Thursday, December 31, 2009

out with the old

"life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body--but rather to skid in sideways, champagne bottle in one hand, keyboard in the other. body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, yelling 'wow, what a ride'!"

2009 was a hell of a ride.

and while the tendency to focus on the bad is hardwired into our dna, there was plenty of good in 2009 as well. i'm almost sure of it.

one easy example--george bush was run out of washington, d.c. well, maybe "constitutionally mandated to leave office" is a slightly more accurate description. either way, he's out. that's good for everyone.

the corrolary to the fall of bush was the rise of obama. barry floated everyone's boat higher (even those who, like achors, prefer to sit in the silt at the bottom).

how about the hudson river landing of us air 1549? no matter what else happened in '09, those folks had a good year. i mean, even if they went on to lose jobs, break limbs or have dick cheney himself brush past them, they could say, "woohoo, it's all good!"

alex rodriguez was exposed as a-fraud, when it was revealed he used steroids to inflate his babe stats, er, baseball stats.

at the meeting of the g-20 in london, barack obama continued to rehabilitate the image of the u.s. by not massaging german chancellor angela merkel.

sarah palin resigned as alaska governor, halfway through her term. she told supporters that "she could do more for the state away from the office." no one in the state disagreed.

al franken went to washington. mark sanford went to argentina.

republicans protested the very idea of healthcare, and dubbed themselves "teabaggers." progressives smiled and snickered quietly.

tiger woods' salacious fall from the iconosphere caused a spike in the value of media stocks, and a simultaneous freefall in the value of his sponsors' stocks. woods shrugged and said, "that puts me at even par after 12 holes. given the playing conditions, i can't complain about that."

* * * * *

closer to home, there was plenty of good for the spaceneedls, as well. the missus and i stayed gainfully employed, when others around us were not so fortunate. we even got to take a couple vacations.

unless something goes seriously sideways in the waning hours, we avoided the h1n1 virus in 2009, and most of the family stayed healthy throughout the year. when i say "most of the family" i mean "not me." but that's good, too. better me than them. plus, i learned much from the experiences that will be increasingly valuable as i get increasingly old. if i'm fortunate enough to do so.

we added a canine family member, but lost a rodent family member. on balance, i'd say we came out ahead in that transaction.

there was some bad, reported here, some bad (not reported here); but the long view shows a huge preponderance of good (reported or not).

and so, we welcome 2010 with the same rum-soaked bravado that captain jack sparrow greeted the kraken: "hello, beastie."

"life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

Friday, December 25, 2009

dreams, redux

when you think of recurring anxiety dreams, what comes to mind?

i've heard lots of people say they're in college, and they've failed to study for the finals that are imminent. they forgot to drop the class, or they forgot to attend the class because it was a tuesday-thursday thing, or some variation thereof.

i've had those, and they're disquieting, in an "i don't know why" kind of way. i mean, i've been out of college far longer than i was in it.

regardless. those dreams don't hold a candle to the disturbing, inexplicable chimera i experienced again just last night. in it, i was (brace yourself...) golfing at pebble beach.

i know. i'm sorry to spring it on you like that. please take a moment and collect yourself. better? okay, let's get this over with.

we'll start with "why this is an anxiety dream." because in it, i haven't played or practiced in forever. i'm at the elysian fields of golf (a place millions of golfers better than i will never see in person), and i have no game whatsoever. i can barely swing the club without fearing i'll whiff completely. (those who've seen me play wonder how this dream differs from reality. to them i say, "ha. ha.")

more, it's getting dark, and the group i'm in is making no forward progress. we're losing daylight, and there are no refunds. i'm wasting my chance at pebble beach!

high-class anxiety dream, huh?

what does it mean?

that my life is pebble beach, and i'm frittering it away, ever ill-prepared? that there are a bunch of holes left to play, and darkness is approaching? that life, like pebble beach, doesn't give rain-checks?

great. couldn't i dream something more literal, like monsters chasing me? and for some reason my legs aren't working properly, and no matter how hard i try i can't get my feet up out of the concrete?

wait, i have those too. what i wouldn't give for the occasional flying dream. soaring around without the benefit of or need for wings. that sounds like fun.

but no. i get golf.

could be worse, i suppose. i could be dreaming about sleeping with tiger woods.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

yoga party


i'm as flexible as a steel bar. yes, i can bend, but it takes a long time and much effort.

which makes yoga a very good idea. for me, not for the steel, which is impervious to good ideas.

given my recent medical history, getting more flexible is more of a mandatory than an option. my meager efforts at stretching over the years have proven effective only in demonstrating my capacity for self-delusion. yes, i can touch my toes. no, i can't touch my hands behind my back. not without dislocating something.

the bad news is, i've attended two yoga classes in my life. the good news is, the second one was today. the second step in a long journey, and all that.

i was not specifically cleared by my surgeons to partake in this activity, but then again, they didn't say i shouldn't. what could possibly go wrong? yoga is as wholesome and holistic as exercise gets, isn't it?

i know what some of you are thinking. there's a perception out there that yoga is an unmanly pursuit, unsuitable for manly men. "go lift some weights, eat some steak, and drink some bud," you scoff.

and, you'd be wrong. you try doing some of these moves, without lots of padding. and a spotter. and a paramedic.

yoga is hard work. the entire class i was sweating and shaking and tipping over--often at the same time. good thing i'm not self-conscious about such things, or i might've had to rush out of the studio for an immediate ego-ectomy. i was saved from that by a newfound state of blissful self-unawareness, in which i'm conscious of the pain, but not how ridiculous i look. this has been a necessary adaptation in my rehab, and it has come in handy more often than i would've previously admitted.

the people who are good at this sort of thing are amazing to watch. anyone who can do this without needing emergency surgery must be in pretty good shape. for lots of things. who wouldn't want to emulate that?

and we haven't even mentioned the philosophical and spiritual benefits of the practice, which are many and ancient and ostensibly wise. i could use some more wisdom, ancient or otherwise, if that weren't already painfully obvious. trouble is, i'm not sure if i have time for the philosophical-meditation thing. it might cut into my crazed running about like a headless chicken, after all.

* * * * *

update: two days post-yoga, i'm sore all over. shoulders to hamstrings to feet. which theoretically means i did something right, workout-wise. i'm not sure that assessment synchs up spiritually. in fact, and i'm just guessing here, i'd say it doesn't. probably it means that in typical american haste and taste for excess, i overdid it.

so much to learn. so little aptitude for it. time for some stretching.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

standing eight count

"fall seven times, stand up eight."

--japanese proverb

within the past week i've been cleared by two world-class surgeons.

cleared for what, exactly, is not exactly clear. but we'll figure that out later.

first the orthopod gave me permission to resume doing rehab-esque squats and dead lifts.

next, the neurosurgeon said i was fine to get back to my regular activities. "go wild," she said.

obviously she's not familiar with my regular activities. but that's not important right now.

what is important is that i've recovered sufficiently from my various maladies and surgeries to start doing something.

two pertinent points of order:
1. what am i capable of?
2. what do i have the latitude to do?

permissions notwithstanding, there's the little matter of conditioning to consider. i can run on the treadmill for, say, 15 minutes. after that i go all weeble-y. and in the weight room, strength is not a strong suit, currently. it's almost funny how quickly i lost the capacity to help iron resist gravity. the weights are taking a little too much pleasure in pushing me around, i think.

so, it appears i'm capable of remaining upright for brief intervals, if followed by frequent naps. upshot: lots of work must be done to make up for all the work that was undone, post-op.

as to the second variable, the answer is...variable. we'll stipulate the usual bucket list of living in an FLW-designed house, finding amelia earhart, and wiping the smirk off of wall street's face.

more immediately, i have a number of mandatories that require considerable time and energy. children, for two; dogs, cats, a house. and last but never least, mrs. spaceneedl. once their needs are met, there's this blog, and my job at spaceneedl sprockets. not necessarily in that order.

add up those committments, and i'm left with 43 minutes per week, free and clear. that should be more than enough time to get centered, recharge the batteries for the week ahead, and find a cure for picene flu.

or i could set those things aside and focus on the unread books piling up on the coffee table. not to read them, but to make room for more things.

or i could sit and read postsecret, because it really is that good.

what to do, what to do...

