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Yesterday’s commute adventure

The big story in Seattle yesterday was the rollover of a butane tanker, which hit four cars and caused a 7-hour shutdown of I-5. Area natives and long-time residents know: if I-5 gets shut down, traffic around here is completely fucked. And that’s exactly what happened. The Washington State DOT started warning mid-afternoon that drivers should avoid downtown Seattle if at all possible, which of course meant that all the drivers who couldn’t get on the highway were clogging up the side streets.

And a lot of folks were stuck on the highway for multiple hours, too. Long enough that an enterprising taco truck opened for business, which I think is my favorite part of the entire story. ;D

Complicating the matter was that we also got hit with some freakish weather: a brief snowstorm that rolled in just after 3pm. We’re talking thundersnow here, people. There’s even video (see the link) of lightning striking the Space Needle.

Remembering my epic saga of the Worst Commute Ever, which I VERY MUCH DID NOT WANT TO DO AGAIN, I bailed on work around a quarter after 3 and headed home. I hung out at the bus stop at Elliott and Western for about five or ten minutes, thinking that I’d catch a bus to the bus tunnels–and see then whether I should a) try to catch one of my usual busses, a 522 or a 312, or b) get on the light rail to get to the U-district instead.

When I got to the bus stop was about when the thundersnow hit. And while I was waiting, chatting with a couple other folks, we all were VERY startled by thunder and lightning interspersed with the increasingly vigorous mix of snow and ice pellets coming down. Icy slush started building up very quickly on the road.

Thundersnow Slush

Thundersnow Slush

My phone’s OneBusAway app claimed that the next busses were due in a couple of minutes. The app was mistaken. Elliott very quickly turned into a parking long, with a long line of vehicles in the southbound lanes stretching well past Big Fish and the buildings beyond. It became very obvious very quickly that busses were NOT going to reach us in a timely fashion.

So while I wasn’t exactly happy about walking in these conditions, I punted to plan B: hoofing it to the bus tunnels. (I had flirted with the idea of catching a 32 to the U district instead, but given the condition the roads were in, that seemed ill-advised. Also much slower, given that the 32 takes a meandering path through Fremont before it finally reaches the U-district.) Fortunately I had on my Yaktrax, so walking wasn’t really a problem. And I had on my scarf to protect my face, and a heat pack in my pocket. I had my work laptop in the backpack, which meant a heavier than usual load to carry, but eh, could have been worse.

On my way up Denny I passed a #2 bus which was having a very hard time with the slush, and which got stuck for multiple minutes as I watched it. It wasn’t the only bus I saw without snow chains, either. All along 3rd, I saw a long line of busses trying to head north–very slowly. Lots of cars on that street and all the intersecting ones, too. I was frankly stunned that nobody actually ran into anybody else, given how slushy the roads were.

I made it to the bus tunnels just in time to miss an outbound train. (Also, walking through the bus tunnels while wearing Yaktrax? Kinda hard. But I didn’t really want to take them off, given that I wasn’t sure what kind of conditions I’d find on the way home.)

The next train was very crowded, and the driver even told folks trying to get on that he had two more trains queued up behind him. But by then I was already on board and wasn’t about to go anywhere. And really, once I made it onto the train, I was fine. Downtown->U-district by light rail is very fast, only two stops. And once I got off at the U-district station, I found that the thundersnow had not impacted the roads there at all. I walked over to Campus Parkway, and got to the bus stop there pretty much exactly as a 372 was pulling up. SCORE.

I pinged Dara to ask her to pick me up at the bottom of our hill, since our neighborhood roads were also clear, and walking with Yaktrax on and a heavier than usual backpack was tiring and I didn’t want to go up our hill. And the 372 zipped along at a nice steady typical pace, so all in all, it only took me a little longer than usual to get home. I was home well before 6pm.

Other folks–not so much. When I got into work this morning, several coworkers were commiserating on our Slack channels about how long it took them to get home. A couple folks said it took them over four hours. And given that I-5 was closed until around 7pm, Metro and Sound Transit were still absolutely impacted–I saw a tweet that indicated a bunch of busses that normally traveled along I-5 were running over 90 minutes late. So yeah, if I’d had to take the usual 522 or 312, my commute home would have taken a lot longer.

