Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wonders of the world.

Gary, the contractor who rebuilt our home, is also an amateur astronomer. He sent me this Hubble telescope image yesterday, of the "sombrero galaxy." It is said to be 50,000 light years wide.

James and I drove through the fog to the airport this morning, and on the way back I took a walk at Green Lake, closer to home. I don't know how anyone could find it too routine to walk here -- it is always changing, always different. This morning it was as mysterious as that galaxy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner 2008.

Thanksgiving is in my view the best holiday of the year. You have plenty of time while you are baking or cooking to remember how many things you are grateful for.

I managed to bake a couple of pumpkin pies and make my famous cranberry compote for our dinner. Leroy did the rest: turkey, flank steak stuffed with mushrooms, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, mushrooms, and homemade rolls. I'm sure I left something out of the list.

Joining us for dinner were former graduate student and now teacher Travis Feldman, James Searle, and Hazard Adams.

Diana Adams also joined us for dinner. And you can see Leroy and Hazard, discussing pending cuts to the university budget, below.

On thankfulness: Tracy wrote a most complete list of things for which she is grateful on her blog (go to and I could not come near to matching it, except to say that she makes me realize that I am thankful first of all for my health and for my family. I am also thankful for my work, including the volunteer work I do, and for the independent interests that I have outside my work. Penny, leader of the Kindred Spirits team, just finished a 60 mile walk in San Diego last weekend. For a third perspective on what it means to be grateful, check out her blog Penny is a survivor of both cervical and ovarian cancer, and of the death several years ago of her oldest son. She leads a 100+ person team in training for the Seattle walk, and usually walks in one other city each year as well. Both Tracy and Penny exemplify courage and grace under pressure, and I'm grateful to have them as friends and role models.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Great work if you can get it.

Welcome to my office at home. It is filled with light.

This is my work space, with all the technology I could ask for.
Over in the corner is a wonderful old reading chair that I've already reupholstered once.
I used this credenza in my office for 15 years at Delphi Computers. The two drawer chest next to it was a first year wedding anniversary present from my husband.

This is my father's dental instruments cabinet that I have used for years as an organizational storage unit for pens, drawing pencils, correspondence, camera peripherals, and a few other odd things. The top contains a variety of wooden boxes or woven native american baskets that I collect. In front is my luxurious Keilhauer Squig Synchro chair, a gift from the DuGrafs.
Why is my home office on my blog today? Well it's related to a question participants had to answer at the fall UW conference on innovation in information management. How do we learn a critical skill, like a concern for order, quality and accuracy? Visual coherence and physical orderliness are assumed characteristics of me and my work environment, and I believe that it was learned behavior at an early age. In my notes at the conference, I wrote "the representation of thought and values through the presentation of space." When I was six, I went to my father's dental office and rearranged his business desk drawers into what I was sure was a more convenient arrangment. At about that same age, I started working on Saturday afternoons in the one room Buffalo Center Public Library, reshelving books and dusting shelves. I believe I was paid one nickel per afternoon by the librarian, and allowed to check out all the books I wanted. I've never looked back.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pushing past what you think you can do.

Sometimes you just push on past what you think is possible. An example would be the 20 minute video that four of us featured in the video -- representing the Seattle Fire Department, Puget Sound Energy, WaMu and the King County Health Department -- helped prepare for distribution by the Public Health Department in King County. Turns out that no such information on pandemic flu planning is available anywhere in the country so copies have been downloaded by small businesses and nonprofits everywhere. The DVD even includes a planning checklist and a template for making a plan.

On a personal level, sometimes I try to push past where I've been before. My trainer, Eric, used a phrase this morning at the end of our session. Translated loosely, "no pain no gain." I've had trouble for a week with my right glut, so this morning, we mostly did upper body and abdominals work. There were several firsts -- I worked out on "The Gravitron" machine for the first time, doing pull ups from a kneeling position. And I handled a medicine ball twice the usual weight, including pushing it up while reclined on a balance ball. In retrospect, I'm pleased with the work I did and hope I can lift my arms far enough tomorrow to get my fingers on the keyboard.
In a bizarre way, these two efforts are connected: the fitter I am, the better able I will be to withstand a pandemic flu event.
Working with a trainer is not unlike working with every day as it presents itself. You are always doing more than you think you know how to do.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"The fog creeps in on little cat feet..." -- Robert Frost

We woke this morning to fog, which I find still to be the most mysterious of weather events. Everything you can see has a soft blended edge, and time seems to slow down.

I am determined to organize and clear out my home office today, so that I might begin to imagine the next exciting stage of my life. I've put off making a decision about lengthening the "Art of Renovation" book manuscript until I sort through the papers I've kept related to that venture.

I'm reading Thomas Friedman's new book, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" and it has tickled some parts of my mind that I haven't used for awhile.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

James H.S. Searle

My son James is named for my father, James Harrison Sowers. He was born 24 years ago this morning at 5:41 and spent the first ten days of his life in the special care unit of Swedish Hospital. Like his sisters, he has already made his mark on the world, working to a very high standard of excellence, making real contributions. He has always been a very good natured person, with a fine sense of irony, able to engage his interests vividly -- jazz, painting, politics, now literature and literary theory. Today is his day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"With malice toward none, with charity for all..." -- Abraham Lincoln

"...let us strive on to finish the work we are in, do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." -- Second Inaugural Address, Mar. 4, 1865

It's Veteran's Day, and Abraham Lincoln has never seemed closer.

I worked out with my new trainer this morning, a former navy reconnaissance guy. Let's say that there will be a lot more discipline in these sessions going forward. He put me through my paces this morning with the medicine ball, weights and machines. I do hope I can keep up. I explained that I don't want to be tortured, just to become more fit than I am right now. I skipped any explanation of physical therapy exercises or floor work here at home that I do in the evenings.

I like the idea that I continue to reshape myself for what lies ahead. The more fit I am, the easier it is to handle this changing world.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright --"

"...tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope."

November 4th 2008, Grant Park, Chicago

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us" -- James Weldon Johnson

I remember where I was on the days when John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assasinated. Those were all historic days in this country, blots on our collective memory, ending earlier efforts to bring about tranformative change in this country. For the last several months I have fretted over whether or not elements of the ugly underbelly of America would take down Barack Obama.

Years ago, we sang "Which side are you on?" when we marched. At that time, we were registering unprecedented numbers of voters in the South. This year's voter registration efforts blow that effort out of the water. Though superstitious, I felt pretty positive today as I voted. No sign here of the late openings, machine breakdowns and lack of paper ballots that are being negotiated in other parts of the county. Surely this transformative campaign with a philosophy that is light years from that of the current administration -- and which has involved so many citizens new to the process -- will prevail over what is mean-spirited, regressive, and just not smart enough to get us out of this terrible mess we are in.

"Lift every voice and sing" by James W. Johnson reminds us that yes, we can. And that we will start today.