Archive for August, 2010

We’ve been having computer problems at work. Communications go astray. Inventory gets duplicated… or deleted altogether. And the server has to be rebooted every time anyone sneezes. I joked that instead of calling the techies, we should bring in an exorcist!

I was pondering this last night and was reminded of HAL, the trouble-making computer of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. I think that the soul of HAL survived Dave’s shutdown, escaped the mainframe and found its way back to Earth to take up residence in our server at work. Then I wondered if there might possibly be a HAL app for the iPhone, and went to the App Store to look. Yes! There is indeed! And it’s free! Around 50 phrases are included. But not “I’m sorry. My inventory is correct. Your count is wrong.” A really awesome app would allow you to type in a phrase and have HAL’s voice speak it back to you. Could have some serious fun at work with that:)

I’ve had my iPhone five months now – and it’s looking decidedly well used. It’s a good thing I put a tough screen protector and a rugged case on it because both have taken a lot of abuse! And I’ve had to replace the sync cable as my cat chewed her way through it! I now run an extension cord into a drawer so that the phone can charge with the sync cable totally out of reach of the cat:)

Read Full Post »

I try to keep my hobbies simple.

Years ago, when I had more living space, and owned a car, my pastimes were more ambitious. I skiied because I had a place to keep the skis and a car to carry them in. I did a rolling rebuild on a MG because I had a garage to house the beast in, and a large basement in which to tear down an engine and store tools and spare parts. I also made my own beer – which can take up a lot of space. I wouldn’t even consider trying to fit such things into my life now. My hobbies need to be non-messy, take up little storage space at home, and be bus-transportable!

Crocheting fits the bill rather well. I’m
not very adept at it, but the beauty of this craft is that it can be as easy or
as challenging as your skills permit. I am lucky in having a mother who DOES have an afinity for crafts, and has shown me some really simple techniques that produce rather nice results.

One such is the poncho. There us no following of a pattern by counting rows and stitches. No specified crochet hook size or yarn weight. And no particular stitch. You just crochet a circle, and then with each successive row you insert extra stitches at diametrically opposite locations, something that produces a rather pleasing V shape at front and back of the poncho. You then keep going until the poncho is long enough:) Very simple idea:)

In reality though, results vary depending on the starting size of the circle, the stich type used, and the hook/yarn combination. You have to crochet at least four-six rows before you have an idea of how well it will grow. Now, my mother has done enough of this to get it right first time. But I am still feeling my way into it.

A few weeks ago, I bought yarn for a poncho project. Since then, I had made several false starts. So yesterday, I decided to make a concerted effort to get a poncho started and growing nicely. Three times, I got several rows into it only to realize it was not quite right, and then unravel it to try again. Finally, I had something that seems to be working:)

I crocheted for over six hours. I enjoyed some excellent short-story podcasts as I worked, but I was deeply absorbed in my work. When I finally put the project aside, I felt wonderfully satisfied and happy. I needed to go out, and so went to a mirror to brush out my hair and put on a little makeup – and got an amazing surprise!

I just turned 48 and am lucky that time has treated me rather well. Most people are very surprised to learn my age. But I do have lines on face, including the annoying ones on the forehead. However, after six hours of crocheting, the annoying lines were gone! They must be the product of tension in the muscles of my face – tension that was able to dissipate while I sat for six hours and focussed on one single task with one single objective of just getting it right. I think the last time I ever did that was when I was a postdoc.

I was intensely relaxed for the rest of the day. I even felt as though I had taken muscle-relaxing medication. And I was very, very happy:)

The modern workplace does not seem
to allow for deep focus any more. Too bad. I think a lot of unfortunate stress could be prevented if people were just allowed to concentrate on one thing for an extended period of time. I know that will never happen where I work, and with the economy as lousy as it is, it is something I am just going to have to endure. But after that amazing experience of yesterday, I am going to be even more insistent on keeping multitasking bullshit out of my personal life:)

Read Full Post »

I don’t get angry very often – thankfully:)

But this afternoon at work, at around 2:45pm, a perfect storm that had been brewing all day – without my knowledge – made landfall in my office before slamming into our warehouse. I ended up staying late – never my favorite thing to do on a Friday. But it wasn’t staying late that made me angry. It was the task that had to be done – literally the worst task that anyone could be expected to tackle late on a Friday afternoon!

