Rainy Inside

Day’s Verse:
“The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least?'”
Matthew 25:14-30

I keep opening up a new blog post and then sitting there with my mind as blank as the screen. Since the Zillah training, I haven’t had anything noteworthy happen. I haven’t even thought anything noteworthy, really. Right now I mix and match the following components into an average day:

  • Read a book.
  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Stretch my back.
  • Prepare and/or eat food.
  • Take a nap.
  • Do chores inside (if rainy) or outside (if not rainy)
  • Surf the web and/or talk to Ian online.

For variety, I may do errands on my bike, walk down and meet Ian for his walk home from the Totem Lake Transit Center, meet up with a friend, go in to Seattle for a BAW meeting, or have an appointment. For example, yesterday Deborah came over and we weeded and planted strawberry plants in our raised bed. That’s about as interesting as it gets for me right now. After the excitement of teaching bike classes, I’m feeling let down and glum. But there seems to be some kind of lowest energy state that I tend towards (in my case, reading books and taking naps), and it takes a lot of energy to jump up to the next level (i.e., starting my own bike classes).

I need to take real action toward teaching my own bike classes, but every time I start to think about it, I get anxious and overwhelmed and shy away from it. Time to steel myself and take the plunge. Otherwise I’ll just stay in this 1s orbital forever, feeling unhappy but not changing anything.

Long Hair Tradeoffs (& May 7 Ride Report)

Day’s Verse:
What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.
1 Peter 3:4ish

I have mixed feelings about my long hair. It’s now well over halfway down my back, closer to most of the way to my waist. It’s handy in one sense. I can always just put it into a ponytail, bun, or braid and it’s out of my face. But it’s also a lot of work to keep healthy, looking nice, and under control. Then there are the other peripheral issues of vacuuming and drains.

Vacuuming — oh gosh, what an endless bother. Long hairs wrap themselves around the brush of the vacuum in no time flat and have to be cut out on a regular basis. Irritating, but not particularly gross.

Drains are much worse. There’s something about wet hairs that grosses me out. I hate having to deal with my shed hairs in the shower. That’s why it’s Ian’s job to clean out the shower drain when it starts draining badly. He’s the strongest proponent of long hair in this household, as well as the largest beneficiary, so he deals with the dirtiest repercussions thereof.

I mention this because over the last few months, our shower drain has slowly transitioned from “drain” to “plug.” Given enough time, yes, the tub would eventually empty. But we finished each shower with water up to our ankles. I didn’t need to close the drain to take a bath. It was getting bad. Our usual gentle chemical methods (baking soda and vinegar, with a heavy weight atop the drain to keep the reaction heading in the right direction) availed nothing, and some mechanical intervention (a bent coathanger) didn’t help. Thus, while I was out riding up hills today, Ian borrowed snake from his grandparents and Dealt With The Drain.

I wasn’t there to witness it, but Ian assures me this was an entire ponytail’s-worth of hair (clearly hyperbole, since I still have all my hair). He said he was astonished any water made it through at all. I took a bath after my hilly ride and I can at least confirm that the tub does now drain as intended. So hyperbole or not, I have to give Ian credit for doing his husbandly duties with the drain.

Click below the fold for a report on today’s bike ride. Continue reading “Long Hair Tradeoffs (& May 7 Ride Report)”

Now I Know Where Zombies Come From

Day’s Verse:
So—join the company of good men and women,
keep your feet on the tried-and-true paths.
It’s the men who walk straight who will settle this land,
the women with integrity who will last here.

Proverbs 2:20-21ish

Remember the teen romance zombie novel I wrote back in 2009? (If you don’t, your life is certainly short of what it could be; of course, maybe it’s better that way.) In it, I had people become zombies when infected with a blood-borne disease. That was a fine, if cliched, premise for the novel, but now I know where zombies really come from: Casinos. Seriously.

Here’s how I came to make this astonishing discovery. On Saturday, my friend Karissa and I were talking about the Tulalip Casino. I’d driven by it on my way to Sedro-Woolley and it struck me as completely hideous. We decided that it’s ugly because it’s completely out of place, this tall, blocky building with all these windows with views of the freeway, all out in the middle of nothing else. Ugly. Then we decided we should go there some time just for kicks. Karissa heard they had good, cheap food.

Yesterday afternoon, Karissa called. Did I want to join her and her roommate Ruk for a night at the Tulalip Casino? I mentally checked my totally blank social calendar for yesterday evening and today: Nothing. Sure, I’d be up for it!

