Tuesday, July 26, 2005

More about poop

Because the water table's so high where we are, lots of homes have a septic system that pumps into a mound instead of leaching into the ground thru a conventional gravity-fed drainage field.
A year ago my neighbour replaced his mound; it cost him upwards of $7,000.
This year my mound has started to fail. I had a guy out to look at it -- he said replacing the system would cost between $10K and $11K. That seemed really high to me, so called someone else. He recommended a designer to help me define what I needed; I paid the designer around $750 to draw up plans to just replace the sand/gravel/pipes rather than replacing the entire system (tanks, pumps, etc). The designer indicated that the repair should be substantially cheaper than building an entirely new system. I submitted these plans to the septic company; they sent me an estimate last week: with tax, $15K.
I'm not sure if I should hurry and get it done before it turns into $20K, or if I should just stop eating...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Water, water, all around, and not a drop to drink...

We met my wife’s family (80+ people) at Lake Shasta in Northern California for a family reunion. We all rented houseboats and had a great time. Below is what I wrote about it when we got back...

Scheduled to leave noon Wednesday. Pulled out around 9pm. Stopped at Target to buy one of every item currently in stock. Back on the road by 10pm. Was looking forward all day to eating a Dave’s Spicy Chicken (sandwich) at Wendy's, but by the time we found one, it was past midnight, and they were closed. Consoled myself with an oatmeal cookie from Chevron.

I had been up till 5am the night before doing bills, etc. Not the best night to pull an all-nighter, but large amounts of refined sugar, two Mountain Dews, and six NoDoze tablets (caffeine, 1200mg) gave me eyes as big as millstones, plus tachycardia.

Tried listening to the radio, but the road noise our Grand Caravan is so great that the cheap piece of audio-poo Dodge installed is only understandable with the volume set on "Bleeding Eardrum". Using the Fade and Balance settings so that only the driver's speaker is active just results in a vague chittering sound down by my left knee, so I gave it up as a bad job. While Hannah and the kids slept, I recited all poems and talking songs I knew, plus made up new verses to marching cadences a Navy diver had taught me.

Called my brother on the cellphone to chat, but lots of static finally forced us to give up. Just as well, since we had moved into the Roaming Zone, where it's three dollars a second or whatever.

Finally arrived Redding, CA about 9am. Went to Longs Drugs for a few things that hadn’t been available at Target, then to Safeway for groceries. Found Wendy's, ate a DSC with much enjoyment.

Met up with family we were to share a boat with at the docks. Ended up waiting about 2 hrs in 100+ heat before the marina had our houseboat ready. While (brother- and sister-in-law) Chuck & Susan launched their ski-boat, I got the houseboat lesson from a nice young man who did a decent job concealing his contempt for my complete ignorance of boats and water. Unfortunately he also had a habit of slurring his words constantly, so I had to ask for a lot of repeats. He showed me how all the systems work (20 minutes of non-stop new and fairly complicated information - try it sometime - made me wish I had brought paper and pen). He showed me how to beach the boat, then had me do a little driving test by dropping him off at his dock. I managed to do this without sinking any boats or blowing anything up, but it wasn't from lack of trying.

Finally got everyone's stuff loaded (Chuck & Susan brought even more stuff than we did, if that's possible), and headed out for the far reaches of the lake. Since I’d driven all night, I thought I would get a little nap at this point, but I’d apparently been made captain for the day, so I drove the boat.

An hour and a half or so later, we beached next to the other boats that had already made it there. I came in too fast and had to hit full reverse throttle for the last 15 feet. As it turned out, we beached just right, but it was completely by luck and everyone who knew anything about boats must have known it.

The next three days were nonstop water-skiing, wakeboarding, swimming, and eating. At night, there was visiting, storytelling, guitar, singing etc. Hannah and I and some others slept on top under the stars. Very dark and quiet, with a great view of the Milky Way and piles of constellations. Much fun had by all.

WARNING: Potty-themed story ahead...

