don't fence me in
there has been an unavoidable slowdown in the pace of my explorations. now that i have exhausted the novelty of my immediate surroundings new site-seeing adventures are increasingly lengthy affairs. i have a few things on my list that i haven't checked off yet, but they're multiple hour drives away and that can be hard to fit into my schedule. it's not that i'm stuck in a rut, or that my social calendar is packed full of gala events but there is a big difference between taking a little drive for an hour or two and booking off a whole day of talking to myself in the car. i'm good company, but i've already heard all my jokes.
the direct result of this phenomena is that i feel like i have less to write about in my blog. if not a drudgery, it's a discipline to spend the time to commit my thoughts to virtual paper. i've found myself listening to interviews with writers talking about their craft and identifying with their descriptions of the difficulty of the process. i'm pretty sure that i don't have the fortitude to want to do this for a living. i don't have the passion for it relative to everything else that i like to do.
that's been a big revelation for me as i've gotten older, that my options which i once thought of as unlimited are in fact very limited. when you're young you can't see your limits over the horizon and the world seems full of endless possibility. you can see yourself in any number of careers, all you have to do is pick one, and maybe work at it. i used to think that i could be a writer, or an architect, or a pro football player. as you strike out to explore the world you inevitably bump up against your limitations - limitations of desire, of talent, of upbringing, of opportunity, of lack of breakaway speed. your world becomes smaller as the boundaries of your existence materialize out of the fog of the unknown. some people are not explorers, either because they have a preternatural ability to know what they want and make a beeline for it, or because they are content with what feels comfortable and don't feel the need to venture from it. other people are never satisfied with where they are and always need to know what's over the next hill.
i'd have to say that i'm somewhere in between. i love to test my boundaries and launch out in new directions but i'm not pathologically driven to remain in motion. i'm smart enough to know when i've found a good thing and practical enough to want to stop there, or at least linger near it. maybe some day i will step out and write that novel i think i've got in me, or build that house, but i'm happy to hang around within a small radius of where i am right now and dabble nearby.
architectural reader's digest
i was reading today about the recent commisioning to spanish architect santiago calatrava
of the new world trade center transportation hub. it's a stunningly elegant design inspired by a dove in flight with two huge sheltering wings that pivot open at their junction to expose the interior of the station to the sky above. calatrava recently created a similarly winged structure (minus the tranforming skylight) as an addition to the milwaukee art museum. he's also responsible for the most elegant bridge in the world, a footbridge suspended over a canal in bilbao from a single curved metal arch. his work is the epitome of what i love in architecture: well thought out, functional and so graceful it makes you weep. as a result of discovering that calatrava is responsible for that bridge i've officially added him to my list of favorite architects, and bumped frank gehry down a notch. (he's so last year)
the world trade center site is really turning into a showcase of 21st century architecture. the towers are a little weird with their large empty spaces, but they should still be beautiful and dominate the skyline. and they are a welcome change from the blocky and endlessly repetitive twin towers. i really like daniel libeskind as well, he's an architect's architect. everything he does is very philosophical and dense with meaning. his plan for the site and particularly the memorial takes into account every nuance of the history and significance of the world trade center. i think that new york will be a significantly more beautiful city as a result, which is saying something for a city of its size and iconic imagery.
it's funny, 10 years after the fact i still wonder if i made the right choice by getting into the virtual world of software engineering rather than the more concrete (no pun intended) world of mechanical engineering. seeing great architecture and design - and there's plenty of it in the bay area i might add - stirs up that old nagging itch to build something that i can touch, feel and live in. i used to scratch that at the bottom of a big barrel of lego but it's been a long while since i've snapped together any 8's. some day i will design and build my own home and find out whether i made a terrible mistake or a wise choice.
appointments with disappointment
i did two things for the first time last week. i got my first haircut in california, and went to my first physical therapy appointment for my ankle. both were disappointing experiences. when you move a lot, you wind up spending a good chunk of time comparison shopping for services like doctoring and barbering, and it's like playing craps. a few things are constant though. don't get your hair cut at the mall, and don't buy your prescriptions from the back of a van.