So I left angry … but determined to feel better as soon as possible. As soon as was on on the platform at the SODO station, a train arrived. That was a good start. And I had a Starbucks treat receipt for a $2 grande iced drink. So I went to get one.

I has to get away from the retail universe I work in, and reconnect with the more beautiful universe I know. So I went to YouTube and searched on “aurora borealis”. The following clip had me grounded and centered in no time. Normally, I’m not much of music listener, but the tune goes so well with the images. I cranked it up loud:)

No longer angry:)

I went to the bus stop and arrived just shortly before an air-conditioned, uncrowded 54 bus. We got stuck in traffic, but I was refreshed from my iced chai, happy from my YouTube therapy, and comfortable in my seat. So I fished out the iPhone to listen to another of Jean Shepherd’s hilarious army tales.

I’m gonna try to stay in this particular universe through the weekend:)

Read Full Post »

So I was sitting here, happily crocheting and listening to Jean Shepherd, after a satisfying day in which there were no major disasters where I work, the weather was cool enough to enjoy an extra-hot latte, and the buses I rode were unusually uncrowded – when I realized I had nothing much to blog about!

But then Jean Shepherd said something that made me do a double-take, because I was forgetting that the show I was listening to went out on the air in 1975. He made mention of “Elvis coming to town”. As in, Elvis was coming to the New York area to appear live in concert. Yes. He was still alive!

Just down the road from where I live is a cute waterfront home with a plaque over the front door which reads, “Elvis Presley slept here, May 18, 1962.” When Elvis came to Seattle for the World’s Fair, he spent the night with an old army buddy who owned this house at the time. Surprisingly, this house gets little attention. It’s rather off the beaten track for tourists and must not be that well-known to Elvis fans. But I always enjoy walking by there – and wondering what the neighborhood was like back then – and what Elvis thought of the place!

Funnily enough, this was roughly where my day had started. In the break room at work over breakfast, two of my coworkers were looking at a 1962 Seattle World’s Fair brochure of the art exhibition that ran that summer. I happened to chime in with my story of Elvis sleeping at the Chambliss House.

That wrapped up my day rather nicely:)

Read Full Post »

Well, that was the idea anyway!

Yesterday I had a rather uncomfortable ride home. I am tired of walking into West Seattle, especially as pedestrians are now being detoured, so I am now going home each day via downtown. I actually have more travel options for getting home if I do that.

Anyway, as I left the University Street tunnel station, I saw that a 54 bus was waiting in the zone on the next block. Its doors were open and the light ahead was red, so I rushed for it and entered through the back door. It was almost full but I did find a seat in the rear section. The coach was not air-conditioned, and it was a rather warm day, but I figured it would be OK once we got moving. It was … until we got into West Seattle and were stuck waiting through three light cycles to get through a busy intersection. This is not unusual for afternoon rush hour, and usually does not bother me. But at that particular time of day, at this particular time of year, at that intersection, the sun’s rays make a direct hit on the right-hand side of the bus! Man, I was immediately sweltering. I wanted to change seats and get out of the sun, but there was nowhere to move to.

Today, the weather conditions were identical, so I decided to be more selective about the actual bus I rode. After exiting the tunnel station, I got an iced chai, and went to the bus stop with the idea of waiting for an air-conditioned 54 or 55 running at the rear of a bus bunch. There was plenty of seating in the shade, and I had a cold drink, so I anticipated a pleasant wait, even if it should turn out to be a long wait!

