Monthly Archives: April 2013

Starfish – A Photograph


Sunday was a -2.4 tide at Carkeek Park in Seattle, so my family took the opportunity to go tide pooling, which is where we found this beauty.

The boys had a great time, and the little one was so delighted with the things we uncovered (more starfish, eels, rock, dungeness, and arrow crabs, etc.) that he started to turn over almost every rock on the beach!

The beaches above the normal tide line don’t seem to have as much life on them than when I was a kid, but it was heartening to see a fair amount of diversity below it, even if there were fewer vertebrates than I would have expected.

6294 – A Poem


Photo by George Gastin (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

There once was a sheep from Kelsey Creek Farm
Some frat boys borrowed it without tripping the alarm

For dark, secret rights it was procured
So its effluent was endured

The dread night finally fell
And none too soon, because of the smell

Assembled were the initiates
And told they were to be the conjugates

To join, they’d need to rise
As the animal trainer pointed out the wooly thighs

The actives did guffaw while holding their beer
At the pledges all trembling in unbelieving fear

“Dig deep!” came the call
Focused upon one with the most gall

Told to lead the corps
An open tin was set before

Wide-eyed at the peanut butter
All that emerged was a stutter

At this, the trainer did rage
Threatening to take all them back to the stone age

“Would you like the Crisco instead?
“Before I slap you upside the head?”

“Dig deep! Don’t be too long!
“And what’s wrong with your schlong?”

Steeled for the worst and ready to commit
The lights come on – it was all a skit!

It was just a practical joke
Played upon their own folk

But one year they got caught
Because of a dumb mistake in a parking lot

The president said they were spinning wool
Which was really just a bunch of bull

Once the story hit the newswires
To pull it back was ultra vires

Though over twenty years have passed
The story still leaves some aghast

And in their eyes I see the question
That they never ask in their discretion

So I always leave them with a silent grin
And let them stew in their chagrin

Anselo’s Poetry – A Story, Part 5

The chill waves threw me ashore at Brackett’s landing and left my body shivering on the dark, rocky sand. Barnacles had sliced the skin on my hands, arms, thighs and shins, and my vital fluid and torn, ragged tissue was attracting quite a crowd of invertebrates that scuttled, skittered and jostled about for a share. Seagulls cried in the air, and I thought of my grandfather throwing the morning’s extra pancakes to the gulls in a swirling flurry of white adults and mottled gray juveniles. There was a gull larger than the rest that always came for breakfast, and he had been duly named Jonathan. I pulled my knees up to my chest, hugging them tight, trying to keep some heat, and brushed Poseidon’s pets from my legs and looked about through swimming eyes.

A crowd had gathered at the end of the ferry pier to murmur and mill about and generally get in the way of the hardier souls manning ropes and carrying life rings down to the heaving waves. A freight train thundered behind me in its rolling tremble, and I could hear sirens choppily wail between the gaps in the freight, which consisted mostly of Douglas-fir trees. Likely, a few trees somewhere in that cargo had sprouted before Copernicus’ Little Commentary, waiting patiently through sun and cloud, rain and snow, drought and deluge, Cooley spruce galls, coneworms, Pileated-, hairy-, downy- and all other sundry woodpeckers, wood-boring beetles, ichneumonid wasps, black bears, lightning, lobaria lichens, native firewood gatherers and outlasted all else that orbited around and impacted them until a plaid-wrapped hoot owl born on a wanigan and now missing his left ring and middle finger gnawed them down to stumps and put them on a railcar heading north to Everett to be turned into toilet paper.

My five-year-old soul was amoral at that point to the cutting down of old-growth coastal forests because it was the furthest thing from my mind. I was cold, my grandparents were likely dead and my favorite toy car was somewhere in the murk, probably eaten by a ling cod or being driven off to some secret, underwater garage by an enterprising hermit crab.

I did not know why I was crying. It could have been the loss of my car or grandparents, the cold and wet, the creatures feasting on my flesh or the shame and horror of enjoying the warmth of involuntarily urinating in my purple jeans.

So lost was I, I did not know I was found.

