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Hey Seattle locals, Folklife needs help!

Any of you who have followed me on a regular basis know that my household are longstanding fans of Folklife, the big four-day music festival that happens every year at the Seattle Center over Memorial Day weekend. This year’s is imminent, and as always, Dara, Paul, and I are looking forward to spending time there.

But I noted with dismay this morning that the Seattle Times has an article up saying that unless they get more donations at the gate this year, next year’s festival is in danger of being canceled. 🙁

According to that article, Folklife usually only gets donations from about 17 percent of attendees at the gate, and they take in around $190,000. They really need to bump that number up to $350,000 in order to afford next year.

So if you’re in the area, you love Folklife and what it brings to our local culture, and you’re planning to go this weekend, please please please donate anything you can spare at the gate. They need your help. Also, if you’re not going to be able to hit the festival but you still want to help out, you can donate to them directly on their website.

Please spread the word to other area locals! And if you’re going to be at the festival, hey, look for Dara and Paul and me, and say hi if you see us!


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?


Songda turned out to be a bust, and I feel fine

So it turned out that the predicted storm on Saturday was way, way less intense than the forecasters were saying. Enough that KOMO’s weather guy and Cliff Mass both posted embarrassed commentary along the lines of “yep, we pooched this one big time, sorry about that!”

From news articles I saw go up on Sunday, a lot of people took to Twitter to complain about this, particularly in re: how they got emergency supplies for nothing. To some degree I sympathize with that. It is annoying to be told by local officials “OH SHIT BIG STORM COMING IN EVERYBODY GET READY”, only to have that not actually happen.

But on the other hand, I also feel that this is actually the far preferable scenario. If the forecasters are going to fuck up a forecast, I would much rather have it be “far better than expected” rather than the other way around. Mr. Mass and his compatriots are getting shit for screwing this up, sure, but they’d be getting a lot more shit if they’d been all “okay, garden-variety storm coming in” and it turns out to be “OH SHIT WORST STORM IN 54 YEARS”.

And honestly, it ain’t like we aren’t going to have more storms. Those emergency supplies everybody went out and got? We’ll be using them sooner or later. Probably sooner, for those of us in Kenmore. The 2016 storm season has only just started and I am positive Kenmore will lose power at least once more before the end of the year. My house did in fact go out for about 11 hours, from Friday afternoon to just before 1am Saturday morning, even if we held steady on Saturday night. Other locations in Kenmore did go out during Saturday’s bluster, too, as I saw on the PSE Outage Map.

Mr. Mass’s last post did include some chagrined acknowledgement that while he did try to communicate that there was uncertainty in how the storm would play out, and that any little deviation in its track could dramatically change the impact on Seattle, he clearly didn’t communicate that well enough. So here’s hoping that he and his local weather colleagues can come up with a good game plan to make that happen next time we have a potential severe weather situation.

Because it never hurts to be aware of the worst case scenario, even if that worst case scenario never materializes. Better data about how probable that scenario will be, though, will help us all make the proper judgment calls on how we plan our responses.

So hang in there, Puget Sound area weather people! Many sympathies for the difficulties of your job! And hopefully this is the worst that the 2016 storm season will throw us.


Opening act is done, headliner is on the way

Those of you who follow me on social media, or who saw the posts that went up on, LJ, and Dreamwidth last night, know we lost power around 2:30 yesterday afternoon. We were down all evening, but at least as of right now, we’re back.

How Are You?

How Are You?

Yesterday evening, we amused ourselves with playing around with instruments and with listening to one of the Big Finish audio adventures off my phone, piped through a Bluetooth speaker. The Cloisters of Terror turned out to be a delightful thing to listen to during a power outage! In no small part because Mr. Baker was in fine form in that story.

Here are the sorts of conversations we have in our house when the power is out!

Dara (while trying to figure out the chord progression for a song): OMG this chart doesn’t HAVE an A flat! They just skipped it!

