Towse: views from the hill

October 30, 2004

The last fling

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:43 pm

I talked about a quarter of a century of Flings last May, after the Spring Fling. At that point in time we weren’t sure whether Dale would be sold by the time of the Fall Fling — whether the Spring Fling was “the last fling.”

It wasn’t.

We haven’t cleared out Dale to the point that we can even start patching and painting in preparation for sale, let alone put it on the market yet. We do intend to have it on the market after the new year and hope to have it sold by the date of what would be Spring Fling 2005.

Consequently, last night’s fling was advertised as “The Last Fling.”

Last night’s party was swell. Yoko flew in from Japan. Several people hurried back from business trips in Japan and Europe. Antoine and Victoria flew in from Bucks County, PA. Bit made sure he was back from Shanghai. Jim and Sandy flew down from Seattle. There were regrets: KJ couldn’t make the Fling having just got out of the hospital on Thursday. Jim and Lee were in Washington, DC, on their way to Paris to visit mutual friends. Marilyn was in Texas for a reunion but Al and Nicholas made it. Ron and Ginny were down in LA for the UCLA football game.

Several people, including a younger sib, didn’t make it because they were feeling sick-ish and didn’t want to infect everyone, but the turnout was good. Old friends. Quarter of a century friends. More than quarter of a century friends and old workmates and children and more.

The prep for this Fling had me stressed more than usual because rain delays extended the four-day paint job at Telegraph Hill into a nine-day paint job. My usual week plus time window prior to the party for pickup and cleanup was not to be, with me fifty-plus miles to the north of what needed picking up and cleaning.

We squeezed the time in. I’d dash back to Dale after the painters left and work and then get up at 5:30 a.m. and get back to Hill in time to unlock for the painters. With a final push yesterday, we got Dale cleared and setup with at least fifteen minutes to spare, before the party started last night.

In the past couple weeks, when we’d have a load ready, my run up to San Francisco to check on the painters would include loading the Mini back quarters full of boxes of prints, posters, paintings, and LPs to drop off at the loft annex. In all during the back and forth, I dropped off four loads worth of “stuff” which needed moving at some point anyway. Why not now?

We also shifted boxes of books to the warehouse, dropped a couple loads of stuff at the Goodwill and left bags of recycle magazine and papers at the road’s edge for pickup. Fling prep resulted, as it has for a quarter century, in a cleaner and less cluttered home.

The party itself, though … the foodstuffs brought for the party excelled, as usual: pork with bittersweet cherries, shrimp with sauce, lasagna, pad thai, and more … potstickers, chicken wings, chili … pies and cakes of all descriptions, including a chocolate cake with chocolate chips and rum, lemon squares, snacks and snips.

In the week before the party, his nibs went to the usual sources and loaded up on a variety of sodas, flavored sparkling waters and beer, which we stashed in the old refrigerator in the garage. We also bought a half-dozen bottles of white wine and left them to chill in the refrigerator. Nine bottles of red rounded out the beverage selection. Napkins, plates, forks, bowls. We were ready.

Two or three hours into the party, Pat brought us to the fore where we were feted for a quarter century of flings. The gifting and speeching began with presentation of matching T-shirts with a logo saying, “FUTS 1978-2004″ — blue lettering on a white background, the Measurex corporate colors.

Pat’s presentation, interrupted with much joshing and kidding, included a gift certificate for dinner at Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos, American Express gift certificates to use for San Francisco restaurants, cash to use for cab rides for those nights when we don’t want to walk to and fro to a restaurant, a pedometer to track our mileage and a pair of globe bookends (books! travel! geddit?!??) with the areas detailed in semiprecious stones and mounted on solid lapis.

(Beautiful, eh?) The bookends came along with a book to put between them — an edition of Black Beauty to add to my collection of Black Beauty editions.

Parviz, Tom, and Bit came forward to harangue the crowd before his nibs said our thank-yous. Last night, his nibs revised the name of the party to “The Last Fling … at this location” and attendees mulled over several possibilities for keeping the twice-yearly Fling tradition, including having the hosting duties rotate from person to person or somehow changing the venue to Hill.

