granite falls fishway

for years now i've been driving my boy to and from his mother's place outside of Granite Falls, WA, over a bridge that passes over the south fork of the Stillaguamish River. there's a fish ladder for salmon down on the river below (some 80-100 feet below the bridge deck) and i've always meant to go down and check it out. i happened to have my camera with me today, and it was nice out so it seemed like a nice day for it.

this is a shot looking basically W-SW from the bridge deck:
south fork of the Stillaguamish River

this shot is from the bank of the river, looking upriver:
looking upstream from the river bank

here's a fern growing out of a crack in one of the innumerable huge granite boulders:
this fern found its own little niche

here's one looking downriver:
looking downstream from the river bank

all the full size pics, and three short video clips, are in my online photo album. looking at the pictures it's easy to see how Granite Falls got its name. enjoy :)

the lowdown on my new employment

well, here's the lowdown on my new job:

it's a pretty long commute but at a time of day when i generally miss most of the traffic. i'm spending about 1.5 - 1.75 hrs/day driving to and from work. driving to pick up Loren from his mother's is extra. the hours keep me from picking Loren up from school (he's less than thrilled) but allow me some time in the evenings with him on the days he's here, so not an unworkable trade- as long as his mother remains able to pick him up from school on the days i'm supposed to (probably a safe bet for the short term, anyway).

they hired me at $14/hr, and they promised me a review in 90 days, with a raise of $1 if my performance was good. it's a fair starting wage but not as good as i hoped- typical. i was hired to do install work for signage, but they had no install work on the table when they started me, so they started out giving me projects around the shop. after a few small things which took very little time, the first real job they gave me (something which took longer than an hour to do) was to apply vinyl graphics for a temporary sign for the new Seattle Public Library. i did an ok job on it, not as well as i'd hoped but good enough to deliver to the customer. everyone was very impressed even though i didn't think it met my standards. i'm not completely suprised by the quality of the finished product considering i haven't done this work in three years, but the management, owners, sales staff, project managers, and designers all came to me individually and told me i was doing a great job and how nice it was to have someone come on board with some skills. they've recently cleaned house; they fired a lot of people recently, and gutted the management. sounds like they really wanted to start over. the head installer told me the company was wide open at the moment and that new people with skills could "write their own ticket".

i was really set on doing install work because you build up hours doing electrical work and it translates to wages, and being out of the shop is generally less pressure than working while management beats you over the head with endless delivery deadlines and ever-changing priorities- business as usual in the sign game. but the managers saw my fabrication skills and called me in to discuss doing work in the shop. the head manager asked me what my goals were here, and i told him "to be honest, i'm primarily motivated by money". i told him i was focused on doing install work because i want a journeyman electrician's card and the wages that commands. he told me what he'd like to see me do was work out of the shop, and cross-train their light-fabrication department in some of the heavier fabrication skills like wiring and welding; basically show these guys what i know. in the meantime, he'd focus on sending me out on the electrical install work so my hours could get built up. he asked me to handle a prototype project which could lead to "a couple hundred thousand dollars" worth of work. i told him "like i said, i was really focused on install work, and that's my main goal, but i'll do what needs to be done." he told me if i handled this project well enough, i could easily be looking at $2-3/hr more money in six months, with rapid increases to a maximum of about $20/hr within a couple years.

so i built the prototype, which is a small sign that's at eye level, and has to be completely perfect. it was a pretty complicated little build for something small, and right at the end i made the one mistake that ruined the whole thing- drilling mounting holes in the wrong place (dumb dumb dumb!) and had to start over. when i redid the whole thing from scratch (which blew the total hours for the job way out of line and makes me look really bad) i screwed up the very same mounting holes (drilled them out too large due to misreading the design drawing- also very DUMB)- but this time the error is fixable. so it's finished, we'll see what happens with it.