I’ve never been to a casino before. All right, moving on. It was quite an experience. The inside was decorated with a kind of underwater theme, so when you walk in you see the round bar with a sort of stylized column of water coming down to the middle, with gigantic salmon swimming up it. The ceiling was painted like water with salmon. It also had little lights inset to look like stars (underwater stars? I don’t know). The ceiling in different parts of the casino had different underwater touches — some oysters, some salmon, some large blue swaths of fabric that I think were intended to represent water. The buffet had opaque plastic eagles(?) hanging from the ceiling. Also hanging from the ceiling were forests of skinny glass tubes that acted as lighting fixtures. The floor was devoted entirely to rows of video slot machines. Around the edges were rooms for live poker (at rates beyond our reach), a buffet (more on that in a moment), a couple of other restaurants, a lounge, a club, bingo, and the hotel lobby. Plus of course all the money-related trappings where you can convert your hard-earned dollars into meaningless pieces of plastic that make it easier to throw it away. Oh, sorry, was my bias hanging out there?

Aside from the astonishing decor, which my description really doesn’t do justice, one of the things I noticed immediately was the cigarette smoke. It’s been years since I’ve smelled cigarette smoke indoors. Everybody seemed to be smoking in there, getting in their quota I guess, since it’s only legal on Indian reservations at this point. And the noise. It wasn’t bad at first, but it quickly became a relentless harangue of video chaching-ing, music, and conversation-stoppingly loud announcements for people to come try to win things.

We ate at the buffet. In my family, we’ll say, “You’d pay $20 for this at a nice restaurant” about dinner. Well, now I know what you’d pay $20 for at a casino buffet: Mediocre Chinese food (my choice). Or mediocre meat, potatoes, or other starches. Lots of starches. Or a fairly skinny pasta- and salad bar. And fairly good Snoqualmie ice cream. Also, for beer, they had six crappy domestic beer options and two microbrews. Karissa and Ruk each got a microbrew and didn’t seem overly excited about them. Overall: I definitely do better on a regular basis at my own house, and I’ve had very little in the way of inspired dinners lately. So Karissa’s information about cheap good food was dead wrong. That $20 was the only money I lost at the casino, but I feel like I lost more than just money during that culinary experience.

After we’d eaten Ruk and Karissa hunted down some video poker machines. There were a few scattered among the hundreds (thousands?) of video poker machines. After playing that for a bit, Ruk moved to a video slots machine. The most humorous part of the entire thing was how diligently my friends worked reading the rules/instructions, which I’m sure nobody else ever does. Eventually Ruk left up $15 after factoring in all the expenses. She even split a bit with me and Karissa for our advice on video poker, amusingly. So I ended up out $14 for dinner.

Now, about the zombies. They came in the form of old people — almost all at least 30 years older than us — planted in front of the video slot machines. They sat and gazed, empty-eyed, at the screen and kept pressing the important button. Many looked as if they’d spent hours there, inanimate except for that twitching finger. Most held a cigarette. One girl I wish I could have taken a picture of: She hardly looked old enough to be in a casino, let alone smoking. She sat slouched in a pose of utmost bored cynicism, a blank, dead look on her face, as if saying “I’ve seen it all.” A cigarette dangled from one outflung hand, half an inch of ashes clinging to the end. Her demeanor reminded me of that Dorothea Lange photo “Migrant Mother,” but more depressing.

I walked around a bit by myself while Ruk played video slots, and over and over I saw the same thing: People zoned out, mindlessly staring at a screen, poking a button, smoking and/or drinking, and otherwise totally inert. It looked like their souls had been sucked out, leaving their empty body husks to keep poking the “play again” button. Many had scores on their screens that indicated they’d been there a long time, an impression confirmed by their postures, which reminded me of how people sit on long airplane trips. They certainly didn’t look like they were having fun. Most people sat alone, and even if they had a neighbor, usually weren’t interacting with said neighbor.

We left after a visit to the bathroom, which — in addition to adhering to the underwater theme perhaps too closely — had a prominently-mounted needle disposal container. I don’t even want to know.

Overall, an educational experience and certainly something out of the usual. And now I know where to avoid during the impending zombie apocalypse. Stay away from the casinos. That’s where they’ll come from.