"go wild," the doctor said.

good advice. i think i'll take it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

can i be franken with you?

if i haven't mentioned it before, al franken is my favorite senator.

p.s. ten years ago, if you had told me i'd one day type the phrase "my favorite senator," i'd have probably winced and felt a little ill.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

see saw

the spaceneedls made great progress on a jigsaw puzzle today.

this unremarkable news is made remarkable by the fact that the puzzle had no electronic elements to it. it did not make noise or evolve or explode.

it's a simple 1,000 piece puzzle.

worked on diligently and quietly by the entire family.



i have a bet to make with you.

i'm betting you've never had a dream in which a predator drone featured prominently.

do i win?

who dreams about predator drones? outside the people who make them, use them, and are targeted by them, i mean?

yeah, me. last night. i had forgotten all about it until this morning, when i was sitting here reading frank rich in today's new york times.

the column has nothing to do with war, unless you'd like to make the case that the ongoing destruction of america's middle class is a kind of insidious warfare. which you could, without argument from me.

rich frames this week's observations through the prism and premise of "up in the air," a movie in which the industry of slashing american jobs turns pink slips into gold. not for the newly jobless, of course, but why quibble? where else but in america could we not bat an eyelash at the prospect of supplanting jobs that produce something with those that kill production?

quoth barack obama, “Sometimes it’s hard to break out of the bubble here in Washington and remind ourselves that behind these statistics are people’s lives, their capacity to do right by their families.”

really, barry? that's one hell of an observation. would it be unprogressive of me to observe that it sounds like something george bush would've said? except from bush we expected rhetoric that was equal parts obvious and useless. from you, mr. change we can believe in, we expect more. and better. and smarter.

where was i?

oh, yes. predator drones. what do you suppose dream analysts say about those? particularly when one has no exposure to such things, except through distant, abstract accounts of collateral damage halfway around the world.

strangely, the "free online dream interpretation" sites are unhelpful. they offer nothing specifc about drones, nor anything but vague attack references: "a feeling or fear of persecution, hostility, aggression, etc., by another person; a situation where you feel your boundaries being crossed or your integrity compromised by someone else."

oh. thanks. that's helpful.

so, i'm left to my own interpretation, ephemera-wise: i'm in a strange place, amongst people i don't know, with the certainty of an imminent attack. we all scurry for cover below ground, where we are surrounded by an array of machinery and technology of indeterminate purpose.

there is much anxiety and running about to escape the expected explosions...then the scene shifts to something else, equally bizarre, equally non sequitur.

make of that what you will. i think it might be related to the recent acquisition of spaceneedl sprockets by a multi-billion dollar holding company, and the uncertainty that transaction has spawned. i'm betting it's definitely that.

unless it's something else entirely.

do i win?

Monday, December 07, 2009

cold call

it's cold, and ajax is old.

which is how i came to spend half the afternoon yesterday rearranging the garage for a cat.

ajax was banished to the garage three years ago for peeing all over the house. if you're not familiar with cat-peed things, they're ruined. the smell never goes away.

so when he peed on the recently reupholstered couch, he was out.

if that seems harsh, you should be apprised that we set him up in comfort. he has the entire space to himself. he has multi-level shelves to clamber around on, three beds in sunny spots, and his own litter box. he's away from the kids and the dogs and the other cat, and most of the time he seems very pleased with that arrangement.

over the weekend, however, i went out and found him shivering in his bed, which horrified me. the rotation of two space heaters wasn't doing its job, which meant i wasn't doing mine.

did i mention he's old? ajax is 18, near as we can figure. he's still pretty spry, but he doesn't get out and run around much any more. so, barring some immediate change in the weather, if he's cold, it's not like he's going to warm up without help.

so in a frenzy of cat hair, i pulled everything off the shelves, reconfigured the various beds and cushions and blankets, and repositioned the space heaters for maximum heatage.

now, even as the overnight temps have dipped into the teens at our house, ajax is much warmer.
and i feel much less guilty.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


my daughter is walking around singing "ring of fire".

for the record, she's no johnny cash.

why she's singing "ring of fire" is anyone's guess. where she learned it is hard to imagine. it's not like we have old-school country stations teed up in the car. or on the itunes.

johnny cash was big at my parents' house back in the day. they had the albums (along with selections from frankie laine and glen campbell and, inexplicably, jim nabors) and the hi-fi console stereo to play them. so when i walked around singing those songs, one could at least see why. sort of.

* * * * *

the boy, meanwhile, has developed a taste for black sabbath and ac/dc. this is at least partly due to "rock band" on the wii at the neighbors' house. yesterday, driving to christmas festivities on bainbridge island, "highway to hell" came on the radio. the boy asked us to turn it up, and he sang along. he knew all the words.

i just shook my head and blinked, uncomprehendingly.

* * * * *

when did these children turn into real people with musical tastes (not to mention these particular tastes)? i mean, it wasn't that long ago they were singing "rubber duckie" and "C is for cookie" and "baby beluga". how do i reconcile the gap between elmo and ozzy osbourne when i'm just now having a post-headbanger phase of my own?

to recap, my daughter is serenading us with songs i sang when i was her age. my son and i are enjoying the same retro music, at the same time. we're all coming at this from directions and perspectives and generations that could not be more different and still be of the same species on the same planet. my head vibrates alarmingly at the mere thought, and i would not be at all surprised if it spontaneously combusted. poom. like a big ol' safety match.

* * * * *

does it sound like i'm vexed by this karmic confluence of musical musical chairs? i'm not. i'm merely befuddled. and consternation is standard operating procedure for a brow-furrowed parent still in his or her own evolving mode. processing this multiplicity of variables may require more brain cell coordination and metaphysical consciousness than i can muster. so i frown a lot, and people think i'm vexed. it's an easy mistake to make.

* * * * *

if, as some philosopher said, music is the universal language, then maybe it'll facilitate some intergenerational amity in the spaceneedl house. maybe this harmonic cross-current will bond us in a more meaningful way than the time-honored command to "turn that noise down!" it's hard to complain, after all, if i'm the one asking them to turn it up.

it's good not to be too predictable. to defy convention and not be bound to the norm, whatever that might be. especially in this country. in this case, at least, we have that going for us.

as long as the children don't tell me to turn down my music, we'll get along just fine.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

we've reached that point

sometimes enough is enough.

thousands of calories at one sitting, for example.

not that we don't appreciate having enough to eat, mind you. we do. in fact, this year we had too much--at a time when too many have too little.

who steals from a food bank? and how incredibly deep will some dig to make sure that shortfall isn't felt by others?

sometimes, "you're kidding, right?" is enough.

tiger woods and sarah palin leap, unwelcome, to mind.

sometimes enough is too much.

a friend of mine in flagstaff, az, is battling leukemia. she is fighting it hard, with very mixed results. her blog is a mosaic of self-deprecating hilarity and heart-rending reversals. the accounts of her physical and emotional pain are impossible to read without feeling the hope, uncertainty, and fear she's coping with every day. she's afraid, she said, that she's not going to make it. at a time when things are at their worst, she just keeps putting it out there.

sometimes enough is still not enough.

another friend has a nephew who recently disappeared in germany. he's been missing, in frankfurt, for days. not a trace, not a word. significant resources--from the state department to the fbi to the german police to u.s. and german tv to the internet--have been brought to bear. with nothing to show for it thus far. the family is keeping the pedal down, because that's what's required.

five seattle-area police officers killed, execution-style, in the past five weeks is ghastly. it's too far beyond "enough" to even get a handle on.

sometimes "you can't be serious" is enough.

