Sunday, December 30, 2007

We Might Bob For Apples

There's going to be a New Year's Eve party at the Turbopalace! If you'll be in the neighborhood, you should definitely drop by. You can meet such blogosphere luminaries as Stay and GirlTuesday... you can put a face to a number with 26, 1, and 3.14 (and I'll show you more photos of 9, if you insist) Perhaps even the elusive Vigorous North will drop by?? Hope you'll come-- Email for directions! Happy 2008 to all...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Still Not A Cat Blog, But...

... when breaking feline news happens, I sometimes feel a civic duty to pass it on here. Yesterday one of New England's most important cats retired, and I knew you'd want to hear about it. And you'll also want to see more photos.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I'll Take Anything

This is the time of year when clients struggle to figure out if they should wish their therapists a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Kickin' Kwanza, or nothing at all. At the end of sessions people stammer out uncomfortable expressions such as, "Well, I don't know what you are, but...", and "You're Christian, right? I mean I'm just guessing. I mean it's fine if you aren't. I mean...", and "I guess it's safe to wish you a happy New Year, I don't know, do you celebrate New Year's?"

I'm thinking of trying to avoid the awkwardness by putting a sign such as this on my office door:

10-Second Conversations On The Way To The Office

Guy: Beautiful snow this morning, huh?
Turbo: Sure is...
Other Guy: Not sure Santa's going to be able to get through this year!
Turbo: Oh, he'll get through...
Woman: Why the fuck don't these people shovel their fucking sidewalk?
Turbo: There's supposed to be a $100 fine for that. You could call the city sidewalk hotline...
Another Guy: Looks like easier walking the direction you're going!
Turbo: I have to go the other direction on the way home...
Another Woman: I don't know why I even got out of bed today.
Turbo: Come see me-- I have cancellations today.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Huge Snows

Oh man, WHAT a winter we are having here!

Wait-- hang on-- it isn't even winter yet!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Too Scary

The ski area I visited last week has installed a sort of downhill zip-line ride, I guess to try to drum up some business in the summer. This is the "warning" sign posted for the ride at the base:

While I appreciate the management's efforts to prevent exacerbation of their visitors' ailments, I was somewhat disgusted by the advice that the "attraction" is not recommended for guests with "any" mental illness. After evaluating the ride from the ground, and reading this newspaper article about it, my impression is that the "attraction" is probably no more likely to precipitate mental collapse than flying in a small plane, driving in Major Metropolitan Area rush-hour traffic, or going to a scary R-rated movie-- all things routinely done by people with various mental illnesses thousands of times a day. Sure, the ride may not be ideal for some people with acrophobia or panic disorder. But the article quotes one woman who "is afraid of heights" and apparently survived the ride just fine (What? How did she even get past the sign? Did she lie to the attendants about her mental illness??) And while the sign notes that there is a "sudden abrupt landing", the newspaper reporter remarks that "the halting finish feels like landing in a giant pillow, and makes most riders giggle."

My take? I think the resort is trying to hype up the "thrills n' chills" aspect of their probably-rather-relaxing ride, somewhat at the expense of people with mental illness. I didn't really like that.

Urban Epic

We got a straight-out nor'east blizzard in the Smallish City yesterday. 2 and 3.14 text-messaged me saying they had movies, games, duck cassoulet in the oven, and peanut-butter cookies to be baked. But it was no weather in which to extract my car and try to drive the four miles over there.

Instead, I went by ski. What an expedition! The streets were virtually deserted except for the occasional plow. I schussed four blocks down the big hill to the park (not stopping at the stop signs), then tromped through the untracked oaks, under the interstate, and over to the buried jogging trail around the cove. Up to this point the weather had been just pleasantly vile, but approaching the ocean the wind built to a fury, visibility whited out, and the snow turned to icy horizontally-peening pellets. I was very happy to have goggles on. Whitecaps whipped in from the invisible void and lifted the near-shore grey-green slush and ice in undulating waves. Lately someone has been building primitive-looking rock cairns along the water's edge, and these drifted into and out of view like Viking monuments. The snow was thick underfoot and the whole city was lost from sight as I trudged. Never has an urban area seemed so wild to me; the conditions were as harrowing as any I've encountered in the mountains.

Eventually I passed the water and on into 2's neighborhood. We spent the afternoon in the kitchen and living room, reading and chatting and eating. The snow kept coming. Eventually 26 drove me home. It was a good adventure.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Many moons ago, when I lived in the Happy Valley, everyone telemark skied. "Telemark" was thought to be a Norwegian word for "Can't afford alpine skis". Everyone had leather boots they'd picked up second-hand for $30 and long, skinny, light skis. A few people hauled discarded alpine skis out of dumpsters and screwed nordic bindings to them, often with disastrous results (because the flimsy boots could not begin to handle the power of the skis). Everyone wore wool, was a misfit, a renegade, and/or a crusader for "freeing the heel and freeing the mind".

One year, I saw these new-fangled all-plastic tele boots. I thought they would be great for combining tele with the above-treeline winter mountain climbing I was doing. I bought a pair. But all my friends made fun of me. "Ha ha!", they said, "Look at Turbo's silly shiny boots! He's going to look like an astronaut! I'm not going to be seen in the woods with him wearing those!"

