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t e l e m e t r y


t e l e m e t r y

transmissions from the galores

archive for January of 2006

layers of time in belltown

posted by janet on January 28, 2006


I'm really getting old. I don't feel old, and I don't think I look that old, but I've been around long enough that I have fond memories of the way things used to be. There's a point in time stuck in my mind, a zeitgeist.

For me, the Belltown of the early 90s will be the true Belltown forever. Like how people talk about the Left Bank, or places in Paris frequented by the Surrealists, Belltown is fixed—preserved—as a place of creativity, individuality, possibility. When I see the showy remodeled bars and clubs, when I look at The Frontier Room, I don't see "sexy crushed velvet furniture," as NWsource puts it, I see the entry to one of the sleaziest dives in the city, where you could get Red Death for free on your birthday, get thrown out by the dyke bartender for stealing tips, or play pool with heroin addicts soon to make it big on Sub Pop.

My formative Belltown experience was attending the opening of World Pizza, run by a couple of brothers just starting out, trying something new. We had just moved into the neighborhood. Locals were hanging out on the sidewalk drinking wine and sharing spliffs. It was summer, and we hooked up with some artists living at the Rivoli apartments. It was one of those magical nights where you meet some strangers, stay up and talk all night, getting more and more excited at the possibilities, then stumble out into the gray dawn as dear friends, maybe headed to coffee at the old Cyclops or Penny University.

It was Bohemian in the strictest sense of the word. Rent was cheap enough to allow poets and filmmakers to run bookstores selling vintage Burroughs or hand-bound art books, little coffee shops that probably took in $100 a day and still got by. The solution to "what should we do for dinner tonight?" was not to head to the latest Tom Douglas juggernaut for anise-infused pork cheeks, but to walk to Ralph's on 4th & Virginia, past the BGD crews (Black Gangster Disciples), and get makings for a potluck in someone's studio apartment.

I don't mean to be bathetic. What's interesting to me is the sense that Belltown, in fact the whole city, is existing in many time zones. The New has been perfunctorily overlayed, allowing a few places in the old time zone to shine through. The Rendezvous comes to mind—they remodeled, and the cirrhotic regulars are gone, but they left the peeling wallpaper in the Jewel Box Theatre, where home-grown burlesque shows are still performed. The reincarnated Cyclops shimmers between the old and the new as well.

Actually there are quite a few places that manage to channel some of the old Belltown soul: Mama's, Roq La Rue, Shorty's, Lava Lounge, Crocodile, Noodle Ranch, Cyclops, VAIN, Two Bells, and APEX Co-op among them. These have held their own, sitting squat and fast, despite the condos erupting around them, despite the fire that took out gems like The 211 Club and Speakeasy.

But in other places the integration of The New cuts deeper. The Austin A. Bell building stood empty through the 80s and 90s, a majestic artifact of the previous century that leant a desolate beauty to First Avenue. In 1997 it was all but demolished, leaving only the face of the building, and Starbucks moved in downstairs. Bethel Temple, where the homeless used to get food or clothing handouts, is now a 24-story office tower sporting only a shell of the 1915 Italian Renaissance façade.

Meanwhile, more layering happens throughout the city in Ballard, Georgetown, Columbia City, Beacon Hill. I don't want to be one of those middle-aged people stuck in the past, but I'll continue to be drawn to smaller places that inspire individuality and creativity. If a little dust and sleaziness shows through, so much the better.

Read more about the history of Belltown in the 80s and 90s with archives of interviews in the Belltown Messenger.

Al Croft interview
Dodi interview
Louie Raffloer interview

ground meat cookbook

posted by janet on January 14, 2006
"...what may just be the best cookbook of all time. Enjoy."

The Ground Meat Cookbook, courtesy of Cypher's Foodlog (and Boing Boing). 204 intriguing ground meat recipes.

ground meat cookbook, from cypher

cooking their relatives?

why technical communication?

posted by edward on January 09, 2006
I've begun my second quarter of graduate school at the UW's Department of Technical Communication. I always feel compelled to add that, A) I'm here to learn about user interface design and not technical writing, and that B) TC is in the College of Engineering. I generally think of technical writing as a useful skill, but as a means rather than an end. I think of writing user manuals. But, that's not what TC is about, and I hope to God I don't end up writing user manuals. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Someone needs to do it, and it takes real talent to do it right. I just don't want to document someone else's work. I want to be closer to the front end of the development process. My focus is international user interface design, and when I graduate, I hope to work as an international software program manager.

It's important to me that TC is part of the College of Engineering. Somehow this lends legitimacy to the field. I never realized that at many universities, TC is attached to English departments. Not that there's anything wrong with that. English is good, some of my best friends read and write English. Many good people do. However, if I were to have gone the Arts and Sciences route, I would have pursued either something more esoteric, like comparative religion, or something more tangible, like history.

I dare say that I like TC, or at least the UW's TC department. My classmates come from many different disciplines (nobody else from relgion, though, imagine that). The interdisciplinary nature of TC is precisely what interests me about the subject. The following are all important components of TC: communications, engineering, usability engineering, English, graphic design, information science, information systems, sociology, education, psychology, linguistics, philosophy (esp. epistemology and the philosophy of science),computer science, and the natural sciences. I'm a little surprised that there are relatively few software developers in the program. There are several of us, especially of the web developer variety, and certainly more developers than you'd find in say, Germanics. Still, considering TC's value for crafting user interfaces, I would expect that there would be more software developers in the program.

I'd include a link to the UW's TC site, but sadly, it's something of an embarrassment. High school kids exhibit better design prinicples. The plumber's faucet leaks, I suppose.

missing the concorde

posted by janet on January 07, 2006

In 2003, I was lucky enough to see the last flight of British Air Concorde G-BOAG come into Boeing field, its final resting place. I went with my friend Jean Philippe and his family, and we arrived just as the gorgeous thing was landing. (You can watch us chasing it down, running from the parking lot—see my video of the arrival.)

concorde arrives at boeing field (c) janet galore

It was very exciting to see, hear and feel (you don't quickly forget the vibrations of a Rolls Royce jet engine designed to go Mach 2 shrieking 10 yards from your head).

concorde rolls-royce jet engine (c) janet galore

The whole thing makes me wistful at a missed opportunity... I'll never get to fly in one. I guess I really never did have the opportunity, since tickets were usually around $10,000 a piece. But now it's completely impossible.

Recently I came across a compelling description of a flight on the Concorde by a fellow named Ben Wang. In fact, he flew on the very same plane I saw land at Boeing field, and later made the trip to see his plane make its final landing (somewhere Ben had been in the parking lot with me). It made me feel a little better, as Ben's description of the flight, the details he captured, were very similar to what I would have recorded. The food, the speed and temperature gauges, the size of the windows, and the curvature of the earth.

concorde window (c) ben wang
(c) Ben Wang

It's almost like I had done it myself, as if I could inject his artifacts and documentation into my own memories. As time goes by, what's the difference between what you remember and what actually happened? It's all what you remember—we create history. Maybe by the time I'm 80 it'll be like I really did go...

And there's always hope for the future. Japan's space agency, JAXA, hopes to have regular supersonic flights between Tokyo and LA by 2025. Or, if I really hit it big, Ed and I could do a little orbit around the Earth on a Virgin Galactic Spaceliner for £100,000.

polar bear swim

posted by janet on January 03, 2006

See some silly photos of our new year's adventure in Vancouver.

polar bear swim 2006
The viking guys were wearing bath mats.

It's a hilarious event--a highly recommended way to start the new year with 2000 strangers. You can read more about the Vancouver polar bear swim, and the Sylvia Hotel, ground zero for the event.