Friday, January 30, 2009

Earthquakes and Etiquette

Firstly, we apparently had a 4.5 earthquake hit about 14 miles northwest of Seattle (at a depth of 36 miles) at 5:25 this morning. It's due to the pacific plate pushing under the plate that we sit on here in the Pacific Northwest. The same zone that caused the 2001 Nisqually quake.

And we slept through it.

Honestly, between a gal who loves sleep more than food and her man who grew up in California, it takes more than a measly 4.5 quake to wake us up. I am very glad no serious damage occurred, and thus far we are not aware of any injuries or fatalities.

There is a local news article here.

And, can I just say, I love the word "megathrust".

The original purpose for today's post was going to be addressing what I see as an escalating problem with drivers in this city. Some of the most basic driving etiquette is being tossed aside like a hand towel after someone's megathrust. It's enough to make a big Scotsman want to punch traffic in the face.

There are two main points I would like to make -- two pet peeves I have with Seattle drivers. No, wait. THREE main points. And a few little overall pointers. They are as follows:

1. Hang up and drive. Seriously. It's 2009 and there are a wide variety of hands-free options for your mobile phone. Wired headsets, Uhura-esque Bluetooth earpieces, or the good old-fashioned speakerphone option. There is no reason anyone should be holding a handset to his or her ear while driving a motor vehicle. And besides, it's illegal.

2. Roundabouts. They're all over the UK, and Seattle has them in great quantity as well. But it seems nobody here knows how they work. So here's a primer: The flow of traffic in our country is to the right. It's the side we chose when it came time to pave our dirt roads and paint lines on them. So, when you approach a roundabout (also called a "circus" in England -- and I would like to say I was very disappointed to find a shocking lack of elephants and acrobats in them), you follow the curve around to the right. If you are making a left turn at the intersection, you still drive around the roundabout until you hit your street -- you do NOT cut left in front of the roundabout.

This also must be said of roundabouts: when you are driving around one, cars coming in from your right must yield left, however it's not the Indianapolis 500, nor is it the chariot race from Ben Hur. You don't need to stop for them, but slow down and be courteous if they decide there's enough of a gap to enter.

Here's a handy video produced by the WDOT. Let's all listen to what Commander Dusty Pierpoint of the Lacey Police Department has to say...

3. Left turns at lights. From the moment I first attended driver's education class in high school (a required unit in California, I might add), we were taught that when we found ourselves making a left turn at a green light, but had no arrow, we were to move halfway into the intersection. That way, if oncoming traffic was particularly heavy and the light turned red, at least one car got to make a left turn per light. It's safe, simple and keeps traffic moving. But all too often I find myself behind a meek or oblivious driver who sits at the line and waits through more than one light change. And that is frustrating as hell.

Overcaution is just as likely to cause an accident as overaggressive driving. When you are merging onto the freeway, accelerate into traffic -- don't stop on the ramp with cars backed up behind you. Assert yourself politely -- you do not need to megathrust into traffic (okay, that one was reaching, but I just had to figure out a way to use megathrust again). Use your indicators. If the sun is not visible (and that's quite a bit of the time in Seattle), turn on your headlights -- not to help you see, but to help others see YOU. And wave when someone lets you in or does you some other courtesy.

It's so simple, but so few of us actually do it. Maybe we could use a refresher. Note that Jimmy Stewart is narrating. Also, the first kid shown driving the little trainer is the spitting image of my dad at that age. Crazy.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I think I can remove the rocket launcher from my car now.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


So as I was chatting online with Mr. Creth today, he hit me with this. Apparently Microsoft has an application that will take a vocal line and automatically set it to music. Which has led to a number of really bizarre (and some quite funny) results. This, by far, is my favorite...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chief Ratcatcher

I had to do it.

I'm sorry, rodents, but you were nesting in our engines and chewing wires and cables and making life expensive and dangerous for us. I say live and let live, as long as we stick to our own territory. The moment you invade mine, I reserve the right to use deadly force.