seriously though, cutting hair is not that hard, especially the simple hair style of a non-froofy guy. all i want is a) make it even, and b) cut it within half an inch of the optimal length. not very high tolerances if you ask me. if i could manufacture an out of body experience i'd cut it myself (i'm pretty handy with the clippers as some of you might know) but i'm stuck schlepping around the county trying to find an old skool barber that understands principles a and b, and isn't going to try anything cute with the texture shears. i had a great one of those in kirkland - keith brush. if that isn't the name of a good barber i don't know what is, and he even had the spinning barber pole above the door. i think it's going to be a hunt to find that around this fancy-ass neighborhood.
the other thing that apparently isn't that hard is being a physical therapist. i went in for my examination and learned absolutely nothing. i honestly don't think physical therapists know any more than people that read. it's clearly not rocket science to tell every person that comes into your office that the best treatment for a soft tissue injury is rest, ice, compression and elevation. you learn the names of a few ligaments, buy yourself a smock and you're there. i'm supposed to have another appointment on friday but i doubt that i'm going to bother since i don't see the point of having someone explain to me how to stretch my calf. if you've played any competitive sports you're going to know that stuff anyway. besides, i've already been out and played basketball over the weekend so i know that everything works.
i don't really have a good way to wind this all up, i just wanted to vent a bit. draw your own conclusions.
men are from mars, women use a lot of toilet paper
this past weekend i was again struck by the strange and phenomenal differences between men and women. over the course of the 4 days that cassandra was visiting the same amount of toilet paper was consumed as in a normal month of use by only me. and i want to make it clear for cassandra's sake that this discrepancy of consumption is not particular to her, i've found excessive sanitary paper product usage to be more or less a universal trait of women. after roughly 10 years of clinical observation i would conservatively estimate that woman use 300-450% more toilet paper than men. it all happens behind closed doors too, which makes it that much more mysterious. what are women doing with all that toilet paper? i used to suspect girlfriends of smuggling rolls out of my apartment in their purses for nefarious purposes but i've never been able to nab one in the act. i don't actually care what happens to it, i'm not some granola munching hippy on a crusade to save the forests, i'm only extremely curious.
if anyone has any information on the subject i'm willing to pay. not handsomely mind you - on the list of quests it's slightly below the searches for weapons of mass destruction, legal marijuana and legitimate gay unions. of course in america you're quite a bit more likely to find the answer to the toilet paper conundrum than any of those. but that's a story for a different 7 posts.
back in the saddle
first off, apologies to my loyal reader for the time off. i've inserted a back-dated post to fill the gap for you of what i would have written had i taken the time.
the reason that i've been m.i.a. is that cassandra came down for a visit over the long weekend and we got busy. with stuff. anyway, i gave her the full tour, starting with a spirited hike to the top of mount tam on saturday. it was only upon reaching the summit that i noticed the parking lot full of cars and realized that we didn't actually have to hike the 2000 vertical feet to get the spectacular view
. under my breath i cursed every old lady in sandals that i saw at the top of the hill and that seemed to make my sweaty ignorance somehow more palatable. after descending we drove up the coast to check out the whales
at stinson beach, then on up to olema before heading back to my place.
sunday we skipped over to napa to meet tara and scott for my favorite meal - brunch. after a good visit we took the tram ride at the sterling winery and did the self guided tour. sterling is pretty much at the north end of the valley so she got to see most of the renowned wineries as we zipped by. if it sounds like i recycled my previous adventures that's because i did. cassandra brought her camera along and i wanted to get some decent pictures to replace the garbage ones i took with my phone. monday was uneventful, consisting of a tour of my office, a workout, dinner and a dvd. pretty standard stuff really, nothing you need to be in marin for. today i braved the evening rush hour to drive her to the oakland airport and send her home to seattle. some sunlight would have been nice, but other than that it went well.
in retrospect an alien abduction would have been a much more enteraining and readable reason for my abscence. i'll have to write up that version tomorrow night.
set up paragraph outlining insignificant event (perhaps with link
) and anecdotal story of same.