Monitor, Video Card, Smiles

Day’s Verse:
God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.
2 Timothy 1:7

For some time Ian’s been eyeing these amazing $5,000+ monitor setups that have vast screen acreage in amazing configurations. Eventually he realized that he could achieve the setup he craved at a much lower cost by assembling it himself in parts. I readily agreed because, let’s be honest, Ian’s spent next to nothing on his hobbies while willingly facilitating my spending thousands of dollars on my hobbies. Besides, he’s had the same monitor since 2001 — it’s practically an antique, and he even repaired it once himself — and his video card is 6 years old, too. As a reward for surviving ITP Phase 2 (his most recent work project, which was rocky to say the least), he finally ordered a new monitor and video card for himself, the first step in his Grand Monitor Plan.

Here Ian is with the new monitor, video card, and an extremely rare huge smile on his face. (Sorry it’s grainy; ISO 400 will do that.)
Ian and his computer parts
I doubt you can read it, but the monitor has a note on it that says “Thank you for selecting this monitor.” I think it’s missing a few words, and it should actually say “Thank you for selecting this HUMONGOUS, AMAZING monitor OF DOOM.” Just a thought. It’s 6:25 pm; I might as well write off dragging the boy away from his machine until the new hardware is installed and working. I’ve got my appreciative, admiring comments all shined, buffed, and ready for deployment.

More serious, depressing news under the fold. Continue reading “Monitor, Video Card, Smiles”

Phantom Tollbooth Wisdom

Day’s Verse:
The words of the wise prod us to live well.
They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together.
They are given by God, the one Shepherd.

Ecclesiastes 12:11

Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, is one of my favorite kids’ books of all time. In it, Milo, his watchdog Tock, and the Humbug have to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason. Of course, they have all sorts of adventures along the way. After they succeed, Milo has the following conversation with the princesses and two kings (King Azaz of Dictionopolis and the Mathemagician of Digitopoplis).

“They’re shouting for you,” [Rhyme] said with a smile.

“But I never could have done it,” [Milo] objected, “without everyone’s help.”

“That may be true,” Reason said gravely, “but you had the courage to try; and what you can do is often simply a matter of what you will do.”

“That’s why,” said Azaz, “there was one very important thing about your quest that we couldn’t discuss until you returned.”

“I remember,” Milo said eagerly. “Tell me now.”

“It was impossible,” said the king, looking at the Mathemagician.

“Completely impossible,” said the Mathemagician, looking at the king. “Do you mean—” stammered the bug, who suddenly felt a bit faint.

“Yes, indeed,” they repeated together; “but if we’d told you then, you might not have gone — and, as you’ve discovered, so many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.”

And for the remainder of the ride Milo didn’t utter a sound.

From page 247 of the 1964 Random House edition of The Phantom Tollbooth.

I want to remember this: “what you can do is often simply a matter of what you will do,” and “so many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.”

This week Tuesday through Friday I’m in Pomeroy teaching a bike class. At the same time, Ian is going on a business trip to New York. If you want to burglarize our house, this is your chance. Also, I won’t have access to the Internet much, if at all, during the week, so after today, expect to hear back some time next Saturday-ish from me.

Tiger Mountain Hike

Day’s Verse:
Look! Listen! There’s my lover!
Do you see him coming?
Vaulting the mountains,
leaping the hills.

Song of Solomon 2:8

A last few pictures of Carmel from her short stay with us. If I sit cross-legged on the ground, she immediately comes and sits in my lap.
Large Lap Dog
In the kitchen the other day, Carmel was vacuuming for us, Hoovering up food scraps from the corners. She twisted her head and stuck her snout under the oven to get something, and Ian said, “Oh, look, she comes with an edge attachment.” Which nearly caused me to snort tomato soup out of my nose, let me tell you.

I just like this picture.
Watch Dog

Today instead of me vanishing for the whole day on a long bike ride, Ian and I went and hiked up Tiger Mountain. Actually, we hiked up West Tiger 3. There were a number of other peaks we didn’t get to today, which was OK with Ian. This is his game face.
Ian @ Tiger Mountain West #3
You can’t tell, but it was apparently Asian Hiking Day, unless every day is like that there. I don’t know if it’s usual, but I swear 75% of the other hikers — and there were a lot of them, even on a cloudy, cool day — were middle-aged to old Asian people. There were also some younger Asian people with kids. But it was almost like a tour bus had disgorged a group of them, or maybe they’re a hiking club and today was Tiger Mountain day, because they clearly all knew each other. Anyway, it was kind of surprising.