The abuse was so severe that I mailed the boots back before I'd even tried them, deciding that plastic was not the future of tele. Oh, so wrong. Within a few years, I was the only one still in leather. And eventually, those long skinny skis went away, too. I bought a new pair of short, shaped tele skis, like all the cool kids had, but the leather boots were no match-- flat on my face, all over the hill. I reverted to alpine skis. Why not-- I'm a yuppy now, anyway. I didn't tele for six years.

But the other day I rented a pair of those plastic boots, strapped them to the shorty skis, and did a half-day over in the mountains. Oh, that free-heel feeling! I've missed it!

Thank You, Rachel Carson

I almost couldn't believe my eyes yesterday morning. I was driving home over the smaller bridge to Smallish City, through what is probably the most industrial spot in the Smallish State-- airport on one side, petroleum tank farm on the other, marine scrap-metal terminal ahead, interstate over to the side-- and looked up to see a bald eagle soaring over the river, just above. Not a quarter mile from the Turbopalace, as the eagle flies. Wish I'd had my camera with me. I wonder if anyone else saw it?

Vigorous North recently posted about a barred owl spotted right downtown. If he didn't have photos, I'd think he was hallucinating, too.

"Snow falling faintly... upon all the living and the dead"

I feel oddly better about 9 now that his final resting place is covering in a good foot of beautiful snow. While it was just a patch of dry, bare dirt, it made me sad. Now it feels like he is tucked in. When the snow melts there will be tulips over him, and then the crabapple will bloom and drop its blossoms on him. And after that I'll plant some ferns or hostas there.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Doesn't Hurt To Ask

I found a nice old desk at a used furniture place and thought it would look good in my office. The price tag read "$375 SALE: $325".

I went up to the counter to talk with the man. On the counter was an old sign, reading: "I find it, buy it, haul it, repair it, polish it, store it, dust it, insure it, and deliver it. How could I possibly take less for it?" The sign was marked "NOT FOR SALE".

Turboglacier: "Hi. I'm interested in that desk over there. It's marked $325. Would you take $300 for it?"

Guy: "Sure."

Desk is in my office now (thanks to 3.14 for helping me move it!)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Interesting Sights On My Walk To Work, Part I

Sight: A man walking down the sidewalk, repeatedly looking back over his shoulder and giving "the finger" to no one in particular, while loudly singing the following ditty: "Fuck you! And fuck your Cha-nu-kah! Fuck you! And fuck your Cha-nu-kah!" (I wish I could add little musical-note symbols to the text here, to indicate that his a capella performance was really quite melodic.) I had this little song stuck in my head the rest of the way to work, but luckily the bell-ringing has driven it out.

Happy (belated) Chanukah to all!

Ringing In My Ears

I like to think that I'm as charitable as the next thrifty yankee, but this morning I am starting to feel distinctly Scrooge-y. This because a woman has been standing outside my office window all morning, incessantly ringing a bell, to solicit charitable contributions.
You would be amazed at her stamina, and also at just how mind-frazzlingly loud this little bell is. It pretty much sounds like my pager has been going off continuously for the past two hours. I am thinking of going out at lunch and offering her a $50 donation to move over outside Girltuesday's law office instead... where they have the big indemnifying sidewalk signs that say "DANGER: FALLING ICE - PASS AT YOUR OWN RISK" (just like a bunch of lawyers, huh?)

Oh, she stopped for a moment! But is was just to switch hands... aieeee... my head...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Convenient, Affordable, and Eco-Friendly?

When I lived in Manhattan I took great pleasure in riding public transportation. I particularly liked express subway trains, which could whip me 50 blocks uptown from the Port Authority bus depot to my then-girlfriend's apartment in less than ten minutes, or from the apartment to my job in Bronx in 15.

So one thing I've felt increasingly guilty about, lately, is that I'd never tried the Smallish City public transport system (consisting of buses), even after six years of living here. This isn't unusual-- many friends who also have lived right in the city for multiple years can't remember ever being on a city bus either.

The city transit system boasts the motto "Convenient, Affordable, and Eco-Friendly!" Periodically this tug at my sensibilities has nudged me to check if there was some way the bus system could be useful to me, but it never quite seemed helpful. But with my recent move to the new office, I thought perhaps the time had come. I live in one of the two major in-town residential neighborhoods. My office is in the major business area. There is a city bus that stops right at my driveway, and I had seen a bus with the same number going right by my office.

I logged on to the city's transport website and tried for some while to make sense of the map and timetable for the #8 bus. It isn't easy. The map is an arcane mess, the route zigged, zagged and looped with one-way arrows pointing hither and thither, the timetable seemed to imply different routes coming and going, and to top it off there is also a mysterious, alternate "#8A" route (dotted line) for which no information at all was provided.

I called the transport department, hoping for some clarification, but no one seemed quite sure. Ultimately I figured the only way to discover where the bus actually goes was to get on it. So yesterday morning, running early for work and sore from skiing, I decided to do just that.

