things are just simply physical phenomena and the Moon rising seems to be one of them. Sometimes it is just behind the clouds. Sometimes the moon is not full, and hence not impressive. But when the Moon is full it rises exactly when the sun sets, and the combination of the sky being not quite dark, the moon being wonderfully round and slightly yellow, the clarity of the thing being what it is under ideal conditions, and all of it combines to make an experience we like to talk about and record in various ways. Poetry. Prose. Meaningful glances. Heart throbs? You tell me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Snohomish means "Floods In November"? It's January!

The Snohomish River is treating us to a right and proper flood today.  I've seen the river higher, but this is still a gulley washer.  The sawmill across the river was running when I took this shot, but it should be mentioned that they have all their equipment raised up on stilts and away from the usual sorts of annoying high water events that they have to live with all the time.

You can see the walkway handrail to the right.  I've seen it so that the handrail in this view was entirely covered with water.  So, it still has several more feet to rise to better my personal high water mark.

Rainy days and rainy nights

We have a trip planned for later today to see the rising Snohomish River. The flood stage is 25 feet, and it is predicted to go over 29 feet. Lots of water in the valley when that happens!

I spent some ladder time last weekend cleaning out the gutters. Chunks of moss that grows on the roof seem to break loose and fall into the gutters. They have quite an interesting life cycle if you think about it: clinging to the roofing tiles until they grow so big that they break loose and literally tumble into a wet trough of water. Some of the moss clumps that I pulled out were 3-4 inches tall, and seemed to have been there for several years (has it been that long?). No other nutrition source. No soil. Just sunlight, water, and air. Sounds idyllic.

On Saturday we visited River Meadows County Park and looked into the windows of empty yurts they have there for rent for camping. I look them up yesterday. $64/night. Seems a bit steep for a plastic tent, although they are very nice inside. For those who like to hear the sound of rain on the roof they might be ideal this time of year. At the time of my visit there were 6 yurts available and no renters. Apparently January isn't the peak season...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bread as a way to drown your sorrow

On the occasion of the last payoff game for my hapless Seahawks this year, I decided to make bread. This comes at the suggestion of Jillian, who knows how to make the most of every moment. I chose my favorite, an oatmeal bread made with milk and honey, and lots of bread flour. I used a thermometer for the yeast proof water and the scalding process, and what a difference this makes in the overall progress of the bread. The yeast literally jumped up inside the cup and threatened me with a knife! The blended oatmeal and scalded milk was a perfect 110F when the yeast was added, and the first rising of 45 minutes was all it took. I formed the loaves and let them rise for 30 minutes, and then into the oven for 50 minutes. They came out perfectly, and my girls here are enjoying hot slices with butter, with steam rising from the freshly cut pieces. I have to admit it does smell terrific. I added a bit of honey to the milk mixture to sweeten the loaf slightly. I wish I ate bread...

But as for the Seahawks, it was too little, too late. They came roaring back with 3 minutes to play and scored a bunch of points, but it was not to be. I hated to see Carlson knocked out in the first half and carried off on a stretcher. Ditto with Trufant in the second half. Terrible stuff. Since I have ridden bicycles with Mike Utley who was paralyzed below the waist in a similar impact many years ago, I feel for these guys and hope they are not rendered inoperable. Football can be a meat grinder at times.