Monday, May 31, 2004


The family and I went to the Northwest Folklife Festival yesterday. I'd like to tell you all about it, but I don't know what to say. It was great. There's so much I could write about, but I don't want to do that much work. I want to sit and read comic books. Instead I must bend to this self imposed obligation to try and make interesting comments about my life. Oh, that I could just write "nyah, nyah, I had fun yesterday" and be done with it. But, no. Conscience demands that I give you details. That I explain about the four day music festival that is put on each year by Northwest Folklife. Or tell you of the suppressed passion to buy musical instruments that I can't nor will ever learn how to play. Or report how I became more of a hippy by buying a hemp wallet, only to have my silly self lament when I later encountered a vendor selling duct tape wallets. Or recount... well, you get the idea. It's all so purposeless. Who really cares if I managed to avoid the plethora of ethnic foodstuffs to dine on a corndog and a hamburger? If I report that the band Cobblestone sang the traditional Irish song "Danny-Boy" to the tune of "The Banana Boat Song", would you feel the same amusement of those of us who actually heard it? Could expressing my torn feelings over Balkanarama's new guitarist--that he and the band still sound great, but my wife thinks he's "hot"--soothe my tormented soul? No. 'Tis but a vanity. A chasing after the wind--or the electrons, as the case may be. I won't waste my time with such frivolity. But I will tell you that the Toucans are as fun as ever and have a new CD out.

Friday, May 28, 2004


It's 1:30 am, and I'm too wired to even bother to sleep. I went to catch a band tonight. Eva Moon was playing a late show at the Central Saloon, so I bopped by on my way to work. Eva, of course, is the lead singer for Balkanarama. I love their stuff, so when Eva started this side project... Wait, maybe this is the main project and Balkanarama is just part of the journey. I don't know. I didn't ask. All I know is that I wanted to see this act and I finally got my chance.

I haven't been to a club to see a band in over a decade. The last time, I think, is when Noodles and I went to see The Rainmakers in Chicago. No, wait, we did see the Bodeans in Seattle. That was the same night I had my first experience with crime. But that's another tale. Anyway, it was great. For me, that is. I'm not so sure about the band. I got to the club about quarter 'til midnight. There was a nice crowd milling about Pioneer Square, but the Central Saloon was kind of empty. There was some other band, whose name I didn't catch, on the bill as well and they were clearing out there stuff. Good for me, but since Eva's band was scheduled to go on at 11:30, not so good for them. People drifted away as they set up and by the time they started there was pretty much just me and the entourage of the other band hanging out by the stage area. By the end of the set, there was about three up front and maybe a dozen folks hanging out by the bar. I got the impression that it wasn't the greatest night of Eva's life.

That's too bad, because I really enjoyed the show. The performance was great--every member of the group come across as solid musicians. (Like I know such things. Okay, at least I know a bad performance when I see it and tonight I didn't see it.) I don't know how to label the style--kind of jazzy, maybe? To me, it seemed like the keyboards and saxophone dominated the sound. None of the songs moved incredibly fast but they all had a solid beat. Of course, what really overshadowed it all was Eva's voice and lyrics. It is to die for. When she cuts loose, her voice just fills the space. And the lyrics were witty and/or soulful. The humorous tunes were not quite the sharp barbs of Tom Lehrer, but the kept me chuckling. I'm jealous of the way she's been able to craft the words to not only pull off joke after joke but also to weave together a world in a single song. The only drawback is that much of her material is, as the CD blurb says, grown-up pop. I don't know if I want to let my little ones listen to it. (I really, really do not want to have to explain "Dinosaur of Love" to Bunnah.) They're such big Balkanarama fans that they'll probably hate me for not sharing Eva Moon with them. But hopefully, when they're old enough, they'll realize it was worth the wait.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Weekend Update 

I know, these are supposed to be done on the weekend. Cut me some slack, willya? I didn't want to let the events pass without comment, but I've been busy.

The serious event came Saturday. I came home from a shift of overtime to find out that a friends of ours, Hiker, has leukemia... again. He was diagnosed with the disease many months ago and has gone through chemo hell and a bone marrow transplant. Everything was looking good, until that damned disease showed up again. The pessimistic view is that he has three to six months to live. (The optimistic view, of course, is miraculous healing.) When Noodles talked to them, he seemed to be handling things well. His wife, on the other hand, was devastated. They've only been married about 4 years, with a three year old son. It's not supposed to work this way, God! (Yeah, I know, You know what you're doing.)