On the second day, I went out on Chuck & Susan’s ski boat with Hannah, Samantha, and [cousin] Heidi. We were barely out on the water when I had to do 'number two' like crazy. I didn't want to make everyone wait while they ran me back to the houseboat, so I held it as long as I could. Then I devised the cunning plan of pooping in the lake while no one was watching. So while Hannah was in the water getting ready to water ski, I popped over the side, yanked off my bathing suit, and did my business. In my projected version of events, my little creations sank silently and peacefully to the bottom, never to be seen again. This, of course, did not occur. As I was cleverly sliding back into my shorts, I hear my sister-in-law scream, "Poop! There's poop! Aaaaahhh!" I look up, and am horrified to see that four or five gigantic turds have popped to the surface in all their ragged glory. Not only that, but pulled by the boats wash, they are making their way up onto the teak ski deck, where Susan's feet are resting. In her frantic efforts to escape the attacking turd horde, Susan steps squarely onto one of them. Hannah starts to scream as well, thinking that we have blundered our way into a sewage slick left by a passing houseboat and that she's going to get towed through it. Pandemonium ensues.

After Hannah's tow, when we're all back on the boat, she still doesn't realize where the poo came from. She says, "Maybe it came from some big boat's holding tank or something…" This causes Susan to collapse with laugher -- she gasps out, "It came from Bryan's holding tank."

In all my time with Hannah, I don't know if I've ever seen her laugh so hard -- tears are streaming down her cheeks. It makes me happy to make her so happy.

And watching her, I realize that the story is not going to stay on this boat. There are 80 members of Hannah’s family back on the shore, at least half of whom will find this story too good to keep to themselves. In fact, I realize there's a good chance that this story will find its way throughout California and perhaps North America. That evening, my sister-in-law Susan left our boat immediately to “visit with people” on the other boats. One could easily gauge her progress from boat to boat -- every 10 minutes or so there would be new shrieks and roars of laughter as she told the story to yet another eager audience...

For the rest of the reunion, most of the adults I met had a new pun or joke made up especially for me.

They say there was a big logjam up at the dam - you know anything about that?

In 'hindsight', maybe that wasn't your best choice…

I heard that in honor of Oscar (my father-in-law, who was a lumberjack), they're having a log-rolling contest later today - thought you might be interested…

We're going out on the boat again - anybody want to come? Or Bryan, if you need to go to the bathroom…

Ho ho ho. Actually, the ribbing I don't mind - the only uncomfortable part was knowing that some families who are a little more reserved didn't find it as humorous and were embarrassed. Oh well. Nothing one can do about that. The majority seemed to really enjoy the story, and several contributed similar even-more-embarrassing stories of their own.

Other than that, not much else happened. Everyone on my wife’s parents’ boat drank lake water their whole first day because their boat didn't have signs to show which was lake water and which was fresh. Since their first day was our second, half of the water they drank was post-Bryan's-event. My mother-in-law made a show of picking at her teeth as she looked across the water at me.

Since they're letting out so much water to generate electricity, the lake falls by about a foot and a half every day (think about how much water that is). We didn't move our boat the first day, so we got stuck on the beach until we hooked one of the ski boats up to the rear and walked it back and forth a bit to get it off.

When you steer a boat forward, you turn the wheel just like a car, but when in reverse, you steer exactly opposite of the way you would a car. During the operation to get the boat off the beach, our pilot - who had never done it before - got the rear end going the wrong way and bumped into the neighboring houseboat. No damage, but one of my wife’s cousins happened to be standing right where the boat was about to hit, and had to make a flying leap into space, landing in an inflatable raft at the rear of our boat.

Eventually we left - by the time it was time to dock the houseboat at the marina I had kind of figured it out. No mishaps, all went smoothly.

As we drove away from the lake, our car began to overheat. Turned out a repair we had made last year to the cooling fan had not held – the JBWeld had melted in the California heat. Chuck stopped and insisted on fixing it, which he did - pulling what one of my Mexican friends calls a “Mexicanada” (ie, a miraculous repair using whatever’s handy) with some wood screws and pieces of metal from a cigarette lighter we found at the side of the road. It did the trick, and we made it home with no mishaps.