And boy, did I ever.

Kayleigh and I went to McLendon Hardware to look at a mind-boggling variety of traps, some more humane than others. There was the rodent zapper, for $40, which electrocutes the furry little varmints. There were all manner of poisons and poison delivery systems -- all of them were out (I don't want to poison the squirrels or the neighborhood cats). And of course there was a wide variety of traditional traps; cage traps, and snap-traps. I got Kayleigh's input, and together we decided that the heavy-duty plastic snap-trap would be the best for our particular requirements. She liked the fact that it was quick, and that the top part would cover the carnage (keep in mind, she'd just recently dicovered our guinea pig James Brown dead in his cage - finding rodent carnage is not something she wants to really do a lot of).

I bought two of them and baited them each with a spoonful of peanut butter and half a wheat cracker (the peanut butter secures the cracker to the pressure trigger). I set one inside Sportacus' left front tire, under the engine. Apparently, rodents don't like to cross open spaces, so putting traps along walls will usually yield better results. I put the other one next to a woodpile at the back of the carport.

About three hours later, just prior to dusk, I went out to check the traps and, lo and behold -- the one under the car had clamped an interloper: a big gray rat. It appeared to be an instant (and totally bloodless) kill. I disposed of it out back in a hole near the fence.

Astonished in my first victory since the rodents had declared war (the current score being rats: 2, humans: 1), I reset the sprung trap. The bait had not even been disturbed.

I dreamed of setting traps and disposing of rats all night. It was a slightly odd but very productive feeling. This morning after dropping Kayleigh at school, I set the traps in the carport. Within the hour, I heard both snap shut. I went out to find both traps had been sprung, but there were no rat bodies to be found.

And a very smug squirrel bounding off toward the big locust tree.

I reset both traps (moving them to different zones) and noticed the one under Sportacus had been stripped of the peanut butter and cracker bait.

It is obvious to me who rules the rodent criminal syndicate. Squirrels. Crafty bastards.

Monday, January 26, 2009

So Much For Downtime

[TD & Rick Springer about to eat Mike Cressy's face]

On the plus side, it was a super fun weekend. Full of family and friends and good food and drink (and maybe a bit more drink... and did I mention there was drink?). On the downside, it was really exhausting.

Friday evening, the kids both went to overnights and Raechelle went to a bachelorette party, leaving me free to enjoy dinner, pints (and a shot) and some really good live music at the Celtic Swell. Mark got off work in the kitchen and came to sit and have drinks with us. We sang along with the acoustic set, and our jaws hit the floor when this kid came out of nowhere, borrowed the acoustic guitar and belted out some Chicago blues folk fusion.

Saturday, we finished prepping for the engagement/housewarming party. We went on a safari to the wilds of Burien to stock up at the Grocery Outlet, and alternately cleaned and napped (recovering from our respective booze-ups the previous night). Party time came, and with it more than 50 people, all crammed into our little craftsman home. Many worlds collided, and reality as we know it was not destroyed. In fact, everybody got along. [Photos here]

[Kayleigh & Raechelle]

We didn't get to bed until 2AM, and then it was up at 10AM to get ready for our drive up to Bellingham for family Christmas Redux, due to actual Christmas being called on account of snow. It was great to see my grandmother doing so well, and great to see my immediate family together. Food was VERY yummy - thanks, Bob! [Photos here]

[neice Zadra, grandmother Dorothy and daughter Kayleigh]

By the time we were on the road back home, I was seriously hitting a wall. Raechelle had to keep me engaged in conversation to help me stay focused. We arrived home safely and tired, and immediately hit the pajamas and curled up on the sofa for tea and a movie. Then it was crash-time.

The kids are home from school for end-of-semester, and Raechelle is down with a stomach issue (not to mention more car problems). We have something on the calendar every day this week, but I am committed to getting some real work done and having a bit of downtime each and every day.

