The joys of 56K

I’m currently blogging from SeaTac over a paid wireless connection—it’s been a week for blogging in new places. For those of you who frequent the North Satellite Terminal, there is an electrical outlet on the right hand side of the sports bar as you face the bartender, by the row of booths in the back. But tonight you’ll have to pry it from my cold dead fingers to use it. I’m charging my cell phone and once I finish my blogging and surfing, I’ll be watching Akira before my plane boards. Life is good.

Life is not quite as good at home. Lisa is trying to watch our new Harry Potter DVD, but her Win 95 laptop (yes, 95. She works for a company that, for a number of reasons, has never upgraded past that nostalgic number) does not have DVD player software. I was able to find the right places for her to go by looking at VersionTracker, but it looks like she will have to download DirectX (11 MB), then the DVD software (9 MB), all over her 56K modem.

God, I’m looking forward to having broadband when we get moved into the new place.

Lazy Friday in Seattle

I spent the morning signing papers and looking in Sears at appliances. I hadn’t realized you could spend $2000 on a fridge!!! Fortunately the one in the house looks like it’ll hang in for a while.

I then went on to visit the Experience Music Project. In a freaky multicolored Frank Gehry building beside the Space Needle, the EMP is responsible for a lot of the funding of KEXP and is a huge museum of rock and roll. Cool points: including Sleater-Kinney and other more recent artists alongside Hendrix. Uncool points: didn’t really want to see Britney’s “Slave” costume.

Killing time in an internet cafe. My flight doesn’t take off until 7 but I’m probably going to head back to the airport anyway. I’m too tired to think of doing anything else.

More power, Mr. Ashcroft?

Washington Post: Government Will Ease Limits on Domestic Spying. Here’s a nice little erosion for your morning coffee: “Mr. Ashcroft and Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, plan to announce on Thursday a broad loosening of the guidelines that restrict the surveillance of religious and political organizations, the officials said.”

Thank God for that voice of sanity, the ACLU (and no, that’s not sarcastic):

Officials at the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the new guidelines, saying they represent another step by the Bush administration to roll back civil-liberties protections in the name of improving counterterrorism measures.

“These new guidelines say to the American people that you no longer have to be doing something wrong in order to get that F.B.I. knock at your door,” Laura W. Murphy, director of the national office of the A.C.L.U., said. “The government is rewarding failure. It seems when the F.B.I. fails, the response by the Bush administration is to give the bureau new powers, as opposed to seriously look at why the intelligence and law enforcement failures occurred.”

Seems to me that after the leaks about what the government knew before the September 11 attacks, giving the FBI more data to analyze is the last thing we need to do, regardless of whether it impinges on our personal freedoms or not (and it does, it does!).

How about this: the FBI gets ZERO new powers until it proves it can get useful data from the ones it already has.

Her life was saved by rock and roll

Given Clear Channel’s financial difficulties, now might be a good time to point to the Sloan E-52s’ version of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll,” available for download in MP3 format, lead vocals and arrangement by yours truly. Lou knew thirty-two years ago that Big Radio was coming:

Jenny said when she was just five years old
There was nothing happening at all
Every time she puts on the radio
There was nothing going down at all

When we perform that song, I can’t resist adding after that line, “Must have been a clear channel.” 🙂 Other tracks from our live in the studio recording session are available.


Clear Channel losing $ hand over tight fist

Washington Post: Mega Hurts: Clear Channel’s Big Radio Ways Are Getting a Lot of Static These Days (via Slashdot). Apparently Clear Channel’s relentless homogenization of US radio is causing some other people than me to turn off that station. Or maybe it’s just the hideous advertising slump.

In some cities, the company’s radio stations attract as much as half the audience and advertising dollars… If a pending deal to buy a competitor in Charlottesville is approved, Clear Channel would control more than 90 percent of that city’s radio market, according to analyst Mark Fratrik of BIAfn Inc.

But if Clear Channel is a colossus, it’s a colossus under the gun.

The company lost money every quarter last year, piling up an annual loss of $1.1 billion. Clear Channel also is shouldering $8 billion in debt — the legacy of its deal-a-minute expansion spree. With a long advertising slump afoot, the company’s stock is selling at about half its peak price of two years ago.

Back in Seattle (again)

I’m back for our house inspection tomorrow. Hadn’t really counted on being back so soon, but it makes sense to be here while we find out whether the house is a lemon or not. Now I just have to figure out a way to kill the time before the inspection tomorrow at 2.

Grief, offline

Just learned through my alumni magazine that Jeff Belmonte, a friend from kindergarten through college, died last December. I had to pay our hometown newspaper $2.95 for the privilege of learning that he died while snowboarding. I can’t believe how far out of touch I’ve fallen that I had to wait six months to find out about Jeff’s death. His poor mom.

