UW and Public Records I

September 22, 2013

I will return to my own public records request following up on this posting re Hypenvironment.  But for now my own request, that was fulfilled within one business day, takes back seat to the remarkable settlement to (ex-, but is that lasting?) Assistant Professor Bichindaritz.   Much detail of this $720k settlement is available on her attorney’s web.

The key details are the exposure to the practices of UW as revealed in her pleadings to federal appellate court.  Of course I am citing a best-case (aka biased) account from her own attorneys.  But where is Provost Wise?  And what should we make of Academic HR at UW?

Most Notable Republican?

October 30, 2012

I should memorialize a remarkable letter I received from Mitt Romney, seeking a contribution of “$1,000, $2,500, $5,000, $10,000, $25,000, $50,000”, up to my “maximum personal contribution” limit of $75,800 for the “Romney Victory” team.  This will help spare the country from “crushing debt”.  This is not an economic plan for me for it would require $75,800 of new crushing personal debt.

Why didn’t I just recycle the letter from the go?

Dear Russell,

I am running for President of the United States and because you are one of America’s most notable Republicans, I want to personally let you know why.

Most notable Republican?


And for anybody confused by the $75,800 personal contribution limit?

Romney Victory, Inc., a joint fundraising committee authorized by and composed of Romney for President, Inc., the Republican National Committee, the Idaho Republican Party, the Massachusetts Republican State Congressional Committee, the Oklahoma Leadership Council, the Vermont Republican Federal Election Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the National Republican Congressional Committee.


Prime and Doubly Prime Ages

October 22, 2011

I am not a professional math guy, contrasted with my friend Ron.  I just dabble.  As an example to take the sting out of Big birthdays ending in Zero (most recently for me the Big-6-0), I prefer highlighting prime ages, of which I’ve had 16 so far and another four should be coming during my life expectancy.

My two friends Tracy and Michelle both turned 30 recently and I had the opportunity to explain the magic of 30:  29 and 31 are prime.  Two prime ages surrounding an age usually dreaded.  And this year I turned 60 having solace that 59 and 61 are prime.  It is tempting to imagine that this might happen for ages divisible by 30.  Alas 90 only works with 89.

Simple enough, but Tracy asked whether I had any prime ages in a prime year?  And so I went to work on that.  I have never turned a prime age in a prime year.  (My friend Ron points out this is self-evident because I was born in an odd year, thanks Ron!)  But I have been a prime age during three prime years (for me the magic window is January 1 through August 28):  age 41 in 1993, age 47 in 1999 and age 59 earlier this year 2011.  Won’t happen again in my lifetime.


September 30, 2011

In the past two weeks I’ve adopted a new piece of software for my Mac:  BreakTime, a product of ExcitedPixel:

“BreakTime is a simple utility that’s designed to help you remember to take breaks away from your computer. It never forgets a break, running in your dock and / or menu bar (or even in the background).”

“BreakTime actively monitors your keyboard and mouse usage to intelligently reschedule breaks when it thinks you’ve taken them. If it detects you’ve been away for a while, it will reschedule your break when you return. It’s almost magic.”

I have it set to let me work for 28 minutes and then a 2 minute break.  2 minutes is just enough time for me to do a trip around the building, including a couple of flights of stairs.

I like it!

Freshman Convocation

September 27, 2011

On Sunday morning I was a faculty marshal at Freshman Convocation.  I am totally smitten with academic tradition and rarely miss an opportunity to wear my cap and gown, but more importantly reflect on what we ought to be doing at an university.  These ceremonies help me remain focused on students and the remarkable experience that a college education ought to be.

Our job is quite simple.  The doors of the arena open at 9:30.  We occupy assigned positions, welcoming students, family and friends, working mostly on separating the students–who sit on the floor of the arena and in the first few rows–from family–who sit anywhere else.  At 10:15 we reassemble in the basement.  We are suppose to line up down a hallway, so that we can be counted and split into two groups that will enter from the two sides of the building, meeting in the center aisle and proceeding up to the stage.   This seems so simple anyone could do it.  But not the average faculty marshal.  I was at the head of the line and Kent Guy, a colleague from history, behind me.  That was it.  We had a delightful conversation around the herding of cats.  Eventually though they were herded.