in the meantime i was given another project to weld up, 5 interior signs for a Boeing complex here. they're about 30" x 3" x 96". it's one of those projects where someone else started it and now i get to finish it; and in the process they've wanted me to keep two other new guys as busy as possible on this or other projects in the works. nothing like trying to pay attention to what you're doing in a shop you don't know where anything's at, while showing two other guys how to do what you need them to do. kinda stressful. anyway, the parts someone else made for that project caused problems and i've had to change the plans somewhat to compensate. it's alot easier to take a project from start to finish than to fix other people's mistakes along the way. everybody makes mistakes; it's nice when you only have to deal with your own- no one else to blame that way!

they've also given me another project, a little decorative metal finishing for another sign; no one else wanted to touch it but i think i can do it so i'm going to give it a go. and they've given me another project (dropped it on my Friday 45 minutes before quitting time) that's got to be done Monday morning by 10:00. unfortunately it looks like the work will take longer than that and the only help i've been given is another guy who's never done this type of work before....it's been a long long time since i've done it either. they told me to come in early Monday if i needed to, which i have no problem doing- except that i remembered after i left Friday that i don't have a key to get in the place before anyone else. grrrrrrrr. and, of course, this is another project that must be absolutely perfect. it's a plastic glueing job for a marquee of a new club. it's a dicey job even for experienced people; one drop of water-thin glue in the wrong place ruins a very expensive piece of material- and i have to build two of the things. nothing like giving the new guy the hardest projects under the tightest deadlines right off the bat! welcome back to the sign game.

the place pays for health insurance for the employee; if i want to put Loren on the insurance that comes out of my pocket. they offer 1 week of vacation after the one year, two weeks after (two or three?) years and three weeks after 7 years. haven't heard anything about sick time or paid holidays. they have profit sharing and an IRA thing set up. i'm hearing that bonuses can be in the neighborhood of $2,000-3,000 when the place is making money. and i heard there's a ton of musicians there that all bring music equipment in and have a jam session during their Christmas party.

ok- now y'all know as much as i do- and prob'ly much more than you wanted, if you bothered reading this far.

i'm outta here to make the traditional pancakes/scrambled eggs/sausage brunch for my favorite young man, and try to eek some fun outta this beautiful sunny day before that young man heads back to his mother's for the remainder of the weekend.


a very strange dream

Scene 1:
i remember nothing about the setting. i was with my mom and dad. they told me that both my sisters, both my brothers-in-law, and both my nephews were dead due to a boating accident which occured during a move from Hawaii to the mainland. the boat was Chris's, and i couldn't understand why Chris and the others had chosen to try to cross the ocean in it. they seemed to have taken this course of action due to circumstances which precluded all others. i was shocked beyond words; so shocked i didn't even feel grief. the whole thing felt surreal; i couldn't believe it. i found myself grasping for details, as if an increased understanding of those might help me understand the whole.

Scene 2:
i was in a mall after hours with a blonde ex-girfriend that might have been my ex-wife but was more likely another girl from another train-wreck relationship. the lights in the mall were off, and we were sitting at a table in what appeared to be the food court. i was discussing the deaths of my family members with her. a part of me felt like even discussing this with her was wrong; as if talking about it was an attempt to garner sympathy, even though that wasn't my intent.

Scene 3:
the location changed to a residence, of which i remember nothing except that it was dark. it had been a long time since our prior relationship; it was as if the temporal setting was the present. the ex-girlfriend figure was much heavier than she was in the past. we were having sex. i clearly remember being on my back, the ex-girlfriend on top. she had a rather large roll around her middle, which i grasped with both hands and commented on. i couldn't stop thinking about my sisters and noticing that even with a tragedy of this magnitude, i was comforted by the fact that my son was still alive.

Scene 4:
i kept discussing the deaths of my sisters and their families endlessly with my parents, trying to make some sense of the whole thing.

note: this dream is about the closest i ever get to a nightmare. while i occasionally experience extremely negative or intense things in my dreams, my fear or stress is generally somewhat muted. i tend to back up and "replay" things i'm having trouble handling, sometimes changing the outcome by running a different scenario until i run into one that i can find a way to deal with- though the higher my stress level in the dream, the less likely i am to do this. when the subject matter is far enough outside of anything i'd normally imagine, i usually get carried along with the flow.


more REM cycle madness

Scene 1
i was in a hospital, with Loren, Melissa, and Nichole. the walls were a peach color, the floor was white. i remember there being paintings and such on the walls. i know there was more....