The moral of this story: ALL HAIL LIGHT RAIL.

Any Seattle-area locals want to chime in on how well the commute did or did not treat you?

Movies, News

RIP Carrie Fisher

I just saw the news breaking: Carrie Fisher has passed away at the age of 60, following a recent medical emergency.

Goddammit 2016. :~(

I was afraid we’d see this, when the news originally broke about her medical emergency a few days ago. I’d been at least a little hopeful given that we then saw news that she’d been stabilized… but apparently, this shitstorm of a year just had to get in another punch and take General Organa from us.

Much has been said on the various blogs I follow about Fisher’s openness talking about her past addiction issues, as well as her capabilities as a script doctor in Hollywood, something she hasn’t gotten nearly as much credit for as she should have. But for me, of course, she will forever be Leia Organa, princess and rebel and general. Given how important Star Wars has been to me as an SF/F fan–particularly with my history of playing Han on Star Wars MUSH, which of course meant that I roleplayed with multiple people playing Leia, so yeah, the character is real important to me–it’s safe to say that she’s one of the most iconic characters of my childhood. And arguably the most important female character I encountered early on, in my initial exposure to SF/F.

Star Wars was the first movie I can consciously remember seeing in a theater. I’ve written before about the visceral memory I have of seeing that opening shot of the Star Destroyer rolling up the screen. But I also have very early memories of me and my brothers having Star Wars action figures, and my always being a little jealous and protective of the Leia figure.

And of course when Empire came out, I had gotten old enough to start crushing on Harrison Ford. Part and parcel of this, of course, was how vital Leia was as a part of that–because sure, Han was totally swoonable and all, but Leia’s part of all their wonderful scenes in Empire are just as critical to me as Han’s.

Han: C’mon, admit, sometimes you think I’m all right.
Leia: Maybe. Occasionally. When you’re not acting like a scoundrel.
Han: Scoundrel? Scoundrel? I like the sound of that.
Leia: I happen to like nice men.
Han: I’m a nice man.
Leia: No you’re not–

Not that I’ve memorized that scene or anything. :~}

But oh god yes her lines in Star Wars, too.

“You came in that? You’re braver than I thought.”

“Will someone get this walking carpet OUT OF MY WAY?”

Fuck. Fuck this fucking year.

I think I gotta rewatch A New Hope and Empire now. I was kinda going to do that anyway after seeing Rogue One… but now, yeah.

To all my fellow Star Wars fans, many hugs.

To Carrie Fisher’s family and loved ones and all her fans, deepest condolences.

I choose to believe that General Organa has damn well gone to become one with the Force. As she damn well should, y’know, being Force sensitive and all.

Han and Leia

Han and Leia


Heads up, fellow owners of i-Things: UPDATE YOUR DEVICES NOW

iOS 9.3.5 has just been released, and it’s a very important security update. Important enough that it made the news–because it’s fixing newly discovered security flaws that had the potential to give a remote attacker pretty much complete control of your phone. So jump on this ASAP and get your devices updated, mmkay?

The BBC has covered the story here:

Apple tackles iPhone one-tap spyware flaws

(If you own an older device that’s running an older version of iOS, better check and see if a similar update has been released for your version, too. If your device is capable of updating to iOS 9, you might want to put serious consideration into doing so. If it’s not capable of updating to iOS 9 and Apple hasn’t yet released a security patch to your version, go get on them about that.)


RIP, Professor Snape :(

Severus Snape

Severus Snape

Got up this morning to find the news exploding around the net that Alan Rickman has passed away–which makes two different 69-year-old Brits taken out by cancer in the same week, Rickman and David Bowie. And I gotta say, even though I’m not in the active Harry Potter fandom, I appreciate the books and the movies enough that this has hit closer to home for me. Bowie I’ve respected for his contributions to music as well as SF/F, even though I haven’t listened to his music.

Losing Rickman, though… fuck. 🙁 This hits hard not only because of Potter, but also Galaxy Quest, long beloved by SF/F fandom for its homage to Star Trek. And Die Hard as well, which has even been recently re-watched in my household. I also distinctly remember Rickman’s role in the Sweeney Todd movie that started Johnny Depp. I liked him in that, too. A small list of things I’ve ever actually seen him in–but oh man, what a list.