If I had it to do over again, I might do one or two things differently -- okay, I guess mainly just one thing -- but it was still a great trip.

There butt for the grace of God go I...

I’m not really sure what this story is about. It might be about the universality of certain things, or perhaps about connection, or first impressions. Doesn’t really matter, I guess. It’s just a story about 30 seconds of my life, and sometimes if people can’t escape my presence quickly enough, I tell them about it.

My youngest brother -- who’s 10 years younger than I am -- graduated from high school in 1993. The night of the ceremony, it happened to rain -- a virtually unheard-of summer event -- and the whole thing was moved to the school gymnasium.

The students/stage/ceremony was in the center of the room. The bleachers had been pulled out like at a basketball game, and the luckier parents and guests sat there -- the unlucky ones (that would be my wife and me) sat on the floor in front of the bleachers.

We had found a bare patch of hardwood immediately in front of the bleachers. Immediately behind us, on the lowest row of bleachers, sat an elderly Japanese couple. The woman looked in her 60’s, pretty and very normal-looking, but he appeared to be about 300 yrs old – he had an oxygen tube in his nose, his skin was parchment-like, and he mostly just stared straight ahead with little or no change of expression. I wondered if he even knew where he was.

Eventually, the ceremony started. A couple minutes in, a young couple came in late, and began to look for an open place to sit on the crowded floor. They were crouching and tiptoeing over the seated people, and eventually ended up right in front of us. The girl might have been 17 or 18, and had on running shoes and those tiny little nylon running shorts people used to wear. Now, being married and all, I would never have noticed that she had, if I may say so, great legs and a world-class rear end, but for the fact is that she was standing two feet in front of me and she was bending over in order not to block the view of the people on the bleachers. In fact, as the two of them stood there looking for a spot to sit down, her barely-clad hips were approximately six inches from the front of my face. I felt I knew far more about her than I did about most people I had met.

I glanced over at my wife. She looked at me, raised her eyebrows and began to grin at my discomfort. I leaned back slightly, to give the girl more room, just as she bent over even further -- the eyes-to-butt distance did not change. I moved my head to the right. The girl -- still searching for a spot -- chose that moment to turn her body to the left. The butt followed me. I leaned all the way back against the knees of the old man behind me, and still the out-thrust butt hovered in front of my vision. There was no escape.

It seemed like this went on for several minutes, but was probably only about 30 seconds -- the young couple eventually found a seat, and once more I could see something other than bare legs and tight nylon shorts. My wife was shaking with silent laughter, and my face was red. As I glanced around to see who might have noticed my little encounter with the Butt of Destiny, I saw the old Japanese man. He had stopped staring vacantly ahead and was looking at me with what looked like the faintest shadow of a smile. Then he leaned very slowly forward, put his mouth next to my ear, and whispered, “You. Are. Ver’. Lucky. Boy...”

blogging and stuff

So how long do you wait after posting a blog entry to see if anyone has read it? Do you check back a couple days later, just kind of idly curious as to whether anyone's still reading your blog? Not that it matters one way or another. It's all the same to me whether anyone reads or responds to what I post. That's how little it means to me. So I hardly ever check for comments. Except for the times when I post something, then check back, like, 30 seconds later. Which is most of the time, actually. If we're going to be all honest about everything, then fine -- I check back right away, and keep checking for several days. Unless that makes me sound insecure, in which case I was just kidding.

Another thing:
I've noticed a lot of bloggers make a point of responding in person in the comments section. I dont' do that because I'm lame and not a very good person. But I want you to know that I love each and every one of you as if you were my own family. Which, actually, most of you probably are.
Anyway, I will strive to do better in coming days. Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

the whole kit-n-kubota

The plan:
1) Plant a row of trees (5’ cedars) between us and our neighbors on either side (not that we’re anti-social, just that it would improve everyone’s view, especially for one neighbor who currently has to stare at our large gravel parking area). The idea is to just dig a long trench, put the trees in at whatever spacing looks good, and re-fill the rest of the trench.
2) Dig drainage ditches around edges of parking area, and across the back yard.