Scene 2
i was on the bank of what seemed to be a canal. there was an enormous brown hot-air balloon that looked like something from a Dick Van Dyke era Disney movie. the "carriage" section of the balloon was itself enormous; more like a small house than the traditional box. tier after tier of rope catwalks ran along the balloon itself. the whole thing was on the deck of a pier on a large, deep canal. i was with a blonde girl in a white t-shirt, who was supposed to be in charge of the balloon, but she had to wrest control of it from two others. one of the "intruders" was a man, in the carriage section; the other was a girl on the pier. the man leaned out of one of the windows in the "carriage" section. he knew we were there and i think he tried to warn the girl he was with. the girl i was with, moving in a crouch, snuck up swiftly behind the other girl and pushed her in the canal, hard, with both hands, then went after the guy.

Scene 3
i was taking a picture of Melissa in a wooded area near the canal somewhere. she was mugging for the camera. i tried to get my camera to focus on Loren through some foliage, where he stood on a small wooden porch surrounded by a wooden railing, backed by a black opening into what looked like a hillside. i couldn't get the camera to autofocus on him. Loren ran all over with another boy, up and down a crooked wooden path. eventually he came closer and i filmed a short video of him playing with a strange looking toy car on the ground in front of me. the toy was painted in the DuPont paint which changes colors based on the angle of the viewer. i was thinking how nice it would be if my camera took videos with sound, and talking with Melissa.

Scene 4
back near what seemed to be the former site of the balloon, the canal was completely different. the balloon seemed to have become a huge complex, and the canal was now dammed by a huge horseshoe-shaped hydroelectric dam. completely covering the top of the dam was an apartment or condo building with a beige exterior. there were Arabs everywhere, jeering...they wanted us all gone. the dam was riddled by bullet holes, and it seemed a shame that they'd damage it, when it was so much work and so expensive to build. and it seemed futile, as though regardless of what they did, regardless of cost, the dam would be rebuilt. the tension was rising.

i sat on the same pier i was on before, and as i watched, a thick, dark green snake, possibly a python, maybe 20 feet long, with a red spot on its head, slowly slithered up to me. i was pretty nervous and remained motionless, so it had no problem smoothly working its way right up between my dangling legs. as it slowly reared up from the water, toward my chest, i grasped it around the neck with both hands, firmly but not hard enough to appear threatening. i was trying to keep those huge fangs away from me, but as i tried to ask someone (my mom?) around me what to do, and if this snake was poisonous, it easily twisted in my hands, and in slow motion, brought those huge fangs slowly down around my left wrist, ever so slightly puncturing the skin- where they stopped. my mind raced as i waited for some poison to take effect...but nothing happened.

wish i could remember more...how frustrating.


change of pace

I thought I'd do something a little different than I've been doing lately and post something personal. Loren's been enjoying his spring break from school. He's had plenty of time for gaming and hangin' with Dad. We've gotten out to the basketball court pretty much every day since he's been here. He's improving. He likes to play "horse", or "toad" or sometimes "alligator" when he's feeling especially ambitious. His range is improving and more importantly he's enjoying getting out. He's a little too attached to the video games and the television in general so anything he can do to get off the couch is a good thing. It's really no problem to get him outside, but he's not much for doing things alone, and since he goes to school in another town, and his time here is fairly limited, he doesn't have an opportunity to make any close friends in the neighborhood. The only real friends he's made here (as opposed to aquaintances) have both moved away. I'm not overly impressed with the company to be had in this neighborhood anyway, so I suppose that's a mixed bag. I've been limited to driving my two-seater since December, but after I get my truck back on the road I'll be able to resume driving his friends over here to spend the night, etc.