Also noticeable was the grade. It was unrelenting almost from the start all the way to the top. I hadn’t been up to Tiger Mountain in years, since high school or maybe very early college. Definitely not in the last 6 years. And that was to Poo Poo Point, which I don’t think was as steep of a climb as this. Today my miles of biking paid off and I didn’t have any trouble, but poor Ian had to grit his teeth and put some real effort into getting up to the top. He was a good sport. It probably didn’t help that I loaded him down with the two water bottles and snacks. I carried my Rebel XS, which didn’t really prove worth the back pain it incurred (it seems like any time I carry anything on my back, no matter how light, I end up sore. Bah, humbug). Not much to take pictures of when the summit is mostly clouded in. But since I carried it all the way, here’s a picture that doesn’t really capture the vibrancy of the green or the mistiness or, most of all, the steepness of the trail.
Tiger Mountain Trail

And, lest you think I’m skipping out on the biking, tomorrow after church I’m planning on doing what should work out for me to be about a 75-ish mile ride to Snohomish with Team Earthdreams.

More Carmel Pictures and Memories

Day’s Verse:
[Jesus] sat down and summoned the Twelve. “So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.”
Mark 9:35

While Carmel’s here, what else would I put online but pictures of her?

She’s feeling plenty at home here, a day after Dad dropped her off. I imagine that it helps that her home travels with her.
Carmel at home

Of course, it probably also helps that Ian lies on the floor and rubs her belly practically on demand.
Ian & Carmel (1)
We claim to train dogs, but I’m pretty sure they actually have us well trained.

For example: This morning I was happily dozing in my warm, cozy bed, listening to Ian getting ready to go to work and enjoying not getting up (this is one advantage of having no work). Then I felt a damp doggy nose press into my hand and then an insistent doggy paw reaching up to scratch at my arm. It was clearly time to go for a walk. By the time I’d gotten out of bed, Carmel was jumping around like an excited puppy (although rather more stiffly; 10 years is a very respectable age for any golden retriever). She kept checking to make sure that I was putting shoes on, then jacket, and when I finally got to the stage where I put three plastic baggies in my pocket, she’d nearly worked herself into a lather of excitement. …All for a 1.25-mile walk in the cold morning wind. Where’s spring? Anyway, we got home and she knew what happened next: I eat my breakfast, then she gets her food. She flopped on the kitchen floor and kept an eagle eye on my progress through my breakfast. I’m not used to having an audience for toast and OJ. Almost as soon as I stood up to put my plate away, Carmel was up and following me around. I fed her and she decided that I’d lost all interest — having walked and fed her, I have no more use until dinnertime, unless she needs her belly rubbed or her ears scratched — so she cozied up into her box and ignored me.

Having the dog paid off otherwise, though. I came down from doing the small amount of actual work I had today and saw this.
Library + Dog = Heaven
Dog, library, comfy couch… what more could I ask for? Later she came and plopped down with her back against the fluffy chair I was reading in and it felt so cozy and domestic, with the rain and the dog and a good book, that I swear my heart almost burst from gratitude.

Carmel, on the other hand, needs a lot less than a cozy chair and a book. She just needs her rope nubbin.
She Loves that Rope
It’s her favorite toy and has been ever since we got her. This is what’s left of what started as probably 6′ of rope when she was 9 months old. She’s slowly shredded it, but we’ve rationed it out so she couldn’t shred the entire thing in a few days. I’m curious how much she’s actually ingested versus spit out; we keep finding chewed rope strands around the house. When the rope was still long enough, Carmel’s favorite game was tug-of-war. We’d drag her all over the linoleum in the kitchen, her legs all braced and scrabbling for a grip. I remember one time when Carmel was still young (is a year old considered a puppy for a golden retriever?), we tied one end of the rope to a post on the porch. She fiercely tugged on the other end, refusing to give in. Surely that post would let go eventually!

We got Carmel when I was in high school. I missed her prime years, living in Massachusetts. Honestly, one of the hardest things about being in Massachusetts was not having the dog around. I could talk to my family and friends on the phone, send them emails, write them letters, and have a sense of connection. But a dog’s value is that tangible physical solidity that’s there for you no matter what. It’s devotion. It’s love that can’t be experienced over long distances. Coming home it’s been my delight to get to have Carmel back in my life. When she dies — and I hope it’s not for a long, long time, but she is getting pretty old for a golden — I can tell you right now my heart will break. It makes me teary to think about it.

So I’m going to go cuddle with her stinky, hairy, shedding self while we have her.