Bird by bird

A diagram to illustrate the calculation of Vol...

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This is the name of a book by Anne Lamott, which I would really recommend reading.  I would loan you my copy, if I could find it, but I think it’s in one of the boxes in the garage.  You’ll be the first to know when I find it, I promise.  The sad thing is that I have given up taking my poor books out of their boxes and putting them on bookshelves.  We have empty shelf space but my reasoning, specious though it is, is that the next time we move, which should be by the end of June or July, I’ll just have to put them back into new boxes, the old boxes having deteriorated with time and moisture.

Anyway, bird by bird it is.  Sometimes, an idea or image is so strong that it flows (or should I say flies)  into other parts of my life.  Take my house.  Please.  I spend a lot of time cleaning and even more time thinking about cleaning.  I know, if I could just take all that time and simply clean, I would probably be better off, but I don’t want to.  I am always looking for that one perfect system of housecleaning.  So how do I clean my house?  Bird by bird.  Scrap by scrap.  Inch by inch.

Here are my favorite zone techniques for cleaning:

  • the zone defense–pick a room, start cleaning
  • temporal zone–hate cleaning? set the timer, clean for half an hour and then do something you want to do
  • numerical zone–combines my love of numbers and the zone–go into a room, get rid of or put away x number of things, then move on–or, ask yourself, how many things would you have to put away before you would let other people see this room?
  • alternate stimuli–this is my absolute favorite.  It combines a temporal limitation with listening to music.  I put my music on, I clean the house.  When the album is done, so am I.   This works best when Skip and Tad are not at home.  Hope the neighbors like the music.

Now, my bit of good news is that I used a combination of these techniques (numbers + music) to declutter the downstairs family room.  Everyone goes there–no one picks it up.  It’s easier when no one is around.  I put the music on, I asked myself how many things would I have to put away before I would let other people see this room.  Result–a clean family room, at least 100 things (papers sorted, laundry folded), and something about the plain vinyl wallpaper makes me wonder if anyone outside of our family will ever see this room.  We didn’t choose the paper!  We don’t have a lease!  We can’t fix it!

The only other thing I think I need to do is to vacuum and dust–but now that all those surfaces are available, it will be so easy!

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The Daily Mess: how to make the bed

Bed made with white bed linen. Four fluffy pil...

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Monday is Floor Day in the Tracer household.  I should be vacuuming the carpet and sweeping the wood floor in preparation for weekly mopping.  I’ll get to it, but first I have to take this lid out of my back pocket–a lid, like the kind you find on food storage containers, which I found in my son’s closet, sans (or is it sine) container, and thankfully, also sine ancient food.

I picked the junk up off my son’s floor, which has been looking much better this past week.  I turned to the bed and realized that he still hasn’t made it.  I’ve been after him to do this for a week and last night he said he had, but for him, that seems to only involve putting the bottom sheet on and not the top sheet.  I did change his pillowcase for him but when he gets home tonight, I am going to ask again if he has made the bed and then stop whatever I am doing to go see if he has finished it.  

Making the bed:

  1. take off old sheets
  2. put old sheets in hamper
  3. take off old pillowcase
  4. put old pillowcase in hamper
  5. put on new sheets–top and bottom.  Bottom sheet is fitted–has elastic
  6. put new pillow case on pillow
  7. put pillow at head of bead
  8. arrange coverlet neatly over sheets on bed

Steps 1-6 are for changing the bed clothing, so really, Tad, you only have to do steps 7-8 everyday. 

I always wonder

  • why I don’t do other things with my time, aside from garner continuing education credits like a squirrel gathering nuts–I really wish I could find a part time job that would take me away from the Daily Mess
  • why the entry way to our house is such a disaster area
  • why there are all of these stacks of papers lying around
  • why doesn’t someone do something about all this?

All right, back to the mess.  Time someone took care of things.

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Don’t look in the closet

A hundred-year-old closet.

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You never know what you’ll find.  I opened the door to the linen closet door and found sheets that I know I never bought.  To be truthful, I think they might be covers for quilts or duvet.  I know that strangers are not coming into my house and dropping off sheets.  Either it belonged to the previous resident of the house or it was given to us by our Italian friends who have since moved back to Milan.  Ciao, Chiara!