We visited his Aunt Melissa & Uncle Jason the other day, and Mom & Dad came by too. We ate pizza and caught up. Melissa and Jason have fantastic pictures of their trip to Puerto Vallarta with Nichole & Chris & the boys. They're supposedly going to hook me up with those; if I end up with the pics I'll include them in my (online) album for anyone interested. I took Loren over to my folks' house Tuesday and we ate spaghetti and watched the movie "School Of Rock", which was pretty good. Jack Black's great, especially on Tenacious D's stuff. All in all I think Loren's pretty much enjoyed the Dad time, and his break from school.

I'm still looking for work; no luck yet. I will likely get much more done now that Loren's returned to his mom's for the remainder of his school break. He understands I've had to spend much of the time he was here looking for work but requires a fair amount of attention no matter what I'm doing when he's here, so I've been a bit distracted so far this week. However, I've applied for 10 jobs this week so far, so it's not a total loss. If I don't find some gainful employment soon things are going to get very uncomfortable here.

Loren's computer is up and running. The hard drive sounds like it's going to die, and the video card is so ancient it will only work in 640x480 16 color mode. The CD drive I got for him on EBay or $.98 seems to work alright, so now his computer is twice as good as mine in some ways, and barely functional in others- a project in the works still. It's an AMD Athlon 1GHz with 380Mb RAM but only a 6Gb hard drive and the ancient video card. Can't justify spending money on upgrades at the moment, but when it's all finished it'll be better than this computer.

I've spent some time reprogramming the drum lines for a demo of an old tune that's never been done justice; that's still in the works. I've managed to get my system set up to SHOUTcast from direct inputs now, so when I broadcast live from my den here, the sound doesn't come through a crappy condensor mic. Small progress, but something.

Ok I guess that's it fer now. Hope y'all're enjoyin' yerselves. PEACE OUT


waste of paper

Guest columnist David Belisle's article "Hubble trouble" (Seattle Times, April 3, 2004) questions why NASA is "so prepared for euthanasia" of the Hubble Space Telescope, and jumps hastily to the unsupported conclusions that it stems from Hubble's loss of political usefulness and ability to serve as a fundraising vehicle. Rarely have I seen a more irresponsible opinion cast more pointedly.

NASA is far from eager to end the Hubble program prematurely. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe has stated unequivocally that the decision to cancel Service Mission 4 was primarily based on the new safety recommendations set forth by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, and has requested board chairman Admiral Harold Gehman, Jr. review those recommendations (he's agreed). These regulations require the shuttle to dock with the International Space Station for each mission, allowing for inspection of the shuttle before attempting re-entry, and facilitating an opportunity for a rescue and/or repair mission should it be deemed too dangerous to attempt to return the shuttle to Earth. Having (rightfully) committed the agency to implement the new regulations, what more is he supposed to do?

Belisle would have us accept by weight of inuendo alone that more than a decade of largely successful work by thousands of engineers, scientists, and skilled laborers from NASA, the Space Telescope Science Institute and myriad aerospace industry subcontractors was merely a premise for kickbacks from Republican administrations in exchange for campaign contributions. How convenient and timely to make this accusation in an election year, unencumbered by the need to supply factual evidence. Shame on the Times for not requiring it!

Furthermore, we are supposed to accept that our continuing efforts in support of the International Space Station (the first truly global space initiative) will result in the diversion of billions of dollars to Republican donors. Are there two separate groups of contractors involved here? I think it's safe to assume that U.S. companies involved in construction of the space station are the same ones that have been involved in construction for U.S. space programs spanning multiple administrations.

Mr. Belisle proceeds to use these bogus arguments as a springboard from which to espouse his theory that blame for the "decimation" of "social welfare" programs rests with current and previous Republican administrations, citing a nebulous conspiracy to undermine these ill-implemented, perenially raided programs through intentional mission inflation and underfunding. This is the point where Mr. Belisle reveals his true agenda. He states "we've seen this before" in "endless, undying projects" that divert funding from "real energy and defense research". Exactly what are his credentials for deciding what constitutes "real" research? Granted much space program research has proven to lend itself to defense applications, but what portion of the space program's budget does he propose we earmark for "energy" research?