16-year-old from rental company drops off orange Kubota tractor/backhoe, gives a 6-second lecture on how to work it, and drives away with a cheery wave.

Can’t figure out how to put tractor in reverse. Neighbor shows up to gawk. Finally realize the throttle pedal is a two-way – tilt it backwards and the tractor backs up. Back up tractor.

My friend Salvador and his son Julio show up to help. We pull string to mark the treeline. Between Julio’s English and my Spanish, we all make out okay, but I keep getting the words for ditch (sanja) and string (soga) mixed up. When I ask Salvador to tie one end of the ditch to a tree, he just grins.

Salvador uses the tractor to move a large pile of brush out of the way. In Mexico, he had owned an orchard – he knows how to run the tractor part, but not the backhoe.

Begin digging the ditch. I ran a backhoe a few times one summer in college, and didn’t do too badly – it’s like riding a bike, they say. I wait for the old skills to come flooding back into my hands. I wait in vain. All over the Seattle area, real equipment operators feel an unexplained sense of restlessness and discomfort. Dead ones spin in their graves.

Salvador finds my efforts too painful to watch, and finally asks if I’d like him to have a go. After about 5 minutes he shakes his head and gives up. I try not to take any satisfaction in the fact that he honked at it just as badly as I did.

Hannah comes out and watches for a while, then says that her nerves will not stand this and she is going shopping – she indicates it may take a substantial amount of money to relieve her anxiety about the boys and their toys digging holes in her lawn.

We have a 35-foot ditch, apparently dug by someone with a bad case of the Delirium Tremens. We start putting in trees.

Hannah returns briefly with cokes for us. She points out that there are too many people in the ditch – all three of us can’t work on a tree at the same time, so if I’m digging too, Salvador has to wait, and I end up paying him to stand there holding his shovel. I get back on my tractor to start digging drainage ditches. I hate it when she’s right like that.

I accidentally knock a 6-inch hole in the side of the shed. Brief moment of thanks that it was the shed rather than the propane tank, and more importantly that no one I’m married to was there to see and offer commentary.

Lunch time. By this time we have our kids, Julio’s little brother Josue, another neighbor and his two kids, plus Salvador, Julio, and me. We order pizza and stand around eating in clueless-suburban-homeowner camaraderie.

1pm – 3pm
I dig a hundred or so feet of drainage ditch in a creative pattern across the back yard. By the second hour or so, I’m actually getting the hang of the backhoe. I realize that part of the problem is that the hydraulic pressure isn’t adequate to do certain combinations of functions at once – you can’t lower the boom and extend the stick at the same time, for example. This is part of the reason the process looks like a grand mal seizure – it’s almost impossible to do some functions smoothly.

I reach the section of the yard where the water pipe comes in from our community well. If I break this water pipe, the two neighbors downline from us will probably get all cranky about it, so I hand-dig to find it. After about 20 minutes of fruitless search, a little voice urges me to just go ahead with the backhoe since the pipe is probably really deep. I recognize this as the voice of Satan, and keep digging with my shovel.
Finally find the pipe, mark it, and dig around it safely with the backhoe.

Salvador and Julio finish the trees – including a hand-dug row on the other side – and leave for the rest of that day’s jobs.

I finish all the drainage I had planned, and decide to try to tidy up some brush and old logs, etc. in the back yard. The only way back to that area is over ditches I’ve dug, but I figure the tires are big enough to roll over the open ditches.

I manage to get the tractor stuck in three ditches at once, canted at an impossible angle, nose pointing to the sky. The 4-wheel drive just keeps digging me deeper in, and caving in the sides of the ditches. I look around – if past history is any indicator, this is the perfect timing for a person’s wife to arrive home.

I use the hoe to pick myself up and out of the ditches. I redig the ones I caved in, and give up on the brush-tidying idea. Hannah comes home as I’m cleaning up the cave-ins – I do not confide that this is the second time around for these particular sections.