A man with a pocket protector and thick glasses was crouched down in front of me with his hand laid on my shoulder. He probably had been asking me what was wrong for at least a minute. He had a weird looking wheel made of wire on a stick next to him on the sand.

“Guh…guh…guh…” was all I could gasp between sobs.

“Everything’s going to be all right. Where are your parents?”

This confused me, as there was no good answer for that right now, and it caused another round of involuntary jerks.

“Okay, okay. It’s going to be okay.” Looking about, he seemed to connect my dishevelment with the commotion on the dock. “Were you a part of what happened over there?”

I nodded between spasms.

His hand lightened a bit, and he looked around. He seemed a bit at a loss. How could you blame the guy?

“Let’s go find someone to help you out. You’re all cut up.”


“Over by the dock. Can you walk, or should I find someone to come here?”

I was starting to feel a bit more safe, the sobs were subsiding, and I was able to squeak out, “Walk.”

He stood, extending his hand to me, and then remembering his wheel, crouched down and grabbed the stick attached to the wheel. “My name’s Mark.”

I stood, brushed some sand off my pants and took his hand. “Ansilo.”

“Nice to meet you, Ansilo.”

Now I had the hiccups and realized how much I ached all over. I took a few wobbly steps in the sand, slipping on seaweed and tripping over a sand collar, but his steadying hand kept me going in the right direction. He navigated us towards the dock, but I could see him glancing at his wheel, which he steered in the same direction.

“What’s that?” I said, pointing at it.

“Well, it’s a wheel I’m testing for the moon.”

“The moon?”

“Yep. The moon. I work at Boeing, and my team is building a moon buggy that astronauts will be able to drive around in when they’re there. Most of the moon is covered in dust, but there’s still a lot of rock there, so I thought the beach would be a good place to test this design out.”

“That wheel is going to the moon?” I asked in wonderment. All my pain was forgotten – I had moved from despair to euphoria by standing next to a holy artifact.

Mark chuckled. “Well, no, not this one. This one is to test the design. It’s performing pretty well though, and so far, only you and me have seen it.”

I must have done something, as he stopped and looked at me with alarm.

“The moon?” I mumbled as I fell to the sand, my brain overloaded by my morning’s arc from Rambler apogee to beach perigee. I wanted to ask him all sorts of questions, but I couldn’t quite seem to make my mouth move, and things were going dim for me as I moved into a long, dark tunnel. The gull cries and lapping waves echoed down the tube until everything was silent and dark again.

I came to in a busy industrial kitchen, with clinks, clanks and clunks, shouting, liquids being spilled, meat being chopped and hacked. I can’t quite place the era but it must be pre-industrial, as the barnyard sounded close and because I could hear squeals from the abattoir.

The floor felt like cool stone to my cheek and was pleasant on my temple, but the rest of my body was wearing whiffy, course cloth that itched, and it felt like I’d been beaten.

I was getting too old for this.

I decided I should open my eyes and sit up.


A big bear of a man with long, matted black hair and beard startled me. He wore a wide toothy smile and the pelt of what looked like a yak, but I couldn’t remember if there were yaks with spots. He was shod in leather moccasins and a shofar hung from his neck on a silver chain.

“Who…? Where…? Wha-?” I dribbled, swiveling my head around to sound my milieu.

I was in no kitchen.

The bear came and knelt down next to me and clapped his hand on my shoulder.

“What, you do not recognize your own brother? It is me, Amielio!” he said with a hearty laugh. “You must have hit your head harder than I thought. That should teach you to watch your feet in battle, brother!”

Definitely yak. Burned yak. The perfume enveloping him made my eyes tear.

“You need water! Hoi! Slipson! Bring my brother Ansilo some water!” he barked.

Slipson put down the basketful of catkins he was carrying and scurried off.

Ameilio quickly sat and put his arm around me. “Ah, my brother. A fine battle and grand victory that was. Next time you mustn’t sleep through it!” he said as he shook my shoulders.

“Who…? How…? …”

“There’ll be time to tell the story later! Now that you’re awake, I’m off.” He used my shoulder to lever himself up.