The killing blow to any credibility Belisle's article attempts to claim is easily found by any middle school student with a computer. While he "laments" Hubble's early retirement with "nothing comparable set to replace it," the Space Telescope Science Institute's Hubble Newsdesk page clearly states that (prior) plans to construct and implement Hubble's vastly improved successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, slated for deployment in 2011, go forth as planned.

Do some research before you throw mud, sir.

Having avidly followed the scientific progress made possible by the Hubble Space Telescope and U.S. space program in general for more than 10 years, and having worked in the aerospace manufacturing industry, I'm personally offended by Belisle's comments. Agree or disagree with mission direction as you see fit, but don't demean the whole issue with petty political diatribes and stabs at the firms which made possible the work you supposedly value so highly.

President Bush should be commended for boldly stating a clear, diverse mission for future space research, and especially for committing much of the shuttle program's $4 billion budget to lift its antiquated technology into the 21st century.


i'm actually getting published in print :)

well, once more a letter i wrote is getting published; this time it looks like it's going to be in print in tomorrow's Seattle Times. i couldn't be more pleased.

the letter i wrote to the Times already appears below; i included it here in its entirety yesterday, titled concerning widening the scope of legalized gambling in Washington State. it already has its own permalink so i won't bother making another one.

i've updated this post to link to where it was published online below. note that they edited it somewhat.

here's my letter to the editor on the Seattle Times Opinion page.

it's damn satisfying to make a point and have it validated like that.

hey i got published -again- :)

this is another letter someone deemed fit to publish in the Seattle Times NEXT blog. As I'm sitting here combing the classifieds and WESD WorkSource websites for a job, it seems natural to just include it here:

As someone who chose not to go to college, I speak from experience when I say that it's impossible to overstate how much more difficult it is to attend college after you've taken on other responsibilities which demand your time, attention, and financial resources, such as a mortgage payment or raising a family. Pausing your education following high school and then returning to school is like training hard to run a marathon for a year, then picking up the remote and pigging out on the couch for a few months.

Aside from the monetary advantages to a college education, there are other benefits, such as a continuing opportunity to network socially. Many people look back on their college years as having a profound impact on them as individuals. Indeed, many people are exposed in college to ideas which change their entire outlook, as well as become introduced to their future business partners, spouses, and lifelong best friends.

All other points aside, the increased earning potential and employment opportunities for degreed individuals remain the most important reasons to get a college education. It would be nice to think that reasonably intelligent, talented people, willing to work hard, could succeed at whatever they choose, but the reality of the situation is more often disappointing.

I'm a 36-year-old, divorced, single father with a mortgage payment, an IQ near 140, a voracious appetite for knowledge, a history of diligent service at every position I've held, experience running my own small business, and the company of millions of others like me competing for ever-more-specialized positions.

Ability to perform a task is not equivalent to prior training in it, and it doesn't help you break the barrier between unstable $22,000 per year jobs and a $40,000-$100,000 per year career. Given the opportunity, why not give yourself the advantage of a college education? If I had a dime for every time I heard the phrase, "For this I skipped college?" I could afford to go now.


concerning widening the scope of legalized gambling in Washington State

The Washington State legislature is proposing to widen the scope of legalized gambling in this state by making telephone betting on horse races legal. At least one on the Seattle Times editorial staff thinks this is a bad idea; here's my opinion:

I fail to see the point of objections to increasing the scope of gambling legally sanctioned in Washington State, or anywhere else for that matter.

Gambling is a consensual activity participated in by adults. Prohibition and limitation of gambling (or any other consensual activity by adults) is motivated by moral judgements by those who would save people from themselves; they have no place in a free society.

Truly, many gamblers are compulsive and would be wise to refrain from the activity, but ultimately the responsibility for their actions rests with the individuals, not with government.

Washington State enjoys the company of virtually all other state governments in a long history of straddling the fence on consensual "crimes". For decades it held the duplicitous position of blanketly denying gamblers the right to engage in their consensual activity of choice, while holding a monopoly on the distribution of "hard" alcohol, in order to directly (and solely) benefit from the consensual activity of another group.

I submit that the social repercussions of alcohol use far outweigh those of gambling- "problem gambling" or otherwise.