barack obama, the "change we can believe in" candidate, seems poised to escalate a war that's been going nowhere for eight years. by all accounts, obama is a brilliant man. i respect this, and still have high hopes for his presidency. but it's hard to reconcile those things with an epically bad idea. afghanistan, as one historian noted, is where empires go to die. the former-soviets would concur, one imagines.

on an unrelated-but-related note, what is wrong with the secret service? do they not take their job seriously, or do they just not like this president?

every day, even a holiday, it's always something. enough, demonstrated time and again, is never enough.

and tomorrow is monday.

so it goes.

hysterical footnote

'bin laden was within our grasp.'

thanks, W. heck of a job! again.

you'd almost think capturing bin laden was never really part of the plan.

because then who would've played the role of boogeyman for the rest of the bush administration? besides the hapless saddam hussein, that is.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

the little things

avery got a lesson in life, and death, today.

one of her hamsters, never very healthy, took its last spin on the hamster wheel.

to her credit, she was very pragmatic about arranging a funeral back behind the garage. she even made sure her brother attended the service. we supplied the little tin, wrapped in a pink bow, and dug the hole. she put the tin in the ground, and covered it with dirt. she picked some hydrangeas and carefully put them in place. then she cried.

i was sad, and i didn't even like the little rat.

apparently i'm moved by the rituals of mortality, no matter who they're for.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

hard day's night

nov. 21, 2009
seattle, wa
sunrise: 7:24 a.m.
sunset: 4:26 p.m.
* * * * *

we've become nocturnal.

we get up in the dark, go to work in the dark, come home in the dark.

i walk kate in the dark, throw the ball for her in the dark, pick up poop in the dark. (public hygeine note: i take along a flashlight for that.)

around here, when daylight savings time turns into left coast standard time, it's like someone threw a switch. suddenly we're all creatures of the night. (on the upside, this does cut down on UV-related skin damage.)

the change also seems to trigger the return of winter storms. siberian pacific fronts, wave after relentless wave. lowering, ominous events in their own right. which means there are afternoons when you look out the window at 3:30, and darkness is already upon the land.

science is still trying to explain how seattle can remain so green this time of year, given the total absence of light for photosynthesis.

on the first work day following the time change, people instantly forget how to drive. a predictable hour-long commute suddenly takes an hour and 20 minutes. or more. if a snowflake is spotted, anywhere, add another 20 minutes. or more.

sales of vitamin d spike, as folks try to ward off seasonal affective disorder, cardiac events and spontaneous cases of rickets. we're fortunate to have a medic one paramedic just down the block. you never know when you're going to need resuscitation from a spontaneous case of rickets.

ever heard of human hibernation syndrome? yeah, i hadn't either. we've got that here, too. lots of it. people wandering between cubicles, eyes vacant, no purpose evident. then again, maybe they're just zombies at home in their natural environment.

good news note: werewolf attacks go way down, november through march, probably because the impenetrable cloud cover obscures every full moon.

could be worse, you say? yes, we could be living in alaska. that would be darkness on a whole 'nother order of magnitude.

then again, it could be better.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

homeless woman, super-villian

i gave five bucks to a homeless woman yesterday.

as i was walking away, someone heading the same direction said, "giving them money just encourages them."

i made an ugly face at him. "yes," i said, "she looked real encouraged, didn't she?"

he shook his head at me and walked on.

seattle in november is a lousy place to be homeless. it's cold and wet and dreary. that combination has to weigh particularly heavy on someone in an already-precarious mental state.

did you know that up to 25% of homeless people are seriously mentally ill? i'm no psychiatrist, but i'd bet real money that "serious mental illness" makes it difficult for one to participate in the american dream. even if they're not mentally ill, i'd bet that going to sleep under a bridge and waking up in a dumpster makes it difficult to interview for a job.

Q: if a mentally sound person is scrounging for food and sleeping outdoors every day, how long do you think it'll be before they're mentally unsound?
A: not long, i bet.

did you know that about 25% of the homeless are u.s. military veterans? we make a big show of supporting the troops and honoring veterans, and yet somehow tens of thousands of them end up on the street, holding a sign asking for spare change. i'd bet that the reason they do this has nothing to do with them being "too lazy to work."

did you know there are 1.3 million homeless children in this great nation of ours? that's bad, right? but wait, there's more. almost half of those kids are under five years old. how do you suppose life is going to work out for those kids? not a lot of harvard grads in their ranks, i bet. maybe, if they're really lucky, they'll end up in the u.s. military, emptily patronized, and kicked to the curb. again.

assuming they live that long.

more times than i care to count, i've heard otherwise intelligent people sneer at a homeless person, as if their homelessness were actually a clever disguise for indolence and treachery. as if the guy sitting on the corner in the rain were saying, "ha ha, you have to go to work and i don't, and when you're out of sight i'm going to take the money suckers like you have given me and go buy a fucking yacht."

why otherwise-intelligent people equate homelessness with "a great scam" is hard to fathom. it makes me wonder whose side they'd be on if they came across someone kicking a litter of homeless puppies.

(i mean, you people would defend the puppies, wouldn't you?)

* * * * *

i wasn't thinking about any of these things when i handed five bucks to a homeless woman yesterday. i was just thinking she looked exhausted and miserable and hopeless. i felt bad for her, knowing five bucks would change her circumstance not one iota. probably i could've handed her five hundred bucks, with the same net result.

maybe she took that money to the grocery store and bought as big a fortified beer as she could afford (because that's what all those lazy bums do, right?).

i wouldn't have blamed her one bit.

dick redux

liz cheney thinks her dad should run for president in 2012.

dear god, yes. please let the gop run that murderous fuck out there one more time.

run, dick. run.

* * * * *

while we're at it, let them run palin. or gingrich. or pawlenty. or rush. democrats would love several more seats and a lockdown majority for a few more years.
* * * * *
david brooks, who seems to be a "moderate republican," doesn't think much of sarah palin. doesn't he know moderate republicans are passe? shush, david. palin is the future of the gop.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

another shot, please...

i got a flu shot at work last week.

the next day, it was announced that the company had been sold.

the next day, the u.s. house passed an historic healthcare reform bill.

these things are all connected.

ordinarily i wouldn't have bothered with the shot, because i'm not in a high-risk group and i'm not fond of shots.

but mrs. spaceneedl has asthma, and if she gets the flu the repercussions could be very bad, indeed. "but if she gets a shot, shouldn't that obviate the need for you to get one?"

you might think so. but you'd be wrong. because the shots don't cover all the permutations of the flu. and even if you get the shot, you still might get the flu, and pass it along. and if someone near you gets it, your odds of getting it go up.

so to minimize the chance that the missus might contract this year's version of a seasonal virus, i got the shot. it was free, sponsored by my employer.

but as we've all learned during the recent "discussions" of healthcare, costs are rising exponentially every second. in the time it takes you to read this sentence, the cost of a simple flu shot has gone up an order of magnitude. don't trouble yourself with the math: no one really knows how to calculate it. but rest assured, it's a lot.

project that cost over a company's entire employee population, and suddenly it becomes prohibitively expensive to stay in business.

to avoid the inevitable severe losses, the only prudent option is to sell the venture to a much larger conglomerate.

the reason this makes sense is that the really large interests can better afford to absorb mind-numbing losses. for those interests of a certain size, if the decline gets too steep the government steps in and declares them "too big to fail." the losses are subsidized with taxpayer money, and everyone goes home happy. because as dick cheney famously opined, "deficits don't matter."

where was i?

a shot of capital. that's what businesses, trying to do the right thing by their employees, require in a world of healthcare costs run amok. and that's what leads some to "wholly owned subsidiary" status.

so on thursday, the shots. on friday, the announcement. we'd been bought, lock, stock and needl. if only someone, or several someones, in a position to make a difference, could have done something to turn the tide of history in another direction. some body like...the democrat-controlled congress, for example.

in classic fashion, these well-meaning souls rode over the hill hoisting the banner of healthcare reform. one day late.

well, one day late for the wholly pwned spaceneedl sprockets, that is -- sold into subsidiary-hood.

so what's the the takeaway here?

it's all mrs. spaceneedl's fault. if she were more discriminating about her pre-existing conditions, none of this would have been necessary. for want of some non-inflamed bronchial passages, a company was sold.

and somewhere a butterfly fluttered by, unperturbed.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

soccer? i don't even know her!

i used to be indifferent to soccer.

suddenly, i love it.

or, maybe it's just elizabeth lambert i'm enamored with.