I finally figure out how to turn the seat around (you have to face it backwards to run the hoe) quickly and easily. Salvador and I had fought with it for 15 minutes, finally devising a complicated method requiring a screwdriver and much fiddling – turns out all you do is force it, and it swivels around fine. I turn it around a few times just because I can.

I hose the tractor off in the dark. Samantha walks up to opposite side of the tractor and gets sprayed in the face (I didn’t see her – really). She is not impressed.

40 trees planted, 150 feet of drainage dug, no death or dismemberment involved. Go to bed happy. The end.

Run Lola Run

Someone asked me recently if I had written an account of our trip to Orlando and the Disney Marathon that I ran a few yrs ago with my aunt. I had. Written one, I mean. And I immediately thought “Hey, effort-free blog post.” Hopefully I haven’t posted it before or something...

The night before the race, I had to pick up relatives at the airport, so I was late getting to bed – that coupled by the fact that you have to be there by 4am for a 6am start, mean there wasn’t much sleep. I did get about 2 and a half hours, then got up and started getting my race stuff on. Aunt Susie and I have arranged to meet at 3:45am at the staging area. I make my way to the shuttle by 3:30, where the driver is sleeping on a pillow over the steering wheel. There is only one other runner on the entire bus. I wonder what in the world I'm doing.

Back in March, this had seemed like a good idea, but my training has been spotty to say the least - I was sick, H/kids were sick, had travel/job emergencies, etc. etc. - all the standard excuses. Did a few long Saturday runs, up to 17.5 mi three wks before the race. Frantically trying to get all my business taken care of by the time we leave Seattle for Orlando, I've been working crazy hours and my pre-race taper looks more like falling off a cliff. I wanted to be at 195 lbs, but have exercised virtually no self-discipline whatsoever at the dinner table, and am at about 210 on race day. Not sure if I can really do 26.2 miles at all.

At least I'm drinking non-stop and cramming carbohydrates like crazy during the week before the race. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's putting down carbs. Might as well concentrate on my core competencies, right?

I meet Aunt Susie w/o much trouble because there's an announcer staging an impromptu contest to see who's come from the farthest away spot in the US. There's someone there from my town, and Aunt Susie thinks it might be me, so we both meet at that person, whom I don't know.

I'm wearing spandex running pants, and I have a thick sweatshirt over my running T, but I'm absolutely freezing my buns off. We spend two hours eating power bars, drinking Gatorade, and peeing.

I've forgotten to bring tape, so I get bandaids from the first aid tent for my nipples (which are like little stone volcanoes, BTW - I don't remember ever being so cold). (For the non-runners, lots of people have to tape their nipples or they'll be raw and bleeding by the end of a long race.)

Eventually they let us stumble through the dark to the starting corrals, where everyone (18,000 of us) mills around and moos. There are two starting areas, red and blue, because there are so many runners - the color of your race number tells you where to go. At about 6:10am, Mickey appears in a suit of lights on top of a big crane thing, fireworks go off, and the race starts. I'm just so happy to be moving I hardly notice. And I really, really have to pee again.

Aunt Susie introduces me to the run/walk thing developed by Jeff Galloway. It has become very popular, and allows thousands of people to complete a marathon who otherwise maybe couldn't. She does a mile in about 10 minutes, then walks 1 minute. It's hard to make myself walk, but she is 48 yrs old and this is her third marathon (plus a half-marathon) in 3 months - there must be something to it.

We run under the ball at Epcot, and through a big arch of lights - it's still dark out, so it looks pretty neat. As we leave Epcot (monument to celebration of other cultures), we meet up with the people with the blue numbers - someone yells "They're red! They're different! Let's kill them!"

The first 4 miles my kidneys are aching, but we finally get a chance to stop at the honey-buckets. I feel so good just from emptying my bladder, it's like starting over. I'm finally warmed up and enjoying the run.

Aunt Susie has a minor muscle pull getting her warm-up pants off. Since it’s so cold, people wear old clothes or plastic bags over their running clothes. They dispose of the extra stuff along the route – there are some fairly nice jackets and things at the side of the road.

