four-leaf clover

The lawn was mowed and the driveway swept. I was hunkering down for some serious weeding when a voice startled me from across the street.

“Excuse me. Can I come look through your clover?”

“Sure!” I didn’t actually know that the jumble of weeds near the sidewalk had any clover. I let my headphones drop out of my ears. John Darnielle’s voice grew small and tinny.

The lady came purposefully across the street, her young granddaughter and two long-haired Chihuahuas in tow. After handing off the dogs’ leashes to the little girl, she bent down and busied herself among the weeds.

“I’ve found five or six four-leaf clovers in your yard,” she said, matter-of-factly. “Even a five-leaf clover.”

“Five-leaf, huh? Are those good luck or bad luck?” I was way out of my depth.

“I like to think that they’re extra good luck. Ah, here’s one!” She held up an honest to goodness four-leaf clover. I’d never actually seen one. She offered it to me. “Here, you can have this one.”

I smiled and took it, thanking her. She introduced herself then, as well as the girl and the dogs. Then she returned to rummaging through the weeds. As she searched, she continued, absently. “I’ve always liked four-leaf clovers, since I was a girl. When my father died, he left me a lot of books. Those books were filled with dried and pressed four-leaf clovers.”

I scratched one of the Chihuahuas’ ears while she talked.

“Here’s another one! The bugs have been at this one.” Despite the shabby aspect of the four-leaf clover, she looked satisfied. She took the leashes and addressed the girl. “Let’s let Erik get back to his work.”

“Thank you for the clover!” I called it after they had already started down the side walk. The lady turned and waved, smiling warmly. I made sure that the four-leaf clover was safe in the house before returning to my weeding. I left the rest of the clover alone.


in some database

I was sitting in a Great Clips this afternoon getting a haircut when I heard a fascinating exchange. A man and his young son entered.

“Hi, welcome to Great Clips!” an unoccupied stylist intoned the ritual greeting and walked up to the computer at the counter. “Can I get your phone number?” They use the phone number as a key to identify customers so that they can get their haircut preferences. I’m sure there’s also some marketing going on there, but when isn’t there?

“No, you cannot!” The man’s response came quickly, as though he had been prepared for this question. “I just want a haircut for my son and me.”

The stylist paused for a moment before continuing.

“Well then can I get your last name to get you checked-in?” she offered, her professional calm clearly rattled.

“No!” he snapped back, far louder than the tiny storefront necessitated. “You always ask that when I come in here. I don’t want to be in some database! I just. want. a. haircut. for. my. son. and. me.”

The stylist paused again, longer this time.

“Then can I get your first names, so that I know what to call you?” she practically pleaded.

He heaved an immense, long-suffering sigh and relented, giving his name and his son’s name, biting off the words.

Hodgman & Friends

Tonight is the Seattle stop of John Hodgman’s THAT IS ALL tour, at Town Hall. He’ll be joined by John Roderick of the Long Winters, as well as two special, secret guests: SECRET GUEST #1 (Sean Nelson) and SECRET GUEST #2 (????).

I’ll be there. Will you?

10th Blogiversary

Today marks the 10th anniversary of this blog. I’ve now been blogging for a third of my life. It’s a sobering thought1. It seems appropriate to look back at my blog’s history. It’ll be boring, I’m sure, but I’ll to keep it short.

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Don’t mess with my vision

I spent Friday afternoon in the Evergreen Medical Center emergency room in Kirkland. Everything is fine. I’d been having random headaches and ‘visual disturbances’ since Thursday morning. When it happened again on Friday afternoon while I was trying to look at some code, it seemed time to get it looked-at. So I left work early and drove to Kirkland. Julie left work as well and met me there. The ER folks were pretty sure that I was experiencing an ocular migraine, but just to be sure, especially given my history of some pretty gnarly headaches, they kept me for most of the afternoon and evening, took pictures of my brain, etc. All of the studies were negative (which is, in medical parlance, ‘a good thing’), so I was allowed to leave with a diagnosis of ocular migraine and a disc containing grainy cross-sections of my head. Apparently these migraines can come on suddenly and aren’t necessarily anything to worry about. Since Friday afternoon my vision has been quite clear, which is a relief.

It was the first time where I’ve been to an emergency room for myself and it was full of interesting experiences. Triage was very quick and efficient, probably aided by the fact that the ER was empty when I arrived. By the time I saw a doctor, I had already given my story to a host of techs and nurses. Although I’d had blood drawn in the past, I practically passed-out (or actually passed-out, maybe; I’m not the best judge) when I was IV’d. Apparently this isn’t all that uncommon but it certainly wasn’t my finest hour. I also learned that an MRI isn’t the most pleasant place to stick your head for twenty minutes. It felt like being loaded into a torpedo tube during a vigorous submarine battle. Eventually I started hearing the rhythmic thuds and whirs as beats and the time went quicker.