Friday, January 23, 2009


So I was reading Dad Gone Mad today, about the guy who had said the word "agreeance" (as a noun), and it made me flash back nine years ago, when I was the art director at Hyperbole Studios. We were watching a demo video of the new version of Max (a 3D modeling and animation software tool), and the "trainer" in the video mentioned how they had made some increasements to the whatever.


It stuck with me. Being the son of an English major and the grandson of three public school educators, I was genetically predisposed to develop a prehensile red pencil appendage, which got a lot of use throughout school (and more so in the workaday world). As time goes on and accepted conversational English becomes lazier and lazier, "words" like increasements and agreeance become accepted. I get that. Popular use often overrules correct grammar. But common does not always equal right. In fact, it can be argued, rarely so. And even though some words may technically be actual forms we might find in the dictionary, many of them sound lazily constructed, and really don't need to replace more functional forms. Agreeance? Agreement. Increasement? No no. Increase will suffice, as it can be used as a noun.

Anyway, DGM's post made me remember increasements, and all the fun I had ridiculing it in the years that followed. A special form of ridicule I save for people who use the words synnergize, irregardless and orientated...

...and agreeance.

Au Revoir, Semaine de Merde

Goodbye, goodbye
Goodbye, goodbye
Goodbye, goodbye

- Oingo Boingo

I think that gets the message across. This has been one of the crappiest weeks on record, as judged by emotional/stress benchmarks. No sleep leads to bitchiness, bitchiness leads to fighting, fighting leads to no sleep. It's been an all-time low in terms of self-image and other personal issues. But I've never been one to wallow for long. At some point, you just gotta say enough already.

So, enough already.

Oh, there have been good points. I've been very productive on the household, wedding, admin and work fronts. I have my tax info together (the earliest ever, post-Samantha). I have a short film project ready to shoot next month (the first of four Duo shorts). My attorney is filing suit against the guilty parties in the St. Valentine's Day Fire of '06 - so we may finally see some sort of restitution there. I'm relatively healthy. I get to have a boys' night out tonight. These things are not lost on me. It's just that the crap is opaque and makes it hard to see much else.

Hoping that I can reconnect and reset over the weekend, and get back to a generally positive tack (as opposed to staying becalmed in an Arctic chill).

I remain hopeful. If I didn't, I certainly wouldn't have kept a blog going for the last four years. But I'm glad I have. It keeps me honest.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday Bullets

  • Didn't sleep much on Tuesday night.
  • Both kids were home sick Wednesday.
  • Tried to be productive Wednesday, but the free wifi at Tully's doesn't like Firefox. So I packed up and went back home.
  • Had Thai food for dinner (always nice). Vatsana asked me if I'd talked to Marcio lately. I'll have to get on that.
  • Rae engaged in a flurry of bathroom cleaning and even whipped Tyler's room into shape. Sometimes it's exhausting just watching her go - she's like the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes.
  • We watched the season premiere of Lost. I started watching the show when it first started five years ago, but it "lost" me (I crack myself up) when it became this weird combo of The Prisoner, The X-Files and The Tempest. I'd watched it sporadically and half-heartedly ever since. We got all caught up and I was entertained for a couple hours. Actually nodded off a couple times and would snort myself awake and exclaim, "It's VERY exciting!" which amused TFMD* to no end.
  • Another stressful/sleepless night, so that made it a real joy to spar with my eldest this morning. Huzzah.
  • Taking Tyler to counseling this afternoon. Production meeting tonight.
  • Friday it looks as if I will get to have a boys' night out with some buddies while Rae is at a bachelorette party (the second one since she moved in - I think women must get engaged in packs, kinda like how they all go to the restroom together).
  • Saturday we have our housewarming/engagement partay (and celebrate 8 months together).
  • Sunday is a long overdue trip to Bellingham for our delayed Christmas with my family.

Another busy week, another packed month. Aaaaand, scene.

* The Future Mrs. Downing

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Green Light

That's the working title of the screenplay Rae and I have begun to outline. It tells the (fictionalized) story of two people at a crossroads of life, and the synchronicity which brings them together.