pseudo-intellectual deconstruction of said event, from writer's narrow, arbitrary viewpoint. obscure pop culture reference #1. usage of descriptive phrase "ass clown". obscure pop culture reference #2.
quasi-philosophical spin. tidy but unfulfilling and open-ended wrapup.
postscript mention and grainy, unattractive picture of writer's disfigured ankle
coincidence... and poetry
i bought a new vacuum and clock radio in the last couple weeks because the old ones were getting pretty flakey and/or smelly. there's nothing terribly weird about that, but tonight when i was trying to build a robot out of the old stuff i noticed that i inadvertently bought the same brands again. fascinating. what subliminal marketing was working on me to make me gravitate to stuff that i already have? i don't usually think of timex
as masters of merchandising but they must be doing something right. or something illegal.
tomorrow morning bright and early i'm heading in to see the physiotherapist about my ankle
). i want to make sure that all the right bits are still attached and that it won't scar up when it heals. you can't know too much about medical stuff is my theory. truth of the matter is though, i couldn't be happier with my recovery. to express my joy i've written a haiku about my anti-inflammatory relafen:
at first disfavored
you've proven your worth in spades
prompting "vioxx who?"
recreating in the golden gate
my sight seeing trip today took me to point reyes national park. it took longer than i was expecting to get there but it was a spectacular sunny day to be driving with the top down and there was some great scenery so i didn't mind.
point reyes is a large triangle of land just north of stinson beach that juts out into the pacific in an irregular way, like it has been tacked on to an otherwise fairly straight coastline. that makes sense considering that for the last 5 million years it has been sliding up the coast from monterey along the san andreas fault. the majority of the point is a verdant pastoral grassland, divided among 6-7 historic but still functioning cattle ranches. the coastline is rocky at the very tip but has endless stretches of sandy beach
on either side. it has one absolutely top notch visitor center at the base of the triangle that shows stuffed versions of all the wildlife you'll find on the point and another smaller center out at drake beach where a shuttle bus picks up visitors to take them to the tip.
on the tip is a quaint, squat structure built close to the water to keep it below the ceiling of fog that blankets the coast during the summer. from the viewing areas you can watch right whales and orcas migrate. i saw a couple of spouts but the whales were too far away to see clearly. there are also great white sharks patrolling the waters, and a pretty big colony of sea lions who were lounging around on a small beach around the corner. i hiked around a bunch to get to all the best viewing points (which i'm starting to feel in my ankle
now) but it was a great day in terms of communing with nature.
less is more better
is almost back to normal size which is good. you can also see the bruises just starting to turn from a navy to a sort of jaundiced yellow.
after a good story about food, how about another appetizing picture of my ankle
? the bruises seem to be solidifying but at least the swelling has started to abate.
sell the sizzle not the steak
every day on my drive home i have passed by a sizzler
conspicuously situated directly across the freeway from the marin county civic center, and every day i have had a nagging urge to go in. it's been probably 10-12 years since i've been to a sizzler, but back in the day i was a contender in the all you can eat olympics. sadly (or thankfully, depending on how you look at it) those days are behind me, and while i'm not in fighting trim to tackle 48oz steaks anymore i still have a hard time resisting the siren song of a buffet, even a sizzler one.
well today i managed to con eddie into sacrificing his stomach at the altar of my nostalgia and dragged him to his doom, also known as "cajun chicken sandwich". i ordered the big eater staple - steak and all you can eat shrimp (you don't go to sizzler to mess around after all), but i'll get to that in a moment. after paying we went to the table and experienced that buffet moment, when you pause beside the table just before sitting down and realize that there's nothing going on at the table, the action's back at the buffet, so what are we doing standing beside the table? rookie mistake.
and then the beauty of a buffet hits you, moistening the eye as well as the mouth. everything is laid out provocatively, fully accessible, arranged under the sneeze guard in a tantalizing array of things that no self-respecting chef would put together in the same salad. egg, garbanzo beans and pickled beets find their way onto your bed of spinach and romaine lettuce to be doused with low fat ranch and sprinkled with at least 5 toppings like some rabbit food sunday. endless possibilities have been distilled into one fantastically personal plate. a salad bar is do it yourself dining at it's finest. knowing i was about to get my fill of battered shrimp i resisted the urge for a second plate.
