June already

More than two months ago, my buddy Tod asked me to do a couple weeks of work with him at his warehouse. A full eight weeks later, I am about to start another month’s work on an InDesign project for the same employer, which should be fun. I developed pre-release samples as a contractor for a launch release of InDesign, probably around 2002.

In prepping my production environment for this I decided it made sense to finally spring for a 1tb SSD to pop into my main axe, a late-2008 unibody MBP (the last model with the HD and battery access door, ordered refurb from Apple in April 2009).

Long story short, I ordered and installed not one but two 1TB SSDs and neither were compatible. The first one is actually definitively described as incompatible with the specific model Mac by the manufacturer. The second was confirmed as compatible by the manufacturer before I purchased it, but after a successful clean install and data migration, the machine crashed out and rebooted into the recovery partition. I performed a recovery and went to reboot – but the device was (and remains) unresponsive. Presumably it is the motherboard.  I guess seven years is reasonable use, but I’m still a little cheesed off about it – I certainly was not planning on replacing or upgrading for another five years or so.

So I ended up using the Crucial SSD on my other machine, an old Mac Pro 4,1 tower, and it’s a huge improvement. I had actually pre-ordered an OWC Mercury SSD for the dead laptop and had to RMA it. Immediately after learning the ’08 machine was dead I sourced a third-party refurb MPB from ’12 on eBay for about $500 and that’s what I’m writing on now. It could clearly benefit from an SSD swap too, and I see that OWC has just introduced a raft of new SSD options including a 2TB SSD for about $500, so that’s not out of the question. The CPU on the ’12 MPB is definitely beefier than that on the tower, but the difference between HD and SSD makes the tower far faster in use.

Simultaneously, I had decided to update our set of five-year-old iPhone 4 units and the replacement 5 units arrived this week. So between this and that, it’s been two weeks of intensive hardware and software chaos, hopefully resolved now for another five or six years.

Not sure how I feel about iOS 9 – Notifications in particular are a hideous annoyance that is apparently impossible to turn off globally and re-enable; predictably most apps install with Notifications turned on, in order to maximize ad impression opportunities. Annoyingly, apps that get *updated* ALSO have their on-install Notifications prefs reset. Which truly blows.

Anyway, off to remaster an InDesign workflow. Looking forward to it.

Kuma and Go

(Originally posted as a comment on this post, Hisashi Iwakuma agrees to deal with Dodgers, at Lookout Landing.)

Kuma is literally the only reason I developed an interest in MLB. I stumbled across livestreams of the Tohoku earthquake in 2011, the sea rising incomprehensibly on the screen of my iPhone, a black video wipe across thousands of lives. I became depressed as the nuclear emergency was recognized and both incompetently handled and reported for over a week thereafter. Seeking hope and solace, I put my newfound expertise at navigating online Japanese media sources to work, and followed the 2011 campaign of the Tohuku-based Rakuten Eagles with pirate-stream 3 A.M. raccoon-eye enthusiasm.

They sucked. Kuma had tried to go MLB to Oakland after his seven years but an injury knocked him out of the contract negotiations and onto a long-ass stint on the DL. When he pressed his case to the MLB over the break in 2012 he was still recovering, no-one in the US (that mattered) knew who he was, and the M’s literally lucked into him.

He was benched longer than any other roster player in that season, sitting disconsolate and alone in the bullpen next to Antony Suzuki, the team’s translator. Suzuki literally sat between Iwakuma and his Mariners teammates, physically at the very end of the bench.

I was at a bunch of games early that year because opening day had produced a giant cluster-f in the concessions which led the Ms to offer freebie makeup tix to everyone who attended that game. The makeup tix were very cheap on Craigslist. I had a lot of opportunities to observe Kuma, shoulders slumped and isolated on the bench.

At one of these games, I was able to draw a smile and a hat tip as I waved my Eagles cap and called his name. A bit later in the season, on a Rainiers Turn Back the Clock day, he signed both my Iwakuma M’s jersey, purchased before his first start, and the Eagles cap. He included appropriate uniform numbers on each sig.

I was at his career-high strikeout game, 13, thrown immediately after returning from a whirlwind trip to Japan to say goodbye to his dying father. I was at his duel versus Darvish, in which he dominated the younger man. I’ll forever be denied my dream of Iwakuma vs. Tanaka, it seems. Last year, my wife and I adopted an aged black lab mix, formerly feral in Snohomish County. I attempted to name the 90-pound black behemoth Kuma. The dog over-ruled me, insisting on “Logan” instead. I was unable to attend Kuma’s no-hitter, as the unusual thunderstorms in the area that day ramped the big dog into a state of such fear and anxiety that he tore the door frame to my bath off as I attempted to shower in preparation for attending the game. We watched it together on the couch, my mild resentment at his neuroses growing with every whiff.

I would have to say, given my near total disinterest in the Mariners this spring during Kuma’s injury hiatus, it’s an unsettled question if my interest in MLB and Mariners baseball will survive his departure. I came to it late for reasons unrelated to family or tradition. I’m middle aged and don’t have kids. My dad is not a baseball fan. My next door neighbor, a senior who was a baseball fan and with whom I enthusiastically shared these past few years, died in his sleep the night before last. I can think of many other ways to spend my time.

Whatever happens, thanks, Kuma. You’ll always be my favorite ballplayer of all time. Ganburo!

Thunder and missed swings

Today I had decided to go to the Mariners’ 12:40 start by bus, which ideally had me out the door here around 11:30 at the latest. At 10:30 Logan started freaking out, acting like there was thunder in the area.

Viv and I had a text exchange:

M: dog just acted like thunder is happening
V: hmm he probably hears it when we cant
yup Thunder in Tacoma
M: yah radio sez t-storms possible
looks like a system coming in over aberdeen / oly headed north
map shows a strike at the Narrows bridge

After that, things got out of hand.

M: dog out of control
broke out of crate
V: why is he on the crate?!
M: because he is out of control

After he broke out of an airline-approved transport crate I attempted to take a shower, by now realizing it was unlikely I could go to the game. I had given him tranquilizers which are intended to minimize stress reactions to the thunder sounds, but they have a one to two hour metabolization timetable.

I had to physically toss him out of the bathroom to keep him out of the shower.

M: thunder
won’t stay on ground, jumping up and down everywhere
i gave hm meds
thundershirt seems helpful
V: check his paws make sure he didnt injure them
M: he wanted the harness too
like fucking wrestling a goddamn fucking bear

After the shower, I saw what he had done trying to get through the door.

M: too mad to fucking touch him
if he didn’t injure them in the crate he sure as hell did now
fucking ASSHOLE
sent a pic, for some reason it looks like it isn’t reaching you
he destroyed a huge chunk of trim at the bathroom door while I was showering
I had to lock him out because he wanted to be in the shower with me and as I noted earlier he was flailing at me with claws trying to climb on me
he only stopped after presumably getting a decent splinter, there’s a little blood.
he was bleeding in his mouth after the crate
arrrrrrrrrrrrghgh;DJKW p9t7fe2pt87e2 t8[9

Anyway, he shredded about half of the door threshold or frame to the bath. I did not note any bleeding wounds or obvious limping. Given that he was on tranquilizers, that means little.

I power sanded the door frame to minimize the potential for more splinters in nether regions and so forth. By now I was extremely angry, but happily for all involved the thunderstorm petered out. I got the dog on the couch and figured I might as well turn on the fucking ballgame I was fucking missing after fucking all.

It looked decent enough at first, a pitchers’ battle with my favorite pitcher, Hisashi Iwakuma, on the mound for the M’s. At some point I noticed that he was performing very will while still struggling with command – I suppose around the first walk, I think in the third inning. I did this and that around the house while keeping tabs on the game, kind of actually trying not to think about it so I wouldn’t be grumpy about doing the right, grown-up, responsible thing. This of course failed.

Eventually by around the seventh (two more walks, no hits, no runs) I started paying closer attention. The broadcasters were talking about how this might be his best game ever with the Ms (at that point, not true – he threw a 13k game in his first appearance here after taking bereavement to leave to say goodbye to his dying father in Japan in July 2012, a game I was deeply privileged to witness) and avoiding pointing out that even with three walks, it was a no-hitter.

He was both efficient and fighting control issues for the rest of the game. In the end, He pulled it off, with 116 pitches, coming after a near complete game in his last stint with well over 100 pitches at Minnesota last week.

Over these three innings I was texting with my buddy Ken and increasingly grouchy that I had not gone. When the game was over, I actually cried. The tears were a mix of frustration about not being present for the game in the stadium and grief for Tohuku province, the location of Sendai and the center of the terrible earthquake five years ago that impelled my interest in baseball via the unlikely exercise of assiduously following the fortunes of the Sendai-based Tohuku Rakuten Eagles, Iwakuma’s last team in the NPB before he joined the MLB.

His presence on the Mariners very specifically has prompted my interest in the team, and this year, when he was injured, I had a hard time staying interested in the Ms.

I pushed for naming the dog Kuma, but he told us what his name was. I did the right thing by staying home with the dog. I’ll always regret it.


Came back from picking Viv up at the airport to find a neighbor’s delivery truck had popped the cable-company line to our house. Since we haven’t used cable services since we bought the house it was mostly a hassle in figuring out how to deal with the line in the road.

The original install had routed the house-side stay around a telephone line that appears to have been routed under our vintage vinyl siding, so I had a tiny cardiac moment in fear our DSL and land line were out, but they proved to be fine.

The real hassle started when I tried to get ahold of someone at Comcast (er, Xfinity) to report the downed line so that they would come and get it. There was no way to interface directly with Seattle-local CSRs, and the offshored CSRs could not file a report unless I had a customer number. I just hung up on the nice Ukranian lady who was telling me this in the middle of her family’s night.

I hopped in the car and drove up to the cable offices, not too far away, where I took a number and waited for forty minutes for a two-sentence interaction with the in-person CSR. She told me unambiguously that the downed line was being reported and that a technician would take care of it.

The interaction was so short I was not sure if she had even actually recorded my contact information, so after I got home I called Seattle City Light and discussed things with them too. I ended up filing a ticket with them as well, although the phone rep there said she thought SOP would be that the City truck would come by, the dudes in the truck would verify that it was not a City line, and that would be the end of it.

Instead, the City truck rolled up just after five and the dug in the truck was awesomely helpful and immediately took the line off just below the hanging lines on the pole. We joked about copper theft and in the end decided against putting a sign on the cable advertising it as free.

A few minutes later, a Comcast truck actually showed up! The cable guy was bemused but not unhappy that the City had already taken care of it.

Sadly I had to miss going to see Bill Vollmann read from his latest, “The Dying Grass.” Viv was not ready to eat when she normally is and felt her blood sugar was running high, so I just waited it out before serving. Unfortunately, that meant we did not finish eating until seven, when the event was slated to begin in downtown Seattle. There was no realistic way to expect being able to arrive there before seven-thirty and of course parking is another matter entirely.

The phone rang three times yesterday when I was unable to get to it and as it rang I knew it was Bill; it rang once more today at five or so and again I was unable to reach it. So I suppose I’ll drop a quick note. I am genuinely bummed about missing the reading.

Resist False Winter

Yesterday was the warmest day of the year to date, reaching 69 degrees at this nearby weather station.

According to UW professor Cliff Mass, the spring has been the coldest on record since 1948 from an off-the-cuff perspective (number of days over 55).

I moved a bunch of the furniture from our main living area out on to the deck and did a thorough de-furring and vacuum run. Wehn that was done I moved outside to weed whack and take on some other chores.

We are expecting a new grill on Tuesday, so Viv cleaned up the deck for me while I turned and repaired our compost bins. I still have a huge pile of scrap from our deck demolition a couple years ago and I used the rest of the afternoon to build a standing potting bench. I may add a shelf or two in service of bracing the structure but not until the weather improves.

Using deck scrap to build furniture produces very heavy furniture.

It went very quickly, though, and makes me think i might build that x-braced picnic table after all this summer.

Viv has dug out nearly all the beds and transferred many of the potted plants to either new pots or the ground. I got my potatoes in a week ago but still haven’t popped any starts into the vegetable bed. Well, one start – Viv found a volunteer lettuce in one of the flowerpots.

Lacking a gas grill at the moment, I cooked a couple steaks over wood, which is always a challenge as charcoal is so hot. They came out nice, though. I used a teriyaki-and-mustard glaze that burned black much faster than the steak did so what appeared to be horribly charred was actually nicely medium rare.

All this yard work meant the dog did not get his walk; we are hoping to get a good one in today despite the return of rain and cold.

I Dream of Maakies

I awoke on April 23 from a dream, which I felt immediately compelled to share with the artist concerned (Tony Millionaire, of Maakies and more):

I had a detailed dream of a huge, twenty-five-pound signed-and-numbered limited edition Maakies book, 24 x 12 or thereabouts and and two inches thick, indigo dyed upper edging and deckle pages on the opening side. The book’s cover featured a large illustration and the book itself and the printed cover’s primary color was a light fawn brown. The printed cover of the book and the boards themselves felt soft and smooth, something like leather in the case of the boards and an unknown substance for the jacket.

The book came in an even larger box with a separate interior tipped-in ‘tear sheet’ (which appeared to be a signed silksceen). The box itself was possibly square, as the sales display literature referred to the book and box set as ‘Uncle Gabby’s Square Deal.’

The box was made of heavy cardboard wrapped in a kind of faux morocco leather, roughly the color of a 1940s Scrabble box, but the cardboard was much heavier, say 5 to 7mm. I did not see the cover art on the box that I remember but I think it was different from that on the book.

The interior of the box was lined with green baize, and the inner side of the box (the bottom of the box, which separated as does a board game box) was subdivided into several small compartments in addition to a large one for the book. Included in the compartments were at least two small croupier’s rods, apparently made of a fine hardwood and with delicate handwrapped leather grips, and a set of ivory or ivory-colored standard six-sided dice. It’s possible there was more stuff.

I don’t recall if the baize had gaming markings on it or not, but the intent was clearly to present the box as a kind of gambling surface.

The book was not titled ‘Uncle Gabby’s Square Deal’ and featured a large, intricate illo of Drinky Crow and Henrietta, possibly on the high seas, and whatever the title and copy on the cover, they were ensconced in classic, Greg-Irons-by-way-of-Millionaire nineteenth century bannering devices, possibly worked to appear as engaged in the rigging of the ship.

The book was signed and numbered, one of an edition of 550, and tucked behind the book display were three watercolor collage works by none other than you, Mr. Millionaire, only one of which I got a good look at. Apparently the watercolors were swag the proprietor was intended to bestow on purchasers of the tome at whim. They appeared to have careful and sarcastic or insulting instructions and invective to the bookseller on them in your hand, incorporated into the design of the works.

The book-and-box itself was priced at $550.

It seemed incredibly urgent to me that I let you know about this on awakening. I would say that I would be likely to buy such an improbability.

I wanted to get it in here too.

Up in the Air

A couple of weeks ago, just before heading to California to visit family, a friend’s tweet alerted me to something I should have known long in advance. The Airship Ventures Zeppelin NT “Eureka” was headed in to town for a two week stint out of Everett’s Paine Field.

A bit of online legwork, and I had left a message with their ticketing department, seeking to arrange a hop for myself and Viv.

The next morning, there was significant media coverage in the region, and their ticketing staff was flattened by the call volume. I started speed-dialing them, realizing what was going on, and in the process managed to fumblefinger the note one, but two callbacks they kindly provided. Eventually, I got through, and we booked a flight for September 5, the weekend after our return to Seattle.

After we were back in town, I realized that one of the flight-education tenants at Paine, the Historic Flight Foundation, was sponsoring an event that coincided with our visit, the Vintage Aircraft Weekend. I had long known of and intended to visit the Flying Heritage Collection as well, so I told Viv we would be making a day of it.

Ages ago, I tracked down Kent Leech, an illustrator who (with his father) created a striking cutaway illustration for National Geographic of the USS Macon, one of the pre-World War II dirigibles that served as a part of the US Navy’s lighter-than-air fleet. In June, Kent contacted me with some more information about the image, and I wrote about it here. “Hm,” I thought, “I wonder if he’d like a copy of that flown on the Eureka?”

I dropped him a line, and the answer was yes, so while in California I ran a couple of giclee prints to bring along.

On checking in, the Airship Ventures staff were all curious about the folder I was carrying. Above their work area was propped a large print of the Macon partially in Hangar One at Moffat Field in the Bay Area. The Eureka is based next to that hangar in Hangar Two.

Img 1106

Several of them immediately recognized the ship in the illustration, and Brian Hall, the company’s leader, said that he’dlove to be able to display it in their check-in area at Moffat. Unfortunately, the illustration’s rights are 100% resident with National Geographic, so licensing it for other uses involves more than a phone call and a handshake, and I explained this as best I could.

Brian took a picture of me holding the prints and blogged it himself:

  6Dx3Z0Ksccc Tipco5E4Gzi Aaaaaaaablq Zpoo7Oi54Xc S1600 Img 20100905 105819-710384

A few minutes later, we were getting a safety briefing (the same stuff you hear once seated on a conventional commercial aircraft) and it was time to trundle out to the landing area to await the return of the ship.

Img 1108

Img 1109

Img 1110

We lined up in two rows, six each, and were waved forward in pairs, two folks climbing aboard while two folks debarked, in order to permit the ship to maintain it’s relative weight.

One thing that struck me was the fact that the ship’s pivoting propellors permitted the nose-line ground crew to consist of this:

Dsc 0041

The boarding process was over quite quickly. Viv and I were the last to board and consequently were seated directly behind the control area, in two rear-facing seats. This was fine with me, as I wanted to be sure to buttonhole our pilot, Katharine Board, as soon as possible in order to get her signature on the Macon prints.

I’ll pick this up later!

The Sun that Burns

On Saturday, I spent the whole day sitting on the beach near the San Onofre nuclear plant, reading. The whole day was cool, and the morning, from 10 to 1 or so, was grey and misty, quite pleasant.

Just as the clouds pushed back offshore, the Goodyear blimp mosied on by, headed south at about 800 feet. I friended it on Facebook and said “hi” on its’ wall as it passed.

I was finishing Harold Dick’s memoir of his time working in Freidrichshafen on behalf of Goodyear-Zeppelin during the rise of the Nazis and had just finished the book when the ship flew by.

I then picked up Gary Shteyngart’s recent and widely-praised “Super Sad True Love Story” and read it through at one sitting. Much of the novel’s intended amusement factor stems from the author’s satirical visualization of virtualized socialization and workflow in the context of an apocalyptically dysfunctional state. I had heard the author in a couple of interviews during his book tour and he was incredibly funny, as were his readings from the book, so I cracked the book with high hopes.

Instead, although I have no specific grounds to critique the experience on, I was sort of disappointed. I did, it must be noted, read the whole thing in one sitting, without even tottering across the burning sands to take a potty break, so it is empirically inarguable that I found the book engaging. I even feel a sort of bemused guilt that I didn’t like it more.

I mean, come ON, highfalutin’ litt’ry dystopian satirical SF? Christ, it’s the genre I should be praying for, if I were to take religious precepts with any kind of seriousness at all. And I will say this: while Shteyngart leaves a couple plot points dangling, and acknowldges them as such in the context of the book, taken as SF, it’s pretty good.

But I guess I had formed the idea that I would bust a gut reading the book. I still feel like I should have – Shteyngart is merciless, showing little sympathy for his characters or their (our) culture, and this is my favorite style of comedy, the Coen Brothers at their most contemptuous or Dan Clowes in high, self-indulgent dudgeon.

So I don’t quite get it. Shteyngart should be my new BFF. But my strongest reaction to the book was a kind of bemusement; I couldn’t figure out why wasn’t really digging it. it was, um, OK. It was alright.

I mean, it’s tight, it’s fluent, it’s clearly the work of a really gifted writer, someone hitting on all cylinders, from command and craft of language to plotting and subtheme. But instead of getting excited, and laughing or yelling or crying or wanting to talk about the book once I finished reading it, I was sort of puzzled by my lukewarm reaction to it.

However, I will likely long remember reading it, because my traveling companions at the beach that day did not bring any sunscreen, and I was too absorbed in reading to think about it. The net result? Full-on second-degree burns on my legs, from above my knees to the middle of my feet. I’m learning a lot about burn care.



The Airship Ventures Zeppelin NT is in town or thereabouts until September 8 or 9. I booked us in on a morning flight, September 5. Longtime blog readers will understand my insane levels of excitement.

I drove up to Paine Field and back this afternoon on a scouting expedition. You can’t see it in this picture, but the cabin was open on both sides and there was a person inside doing something.

RIP Harvey

Local-news site Cleveland.com reports that comic-book writer, jazz critic, and curmudgeon Harvey Pekar died overnight at his home:

Pekar, 70, was found dead shortly before 1 a.m. today by his wife, Joyce Brabner, in their Cleveland Heights home, said Powell Caesar, spokesman for Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller.

I can’t help but think Harvey would be amused that his career’s end was presided over by a guy named Frank Miller.

I got to know Harvey a little bit about five years ago while writing about comics for various publications. Harvey loved to talk on the phone, as he often depicted himself doing in his work. He never failed to remind me that he was always available to talk – any time, he would emphasize.

Harvey always depicted himself as a guy who was bothered by stuff, who got bound up in grouchiness by obsessing over this or that. In his unsparing self-observation he laid bare the mechanics by which he was capable of making himself miserable. Despite this, it seemed to me that by the time I spoke with him he had got beyond this.

What struck me about Harvey on the phone was his profound generosity of spirit. I don’t think he saw it, and he probably would have been made uncomfortable by the observation. I do think the film American Spendor, starring both Harvey and the perfectly-cast Paul Giamatti, managed to capture that side of Harvey’s personality at the same time as remaining true to the source material. I love the film; Harvey liked it too.

Goodbye, Harvey. I’m so glad I got to spend some time with you, over those long circuits. I did know you were always there, ready to talk. Any time. I’m sorry I didn’t take you up on it as much as I should have.