Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Less, More, Half of What?
Here to stay? 1 USD = .995 CAD.
For that matter, 1 EUR = 1.42 USD.
In unrelated news, for those cyclists looking to conserve those USD, less and less valuable though they may be: I suggest having a look at the Grocery Outlet in your neighborhood. Though, don't go to their website if you don't want to be assaulted by psychadelic rainbows.

Though Powerbars kind of suck compared to Clif bars, they had a bunch at the G.O. near me for $6 / case. They even had the Power Gels for like $7 / case. That's a pretty good deal. Of course, you could be one of those old curmudgeons who refuses to eat any fancy-tech bike food, but gels (Or, Shot Bloks, which rule, even if they are a bit of a pain to eat) are great for races and other high-intensity stuff. My picky stomach can't really tolerate solid foods on rides harder than noodling, so, I chomp down on 'em.

Speaking of food, I noticed at the grocery store they now sell Fat-Free Half and Half. Okay okay, hang on a second. Isn't it called that because it is, um, half milk, and half cream? And, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't cream composed essentially entirely of milk fat?

So, if it's fat-free Half and Half, and half is milk, what's the other half?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


1998-10-01 1.5452
1999-10-01 1.4776
2000-10-01 1.5125
2001-10-01 1.5717
2002-10-01 1.5780
2003-10-01 1.3221
2004-10-01 1.2469
2005-10-01 1.1774
2006-10-01 1.1285
2007-09-04 1.0493
2007-09-17 1.0307
2007-09-18 1.0234
2007-09-19 1.0147
2007-09-20 1.0011
2007-09-21 1.0008
2007-09-24 1.0011
2007-09-25 1.0005

CURRENT: 0.9952

Monday, September 24, 2007

It's all your fault.

Yes, you. It's people like you who are making the world a bad place.

I saw you in Safeway last night. You got in my way fumbling around with your cell phone, blocking the aisle, but that's not such a big deal. I mocked you, probably, in my head. You had on these super-tight white pants, and a black, lacy shirt. Have you ever heard the term, "twenty-footer?" It's often applied to cars that have a shiny coat of paint over a load of dents and bondo. That's you, my dear. Though you're not old enough to be my grandmother, you certainly could be a grandmother. The aesthetic faux pas, on its own, also isn't such a big deal, but I do think it demonstrates your lack of perspective on, well, yourself. The way that you interact with the world.

You were a minute or so behind me as I placed my groceries on the conveyor belt. As I did so, the cashier turned off her "open" sign, and a courtesy clerk placed a little barricade in front of the belt, since the cashier was, I'm not sure, ending her shift or going on break or something.

But, here you come, chattering away on your cell phone. "No, I don't like that kind of concealer," you say, "it's too clumpy!" Too clumpy, indeed.

You ignore the lack of "open" sign, you dodge around the barricade, and begin to place your groceries onto the conveyor. "Excuse me, ma'am," says the cashier, "but I'm closing, John can help you the next aisle over." This also you ignore. "Ma'am? I'm closing..." she tries. You make a dismissive, sniffing noise, but it's not clear if it's to the cell phone, or to the cashier. It's a moot point anyway. She's got no choice but to crank you through.

It's my fault, too. The cashier, of course, is powerless to say much more to you. Corporate policy, and what have you, I'm sure. The customer wins, or something like that. It was down to someone like me to tell you where to shove your self-centered antics, and I didn't. I just glared at you, and went about my way. I got home before my frozen stuff melted, at least.

Shame on me.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Heavy, thick pages cut with a certain intentional irregularity. A bold, firm typeface that would be considered avante-garde by the publisher. Wide spacing, three blank pages in both the front and back of the volume, and a modern, glossy hardcover jacket. The book itself is a pleasing, easy-to-read shape: slightly larger in height than a standard trade-paper, a little wider, and quite thin. A book that’s meant to be held open with one hand, reading in a park, or by the fireside. That’s all I can glean, though. Of the words themselves, I can read nothing at all. Nothing.

I furrow my brows, trying to make some sense of any of it. At first, there’s no effect at all, and then, the words blur and swim upon the page. They disintegrate and reappear, but it’s useless. I can’t. Pinching the bridge of my nose, rubbing between my eyes, I set the book down. My fingers drift down to the bones of my cheeks, which twinge numbly, and my palms slide roughly across the hollow of my jaw. Two days’ stubble, maybe three. Any more, and it would start to become soft, the foundation of a beard, but it is still rough, scratchy. My hands feel like a finer grit of sandpaper. My hands. I look down at them, and a brief, rising panic tears through me as I cannot find them with my eyes. I blink, slowly, gummy, the lids arising as though from a dream. The hands are there. The book rests on a heavy, oaken desk, the thick lacquer gently reflecting the soft lamplight. Did I turn the lamp on?

