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In Which We Build a Boat [Jul. 3rd, 2007|09:36 pm]
[Current Location |Center for Wooden Boats]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Following Ratty's dictum in The Wind In The Willows, that there is nothing, absolutely nothing as wonderful as mucking about in Boats, I signed our family up for the Center For Wooden Boats' Family Boatbuilding Workshop, where we build a dinghy in four days. Our motto going into this insane venture was "If we can build it, ANYONE can build it."

Day One, we arrived, energetic and eager to start, bristling with tools (ouch!). There were supposed to be three families, but one never showed. So we and the Other Family, a dad, a son, and a cousin (all handy with tools, unlike ourselves) started off, measuring and drilling. By the end of the day, we had screwed the sides of the hull to the stem (the wooden piece at the very front of the boat) and to the transom (the flat bit at the back where the name usually gets put, and the rudder gets hung) and wired the two pieces forming the bottom of the boat together, and then wired them to the sides. We also attached the breast hook (ow!) and the stern knees, which provide stability and strength at the back corners and the front. Then Patrick, our instructor, mixed up some epoxy which we spread over the wired seams, we covered that with fiberglass cloth, and clear resin, and we went home, leaving behind a decidedly Boat-Like Object. We adjourned to the Old Spaghetti Factory to stuff our faces and name the boat. Very kindly, the others agreed to my suggested name, Tenger, which is the Mongolian word for sky. I like to think of this boat as the first boat in the Mongolian Navy.

On Day Two we fitted the seats. I managed to drill through the hull of the boat. Though I correctly installed the gudgeons (the sockets that the pintles slide into) or the holes that the rudder is attached to, for you landlubbers. Patrick assured me that I hadn't ruined the boat, and indeed, we patched the spot with epoxy and it looks just fine. We also pulled the wires out of the boat. Some needed to be heated with a barbecue lighter to melt the epoxy enough to pull them out. Then we patched the holes with epoxy and covered the outside seams with more epoxy and fiberglass.

Day Three (Monday), Edd had to go to work and Get Stuff Done for half a day. So Katie and I were on our own. The very nice Other Family, showed up with half a dozen Other Relatives each handier than the next, and they got an immense amount done. Katie was getting bored and I was grumpy and tired. She played and sat around and complained about being bored. I wasn't very sympathetic, especially when she blew me off whenever I did have a task for her to do. At last she went over to the nice lady running the Native American basket weavers booth, and she showed her how to weave a heart out of cedar bark. Meanwhile I finished the sheath for the daggerboard and some other bits and bobs. Edd showed up and helped with the oarlocks and some other stuff. The day ended with more epoxy and fiberglass, this time around the daggerboard sheath. We went home fried and tired.

Day Four (today, Tuesday), Edd took Katie to work. I started the day off solo, plugged myself into my iPod, and worked to a wonderful eclectic mix of throatsinging, and folk music, with the odd bit of rock and roll thrown in. Things went much better today. I glued and screwed the daggerboard handles and the daggerboard cover (for when you want to row instead of sail). Patrick tapered one end of the mast for me, bless him. I tapered the other end, enjoying the steady rhythm of planing. I also cut the tenon for the sprit with a chisel, feeling very carpenter-like. Edd and Katie showed up in time to help rig the boat and add the skegs. Then we took the boat to the the docks and launched it. It took on a little water probably via the skeg holes, which had been only recently glued. But otherwise the Tenger floated like a duck.

We proved less competent at sailing the boat than building it. I'd forgotten how to use a tiller, and we discovered the hazards of a lee shore the hard way. But eventually we managed to get the hang of sailing her, and had a pleasant cruise. Then we pulled the Tenger out of the water, and watched an Umiak skin boat built by a scout troop in Kent get launched with much ceremony. Bringing the Tenger home was a bit more of an adventure than we'd planned on. We had to stop twice to re-tie her to the top of the car. But we made it home safely. Now we need to sand and paint the Tenger, and buy a car rack or a trailer to transport her safely to the water and back again.
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Looking Up at the End of My Rope [Jan. 1st, 2007|11:50 am]
[mood |bitchybitchy]
[music |moody blues]

As I said previously, the first few days were kind of fun. We were bold urban pioneers keeping up a stiff upper lip in the face of disaster. I took pride in our ingenuity and toughness. Articles about wimpy Eastsiders who had fled to hotels in downtown Seattle were greeted with a disdainful curl of my lip. Hah! We were made of sterner stuff! We would not abandon our post for the cushy comforts of a hotel!