On Sunday, to my surprise, Ricky blew us off. Noodles saw him Saturday--she was teaching her ESL, he was (I assume) visiting the Spanish speaking Seventh Day Adventist congregation. She said that he was walking around with a broom. So I don't know if he earned the bucks he needed for the weekend, or if he figured he's exausted our generosity, or what the deal is. Anyway, I felt a slight twinge of guilty relief. I think I have a mild case of panhandlaphobia.

Then to end off the weekend, Noodles told me that the power in our house has been flickering on and off for a few days previously. I only mention this because we eventually contacted Seattle City Light and they are all over it. I wasn't expecting such great service. Something's gotta be wrong....

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Light is sloppy 

Yes, light is sloppy. I just spent a good portion of my evening making Photoshop masks and color correcting product shots. All sorts of shadows and casts to contend with as I attempted to make one shot resemble another. What kind of society do we live in, that we must worry about such things?

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Review: George Washington: A Life by Willard Sterne Randall 

My latest reading plan is to read my way through U. S. history by reading biographies of the country's presidents. The idea had its genesis years ago when I read a book called Star-Spangled Men,which presented the lives and administrations of the ten worst presidents in U.S. history. As I read the biographies it contained, I also enjoyed reading about unfamiliar eras of history. More recently, I was reading a time travel tale, The Hellfire Rebellion , set in 1865 Boston. I remembered my idea and since I was finishing up my perusal of the Time Wars series, I figured I should finally embark on this long inactive plan. (I know, it's not very politically correct to go reading up on rich white guys, but I've already read Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States. Besides, rich white guys are people as well and their biographies are more easily obtained.) So anyway, I have started with the big kahuna himself, the father of our country, George Washington. When I picked up this book, I didn't know whether to expect a paean to an American demigod or an expose on the shortcomings of the rich and famous. Mr. Randall did a good job of keeping the middle ground. I really got a good impression of Washington as a human being, not just some guy who sprung from the Earth full grown in military uniform and spent all his time chopping down cherry trees and posing for paintings.

My first reaction to the book, as Mr. Randall started recounting George Washington's ancestry, was "Gee, maybe I should have started with some British or colonial history." Of course, following that road would just keep sending me back further and further back to the history of ancient Egypt. So I stuck to my guns and let Mr. Randall guide me through Washington's ancestry and life. Since I was never much interested in the colonial era, it was a voyage of discovery for me. Washington was presented as a real man, doing things like learning a trade, struggling with financial matters and dancing with the ladies. And despite his presented shortcomings, Washington also came across as a noble man. I think I would vote for him without hesitation. Not something I often do. Regarding the milieu of his life, I also enjoyed learning more about the history of the mideastern states. I was a bit surprised, having my preconceptions shattered as I read of the vast wilderness of western Virginia and the Ohio Valley. It blew my mind to think that Washington saw the site of Pittsburgh--always a big industrial city in my mind--back when it was simply a river junction out in the woods.

But as much as reading George Washington: A Life was a voyage of discovery, it also was a voyage of contemplation. As I was reading about Washington's life and times and the birth of my country, my thoughts were pulled to consider how they compared with our world today. I already alluded to the point that Washington comes across as far more noble than today's politicians. (And there is no doubt that Washington, too, was a politician.) It was also surprising that modern America seemed a lot more like the Great Britain of that era than its nascent self. As our modern government seeks to exercise more control over its people and other countries, I hope some our leaders learn the lesson of history. Britain's attempt to manage her colonies led to their exploitation and treatment of the colonists as second class citizens. In turn, that led those colonists to revolt and break away from their mother country. The founding fathers set a dangerous example and a good warning for our generation.

All in all, I found George Washington: A Life to be quite enjoyable and informative. Mr. Randall does an excellent job of cataloguing Washington's life, though the material on his military career during the Revolution and the French and Indian War is slightly more predominate. The only drawback from my perspective is that he didn't give a full account of the events happening outside of Washington's direct experience. But it isn't a general history book, after all. Besides, I'll be getting more of that as I read the biographies of Adams, Jefferson and the rest. I'll probably be sick of the Revolution by the time I get to Madison. Anyway, if I ever attempt to amass a collection of U.S. history books, I'll be sure to put George Washington: A Life on my shelf.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Gotta run... 

