Archive for December, 2008

Still More Snow

December 24, 2008 3 comments


See that arrow built into the ‘E’ and the ‘x’ in the FedEx logo above? (I hadn’t noticed it until Joel pointed it out to me last summer.) It seems to have the wrong shape. It should be circular. But I’ll get to that.

We woke up to snow again today, as predicted. It was due to turn to rain by noon, and it has done so even sooner, after some icy, sleety, snowy interlude. I anticipate getting my car out later this afternoon — its first outing in a week — so we can meet up after Gail’s workday for Christmas Eve dinner. (I better get out, or we won’t be having dinner together.) But I’m here to complain. Two annoyances:

1. FedEx can’t get here. UPS has made it. They came in the snow on Thursday. They came in the aftermath of the snow yesterday. USPS has made it. Well, not on Monday, but otherwise they have. FedEx, though, is not up to the task. They’ve had an Amazon shipment in Seattle since Friday evening, due for delivery Monday. It didn’t go out at all on Monday. It went out yesterday (Tuesday), but didn’t get far. Their tracking data includes the entry at 3:27 PM yesterday: “Delay in delivery due to external factors.” At 5:52 PM it was home safe at Fedex. And that’s the last item. They seem not to have even tried to get it out today. The current status is “shipment delayed.” No big deal. It only has assorted presents for tomorrow. At least we’re all here. But still, their competitors made it. Why didn’t they?

2. The garbage and recycling people can’t get here. Indeed, according to today’s news release at the Seattle Public Utilities website, no residential garbage or recycling has been picked up since the snow started last Thursday. A week of no service. Our recycling bin is filled to the brim, and tomorrow we will have lots of new recycling. Oh, nevermind. We won’t. We won’t have any presents to give out because FedEx can’t get here. No problem. Our garbage can is filled too, but at least it will be picked up in a week. The recycling will have to sit around for two weeks.

How can a few days of not particularly huge snowfall bring everything to a standstill?

Categories: Family, House

More Snow in Seattle

December 22, 2008 Leave a comment
The View from our House

The View from our Backyard

On Saturday morning, I wrote about the snow we had in Seattle on Thursday, with photos of the two buses that slid down a hill and almost went over a retaining wall onto the freeway. We have since had two more snowstorms. We got out Saturday afternoon to do some essential shopping, getting home before the second round of snow. It started around 4 PM and fell until around midnight, with about 5-6 inches accumulating around our house. I awoke yesterday (Sunday) morning anticipating doing some shoveling, but before I could begin, it was snowing again. The snow fell from around 10 AM to 11 PM. I would guess another 5-6 inches fell, so we had something close to 15 inches of snow in the last four days. Not unheard of, but not very common either. More typical when we have freezing or near freezing temperatures is that Seattle escapes large snowfalls. The outlying areas, at higher elevation or without the additional moderating influence of Lake Washington, can get such accumulations, but we, at a low elevation near the lake, will typically have just a little.

I got out this morning and started shoveling the driveway. The norm around here seems to be to just blast out of the garage with the four-wheel drive vehicle. The roads aren’t plowed, so why worry about a driveway full of snow? But I like to clear it just the same. Partly, shoveling gives me a sense of continuity with my childhood. And it’s good exercise, as long as I don’t overdo it. I took a break in the middle of the shoveling and used my flip HD mini camcorder to record the view. As I explained in my post when I got the Flip, I set up a youtube account that night in order to post videos, but until today I hadn’t posted any. Here’s one:

The narration is a little stupid, but I figured there’s supposed to be sound when you make a video, so I spoke.

I took a break and came in for a late breakfast just before noon, by which time Joel was awake. After eating, I went out again and took some photos in the back, including the photo at the top of this post. Go here for a slideshow with a few more.

I should explain, for readers who don’t know where we live, Read more…

Categories: Family, House

Ahmed Chalabi and Me

December 20, 2008 Leave a comment
Ahmed Chalabi

Ahmed Chalabi

No, I don’t actually know Ahmed Chalabi. But we do have a professional connection, as I discovered only yesterday. (Oh, should I remind you of who Chalabi is? He became prominent in US news coverage of Iraq in the run-up to the US invasion, as an Iraqi in exile in London who was friends with many neocons in the government and was a leading source of (false) information on the existence of WMDs in Iraq. He was also imagined as a possible leader of the Iraqi government once Saddam Hussein was deposed. And indeed he was on the Iraqi governing council after the invasion, later serving as deputy prime minister. You can read more here.)