And of course, part of the fun of writing a screenplay is casting in your head before you write a lick of dialogue. We've been batting around casting concepts and what-ifs for months now, and one of the prime criteria for our casting suggestions has been portraying the size differential between the 5'2" Suthun transplant and the 6'4" Scots linebacker. More important to me, however, is the ability of the actor to convey a wide range of emotional impact, from silly comic moments to outright tearful sorrow.

Therefore, I have cast Alan Tudyk to play me. The look is right, the facial shape (hell, plenty have said he looks like a Downing!), the coloring, and the range. He's 6' tall, and with some facial hair and a little bulk on the upper bod, he'd be my boy. Especially with a teeny Christina Ricci-esque actress playing Rae (not that I'm advocating for or against Ricci - just saying someone of that scale...).

So there ya go.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I thought I was proud to be an American back in November.

I didn't think I could have been prouder.

I was wrong. I am much prouder today.

I am so happy to have a leader who is well-spoken, charismatic and determined. I am inspired. I am energized.

Let's do this.

Friday, January 16, 2009


There must be something in the water. My old high school buddy, horn player Jason Parker, is now engaged. Jason is one of several ex-Palo Altans residing in Seattle, former program director for KMTT 103.7, and sometimes horn player for Carrie Akre (in addition to being one of the busiest jazz combo leaders in the city).

Congratulations, Jason & Darrah!

Fog 'n' Sniffles

It's either a really depressing English pub, or it's what's happening in Seattle right now. We have an inversion layer over the city that has all circulation stopped. As much as I love the usually clean air and breezes coming in off the Puget Sound, there are times when Seattle becomes a really gross carbon layer cake. During these times - usually in the winter - the air quality approximates what I grew up with in San Jose, CA in the early 1970s. Cut-it-with-a-knife grossness.

And it seems everyone I know got (or currently has) The Bug. I've had a throat tickle and sinus congestion since my return from the wilds of West Virginia, and last night I felt like absolute crap, but I'm well on the other side of it now.

A few random blurbs:

Raechelle and Kayleigh packed away the Christmas ornaments last night. Today I will break down the tree and put it away until November 27th, 2009. I'm always sad to pack away the holiday trappings. But that just means we have next year to look forward to.

After months of very spotty checking-in over at the Deep7 forums, I finally announced my engagement to the fans and contributors. Huzzah!

The Stimson-Green Mansion was lovely, and they had an excellent showcase for various wedding vendors. We joked that we could just stay engaged forever and eat catered dinners for free at various wedding venues. However the facility is a bit too small for a wedding of the size we're thinking. Not huge by any stretch, but not tiny either.

Oh and apparently I am Ceiling Cat. Lydia Bruno pointed at the Which Lolcat Are You? quiz, and I took it. Silly me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Forgive the bullety nature of this post, but I feel the need to just get this stuff out there so that I can start blogging anew with a fresh mind.

  • Tyler had his sleep study consult. He is scheduled for an overnight sleep study in March. Earlier if someone else cancels.
  • It takes some readjustment to everyday normalcy when you've been on Planet West Virginia. And that is not to speak any ill whatsoever of WV - it's just a very different place, and not familiar to me like the Pacific Northwest.
  • I picked Raechelle up at the airport last Sunday, and we spent the night at the hotel in Tacoma where her training seminar was being held the following day. While she was in her seminar, I found a Starbucks and set up shop. In rapid succession, I finished the OA series pilot, wrote three shorts based on the Duo characters and took some additional notes on a somewhat secret feature project that only a few people know about. All in all, just short of 20 pages in 4 hours, which for me is a new writing record for screenplay work.
  • Talked to my cast about the shorts - all the locals are in.
  • Talked to Kyle about new music for the shorts - he's in too.
  • I baked peanut butter cookies last night.
  • Raechelle and I have a tour of a possible wedding venue tonight. Tomorrow night we are back to our regularly scheduled Friday Movie Nite.
  • That's all for now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Sorry for the delay in getting a new post up this week. We're in catch-up mode after returning from WV and have to take care of some household and financial minutiae, which unfortunately has the lion's share of our attention.