The last party goers left around 3:30 a.m. and we spent an hour or so doing the first round of cleaning, then woke up this morning to continue cleaning and returning the house to its usual (but cleaner! and less cluttered!) state.

his nibs just finished his typical post-FUTS morning chore, sorting through the trash from the party, stacking disposable plates and disposable glasses and retrieving the recyclables from the trash in order to fit the detritus into the single can of garbage we are allowed each week. Next! it’s off to the recycle center with a load of recyclable glass — six six-packs of beer bottles, thirty empty wine bottles — and soda cans.

Mission accomplished. Party cleaned up. A quarter century of good times … with promises that the party won’t end but will continue in some manner.

October 28, 2004

Tree ballet

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 3:59 pm

Spent some time yesterday watching a guy with a chain saw do remarkable things, suspended by ropes far far in the air.

He and his ground crew took out one tree before lunch and worked on a tree with a branched trunk in the afternoon.

He’s not quite done yet, as you can see by the stubby trunklets that are still standing. The split trunk tree was two or three times as high as the stublets you can see in this picture.

My first thought was did he have a permit? He must, we decided. The tree removal was happening just a few doors down from our esteemed Supervisor.

But we hadn’t been notified, as we would’ve been in the bucolic ville. No permits? San Francisco? How could this happen without permits and neighbor notification?

The guy used ropes to lower some of the large branches, but when he started taking down the now-bare tree trunk, he just dropped five-foot-plus chunks of trunk straight to the ground. Boy howdy, the immediate neighbors must’ve been worried that some of the tree parts would accidentally drop on them.

We checked online and, it seems, lefty and environmentally sound as San Francisco is, there are absolutely no restrictions on hacking away at trees that are on private property.

If you want to plant or hack or uproot a street tree, it’s a whole ‘nother story, but we could find no rules whatsoever for trees in someone’s backyard — perhaps because there are so few trees in backyards?

The bucolic village from whence we came has a whole set of strongly-enforced tree rules up to and including that you cannot touch any tree anywhere that has a DBH (trunk diameter at breast height) greater than 10″ (measured “at breast height,” dur) — unless it’s dead.

If the tree is alive and a “native” tree (“‘Native tree’ means Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), Valley Oak (Quercus lobata), Tan Oak (Lithocarpus densiflorus), Black Oak (Quercus kellogi), Blue Oak (Quercus douglasi), Scrub Oak (Quercus dumosa), Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophylhum), California Buckeye (Aesculus californica), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)”), the diameter at which the tree becomes untouchable is six inches.

San Francisco does not do this. Odd, wot?

Don’t get me started on how those save-the-tree rules have resulted in a diminished overall tree canopy in the ‘ville when they were intended to do exactly the opposite. Seems people are chopping down the trees that sprout up on their properties because they don’t want to deal with the permit process later.

Old trees die. Young trees get chopped down. Result?

Someone I know (and like!), one of our former council members / tree huggers who was the moving force behind the tree ordinance, is now heavily involved with the state environmental law process. She has a place on the coastal commission, yadda yadda. She didn’t listen to me when I told her her tree ordinance was going to have consequences she didn’t realize, and I never ‘fessed to her that we had this sprout of a live oak growing up by our mail box that grew and grew and grew until the day I took a swede saw to it because it was verging on “hands off.”

I’m torn. Property rights. Tree rights. Neighbor rights. Our view of Treasure Island and the north bay is improved, but I liked the greenery and loved watching the parrots that flocked and quarreled in the trees.

Fifty or so parrots came winging in on a whirl yesterday afternoon, making a quick spin around the stubs. They settled, squawking, in trees on the Filbert Steps. “Sweet Martha. Do you not see what I don’t see? Wotthehell happened to our trees?”

The jacks will be back to take out the stubbed tree, I’m sure. I’m not sure whether the last of the three trees is scheduled for removal as well.

Our painters enjoyed their ringside view yesterday. They’re back today for final touchups &c. The shocking blue paint I chose for the bay-facing walls and the deck trim is very blue.

Addem: How blue? Check out the background color in this picture.