My bathroom does not have a medicine cabinet–fine–or a drawer, so I use one shelf of the linen closet for items that would normally be in that cabinet.  I’m doing well on sunscreen (all the way from SPF 50 to 100+) although I find myself wondering if it has  an expiration date.  The good news is that I’m good for shampoo and conditioner until we move and I also found a stash of hotel soap that I am going to donate to the tent city at Maple Leaf Lutheran Church in Seattle.  It may not actually go there.  I’ll take the soap to my church and they will help it go to where the need is greatest.

I’ll tell you why I am on this latest cleaning kick.  I’m always cleaning and trying to declutter the Tracer homestead.  Whatever helps me to get the wind in my sails, and this time it was that Tad lost a book.  The sad thing is that whenever one of us loses anything–and I’m always losing things, important things like car keys, my wallet, the checkbook–they have to dive through stacks of stuff to find it.  He had the book in his room on Tuesday night.  Gone without a trace last night.  His room is really messy, but the rest of the house isn’t much better.   I’ve told you Tracer’s Law–once an object in motion has come to a rest, it belongs in that space permanently.

What we have are a lot of things residing permanently in spaces where they don’t belong, which means that I can’t reach the places where they do belong.  For example, Skip and Tad are fond of starting plants, so we have many, many pots for starting our plants, some which we bought, some left over from previous years’ plants.  In between growing seasons, I can’t find anywhere to put the pots because the logical place for them is in a gardening shed, which we don’t have or in a corner of the garage, which is jammed full of boxes.  I could pole vault my way into the corner, but I’d never get out again.

Anyway, I am looking at our house like someone else might, if they walked in the door for the first time, and I can see what a mess it is.  I have nowhere to put this stuff.  Time to throw down the gauntlet.  It’s either find a place for the junk or toss it (or recycle or donate)–whatever gets the job done.

PS–you can look in the closet now.  It’s nice!

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Missing–one large bear

Three Christmas ornaments

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Missing–one large bear and Christmas ornaments–presumed lost in move from Alaska to Seattle in June 2009.  If found, please contact writer of this blog.

In June, 2009, I moved from Alaska to Seattle.  My house didn’t sell right away–the house itself didn’t sell until June of 2010.  The house itself was fine, sturdy, well built, energy efficient.

The problem was us.  First, our furniture was ugly.  It was an eclectic mixture of discount and old family furniture as well as a few pieces that…oh well, best to describe them, isn’t it?  I had an old steamer trunk that my parents had given me in high school.  I didn’t have room for it until I finished graduate school.  It needed to be refinished when they gave it to me, but I hated it.  I can remember sanding the wood work and being corrected by my father about the right way to sand something.  He wasn’t the most gentle individual in his corrections and I didn’t pick up sandpaper for years after that.

So, there’s the steamer trunk and the treadmill.  Skip was still working and he found it hard to go to the gym after work so he bought a treadmill.  I guess most people put theirs in the basement.  Skip put it right into the middle of the dining room, which was sandwiched between the kitchen and the living room, so you had to walk past the treadmill on your way to the kitchen for breakfast.  It worked for Skip when he was batching it.

Then there was Skip’s home office, which took over our master bedroom.  I think with longing of the home office delicately tucked into a nook under the stairwell.  Not ours.  We had to have a giant computer, a printer/scanner/fax machine, office supplies, business folders, journals, DVD teaching sets which overwhelmed the space.  As I look at my living room, I see that not much has changed. 

I went up to Alaska in March 2009 to work on the house and got trapped up there the week that the volcano blew.  I packed everything I could find, leaving some things for Skip.  I was scheduled to leave on a Friday morning and didn’t make it out until late Friday night–but when it comes to flying, better safe than sorry.