But by Sunday night it began to get a trifle wearing. I never seemed to remember to get everything I needed in place before dark, when things got nearly impossible to find. I wanted to curl up with a nice book. And the firewood was all wet, and the skinny branches burned through really fast. And because they were round, they tended to roll off the grate. And when Monday, a work-day rolled around, with no way to start up the computer, I started to get a little irked. Still, Katie and I went out in the rain and cut up more wood for the fire.

At least Katie had circus camp from Noon to 3PM. Happily, three other girls from Katie's school had also signed up. I took Katie to camp, and retired to our local cafe, hoping to find a table near an outlet for my laptop. No such luck. I ate my lunch, with a brave smile pasted on my face, listening politely to people telling me that their power had only been out for a few days. Then I retired to the Georgetown Starbucks where there was a convenient outlet and got a few pages of editing completed before picking Katie up and retreating to the Cold and the Dark.

By Tuesday, I was getting seriously irked. Power had been restored to West Marginal for a couple of days. Large swatches of Seattle were online. A note of irritation had crept into my voice during my daily call to the power company. I was in denial around cleaning the dead stuff out of the freezer.

Meanwhile, my husband got to go to work and spend the whole day in a place where there was light and power and he could Get Work Done. Grrr, Argh, Waaaaaah! When I dropped Katie off at circus camp, one of her schoolmates mothers slipped me a pass to a local spa/bathhouse that she's a partner in. Clearly I was looking frazzled. At least I found the cafe that Edd had told me about All City Coffee, a funky, barebones cafe with a concrete floor, basic tables, and power. I liked it immediately, and managed to get a little work done despite the distractions of interesting bohemian folk and a bunch of nice, friendly dogs, who were clearly welcome and at home here.

Then it was time to pick Katie up and go home. Sometime that evening I noticed that Katie's fish was lying cold, still and grey on the bottom of his tank. *damn* I couldn't bring myself to tell her about it. Edd and I were searching desperately for dry firewood. I finally descended to the level of overpriced fake pressed wood logs (oh the SHAME!). Which at least last a long time, even if they do crap up your chimney and contain dubious petrochemicals. Melting wax from candles was starting to build up on the furniture, and it was going to be a bitch to remove. I didn't really care.

By Wednesday, the end of the rope was slipping through my hands. I called every number I could think of, including the local shift supervisor, in hopes of getting power. I sounded distinctly pissed off. Katie's fish was Still Dead. She hadn't noticed, thank god. Edd helped me clean out the fridge. EeeeW! We set the butter, milk and eggs outside to keep cold, along with a remarkable amount of beer left over from previous parties. But by mutual consent, we left the downstairs freezer till later. I went back to the cafe in the afternoon, rinse lather repeat. That night a recently-widowed friend called for some company and consolation. In a shameful display of self-pity, I wound up crying on her shoulder. It had been six whole days without power. Merry Fucking Christmas. Bah humbug!

Next Rock: A Miracle occurs.
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Keeping warm [Dec. 31st, 2006|10:48 am]
[mood |chipperchipper]

The first few days of the power outage were actually kind of fun. We bought a fireplace grate and discovered that our wood burning fireplace worked very well. We got out the candles and enjoyed a few evenings by candle light. Our downstairs fireplace had a gas insert, and we kept that running continually. We have a gas hot water heater, so we had hot water. I left the tub full so that the heat from the hot water would radiate out into the room. I put jars of warm water in the tank containing Katie's betta Minty to keep him warm. It worked, sort of, keeping the tank water in the sixties.