There's exciting stuff to share! Won't be long, I promise!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Take Me Home

Be warned - this is a long-ass post. And I'm leaving most of the pics for Raechelle to include in her welcome back post.

Well, I'm back.

Oh, I could joke about Deliverance not being a work of fiction, but that would do grave injustice to the folks I met in West Virginia. By and large, they are a friendly and helpful group of folks, and the pace of life is what one would expect from a trip to the country.

To say it was culture shock would be an understatement, and yet I think I “passed for redneck” pretty well, with my WVU cap and size 13 muddin' boots. I also started twangin' almost as soon as we were across the Pennsylvania/West Virginia border. It's just so easy.

What made it easiest, of course, was having grown up around the farm people in my family. Country is country, to a certain degree. I drove an ATV around my cousin's rice farm in Artois, California. I rode horses around the Almaden Valley. I lived in trailers in Felton and Watsonville, and on the side of a hill with a dirt road for access in Aptos. I've seen a muddy hill pour through my sister's bedroom window and shoveled the same muck out of my carport in Seattle. All of that experience turns out to have been good training for the West Virginia experience. Who knew?

And in a case of life imitating art, every time a waitress would ask, "y'all want some sweet tea?" I would think of Gary Valentine's "Atlanta Sweet Tea" stand-up bit...

I know that's a lot of preamble to get to the juicy part: the in-laws-to-be. They are wonderful, warm, caring and earthy people, and we took to each other right away. Unfortunately the moving truck was delayed in Tennessee due to foul weather, so I didn't get to help with the big move-in, but I did make myself useful by hanging medicine cabinets and towel rods and the like. I even bought a small laser level for Rae's dad as a housewarming gift, and had to go all over God's Green Earth to find adhesive putty to stick it to the wall with (which we finally found in an office supply shop in Phillippi).

We laughed, we drank, we swore like sailors – often all at once. We played full-contact Uno. We slept on air mattresses on the floor. I tried to help the Dish Network guy (read: idiot) get his truck out of the mud.

Hint: Dude. Seriously. Repeating "all's it'll take is but a little tug" eleventy thousand times really doesn't do much - trust me, I've tried.

Alcohol, tobacco and/or firearms may have been involved, in a general sense. Welcome to the country. It was a good first meeting under unusually stressful circumstances, and everybody did spectacularly well.

I especially want to give a big shout out to Rae's cousin Diane and her hubby Jeff, who at one time or another fed us, sheltered us, did our laundry, and/or ran errands and brought supplies. You guys seriously rock on toast.

As with any family convergence, some things get made into in-jokes and shtick. One of the main shticks became me punching various things in the face. “Man, I just want to punch this dirt road IN THE FACE!” And so forth. It's a pretty common silly phrase several of my friends and I have used for years, but it kinda took on a life of its own on this trip. For instance:

Me punching the West Virginia mud in the face.

Me punching Uno in the face.

Raechelle punching morning in the face.

We planned out many more shots that we ended up forgetting about for one reason or another, but time ran out on us. By Thursday morning, as much fun as I'd had, I missed my kids and the salt air of the West Coast. Of course it started snowing Wednesday night, making the drive to Pittsburgh in the early morning somewhat of a Stephen King horror novel. The roads cleared some after the sun came out and we made decent time to the airport, sleep-deprived and pissy – but how else are you gonna end a week in the West Virginia winter?

To add to the “grrr” factor, I hate traveling alone. I also hate idiots and bigots, and happened to meet both rolled into one in the security line at Pittsburgh. This sixtyish "gentleman" (and that's being generous) with a belly and a walrus mustache tried to strike up a conversation. Maybe I was passing a bit too well as a redneck, because he did so in the worst possible way to get on my good side. Here's what he said:

Don't this just piss you off? I mean, my grandson
Just got back from killin' a bunch o' them tally-ban,
so you'd think they could lighten this [security] up some.

