Brian's Journal - December 2009

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12/01/2009 Sunny
Got a nice portrait of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in the rhododendron behind the herb garden this afternoon. There are still several of them around the house, along with Winter Wrens, Brown Creepers, Dark-eyed Juncos, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Bewick's Wrens and the other usual suspects.
12/05/2009 Sabbath Sunny, 25-36, windy late
A White-throated Sparrow showed up at the feeder today, perhaps the same one from last winter. One of these days I'll get out and try for some photos.
We were very social today. Not only did we make it to church but we also attended two parties in the evening. At church we visited with Greg and Grace Gratias who mentioned that Brandon is living with them this winter and may be looking for a partner for some mountaineering outings, and with Keith and Sandy Rodman who are back from a couple of years in the South Pacific. Keith suggested David go to Yap and teach English but David wasn't sure that would be something he'd enjoy. As usual we were among the last to leave.
The first of our parties was the annual and always delicious Murphy and Associates holiday dinner; I've never had a better-prepared Portabello mushroom. It was grilled and sliced and seasoned I think with garlic, rosemary and perhaps thyme. Not too oily or salty, just right, served over mashed potatoes with some complementary vegetable and a sauce that tasted of artichokes and Brussels sprouts. We sat at Donna Murphy's table. She's as animated as ever, living in a house she built on Mercer Island and active in a real estate career. Ray is retired and living in North Bend, where he invited us to stay with him if we're ever down that way for a marathon. Joel is embarking on a new career in Christian counseling in Chicago while remaining involved in the family business for the time being. At dinner I sat next to Phil Ludwig who's been working for Jagdish at Expedia for three years now. His Russian? girlfriend affected to fall asleep during the entertainment, an improv group which was moderately entertaining. After dinner I found Jim Bergh who's doing cutting edge stuff in data warehousing for the Microsoft XBox customer analytics team. He sounded delighted with his work.
From the Bellevue Club we drove over to North Seattle to Lisa Michelle's annual holiday party. She's been inviting me for years but for one reason or another I've never been able to make it. Though the crowd was pretty sparse by the time we arrived both Susan and I enjoyed talking with several different people there. Reggie Jones reminded me that he's still interested in green tomatoes if I ever have any to spare. Jeff Jorgenson, laid off 6 months or more ago from Expedia, has found another job. His wife Cheryl drives a Metro bus, one of the big articulated ones, and also has a business photographing horses for sale. She recommended to us that David master 3D drawing and continue to pursue his interest in concept art. Outside in the tent I found Holly Gion whom I hadn't seen since early days at Expedia when we worked on the Peoplesoft implementation together. She left to attend law school and is now an attorney at Nordstrom working with privacy and information security, still finds it very interesting. Susan talked quite a bit with John Hale, Paul's brother. Turns out he knows Jim Tedrick, used to sell roofing material to him. Towards the end of the evening as they were packing up the appetizers I talked with Paul some, learned that his father was SDA when he was young and he attended VBS and Sabbath School as a kid, though I think his father drifted away from the church later on. Will have to follow up at next year's party.
12/09/2009 Sunny, 8-29
The cold dry weather continues. Last night the driveway thermometer reported 8F and the one on the back porch read 15. The night before the driveway thermometer was 9F, and before that, 11F. No snow and not much frost, just cold. Daytime highs haven't reached 30F for two days now, and may not have reached 32F the day before that. Wind accompanied the cold for the first day or two but died down by yesterday.
I ran 13.5 miles this afternoon including almost 3 barefoot before my feet began to hurt and go numb at the same time. I meant to get out yesterday but got involved in creating the page to email Maniac membership requests. The cold is a deterrent too; by the time it has warmed up enough to go out for a run it's time for lunch instead, then by the time I'm ready to go out again the sun is starting to set and the temperature is dropping again. I run in the cold so infrequently that I forget what to wear, so for future reference, today I wore my lined lightweight shell pants over running shorts, my yellow wind shell jacket over a short and a long-sleved tech shirt, a neck warmer, headband and snowboarding liner mittens. I was very confortable, wore the neck warmer only for the first mile or so and the mittens off and on.
12/10/2009 Sunny, 7-32
Read an article this morning about how running may be beneficial to middle-aged knees, but didn't get my middle-aged knees out for a run today nonetheless, justifying my inactivity by minor soreness in my feet and lower legs. I did get outside for a half hour or so later in the day to try for some bird photos but pretty much got skunked.
12/11/2009 Sunny, 10-33
The cold continues though the low this morning wasn't quite as low as yesterday morning. I spent most of the day inside working on the Halffanatics Profile page. I also made some minor formatting changes to improve the look of all the pages; my understanding of HTML has improved somewhat since last July.
12/12/2009 Mostly sunny, 23-37 (low 17)
High clouds at times brought the temperatures up, though not high enough to melt frost in the shade.
I took a walk down to O'Grady in the afternoon to check out the ice before it melts and to try for a few photos gulls along the river. The gravel bars are all fringed with a shelf of ice and quiet backwaters are frozen thick enough to support my weight but there wasn't any slush or ice in the running water. The ice formations made more interesting photos than did the gulls. I left the 300 f4 lens on instead of swapping it for the more versatile 18-105 which probably would have done a better job on the ice.
There were still a few dead salmon in the water so the gulls, all glaucous-winged, are still around along with a few Bald Eagles. Ducks were scarce; I heard gunshots from time to time downstream. In the woods winter wrens were exploring the frozen leaf litter, their toenails (claws?) making small scratchy sounds on the dry leaves. If I stood still and happened to be in their path, they would come quite close to me. I had one good photo op but my only unobstructed shots suffered from motion blur at 1/250.
12/13/2009 26- (low 19)
The end of the cold spell.