Me (nodding sagely): ‘What damn fool would want to play an A flat chord on a bouzouki?’

And also:

Me: Okay good chiro has power. So I will go out tomorrow and bring back any necessary things. Be thinking about necessary things I can bring back.

Dara: Electricity! 4 buckets of electricity!

Paul: I think the fridge is going to need more than 4 buckets.

Dara: Okay, 6 buckets! Go to Costco.

George, bless his little kitty heart, kept wandering around mewing in a sort of “EVERYTHING IS DARK AND WEIRD AND QUIET WHY IS IT LIKE THIS AND WHY ARE YOU ALL IN THIS OTHER ROOM OH HEY THE FIRE IS ON YAY WARM”. And once we settled in to listen to the audio, George curled up in front of the fireplace to go zzzzzzzz.

I went to bed around 10:30ish and woke up just before 1am when the noise of the neighbors’ generators shut up. I sleepily realized the clock was blinking, checked the time on the phone (which I was keeping by our bed), and noted 12:54. So our power must have come back just a few minutes before that, long enough for neighbors to go YAY and turn their generators off.

Dara brought the servers back up this morning, and I scampered out to go to chiro and Safeway and the booze store (so that I could replenish the cake vodka and Baileys supply, and OH BY THE WAY YOU GUYS, I did find another bottle of Pumpkin Spice Baileys, which is an actual thing that exists and you should try it if those are words that sound like fun to you). Dara is heading out now that I’m home again, as the Norwescon concom has a meeting today, and they kinda can’t cancel it, because it’s at the hotel and they’re contractually obligated to use the rooms when they’re booked for. But she’s going to scamper back here ASAP when the meeting is done.

As of this writing Seattle City Light has a mere 11 customers out. Puget Sound Energy has 5,125 down still. And I gotta say, cranky as I am that PSE has been so random in our power service this year, their crews were out last night working their asses off. And that we got power back in the dead of night means their crews were out there in the wet dark, working for us. So kudos to them for that.

The current High Wind Warning is supposed to kick in at 3pm this afternoon and run until 2am, with the peak winds now expected between 5pm and 10pm. Cliff Mass has his current forecast up here, and from what he’s saying, the storm is still aiming for north of us, but we’ll be on the very edge of it. Seattle proper may dodge a bullet, but chances are high that Kenmore will get hit harder. And even if damaging winds don’t smack us, chances are VERY high we will lose power again, possibly for days. Expect that will go down again, in which case I will continue to post updates on as well.

And given that the wind conditions yesterday still caused quite a lot of damage (note the gallery of pics on the Seattle Times’ updates here, PARTICULARLY the snapped power pole), I’m still expecting things to be very, very messy tonight and into tomorrow.

Brace for impact, Cascadians. Charge all your devices. Do your laundry while you still have power. Songda is COMING.


Windstorm forecast for tomorrow night, site outage likely

Heads up to anyone who didn’t already see me post this on social media this afternoon: we have a windstorm forecast for tomorrow, and there’s already a High Wind Warning up with some details. We’re talking potential gusts up to 70mph in late afternoon and early evening.

And y’all know what this means: probable power outage at the Murkworks. Which will in turn impact the availability of my and sites, Dara’s, and all other websites, mailing lists, and other resources that we host. So please be advised that chances are VERY high that we’ll lose power some time tomorrow.

Dara and I will post the usual alerts if this happens. Apologies in advance for anyone who might try to visit my site over the next 24-48 hours, if I do indeed go down!

(And apologies for anyone who tries to come by this afternoon when I was also down. We lost power TODAY too, but that was apparently due to downed trees that took out power in Kenmore for about 1,200 customers. Trees that were, I suspect, weakened by this past Wednesday night’s storm. Ah, the joys of living in the PNW in March!)

If you’re local, I recommend battening down all the hatches, and stocking up on ice for your coolers and batteries for your flashlights. Tomorrow could get tricky.


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!