Thursday, July 31, 2008

A funny/good cover of 9 Crimes

I tend to seize on songs and listen to them ad nauseum until I'm, um, sick of them, then lay off awhile, then put them back in rotation. I'm still in the can't-get-enough on Damien Rice's "9 Crimes," and because I also like covers a lot, I've been listening to a bunch of those. Most are not so hot, but this one is pretty damn good. The lady here also plays ukulele.

It is worth listening to the whole thing, you know, for the hidden tracks.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oh, fine. The other goals.

I usually make my New Year's resolutions around my birthday, which is around Burns Day. This year, I think the grand total was to become a really good baker.

Cook? Sure. Baker? Well, not so much. I make really good cookies and some pastries, but except pizza dough, all the bread I've made has been not great. Edible's a start, but really.

One big factor in this resolution is my desire to reinvent a delicious Japanese cracker/cookie found in Matsumoto. It's bigger than most sembei, a disc about three inches in diameter and maybe a quarter-inch thick, crusted with sugar and wasabi. Super tasty, but not readily available here in Walla Walla.

Anyway, my efforts have stalled, though I keep meaning to re-take up the cause. I did make candy for the first time this year, and I didn't even need a thermometer, so that was pretty cool. But as for actual baked goods, there's still room for improvement.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Derailed plans, etc.

I had intended, at the beginning of the year, to accomplish some things, but I can hardly remember the list, which should tell you something about my progress toward those important goals.

In a way, they're like my six "objectives" at work - great on paper in January but only vaguely related to the reality that unfolds over the next 11 months. On the plus side, the personal goals don't have a dollar figure attached.

Here's how the system at work works (trust me, the personal goals are pretty boring; you're not missing much):

Besides your ordinary work, you and your manager draw up a list of five goals to accomplish over the year. They have to be quantifiable and because they determine whether you get a bonus, and if so how much, each goal is assigned a value (like, say, 20 percent of your bonus).

At the end of the year, you write a report on how your goals went, and assign a percentage to each one as to how you think you did. Then your manager reads the report and decides what percentage to give you. Then your bonus is figured by looking at what percent you got of each goal.

The maximum possible bonus, regardless of how many new ways to make money you might invent, is 2.5 percent of your base pay, which to me seems like a strong disincentive to invent new ways to make money, at least at work.

I'm not supposed to say how much money I make because it is a big secret, but let's just say my maximum bonus is between $1,100 and $1,300. Aww yeah, journalism. And because our friend the IRS hangs on to more from my bonus than my salary - and because I opt for 401(k) withholding on the bonus, too - the take-home I see is in the neighborhood of $600 or $700.

So the high end of my take-home bonus is just in the neighborhood of a week of take-home pay. One fifty-second extra isn't much of an inspiration, unless you're talking one fifty-second of Britney Spears' take-home pay.

Hey, I love my job, and I don't particularly care about the bonus, but I do think there might be some reasons to revise the system. Maybe if what was at stake was an extra week of vacation...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Newfoundland or Goofenland?

I'm thinking the wonder twins could do well as a devil and an angel at Halloween. For now, big Katy certainly has angel wrapped up.
I was wearing this T-shirt the other day at a coffee shop and the lady behind me (it is on backwards on Katy) asked me, "Where's Kittery Trading Post?" That brought the grand total of people who've asked me about a Northeast T-shirt to two (the other was about my Kruczek's Garage and Towing shirt, which a hipster hoped I'd part with).

The T-shirt I really wanted from that town didn't exist - a funky Newmarket Mules shirt, mules being the mascot of the high school. Ah well, what can you do?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Good separately, but better together

Alas, you could say that about a lot of people.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wishing for fall

But not very hard: I'm all for hot, dry weather.

I am, however, thinking seriously about installing an underground sprinkler system and a small lawn for our back yard. The dogs would enjoy the grass, I think, and it would help to keep the HUGE supply of weeds at bay back there. Plus, it would give me a fun project that wouldn't cost very much (the sprinkler part, anyway - I don't know what turf runs these days, and the dogs make seeding impossible).

I would bemoan this move as a surrender to the all-American ideal of a green stretch of grass were it not for the quite small dimensions of this lawn-to-be. One thing you can say for our house: There's not a lot of room wasted on a big yard.

Anyway, that's what's occupying the non-work, non-puppy, non-cook, non-swimmer parts of my brain just now.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Ages ago, I thought I'd use this space to chronicle my conversion from long-distance runner (boy, talk about the distant past...) to swimmer.

That fabulous process started with a ligament strain (MCL, I think) sustained trying to recapture being a distance runner from being a guy who used to be a distance runner.

Swimming hasn't gone entirely swimmingly. I hit the pool in late summer 2005 and started having shoulder problems in January 2006 that haven't really gone away. But I also lost a lot of weight (21 pounds from then to now, as well as a few inches off the waistline). And I'm getting faster, finally, thank god.