predictably, the disappointment came at the same time as the steak, reminding me why it's been a decade since i've eaten at sizzler. the steak was a tough lifeless lump, branded with grill lines in a such a manner that made me question whether it had ever in fact been part of a living creature. not even sizzler brand steak sauce could resurrect it. the shrimp suffered a similar manufactured affectation. the grandmotherly waitress who brought it out stated that i should let her know if i needed more than the mountainous pile on my plate but after working hard to get through half of it i was done. taste and quality aside, i used to pride myself on the fact that no buffet proprieter was going to make money on my meal but clearly i am past my prime, relegated to the ranks of average customer. defeated, i lumbered dully out to the car asking how something that started out so well could end so poorly
. i'll have to let you know when i go back, in 2015.
just a quick update
. i like the time lapse nature of regular pictures of the sprain. notice the growth of the bruised area under the ankle bone and the impressive bruising showing up on the middle 3 toes. the swelling isn't noticably different. it's not pretty, but still interesting in a side show kind of way.
to be or to be something else
so i rolled my ankle playing basketball on monday night. i haven't done that in probably 5 years, and not this bad in a lot longer than that. it looks pretty nasty
right now but i'm hoping to be healed up enough to get back on the court in a couple weeks. if the ligaments aren't torn all the way through i think that's possible, though not necessarily the safest recovery schedule. doctors of course think everyone is a complete wuss and that people with sprained ankles should rest and heal for 2 months before thinking of getting back to walking without crutches. in my experience they treat everyone like an over protective mother treats a 3 year old and no athlete is going to stand for that kind of excessive caution if there is a chance to be in the game and scratch that competitive itch. no matter what a doctor tells you, if it feels good enough to play you'll play. people don't like to be told not to smoke either, and that's a lot more damaging than potentially re-spraining an ankle. i work a desk job and don't have to chase down my food on foot like a caveman, after all. the risk to me is pretty small in the grand scheme of things.
in general people think that they are in control of what they do, that they choose one thing over another rationally, but choice is an illusion. our "choices" are merely the product of our intrinsic priorities, silently filtering and summing the stimuli of the world behind a facade of cognitive thought. reasoning is the anecdote we apply to a mostly unconscious choice, to make sense of it for our consciousness. because of this the fact that someone prefers the immediate pleasure of a good deep draw of burnt tobacco and 50 carcinogens to a long life is a bigger part of what makes that person who they are. they don't have to think about the consequences, their personal risk/reward formula is built in by genetics and deeply ingrained training. sure you can try to change who you are at that fundamental level, no one's stopping you, but you can't think your way out of it because it goes deeper than that. hell, sigmund freud smoked cigars continuously even after losing half his face to jaw cancer brought on by - hello - smoking cigars, and you're going to tell me not to play basketball on a tender ankle? people do what people do, because they can't do otherwise and remain who they are.
the groundhog didn't make it out of bed this morning, but he wouldn't have seen his shadow anyway. it rained so hard over night it drowned the little bastard. cleared up later in the afternoon though. we don't really get a winter here anyway, so i question the point of having a groundhog day. good riddance you superfluous rodent.
super bowl sunday. beer, snacks, betting, and football. usually it's a celebration of testosterone, this year i didn't really care. none of the teams that i wanted to see made it to the big game, and the ones that did don't exactly stoke the fires of excitement. of course i still watched the game, even if you don't like football at all it's also the super bowl of advertising. ironically, the game turned out to be quite entertaining (even though the wrong team won), but the ads blew. i remember the heady days of the dot coms, when super bowl ads were big spectacles, and a lot of them were funny. with the exception of the budweiser ads this year's crop was extremely forgettable. i want to see something special, something that doesn't show up on normal everyday tv, something epic. instead we get treated to boner pill ads with a football legend explaining how he's so happy now that he can throw a football through a tire again, wink wink nudge nudge. the world has come to a sad state when no one thinks it's a good idea to spend 5 million showing a dancing monkey or a sock puppet during advertising's pinnacle event.
ah well, there's always next year.