The convocation follows the same pattern each year.  Introductory words from University Marshal Ron Moore, a welcome from the ASUW president, remarks from Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs Ed Taylor, some focus on faculty from the Provost (Interim Provost Designate Doug Wadden played this role), and then a speaker.  This year’s was our new President Michael Young.

During the processional, Young looked absolutely goofy for he marched in wearing his Harvard robes and a black cowboy hat.  In time the reason became clear for during  the course of his talk, which was in four parts, he wore four hats:  the cowboy hat for his childhood ambition and the influence of his mother pointing him in a different direction de-emphasizing horses and doing more reading, his Harvard four-sided “throw cushion with a string” while discussing education as preparation for life, a hard hat for using that education as a basis for work and life, and finally a Husky baseball cap–we are all Huskies now.  It was entertaining, I give it a 75/100.   (Tom Daniel’s talk last year remains at the top of my list.)

The coming rain held off just long enough for me to walk back across campus.

Non-Stop Fourth

July 4, 2011

Tobae, Luna and I began today by visiting one of our family classic hikes, Dickerman Mountain.  (A pet peeve:  it is Dickerman Mountain, not Mount Dickerman…).  For many years this was our traditional Mother’s Day Hike, always encountering snow at about 4000′.  The trail gains 3800′ from the 1900′ trailhead, and so there were always four ~1000′ M&M stops for Daniel and Mark when they were little.  In the days of analog cell phones, we would call Tobae’s mother and my mother from the summit.  Not possible anymore, that’s progress?  Eventually Dickerman Mountain was supplanted by Mother’s Day skis of Mt. St. Helens south flank, but there are still one or more ascents of Dickerman each year, with the trailhead just a hour from the house and none of the traffic hassles of North Cascades, Stevens or Snoqualmie.

With the immense snow pack this year, the conditions seemed perhaps a week post Mother’s Day in a normal year, snow level a bit higher (making the crux, crossing the creek at 4100′, much more sporty with a snow bridge weakening daily).   My knees are not the best (but much better than 10 years ago), so Tobae, the Energizer Honey, and Luna separated from me at 3400′.  And I eventually stopped for lunch and turned around shortly after the snow bridge crossing.   Tobae and Luna of course summitted and had caught back up with me not too far above the trailhead.  It was a gorgeous day and we all had a great time.

Arriving home at 5:30, we got unpacked, and I scanned Facebook.  What a vicarious thrill:  Tyler Farrar won Stage 3 of Tour de France.  30 years ago when I met Tobae, her housemates were Tyler’s parents Ed and Cindy Farrar, and while we don’t see them often, they are dear friends.  A huge thrill.  I’ve been remiss in getting the Tour recorded, but that is now fixed.

But we will watch it later.  Our official summer drink, Mint Juleps, are ready.  It is more comfortable outside.  Potatoes are in the oven, salads are made, and so out to the deck.  I’ll get the steaks going in awhile.

Canadian Coca-Cola

April 3, 2011

I made a discovery yesterday:  Canadian Coca-Cola is different from the US version.  A bit of web searching revealed that this is not new information, for example this article.

The can on the left is Canadian Coca-Cola, the one on the right is from the US

Same size, 355 mL, but in Canada sweeter with 160 calories versus 140.  The “Nutrition Facts” labeling (“Valeur nutritive”) reports 42 grams of sugars per can in Canada and 39 grams in the US. Oddly 8% more sugar yields 14% more calories?  Or equivalently 3.8 calories per gram in Canada versus 3.6 calories per gram in the US?  I’m skeptical…

Happy Birthday Luna!

March 6, 2011

One of my earliest posts spoke to our coming loss of Boomer.  We put her down a few days later, September 12, 2009.

Our plans around my sabbatical in Winter 2010 suggested to us that we should wait for our next dog.  And so we did.  But in late spring we welcomed Luna, a nine-week old yellow lab, into the family.  At midnight, Luna turns one.  And when last weighed is now 61 pounds of energy.

Luna is a sweet, sleek, athletic yellow lab.  Tobae hadn’t had a puppy before, but I had, and all other things equally she has been an excellent pup (this is a gentle way of saying Tobae has sometimes been pretty chagrined with her behavior).   She has become an accomplished mountain dog, especially fond of snow.  For students of genetics of yellow labs she has a pink nose, but is not a “Dudley”.  (And Tobae, *stop* calling her Pinky.)

