Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

Category: Memories (Page 2 of 3)

May 18, 1980

With all of the rumbling and recent steam coming from that sawed-off mountain to the north of Portland, maybe this is a good time to tell the story of my experiences during The Big One.

I was only eight years old; my sister, not yet three. Mom was dating a guy who owned two Ford Mustangs, one small and black and nifty, the other big and green and ugly. He owned, or at least had the run of, some property in the Cascade foothills within reasonable driving distance of Brewster, WA. We were at his little cabin in the woods for the weekend. I think that we were skinning logs that morning, but it may have been the previous day. (Bear with me. We’re talking about a temporal distance of twenty-six years, after all.)

I remember what sounded a bit like a sonic boom, but with that curiously muffled quality that a great distance imparts to any loud noise. We were all outside, and I think we all immediately knew what happened. I knew, anyway, and Mom wasted no time hustling us away from the cabin and back into town.

What came next is a bit vague, though I do have a clear memory of Brewster later on (possibly the next day), with overcast skies and a couple of inches of ash covering everything in sight. During one summer, a couple of years later, Sis and I were living in Soap Lake with The Savages (Ken & Virginia) and there were still ashdrifts all over the desert.

All I can think now is, “I’m glad the prevailing winds would carry the ash away from Portland if that happens again.” Well… I also think, “I hope Hood doesn’t go next!”

Will Prevaricate To Prove A Point

This one’s going to be a bit weird, and may not make a whole lot of sense. I apologize in advance. However, since I’ve sort of glided by on a string of very small posts for most of the last few entries, I figured I’d give my lovely readership a bit of something more substantial to digest. As it were.

The scene is… some sort of event, many years ago. I was a young’un, not yet a teenager even. It may have been a county fair. There’s a chance it was a boat show at the Expo Center. I’m fairly certain that the venue was covered, but don’t hold me to that. The point is that there were various things to see and do, and my family was seeing and doing. Mostly seeing.

The cast consists of myself and… well, probably Sis and maybe Mom and I kind of think that her mother was with us, but I can’t be sure. We were a small group, maybe four or five of us, so maybe step-grandpa was with us, or maybe one out of the string of men in Mom’s life. Maybe it was random other people.

Yes, I’m filing this under “Memories.” Yes, my memory really is this hazy for much of my early life. Deal with it.

At this event we came across a handwriting analysis booth. That’s right, the deal was that if you write a sentence (very likely the best-known of the pangrams, “The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog.”), they’ll tell you what kind of person you are. I was young, bored and gullible, so I gave it a shot. This is back when I could still more-or-less write in cursive.

I don’t remember what else was on the analysis sheet they gave me, though I’m sure it included concepts like “too snarky for his own good” and “probably needs to get out more.” What statement I found interesting was, “will prevaricate to prove a point.” I thought that was an awfully nice thing to say about me. Hey, it sounded good. A big word like that must mean something bold and positive, right?

The elders with whom I traveled finally set me straight. “Prevaricate means lie, Karel.”


Looking back, I probably took it to mean something like “persevere.” Ah, well. I was young.

I wasn’t too young to recognize the truth of it, though. There’s always been a part of me willing to sacrifice a bit of truth to convince people of something. Even in my darker days I didn’t really lie all that much about what I had or hadn’t actually done. It’s more a matter of being in a debate and exaggerating my chosen example which illustrates why I’m right. (Of course I’m right. Right?)

And thanks to that handwriting analysis, I keep this fact in the back of my head as often as possible so I don’t let that impulse run away with me. At least, not any more than I can catch myself doing…

Much At Steak

I suppose it’s long past time that I told you about my Denver trip. I’ve only been promising the story for a few months. Yes, I’m a world-class procrastinator.

The Denver story is less about why I went (to learn how to use the systems management interface at my new job) than it is about the dinners I ate. No, really. It’s all about steak, where we found steak, how good the steak was, and the journeys to and from the steak.