"don't elbow me."

"don't pull on my shorts."

"in fact, let's just stipulate if you're anywhere near me, you're in a high-contact zone."

* * * * *

update: liz has been suspended from the team. "This is in no way indicative of my character or the soccer player I am," Lambert said in a statement.

it's not? i mean, how do you figure? it's totally indicative.

no apology necessary.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

healthcare reform? why? the old way is working out just fine!

how are you feeling? pretty good?

excellent. see to it you stay that way.

if you don't, the u.s. healthcare industry has lots of ways to make you feel even worse.

let's review a few, just for fun.

did you know that over 60% of the bankruptcies in this country are healthcare-related? which is to say, if you or someone in your family gets whacked with the sickness stick, there's a very real chance you'll go bankrupt. this is true -- even if you have health insurance!

i know, hilarious, right?

no, seriously: almost 80% of the folks who go bankrupt for health reasons had health insurance.

check out the business model. your customers pay you for a product that you promise to deliver "someday" when they need it most. they pay you and pay you and pay you. for years, or longer. one day they come in to your store and say, "hi, i need that product i've been paying for."

and at that point, you get to say, "mmm, maybe. or maybe i'll just deliver part of that product. or maybe i won't deliver any of it at all. i'll let you know what i decide, um, later."

is that brilliant, or what? you get the money and they get screwed. you get to invest the cash and get fabulously wealthy. and even if you make stupid, irresponsible business decisions, the government will bail you out. not to worry, though, you can still pay yourself huge bonuses.

and best of all, lots of your loyal customers actually like this arrangement. they don't don't want to change a thing! they like bankruptcy. and they call people who want a more equitable deal "socialists" or "commies" or "hitler".

truly an ingenious, uniquely american model. so tres free-market.

still, any health insurance is better than no health insurance. that's what forty-seven million americans have. zero health coverage. that's a lot of people walking around uncovered -- most of whom have no business walking around that way, if you know what i mean, and i think you do. this uncoveredness can lead to a chill, and all the bad things that invariably follow.

like death.

did you know 45,000 americans die every year because they lack health insurance? 45,000!

remember how exorcised everyone got when 2,400 americans died at pearl harbor, or when 3,000 died on 9/11? those events were appallingly bad, but check my math here: 45,000 is a lot more that 2,400 or 3,000. in fact, it's a lot more than 2,400 + 3,000.

to recap, that's 45,000 per year.

but if you put your ear to the wind, you'll hear a decided lack of howling outrage over the 45,000.

why is that, do you suppose?

because that's the way we roll. we're americans, by god, and we're fiercely independent. we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. and we defend those who screw us over, generation after generation because, well, that's just what we do, no matter how cliched and foolish it makes us.

don't ask why, because asking why is just plain unamerican.

there's not a thing wrong with the way we do things. if people get sick, they can go to the emergency room, where they can join the countless millions too lazy to, um, stay healthy.

swine flu, anyone?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

time munch

with everyone increasingly pressed for time, it's obvious that 60-second movies are the future.

here's "jaws"...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

it was twenty years ago today...

it's been twenty years since the loma prieta earthquake rocked the san francisco bay area.

i was there, sitting at my desk when the noise started.

the next fifteen seconds went on and on and on -- far longer than the time on the clock.

the shaking started just a heartbeat after the basso rumbling, and it still took a moment to register. no, it wasn't an 18-wheeler going by. this was something much bigger. then came the sound of a heavy filing cabinet hitting the floor above our heads.

my next thought was to get out of the building.

* * *

mrs. spaceneedl and i lived in the marina district in 1989. we had a great apartment at the corner of chestnut and broderick -- right on the tour bus route. that part wasn't so great. when the buses went by we couldn't hear a thing above the roar. we'd have to stop conversations, rewind whatever movie we were watching, and wait for quiet to return. until the next bus.

still, it was an ideal location, in a world-class city. it was minutes away from my job at an ad agency south of market, and a hub for the missus' job, which required her to travel to hospitals around the bay area.

on her rounds she regularly drove the cypress street viaduct in oakland, an elevated, multi-level section of freeway (almost identical to the alaskan way viaduct in seattle). the structure collapsed in the quake, crushing cars between its tiers.

i didn't think about that, and what might have happened to her, because she was out of town that day. it was close, though. her flight back to sfo was already in the air, and returned to minneapolis when the quake hit. she didn't learn whether i was safe or otherwise until three days later.

* * *

a colleague and i made it as far as my office doorway. at that point the shaking was so intense it was all we could do to hold onto the doorframe. from throughout the building, over the roar of the quake, we heard heavy crashes as bookshelves and cabinets and other furniture was thrown around.

the 15 seconds finally ended, the shaking stopped, and the noise subsided. the adrenaline rush continued for hours.

the yelling began immediately as we checked on each other. miraculously, no one in our office was hurt. the power was out, obviously, but the land-line phones still worked and someone had a battery-powered radio. the early reports said the bay bridge had collapsed and the marina was on fire.

for while, no one ventured out of the building. it was as if we weren't sure what to do next, how we'd get home, or what we'd find when we got there.

around the corner from our office a brick facade had collapsed, killing five people. the damage looked so minor, compared to the rest of the bay area. in all, 67 people died that day. given the scale of the destruction, it's a wonder there weren't more.

* * *

it seemed like a long time before we finally ventured out. dusk was falling, and the radio reports kept getting worse. some folks had gotten ahold of loved ones, who passed along exaggerated rumors of damage and death. the reality was bad enough.

i'm not sure how i got back to the marina that evening. i vaguely recall making my way along the damaged embarcadero freeway for a stretch, then heading west. it was full-on dark by the time i reached an entrance to the neighborhood, which was barricaded and guarded. i showed my driver's license and was waved in. our building was still standing, and people with flashlights were going in and out. i found the owner and borrowed a flashlight. i was expecting the worst as the two of us entered the apartment, wasn't so bad. one of our TVs was face-down on the floor, there were cracks in the walls and random debris was scattered about.

but the fact that we could get in at all was fortuitous, as there were buildings burning or down in the street all around us.

i numbly grabbed some clothes and some of our valuables (which in retrospect weren't particularly valuable), and threw them all in the car. i headed north across the golden gate bridge toward a cousin's house in novato.

they never even lost power.

* * *

mrs. spaceneedl arrived home several days later -- in the meantime, i looked for a new place to live. our apartment building was habitable, but was going to be without power, water or gas for 16 weeks. the owner agreed to cancel the lease of anyone who asked.

it was blind luck that i quickly found a condo in mill valley, on the tiburon side of 101. it was on the edge of the ring mountain preserve, and was only slightly more expensive than our place in the marina. it even had views of the city across san francisco bay.

the earthquake dreams began shortly thereafter. at least once a week i'd wake up sure we'd just had a major aftershock, though that never turned out to be the case. the dreams, startlingly vivid, continued until we moved to minneapolis a couple years later.