During the day, I put my mighty Florian pruners to work, cutting dead branches out of fallen trees. There were a lot of those. The down side was that I could only cut branches up to 3", and they burned quickly. But pre-cut firewood was hard to find. We were really doing quite well. I even refrained from bothering the power company except to report that our neighborhood was out of power. Surely they would get to us as soon as possible.

Hah! Little did I know....

Next Rock: Looking Up at the End of My Rope

Happy New Year, everyone!
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Powerless [Dec. 30th, 2006|08:02 am]
[Current Location |Home plate]
[mood |relievedrelieved]

As many of you know, we had a huge windstorm about a week and a half before Christmas. Hurricane force winds in Seattle of all places! Because there's a huge and lovely pine tree just outside my daughter's room, she slept on the living room couch. In my hot pink paisley sleeping bag that I had as a kid and wrapped myself up in to watch the very first moon landing [insert *sigh* for lost youth here]. She thought that was just fine.

The next morning, we woke to many branches and fallen trees. None of them were on our house or on the houses of the neighbors. And the power was out. Massively out. Everywhere in the city. In our isolated neighborhood, a maple tree had fallen across the feeder line, and hung tilted across the only road into the neighborhood. Katie's school was closed. The sky was that brilliant and innocent *who me?* shade of blue that only comes after a really violent storm.

We got out and did our bit for the neighborhood by clearing branches off the road, and cutting back the other, smaller cottonwood that had fallen over the road. I have these great loppers made by Florian One of the kind of fun/pain in the ass things about our neighborhood is that we get a lot less of the "tidying up" kind of city services, and we have to do that for ourselves a lot. It makes us feel a bit like intrepid urban pioneers.

We inspected the tree that had taken out our power from a respectful distance, then edged under it, holding Katie firmly by the hand. Then we flung branches off the road and inspected the damage wrought to our drainage ditch and road by the storm. The culvert at the bottom of the road was completely clogged with gravel and sand. Water was running over the road, down the hill and flooding out the concrete business down at the bottom of the hill (again). This happens a lot since the city, in it's infinite wisdom decided to clean out our ditch with a machine that broke up the blacktop at the bottom of the ditch. Now the culvert is clogged every fall.

The concrete company had set up bags of concrete partway across the road to divert the water. Which worked, sort of. A four inch deep layer of gravel and sand covered the intersection between our road and the main arterial. It was a most impressive mess. As we were admiring the devastation (what else can one do?) The concrete company guys came up. They told me that it wasn't just the water from the ditch, but that Puget Creek, our own personal lutefisk fishery, had overflowed as well. I vaguely remembered driving through about six inches of running water on the way up the hill. But I'd thought it had been the ditch. The creek would have had to have risen at least fifteen feet in order to do this. Wow!

Next Rock:Keeping warm, etc.
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My Nephew's Tall, Elegant Hungarian Wedding [Dec. 12th, 2006|10:53 am]
[mood |nostalgicnostalgic]
[music |Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World]

Darby and Agnes were married in a small town named Komarom about an hour outside Budapest. We rode there on a chartered double-decker bus. Komaron has this neat fort disguised as a hill, which we saw bits of, but obviously couldn't tour. Another thing on my list to go back and see. The church was a lovely yellow and cream confection with a tall tower and a big clock. A huge spread had been laid on in the vestry. We sat and chatted until it was time for the wedding. The inside of the church was simple and elegant with smooth cream wall and a beautifully carved pulpit. The reason they were being married in this church was that Agnes' grandfather had been the preacher in this church.

Darby looked more elegant than I'd ever seen him look before, wearing a beautifully tailored suit in perhaps the only shade of brown that a brown suit can look good in. Agnes looked stunning in a white sheath dress and a beautiful hairdo (which remained immaculate until late in the evening!) holding a sheath of white calla lilies. The wedding was entirely in Hungarian. Hopefully Darby didn't promise to do anything he couldn't follow through on. After the wedding we got to throw actual rice, which I found a charming throwback. The flower girl. a little blonde kid who looked about four, threw petals and then carefully picked them all up and threw them some more. When that ceased to appeal, she threw her skirt up over her head. Meanwhile, Darby and Agnes stood on the steps and were thoroughly congratulated and photographed. Darby's mother was smiling so hard I thought the top of her head would come loose.