When Skip went up to move in June, 2009, he packed up what was left and supervised the move, which interestingly enough, turned out to be 50% more expensive than he was quoted.  When they got to Seattle, the movers dumped everything into our garage.  It is still stacked to the rafters with boxes.  I know, why not go work on the garage instead of just writing about it?  I do, I do.  One step forward, two steps back.  For every time I go in there and arrange the boxes, Skip will go in and rearrange the boxes.  I blew out my shoulder this past summer and can no longer lift them.  We are moving in June or July and somehow I am going to have to get to them.

Anyway, more importantly, in December 2009, Skip wanted to take us to Arizona for Christmas.  It was memorable.  Both Tad and I had swine flu, although we didn’t know it at the time, and had no way to find out what was wrong.  We weren’t eligible for the vaccine and if you were sick in Seattle, they didn’t want you coming into the doctor’s office or the emergency department.  Instead of unpacking our Christmas ornaments, we were freezing in Arizona.  So much for sun and fun.  

Most of what was important to us came in the move–our financial papers from the beginning of time, our family photos, my grandmother’s china (broken, chipped) and silver-plated dinnerwear.  We are missing one large bear (about four and a half feet tall) and all our Christmas ornaments.  So, what I would ask you is, if you somehow got our stuff, can you return it?  Or at least let us know that Yogi is in a landfill somewhere?  Yogi is missing, but we still have Simon, who when filled with batteries chants “Do you want to play?”

You know where to reach me.

Thank you so much.   Minnow Tracer.

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2011 Resolution Run 5K and Polar Bear Dive, Seattle

A polar bear swimming

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One of the strangest Seattle traditions is the Resolution Run, presented by Club Northwest every January 1st.  It is a 5 kilometer run through Magnuson Park which is the site of an old naval base.  The event includes an optional dive off the Magnuson boat ramp into the frigid waters of Lake Washington.

The first thing you need to know is that the dive is completely optional.  About 60% of the participants choose to take the plunge.  Oh, and it’s not really a dive.  The ramp angles into the water, so you run down the ramp, and slowly immerse your body in the 40 degree water until it gets too hard to run and then you start swimming.  So forget practicing your swan dive and put your mind at ease.  It’s all right if you want to dive, really, just be smart and bring a towel and clothes to change into so you can enjoy the post race festivities.  Last year, there weren’t any changing facilities, so it was possible to get a glimpse of a whole lot more of some of your fellow Resolution Runners than you might have anticipated.  I am hoping that the new beach building at Magnuson will be open for your changing discretion.

Oh, yes.  Discretion.   This is the weird part, but then again, it’s hardly noticeable.   I seem to remember a naked bike ride, en masse, that barely raised an eyebrow in this town.  Last year was an exceptional year for costumes.  Some people are afraid of clowns; the Tracer family fears men in Speedos.  Yep.  Two guys did the run in Speedos.  And with the rise in Five Finger running gear (you can’t call those things shoes, can you?)–where does it all end?  There were some perfectly charming costumes–women in bikini tops and hula skirts–but it’s the men in Speedos that we can’t forget, that haunt our dreams.

Speedos aside, the other thing you need to know is that it is 100% fine if you just want to do a 5K walk.  Really!  Fine!  Do the walk!  Plan on being in the cold for about an hour and dress warm.  Walkers are cool.  They seem to be very social and have a lot of fun.

Okay–here is my biggest MOST IMPORTANT TIP:

PARKING IS TOUGH!  VERY TOUGH!  Don’t expect to whip into a parking spot right by the start at 10:25 and pick up your shirt and your number.  Let’s go over the steps:

  • the best way to get to the start is to turn east on NE 65th and Sand Point Way and head down to the water–you will pass a parking lot on your left (Parking Area 1)–it is roughly across from the fish thingamabob–take a look–see if there is any space to park here and keep it in mind. 
  • there is parking down by the boat ramp (Parking Area 2) and some (Parking Area 3) near Kite Hill.  People also park alongside the road–just be sensitive to whether the area is blocked off or not.
  • if these are full, then go back to the parking on NE 65th (Area 1)
  • if that is full, hang a right at the baseball field.  People sometimes park along the road here.
  • if these are full, then there is a big parking lot near all the soccer fields
  • if that is full, then there are spots near the Mountaineers club and Sand Point Sailing–bottom line is that these are at least a mile from the race start
  • just be cool and allow yourself plenty of time to get there and park or consider carpooling with a designated driver, ride your bike, or even take the bus–Metro lines are 30, 74 and 75–get off at NE 65th and Sand Point Way
  • you can do it!  walk or run, I’ll see you there! 