I wrote last week that I was reading Dexter Filkins’ The Forever War. I finished it last night, and let me say once again that it is a painful but essential book to read regarding the US war effort in Iraq and how the US was perceived (2003-2006) by Iraqis of various sorts. Just before dinner, I read a portion of the book in which Filkins meets with Chalabi, a fascinating passage, and at its start Filkins notes that Chalabi is an MIT- and Chicago-trained mathematician. I must have seen this fact many times before, but never focused on it. The problem is, I’ve often read about one person or another being a mathematician of some sort, and usually the person turns out to do something else, like physics or finance. So if I read before that Chalabi is a mathematician, I probably ignored it. But this time, with the mention of MIT and Chicago, I got curious and decided to look Chalabi up to see what he really did.

Well, what do you know? He’s a mathematician! An algebraist, just like me!
Read more…

Categories: Math, Politics

Seattle Driving after Snow

December 20, 2008 Leave a comment
Above I-5, just north of downtown

Above I-5, just north of downtown

In my previous post, I described Joel’s decision to fly home from Boston on Thursday, a day early, in order to avoid Friday’s snowstorm. As I noted, we had our own snowstorm here in Seattle on Thursday. Our storm would have been a minor nuisance in Boston, but here, with the hills and with only limited plowing and sanding, when it snows and the temperatures stay below freezing, driving is always pretty chancy.

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Categories: Today's News, Travel

Bonus Day with Joel, II

December 20, 2008 Leave a comment
Berlin Airlift, 1948

Berlin Airlift, 1948

Just under three weeks ago, at the end of Thanksgiving weekend, I described the bonus day we had with Joel. Thanks to heavy fog that Sunday night, his overnight flight back to Boston was cancelled. We had already driven him out to the airport and gotten home, and he was at the gate, when the cancellation was announced after midnight. It was no easy matter to get him booked the next night, which Gail and I worked on while he got a taxi home, but you can read about that in my Bonus Day post.

Now it turns out we got another bonus day, in the opposite direction, as I’ll describe after the jump.
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Categories: Family, Travel

Where the Hell is Matt?

December 18, 2008 Leave a comment

Here’s yet another post with yet another video that anyone who has spent more than 2 minutes on the internet has seen. Except me. Mind you, I saw Matt Harding’s first two dancing videos, but the third one, which came out about half a year ago, had somehow escaped my attention until last week. You can watch it above, but you would be better off going to this link and watching it at the youtube website, where you can select the option of viewing in high definition. There’s something surprisingly joyful and uplifting about Matt’s videos.

You can learn more about Matt at his website. Among other things, you’ll learn that he now lives in Seattle. He made the first of his three videos on his own, but was sponsored by Stride gum for the next two. David Pogue, in his blog last week, had an interesting post about the difficulties Matt had filming one of the scenes in this latest video in HD. (That’s how I realized the third video existed.)

By the way, I can’t resist linking to a blog post from almost three months ago that draws an interesting contrast between Sarah Palin and Matt.

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Categories: Culture, Travel

Girl Effect

December 18, 2008 Leave a comment

The video above on the Girl Effect may not be new, but I didn’t see it until yesterday. I recommend it. It had the effect, as Gail and I were in the midst of making our end-of-year charitable donations last night, of leading us to some organizations we were not familiar with, resulting in our making a donation to one of them.

Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, had a blog post yesterday that linked to the video, which is how I found it. You can also see it at the Girl Effect website, which has additional information. The premise of the girl effect, as Kristof explains, is that “foreign assistance often won’t work unless women are front and center. For example, educating boys has many benefits, but there’s pretty good evidence that educating girls is even more effective — primarily because it does more to reduce the number of children in the next generation. Moreover, men already tend to be in the labor force, while educating girls and training them or giving them capital tends to encourage them to participate in the economy in ways that bring real benefits to the household and to the entire economy.”

A fact sheet at the girleffect website notes that “when a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.” Also, “when women and girls earn income, they invest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.”

Two more videos after the jump.
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Categories: Culture, Education, Politics