Some highlights of her first year:

Visiting the “family mountain” Dickerman Mountain (a traditional Mother’s Day hike, except for our two years skiing Mount St. Helens)

With her pooper scooper, July 4 weekend at Whistler:

Along the trail to Gothic Basin in Summer 2010 (on a trip to begin to spread Boomer’s ashes in the mountains she loved):

Our “white trash” fortifications to prevent her from getting onto the roof and chewing up the roof jacks:

Video of her backcountry ski trip with Tobae, Sean and Sean’s dog Amico.  Tobae is holding the dogs up, Sean has skied down to take video.  (Whenever we play the video, Luna perks up when she hears Sean’s voice)

The low light of the year was son Mark, Facebook employee, insisting that a dog cannot have a Facebook account.  But as I read the terms of service, she will be eligible as soon as she is 13 (dog years!).  I really don’t care that dogs don’t fit the Facebook business model.

[Update, 3/7, 5:45 pm.  A Facebook page for a dog (not a profile!) courtesy of son Mark…]

Tobae is coming to see that Luna is “The Best Dog in the World”!

Wine Country II

February 21, 2011

I don’t plan to totally recreate the ensuing years of winery tastings, visits and tours.  Some will appear in time.  For now just last Friday (which will contain some historical threads).

Son Daniel was due at Oakland International at noon, but his plane was delayed by suspension of flight operations with President Obama’s arrival to visit Intel in Hillsboro, Oregon and so we were running about a hour late.  But the essence of the afternoon was just two stops, the first on the Silverado Trail at Paraduxx and the second in downtown Napa at Vintners Collective.

Paraduxx is one of the Duckhorn owned wineries.  My oenophile colleague John Baross knows Dan Duckhorn, who established Merlot in Napa Valley.  For many years it was a by (rare) appointment visit, but perhaps a decade ago they built at wonderful tasting facility and I started to visit.  About the same time Paraduxx was created as to not dilute the brand when experimental wine making was started after the company purchased a vineyard of Zinfandel on Rector Creek (just to the north of Stags Leap District and south of Mumm Napa).

My first visit to Paraduxx was on a AGU Week (aka mid December) Friday, the scouting tour for the next year “lab group” wine trip.  About five years ago, it was a beautiful (for a Seattleite) afternoon and all three tasting room staff were amazed that I chose to sit on the deck in the lows 50s.  I was the only one tasting anywhere indoors or out.  I very much like the tasting for it offers a vertical of Paraduxx (~2/3 Zin ~1/3 Cab Sauv; a “Californian Super Tuscan”) with three vintages capped by the most recent release and one more wine (more on this), served with crackers and two cheeses.  Riedel O “stem”ware.  Served together so you can  go back and forth among the wines.  My server/host, Dan, was a retired local and as we conversed I learned that I “knew” his grandfather, who was the caretaker of the Vallejo watershed north of my parents:  “you boys get out of here” was often heard as we went hiking in the hills.

Tobae, Daniel and I arrived late for our appointment (not a big deal on winter weekdays, but do visit the web site and reserve in advance at busy times of year).  My first server/host Dan was again our server host!  We three shared the current “essentials” and “enhanced” tastings.  The components had changed since my last visits in December 2010 as the 2008 releases were out.

First Course: Parajaxx White Blend 09 (very good at the price point, Viognier based, shipped a case home)

Essentials: Parajaxx Red 08 (Zin and Cab Franc) and 06, 07, 08 Paraduxx.  The Parajaxx was good but not the best wine we tasted.  The Paraduxx 06 is bland and I will be glad to see it go.  Tobae liked it; Daniel has a fine palette like mine! 07 is shaping up just fine.  08 shows lots of promise.

Enchanced: Anchored by Paraduxx 08 with Postmark (Paraduxx single vineyard blends) 08 from Rector and Howell Mountain Vineyards.  The Rector was a wonderful wine, but the price point way too high.  None of us thought the Howell Mountain stood up (particularly painful for me as I love the fundamentals of Howell Mountain zin fruit).  A new blend (60 cab sauv,  40 zin) called Reflection did nothing for us; my suggestion to Paraduxx: don’t repeat in this direction.  Canvasback (Syrah based) is out of the box for Paraduxx: a good wine but many better values in Syrah world.

