Spokane II

Nak and I drove out to Spokane again today to watch Stanford in round two. I woke up exhausted so Nak drove, and that proved a wise decision later.
There isn't a whole lot to see on the drive out from Seattle. Open farm fields. The weather was gloomy this time for most of the ride out. Low-hanging, menacing clouds covered the entire sky.
Stanford was up 44-40 at halftime, then couldn't score in the second half and couldn't stop Ben Gordon or Emeka Okafor. That was all she wrote. We watched a half of the second game between Tulsa and Wisconsin before hitting the road.
The trip back was like the trailer for Gerry. We hit a snowstorm crossing the Pass and had to slow down to 30 mph because it was dark and there were no reflectors or street lights. It was like driving into pitch black nothingness with simply snow flying into your windshield. They really need to put streetlights or more reflectors on the side of the road or both there. Better we were in Nak's AWD station wagon then my car, though I've done that before.
The highlight was stopping at Arby's, which reminded me of my youth in Palatine. Taking road trips, one encounters occasional instances of these fast food restaurants from one's youth, located in the most random and desolate stretches of America, marked by neon signs hoisted high in the air like flags, shimmering mirages in otherwise barren farm fields. Perhaps the corporate headquarters simply forgot that some of these franchises existed in these remote locations and they go on operating, oblivious to the fact that the parent corporation has folded or gone bankrupt, like Boston Market.
Now that Stanford is out and since I didn't fill out a bracket this year, I couldn't care less what happens the rest of the tourney. Forget what I wrote before. March Madness is overrated.

The life less ordinary

Everyone asks what I do while on sabbatical, as if curious if I'm overwhelmed by idle time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every night I lament the end of my reservoir of waking hours, for there still aren't enough of them.
The days are full, but balanced. It's easier to get up immediately when not working. I'm not sure why, but it is. I always wake up at 7:15am these days even though I don't set my alarm, and I immediately turn on a light and start reading. Something about that hazy, dreamlike state I'm in when I've just awoken and the cocoon of silence in the morning is conducive to absorbing fiction deep into my mind. Just finished Part One of Ian McEwan's Atonement...wow! It was incredibly well written. His Amsterdam won the Booker Prize while Atonement fell just short. If Amsterdam is better than Atonement...well, I'll just have to read both and find out for myself.
Then I get up and grab some breakfast and catch up with CNN on the latest news (i.e. all things Iraq) to depress the hell out of myself. I long for a return to the halcyon days of irrational exuberance, when everything was overvalued and it was safe to fly to Turkey.
Then I work out. Normally that would mean a ride on my bike, but the weather has been shit here in Seattle so that's happened all of two times since I've been back from Rio. So I have to hit a gym and lift weights and ride some machine like a prisoner for two hours.
Then it's home for a shower and lunch, and then some optional afternoon activities. One, I can scan some of my slides into my computer and archive the resulting TIFF files on CD-ROMs. Alternatively, I can spend an hour listening to my language instruction CDs. Or I can watch a DVD. I'm trying to watch one classic movie every other day. Or I spend an hour writing. Or flipping through one additional chapter in one of the numerous instruction books I have lying about. There's one on producing beautiful inkjet prints, and a few on photography. Yet another is on digital movie making. And of late I've been flipping through travel books on South America and surfing the web, trying to pull another trip together. Given the SARS outbreak in Asia and the war in Iraq, South America seems a safer choice than Asia or Europe.
Then I'll cook or meet someone out for dinner and perhaps a drink afterwards. The evenings are always different. A movie, or a visit to one of the many families with newborns. A trip to a bookstore to flip through more travel books. A night home to practice editing photos in Photoshop. Doing my taxes, reluctantly. Preparing for my rotisserie baseball draft. Phoning friends and family, here and abroad. Staring sadly out at the rain (I just spend months telling everyone that it doesn't really rain that much in Seattle, and now I'm home and being punished for my impudence). Jotting in my journal.
And with the early starts and the morning workouts, I'm usually too tired to stay up much past midnight. The days go by quickly. It's hardly even a routine considering it's only been my schedule for two weeks out of the past two months off. I do schedule activities for myself in Outlook, just to ensure I cover lots of ground each day.
The only real change since I've been back here in Seattle is that more of my time is spent in my own company. Everyone's working and busy and I don't feel like being the nuisance who's always knocking on doors seeing if so and so can come out and play. I'll try and make time to see folks, but if there's any resistance I'll stay out of the way. The solo time is good preparation or rehabilitation of my days as a writer. Most writers I know have that solitary streak, and I'm indulging mine for a bit.
It hasn't been boring. It reminds me a bit of being a student.

My voice is my passport

I got my Jabra headset and linked it up to my cellphone via Bluetooth. Nifty. I look like an alien with that headset on, but now I can leave my cellphone and its radiation farm from my body, and I can dial people using voice commands through my headset. You simply say a person's name and then the number you want to dial (home, work, or mobile) and the phone dials the number for you.
Amazon has the Sony Ericsson T68i for free after rebates, though only with T-Mobile service which is odd. I've heard nothing but bad things about T-Mobile, and the cloying Catherine Zeta Jones commercials don't do them any favors. My AT&T service has been decent thus far. As with other compact phones, the T68i's buttons are too close together for my tastes, but otherwise I've been pleased. Unlike other phones, instead of having to record multiple entries for a person to cover their various phone numbers, the Ericsson stores up to three phone numbers (work, mobile, home) for each contact, a much more sensible information architecture.

One man sitcom

For some reason that is beyond the comprehension of mortal minds, ESPN.com has given Bill Walton a column. The result is pure comedy for hoops fans everywhere.
Someone who tries so hard to be funny and hip and culturally in-the-know (memo to Bill: it's spelled Salma Hayek) should deserve some kudos for effort, but when a guy his age sprinkles his columns with references to Avril Lavigne, Beyonce Knowles, and Jay-Z, he deserves a reprimand. It's just unseemly, like seeing one's mother come downstairs in the morning with her navel pierced in an effort to relate to her kids.