Here’s a roundup of links about the news I’ve seen so far on my usual morning reading:

Alan Rickman, Harry Potter and Die Hard actor, dies aged 69 on BBC News

Alan Rickman Has Died; This Week Is the Worst on the Mary Sue

Alan Rickman, 1946–2016 on

Oh, and Alan Rickman, on John Scalzi’s blog at the Whatever

Those of you who read me who ARE actively in the Harry Potter fandom, especially the Snape fans, many condolences for y’all today. And to all who have loved Rickman in any of his performances.

In conclusion:

  • This week is bad and should feel bad
  • Somebody needs to go check on Tim Curry, STAT
  • Fuck cancer

Back up and running

Those of you who live in the area know this already, of course. But for those of you who might not, we had a hell of a windstorm in Cascadia over the weekend. It tapdanced all over us from Portland clear up to Vancouver. At the Murkworks, we lost power around 2:30pm on Saturday afternoon and were out until Sunday morning. It took until Sunday night for us to get our Internet, cable, and phone line back–our phone was out, too, since our Comcast service runs everything digitally now.

Cell connectivity got a little wonky too–probably because of cell towers being impacted by the storm. So all in all it’s a damned good thing we didn’t have to deal with any emergency situations on Saturday night!

Roundup of news reports I saw over the weekend and today:

Storm toll: 2 dead, 4 hurt, 450,000 lose power from the Seattle P-I

Vancouver Zoo evacuated; wind breaks grizzly bear enclosure from, in which it gets all Jurassic-Park-y at the Vancouver Zoo

(I told Paul about this story as I read about it, and he leaped immediately to imagining that this of course was a Canadian bear. So clearly it’d be all “Uh, hello? Hey! This fence is broken! Somebody should come fix this! I’m gonna be over here eating fish, don’t let me get in your way, okay?”)

Thousands without power as winds pick up in Portland area, from on Saturday

So yeah, it got pretty lively all over Cascadia. Saturday night Dara and Shanti and I attended a Tricky Pixie concert at the Kenmore Community Center anyway, power outage or no–because of course the enterprising sound crew showed up with a generator. So there was light and music and the band didn’t even have to go acoustic. It was awesome.

Not so awesome were the fallen trees and power lines that actually closed Bothell Way on Sunday morning–Dara reported running into that on her way to PAX yesterday! By the time I made it down to the Farmers’ Market Sunday afternoon, there were still a lot of utility trucks down there as well as Comcast Xfinity trucks, and traffic cops redirecting cars to detours around the Lake Forest Park Town Center. Where, I might add, several of the shops were still closed due to the outage, and due to not being able to serve food to customers due to the refrigeration units for their stock being out.

As of this morning things are more or less back to normal, thankfully! I hope to be able to resume regular posting this week of various blog post series in progress. Stand by.


OMG a megaquake is going to destroy Seattle OH WAIT maybe not



A whole hell of a lot of people saw this article on the New Yorker yesterday, all about how Cascadia is overdue for a massive earthquake and it’ll destroy Seattle and OH GOD OH GOD WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE.

(Which, I note, is a VERY cheerful thought to be having when you’re on your way to work in downtown Seattle, let me tell you.)

If there’s anything dealing with my years of medical crap has taught me, though, it’s that big scary shit freaking me out becomes slightly less scary if I can get data and figure out a way to begin to deal with it. Dara and me, we do like us some data. So we got into talking yesterday afternoon about possible appropriate steps to take. In my specific case, this means “start building up an emergency stash of thyroid meds”–because I can do without all the various vitamins and supplements I take if I have to. But the levothyroxine? NOT OPTIONAL.

And we’d have to think about stuff like “do we try to retrofit or sell MurkSouth?” and what steps we can take if the region’s actually out of commission for more than a couple of days. Likewise, I got into thinking about exactly how fast I could haul ass up the hill from Big Fish, and whether I could make it past I-5 in thirty minutes on foot.

But, being the geeky sorts of people who like data, we also went digging for more. I found a book Full Rip 9.0 by Sandi Doughton, which goes into a lot of the history of seismic science in the region. I’ve checked it out digitally from the local libraries and am now reading through it. I’m about five chapters in, and it’s described in depth a lot of the efforts involved in nailing down when the last massive earthquake happened, and what they can extrapolate from that as to when the next one might occur. It seems pretty solid so far, so if you have any interest in geology and seismic science, you might get a hold of a copy.