At about mile 11 or 12, we run through Magic Kingdom, which is fantastic. The characters, the cheering spectators (why are these people out here so early? I paid 70 bucks, so I have to do this, but they could be back in their hotel rooms sleeping right now). And a brass band, which really gets my adrenaline going -- with that band alongside, I feel like I could run 50 miles. Everyone hoots and yells as we run under Cinderella's castle.

There are people all along the route, cheering, and little themed vignettes of characters, with appropriate music playing. One section is nothing but Disney villains. The course goes through all the Disney parks: Epcot, Magic Kingdom, MGM studios, Animal Kingdom, and back to Epcot. For me, there's nothing but good for the rest of the race. The characters, the mile markers (every mile marked, and with the time displayed!). At some places, they have canned cheering, which is sort of cheesy, but it actually helps.

By the halfway point, my legs and feet hurt, but not as badly as they had on my last long training run. Here the half-marathoners split off and collect their Donald Duck medals. At 18 miles, I'm now running farther (albeit slower) than I've ever run before, and I feel great. There are no hills, except for onramps, which don't count. My regular run in Bellevue has real hills, plus stairs, so I don't even notice these. First time I've been able to see the benefit of all that gut-sucking hill running I've done over the last year.

The weather is now perfect, and I start to think I might really be able to finish this thing. The volunteers are fantastic, and the Disney employees really seem sincere as they cheer us all on. At about mile 23, there's a woman with a sign that says "Toenails are for wimps!", which makes me laugh; it even gets a grin from Susie, who's hurting pretty bad by now, but gutting it out. There's a guy who's already got his Mickey medal walking back along the route, holding it up telling everybody that they're almost there, and that they're doing great. He's a real low race number, so he must be among the elite group that finished a couple of hours ago. I thought coming back to cheer on the slowpokes was a very classy thing to do.

A little while after that, Samantha and David see me run by, but Hannah is talking to someone and misses me. She has put up with a lot of "Daddy has to go run now" over the last few months; it's too bad she doesn't get to see what she was supporting. I didn't expect them to see me at all, so I am totally unaware that they're even there.
By this time, I know I can finish - I could crawl 3.2 miles if I had to.

At mile 24, I realize that if we turn in the last 2.2 at 8:50 or so, we can come in under 5 hrs. Aunt Susie says she can't do it, but insists that I go ahead, so I start my little kick. I start to unwind it a little, waiting for my body to rebel, but it doesn't. I guess all those carbs, powerade, water, bananas, oranges, chocolate powergel, and sprees are going to do the trick. I pass hundreds of people in the last 2.2; I salute the sweaty backs of the two or three who pass me. I pass one young woman who's really laboring - "You go, girl," I whisper, and she gives me a tired smile and a thumbs up.

The last .2 seems longer than 385 yards, but then there's the finish. I haven't broken 5 hours, but I don't care. As I sprint over the sensor mats I pump my fist like I've just scored the winning goal in double-OT, and then unexpectedly break into tears. What's that all about? Later Susie tells me that she cries every time, and I find out lots of people do.

A smiling volunteer puts my Mickey medal around my neck, and I go over and lean on a trashcan to stretch my calves. Immediately there's a Disney staffer there to make sure I'm all right. "Fantastic," I assure her. Aunt Susie comes across the line and I give her a bear hug. I can tell she's hurting, but she's grinning too.

The next day, we go to the parks, and I feel absolutely wonderful. Squatting to tie my shoes, my quads creak, but by the third day I'm not even sore. I have tons of energy, and there were no blisters, no cramps, no wall. I have finished 26.2 miles. Jeff Galloway is a genius, and Aunt Susie is a wonderful lady. Wish I could be back next year.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

If you can read this, I'm stupid

I really like bumper stickers. I will follow a car into a parking lot just to read a sticker I've never seen before. However:

Most bumper stickers are hard to read if you're more than about six feet away, because they were designed by morons. So as often as not, people (okay, me) are craning their necks, following too close, etc in order to read them.

What this means is that if you plaster your car with bumper stickers, you're practically guaranteeing that drivers around you aren't going to be paying as close attention to their driving as they should be. In other words, your car now comes with its own little bubble of inattention/danger, which you carry with you wherever you drive.