The bay-facing walls are painted Benjamin Moore‘s “Big Country Blue,” semi-gloss with palegrey-white semi-gloss trim around the windows. The south-facing walls and the north-facing hip-high wall are also painted the same palegrey-white semi-gloss, a color known as “Marilyn’s Dress,” if you want to head over to Benjamin Moore and check the colors. The rail at the top of the hip-high walls and the wide trim board around the bay edge of the wooden deck are also painted blue.

Very bright and I love it.

Later: The jacks didn’t come back today. Did one of the neighbors complain? Are there ordinances we just couldn’t find?

The neighbor just west of the trees will have a very changed environment. Those who are just north will as well. I can see into their windows now, f’rex. (Not that I’m a snooper, mind you.)

Will there be litigation? Will the Supe bring ordinances to the Board so that such a desecration can never happen again?

Oh, interesting times.

October 26, 2004

Thank you, Powell’s

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:56 pm

Had a fun sidetrack this afternoon as I tried to decide how to spend my newly-acquired $100 store credit from powells.com.

After much poking around and fussing, I wound up with

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days — Chris Baty (founding father of NaNoWriMo) $14.95

[I read about the book on UV's blog. She'd picked up a copy because she's planning to NaNoWriMo starting Monday. I decided that the book would probably be a good swift kick even for those who aren't NaNoWriMo-ing.]

Had a Good Time: Stories from American Postcards — Robert Olen Butler 15.95

[Butler had a kick-ass American Postcards short story in the Sept 2001 issue of Hemispheres. I'd decided I didn't want to drag the issue through Nepal and Bhutan and Tibet but would, instead, pick up my copy on our way home. We headed home after September 11th and the airline had pulled all copies because there'd been a photo layout of the New York skyline pre-9/11 in it.

They'd "let" me buy a copy for $7.50. $7.50 for a free magazine?!??. I don't think so. I dropped Butler a note in July 2003 -- after I found over a year later I was still wishing I had a copy -- and asked if he had a copy around somewhere on the Web or elsewhere that I could bum off him. He didn't, but he told me about this book which came out this past summer.]

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook: Hands-On Help for Making Your Novel Stand Out and Succeed — Donald Maass $19.99

[Another kick in the ass.]

Powells.com Mousepad $0.00 (Rubber,NEW)

[As my thank-you from Powell's for entering their essay contest.]

Book Total : $50.89 (3 items)

Shipping total: $0.00 (Economy Mail)

Credit : -$100.00

Total : $0.00

No shipping charge because the total was >$50 and I still have $49.11 to spend!

Heidi Moos’s (Moos’? Meese’s? Mice’s?) blog

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:51 pm

Bumped into Heidi Moos while I was at Bouchercon in Toronto and found that she’s begun blogging, more as an experiment with the medium than anything else.

Always nice to see her. I promised I’d mention her blog in mine. (Hi, Heidi!) Heidi blogs about writing and research and what-all, oddly enough.

Neil Gaiman answers the age-old question: Where do you get your ideas?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:54 pm

For those who are struggling to think up an idea before Monday when NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts, I offer up Neil Gaiman’s answer to the age-old question: Where do you get your ideas?

October 22, 2004

Best laid plans

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 4:47 pm

Dropped in at Dale last night for a be-spoke dinner at Manresa with Chef David Hawksworth, of West, Vancouver, B.C., and discovered why I’d been having odd e-mail problems at Hill.

My mail setup, shared between Hill and Dale, is convoluted.

With the advent of gMail, it became a bit easier.

I setup an assortment of gMail accounts. My towse.com domain directs incoming @towse.com mail to my gMail accounts according to some finger-in-the-wind sense of importance.

Those mails addressed to me one way, go both to my e-mail process at Dale and to the gMail account I make sure to check while I’m at Hill. Mails addressed to me in one of my maillist personas go to another gMail account. Mails that drop through towse.com because they aren’t sent to any established xyzmno@towse.com sort of address go to a gMail account I sort through and dispensed with when I find the time.