Dara also found a couple of PDFs to check out:

Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquakes: A Magnitude 9.0 Earthquake Scenario, by the Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup

King County Liquefaction Hazard Map

And today, some local earthquake experts have an AMA going on Reddit, answering readers’ questions about earthquakes in the region and disseminating more data about what we could actually expect, what measures are already in place for disaster mitigation, and what reasonable steps ordinary people could take to make it through. Notably, one of the people answering questions on this AMA is the author of the aforementioned book.

As I’ve told folks on Facebook, the takeaway I want to have here is less “OH GOD OH GOD WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE” and more “okay yeah make DAMN sure we have a disaster plan in place and otherwise go about our daily business”. Facebook friends have also pointed out quite correctly that it ain’t like the rest of the North American continent doesn’t also have any number of other ways to kill you–tornados or hurricanes or blizzards or volcanos, to name a few. Or, for that matter, other earthquake regions, because if the New Madrid fault ever fires off in the Midwest, that’s going to send Memphis sliding right down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico. So you could be all “WHELP there goes my plans to move to Portland”, but you’d also have to worry about what could kill you anywhere else you’d move, so.

Because seriously, if we all spend too much time worrying about the shit that could kill us in our places of residence, we’d never leave the house. And I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve got shit to DO.

That said? I’m going to definitely finish reading Full Rip 9.0.

ETA: Additional useful links spotted in the Reddit AMA:

Seattle Emergency Management Plans (and, relatedly, Earthquake Retrofits done after the 2001 Nisqually quake)

Regional Catastrophic Plans for the State of Washington

The Great Washington ShakeOut

ETA #2: Fixed the broken link to Sandi Doughton’s book, since I noticed some bad hits coming through on my Google Analytics. Oops. Sorry about that!


Today is a good day, because #LoveWins

I gotta admit, I was dubious about the Supreme Court taking on the question of same-sex marriage. But as the news exploding around the Internet today has proclaimed, same-sex marriage is now the law of the land. All fifty states.

A Good Day

A Good Day

The BBC’s article I link to mentions cranky anti-gay-marriage advocates who assert that this ruling, quote, “ignores the voices of thousands of Americans”, unquote. To those folks I say: y’know what? If you don’t like same-sex marriage, don’t have one. But realize this: just because your particular flavor of religion says same-sex marriage is icky–or maybe it’s not even a question of religion for you? Maybe you just think same-sex marriage is icky in general–that doesn’t mean you get to dictate what other people do with their marriages. The Supreme Court now says so.

And just because they’ve issued a ruling that you don’t agree with doesn’t mean it’s “tyranny”, either. Nobody’s going to come and make you get married to a queer person. Nobody’s going to come and wreck your marriage now that people of the same gender can legally get married from coast to coast. (Though to be blunt, if your marriage is so shaky that it’s threatened by the prospect of complete strangers of the same gender getting married, you need to go get marital counseling. Seriously.) And nobody’s going to come and tell you you have to raise your children to believe that same-sex marriage is okay (although news flash: your kids are going to have brains and opinions of their own, and some of them are also going to be queer, and you’re going to need to learn how to cope if they wind up disagreeing with you too).

Look, I get it. I come out of a Southern Baptist background myself. In my adolescence I was twitchy about queer people. But y’know what happened once I got to college, and then moved out to the West Coast? I met some actual queer people. I saw that at the end of the day, they’re people just like anybody else, who want to live their lives in peace, go about their daily business, do their jobs, feed their pets, and in general just be people. That went a long way towards making me think that maybe I was wrong to be twitchy, and that’s even before I realized I am in fact bisexual.

Before I learned that love can have many faces and colors and shapes and sizes, and that it’s not fair or just to say that only one kind of love is ever true or proper.

Today, I feel like that for once, maybe, just maybe, people who love like me and my wife have had our right to exist validated. That it is, in fact, okay for us to love one another.

This is What Love Looks Like

This is What Love Looks Like

Love is not a zero-sum game. Marriage is not a zero-sum game. There’s plenty of each to go around for all.

Today, #LoveWins.