Laws limiting the rights of adults to engage in activites which cause no harm to others or their property, or infringe upon others' rights, diminish freedom for all. I may not condone your activity, but until it adversely affects me, I defend your right to engage in it.

Constitutional and moral arguments aside, the proliferation of casinos in our state since the decriminalization of gambling is proof that the industry has growth potential. In an economic climate as bad as ours, with the budget crisis faced by our state, we would be wise to keep our moral posturing to ourselves and foster that growth.

well whaddayaknow- i got published in the Seattle Times Opinion Blog too

i really MUST have too much time on my hands. a short letter i wrote in response to a post by Times writer Bruce Ramsey, concerning an artist's use of hundreds of gallons of red "paint" to completely cover the exposed tip of an iceberg in the Arctic, got published in the Seattle Times Opinion Blog (STOP). it can be seen here, about mid-page (for now); or here permanently, in the archives of the blog. someone hire me as a writer already- i'm on a roll.

i've edited this post to include my letter in its entirety for those who don't want to surf to another site to read it:

Re: Toxic art
Regarding "Toxic Art," a reader writes:

The "artist" in question probably got the idea from the incredibly bad logo for Sherwin Williams Paint. It features a representation of the Earth being drowned in red paint.

Sherwin Williams Paint logo

The slogan? "Cover The Earth". How they've escaped the wrath of environmentalists is beyond me.

hey i got published i love it

i recently responded to an article in the Seattle Times' NEXT blog; it's a blog which they're paying a bunch of young adults to write for- a great concept and worthy of checking out. my letter was a response to a post concerning the overt sexuality of Britney Spears, and someone either actually liked what i had to say or they desperately needed something to print. in either case- there's nothing like getting your opinion posted on a blog with more readers than THIS one! my post can be seen here, and the main page for the Seattle Times NEXT blog is here.

i updated this post to include my original letter for those who don't feel like surfing to another site to read it:

Re: "Cinderella turned Stripperella," by Christina Asavareungchai (NEXT, March 14):

Anyone who viewed Britney Spears' video for "Baby One More Time" as a projection of an "innocent" image missed the point. It was a standard, softcore "school-girl-fantasy," plain and simple. The bad-girl image began right there, in a calculated manner, in as explicit form as practicable for a 16-year-old girl in this society.

That many people viewed this as "innocent" speaks volumes about just how mainstream sex-based marketing has become. But it fooled the kids, not the adults. Sure, Britney's career (think Disney) was originally aimed at a young market, but it's obvious it isn't anymore; and of course it isn't, she's not 12 anymore.

"Shocking" revelations about masturbation get press — for awhile. Britney is only the latest sex-symbol pop-tart in a chain that started when the recording industry began exploiting video as a marketing tool in the 1960s. How many ugly female pop stars do you see? It's not that there aren't ugly girls who want to be pop stars, even talented ones. The industry calls them "writers." Someone has to supply all these pretty girls with their material.

Why sign artists who don't look good on camera? There'll always be plenty of good-looking girls willing to prostitute themselves for fame and fortune. The RIAA and every other group of softcore pornographers will always be willing to exploit that.

Crass is a perfect description of Britney's career; get ready for more of the same. Sex sold yesterday, sells today, and will continue to sell tomorrow. Britney and countless other quasi-talented "artists" are making their hay while the sun shines. Too bad these same "artists" have to deal with all this competition from the porn industry; it's gotta be hard for marginally talented girls to get some press in a field this crowded.

Boycotting of Britney and her ilk is already done by countless people at the checkout line. She has a right to whatever share of the market she can get. I admire Christina Asavareungchai's call to support artists who convey a more worthwhile message — she isn't not the first to do so and she's certainly not alone — but the reality is that more substantive work by popular female artists has been largely marginalized in favor of easy-to-market sexual content that became mainstream a long time ago.

Periodically the popular taste pendulum swings back the other way, as in the case of Seattle's "grunge" movement, but when there's a lull in that momentum, the RIAA will always have another Britney to throw in the mix.

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