Due to unexpected technical difficulties…

We left Seattle by boat yesterday as planned, but turned around an hour and a half later due to technical difficulties. No, it wasn’t the boat. Rinpoche is fine. It was these little buggers -stonesFor a size reference, I put a penny in the cup with a filter in the bottom. The gravelly-looking things are kidney stones. You may have heard stories about how painful it is to pass these things – they are all true! Women with their childbirth horror stories have nothing on me! It’s hard to believe those little things put me in here for a few hours last night -erA little morphine killed the pain, and drinking a lot of water flushed those little bastards out this morning.

So now I’m back to normal, but just to be sure, we’ll wait until tomorrow to try again on our northern boating adventure.

With a bit of luck, the bill for all this will disappear into the ozone while we’re gone. I hate to think what a few hours in ER and a CT scan will cost with my super-duper high-deductible catastrophic insurance plan.

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Now that was fun!

Yesterday evening was a gorgeous evening in the way that makes gorgeous Seattle evenings the best anywhere. Unfortunately I have no photos to share – I was too busy racing. It was a great night for another installment of the Downtown Sailing Series. As you may recall, my last venture ended up with us in 3rd place out of about 45 boats. We had a great start and a good crew, and we were near the front most of the way, getting to the clubhouse before there were even any lineups for hot dogs and beer.

Not so last night. The winds were 8-12 knots from the NW, so we had a broad reaching start. I decided we should fly the gennaker, but since we had never done this before in “racing” situation, and since half the crew had never done it before at all, and since the last time I did this, we had a really violent round up, I wanted to do a practice run. We were running short of time, but we did it anyway. All went well setting and snuffing the sail, but I had a hard time getting back to the starting line in time, and as a result we started about 50th in a class of 54.

As we crossed the start, we set the chute, and we started making up for lost time. By the time we got to the first mark, we’d passed several boats, and passed even more on the next leg, a run downwind. At the next mark, we snuffed the chute, and settled in for a long upwind leg. Rinpoche sails really well to wind, so once we got the sails trimmed properly, we started picking off boats like they were standing still. We passed a few more on the last leg, and ended up 11th out of 54!

By my reckoning we passed about 40 boats, including a few “friends” who said “bye-bye” to us at the start. Very satisfying indeed. Great thanks to my ace crew of Roger, Rainer, and Lee.

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It was a good weekend

First of all, thanks for all the birthday wishes. With the wonders of modern technology, it still amazes me that I can get birthday greetings from all over the world from people I haven’t seen or talked to in years. Facebook and the internet can be evil at times, but they’re pretty good most of the time.

It’s also pretty good of the powers that be to have Canada Day, Independence Day and my birthday all within a week of each other. It makes for a good party time. We didn’t do much special for the 1st, but we kicked off the festivities by taking Rinpoche to Poulsbo for the July 3rd fireworks. We rafted up with ten other boats, most of which were occupied by former SSYC members.

ssycalumniFor those of who aren’t familiar with SSYC, it’s the Seattle Singles Yacht Club. I hung out there pretty regularly from 2003 until I started hanging out regularly with Megan (who was never part of the club). But there are a lot of good people still in the club, and lot of “graduates” of the club. Or maybe “failures at the single life” is a better description. However you describe them, I’m glad we’ve kept in touch over the years.

Then on the 4th we went to a party at the house of former neighbors. They have a fabulous house with pretty good views of the Lake Union fireworks. Again, it was good to see old friends.

And then on the 5th, we had an open house/birthday party at our new digs. We had about 40 people show up, and our new place certainly absorbs people a lot better than the old Fremont digs. Here’s a shot of Megan and me and the cake.

my62 (1)

One of the (few) cool things about summer birthday parties and getting old is generations of kids playing in the yard.  They too had a great time.

kidsplay62bdThat’s Elina in the middle, looking for someone to smack with her foam noodle.

So now it’s back to our “normal” life for a while.

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No, this isn’t a take-off on Jon Stewart’s Middle East rants.

Today is Ste. Jean-Baptiste Day, a national holiday in Quebec. What better way to celebrate than with a mess of poutine.

poutine13And a home-brewed Light Braun Haus Ale to wash it all down.


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Saskatoons at Peshastin?

Holy cow! I’ve been really lax with blogging lately, and then I feel inspired to do TWO in one day!

Megan took me to Peshastin Pinnacles today to take a short hike and look at the rock faces. She has some plans of making a rock climber out of me, and I guess that’s only fair since I’m doing my best to make a sailor out of her.

Anyway, here’s one view from the Peshastins.

peshastinThere are lots of different faces of varying difficulty – some already bolted for sport climbing, and others where you’d have to lay down your own protective devices. It looks interesting, and I think we’ll give it a shot on one of the easy routes if we come out here again next weekend.