I was going to write a post tonight, honest. Right after work. But then Noodles called and asked me to come home right away. She wants to talk and stuff. So, sorry. Maybe tomorrow... if I don't want to rush out and get a vid.

Monday, May 17, 2004

I've found you! Kunta Kinte! 

My great-great-grandmother, however, is still playing coy and hiding her 1870 and 1930 wearabouts. Y'see, I took the day off from work today with a mind to go watch Bunnah's gymnastics class. (It's a parent thing.) Since her class wasn't 'til 6:30, however, I decided to spend the early part of the day at the National Archives to do some research in the census records. I mainly wanted to follow up on a census report I got via the wunnerful message boards at RootsWeb. (Okay, the boards are actually hosted at Ancestry.com, but I always access it through RootsWeb.) Based on the 1870 census listing, I speculated that the Hamburger clan moved to New York from Canada before 1860, so I wanted to find them in that census. I also hoped that g-g-grandma, who was 12 in 1870, might be living in the same area as g-g-grandpa. I figured that there wouldn't be too many 12 year old girls named Celestia living in Hastings township.

There weren't. In fact, there was only one Celestia--a grown woman. So instead of expanding my search to the whole on Oswego county, I decided to go looking for the g-g-grandparents in 1910, 1920, and 1930. (I had recently learned, in one of my various internet searches, that g-g-grandpa, Lewis, lived until 1930 and Celestia until 1942.) Finding them in 1920 was a breeze. the other two searches, however, were hampered by the fact that there is no index for the 1910 and 1930 records. I checked their 1920 residence in both censuses and of course, they weren't there. My mother's side of the family has been very practical and stayed put in Schaumburg, IL for over a century. The Hamburger clan, however, are a bunch of nomads. They do have the common courtesy to stay in Oswego and Onondaga counties, but every time a census rolls around, they're somewhere else. (Well, I guess Lewis and Celestia did eventually stop moving. ;-) ) Of course, I suppose I'm not one to talk--I'm hardly typing this from Scahumburg, IL. (By the by, my family is consistant in that the past four generations have been born along the I-90 corridor. Hamburger Grandpa was born in Syracuse, NY; Hamburger Dad in Chicago; I was born in Elgin, IL and Poodlepums was born here in Seattle. Each town has an exit ramp to I-90.)(This bit of trivia is provided free of charge.)

Another distressing thing that I discovered today is that my family is a bunch of liars! Until today, all I had for the great-great-grandparents was census records from 1880 and 1900. (The 1890 records were toasted so nobody's getting those.) Both state that Lewis and another g-g-grandfather, William, were born in Canada and Germany, respectively. Well, today I found the 1920 records for Lewis and the 1910 for William and in those they both claim to be native New Yorkers! Celestia is even weirder. In 1880, she was a native New Yorker whose parents originated in Canada. In 1900, her dad is still Canadian, but now her mom is a New Yorker. In 1920, both parents hail from New York! I figure either my kin tend to go senile as they age, or that the state of New York had managed to annex parts of Canada early in the 20th Century, or that my kin lie through their teeth. Knowing the Hamburger clan penchant for humor, I'd vote for the third choice.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

What do you want it for? 

Another Sunday, another visit from Ricky. I was prepared for him today, or at least I thought. I had packed my lunch, since there was a church council meeting after service, and I packed a second sandwich for him. I also brought along bus and meal tickets, in case he asked for those staples of street life. Of course, then he didn't show up... at least until mid-service. Quite noisily. He's apparently never learned the graces of middle-class church etiquette. The anarchist in me is delighted when such disruptions occur. My traditionalist persona is appalled. He wasn't so bad today--at least until he walked forward during the post-service announcements to hit the pastor up for cash. Today Ricky wanted to replenish his coffee supply. He only had need of a couple bucks, so I (foolishly?) once again took him over to the Red Apple to buy a new jar. Of course, he started perusing the sunglasses. (He was looking for reading glasses--something he does need.) When I steered him to the coffee aisle, he started looking at the larger cans of coffee. On another day I might have been inclined to buy that for him, but since he started with a request for the $3 jar, I kept him to that. He also started talking about buying cigarettes which is a line I won't cross again. Anyway, we then went back to church where he relieved me of the sandwhich and a bus ticket. He didn't stay for the council meeting. Pity. We've been looking for someone to serve as stewardship chairman.

