January 2007
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Day January 12, 2007

Week in Seattle

It’s a beautiful day on the ferry Yakima, headed up to Friday Harbor. Clear and cold, the remnants of this week’s snow hardened into icy hummocks in the ferry line. I have no idea what I’ll find when I get back home to the island, except possibly more of the same. As long as power has been fairly continuous and no trees fell, there shouldn’t be any problem at the house. I’ll feel better next week, though, when my generator gets installed (it’s now sitting on a little pallet in the garage).

I spent the week down in Seattle, handling beginning-of-school chores, finding a place to rent in town, and doing some social events.

In the latter category, our book group is reading Proust, and we’re making decent progress through Swann’s Way — most of us are reading the new Lydia Davis translation, which I have to say is very readable. Not sure whether I’d ever have read Proust without a group commitment, but between Richard Rorty’s writings on Proust and my friends, it seemed well worth it. This time around Christian hosted, serving a great Italian dinner, and we finished off with home-baked cookies and a 1983 Filhot Sauternes I had in the cellar (very tasty and nearing a full maturity in my opinion).

I also attended Roy Hersh’s “Great Seattle Madeira Tasting,” but since he makes his living writing about wine, I’ll give him a chance to write his article about the wines and the tasting before I comment on the wines. I will say, however, that it was a great opportunity to get a perspective across many great wines, and reconfirm my impressions about which producers and styles of Madeira I most enjoy.

I’ve found a place in Seattle, so starting February 1st I’ll have a place to live working at the UW. My landlord and roommate, Scott, is an artist and the house is chock full of art, deeply homey, and just a little bit funky. It should be fun. The only downside (if there is one at all) is that I’d been enjoying my time at the WAC — the king beds are amazingly comfortable and it’s really good for me to be a couple of floors away from the gym. But it’s also fairly expensive if I’m down in Seattle every two weeks, so it’s time for something different.

After some administrative preliminaries at school, I stocked up on academic-priced software (Mathematica, Endnote, and the Adobe CS2 suite) and math books (I need to bone up in several areas for my dissertation research). The University Book Store continues to be a terrific source, not just for textbooks, but technical books of all kinds. I wish I could say the same for Barnes and Noble at University Village, however. It still rivals and sometimes exceeds UBS for computers and programming books, but in days past the math and science sections were also highly competitive. Sadly, both subjects have been gutted, reduced to an aisle or so from their former 2-3 full aisles and a couple of side displays. Market forces, no doubt, but this does point out why the extreme libertarian argument for “markets in everything” ought to be rejected in certain realms of life — obscure and low-volume books might be useless commercially but they often serve a key role in research and scholarship. Which is why we have libraries and university-connected bookstores, I guess. And Amazon, of course.

We’re now past Lopez Island and on our way to San Juan Channel. The sky is clouding up a bit, and the island shores around us are white with light snow accumulation. It’s a frosty winter world up here, but a beautiful one. Seattle is a good change, but I can’t wait to be home.