Amielio must have had very important things to go and do because he didn’t look back and didn’t see how he had accidentally shoved me back down onto the floor hard enough to cause me to lose consciousness again.

Yet again, I was plunged into the black void.

If the USPS Stops Delivering, Will Your Business Survive?

Do you know how much of your cash flow arrives via checks delivered by the United States Postal Service? If you don’t, go find out NOW. The survival of your business could hinge on it.

Today’s news of the receipt of another suspicious letter sent to elected officials immediately made me think of the 2001 anthrax mailings and how the resulting postal mail delivery slowdown nearly finished off my startup.

2001 was a rough year, and we were struggling to keep the doors open. The dot-com bubble was almost completely deflated, and it had simultaneously erased our lower-tier client base and caused our top-tier clients to cut back. Then came the September 11 attacks, which put even more downward pressure on business. While sad about broader events, me and my team were resolved that life and business would go on, even as we continued to juggle cash flow to keep the doors open.

But cash flow requires cash, and our accounts receivable split was roughly 75% checks delivered by the postal system and 25% by electronic credit card payments. As the postal system slowed down to clean up anthrax in sorting and delivery facilities, our daily mail volume decreased 90-95%. Our cash receipts tanked accordingly.

Ongoing conversations with vendors around our already late payments became even harder and meeting payroll was a real concern. Through heroic efforts on the part of Kris Bourne, we made payroll and kept the vendors from suing us for late payments. But it was close. At our lowest point, we had only a few weeks of cash on hand to fund operations.

As things returned to somewhat normal, we moved to ensure that another delivery interruption wouldn’t impact us as severely.

We shifted as many customers as possible to monthly, automatic credit card payments by offering discounts on service. For customers who wanted to continue to pay by check, we shifted many of them from monthly to quarterly payments. For new small accounts going forward, we required credit card payments.

Combined, these measures increased our average prepaid balances significantly, had the ancillary benefit of reducing our accounts receivable aging, and ensured that if the mail stopped flowing again, we would still have steady cash flow.

Are you prepared?

Salamanders – A Short Story

The woods across the street from where I grew up were my refuge as a child.

It was a green belt amidst suburban sprawl and the neighbors, (and I when I was older and tasked with such things,) would dump the lawn clippings from cutting engines in huge mounds a few feet from the road in a hollow. The progression from Spring to Summer to Fall could be tracked by the size, color, and smell of those hillocks. As the long days would shorten, the mounds would come to tower on either side of me in green-to-yellow rainbow sours of decay along the path I followed into the woods towards a small brook that was partially fed by storm drains.

This was a new forest, unlike the older forest of cedar and fir a mile away that was eventually clearcut and graded for the corporate palaces of a software empire, mostly alder and vine maple, sword fern, tangles of blackberry, and the rare snag that had been too decomposed to provide any value to harvest. The understory was a tangle of branches and leaves, vines, spiderwebs, and various and sundry creepy-crawlies like millipedes, mice, rats, raccoons, and even a woodchuck that once erupted from the bottom of my sandbox after I had been pressure digging with the garden hose.

In deep summer, it was a dappled, rustling shade loud enough to drown out most passing vehicles save the downshifted diesels heading west and uphill. Lower in the ever-shaded cut the brook had carved over the years before I was delivered on Earth, was a year-round humid climate that supported an entirely different ecosystem.

Here were mosses and fungi, slugs and snails. And salamanders! It was a few years before I ever trapped one in my hands, being too slow and uncoordinated when I was younger, but they were previously caught many times in vision.

The pure memory of my youth has been polluted over the years by things uncountable that I have remembered and forgotten, but I’m fairly certain that my damp little friends were Western red-backs. There was one spot where a broken pipe jutted from the bank and its drips had stained the glacially tilled soil orange with rust. Or it was a bacterial bloom. Who knows?

But it was my spot to visit, because I could almost always find a salamander there, and that made me happy.

I don’t recall my last visit. I’ve often thought of returning. Hesitation holds me back. I don’t know if it would be sadder to not find them or cry if I did.

I’m afraid to find out.