What? I like steak.

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They’re both teenagers now? Save me!

My daughter turns 13 today. I am the father of teenagers. Does this frighten anyone else, or is it just me?

Since my mid-week visits tend to run between an hour and two hours in duration, I decided to make Saturday a “father/daughter day” as a kind of early celebration and present. We didn’t do anything too terribly exciting, mind you. The first order of business was food, so we hit the mall for Arby’s sandwiches. While there we also introduced her to the tacky but amusing electronics wonderland that is Radio Shack, and we perused a few other shops (like the occasionally-evil Suncoast, where they had R.O.D. TV #1 on sale… ahem).

After the mall, being the jet-setting family that we are, the plan of action became “go home and play games and watch a movie.” So we worked on her healer Empathy Defender for a while (with some help from a friend in Seattle) and finished the day by kicking back and watching Castle of Cagliostro, one of my all-time favorite movies.

I am reliably informed that she had a good time on Saturday. Hopefully she’ll like her other present, too…

(Happy birthday, kiddo!)

My First Compy

This News.com.com story takes some famous names in the IT biz and asks them each what their first computer was. Then the story invites readers to share their own “first computer” info.

But… you have to subscribe to their website to do so. Wow, no, thanks, I’ll just… hey! I have my own site!

Anyway. I must have been about twelve years old, as I’m pretty sure this was during the later stretch of Mom’s marriage to Mike Schomler, and we were living in the (rather nice) double-wide on the hillside above the Westerdahl property. (My stepdad worked for them at the time. I’ll have to tell some more stories about those years, later, won’t I?) I don’t remember how I came into possession of such a thing, but my first computer was a quirky self-contained lump of metal and plastic dubbed the Commodore PET 2001. It sported a built-in (cassette) tape drive and a quaint chiclet-style keyboard. Yes, it was many years later that I learned to touch-type, as it’s nigh-impossible to do so on a purely rectangular layout. Almost all of the actual programming (from scratch) that I’ve ever done in my life was on that machine, though. Hell, I even still have some of the tapes… though I’m pretty sure they’re degraded beyond all use, now, if not entirely copied over with music I recorded from the radio. (My other favorite toy during those years was my portable cassette/radio deck, after all.)

While I made use of a variety of other machines (those of friends and classrooms) in the years since I gave up on the PET, it wasn’t until the mid-’90s that I owned a computer of my own again. Ah, back when a 486 was a wonder to behold…

Madcap Citybuilding Fun

Among the things the kids and I got up to over the course of last weekend while I was staying at their place was a fun-filled game of Carcassonne. Now, this is one of those games where there are two stages of scoring. Someone who’s far and away in the lead during the main part of the game can get screwed when it comes time to add up partials, farms and trade goods. Case in point:

Alex was blue, Erica was red and I was yellow. He had the trade goods advantage (yes, those are his barrels and textiles at the bottom of the picture) but only one little chunk of farmland. Erica had equal share of The Unfinishable City with me, but I managed to connect both of my farmers, thus cutting her out of that scoring opportunity entirely. (Alex helped, mind you. He didn’t realize until later what a bad idea that was. Heh.)The Unfinishable City? Oh yes, indeed. Let me show you:

This is what happens when the time-honored tradition we call “horning in” is taken to its (il)logical extreme. I started a city, then put my builder on it. Erica positioned herself to horn in on it, and added her builder. Once she succeeded at that, I horned in again to take control of the city, which was followed by her doing the same yet again. She actually tried to get a third meeple into the fray, but it sat on what became the two-point micro-city, because of the straight-through city piece (with the shield) I played above it.Eventually the whole thing became a place to sink city pieces that couldn’t really go anywhere else usefully. By the time the place looked like what you see here, we had only about sixteen tiles left in the bag. No, that thing wasn’t going to be finished, even had I wanted it to be finished.

Ah, I love Carcassonne

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