Extended Tasting: We greatly appreciate Dan serving us  Goldeneye (the third Duckhorn company) Pinot Noir .  But even more appreciated was a Goldeneye unreleased wine with heavy smoke from the 2008 Mendocino forest fires.  The nose was campfire, but I can imagine many food courses going very well.  Very much enjoyed this quite unusual wine.

This is one of the best tastings I know in Napa Valley, a rare opportunity to really explore vintage and terroir.  Like all tastings in Napa Valley, these are wine restaurants drawing profit from the tasting fee…only buy wine you like at realistic price points.

Thanks Dan!


Then to my anchor favorite, Vintners Collective in downtown Napa.  If I am remembering correctly, the same day I first visited Paraduxx, I visited Miner Family (worth visiting).  As is my custom I find new places by asking “where should I go next”.  This is often tainted by formal marketing agreements or my friend works there, but my server at Miner was befuddled.  He asked a “regular” next to me, who after an interesting train of whispers from wife, armed me with his business card with instructions to head to Vintners Collective.

Vintners Collective is the tasting room for 18 small production wineries in Napa Valley.  Following my instructions, I presented the business card.  Andy said, “Any friend of Mel (thanks Mel!) is a friend of ours.”  This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  There are perhaps 100 wines of which 15-20 will be open.  If you are clear about what you would like to taste, you are set.  My find that first trip D3: fantastic zins.  And many others since.

Tobae and my tastes don’t always match perfectly and so she was in charge.  (Oh well, maybe I was a touch overbearing?).  But our stated goal was to to choose two wines: one for pork chops my mom was cooking for that night and the other for lasagne I would cook the next evening.  How many tastings rooms serve wines catered to specific food pairings?

Ancien Pinot Noir Russian River.  Tobae was pleased to learn we have a case of varied Ancien Pinots that I bought in December, but not right for these dinners.

D3 Napa Valley Zin:  I liked; Tobae was not as keen.  She is a big fan of D3 Primitivo from earlier vintages but there will not be an 07 release?  In my view, the price point is quite good.  I’m looking forward to tasting other 07’s from D3.

Showket Sangiovese:  Not a big grape in Napa Valley, but this one is quite good.  Last vintage; the Showkets have stopped production.

Showket Asante Sana: Swahili: “Thank you very much”.  Super Tuscan.  Tobae prefers the Sangiovese, I prefer this wine.  With its name, it is an excellent choice when walking in a door.

Richard Perry 06 Syrah: Not to Tobae’s taste, but very good to my palate.  I think we have an ’05 which I need to find and Tobae and I will taste and make a decision on the discount on the last of that vintage.

Buoncristiani 2007 “O.P.C.”; a very good blend. But we have access to allotment of Quilceda Creek red table at a much better price point.  Enough said.

Lamborn Family “Frosty” Zinfindel.  I tasted in December, and Andy opened a bottle for us.  Outstanding: clean fruit forward, just excellent, a top flight Zin.  Heidi B. is the winemaker.  Have to consider more.

Our choices (which were great): Lamborn with pork chops and Showket Sangiovese with lasagne.

Thanks again Andy and Nick for your excellent hospitality Friday.  And thanks Andy for your enduring friendship.  *Any* visit to Napa Valley needs to include Vintners Collective.

Wine Country I

February 21, 2011

My life with wine started in college:  a case of Strawberry Hill was less than $12.

More seriously, through my quasi-grad student status in Environmental Engineering Science at Caltech as an undergrad, I had the opportunity after my 21st birthday, my senior year, to join the bar/wine team at the Athenaeum, its faculty club.  This was a grand opportunity.  I made drinks for Nobel Laureates, I learned that a bar stocked for British Historians needed to be differently stocked than one for Historians from Britain, and I can still make an excellent Manhattan.  And I learned that the Athenaeum “Cellar Committee” knew its stuff.

Especially good were the days when I was the Wine Steward in the Dining Room in the evening.  There were a number of single faculty members who always ate alone and ordered a bottle of wine.  Each intended to return to work and the steward “inherited” the remainders.  At this time Napa Valley was just coming onto to the world wine map and big names were Beaulieu, Louis Martini, Mirassou, and Charles Krug.  I learned a tremendous amount about the pleasures of fine wine.  All became reinforced by my family’s home being a short drive from Napa.  (Still is: Mom and Dad live there and we (pre-)celebrated Dad’s 90th birthday on Saturday.)