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26 September, 2009

Lake Union 1936

In keeping with the orthophoto mosaic theme, here is Seattle and Lake Union, from 1936. (Yes children, they had cameras back then, and airplanes for that matter, but the cameras had rolls of plasticky stuff inside that had to go to a lab before you could see anything.)

Again, water is used for the the trickiest intersections between individual frames, and so Lake Union is a patchwork, but not as bad as the Hood Canal one from the last post; is it just that black and white is more soothing? Of course, it does make the bridge over the Ship Canal a tricky crossing.

Various churches through history have identified funner ways to go blind, but that wouldn't work in the office, and being a geek I enjoy ferreting out old photos and squinting and peering to find old shorelines and historic hot-spots. Lake Union is one of the places I keep looking at, and have been meeting with a group of Seattle people interested in the submerged history there. Right now we have sonar scans (lots of squinting and speculation looking at those images, believe me), and are ready for divers. Anyone out there scuba certified and good at staying just above toxic silt?

25 September, 2009

Cubist Riptide

The sea was angry that day? It was a dark and stormy night?

Nah. Save your cliches for meatspace.

It was a day when I thanked the conspiracy of a not-too-distant star and weak earthly winds for the light sneaking into my cubicle sideways. In a month, maybe a week if the rains kick in, that won't be happening, and I'll be cloaked in flourescents. But today I cruised over mountains and wetlands from the comfort of the office. Not that I appreciated it. No, I lapsed now and then into dark territory, practicing for November: back pain, office air, the dread of some crisis-triggered phone call.

Then, swooping over the big bend in Hood Canal, I had real reason to be happy I was not out in the real world, sandwiched between dueling blues of sky and sea. Perched just off the marina was the biggest baddest cubist rip-tide I've witnessed all year. A mosaic of vastly different conditions, the kind of thing the GIS overlords frown on, and the likes of which never seem to happen on land. Whole ships could've been lost in this most un-Bermudan quadrangle, or worse yet, cut in half and left to improvise.

19 September, 2009


The Natural Resource Building in Olympia was built recently enough that the landscaping is rife with native species, many with edible fruits. Pretty good set on the berries this year (more salal than anything, but no complaints here), and it looks like there could be a decent amount of huckleberries (evergreen) once the frost makes 'em, tasty.

There's some kind of small tree that pumped out blueberry-ish fruit earlier in the summer. Not quite as tasty as regular blueberries, but good for fistfuls of sustenance as I walked to work. And of course the Himalayan blackberry is invading the plantings with its alien deliciousness. Although the NRB contains numerous experts on resource management, restoration ecology, and native plants, they're not the ones maintaining the landscape, and inevitably it has degraded from a native species perspective.

Still, not bad for a place where the 'pristine' native flora was wiped out more than a century ago, and I really appreciate that there are edible species to be had in the concrete jungle.

And I think I may be the only one, other than that hippie girl I saw gorging on salal berries last summer. She looked guilty for a second when she saw that I saw, then broke into a bluetoothed (finally, the word used as it should be) smile when she figured out that I was not The Man. Otherwise, I seem to be the only one feasting on the landscape bounty, and I make only the smallest dent. Most of the berries drop to the ground or even dry up on the plant.

Why? Maybe because people think berries from the market are good, or even those picked in the woods, but not if they come from a city. But I've watched for long enough to know there's no spray, and the plants are safe. Could be that food in unexpected places is invisible. Or maybe my shamelessness outpaces that of the other bipeds roaming around, who wouldn't want to be seen stooping and picking, risking the scorn of the smokers perched 25.1 feet from every door. Especially for salal or plain old blackberries. Only a newcomer would get excited about that.

14 September, 2009


Last week featured the third trip to Eastern Washington in as many weeks. Daylight driving this time, big SUV instead of a Prius, thermous o coffee and Butch Helemano bouncing me up the Cascades in no time. Then on the other side marking my territory at various rest stops; I especially remember one just before descending into the Gorge: golden late sun, departing a stop with New Roman Times track 2 blaring, blazing down the on-ramp like a runway, lifting off and swooping down under the rays with the last of the java still warming my gullet, intent on slaying the miles between me and rest.
Such are the warrior dreams of the bored archaeocrat. Escape from the sunless cubicle farm, hours without phones and emails imposing, miles without stoplights--all of these things soothe the soul. But running away cannot be the only trick; the warrior who only retreats is no hero at all, just another big-whig Democratic strategist. Dancing on the site of a certain inter-agency tiff from which I'd emerged OK was no satisfaction, although I loitered on the ashes for a while and may have peed in the general vicinity. The meeting I went for was no place to play warrior, and I managed to shift into diplomatic mode for long enough to get through it.
The next day involved a run through reservations up toward the Canadian border. At one point we were looking across a valley at that vast socialist empire. I tell myself that but for the fact I was in a caravan of state workers, I'd've pulled off, hiked over, and played Illegal Alien for a while: undercut their working class by doing their shit jobs for an unlivable wage, stick it to their elite by doing the landscaping poorly, impoverish them Canucks by getting free health care, stuff like that.
Truth was, though, that even without the paranoia that some hidden border camera would catch me, my earlier run-in with good old American police had put a damper on things. I'd been cruising along this country road at speeds just short of flipping an SUV. Didn't see Johnny Law lurking, busy as I was snapping photos through bug-splattered windows of whatever seemed interesting: cool hills, picturesque barns, grazing camels. So suddenly there's a black muscle car with dark tinted windows on my tail, and after playing cat and mouse for a minute, he flashes hidden cop-lights and pulls me over. Being caffeine-deprived, I didn't get all nervous. Being white, I didn't get hassled or searched. The officer was very nice and maybe under-estimated my speed to a notch below Reckless Endagnerment, but I was in no mood to further test the good will of law enforcement, especially with the Mounties and their legendary, Bush-league lust for torture. Or for that matter, I had no intention of getting picked up by bureaucrats who would grant me asylum and room and board, robbing me of outlaw status and the chance to embarrass the regime.
And anyway, I could count coup already. I'd been reckless without getting cited for it; I'd been pulled over without the fuzz realizing I was a Coyote, smuggling half a dozen Gringos to their Canadian dreams. Not long after I saw Johnny Law peel off in another direction, I made my way the curve in the tracks where my charges could hop a train on the Overground Railroad toward the promised land.