* * *

twenty years on, stories of the loma prieta quake resonate in me. i read the accounts of the survivors, and the remembrances of those who died, and it stirs deep, dark emotions that i'm not sure i felt at the time.

in the end, my wife, my friends and family who lived there...we lost nothing of any real importance in the quake.

so i wonder why i react so strongly -- and if they feel the same way -- when these anniversaries roll around.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

golden day

after three years, it's good to have a golden retriever in the house.

she's here, on the couch, next to me.

actually, the previous goldens weren't allowed on the couch. they were too big, and too covered with dog hair. if you can imagine such a thing.

kate is still relatively small, and not shedding too voluminously. she fits here at my elbow without any imposition at all.

other dogs have their charms, i know, and their adamant advocates. but if you can sit and watch a young golden retriever without laughing out loud, then no dog would ever suit you.

kate's just a puppy, and mrs. spaceneedl's dogs are two-year veterans in this house. but already kate knows she's bigger than both of them. she lords it over them in matters of bones, rawhide chewies, tennis balls and random play.

the best part is, the lording is done with an actual, unanthropomorphized good nature. no, really, it's statistically quantifiable. i'm almost sure. "let's play tug of war!" she says. "let me whack you in the head with my paw! let me use your leg as a chew toy! c'mon, it's fun!"

and always with the exclamation points.

if there's something she wants from the little dogs, kate simply happies them into submission. they don't always see it that way...but i do.

and it makes me laugh. my smiles-per-day average has gone up by an order of magnitude, and my overall mood has improved proportionately. the timing of which is fortuitous, as recently i have not set a particularly good example, disposition-wise.

mind you, not everything kate does is all fluffy bunnies and rainbows. the chewing of the window sill, for example. or the tearing up of the new dog bed. or the occasional peeing on the kitchen floor.

a more complete list of examples is available on request.

but the good obscures the bad like a huge thundercloud blots out the sun. which makes no sense at all in this context, but you get the idea.

i'm beginning to see why service and therapy dogs are so valuable for so many people.

i don't need therapy, yet (yes, you do. no, i don't. yes, you do. shut up, people are looking. i don't care. well, i do, so knock it off...)

...but i'm not averse to the kind of mood-altering substance that licks my face and sits on command and wags its tail so hard that its whole being shakes with joy.

no, i don't mind that at all.

it's good to have a golden in the house again.

damn, that hurt...

sneezing attack: bad.

sneezing attack while driving: worse.

sneezing attack while driving after neck surgery:


Friday, October 09, 2009

Thursday, October 08, 2009

day tripping

the little epiphanies keep rolling in.

today, for example, i was afraid of a dog for the first time in my life.

kate and i were out for a walk, and a big black pit bull mix, sans owner, came charging across a busy street at us.

before june 24, i would've been fairly confident that if things went sideways, i would be able to defend kate, and myself, from any dog. it may have been a false confidence, but still, i wouldn't have been afraid, which is important in a canine confrontation.

now, given the state of my neck and knee, i'm fairly confident kate and i would've been flayed and filleted had this dog decided to have a go at us. fortunately a passer-by (who happened to work at the local animal shelter) intervened just when i thought things were going to get ugly.

we put as much distance between us and them as quickly as i could manage it, and it hit me that this fear thing is going to take some getting used to. i know this is true, because i can't ever recall struggling to keep from sobbing in public the way i had to at that moment.

later, a friend of mine observed, "now you know what it's like to be a woman -- every day."

well, no, i don't know what that's like. but i am gaining a new appreciation for feeling unexpectedly vulnerable. and for dealing with physical and emotional challenges that would've been no challenge at all just a few weeks ago.

walking with a dog used to be as easy as breathing. now i literally have to think about every step -- making sure the right leg is tracking straight, that i'm extra-cautious on a downhill slope, and that the dog isn't pulling me into a misstep. it takes a long time to cover ground that previously passed underfoot in no time at all.

yesterday morning avery and i took part in international walk to school day. at one point the walking school bus route took us down a semi-steep, gravel trail. nobody else had a bit of trouble negotiating the hill, but i slipped. my right leg went out from under me, and i was thisclose to a swift collision with the ground.

that would've been bad -- falling now is not like falling when i was a kid. i was able, barely, to regain my balance, but tweaked the knee in the process. that didn't hurt nearly as much as being the awkward old guy who nearly wiped himself out in front of his daughter. "geez, daddy, walk much?" (no, she didn't really say that, i just thought it. which was worse.)

my whole life i've been the guy people ask for help. "can you lift this heavy thing up several flights of stairs, please? thanks." sure, no problem.

now it's a problem. not only can't i help them, i can't even help myself. i'm in a state of unease and imbalance that doesn't suit me. at all.

these days, most falls have consequences.

my fall from the grace of careless confidence continues.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

more newsworthy

i complain about this surgery thing like no one has ever endured such misery.

i'm pretty sure that's not the case.

just within the last few days there have been reports of earthquakes and tsunamis and david letterman jacking up his ratings at the expense of his wife.

so, obviously, lots of people are worse off than i am.

additional cases in point: somebody sent some faux anthrax to the seattle times, not once, but twice. back when seattle was a two-newspaper town, the liberal Seattle P-I would've gotten the anthrax. now that the times is the only game in town, the right-wing loons have one fewer target for their domestic terrorism.

a catholic cardinal from africa says it's possible the next pope could be black. first a u.s. president, then the pope? a whole lotta white people are gonna be mighty peeved about that, don'tcha think?

speaking of sacrilege, this guy says he's duplicated the shroud of turin, and that anyone with a chemistry set and a blow torch could do the same. a whole lot of the faithful are going to be lining up at his door to show him the error of his sinful ways. meanwhile, salmon rushdie issued a press release saying, "go fatwah that guy for awhile, will you?"

gourmet magazine and three other conde nast publications are shutting down. not enough gourmands or fancy weddings to go around these days. people without healthcare hold protests, blaming the obama administration. "healthcare is a privilege, but every american has the right to a catered wedding with ice sculptures. barack obama is a muslim fascist socialist!"

to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the demise of the titanic, death-cruisers can relive the excitement of the voyage, complete with icebergs, cemeteries, and fabulous ports-of-call.

Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of, said the irony of the Titanic is "the boost that the tragedy has given to contemporary cruising. The fact that a ship sank and lots of passengers lost their lives has paled in the face of the romantic image that it portrays."

you just can't argue with that kind of logic.

to sum up: surgery schmurgery.

lots of people are worse off than me.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


turns out doris has quite a good vocabulary after all...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

not-so-young frankenstein

recent events have left me with a two-inch, vertical incision on my neck.

what do you make of that?

no, really.

if it were your neck, and your incipient scar, what would you do with it? make up stories about how you got it? integrate it into a tattoo? install a sundial? attach a set of angel wings?

while the wings would be appropriate, i think they'd attract way too much attention, especially in a business situation. how do you accessorize (let alone hide) a set of archangel wings? i mean, you can't, right?

we'll table the wings, for now.

along with the sundial, for many of the same reasons. sure, it'd be handy on a hike (not to mention a great conversation starter), but ultimately too impractical.

* * * * *

before i intentionally forget it, the procedure i had wednesday was a posterior cervical foraminotomy. the surgeon removed a couple bone spurs at C6-C7, and part of a herniated disc at C7-T1. this decompressed the nerve and should eventually relieve the radiculopathic symptoms (weakness, numbness, tingling).

one article i read suggested the symptoms would subside "almost immediately," but so far? not exactly.

* * * * *

breaking update: just returned from a short walk with kate the wonder dog. actual exertion factor was low. perceived exertion: high. tsk, it's so sad. we're really defining down the meaning of "exercise" around here.

* * * * *

began the day determined to see how long i could go without taking any pain medication. it's nearly 2 p.m., and the little experiment is just about over. deploying an ice pack to forestall it a bit longer, but the inevitable is in sight. point of order: does a muscle relaxant count? does popping a flexeril equate to "taking pain medication"?

be careful how you day you may want to conduct this very experiment. it'd be a shame if you set a precedent that came back to haunt you later. just sayin'...

* * * * *

where were we? right, making up scar stories. tell me yours, i tell you mine. ("the seas were angry that day, my friends...")

(sidebar: ken griffey junior in what may have been his last big league at-bat... base hit up the middle. not as dramatic as a home run, but better than a strikeout.)

which leaves us with tattoos. not saying i'd get another one, but if i did...what would it be? something symmetrical, with the scar at the equator.

the suggestion window is now open.