The book sits there on the desk, of course, and beside it, a leather-bound ledger. The ledger terrifies me. I pick it up, fingers creaking the tendons in my hands, my forearms. I flip the little clasp open, tilting my head at the , muffled clicking sound. It is a familiar sound. The terror returns as I look down at the pages. I study them, and my fear is confirmed. Tingling, anticipatory fright becomes a sinking sense of reality that consciousness struggles to beat back. I blink again, and the ink on the pages becomes recognizable. The first half or so are filled in a deep blue ink, rolling across the sheets like a soft spring rain. Stars ring in my vision as I consider this reflection. A soft spring rain. Where has this phrase sprung from? It recalls something, something. But it is buried.

Opening the narrow, shallow drawer in the center of the desk, I find the smooth barrel of my pen – yes, my pen – and the little glass inkwell, just where they ought to be. The light is too pale to make out which dark color fills the inkwell, but I am certain it is a deep, midnight blue. I flick the cap off of the pen, and it clatters, rolls into the drawer with a startling echo. I raise the pen in my hand, study it as an historian might study an artifact of a bygone age. As well it may be, I think. I lift the little lever on the cylinder, open the inkwell with aching fingers. I still marvel at the fingers. Marvel.

I tap them, one by one, against the slick, smooth wood. Thud-thud-thump, thud-thud-thump. I think to take a deep breath, to allow a sigh to escape my lips, but none is coming. My hands begin to tremble helplessly, and I quickly set the inkwell down. Against the roof of my mouth, I cluck my tongue – thock! – and somehow this pacifies the hands, for a moment. All right, then. All right. The sigh still won’t come, so I let it be and pick up the pen again. It greedily sucks up the ink. There is no blotter, so I roll the nib along the back of my hand, and the veins and tendons light up blue, the little red liver spots staining a darker shade. I squint balefully at the wrinkled creation before me, the curving nails with long, curving nail beds, the hairs that are just visible in the low light. It makes me angry, all of a sudden. Angry.

Again, I cluck my tongue, firmly, appreciating the resonating sound it makes between my ears. “Now, just stop that,” I say, firmly. I think I may have said that aloud. I think. I flip open the ledger once more, trying to keep their long, now blue-stained fingers from shaking. “This should not be such a challenge,” I say. This time I am sure I did not speak aloud. I place the pen on the first fully blank page, letting the previous author some space to finish his thought. Then I write. It takes three tries to get started. The first time, I need to stop prematurely and set down the pen. Really, I drop it, splattering little droplets of ink (blue, remember? ) across the thirsty page, to spread slightly and be absorbed. The second time, I have to stop what I am writing and instead scribe a row of little circles, as the ink languishes in the nib, refusing now to descend as bidden. As last, the torpid old stuff flows smoothly enough to form words. Words. Just like these.

I have no sense of how long I have written for, but when I look up, the pen has emptied. I am writing now only in ghostly impressions with a dry pen, scoring empty troughs and furrows along the dappled, thick paper. Another angry cluck of my tongue. Then, the world swims before my eyes, my chest tightens, and I hastily recap the pen. Replace it in the drawer. My hands. Where are my hands? Then, gradually, the gripping sensation subsides, and I lift the ledger to examine what I have written. “Well, that figures,” I shout in a hoarse whisper. When I peruse the sheets, from the start, I readily find the place where the previous author left off, where I began. The blank half-page. Beyond that, there is no distinguishing between the two sections: the words are written in the same blue, the same flowing, falling hand (across the pages like a soft spring rain). I blink my stinging eyes, squint them closed, as the inevitable dawns. What I have just written is as alien as what the previous owner (what I. What I.) laid down. I can read none of it. Keeping them fully closed a few moments longer, I allow my fingers, magically, to brush across these final pages I have just completed. I can feel where the ink stops, feel where blue becomes a trickle becomes nothing at all. What’s more, I can feel the last space, the last word, the last punctuation mark, on that page. A period. To its left, I can recognize the letter. An “e.” It’s an “e.” Then, a “y.”