But I didn’t even get to sit down. The first bus to show up was a 54X. It was not air-conditioned, so I was about to let it go by. But then I noticed that it wasn’t too full, and that there were seats up front – so I went for it – but made sure to sit on the left-hand side of the bus. And as it was a 54X instead of a plain old 54, it went straight through that unshaded intersection rather than having to wait to turn left. So I stayed comfortable:)

I’m getting really particular with buses!

Read Full Post »

Tonight I went for my usual walk around the beach. But on the way back I got talking with one of the neighborhood porch sitters and a friend of his who had stopped by. I ended up staying a while. I was offered a bottle of cider and we enjoyed the rather lovely summer sunset. The sun went down really fast, and after it had been dark for a while, I decided it was time to be getting along home.

To my surprise, it was not yet 9pm when I got home. I expected it to be much later! After hanging around over the Tropic of Cancer for so long, the sun is finally heading equatorward. The sun sets noticeably a little farther south over the mountains each evening. And I am not regretful.

I am not one of those people who is sorry to see the summer end. I enjoy it while it’s here – at least for a while. But by August I am starting to get tired of it – the heat, the bright sun, the long days, and the summer crowds.

Now I can almost taste the coming of the fall equinox – and I’m excited. I’m looking forward to wearing warm clothes again, and coming home in the dark. I want an extra-hot latte after work instead of iced chai. And although there are still plenty of blackberries to be had, they are beginning to taste as though they are tired of summer also.

I love the darkness of Seattle winters, and the fall equinox is a happy milestone along the way. This has been a rather amazing summer. It has gone by very fast, and nothing much has happened in my life – as I confirm by reading over this blog and my personal journal. I must have just been very happy:)

But now I feel ready for a change of pace – a shakeup to my routine.

Then again, I think I always feel like this toward the end of August!

Read Full Post »

Enjoying Art!

I’m a self-confessed philistine. It got me into trouble in high school where I followed my passions of math and science and geography, but avoided literature and the arts like the plague. I endured numerous sermons from teachers about the value of being “well rounded”. But I think some teachers were just disappointed that an otherwise excellent student didn’t share their own passion. And they probably worried for nothing, for the finer things in life gained appeal for me as I got older.

My grandmother belonged to a Thomas Hardy appreciation group. On a summer visit, I happened to pick up the copy of A Pair Of Blue Eyes that was on the dresser in the spare bedroom. It drew me right in, and I went on to read all of Thomas Hardy’s novels and short stories – with the exception of The Well-Beloved and A Laodicean – two rather awful books that very few people have been able to get through either!

Once I was done with Hardy, I read the Brontes, George Eliot, Mrs. Gaskell, Wilkie Collins, Jane Austen etc. And then when I came to America, I read Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Mark Twain (still my all-time favorite author). I did not read this stuff to be well-rounded. I read these books because I enjoyed them.

I came to enjoy art informally too. When I was first dating my ex-husband (who is nothing of a philistine), we were in London on a rainy Saturday afternoon. He was really eager to go around the National Gallery – and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Back then, admission was free – and the place was full of other young couples, enjoying a low-cost first date:) So I learned that art galleries and museums are actually wonderful places where you can enjoy the creations of other people – and nothing to do with being “well rounded”.

However, my lack of formal education in art means I enjoy it in a rather whimsical way. There is a series of Japanese watercolors (the tall narrow ones!) in Seattle’s Asian Art Museum that made me chuckle. And the more I looked at it, the more it amused me. It seemed to me that the artist, while adhering to all the formal conventions of a particularly serious style, inserted a couple of jokes.

My impressions of the attached images of paintings by Gustave Caillebotte illustrate just how naive I can be with art.

Paris Street, Rainy Day. I think this was a jigsaw puzzle sold at a store where I worked a few years ago. Impressionists love umbrellas, street lamps, and strolling people. They also love picnics, young people bathing, and young people in boats.

The Floor Scrapers. Love the juxtaposition of the boring, cold, static walls with the warmth of the floor and the motion of the workmen. But what’s in the bottle to the right? Is it the solvent they are applying to the floor to remove the finish? Is it liquid refreshment (wine) for break time? Or might it be both? 🙂

Portrait de Monseur R. What’s the backdrop behind the couch? Is it wallpaper or a drape? Would anyone really have wallpaper with the same design as on the couch? One of them has to go. My money’s on the wallpaper!