(blank stare)

Fucking Muslims.

(internal monologue)
Gee, mister. I'm awful sorry you've been so inconvenienced
by our current security measures, and I sure am glad your
grandson came home in one piece. But I'd wager that a whole
generation of kids who have had arms and legs blown off
simply as a result of having been born in the wrong country
are a bit more inconvenienced than either of us. So why
don't you climb down off your big white horse and have a
heapin' helpin' of shut-the-hell-up, and we can get to our
respective gates so I don't have to look at the face
of ignorance anymore.

Yeah, had I actually said that, it would've gone clear over his head and into the next county, so I simply leveled a nut-withering stare at him. And when I'm in a grouchy mood to start with, and someone wants to cozy up to me by offering a display of abject douchebaggery, those stares can be mighty nut-withering indeed.

I managed to get WiFi at the gate, and downloaded all 500+ emails that had been collecting over the past week, made some phone calls, and settled in for a long day of travel. My flight from Chicago was delayed by an hour, and despite being moved to a bulkhead seat, I was pretty uncomfortable on the trip back to Seattle. I caught a taxi home from the airport and nearly kissed the ground when I arrived home. Gavin & Michelle had really done a marvelous job in my absence, and deserve a huge shout-out too. I slept like a rock in my bed (albeit not more than five hours, but still – beats the heck out of an air mattress on the floor, right?).

Got Tyler to his sleep study consult at Children's Hospital on Friday morning, then spent some father-son bonding time (lunch, haircuts, etc). Got caught up on email, opened the pile of snail mail, all the usual catch-up stuff one does after a week away from the homestead. Last night we ordered our pizza and watched The Wedding Singer.

I'm doing more catch-up today. Paying bills, doing finances, getting Sportacus washed, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, blah blah blah. And Kayleigh is having a friend sleep over. But I'm still gonna carve out some time for a little CoH with the boys.

Come tomorrow night, my sweetie will be home, and life can return to its normal state of crazy.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Here I Go

Welcome to 2009.

I awoke to a medical update on my grandmother, who is in the hospital for the second time since just before Christmas. Doctors thought they found the problem. Turns out they hadn't. Now she's looking at possible abdominal surgery.

This on top of dealing with more losses. A friend of the family, the husband of one of my mother's close friends, died yesterday morning - cancer claims another good one. And then just before I was supposed to take Kayleigh to her friend's house for New Year's Eve, she discovered the guinea pig James Brown dead in his cage. He was on his back, and there was a lot of blood around his mouth, paws and rectal area. Looked like a massive hemorrhage. He was five and a half years old, ancient for a guinea pig who had survived the St. Valentine's Day Fire of '06 and a broken pelvis. We buried him in the back yard next to the locust tree, where several other pets (over the course of the 14 years we've lived here) have been buried. We told stories and laughed and cried.

James was also the last pet link to Samantha. So that's kind of weighty for me right now. And no fiancee around for a hug.

Raechelle loaned Ruby to Heather while she's visiting Seattle, and she'll be dropping the car back today. We had a lovely coffee chat the other day - very nice to talk face-to-face after all of the virtual interactions.

After coffee with Heather, I had lunch with Steve Hartley at The Swell. We hadn't seen each other in over a month. Then Kayleigh went to a birthday party, then we went directly to a production meeting at Dan & Trish's for the Fred Hutch PSA. It was a non-stop day and I was exhausted.

I spent NYE with Dan & Trish, and for awhile we were joined by Amy and her date, Ricky. Played Apples to Apples. Got several texts and a couple drunk dials from friends. Raechelle & I had to make do with a sort of half-drunk phone call at her midnight, which was only 9PM my time. Started feeling a bit third-wheel-ish after our midnight, so I left my friends and headed home to bed.

I have some friends coming over tonight and Gavin & Michelle arriving to begin their stay. I fly out to WV in the early morning.

Depending on connectivity, I may not post again until after January 8th.