I suppose I should put some serious thought as to how to guide this new relationship. I know playing cash machine doesn't do anyone any good. If I was a good evangelist, I would be worrying more about his spiritual well-being. Unfortunately, I'm not a good evangelist and when Ricky comes on like the force of nature he is, my attention is naturally caught up in the agenda he sets. Sometimes I wish I had all the money in the world and no inhibitions as to spending it. I'd love to see what he (or any other panhandler) would do if I put a thousand dollars in his hand. I'd like to think he wouldn't ask for $1001....

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Come out, come out, wherever you are! 

For no good reason, I added my site to the GeoURL ICBM Address Server. It allows you to locate the geographical location of a registered website, as well as other sites that are located in the area. My initial interest was to see what other websites were in my neighborhood. Then I became more obsessed with dinking with my blog template. In the process I endeavored to find the exact ICBM Address of my home. Of course, I thought better of it. Why tell the world my exact address--especially when I might start blogging about upcoming vacations or weekend jaunts? So I settled for the generic co-ordinates of my zip code. (I realize that a determined soul could possibly sniff out my trail on the internet and piece together this information. But anyone who did that would also realize how old and cheap my thievable junk is.) Anyhoo, if you look at the bottom of the page here, you'll find yet one more distraction available for you. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Review: The Complete Peanuts 

The Complete Peanuts:1950 to 1952 by Charles M. Schulz
How does one review a bunch of comics? I mean, sure, an individual comic strip can strike home with a serious, profound thought, or even get one's mind speculating on deep issues. But it's rare for a comic strip to delve into any prolonged analysis of an issue. Each day's strip needs to deliver its standalone message in the limited number of panels it's given. So my review of the content of The Complete Peanuts--a complete collection of Charles Schulz's iconic strip--is simple: it's funny. However, there's more to this book than just the strips. For one thing, this series is created for the hard core fan of Peanuts. The book has an index, for crying out loud! Only a true comics geek needs one of those. Also, the Peanuts of 1950-1952 is a far cry from the icons we know today. Snoopy behaves like a dog, Charlie Brown is a wise-cracking trickster and Linus' blanket is nowhere to be seen. There are a few beloved concepts that show up in this collection, but for the most part it's completely different from what's running in the newspapers today. But hey, like I said, it's funny. I'm looking forward to reading future volumes to see the strip evolve and enjoy a slice of Americana from before my time. I probably wouldn't have bought the book for myself, but my wife is a fan, so it's going on my shelf.

Brother, can you spare a dime? 

Well, that homeless guy--let's call him Ricky--showed up at church again on Sunday. Once again we were challenged to welcome the needy stranger, the one who doesn't quite fit in. In theory, that shouldn't be a problem. A church should be overflowing with God's love for our neighbors--even (especially?) those who might be sleeping in our backyard. But of course, reality falls short of the ideal. Some of us are caught by surprise. Some might be brought face to face with our prejudices. It's uncomfortable. It's one of those times when we're reminded that Jesus wasn't joking when He spoke of picking up our cross and following Him.

For myself, dealing with homeless folks has become one of the burdens of living in Seattle. ... That sounds cold, doesn't it? I've learned that my compassion can get used up real quick. Anyway, when I was growing up in the Windy Suburbs, poverty was something that happened somewhere else. We'd gather up food for the poor folks in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and send it all off with a warm feeling. I didn't actually see Uptown until I was an adult. And even then I only passed through. When I started working and eventually moved into the city, it was in a middle/working class neighborhood. I encountered panhandlers downtown, but they never ventured over to my neighborhood. I could cheerfully give them some spare change and then forget them as I went about my business. Seattle, however, was different. There seemed to be a lot more panhandlers about in the downtown and waterfront areas. And even in the neighborhoods I lived in--ones I considered comparable to my old 'hood in Chicago--I would occasionally run into folks in front of stores or at bus stops who needed a bit of cash. I continued to give, but the novelty was fading. Then I started encountering the pros....