Despite learning that I have the constitution of a wilting southern belle and spending several hours considering the implications of serious problems with my brain, it was a very positive experience.

a Geek Girl Tour evening

Last night I was lucky enough to be able to catch the Seattle stop of the Geek Girl Tour, which is the Northwest leg of Marian Call’s tour, with The Doubleclicks opening. I had missed Marian’s previous Seattle show because I couldn’t get out of work and across the bridge to Seattle in time. This time I was more determined and left work at the vastly conservative hour of 5pm to make the drive.

If you click that link you’ll see that Bing estimates the drive will take 24 minutes. The drive-time estimate displays along the 520 said 30 minutes to Seattle. We seemed to be flying along at a fairly good clip until we crossed the 405 and approached the bridge, where forward progress nearly halted. In reality it was an hour before I cross the bridge’s threshold on the eastern end. So I guess it was good that I left early.

By the time I’d parked my car in Fremont (that’s with one ‘e’1), on a street and not in a parking lot, which is exceedingly weird for someone who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, went to school in Santa Barbara, and now lives on the Eastside, where there are vast acreages of parking lots and where street parking, let alone parallel parking, is a myth that driver’s education teachers use to scare their students, I was famished. Conveniently, I saw the sign for Uneeda Burger and, as I did, in fact, need a burger (OMG! I bet I’m totally the first person to make that joke!), I went in and chowed down on a #6 ‘Monsieur’ with a pint of Odin’s Gift Ruby. It was so good that, should I ever find myself in Fremont again, I would find it highly unlikely that I would consider eating elsewhere. I then spent fifteen or so awkward minutes standing around in the café of the venue, staring at my phone, before they let us into the main hall.

The main hall of Fremont Abbey is a very neat place for a show. It’s an expansive room with wooden floors, a high vaulted ceiling, and stained glass windows. It gives the impression of a simple church, but without any permanent furniture. The room was arranged with a half-circle of chairs, a small stage, and an array of recording equipment, both audio and video. The event was being recorded, in HD, for some unknown purpose. We all scrambled to find seats and soon things were getting started. In retrospect, it probably would have been better if I’d sat somewhere out of the view of a camera but, well, that’s how it goes. I was staring into one pretty much the entire time.

First up was The Doubleclicks, two sisters from Portland who perform an ubergeeky folky guitar/ukelele/cello-based music. I have to make an admission: I don’t go to shows to see opening acts. I don’t think that I’ve ever looked up an opener before going to a show. Thing is, I’m often pleasantly surprised. I saw Spoon and Mates of State open for Death Cab in Los Angeles. I also saw an acoustic Harvey Danger set before a They Might Be Giants show in Seattle. Those were good examples! Going into last night, I didn’t know anything about The Doubleclicks. My loss, for not having discovered them earlier. They were hilarious, in a self-deprecating, genuinely nerdy way; and this appeared to be the perfect crowd to perform nerdy music for. (I don’t know what it says about me that I laughed hardest at the practically-snarled line “and their primarily windows based computers”) As is the case with those surprisingly amazing opening acts, I was sorry when their set ended. I just hope they keep releasing more music that I can keep buying.

After The Doubleclicks, out came Marian Call and serenaded us for a joyous several hours. Her voice, impressive in recording, is astounding in person. She jumps around between jazzy and folky and bluesy and operatic with wild abandon. She’s also delightful to watch, whether she’s dancing around or conducting or shaking one of those rain stick things or using an old typewriter as a percussive instrument. We all sang along about karaoke and zombies and had a grand time. The evening ended with thunderous applause.

On the way back through the totally fucked streets of Fremont and Wallingford (seriously. click that link. what the hell kind of roads are those?), I got lost and somehow found my car surrounded by wasted youths in the U District. Luckily I was blasting Ensiferum at the time and they stayed back from my car. I returned home without further incident.



1 I had thought it would be cool to try to help promote the show, so I posted this to Twitter. Shortly thereafter, I got this reply from Marian Call who was, apparently, counting. This is what happens why I try to do things.

Aquarius Power-on Delayed

I’ve been out-of-touch for the last few weeks, but it looks the power-on of the Aquarius/SAC-D instruments have been delayed until mid-August. It was originally scheduled for a week or two ago. So it will be a few more weeks of sweaty-palmed anticipation before we see if my software works in space. Does code need oxygen? Oh god, does code need oxygen???

I’m still hoping to write a visualization of the telemetry that my code will be producing, but I don’t know when I’ll find the time. And honestly, it’ll be pretty boring to everyone on the planet but me.