And less injured, too, I think. The other week, I got a tip from a fellow pool person that, combined with an observation of a speedy swimmer girl, has taken damn near all the pain out of swimming. I suspect I'll still need the massage therapy and such for a while, but maybe the light is finally shining at the end of the tunnel. And the light isn't a fast-approaching train :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Speaking of b/w videos

This song kicks ass, too. Like you and everyone else in the civilized world, I've heard it 2.2 million times, and I've seen Predator 1.1 million times, but I didn't realize one of the characters in the movie was reciting some of the lyrics before his demise until seeing a related video...

The audience at this show is as classic as the tune.

An old favorite, with an upbeat twist

I wonder if Bobby Darin caught any flak for this funky version of "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore:"

I have always, always loved this song, and I dig this rendition, for sure, more than the way I learned it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How long's it take to make one of those things?

Psychgrad posed a question I'm often asked: How long does it take to weave a scarf?

I don't think she knows it, but that's a loaded question, so my usual answer is: Well, it depends.

Weavers tend to avoid giving the actual time they spend weaving, because a) weaving goes very quickly; and b) there's a lot more to making a scarf than the weaving, and if you look at the price (up to $165 for my scarves), it is easy for some people to say, "OK, 165 bucks an hour?"

Of course, those folks aren't likely to buy anything, anyway.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Figuring out the specific amount of time spent on any given scarf isn't feasible, but here's a rough sketch:

You have to put on a warp (I put on enough for about 12 scarves), and thread the loom (each piece of yarn goes through two metal pieces, and my scarf warps usually have about 175 threads). That's about four or five hours from start to finish.

You also have to conceive of the warp and choose the yarns, which takes who knows how long. I think about warps all the time, in the back of my mind, kind of like how I think about newspapers, writing and one or two other things I will leave to your imagination. To put a number on it, though, I'd say that after the inspiration strikes, designing a warp takes a few hours.

After I weave a scarf, I tie knots in the fringe - to make it pretty - about 5 or 10 minutes per scarf. I wash the scarves to get out the sizing and dust (hey, I live in Walla Walla, the land of blowing dust), then dry them, and sometimes spot iron them when they're dry-ish. Maybe that's another 10 or 20 minutes per scarf? Maybe more, hard to say.

The weaving itself depends on what kind of yarn I'm using and the pattern. I'd say for a 78-inch scarf, weaving times range from an hour or so to two hours for complicated work.

What's that work out to on average? Three hours? Four?

For the set looking to assess the dollars per hour, the ace in the hole is this: Besides the time I spend actually in production, there's that whole "artist" thing, plus the 31 years
of experience I have on the loom bench, plus the Internal Revenue Service, plus the yarn company...

But yeah, a few hours :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What I've been weaving lately

Here's a blue warp I'm working on (partly for my own fiendish plots, partly for someone else's), which will soon be seen in stores...

from one side:
from another:
and the makings of a turquoise capelet or twist (plus my knees):
The weft (the turquoise part) is this really lush rayon chenille made by Silk City Fibers. Oo-la-la!

Monday, July 14, 2008

World history? Not where I went to school

The Butterfly Lady and I were just watching this video and noting that neither of us had heard of this war until Warren Zevon (and in her case, Jane Goodall) told us about it...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Smells like home

The area where I grew up is now heavily in grapes and grass seed, but was (25 years ago) more of a patchwork of orchards (plums, prunes, apples, cherries, peaches, hazelnuts, you name it) along with grass seed, u-pick berries, peppermint (complete with distilleries) - the whole nine yards.

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The annual field burning, which is now severely out of fashion but may be making a comeback — according to an AP story I read today — bothered a lot of people, but I associate the smell of burning fields with the days of laid-back youth.

Burning fields probably isn't the best plan, especially because they're being burned so a bunch of people with no business having a huge green lawn can have a huge green lawn. But I like the smell anyway.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Distributed work force

I am not among those lucky enough to have a work-from-home gig, though the 10-minute walk to work sure isn't too much off. Except for the having-to-wear-clothes part, I suppose.

I'm not sure about other papers, but ours is certainly at the point where we really don't need to have a newsroom per se. I am pretty sure all we'd need is a reliable way to connect to the servers at work and probably one person to act as a newsroom representative to the public, which thankfully continues to visit us in person on a fairly regular basis.

As for other departments? Well, this is probably oversimplified, but we've got:
  • A business office - internal and B2B bills.
  • A circulation department - sets up subscriptions, takes complaints, plans single-copy sales, etc.
  • An advertising department - ad sales people do nearly all their work out of the office.
  • An advertising composition section - they digitally compose the ads and produce certain publications not handled by the newsroom.
  • The press and mailroom - The latter being where all those fliers get inserted into your paper, as well as the distribution point for the finished product.
I'm probably missing something obvious.