Actually, I think I first encountered a pro in Chicago, but I didn't have all that much money on me. My first in Seattle was a young woman who wove a good tale and took me for all the money I had in my wallet. 'Twas only 20 or 30 bucks. Anyway, when she tried to talk me into getting some more bucks from the ATM, it dawned on me that I was being scammed. I sent her off, foolishly without asking her to return the money I already gave her. (Years later, I had the pleasure of hearing the exact same sob story from another woman. That time I managed to keep my money.) Another time, a man and a woman--Herman and Harriet--showed up at church looking for help. I must have given them a few bucks, but unlike times past, they came back for more. They were even clever enough to get ahold of my home address and phone number. That started a relationship that lasted a few years as I would hear from them from time to time. (Separately, that is. They seemed to have had a falling out with each other soon after visiting our church.)

Being treated like the Hamburger Savings and Loan bugged me at the time, but I really have to be thankful for the experience. It made me stop and think as to what I was doing when dealing with needy people and eventually it sent Noodles and I scurrying to the Union Gospel Mission for advice. Based on that, we eventually agreed with each other not to give out cash anymore, but rather try to give panhandlers the actual goods--groceries, bus fares, etc.-- they were trying to afford. I still wonder if that was the smart move or not. On one hand, I don't have to worry that I'm directly supporting someones drug habit, but on the other hand my plan is easily thwarted by folks who need to pay for expensive things like a month's rent or emergency transport out of state. I also end up sacrificing something I value as much as money--my time--as I go to the grocery store, laundromat or what have you to buy what's needed. It does give me a chance to treat these folks like people, but sometimes that's not a great thing.

So anyway, Ricky has now made a second visit to my "world". His personality is a bit forceful, but I kinda like the guy. He didn't show up with his bedroll this time, so I think he managed to find a place to stay. (Communicating with him is a major challenge. His English is limited and my Spanish class was a long time ago.) Of course, now he needs (reading?) glasses and a second pair of pants. I'm tempted to buy the former. If nothing else, it might call his bluff--assuming it is a bluff. For all I know, he may truly be interested in reading his Bible with them. And therein lies the dilemma. Is it worse to risk getting ripped off or to not help someone who truly needs it?

Saturday, May 08, 2004

The cure for what ails ya 

The family had a busy, somewhat frustrating day today so I invoked the universal cure--dining out. I think most people have some sort of comfort ritual--some drug that offers temporary release from the pressures of life. For us, dining out has become that security blanket. If I'm having a rough day at work, I forgo my prepared sandwich and head to some fast food joint. If Noodles appears to be stressed out, I offer to "cook" and we head to a restaurant. If the kids seem overwhelmed by pressure, I yell at them and tell them to grow up. Okay, the last one's a joke... sort of. They don't get the comfort dining but we do offer them a hug and whatever help they need. But anyway, I don't know exactly why it's become such a painkiller for us--besides the ease of not having to cook or wash dishes. I have noticed that it does offer a chance for Noodles and I to connect. At home there's all sorts of things at hand to do, so we usually do those things. At the restaurant, we chat as we wait for our food or linger over our Biggie-size sodas. I mean, it's either that or gawk at the other diners. Or maybe it's just the change of venue. An escape from the space in which we are currently suffering. Or, perhaps, it's a subconscious retreat to the days of childhood, when going to a restaurant was an event rather than a regular thing. I don't know. Whatever the cause, it does offer that brief moment of pleasure. And it's a heck of a lot cheaper than therapy.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

The least of these 

One thing that annoys me about weblogging is those times when you want to write about something that doesn't fit well into a brief log entry--be it a topic that's too minor or too complex. In this case, I'd like to write about a run in with a homeless guy today. Problem is, there's no good hook. I could write about how he disrupted the church service, but it wasn't really all that amusing. I could write about how people--others and myself--reacted negatively to him at church, the grocery store (where I bought him some groceries) and the bus stop. The problem is, it would be a pretty lame sermon. There was some prejudice involved, but the guy was hardly the most polite personality himself. Then I could try to write about sitting with him for a few minutes at the bus stop as he stopped hustling and tried to explain to me his take on life. The drawback there is that he spoke limted English very quickly and with a heavy accent. All I could understand really is that he has been working but when the money runs out, he once again has to put up with a lot of garbage. Ah, well. Perhaps some experiences aren't meant to be blog fodder.