On the ethics of tree removal

We haven’t even closed on the new house yet, and already I’m faced with one of those awkward homeowners’ dilemmas. This one is about trees. The new house has four enormously tall but thin evergreens in the front yard, which completely block all light for the front room of the original house. (I should pause here to explain that the house was originally built in 1918 and substantially expanded—doubled, really—by the current sellers in 1999 to include a great room, two-car garage, and master suite.) The evergreen nearest the driveway is a super-pollinator, too—I’m thinking seriously green sidewalks and vehicles. So we’re thinking about removing one or more of the trees.

This brings up one of those conflicts that await all good homeowners. I’ve always been against tree removal on principal—there are already too many trees being cut down, they provide shade and oxygen, etc. I get it from my dad. When we would drive by a new house where a stand of trees used to be, Dad always used to say in a mock mountain accent, “Let’s chop down all these trees so people can see this hyar thing!” But these trees are a nuisance—and are probably promoting mold by keeping what sunlight there is away from the front of the house. Am I rationalizing? I don’t know. I just wasn’t expecting one of these dilemmas yet.

Don’t even get me started about the nightmares I had last night about the crawlspace under the original house, which I made the mistake of videotaping using the night vision setting on our camcorder so that we could discover what was down there…

House stuff

It’s started; I couldn’t decide whether to put this post in the Seattle department or the Boston department (after all, we’re back on the East Coast today).

Apologies to RSS subscribers who’ve seen the post about our new house three or four times. I’ve relinked the article to a picture on our local site to avoid future link rot.

Today’s action items: keep the ball rolling on the mortgage, find out why our relocation agent hasn’t called us to set up the transfer of our extra goods from Lisa’s parents, brace for impact about the closing costs.

Day 2, Househunting

All in all, I think Day 2 of our househunting extravaganza went pretty well. I won’t go into details about part of the day for fear of jinxing; let’s just say I’m hopeful that we’re pretty close to a key point in the process. I can say that we found some very… interesting properties, including one gorgeous remodeled 1950s era custom house with a great roof deck view, that was unfortunately surrounded by dumps; and a 1960s era house that appeared to still be inhabited by its original owners and had the red shag carpet and the bathroom decorated in early New Orleans bordello to prove it.

Maybe some different news tomorrow.

Long day’s househunting into the night

Finished our first day of househunting. We drove up to the top of Somerset Hill to get the lay of the land. The view, I think, started to get Lisa excited. We moved on to the back end of Lake Sammamish, the “plateau,” and started looking. We made our way around the top of the lake toward Redmond, moved to Kirkland (the area around Market Street), then across Lake Washington to Magnolia.

Our desired houses started to evolve into a dichotomy as we moved forward. When we were in the suburbs, we were looking at larger houses with lots of foliage and decent separation from our neighbors. As we moved closer to the city, we did a sharp about face and focused on smaller, older houses with lots of character. Now our challenge is finding a smaller, older house with lots of character and potential upside that we can live in. Both our top finds today had bedroom situations that weren’t ideal. Tomorrow is another day. Looking forward to getting back to Etta’s after the househunting and getting some really excellent salmon.

Heading to Seattle

I will be blogging irregularly over the next four days. We’re flying out this afternoon to Seattle to look for a house. Now that my start date is less than six weeks away—wow, time has flown—it’s time to bite the bullet and step up to find a house. We’re pretty excited; we’ve been renting for the last four and a half years of marriage and for longer before that, so the prospect of getting equity is pretty attractive. If anyone can recommend a really nice house in Queen Anne or Magnolia, we’d be most appreciative…

North End Thursday

Quiet day so far here in the North End. Lots of errands. I think that all the errands I used to do have expanded to fill the extra time I have now that classes are over.

But it’s been a productive day—returned some DVDs and the rental car we got yesterday to get Lisa to her endodontist appointment; emptied my locker at Sloan; and finally remembered to get my hair cut. Small victories as I check each item off in my organizer.

Sitting in the barber’s chair, I watched the workmen from NStar disappear beneath the road surface. “Quite a show you’ve got out there,” I said. The barber said that this was another gas leak—the second this year in more or less the same spot, right under our window. Later I passed one of the workmen holding a length of corroded pipe. “Normally they last longer than 40 years, but this one…” Heap of soft gray sub-street dirt, 200-year old fill and former river bottom, on the sidewalk beside him as the schoolkids walk by on the Freedom Trail en route to Paul Revere’s house.

I thought I was done…

…but no, my fun is just beginning. I’ve been faxing stuff to our mortgage consultant for over an hour now. It’s 8:30 at night and I still have to return our rental car to Logan tonight. I’m definitely getting a better picture of what I’m in for with this househunting stuff.