Who:  Club Northwest

What: Resolution Run and Polar Bear Dive

When: Registration opens at 9:00 am; race starts at 10:30 am

Where: Magnuson Boat ramp

Why: The Resolution Run is a great way to start off the new year with physical fitness.  The Polar Bear Dive?  You’re on your own.  Fundraiser for Club Northwest.

How much: $40 day of race

Am I planning to run?  No.  My plan is to volunteer and cheer for you, whether or not you dash down the boat ramp.  If you want to help, let the folks at ProMotion events know ASAP.  Also, I will donate $1 per person to the food bank for the 1st 25 people who let me know that they saw my blog and ran this race.  Just supply your number and time.  Offer expires next Wednesday, January 5th.

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Balancing the books

As you know, Mondays are floor days in the Tracer household.  As soon as Tad gets up, I will be able to vacuum the carpets.

It’s the end of the year, which also means that I have to work on fulfilling my continuing eduation requirements and balancing the books for Skip’s business.  I do not have any formal training as an accountant but I can type numbers into Quickbooks as well as anyone.

Employment summary for 2010: I applied for more than 30 jobs.  I could go back and look up the exact number, but I would probably find it depressing.  Statistics: 31 applications, 2 interviews, 0 jobs.

And yet, I am pretty happy.  Skip has been working all year, so money is coming in, and we have been able to pay for our health insurance.

On to the books!

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the grey Mercedes SUV of death

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in ...

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I was backing out of the driveway the other day and I almost got nailed by the grey Mercedes SUV of death. I looked right, then left, which is where I usually have neighbors pressing the pedal to the metal.

As they say in the law enforcement field, I then proceeded to back out slowly into the street. I’d hate to back out over my neighbor walking her dog.  But, what saved me and Tad, is that I looked right a second time, (the old right-left-right), just in time to see a silver grey Mercedes SUV barrel around the corner and floor it past me to race up the street.  

I digress, but I suspect it was the Mercedes-Benz GL Class which has a price range from $60,950 – $84,450, and a mileage range from 12 – 17 mpg, probably closer to 3 mpg as it raced past me, and it comes with a certificate that permits the driver to take more of the road than the rest of us.

 We live in the 2nd house in, so this happened quickly.  Fortunately, I was going slowly, so all it took was a gentle tap of the brakes as the SUV zipped past me at a high rate of speed, racing down the street, and crossed over to the left hand side to park in front of a neighbor’s house.  Remember, the Mercedes comes with a certificate to drive and park where you want.  I’m sure that if we asked Albert Einstein, he would say that high speed driving in a residential neighborhood actually makes time go in reverse, so you can get to your friend’s house before you leave yours.

I am thankful that everything was fine, that there was no accident. I wasn’t even upset. I did do a post event analysis and here are my conclusions and questions:

  1. going slow saved us
  2. looking a second time saved us
  3. I hate Mercedes SUVs and their drivers*
  4. we were lucky that it wasn’t raining
  5. why didn’t the driver have their lights on?  grey skies + grey streets + grey car = invisible vehicle
  6. the most obvious physics equation for this situation has to do with conservation of momentum:
m_1 \mathbf u_{1} + m_2 \mathbf u_{2} = m_1 \mathbf v_{1} + m_2 \mathbf v_{2}\,,

where m = the mass of the vehicle, u = the velocity of the vehicle before the collision and v = the velocity of the vehicle after the collision.  Note that the SUV would transfer its velocity to our smaller vehicle.

The bottom line,  however is that you can’t live your life in fear, even though you never know when the big grey Mercedes SUV of death will come barreling around that corner. 

*sorry–is this bad or offensive to Mercedes SUV drivers?  insensitive? you should hear what I have to say about Land Rovers

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