* * * * *

let the record show i made it 'til 7 p.m. before giving in to the percocet. not bad, but still no red wine for me. ah, well. tomorrow is another day.

Friday, October 02, 2009

post-op standard ops

1. sleep. a lot.

2. in between naps, take drugs. it would be bad to wake up in-between doses. did that once. once.

3. eat. good appetite. complain that i can't drink wine while on the drugs.

4. apply ice pack to incision area. discover sore spots on both sides of head; remnants of wearing a halo brace during surgery.

5. check e-mail. and facebook. also twitter, sitemeter, nuggpuppy, seattle times, et al. repeat, in a fog, because i can't remember what i just checked.

6. make sure yahoo! fantasy football team is ready for sunday. also can't remember, is adrian peterson any good?

7. update itunes library while watching mariners game while blogging.

8. rearrange uncomfortable pillows. again.

9. make my way to the bathroom to pee or shower (not at the same time). move very slowly and carefully. notice that the pain meds make the knee feel like new.

10. absorb sonic bombs going off in my head when mrs. spaceneedl's little dogs get to yapping. must remember to take them along on next fishing trip. as bait.

11. remind myself that retaining the use of my left arm is worth this trouble. don't want to end up like inspector kent.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

a bridge to somewhere

the 520 bridge floats on the surface of lake washington like a feather on a country pond.

sometimes, driving across, you'll notice some strange, confused hydrodynamics on either side of the bridge. to the south, choppy, whitecap waves churn, spraying water across the bridge deck. to the north the lake is calm, serene, as if it were a completely different body.

there's obviously a perfectly sound scientific explanation for this phenomenon, but i've never heard it.

it's just as well. sometimes overanalysis takes the fun out of a perfectly good unexplained phenomenon. i'm content to marvel at this one, and the improbability of it all.

in other does a human body work so well, for so long, then just kinda have a come-apart? even a neurosurgeon doesn't know the answer. "these things can happen for no reason, or any reason at all," mine said recently. and by recently, i mean day-before-yesterday.

this was not a random, rhetorical observation. it was in reference to my body, in particular, and its near-spontaneous combustion.

as a result of that conversation, i've decided to have some more surgery. the last one went so well, i thought, "what the hell? let's take our healthcare insurance out for another spin and see what else these people can do."

that's not exactly true. what really happened is that the neurosurgeon told me if i don't have surgery, i stand a good chance of losing the use of my left arm. that would be a shame, since it's been a perfectly good arm for many years.

so, i'm having surgery soon. and by soon, i mean today. this afternoon. because every day i don't have surgery increases the risk of permanent damage.

cervical spondylosis does not actually occur spontaneously. it's a years-long accretion that one day shows up and says, "hi there, mind if i move in and stay awhile?" if you don't say, "no, get the hell out," it stays forever.

after years of reliable service, it's as if i'm suddenly dealing with a completely different body. it's strange, confusing.

so i sit here marveling at this unexplained phenomenon, and the improbability of it all.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

can we cobble it together, somehow?

yes, we can.


i'm a word guy. i can usually cobble together a halfway decent sentence without breaking a sweat. but when it comes to power tools...i am not a precision instrument.

i don't like circular saws. or band saws. or chop saws. i don't like anything that can lop off things that won't easily be un-lopped.

despite this, i deployed a deadly circular saw over the weekend in building a fence in the spaceneedl backyard. i even changed the blade on the saw, all the while certain it would spring to life at the most inopportune moment, lopping something or several somethings. sure, it was unplugged. but you can't trust those things.

soon thereafter, i was equally certain i had botched installing the new blade. and that it would come flying off at high speed. it was tightly tightened, and the blade guards were on, but still. you can't trust those things.

after several hours, much angst and many less-than-precise cuts with the circular saw, the first section of the fence is up. three to go. all appendages still attached.

and it doesn't look half bad.

for a diy project done by a word guy.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

puncture wounds...

in the last three weeks i had my first two acupuncture appointments.

my chi is still all effed up.

(note: i don't think practitioners of eastern medical philosophy refer to chi as being "all effed up" under any circumstances.)

i've been having back spasms for the last three weeks-plus. about a week in, the symptoms radiated down my left arm to include two numb fingers, a numb palm, and a toothache in my elbow. this bundle of symptoms is referred to in the literature as "cervical radiculopathy," which could not be more aptly named.

i thought the problem was chiropractic, so in the intervening 24 days i went to the chiro 6 times, had two massages, the aforementioned acupuncture sessions, several hot tubs, and countless hot pack/cold packs.


finally, out of desperation, i gave up the non-western medicine and went to an MD. she prescribed a muscle relaxant, some heavy duty naproxin, and an MRI.

the muscle relaxant made me more stupid than usual, and the naproxin had approximately no effect.

the MRI, however, revealed cervical spondylosis. i have a degenerative osteoarthritic condition in my spine. along with bone spurs and stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal channel.

apparently all this is the result of years of wear and tear from my various efforts to stay healthy and in shape.

isn't it ironic...don'tcha think?

so, i now have an appointment with a neurosurgeon to assess the condition and get a possible recommendation for surgery.

perhaps my workouts--weightlifting, basketball, running, etcetera--were a tad...debilitating. certainly i've had my share of exercise-related trauma over the last 25 years. but was all meant to build up my physio-spiritual core, not tear it down.

where's the karmic justice?

then again...perhaps it's simply a matter of neglecting my chi for too long.

i'm taking suggestions to undo the spondylosis and realign my vertebrae.

in the meantime, i will be more attentive to the all-important alignment of my chakras.

whatever else happens, i can't have my chi all effed up.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

now for something completely new...

i'd like you to meet kate.

that's her, next to the little brown dog.

cute isn't she?

she's a 6-month old golden retriever, and the latest addition to the spaceneedl family menagerie.

kate's a rescue--which in this case means she was previously in an abusive home, and now she's not.

i will tell you, kate really doesn't know how to react to being loved so much, in such a short time. the spaceneedls young and old are smothering her with attention and affection and encouragement. and yet she still will sometimes cower and slink away, as if she's sure there's a beating on the way.

on the upside, she's been with us for just a few days, and she's made great progress. she doesn't know how to walk on a leash, but she is house-trained and crate-trained. she doesn't know know how to hang out and be a dog, but she's learning quickly from the two little dogs.

i wasn't sure this moment would arrive.

it's three years now that the big dogs have been gone, and i thought maybe i was done grieving for them. turns out that's not the case.

i look at kate and i see raleigh, who was always so eager to please. i watch her raise her eyebrows, like she's thinking things over, and i see gunnar. he was smart, but had such a streak of the devil in him.

then my eyes fill up, and i have to look away.

but only for a moment.

it's been too long, and i've discovered that i've been ready to love another dog for awhile now. kate's not replacing the big dogs, but she is filling up an empty place in my heart.

shoot, i may even learn to like mrs. spaceneedl's little dogs. maybe.

so, to sum up, kate needed us, and as it turns out, i needed her.

our little family has grown by just one, but suddenly the house feels like it's infused with something much more.