This past week I’ve been more or less constantly at Hill, keeping an eye on the painters who — as we speak — are sanding the walls of the deck in prep for painting the deck and the south-facing wall of the top floor. Faffing around at 33KB and a $/min charge at Hill, I noticed that my laptop’s OE was picking up mail off my ISP account that should’ve been handled by the machine at Dale.

The duplicates I needed were being sent to the Hill gMail account and I could check them over the Web. I didn’t need nor did I know why I was getting the copies Dale was supposed to be handling as well.

The paint jobber who showed up yesterday morning split at lunch and told me he wouldn’t return until 8A this morning. I headed back to Dale because I had a dinner date with his nibs and to dive into the house flushing needed for The Final Fling, scheduled for next Friday.

Arrived at Dale to find that the reason the machine there hadn’t been handling my ISP’s mail account was because the storm that passed through had knocked out power Monday lunch and my machine couldn’t reboot because of a password required by my McAfee setup.

The good news was (1) your-site‘s swap over to grey-listing has eliminated most of the spam so the ISP’s mail cache wasn’t overflowing and (2) all my maillists go to gmail — otherwise either my ISP account or my laptop OE would’ve been swamped.

Bad thing (1) is my incoming mail archive is now in two places.

Oh, well. Now I know to set things up differently for when I’m either here or there and power interruptions may happen.

The incoming mail archive at Hill is only forty-four messages, so I can send those off to Dale and kinda get the archive in synch again.

Did I mention the reason why the painters are still here and haven’t finished prepping yet?

The painters were supposed to show up at 8AM last Friday. I was planning to head up to Hill Thursday PM so I didn’t have to make an early morning run up the Peninsula Friday morning.

The paint contractor called Thursday PM and said they wouldn’t be there until noon, which meant I could head north Friday AM. As I arrived at 11:45A, his nibs called to say the contractor had just called and they wouldn’t be on site until 8AM Monday.

Ah, well.

his nibs drove up Friday evening and we had an entertaining weekend. We walked over to Pier 41 Saturday after 8AM to pick up tickets and head over to Alcatraz on the 9:30A ferry for a “behind the scenes” tour for Park Conservancy members.

Our tour guide was tops. The tour was interesting! (Pictures to follow some day …) Because it was fall, the bird hatchery on the south shore of the island had closed for the season, so we got to walk on the parade grounds and down by the water’s edge, which we never had been able to before. The views of the city from Alcatraz are terrific.

Sunday we poked through open houses. Monday AM his nibs headed south to the office after the painters arrived and he discussed the project with the contractor and the contractor and I agreed on the paint colors I’d chosen.

The painters worked all day scraping off old paint and gouging out where the wood had rotted. I got his nibs on the cell to discuss possible solutions to the now-gougy pieces of wood with the contractor.

Tuesday rained liked the dickens and the painter types didn’t show. (They’d told me they wouldn’t if it was raining.)

The storm was pretty impressive. The wind howled and whipped the prayer flags, jumbled the chimes and created a loud harmonic hum on the double glass doors on the mid-level that look out east to the Bay. The doors now have paper wedged betwen their upper edges and the frame, which seems to have helped stifle the hums.

The rain was sufficient to show that his nibs had sealed at least some of the leaks we’d found last winter. his nibs had caulked the windows that leaked last year — no water came down the inside of the windows this storm, as it had last year.

his nibs had also discovered and patched some leaks in the deck. The previous owner — no lie — added gas tower heaters on the deck and while so doing punched the gas pipes straight through the edges of the deck, neglecting to seal up the gaps where the gas pipes passed through the deck edges. When the water on deck surface, under the wooden deckwork, reached a certain stage, it ran into the holes and into the building structure. his nibs patched those obvious leak sources and some others.

Coincidence or not, no water oozed out of ceiling near the fireplace and remote dropdown screen on the first floor like it had last year. No water dripped from the light fixture located directly above that leak on the middle floor.

Water still dripped out of the light fixture outside my office door on the middle floor. (We’d already pre-placed the bucket &c. from last year when we’d heard that the rains might start early.) That leak had been the most serious last year.