But the most interesting thing to me were all these berry bushes lining the trails. There were literally thousands (OK, hundreds) of them.

SaskatoonsIf we do come back here next weekend, I’ll be sure to bring a pail to pick some of these Saskatoon berries. They should be perfect by then. Megan has promised to use her pastry expertise and make me a Saskatoon berry pie, just like Mom used to make back in the Old Country.


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Creepy or Cool?

Story – Google.

I started using Picasa when I finally got a smart phone a few months ago. Rather than sucking up a bunch of the phone’s memory, it seemed like a good deal to have the photos on the cloud. That’s cool. But unbeknownst to me, without being asked, Picasa reached into my desktop computer and uploaded thousands of photos (taken with other cameras) to the cloud. Well, OK, another backup to my hard drive. Maybe that’s cool. And then, Auto Awesome, which automatically enhances and sometimes animates photos, started making “stories” about my photos. This is where it starts getting creepy.

I’ve attached one of the “stories” on the above link. Remember that these photos were all taken with a real camera, not the phone camera. And though my real camera date stamps all photos, it does not have GPS location capability. And I did not label ANY of the photos. So how the hell does Picasa know where I was? Does it use Google Earth to match landscapes? Does it get the information from the NSA? Does it share the information with the NSA? Now that’s CREEPY!

Ps.The link works fine on my computer, but Megan can’t open the link on hers. It looks like you can’t see the story that Picasa created unless you’re using Google+. Oh well, if you can’t see the story you’ll just have to trust me that it’s creepy.

PPs. Here’s a link to the story on Picasa. https://plus.google.com/u/0/105779918325522203530/stories/16614949-86fb-3f84-a0e7-70d20ac9480a146936e9ba6 Maybe that will work.

PPPs. But then again, maybe not. Computers can be annoying as hell. They do all kinds of things without you asking, but then they don’t do the things you ask them to.

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$2,000,000,000 for a basketball team?

Am I the only person who thinks that something is seriously amiss when an individual can spend $2B on a basketball team and still have $16B left over? And this guy is only #21 on the Forbes 400 list!

It’s pretty hard to get your (or at least my) head around how big a number that is. So I looked up some government budgets for comparison. Yeah, yeah, I know that governments are inefficient and wasteful, but how can $2B for a basketball team possibly be productive? So here are a few numbers:

- The original light rail budget for Seattle was $1.7B. Ballmer could have funded the whole thing and still had $300M left over.

- For you highway lovers out there, current interstate highway construction costs in Washington run about $7-10M/mile. Ballmer could build at least 200 miles of new interstate highway for the cost of his team.

- The entire Seattle City budget is $4.4B. So he could fund five months worth of city spending instead of owning a pro sports team. Or if he was feeling generous with his entire personal fortune, he could fund everything Seattle for fours years and still have money left over.

- From 2011-2013, Washington State spent $16B on public education and an additional $12B on higher education. Ballmer could easily have funded either on of those two for a couple of years and still had billions left over.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I think something is wrong with our system when such vast fortunes are accumulated by individuals. And it’s only getting worse. If you look at the top ten of Forbes 400, four of them were born there having done nothing other than selecting Sam Walton as their father. Two of them, the infamous Koch brothers were born to vast inherited wealth, but they grew that wealth to make it to the very top tier. Of the top 10, only Larry Ellison came from modest circumstances.

These fortunes are so vast that it is almost impossible to spend them, so they are passed on to heirs. We’ll soon have a system of oligarchy that will make the Russians look, shall we say, communistic? Some may say that people like Bill Gates are showing the way for the ultra-rich to handle their fortunes – set up a foundation and give it all away. There are already thousands of foundations set up by the rich to give away a portion of their money. But isn’t there something unseemly about school districts going cap in hand to Mark Zuckerberg to fund public education?

With money comes power, but in the land of the free and the home of the brave, aren’t there supposed to be checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power? A concept that makes no sense to me is that money is speech. How can speech be free when someone can spend millions or billions to drown out all other voices?

I know we can’t just confiscate all that wealth, but can’t we come up with a tax system, including massive inheritance taxes to keep this aristocracy from forming in the first place? Isn’t that what the Founding Fathers would have wanted? As Thomas Jefferson said,

A power to dispose of estates for ever is manifestly absurd. The earth and the fulness of it belongs to every generation, and the preceding one can have no right to bind it up from posterity. Such extension of property is quite unnatural.

Or how about Adam Smith, aka The Godfather of capitalism, when he wrote,

There is no point more difficult to account for than the right we conceive men to have to dispose of their goods after death.

OK, I’m done ranting for a while.

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