Sunday, March 12, 2006

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

After a stretch of particularly mild weather, we've been having rather unusual weather for the SF Bay Area. It's not unheard of to get some snow on the local peaks (the peak of Mt. Diablo is 3849 feet; Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose is over 4200 feet) every once in a while. We've even gotten snow here a couple times at about 1100 feet over the 12 years I've lived in Oakland. But this set of storms has had thunder and lightning, hail, and snow as low as 500 feet (resulting in a nasty accident over in Marin). Weird stuff. We've gotten mostly rain, but some hail and snow and freezing rain, too. Sonny Eliot probably would call it snail, or maybe freezing snail. Sleet, really ("neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor dark of night..."). But sleet isn't a word you hear much in California. It just doesn't do that very often here.

Sonny Eliot was a TV weatherman back in Michigan when I was growing up, and used to scrawl smooshed-together words on his blue and green chalkboard of Michigan as part of the weather report. Snow + hail = snail. I'm not sure how accurate his forecasts were back then, before Doppler radar and sophisticated computer models, but he certainly entertained folks. I Googled for him, expecting he'd passed away, but apparently he's still doing weather reports on the radio back in Detroit. What I didn't know back then is that he was a B-24 pilot during WWII, was shot down, and spent time in a POW camp. Funny the things you never know about people.

Like one of our neighbors. He's house- and cat-sitting for one our neighbors, and we've talked a few times. Very interesting guy, I thought. Polish emigrant, raised in Uruguay, well travelled, diverse background and interests. He even skied as a youth in Bariloche, an odd resort town in the Argentine Andes. (Amazingly beautiful area, by the way, but Bariloche is very touristy these days.) Katarina and I visited there during our trip to Argentina a number of years back, but most people have never heard of it. During our most recent conversation, I found out he spent several years bicycling around the world. He showed me a scrapbook with newspaper articles from all over about his trip. Part of his claim to fame was that he was a pioneer in mobile computing. He had a bunch of free gear from companies, including an HP 100LX, a modem, one of the first civilian hand-held GPS units, and kept connected even in parts of the world that hadn't seen the Internet yet. All that plus camping and cycling gear, strapped to a bike.

The topic came up during a conversation about our backgrounds. I hate the question "what do you do?", as if people were defined solely by their job. I probably hate the question in part because I can't easily answer it. I create media for our church. I run audio for the worship team on Sundays. I volunteer with a number of different non-profits, mostly doing tech stuff and some photography. I spend much of my week working on the addition to the house. But I don't have a "job" per se. But even if I did, it wouldn't be who I am, any more than Katarina is a technical writer. But Roberto can't easily answer the question either (and with a non-U.S. background, finds the question odd as people in much of the rest of the world do), which is probably why we're getting along so well.

Back when he was cycling around the globe with gadgets in the early 1990's, I was working at Geoworks helping create some of them (the Casio Zoomer, the HP Omnigo, and similar products from Toshiba, Nokia, and others). Back then I was largely defined by my job. Driven by it. I throughly loved what I did for most of the 9 years I was at Geoworks, but as the company was changing, so was I. Which is why I went from a high-paying profession to working in a brew pub (actually a brew-on-premises + brew pub, which is sadly out of business, so my time there was pretty short -- great job benefits though!), and spending most of my time working with non-profits. I felt there were better ways to spend my time and energy than "making toys for rich people" and trying to acquire more money and more stuff and more titles...

Oh, right. The addition. It's coming along nicely. During breaks in the weather, I've been putting on the siding. It goes pretty quickly except around windows, and I designed the addition with a lot of them. So overall it doesn't really go that quickly. When it's raining I work on the rough electrical and plumbing indoors. I figure another couple weeks and I'll be ready for the next inspections (rough electrical, rough plumbing, and final framing). Once I pass those, I'm in the home stretch -- insulation, drywall, flooring, plumbing fixtures. Still a lot of work to do, but it looks and feels like a house now.

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