Tuesday I found a new drip leak right inside the door to the closet/bath six feet to the right of where I’m sitting. The leak might’ve been there last year too. Hard to say. The leak isn’t as robust as the other leaks had been and it’s possible that it might not have been noticed last year simply because I wasn’t sitting here tip-tapping to hear it drip-drop-drip.

his nibs plans another roof survey after the painters are done to check out possible sources of leaks. The leaks on the deck level seem to be fixed, though.

But enough of weather and leak reports.

Wednesday it wasn’t raining but it must’ve still been too wet because the painter types didn’t show.

One of them showed up Thursday morning and worked for three hours or so and said they’d both be back bright and early today to continue prep work.

They are. I can hear thumping and a radio and electric sanders and chatter.

The skies are shades of grey. The sun is peeking through in spots. Bits of blue. Flashes from sun reflecting off the windshields of traffic dashing back and forth on the Bay Bridge. A ferry is pulling into the ferry building. A sailboat is heading north, sails are up but it’s obviously running on power.

Life goes on and I am getting back to work.

Update: sigh For some reason I’m picking up the Dale copies again. I’m going to need to re-think the hand-shaking and hand-offs.

October 15, 2004

Powell’s results in.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 2:13 am

Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, OR, (one of the coolest independents around) celebrated the tenth anniversary of powells.com by sponsoring an essay contest. The contest, A Decade of Reading, asked contestants to write an essay answering the question, “What was your most memorable reading experience of the last ten years?”

Powell’s received thousands of submissions and chose twenty-five finalists then left it up to visitors to powells.com to vote in the top essay.

Voting closed October 8th and results won’t be officially announced until October 19th, but I got a congratulatory message today telling me that my essay, “There Is Always Biloxi,” was one of the ten runners-up of the twenty-five essay finalists. My prize is $100 worth of books from Powell’s.

First place, with its prize of $1000 worth of books, would’ve been even cooler, but I’m pleased as punch to have made the cut to the first twenty-five and then to have earned enough votes to make the top ten runners-up.

October 5, 2004

While I wasn’t watching …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:18 pm

the ticker at Internet-Resources.com rolled over the 200,000 mark and continued on its way.

Three years have passed since a kerfuffle in misc.writing and some idiots involved inspired me to put a collection of writing links on the Web. Thank you, Patricia! Thank you, Wayne!

Readership goes up. Links from other sites go up. Writer’s Digest named it one of the 101 Best Writing Sites in 2003.

All in all, I’ve had fun, the site and the success and notes and mention warm the cockles of my heart.

Thom Hartmann’s Op-Ed Pieces

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:10 pm

Came across Thom Hartmann’s Op-Ed Pieces from a link on Zen’s blog.

Interesting ideas.

Four weeks until the election.

Back to HaloScan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 5:49 pm

I just couldn’t get Blogger comments to work the way they should. Sure, it was cool that Blogger would e-mail a comment to me, but the little trashcan that would allow me to can my “test” comment didn’t show up where it should’ve and after much round and round with Blogger support, I decided the effort wasn’t worth it.

Me: (reporting the problem) … “the trashcan icon … isn’t visible … I’ve tried Netscape 7.2 and IE6.0″

Support: “… Next, click the small trash can icon next to the comment. If you are still having problems seeing the delete icon, you might want to try clearing the cookies and cache in your browser or try using a different browser.”

Me: I’ve tried all that …

Support: “I have just logged into your account and viewed your blog’s comments. I was able to see the trashcan icons next to the comments. This appears to be a problem specific to your browser/computer. Please try clearing the cookies and cache in your browser to see if this will resolve your problem.”

Me: “Cleared cookies/cache on Netscape. Still nada. The problem shows up with both Netscape7.2 and IE6.0. Have you found any problems with McAfee products interfering with Blogger trashcan icons?”

Support: “You may want to try changing the security settings on your Firewall to allow cookies for blogger.com. This could be what is causing your problem.”

Me: I’ve fiddled with all that. Ah … forget about it.

I un-commented-out HaloScan. Commented-out Blogger comments. During the shuffle and kerfuffle, the comments made with whichever is the out-of-favor comment maker of the day will disappear.

Alas.

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