Just a thought.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

spit and polish

When I was about 10 yrs old, we went to Montana to visit some cousins. They lived near an Indian reservation, and we spent a great week or two playing with our cousins and kids from the rez, horseback riding, swimming, lighting firecrackers, etc.

One day when we were all hanging around outside, my cousin Roxanne asked for a drink of my Coke. Roxanne was 14, and I had a huge crush on her. When I handed her my Coke, she took a big swig, and -- imagine this -- she didn't even wipe off the top first. My brother and I had spent all our lives scrubbing imaginary diseases off of whatever we shared before taking a sip -- and here was Roxanne just putting the bottle right to her lips, totally oblivious to the fact that it probably still had my spit on it. I found it incredibly sexy and cool.

Now, thirty years later, we're all married with kids and only see one another every few years; I'm a head taller than Roxanne is now, and I have normal cousin-ly feelings toward her instead of being smitten.

But I still remember that shared Coke – and from that moment on I dropped the wiping-the-bottle-with-my-shirttail routine. For the rest of my childhood* whenever I shared a drink with someone I took it as it was, spit and all, because it reminded me of Roxanne and her devil-may-care ways.

*some say this is still in progress

Friday, July 15, 2005

Now clear this

Because I am evil, last year I hired a track-hoe to clear some brush and move some stumps/logs in my back yard. I live on a creek, and (as I found out) it’s illegal to do any kind of clearing/grading within a certain distance from the water. Now, I’m a big fan of having laws to prevent people from messing up the rivers, and I believe in protecting green space, etc. But what I did was clear some blackberries (an invasive non-native species) and impede erosion by shoring the stream bank with a couple of dead logs. My impact was less than what stream itself does in a typical winter.

Doesn’t matter how good I thought I was being, though – when my neighbour saw the trackhoe on the bank, and the blackberries gone, she thought I was doing a lot of grading and dumping trees in the river. She got out her video camera and also talked on the phone with other neighbours, and someone called the county to report me.

Upshot was that the county showed up the next day and told me I needed several hundred (or possibly a couple thousand) dollars in permits to do what I had done, plus they might have to send out a hydrologist and environmental specialist to evaluate my impact (at a cost to me of a couple hundred dollars per hour each).

They made me submit a site plan, and gave me a bunch of permit application forms to fill out.

I wanted some advice/help with the forms, so I waited for a chance for an appointment with the county rep. In the meantime I just sat on the forms, figuring every day I didn’t send them in was one more day I didn’t have to pay the money.

Finally, after about a year and a half, last week a guy from the county showed up while I was gone, looked around, and left his card with my son. When I called him back (his name was also Bryan), the conversation went like this:

Me: Hi, I’m calling about Enforcement Case # blah blah blah…

County Bryan: Let me just get that paperwork. Okay, here we go…

Me: I wonder, since we share the same first name, if that makes you inclined to just forget this whole thing…

County Bryan: [Looong Pause…] Under county regulations, it’s illegal to do any clearing within 100’ of a stream or river.

Me [gabbling]: Um, yes, well, of course you’re right. Ha ha ha. I’ve certainly been made very aware of *that*.

County Bryan: Anyway, I was able to perform a site visit, and it appears to me that all the cleared vegetation has grown back, so I closed the case.

Me: Oh. Is there anything else I have to do, then?

County Bryan: No, this will be archived, and the issue is closed.

Me: Well, thank you. I’ll certainly be a good boy from now on.

County Bryan: You’re welcome. Good bye.

So, on the plus side I don’t have to pay the county a jillion dollars.
On the down side, I’m also a dork.
But I’ll take that combination any time.

Friday, July 01, 2005

it's all downhill from here...

My dad took me on another mtn bike ride last weekend. It was beautiful. Sometimes it was hard to enjoy the scenery because I had to concentrate on not fracturing my spinal cord, but we stopped a few times to rest and/or look around.
I figured I'd post this pic since I'll probably never look any healthier in my lifetime (see title)...