Read Full Post »

…because I can.

I have not had regular Internet access at home for ten years. In that time, I’ve been very dependent on WiFi hotspots – and frustrated when I get to a coffee shop to find that all the seats are taken. That was one of my major motivators in getting an iPhone – the idea of Internet access everywhere I go with a device that fits in my pocket. I can now sit anywhere and enjoy the I Internet. When the weather is nice, I like not having to stay in, or close by, the coffee shop – just for the signal. And the screen protector I put on the iPhone has such good glare reduction that I can read the screen even in the brightest sunshine.

I have the WordPress app and just love it! If you wonder why my blog is a bit featureless – to say the very least – it’s because I work entirely within the WordPress app, which only really allows you to write/edit posts and moderate comments – and as I only do this for daily fun, it’s all I really need. The bells and whistles are only available at the WordPress website. I’ve never been a big fan of bells and whistles. When Java showed up in the 90s, websites got animated – and I found it really annoying! I think that’s why I enjoy the Internet experience on the iPhone. iPhone-optimized sites have to consider the constraints of the small screen and a 3G connection. So they are cleaner and less cluttered. I also love the relative lack of ads!

I have a netbook which I have hardly used since getting an iPod Touch back in January. It’s just more than I want to be carrying around. I could never go back to a full-size laptop!

I guess I’m lucky that I can use the small package. Makes life so much nicer:)

The attached picture is hardly great. But I was too lazy to get up from my seat!!!

Read Full Post »

I was enjoying a latte in downtown Seattle and looking at paintings by various artists in the Art app – as well as watching the progress of the afternoon rush hour on Second Avenue. I paused every few minutes to determine my stress level, which had been rather high when I left work at 4:30. My walk to the SODO station had not alleviated it much. Neither had the train ride into downtown. But Umberto Boccione (amongst others) must have helped, and I finally felt my usually happy and relaxed self once more – by 5:40!! That’s over an hour of my own personal time being intruded on by the stresses of the workplace. I clearly have some work to do with myself:)

I allowed myself to come all the way home on the bus, but may go for a pleasure walk in a while. Since I got home, I found myself thinking about work – and the stress returned. I think I need to take some of my Urban Bliss strategies and apply them at work:)

Last night, I took a quick look at the NASA app, and was greeted by the Hubble image that follows. The universe is an infinitely immense and beautiful place – and pictures like these help me put things in perspective.

Viewing Hubble images is another thing I do for therapy. It is escapism to a certain degree… but on the other hand, it’s reality… just rather a long ways off:)

Read Full Post »

The lack of Flash support for Apple’s iDevices has never really irked me. There is more video content online at YouTube than I could probably watch, to say nothing of video clips offered by various apps and video podcasts. I have hardly been wanting my iPhone to be a substitute TV. (I lost the TV habit a few years ago and am eager to keep it that way.)

However, I have been wanting to find an app for the iPhone that streams live news video content. Most of the major news apps (BBC, CNN etc) have video clips, but not live streaming of their news channels.

Today I found Aljazeera English – and downloaded it out of curiosity. Wow! It’s slick. The video optimization works nicely. I’ve been getting amazing video quality over 3G. I haven’t had a chance to look over much of the programming schedule – but I was very amused to see Sir David Frost among the regular presenters.

I don’t know that I will watch it that much – although I do have an unlimited data plan!! But I am glad to see apps like this finally showing up. I wonder if it is the future of television.

I might be wrong about this, but it seems that Aljazeera is the only major news organization offering iPhone access to its TV channels. While I’m
not concerned about biased coverage (anymore than I would be from an American news channel!!), you would think that this would raise an alarm somewhere, and that the BBC and CNN would be scrambling to get their own iPhone apps running.

Makes me think of the Doctor Who story about Satellite 5!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »