Thursday, June 29, 2006

Miscellaneous Shellfish

Yesterday I had the big come-down from that "Sleep? Who needs sleep!?" vibe I had going there for a while. It turns out I do still need to sleep more than the average bear, no matter how much sunshine there is.

I've been getting all kinds of exciting things done, like ordering that new-fangled phone service that's bundled with the internet, and learning about professional liability insurance for Zena and my new business. "Errors and Omissions" insurance - I love that for roughly $250 per year, I can insure myself against my own screw-ups and forgetfulness. Wouldn't it be great if you could do that generally in life? "Oh, I'm sorry I forgot to return that library book for you. Talk to my Errors and Omissions people about that."

I also had the immense pleasure of hosting a visit from a Bosnian Roto-Rooter guy, who informed me in a charming accent reminiscent of my grandfather and great-aunt Anna, "Is toilet paper coming up downspout. That means, is sewage coming up from storm drain. Is not good thing." Yes, I am aware that sewage bubbling up out of one's downspouts IS NOT GOOD THING. This would be why I called you.

On the all-important bird front, I think Robin Mamma's babies are close to hatching, and I believe I hear Bongo out in the neighborhood occasionally - his caw is raspier and higher than most crows - but his family largely leaves Toby alone now. The other evening I was swinging in the hammock and I'm pretty sure I saw Bongo in the cherry tree above me. He shuffled around for a while, shopping for just the right cherry, and then sat there for a long time with the little red fruit held delicately in his long beak. I congratulated him on getting his wings under him, wished him well. I guess I became rather fond of Bongo. Then he flew off to join his family, who from the sound of it were in the process of dismantling my neighbor's roof.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Land of the midnight sun, almost

Normally, June is a cruel month here in Seattle. We get little glimpses of spring and summer in May, and then June brings nothing but chilly, rainy gray. Which lasts precisely until July 5, the first unofficial day of our glorious, three-month Northwest summer.

But it's been sunny this June, and yesterday it hit 87 degrees. All this sunshine has served to accentuate the expansive solstice days; normally all that daylight is obscured by the relentless cloud cover. Instead of jumping out of bed at the crack of dawn, I'm normally huddled in my blankets, mulling my absurd desire to get up and turn on the fracking furnace on the first day of summer.

But this year, we're feeling every hour of daylight. Technically, sunrise is at 5:11 am and sunset at 9:11 pm, but the sky begins to lighten around 4 am and the birds starting singing mightily a bit before that. A 10:00 bedtime does not quite bring total darkness. This week at the hair salon we all got to discussing how sleep-deprived we are, waking up with the birds at 4 or 5 am, unable to settle to sleep until nearly 11.

It's ok though. All that sunlight seems to bring energy. This weekend saw a flurry of activity on Holly Street. We built and hung a new back gate, and I prepared our back patio for a summer of outdoor living - sweeping and cleaning every surface, and hanging the clothesline and hammock. Enrico washed all the windows and screens, so the air feels clean and the house lighter. The dogs got their walks early before the heat became too much for Nelly, whose thick, luxurious coat elicits great admiration but leaves her overinsulated on a warm day. She spent the remaining daylight hours looking for the spot with the coolest floor and the best breeze, watching us bustle around her in baffling activity.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I've said it once, I'll say it again

Human extinction. It's the only hope for the planet. Exhibit A: Three of the top news stories on Yahoo! this morning.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

This is something of a mantra for me. Good old Lao Tzu. I tend to become impatient with the boring parts of life, and want to skip ahead, which is the worst kind of extravagance, to wish away time and life experience. Not the boring parts of life like sitting on my ass watching six straight hours of House on DVD; I can spend lots of time on that. No, I lose patience with the parts of life where you have to practice something and suck at it while you work up to getting good at it.

I recently started running - again, for about the third time - since doing my half marathon last year and injuring myself. It's not a bad injury, it's the kind that you can come back from if you're very, very attentive to stretching. Every single day. I vowed I was going to give myself extra time to train this year, to reduce the chances of re-injury. An extra six or eight weeks should do it, I figured. But now that cushion is gone, dithered away with too much work and time spent watching House, and now I have exactly as much training time left as I had last year. I'm huffing my way through 3-mile runs, and my knee hurts.

However, I keep telling myself: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. My inspiration is the robin who lives in our carport. For two or three years she lived in the same nest, in the rafters of the carport, and successfully raised two broods of young each year. This year, after the first brood, I came out one day and found the nest on the ground. No sign of wee birdies. We don't know if a cat came along and knocked it down, perhaps even doing in the wee ones, or if it was just the wind. We put it back up, but it wouldn't stay. There was no sign of Mamma Robin anyway. We finally threw the nest away.

Then, this weekend while I was away in Oregon, she came back and rebuilt her nest. The whole thing, in three days' time. It's just a nice as the old one, even nicer really because the grass and hay and such looks fresh and clean. She's in there sitting a new future brood. Just like that. No whining. No excuses about how her IT band hurts too much to build a new nest, or she's too tired, or she's just going to watch one more episode of House and eat a few cookies, and then get right on that nest-building thing.

So she's my inspiration. That big, beautiful nest out there started out as one strand of grass, and then another, and another. I do hope, though, that she got a nice little vacation during that time she was away. A trip to Cabo, a girls' weekend at the spa. Something to rejuvenate her.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Nelly's long-lost boyfriend, and other adventures

This weekend I went down to the Oregon Coast with my friend Monica. We met up with our friends from Eugene, whom I haven't seen in over three years, which is just wrong, as they've been my very good friends for nearly 20 years now. It's easy to figure out exactly how long it's been because the last time I saw them, they were pregnant, and now their daughter is three. The famously unpredictable Oregon Coast treated us to some warm, sunny weather, and there's nothing like seeing the wonders of a beach through the eyes of a three-year-old. The drive back along the Columbia River was lovely and green.

I went without Enrico because we just couldn't get our act together to board the dogs, and it was too exhausting to think about taking them. Nelly does not normally play well with other dogs. Just about the only kind of dog she gets along with well is younger, bigger boy dogs. She has always loved her a big, strapping young boy toy, yes indeedy.

She has always particularly loved our friends' dog, Rufus. So much so that we used to refer to Rufus as "Nelly's boyfriend." They would play, and play, at which point Toby - accustomed to being the only dog who gets to interact with other dogs - gets very confused and perhaps a little jealous, and starts to bark. At which point we would have to separate the three dogs - each 60 pounds, at least - into three corners of the room, in some nice quiet down time. But you can't keep true love apart for long, and Nelly and Rufus would gradually but persistently inch, wriggle and heave their bodies towards each other, like enourmous, fuzzy inchworm-seals, until their noses could just touch. It was very sweet. Until Toby started barking again.

However, the thought of managing this dynamic, preventing the dog rompage from taking out the toddler, while simultaneously trying to relax, was just too much. So off I went, leaving the generous Enrico home with the beasties. Rufus is still a very nice boy. I couldn't tell if he recognized the scent of his long-lost girlfriend, though. Perhaps three years is too long for puppy love to endure.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The angels wanna wear my....


And also, the other two pairs that I bought today:

I know, those last two are kind of similar. I couldn't choose between them and they were both on sale, so I bought both. Three pairs of shoes in one day! Along with six pairs of socks, a variety of much-needed ladies' unmentionables, and two books for the beach this weekend.

This is what happens when I find myself downtown and released from duty early by my client. Maybe next time I can buy myself a decent digital camera, so my gentle readers do not need to endure pictures of shoes taken by cell-phone.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The psychology of transitions

I'm in one of those transition phases between work projects, and I don't think I'm very good at it. After completing the stressful retreat last Friday, I simply refused to think about work in any way, shape or form for two days, which is probably fair since I'd been thinking about it to one degree or another pretty much every day for the previous four weeks. But then I find I don't know what to do with all this time on my hands, relatively speaking. I still have three clients, and roughly full-time work - but that seems SO luxurious compared to the 56 billable hours per week that I had backed myself into previously. I find myself scanning the entertainment news online, and sleeping in until 8:00, thinking - I have all the time in the world!

My brain can be very, very stubborn sometimes.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Updates, and things overheard

Bongo has made it up as far as the power lines now. The heat on Toby from the crow community has diminished, but not disappeared. We're all rooting for Bongo. Fly, Bongo, fly!

Note from the dog walker on Friday: "Nelly shut herself in the bathroom somehow. I was her hero when I arrived." Oh, the humiliation of locking yourself in the bathroom when you're supposed to be the Empress of the Universe.

Add to the summer to-do list: repair drywall where Nelly tried to dig her way out of the bathroom.

Zena and I facilitated the client board retreat on Friday at the four-star resort. We went early and got massages, which was awesome. Afterwards I stayed overnight with my friends who live in Silverdale, neither of whom are in the management - consulting - organizational - blahblah business.

Amusing but insightful comment from my friend: "I find it odd that well-educated, successful people send you to a chichi resort and then pay you to help them talk to each other."

Hilarious comment from the massage therapist to Zena, while working on the knots caused by constant lifting of one-year-old twins: "Did a surrogate give birth to your twins?" Mused Zena: "I realize she was giving me a compliment about my weight...but that seemed like a peculiar way to come at it."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Bongo War

Can you see this? This is the little bugger that has turned our yard into a war zone. I call him (or her, it's hard to tell) Bongo.

Bongo continues to reside just outside our fence, at altitudes below seven feet. Toby is obsessed with Bongo. He searches Bongo out, barking at him frenetically as soon as he spots him. Bongo's extensive family converges on our yard the minute Toby makes an appearance, scolding and threatening at the top of their lungs, which only increases his obsession with all black birds. There is no end in sight to the cycle of canine-avian conflict.

Toby has even taken to jumping up on the fence which, at 5 feet high, would be very difficult but not impossible for him to jump. He's never shown any interest before, but then again, he's never seemed so motivated. He is not, in fact, as stupid as he looks:

If he keeps working the problem, he'll figure it out eventually.

Finally I strolled out front to have a little heart-to-heart with Bongo. "Do you think you could improve your flying skills a little faster?" I asked. "You know, maybe you're just not applying yourself. You'll like it up there, in the wide blue sky. It looks nice. But, ok, if you're just not ready, I respect that. Maybe you could stroll across the street and live in Eva's yard until you're ready to move up and out? No? Ok then. You seem like the quiet type, I do appreciate that - do you suppose you might have a word with your family, you know, to see if they won't dial it down a little? The racket is really getting on all of our nerves, I'm sure a sensitive guy like you understands. That would really be great."

Monday, June 05, 2006

To breathe, perchance, to NOT think...

Ahhh, my work life is getting saner by the day. It feels like such a relief not to have to use my brain so steadily, to force it to be productive even when it's tired, so tired of analyzing and thinking, slogging along putting one literate sentence in front of another. I have enough breathing room to say, whew - I think I'd do better finishing this after a little break. What a concept. No more forced labor for my brain. The brain has free from the chain gang.

For a couple of weeks there, I did not have that. And I am certainly enjoying it.

My latest favorite thing to do when NOT thinking is watching the first season of House on DVD. Some new television crack, just what the doctor ordered (no pun intended!). Yes, I know the medicine on House is wildly unrealistic, but I don't care. I am hooked on Hugh Laurie's curmudgeonly, Vicotin-popping, piano-playing, outrageously rude, improbably blue-eyed, limping Gregory House, with his devastating deductive reasoning and his devoted Houselet sidekicks.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The black harbingers of...something

Yesterday there was a racket of crows outside the house, which increasingly captivated Toby's attention. He yearned for the crows, becoming such a nuisance about it that I had to become quite stern with him. Harsh words were exchanged, the silent treatment was resorted to. But then I saw one of the audicious buggers sitting on the boxwood shrub right outside our living room window. Inches from the window, looking in. It crawled around a while, and eventually sat itself right on the fence.

Now, Toby's obsession with the crows was annoying, but by then I'd been listening to their harsh, repetitive cawing for four hours straight - what was their problem, anyway? - so I let him outside to scare them off. Much to my surprise he charged out, jumped up on the fence, and damn near snagged that crow right in his mouth. (Toby is not known for his predatory prowess, his only success to date being one hapless rat.)

The crow community reacted instantly and vigorously. From the trees above, the accusatory cawing became louder, more angry. Eventually I realized that the crow on the fence was an adolescent, fledged but not yet a confident flyer, hanging around low to the ground while its relatives watched carefully from overhead.

So now? Every time Toby goes outside, he is greeted by a raucous, vigorous crow protest. He is persona non grata in the crow world. This has understandably given him a complex - seriously, is there a sound more unpleasant in the natural world than an angry crow? - and so now he's obsessed with them. "Up" is not a direction that dogs normally pay much attention to, in my experience, but now he paces the yeard, searching the trees, and barking at any black birds he sees. The conflict is escalating out of control.

In other words - my 60-pound dog is being bullied by a pack of blackbirds. What is the world coming to?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Is there a vaccine for that?

I never thought this would happen to me, but it appears I may have been bitten by the Powerpoint Animation Bug. I've never been much into the animation feature of Powerpoint, disdaining it as something that sucks an incredible amount of time as you debate whether it's better to have your bullet points fly in from the left? or shimmer magically into being? It's time NOT spent producing useful content, and is a royal pain in the ass if you ever want to edit the presentation at a later date. Plus, when you're giving the presentation you have to spend all your time hitting ENTER, ENTER, ENTER just to get your text up on the screen, which breaks your rhythm. And it doesn't necessarily print out well.

My business partner, Zena, likes animation. You can always tell which half of the deck I built, and which half she built. When I take her presentations and re-purpose them, the first thing I do is strip out all the animation, cursing the whole time. But I respect that it works for her. I am ok with our differences on this matter. It appears she may be rubbing off on me, however, as today I spent quite a bit of time animating. And actually enjoying myself, which is just weird.

I also got to make very fun use of a bus in this particular presentation. Zena meanwhile was trapped in Financial Graph Hell the whole day. So, lucky me!