On Lake Union

On Saturday night, the kiddo and I slept aboard the Arthur Foss, an 1889 tugboat moored on Seattle’s Lake Union. We shared a tiny cabin, toured the ship, and had an absolutely marvelous time.

It’s a deceptively large ship — at least as much of it is below the waterline as above it. It weighs about 1.1 million pounds, and the hull is roughly two feet thick. Being aboard feels like being on dry land — nothing in relatively-still Lake Union perturbs it much, at least under normal conditions.

While bringing dinner back to the ship, it hit me that the likelihood that another dad and daughter were eating Buca di Beppo aboard a 19th century tugboat, anywhere in the world, had to be close to zero. Which, out of 7 billion people, seemed like a pretty nifty thing.


Driving the War Rig from Utah to Seattle

Below, the War Rig. Witness me as I get single-digit gas mileage all the way to Valhalla Seattle.

Day one of two:

Miles driven: 597
Caffeine consumed: 1 large coffee, 6 Red Bulls
States crossed: 3
Percentage of me that feels like roadkill: 73
Current location: Hermiston, OR


Some guy cut off my War Rig at 65 with less than a car length between us. His GVW: 3,000 pounds. Mine: about 16,000 pounds. This is Utah driving. I’ll miss a lot of things about Utah, especially my friends and the state’s mountains, but I won’t miss its drivers.


The flat parts were very convenient for making good time. Lots of very pretty mesas. Very specific definitions of “truck,” spelled out on road signs, allowed me to go 10 mph faster than actual trucks. Highlight: gassing up at Stinkers Fuel Stop, which was next to T-Bone’s Guns & Sandwiches.


America’s bossiest road signs, with a frequency of about 1 per 25 feet. Fantastic landscape. I mocked the first stretch of 6% grade — bush league compared to the many miles of 12% grade I’ve driven in Utah — but not the second. In the rain, at night, with tractor trailers comparing dick length by competing for Most Reckless Behavior, in a giant Uhaul, after 12 hours on the road, 6% grade ceases to be bush league.


163 flights of stairs

What’s that, Empire State Building? I can’t hear you from the top of the Burj Khalifa.

Today I hauled 135 boxes up from the basement to the ground floor and staged them for our upcoming move. Then I jogged up and down the stairs a few extra times to hit 163 floors for the day.


The US has finally legalized same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage: now legal in all 50 states!

What an amazing day!

When my daughter asks me where I was when I heard the news, “in a McDonald’s drive-thru” is maybe not the most dramatic answer.

Holy shit, what a fucking fantastic thing. It’s electric. My whole body feels like it’s vibrating.


Specialization is for insects

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” — Robert A. Heinlein

This quote has intrigued since I first read it when I was younger. Back then, mostly it bothered me: I’ve generally tended to become deeply interested in just a few things, rather than exploring lots of different things. (And I did, and still do, most often play hyperspecialized RPG characters.)

Back in high school my favorite teacher said, “Everything is interesting if you look closely enough,” and in the 20 years since then I’ve found that to be true on many, many occasions.

Becoming a dad five years ago shifted a lot of things in my head, as I’m told it tends to. Dads (and moms) can’t afford to specialize; I’ve had to branch out and learn to do lots of things, to appreciate things — pony cartoons, invisible sisters, weird games — that I would never have considered on my own.

Fast forward to this past year, when I took up old interests I’d abandoned (camping, hiking, biking, target shooting) and got into things that were totally new to me (peakbagging, weightlifting, meditation), and I now realize that I see Heinlein’s quote differently than I did as a kid: I’m enjoying the hell out of not specializing.

Hiking Life

Albion Basin

We just got back from a camping trip in Albion Basin, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Moose are common up there, and we saw not one, but four, in the same evening.

The shot below is from Cecret Lake, at about 9,700 feet, with Sugarloaf in the background (11,000 feet). Lark and I hiked around the lake, and later to the foot of Devil’s Castle, and the whole place is like an alpine wonderland.


Charlie the hound

Our dog Charlie died today at age 17. My wife got him as a puppy, I entered the picture when he was 9, and our daughter has known him for 4 years.

He fell asleep in my wife’s arms while I was on the way home, and she passed him to me to hold when I got back to the house. He died in my arms with his family around him, and he was hugged and loved right up until we buried him.

I stayed up with him all night last night; he was miserable. I wanted my wife to get enough rest to make the hard decision we expected to make today. This is the first time I’ve known that a pet’s death could be a mercy, the first time any of us have been present for the death of a pet larger than a hamster, a member of the family, the first time we’ve dug a grave (I suspect I did a poor job, but I thought I’d have more time). I’m proud of my wife and daughter.

My thoughts are pretty jumbled. I keep coming back to this being a strange day of firsts, to my daughter’s full-throated grief (no one does grief like a preschooler, I now know), and to how glad I am that Charlie went the way he did. He was a fantastic dog, weird and neurotic, afraid of sneezes and vacuum cleaners and thunder, but above all a good dog.

The picture below is from 2007, though Charlie looked much the same — a bit more haggard, a lot greyer — up until this past Sunday.

In the minutes before he died, Charlie was asleep and clearly dreaming: His back legs were twitching, which for him always means a running dream. He had a good run, and he got to go out warm, loved, enveloped by his family, and chasing squirrels in his dreams.

I’m not entirely sure why I wanted to share this here, but here I am nonetheless. (This was originally a post on Google+, with this coda: If you’re not sure what to do with this post, share a story of a beloved pet, a meditation on death and family, or a plus-one for a dog who died well.)


A whole hamburger!?

My dog Charlie’s thought process when I gave him a whole hamburger on the way back from the vet:

There’s a hamburger right there! I’m going to grab it!


Ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod there’s an ENTIRE HAMBURGER in my mouth!

Wow that doesn’t fit at all!

Quick eat the rest before the fat guy realizes he made a mistake!

Okay it’s gone where’s the next hamburger?