I know where this leads.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Small Gift:

People call Tacoma a lot of weird things, including something about an elbow, but I certainly know it as the City of Potholes. These are the only potholes I know that you could actually fit a large pot into. Have you been to McMurray road in North Tacoma? It's that twisty little descent that heads down to the ... do they call that the tideflats? Anyhow, it's been a favorite road of mine since Chris showed it to me last year, but it was always a little sketchy because of the potholes. If you were Chris, or otherwise Crazy, you could run the whole thing wide open until the final corner. I usually braked, though, because one corner, your choice was either to swing into the oncoming traffic lane, or try to hit the six inches of pavement near the guardrail that weren't a giant pothole. There were a few other sketchy little whoop-de-doos and holy-craps along the way, just for good measure.

So, today, I turn left onto the thing and immediately turn out an enormous grin. It's been repaved! Smooth, slick black asphalt the whole way down. Mister Motor tells me that road had desperately needed repaving for, what, a decade?

Word is that potholes city-wide took a turn for the worse... no, they'd already done that. Word is that potholes city-wide took a flaming nose-dive off a cliff after the past two harsh winters of flooding and freezing, and that citizens finally complained with enough letters and votes that the city formed some sort of Pothole Action Committee which went about and decided what to do with all of the problem areas, and they've hit it pretty hard this summer.

To top it off, they even repaved Brown's Point. Wow!
Quote, unquote:

Chris asked me this very good question yesterday: why is it that, when someone is speaking, and intends to put quotation marks into his diction, they say, "You are looking at a quote-unquote giant purple elephant," rather than actually calling out the quotes where they are supposed to be, like this, "You are looking at a quote giant purple elephant unquote." So, why is it?

I also intend to write another bit about vegetarianism, protein, and nutrition, but I think I need to hold that thought and go eat some blackberry pie. I picked another gallon and a half of berries, just before the rains hit, so I'm pretty happy.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ritter Sport is like the Hershey's chocolate bar of Germany, only, far more marketed. Also, it has far more goodness. They are actually cheaper than a Hershey's bar, too, PPP-wise.

Cailler chocolate is Swiss. We checked out the factory, and got to eat essentially as much as we wanted in a 15-minute "taste test" window. The tour was all videos, images, and guided exhibits; I'm told you used to essentially run amok about the factory. I think they also used to give out free stuff at the end...

Nestle Smarties aren't really that fancy, but, I fell in love with them as an 11-year-old, when my British nanny brought some for me. They're like M&M's, but with better chocolate and more candy coating. They don't sell them in the US, for some reason. I can't figure out if it's because of the name of the sugar-powdered US "Smarties," or because the design is too similar to M&M's.

The best part of Ritter sport is that back of the package reads: Quadratisch. Praktisch. Gut. Now, I don't speak German, but that sounds like: "Square. Practical. Good." I like that.

PS, Dad, I'm sorry. This will foil your weight-loss plan entirely.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I didn't end up with a lot of pictures of my own from my euro-venture, because my flash card took a dive after two days, and after that I wasn't certain if it was saving pictures, or not, so I decided it wasn't worth taking pics, and then finding out at home that zero of them were intact. It turned out that it was, but that's okay. I'm to get a big ol' CD of pics from travelling companions soon enough here...

But, for the moment, let me draw your attention to two things:

First is a fairly blurry snap of what the keyboards look like in Deutschland. They were the same in Austria and Switzerland. I didn't get a look at a Czech keyboard. Does anyone know, then, what the ones in the rest o' europe look like? And, now I'm going to ask the silly obvious, but I'm betting that cyrillic keyboards are aroundabouts, too. What in the world do you do on one of those if you need to type a Latin language?

Next, have a look at the bike parking lot at the train station in Köln (Cologne). This type of thing was typical at Bahnhofs (train / subway stations) and other central urban areas everywhere. Note the security system, or lack thereof, from American standards. A few bikes were not locked at all. Most, though, are simply standing on their kickstands, with a lock between the rear wheel and the main frame triangle, rendering the bike unrideable. Many bikes even have a handcuff-type device affixed to the seat tube, expressly for this purpose. If one wanted, it would be easy to simply carry away any number of these bikes, but from the volume of them, I gather this is uncommon, but I don't really know.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I'm back.

Back to the land where keyboards are qwerty, 40-inch pants sizes and 40-ounce buckets of soda are common. Back to the land of inches and ounces.

Back to the land of public restrooms where free is expected but clean is a surprise, of one-dollar bills and pennies in every price.

Back to the land of cargo shorts and polo shirts, of SUV's and English. Back to the land of automatic transmissions, straight freeways, and pickup trucks. Of peanut butter and all the free water you can drink. Of roads-not-rails, of Open 24 Hours on a twelve-hour clock, of high-fructose corn syrup, to the land of toasted bread and air conditioning.

How's it been?