It seems to me we could pare down to having department managers on site, if they felt that was necessary, plus one or two reps from each department except for the press and mailroom, the only parts of the factory that actually do stuff with tangible materials.

I suppose if there's ever a need to replace the building, we'd go to some sort of pared-down storefront and off-site printing and call it good, but I'm guessing the motivation to do that is low. Taxes are cheap here (about $16,000 last year for property tax, anyway), I'm pretty sure we own the building, etc.

But it wouldn't hurt my feelings if going to work consisted of turning on my computer at home and maybe meeting up with my staff occasionally for coffee :)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My dear old friend

I was going to write a huge list of memories of our little dog, Max, who died peacefully today after a long and fruitful life, and I'm sorry to say, a sadly painful past few months. The list will have to wait; it is too hard to write right now.

Anyway, it got to be impossible to square the profoundly arthritic and out-of-it little guy with the vibrant hunter of rabbits and grasshoppers and nefarious food thief he'd been for so many years.

He wasn't always a well-behaved dog, but he was a very good dog.

I only wish I also had photographic evidence from one of the *two* Christmases he helped himself to the Swedish meatballs while standing on the dinner table. ... Or the induced vomiting after the pig-out on chocolates; or video from the two (or was it three?) days of amped-up Max after he broke into the bag of coffee beans; or the hopping behind me in my snowshoe tracks when he was tired out after a run along the Lamprey River in winter, or...

How soon we must sever

Today's the last day for one of my best friends, so here's a song for him.

The Factor has lost its marble

Bill O'Reilly, who can usually be relied on to at least be a smart dude, said something singularly bizarre on Tuesday's Factor, which he kindly also made his quote of the day:
"Any retreat on Iraq by Obama ... will anger the far left, which is already going nuts. ... Senator Obama now finds himself in very a tough spot. But I know one thing: he can't go against General Petraeus and hope to be elected president."
Setting aside the grammatical errors, this is totally fucking bizarre coming from someone who has reasonably solid credentials as a conservative.

When did David Petraeus become an important political actor? Did he? If he did, why isn't O'Reilly suggesting we start caching weapons and training the militias? Anyway, I thought maybe I'd heard wrong, but this isn't some anomalous fuckup. Fuckup, yes. Anomalous, no. Here's a tidbit from O'Reilly's recap of the show:
"General Petraeus, who is emerging as a national hero, will likely tell the senator that any U.S. pullout has to be okayed by the military."
Oh, really? I thought the military reported to the president, you know, to the commander in chief. Isn't that how our republic is supposed to work?


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Defending the cash economy

As I have noted previously, the IRS's taxpayer advocate, Nina E. Olson - who is supposed to be looking out for the likes of you and me - has identified the cash economy as the No. 3 biggest problem facing the American taxpayer. Not the government, mind you, but Mary and Joe Taxpayer.

Olson and her service claim the cash economy results in $100 billion a year going untaxed, and guesstimates that this underpayment, plus other nefarious activity, means Joe and Mary pay an extra $2,680 a year to "pick up the tab," in Olson's hip words, for folks who forgot to log those cash transactions.

Olson's office has to issue an annual report on the top problems facing taxpayers, and at the same time, Visa continues its absurd advertising assault on cash. I'm not saying they're colluding, of course, but the twin powers certainly have activated around the same time, around the same issue.

Anyway, the voices of reason have started to make themselves heard, as USA Today reports today. Gas stations, which have since I can remember offered discounts for cash payment, are maybe doing so at a greater rate than "before," to encourage people to help them overcome the higher credit card fees they are dealing with (because of rising gas prices).

I prefer to deal in cash when possible, but that's not always workable. Nevertheless, I still make sure it's Franklins hitting the counter when I buy from local folks, and I'll let the chips fall where they should...

Monday, July 07, 2008

Never a dull moment

Our children, plus weaving, plus swimming, plus our children (esp. child No. 3) have kept me out of blogland, as well as sleep, for a spell. Here are some family photos...

Katy keeps an eye on Yuki, who's thinking she'll go after Max's tail. Max, alas, is near the end of the line. He's a dear old guy, my pal on a lot of adventures.
Yuki is a mudhound, and she loves hanging out in the plants (and chewing them up, too).
Here's how Katy asks for a treat. Treats are in the cabinet to her left.
Here's how Katy emphasizes her desire for a treat:
Another silly face:
Yuki is more into tanking up on water than treats, for now anyway.
She'll even hang around the watering hole when the water is being refilled.
They have differing attitudes about fireworks. Here's the scene Sunday night (night three of the barrage):
What's a bathtub full of Newfy look like?
So, that's what I've been up to...