Monday, September 07, 2009

there be whales here

the whale jinx is over.

for years, every time mrs. spaceneedl went looking for orcas, the orcas disappeared.

whale watching cruise: "we're so sorry the whales weren't around today--we can count on one hand the number of times that's happened this year."

sea kayaking in whale-infested waters: "if you camp at san juan county park for three days, you have about a 100% chance of seeing orcas go by. it's amazing that you missed them."

this scenario played itself out enough times over the years that the missus became convinced that:

1. she is a certified whale jinx or
2. orcas don't really exist at all

one of these may be true, but certainly not both. i'm pretty sure. given that i've seen orcas up close from a very small boat, i'd lean toward #1. that said, the experience was so surreal, it may well have existed entirely in the abstract.

naw, couldn't be. i think, therefore there are orcas.

we spent a couple nights on orcas island recently (see, they have their own island!), and signed on for another whale watching excursion, to scientifically test the jinx. and by 'scientific' i mean "completely random, no-sample-size, haphazard exercise in pure luck."

we set out in perfect conditions, sunny and clear, on a heading that the skipper said looked whaleful. thirty minutes later we were fogged in, barely making headway, navigating by radar and sounding a mournful fog horn.

mrs. spaceneedl smirked and sagely shook her head. "nice try," she said. "the fog is just a smokescreen. it doesn't hide the fact that there are no whales."

the fog was so thick that at times we couldn't see more than 30 feet in any direction. it simply closed in around us, dampening sound, making a 56-foot boat our entire universe. the radio crackled occasionally, with conflicting reports of orca sightings in contradictory locations around the san juan islands.

the jinx was fully deployed and operational. there was no way we'd find whales at the rate we were going.

instead, they found us.

we heard the first pair before we saw them. their surface-exhale cut through the fog from about 50 yards off the starboard bow. a moment later we saw them, swimming parallel to our course. after that, things got a little crazy.

we were way inside the legal 100-yard distance limit for whales, but it was entirely unintentional. our engines were shut down, and the orcas were going wherever they felt like. several times, they felt like going right in front of the boat. or under it. or right damn next to it. we could've jumped onto the back of one of the big males if we had been so inclined.

they were startlingly large and loud, and they were everywhere around us, all at once. it seemed like there must've been 50 of them, but there are only 25 whales in J pod.

they all must've made a run at us at one time or another over the next 20 minutes. the fog lent an aura of unreality to the proceedings, whales darting in and out and back into it. other whale watching vessels were there as well, doing exactly the same. fact is, it was crowded off the west coast of san juan island; whales, boats, people all sharing a too-close encounter.

the skipper correctly was uncomfortable so far inside the whales' personal space, and right about then he decided it was time to go. on the way back to orcas island, we actually passed a couple whales swimming the same direction. prolly they were enjoying our company so much, they didn't want us to go. or maybe they were hoping we'd throw some salmon (or a couple little dogs) overboard for their consideration.

the missus, finally, was fully satisfied that orcas do, in fact, exist outside of seaworld (if she were a smoker, i think she would've lit up).

so, after years of no-shows and near-misses (and maybe due to the little whale dance i did before boarding the boat)...the whale jinx is ended.

there be whales here.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

aliens vs. predators

when did we move to montana?

when did we say, "we want to get back to our primeval roots and touch predators higher on the food chain than we are"?

i'll tell you when. never. that's when.

just a few short weeks ago it was a bear roaming the neighborhood, voraciously devouring entire blocks, homes and all. the beast eventually was captured and renditioned to alaska, where it's currently hunting sarah palin.

now it's a cougar. no, not that kind of cougar (though magnolia reportedly is teeming with that kind of cougar). the big cat kind. puma concolor, as the felidae are reckoned.

within stalking distance of our house.

the sighting referenced in the news story was on our street. literally on the street where we live. where in the purchase agreement did it say, "buyer agrees to share right of way with man-eating cats"? i'll tell you where. nowhere. that's where.

it's important, at this juncture, not to roll one's eyes and ask, "what's next?" doing that invites all kinds of answers you don't want. the irony gods have an ironic sense of humor, see, and they love answering that question in all kinds of hilarious ways.

"hey, check it out. this spaceneedl guy wants to know what's next after the bear and the lion. quick, somebody fire up mount st. helens. and some good examples of climate change. and an alligator in the sewers. yee-haw!"

no, we'll not ask the question. we prefer to avoid inadvertently inviting uninvited trouble into our midst.

we'll just assume that it's always something, and quietly hope for the best.

* * * * *

update: cougar captured, caravanned to the cascades.

Elusive cougar captured in Magnolia's Discovery Park, already released into the wild
A cougar that's been prowling Discovery Park in Magnolia for about a week was captured early this morning after being tracked and tranquilized by wildlife officers.
a couple nights ago i dreamed we had a cheetah in the house. it was going after our many little animals, and i scared it off with a baby gate.

i didn't say it was a realistic dream.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

a leg up

i'm not as tough as i thought.

i'm not happy about it, but there it is.

7 days post-op, and it still feels like i've been kicked hard in the shin. and the calf. and the thigh. and the other side of the thigh.

the surgery was on some very specific areas of the knee, but the pain extends above, below, and all the way around.

i thought it'd be no big deal, but i was, um, mistaken.

file that under "unrealistic expectations."

during the procedure i asked the surgeon about the prospect of taking a long walk to the farmer's market the next morning. he was amused. "not gonna happen," he said. "this is real surgery. you're gonna feel it."

c'mon, i thought. how bad could it be?

he was right. i felt it. i'm still feeling it.

during my first follow-up, recalling my question, he kindly said, "i have the benefit of about 3,300 of these operations to tell me what's possible and by when. you have one."

i'm learning some important lessons lately about assumptions and conclusions and the perils of putting too much stock in the things we think we "know." previously, i knew i'd be able to walk to the farmer's market. i knew i'd be back in the office this week. i knew that 10 days post-op i'd be pedaling around orcas island on my mountain bike.

i misjudged.

the good news is, i'm not paying too steep a price for these particular misjudgements. i simply didn't take the walk. i'm simply not back in the office. the mountain bikes will be staying at home. the bad news is, i'm not quite sure what to do differently.

because there have been other conclusions drawn and concordant decisions made recently that could've gone upside-down in a big way.

that they didn't, that what i "knew" turned out to be an utter falsehood, somehow didn't end up costing me dearly. but it could have. oh, my yes. in a no-kidding, life-altering kind of way.

instead, the god of ruination passed me by--pausing just long enough to look me up and down as if contemplating whether i was worth troubling with. apparently i was not. this time.

file that under "the random luck of the foolish."

let's review: physically fragile, intellectually challenged, yet still the beneficiary of capricious variables.

it's times like these i realize that (no matter how hard i try) i will never have any meaningful grasp of the metaphysics of physics, and that life itself is mind-numbing, head-shaking exercise in illogic.

file that under "time for beer."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

who can say?

More fever-fired or percocet-beweirded dreams.

Dutifully reported via iPod touch.

Friday, August 14, 2009

it's funny. really.

i'm laying here contemplating the many (many) ways I was wrong about the pain.

the exquisite permutations and the subtle, nuanced shades of it. the sweetly smiling, scalpel-smooth caress of it. the steely, unblinking caleidoscope of it, patiently shifting from the serrated to the sublime.

it's hilarious, really, how wrong I was.

oh, and the knee kinda hurts, too.

well. that was fun.

just yesterday I was doing squats and toe-raises and dead lifts.

It felt good, too. I felt strong. for a guy working with one ACL, that is.

Today it's a different story. Today I have two ACLs. Make that one original part, and one patellar tendon graft.

And no prospect of doing anything similar to yesterday's workout any time soon.

Don't feel sorry for me, however. I'm not feeling sorry for myself. I'm one of the ridiculously fortunate who can tear up a knee and get it fixed without worrying about going bankrupt in the process.

mrs. spaceneedl's company has great healthcare insurance. as if that weren't enough, spaceneedl sprockets also has excellent coverage. so if things were to go sideways for the missus, employment-wise, the needls would still be in the pink, Cadillac-coverage-wise.

tens of millions of Americans are nowhere near as fortunate. I'm contemplating that sad fact while laying here with a reconstruction job that is truly a medical miracle. and while watching information-challenged people shouting at the top of their lungs that they don't want such a thing, and they don't want the tens of millions to have it, either.

they like things just the way they are, these defenders of an insurance industry that would as soon disenroll them as look at them (or have a doctor look at them). these misled, who are themselves one healthcare mishap from ruin.

from that perspective, it's funny, really. isn't it?

you know what else is fun? the insurance-covered continuous passive motion (cpm) machine my leg is strapped into right now. it gently flexes the knee for me, maintaining the range of motion, and i'm supposed to use it 3+ hours a day for the next two weeks.