I'm sorry to report that the experiment was not encouraging. The good news: the bus indeed picked me up in front of my house and dropped me in front of my office, for $1.25. The bad news: everything else. Convenient? Dubious. The true route turned out to be even more serpentine than the map, to which it bore little relation. After ten minutes of riding, we had driven ten blocks but were still only two blocks away from the Turbopalace. Passenger stops tended to be agonizingly long, due to the need to deploy various ramps or pneumatic lowering mechanisms for persons with walkers or other disabilities-- even then, these people had difficulty getting on and off. Then at one point a boarding passenger shoved a handful of coins into the till, causing it to jam-- the driver pulled over, parked the bus, and got out a tool kit to work on the mechanism. In the end, it took 22 minutes to travel the 0.9 miles to downtown-- about 2.5mph.

Affordable? Also questionable. Through a subsidized city program, I could probably park my car in a downtown garage for less than the $2.50 it would cost me to ride the bus to work and back. Eco-friendly? Again, I am skeptical. Even at 8am on a Monday morning, there were only five people on the huge bus. The route was so circuitous, and the bus probably so grossly oversized, that I'm sure it would've used less fossil fuel if each of us had simply driven our own small cars straight from home to work. Also, as we lumbered along we frequently blocked car traffic behind us, slowing down the general efficiency and gas milage of everyone on the road. (I should also note that, although the buses apparently use clean-burning natural gas for propulsion, their engines make an incredible racket on the street-- whereas I remember the electric buses of Major Metropolitan Area, powered by overhead cables, are virtually silent.)

By coincidence, the local alternative newspaper ran a short article this week about the bus system. The author reported that "a ride on the Metro can be confusing, smelly, and long, but occasionally you luck out and find a clean seat next to a fragrance-free passenger." He further noted that "Metro’s current ridership appears to consist of schoolchildren, the disabled, and people who can’t or don’t want to afford cars, with a smattering of people whose presence looks court-mandated." This is right on, and unfortunate.

Here are my suggestions for improvement:
1) Run speciality vans, properly outfitted, to transport people with significant disabilities door-to-door as needed (this should be a free service, in a civilized country.)
2) Streamline the routes of the in-town buses such that average, car-owning people might actually choose to take the bus instead of drive.
3) Publish accurate maps that a person without a PdD in cartography can make sense of.
4) Buy smaller buses.
5) Why can't we have electric buses?
6) Build a subway system.

Until then, I feel lucky that I can stick to walking. If I break a leg skiing, I will have to revisit the bus.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Speaking Of Which,

That reminds me it's time for a new edition of "Shrink Or Fade Impressions Of Smallish City Holiday Lights." (See first edition here; several exciting color-scheme changes have been made to the lights since then.) Please note that these interpretations of the Holiday Lights represent only the views of this writer and his strangely affected imagination, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Smallish City City Council, Public Works Department, or contracted artists.


My old office was in a basement.  This is the view from my new office.  Nice, no?

Mama, The Canadians Are Coming!

Ooh!  On my walk to work this morning, listening to Canadian folk singers on the iPod, I noticed a poster indicating that one of the best of them will be playing here in a couple weeks-- just two blocks from the Turbopalace!  How exciting!  I feel like the kid in Breaking Away when he learns his heroes from the Italian cycling team are coming to town.  I hope Garnet doesn't poke a stick in my spokes like the Italians did to the kid.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My First Time

Last June I traded my 58-mile commute for a five-mile commute.  Yesterday I traded the five-mile commute for a one-mile commute.

In the past I've had jobs I could bike to, or ride the subway to, or take a bus to.  But today was the first time I could reasonable walk to work.  That's just what I did, and it was fabulous.  I bundled up in my scarf, tuque, gloves and boots, and took along a travel mug of hot tea.  I stepped out the front door into a pleasant 25 degrees with snowflakes swirling out of the sky.  I walked down the driveway, past my ice-encrusted car, waving to neighbors who were undertaking the scraping ritual.  "Poor souls," I thought to myself.  I turned the corner, passed 9's vet's office, and the commute had begun.

Every now and then I paused for a sip of tea, or to read a notice on a lamppost, or to glance for a view of the harbor.  But mostly I just plodded along through the snow, thinking about the patients coming today, and before I knew it I was at the office.  Fantastic!

This form of commuting will be environmentally friendly, but not necessarily free of charge.  I figure that with 10+ miles a week of extra walking I could easily wear out my Sorels ($99.95) in two winters, not to mention summer shoes.  For when the real sidewalk ice develops next month, I plan to get a pair of Stabilicers ($49.95) (made in Smallish State!).  Those might last two years.  Then for rainy days I will surely need a big umbrella ($30?), and I'll probably go through at least two of those in a year.  Then various extra expenses: socks, hats that blow into traffic, etc.  So, doing quick math, if I walk to work every day, that's 150 miles per year... and comes out to about $1 per mile.  Which is considerably more expensive than driving to work.

And that's even before I buy two of these.

But, there are intangibles to consider, and I think on the balance it will be worthwhile.