We then retired to the vestry and ate pastries and cakes and sipped champagne. More pictures were taken. Around sunset we boarded the bus, went back to the hotel to rest up for an hour. Then we had the reception. It was in this incredible building overlooking the Danube with high vaulted ceilings. First came a seven course meal with four different wines. A wonderful clarinettist and a delightfully mad guitarist played during dinner. The guitarist actually bowed his guitar, and then, he turned it over and played it like a drum with brushes. He used a bottleneck, not on the frets but down where you pluck. It was amazing!

After dinner, and toasts, there was this lovely ceremony. Darby and Agnes sat side by side in front of a low table. Everyone placed a lit candle on the table, and gave the bride and groom a wish. It was lovely. And then they played Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World. (this was totally unfair!) I dissolved into tears. It was just about the most beautiful thing I've ever seen done at a wedding.

Following that, there was dancing and cake. I folded about 1AM, feeling like a wimp. Agnes's hair STILL looked immaculate. Wow! I understand that there was a late-night buffet laid on after I left. Honestly, I don't know how anyone managed to eat another bite after that amazing dinner.
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What. me Hungary? [Dec. 6th, 2006|04:53 pm]
My nephew Darby got married in Hungary a week and a half ago. Of course I went. I only have one nephew. And besides, it was a chance to see Budapest. For starters, Hungary is mis-named. They shouldn't call the place Hungary, they should call it "Eat, you look thin!" The food was fabulous! And my nephew has married into a great family. He's got a great mother and father-in-law, warm, kind, and very loving. And his wife Agnes is tall, gorgeous and very, very sweet. She's sort of like Audrey Hepburn's sophisticated older sister. And she's completing her residency as a doctor. What's not to like?

Everyone from out of town was staying at the same small hotel. That included several of Darby's smoke jumper buddies, a group of Agnes's friends, all tall and blonde, and my brother Mike and his ex-wife (Darby's mom). The night I got there, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant a few minute's walk away from the hotel. Despite being tired enough to fall face-forward into my dinner, I enjoyed getting to know Agnes' wonderful family. The next day, we took a bus tour of Budapest. I generally don't do traditionally touristy things, but city bus tours are a useful way to orient yourself. We saw most of the city: Heroes square with its stunning bronze statues, the city park, Fisherman's Bastion and Matyas Cathedral, the Citadela. The only drawback was our tourguide's racist remarks about gypsies.

That night, Agnes and Darby took us to the Szechenyi Baths, located in the city park. It took a bit to figure out how everything works. You pay admittance, and then a nice lady assigns you a locker for your stuff, giving you a numbered metal tag. From the dressing rooms we went outside. There were three HUGE pools, two warm pools and a cooler pool for swimming. My favorite part was the whirlpool. Not a jacuzzi, mind, this was a big circle (maybe 25 feet in diameter??) with jets that push the water through the circle. The result is a lot like white water rafting, only warmer. Inside the whirlpool is something like a jacuzzi. From time to time, the whirlpool shuts off and the water is diverted to the jacuzzi, while the whirlpool water slows down. It was huge fun. I could have spent hours going round and round. Come to think of it, I did!

I'm told that there's a whole bunch more stuff inside, thermal pools and saunas and such, but I had so much fun whooshing around the whirlpool that I never made it that far.

-Next Rock: My Nephew's Tall Elegant Hungarian Wedding-
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Oh well.... [Nov. 9th, 2006|11:43 am]
[mood |contemplativecontemplative]
[music |Silence]

I recently started trying to set up one or two weeks each month with no appointments. It gives me a chance to get caught up. This was supposed to be one of those weeks.

But Tuesday afternoon was spent knocking on doors to get out the vote. When it got too dark to do that, Katie and I went to the Machinists Union Hall to call voters. Katie thought it was pretty cool, because she got to eat Krispy Kreme doughnuts and ring the bell whenever a caller told us they'd voted Democratic. We went home long enough to inhale some dinner, then I went to our local polling place to count provisional ballots and call in the number.