currently it's set to inflict a mere 50 degrees of flex (normal for me is about 135 degrees). but even that is borderline too much. it's right on the edge of tolerable. i'm sweating ever-so-slightly due to the almost-too-muchness.


this. is. fun.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

casual upside

it's a relief, in a way.

for years i quietly dreaded the possibility that i'd tear up a knee playing basketball.

i didn't dread it enough to stop playing, mind you, but that low undercurrent of anxiety was always there.

now that it's done, the reality is i've been much more fortunate than most who tear an ACL. it hasn't hurt all that much. it didn't swell up, and i've lost very little range of motion.

even the grotesque sensation of instability has mostly gone away. occasionally the femur goes one direction and tibia goes another, and that's kind of sickening. but as long as i keep my forward motion in a straight line, the knee stays underneath me, and it's all good.

but none of that describes the relief i'm talking about.

which is that the injury gives me a good excuse not to run.

full disclosure: i don't like running. never have. i've done it for years, but usually out of a sense of obligation. kinda like eating broccoli. it's good for me, therefore i do it. eventually i learned to like broccoli. the running, not so much.

now, according to the surgeon, i have a legit medical reason not to run for a good nine months post-op. we'll pause here for a brief message from our sponsor:


over the years there have been other injuries, other times when i'd watch runners go by and be envious. i'd feel a deep, irrational need to get back out there amongst them immediately.

this is not one of those times.

maybe it's the wisdom of old age...or maybe it's just old age. maybe it's temporary. or maybe my new bike will replace the countless pairs of running shoes and basketball shoes that have come and gone.

oh, yeah...the basketball is now an open question as well. mrs. spaceneedl is lobbying for a long-term cessation of that activity. she raises an eyebrow and says, "is it worth the risk that you'd have to go through this again?"

that's not a particularly good argument--is driving worth the risk that i might get in a multi-car pile up? is scuba diving worth the risk i might get nibbled by a shark?

but here's the thing (and i'm a little embarrassed to admit it): basketball isn't as much fun as it used to be. mostly because i'm not as good as i used to be. not that i was ever "good", but i used to be better. and playing bad basketball is not much fun. it's a little chastening, in fact. i don't care to be chastened. it doesn't suit me.

so my answer has been, "we'll see." and we will. but first things first.

there must be cutting on the knee before there can be cutting on the court. there will follow months of rehab before there can be any more rebounding.

and there's the little detail of actually getting back in basketball shape, which is not an easy thing.

lateral mobility vs. collateral damage. worth it? we'll see.

in the meantime, i'm gong to keep one foot on the ground at all times, and learn to appreciate the low-impact alternatives to running.

doctor's orders, you know...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

sawing travel logs

in a world where business travel is the new waterboarding, something unexpectedly good just happened.

i got upgraded to first class.

it's not quite like winning the lottery, but then again, it doesn't suck.

i just sat down, frowning at my boarding pass the entire time, sure that someone would appear momentarily to escort me to the baggage compartment.

instead, the flight attendant is offering me food and beverages without asking to see an ID and major credit card.

what do i do?

my first inclination is to order several rounds of beer and wine...but it's 8 o'clock in the morning. around me i see several people to whom this makes no difference whatsoever.

they're doing some drinking, by god.

much as i'd like to take advantage of the opportunity, i just don't roll like that. i'd be a mess for at least the next 24 hours.

what's she asking me now? hang on, let me take off the bose-quality headset...would i like the spinach and artichoke omelet, or the fresh fruit plate? why yes, yes i would.

kidding. just the omelet, please.

the day didn't start nearly this promising. i woke up at 4:30 a.m., well before the alarm, and couldn't get back to sleep. it was still dark, which made it difficult to move around stealthily, so as not to wake mrs. spaceneedl and the little needls.

eventually i got myself together, collected my scattered travel gear, and took a reminder look at my itinerary. it said my flight was leaving 20 minutes earlier than i thought.

whoops. that meant i was running late. usually i don't care much about such things, but arriving late to seatac airport on a monday morning is a bad idea if you want to actually arrive at your destination sometime before friday.

(hang on, she's here with the omelet. and would you look at that--it comes with fresh fruit anyway. lovely.)

i hauled my butt and my gear out to the car and sped off toward the airport. i half-expected an historic traffic delay along the way, even at oh-dark-thirty. thankfully, it never materialized.

good lord, flying first class rocks. unfortunately, i can count the number of times i've done so on about three fingers. i don't know who these people are, and how they can afford this. all i know is, i'm not one of them.

hang on, she's back again. would i like a croissant or a banana nut muffin with my breakfast? some fresh-brewed coffee? tea? mimosa?

(let the record show i had the coffee and the muffin. the omelet was very tasty.)

wide leather seats. full-stretch legroom. conforming headrest. let's fly this buggy to fiji, whatta ya say, captain?

(hang on, she's back. we're what? in chicago? that can't be right, we just took off...three and a half hours ago.)

and so, in a world where first-class travel is an unheard-of aberration, and a ridiculous luxury...somewhere over the rocky mountains, i fell asleep.

i never even got to use one of the little heated finger towels.

but for a half- hour--right up to the point where the caffeine utterly failed me--it was glorious.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

it's not about the weather

thunderstorms rolled through magnolia last night and this morning.

the weather is completely unblog-worthy, i realize, but in this case i'm making an exception because thunder is exceptional in our little part of the universe.

the little spaceneedls were all set up for some saturday night camping in the front yard. dome tent, sleeping bags, lanterns, nintendo DS's. lightning flashed in the distance, and thunder rumbled several seconds later. the little needls were in the door before the first rumble ended.

thus endeth the camp-out.

related note: sometime during the evening the boy broke the zipper on his sleeping bag. nice, semi-expensive sleeping bag, too. i just finished repairing said zipper. i'm not sure how. i'm still taking credit, however.

* * * * *

the republicans across the alley made a big show recently of installing a flag pole and hoisting an american flag. very patriotic, they are. i notice, however, that they fly the flag when it rains. and at night, without a spotlight.

ostentatious flag flying without flag etiquette. so very republican.

* * * * *

i recently stumbled across a web site dedicated to our neighborhood. magnolia voice, it's called, quite cleverly.

it offers up some garden variety news about goings-on in the neighborhood, which is all well and good. we do live in the neighborhood, after all. it would be unseemly to cast aspersions at the good intentions of the magnolia voicers.

the best thing about the site is the restaurants compendium. the reviews by gladys and abner are schmaltzy nice, but the commentary that follows is a feeding frenzy of snarling vitriol.

"szmania’s is great!"
"szmania’s is horrible!"
"you're an idiot."
"how dare you question my opinions?!"
"stop stalking me."
"the corned beef and cabbage is AMAZING."
"the corned beef and cabbage tasted like warmed up spam."
"i'm the owner of szmania’s, and all these negative comments are totally uncalled-for."
"well, you're obviously an unbiased source."

and so on.

we've eaten at most of these places, so reading the reviews ex post facto is very entertaining.

related note: we've eaten at szmania’s, as well, and it was the height of average. the food was okay, the service was indifferent, and we would've liked to have paid less for the well-practiced averageness.

we haven't been back, despite the fact that the place is incredibly convenient.

* * * * *

i took a hamster to the vet today. i kid you not.

the little rat has some kind of fur-ravaging dermatitis, and the vet gave it a shot of antibiotics.

later, i quietly put the receipt on the kitchen table and asked mrs. spaceneedl, "how much did you spend on this creature at the store?" it was not a rhetorical question.

later she noticed the bill: office visit, $68.00

"are you effing kidding me?" she asked. "sixty-eight dollars for a hamster appointment? that's effing ridiculous!"

later still: "we're not spending any more money on that effing thing. you're on your own, hamster."

we swear a lot at our house lately.

related note: it was not my idea to acquire rodents in the first place, nor to take this one to the vet. that was done on behalf of the girl, who is quite attached to her hamsters. except when it comes to giving them food and water, or cleaning their cages.

* * * * *

thunder is rolling through magnolia again this evening.

most unusual.