12/16/2009 low 40's, rain late
Recent yardbirds photographed from a couple of simple blinds. From L, Spotted Towhee, a pale Song Sparrow, a leucistic Dark-eyed Junco, a late Purple Finch and House Finches
Completed the Half Fanatics Profile Page and layout enhancements today. I thought I finished it yesterday with the addition of the photo upload functionality but I hadn't tested the revisions in IE. When I did I discovered that the content div was stacked below the navbar div on the left side of the page instead of it's intended position to the right of the navbar. Once I fixed that by adjusting the widths, I found that the masthead, which lined up perfectly in Firefox, remained offset a few annoying pixels to the left of the content below it. I wasn't able to resolve that problem, which appears to be related to how Firefox and IE account for borders in their div width calculations. After reviewing and touching up all the pages I re-deployed them to the web. Next step is to migrate the new Profile page and layout enhancements to the Maniacs site as well. The Half Fanatics work has taken me 50 hours or so over the past week; I don't expect the Maniacs work to go much more quickly due to the extensive refactoring involved.
12/19/2009 Pigtail's Marathon Drizzle, 45
Van move the start from Renton to Landsberg due to permitting difficulties with the city of Renton. For the marathon, we ran from Landsberg down 12.5 miles on the Cedar River trail after a half-mile out and back on the water line trail on the south side of the river. Due to the growing number of runners, she decided to get permits this year, working with Kathy at King County for use of the trail and PNWTF for liability insurance. To cover her costs, which also included registration through Databar and lots of good food at the finish, she charged $5 per runner payable at the start. That approach seemed to work out well.
Despite not wearing quite enough clothing I really enjoyed the run.
12/25/2009 Christmas in Jackson Sunny in AM, increasing clouds later, low 30's
The family converged on Jackson for Christmas - our family from Seattle, Silas from Italy, Kirsten from France, Bridget from London, Eric from up the hill, Sarah and Roger from down in the field. On Christmas Eve we went for a walk in the sunshine, decorated the tree, disposed of the frozen Halloween pumpkins in the brook, prepared for and hosted the Christmas Eve party and went to church for the Christmas Eve service. We gathered at Sarah and Roger's on Christmas morning for stockings and their traditional rice pudding breakfast then returned to the house to open the mountain of presents under the tree. I ate a big lunch then got out for a fairly easy ski tour on the trails down to the Eagle Mt golf course. Later we all joined Joe and Virginia for supper at their house.
12/27/2009 Jackson Falls ice out Wet, high 30's
The day after Christmas Daniel, Silas, Kirsten and I skied down to the village and up to the warming shack on the Ellis River trail. We wore ourselves out trying to keep up with Silas. Heavy rain overnight into the 27th turned the hard-packed snow in the driveway to slush so I shoveled it all out of the way. Great Brook cleared all the ice and snow out of its way too. Late in the afternoon the rain finally let up so the boys and I drove down to check out Jackson Falls. We took photos while the light held up then Daniel and David pushed beached slabs of ice back into the raging torrent. Tough work but someone had to do it.
12/29/2009 Jackson Sunny, cold and windy
Packing up was simple so Daniel and I found time for one more ski outing. I used the rental boots because my little toes were sore, and the rental skis because the boots don't fit the bindings on the other skis (other than Daniel's, which I judged too narrow for me). The rental skis were a disappointment, neither gripping on the kick nor sliding on the glide; the wind was biting cold on our faces and the track was icy in places but it was nice to get out one last time nonetheless. On the walk along Wilson road out to the trail I found a flock of redpolls in the road; they let me get quite close but I didn't have the camera.
We left only 15 minutes late. Saying goodbye was difficult; we'd had a nice visit and I wished we could have stayed longer. We ran into traffic entering North Conway but made up some time on the West Side Road. The wind was scouring the fields sweeping plumes of snow up into the treetops and streaming drifts across the road. I was glad to be in the warm car. Around Milton the wind died down for awhile and the temperature rose to 18F before dropping back to 12F as the wind picked up farther south. Just after the traffic circle at 1A I spotted a peregrine riding the wind over Revere Beach Parkway. It sliced down and sailed back up over the fuel tanks along 1A, pulling ahead of us and crossing over to the west where we lost it over the ships in the channel there. Clearly too big for a merlin or kestrel, too sharp for a crow or pigeon, too small and stiff in flight for a gull.
Daniel gave us a scare, discovering just after we boarded the Budget shuttle bus that his wallet was missing. I worried that he'd left it in Jackson but he found it back in the rental car which had already been moved to the overflow lot. He caught the shuttle behind us so we were able to check in together. The long wait I feared at Security failed to materialize; in fact, there was no line and we made it to the gate with 20 minutes to spare. Silas on the other hand found out when he arrived at his terminal that his flight had been cancelled but by then we were already in the air and unable to help. I haven't heard yet what he did during his extra day in Boston.
12/30/2009 Home again Mostly cloudy, 35-48
The heat was off when we arrived home; turns out the burner nozzle clogged again, for the first time in a couple of years. The temperature in the living room when I got up (before dawn) around 7 was 43F. I spent the morning feeding the fireplace with minimal effect on the ambient temperature; around midday we realized that it was warmer outside so we opened the doors. At Susan's suggestion I fired up the stove in the den, leaving the window open while it heated up and burned off the dust. Eventually it warmed up the den nicely and even brought the temperature upstairs up a few degrees. Phil from House of Heat came by later in the afternoon and fixed the burner problem while I was out running. It was a difficult run due to fatigue and stomach discomfort though I felt better towards the end. I made it through by walking 20-30 steps every couple minutes. My HR adjusted to a 10:00/mi equivalent was 129, unusually low.

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