Yesterday was a day of mixed emotions. There was much happy dancing because of the election results, but I spent the afternoon helping out at a friends' memorial service. He died suddenly, leaving his wife and children shocked and deeply grieved.

So much good was done, but there went the week. It was decidedly worth it, but try telling that to my groaning desk.
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Chickenshit At The Night Market [Aug. 3rd, 2006|04:41 pm]
[Current Location |Home]
[mood |melancholymelancholy]

We went off to Chinatown a couple of days ago to the very first Night Market. It was pleasant, but not nearly as evocative as the name. It was organized by the youth group as a part of the Neighborhood Night Out campaign. This year its' just a one-off event, and felt a bit sketchy, but it was well attended, even if there wasn't enough stuff out to make it an actual market. Next year they'll be doing more of them, and perhaps it will feel a little more market-ish.

Katie had brought along her current favorite soft toy, a little guinea pig. I was holding it for her while she was drawing. A guy came up to me. He had the bad teeth and grubby appearance of the borderline homeless. He said, "I have a teddy bear too. They gave it to me when I got out of jail to keep me company. So that I could have the happy childhood I never had." It was a sweet and very sad thing to hear from a total stranger.

Being slow, and a little put off by this guy general grubbiness, I just smiled and offered him some Fritos. He refused. His teeth couldn't handle them, he told me, and walked off. I stood there, thinking I should have said something, anything more. I really was moved, but too slow and chickenshit to give the guy a hug, or some other gesture of human to human kindness.

I hope I see him again and get a chance to tell him how moved I was by what he'd said.
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It isn't easy being green [Aug. 1st, 2006|04:24 pm]
While I was picking up my daughter up at Girl Scout Day camp at Camp Long, I ran into the mom of one of Katie's classmates. We got to talking, and I forgot myself and mentioned that I was going off to Harbin Hot Springs to go to throat singing camp . *Damn* There goes another lost play date for Katie. It reminded me of a fellow fan who took his new girl friend to her first convention. At some point, she turned to him and said, "Your friends just don't make small talk, do they?"
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Summertime [Jul. 24th, 2006|02:55 pm]
[Current Location |Home Base]
[mood |cheerfulcheerful]
[music |Summertime by Gershwin]

It's been a simultaneously busy and quiet summer. Much re-writing is being done. My daughter Katie is going off to a series of fun summer camps. Last week she went to a sailing/kayaking camp on South Lake Union, which she enjoyed immensely. I envied her the opportunity to muck about in boats. But I enjoyed it too, because it was only a hop, skip, and a jump from the Center for Wooden Boats. So I started dropping by either before or after I picked her up. There was a class on building a traditional eskimo baidarka in progress, and I started chatting with Cory Freeman, the teacher, about boats and Mongolian yurt-building. He very kindly let me show him some pictures of Mongolia, and I watched him help people put together these beautiful lightweight little boats. (They weigh about 60 pounds!) It has inspired serious Boat-Lust in me. Next winter, I'm going to sign up for the Family Boatbuilding session, where they help you build a lightweight little sailboat of your very own. Wheee!

And Saturday, in my guise as Evil Troop Leader, I forced a troop of Brownies to march a mile and a half in the HOT sun. The only drawback was that I was marching with them. *darn* Note to self: Next time have minions supervise the Forced March. Actually, it was the West Seattle Hi-Yu parade, and we all had a reasonably decent time passing out largesse in the form of green wristbands and candy to the crowd. For the next two weeks, Katie will be at Girl Scout Camp, which she loves.

And in other news, I'm going off to Throat Singing Camp at Harbin Hot Springs in mid-August. I should arrive at Worldcon fully equipped to make peculiar droning sounds and eerie inhuman whistles. If anyone's interested, go to Purenature Music. The group Chirgilchin is on tour in the area. I'll be going to their concert at Seattle Pacific University tomorrow. There's a link to their tour schedule on the site.
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