Metaphysics at Gas Works Park in Seattle

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark (I haven’t aged at all since I first wrote this introduction) and I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC strolled down to Gas Works Park, on the banks of Lake Union in Seattle.

Crows cawing, swifts swooping, seaplanes buzzing overhead: Gas Works Park is a scene of calm and beauty with a touch of surreality. In the depths of the park, surrounded by giant tanks and cranks, we met a metaphysical mastermind and chatted about the intricate, delicate state of our currently accepted reality, bendable by artificial intelligence and by the super intelligence granted to some rare individuals.

The book I’m in

Never Go Back, by Robert Goddard. Two hapless RAF veterans find themselves mixed up in murder and mayhem, tied up in a nice bit of historical cold war skulduggery.

The photos

Me taking advantage of an abandoned bicycle for a quick pic on the approach to the park:

Geese abound on the grassy slopes. This cyclist took care to move slowly through the gaggle:

You can rely on a goose to have a good grasp on reality:

A bright bicycle is dwarfed by the tanks, staircases, platforms, and chimneys of the old gas works:

For 50 years, from 1906 to 1956, a coal gasification plant occupied this piece of land. The machinery was used to convert coal into gas, which the citizens of Seattle used to power their homes: lights, cooking, refrigeration, and heating.

Now much of the machinery is fenced off. Look closely at the photo below for another glimpse of me:

Entangled intricacies of piping and platforms:

People cavort beneath the pipes:

Graffiti has its say:

Some bits and bobs of the old gasification plant have been brightly painted and put on display:

While me and the TC were taking the above photo, we met the person who’d founded the Church of Craig.  He’d also hobnobbed with metaphysical geniuses at the centre of the universe (in Seattle that’s a real thing) and found the secret way into the fenced-off playground at the old gas works. The TC and me now belong to an elite group of twelve who know the entrance. To gain access, you have to suspend your belief in the commonly accepted reality.

Shadows stretch out from the giant tanks while Seattle basks in the summer sun:

A seaplane soars free:

That’s all for today, folks.

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Ballard Locks and salmon ladder near Seattle

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark (I haven’t aged at all since I first wrote this introduction) and I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC are enjoying the superb weather of summertime Seattle. We’ve encountered some interesting folk, including a triffid (read my previous post), Sal the Salmon (photos below), and a metaphysical mastermind (coming up in my next post).

Yesterday we trickled along to the Ballard Locks, north west of Seattle. The locks are also known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, named after the engineer who led the first phase of construction starting in 1911.

The book I’m in

Never Go Back, by Robert Goddard. Two hapless RAF veterans find themselves mixed up in murder and mayhem, tied up in a nice bit of historical cold war skulduggery.

The photos

Me with Sal the Sockeye Salmon, at the fish ladder built alongside the Ballard Locks. Sal and his mates are taking it easy in the deep waters before tackling the next jump up the fish ladder:

The fish ladder is built so that you can see it from above and also go underground to view the fish through glass windows in the walls. The Sockeye Salmon are making their run at the moment, but in lower numbers than past years.

The Ballard Locks are part of a series of constructions built in the early 1900s to make a navigable pathway from Lake Washington to Puget Sound. Once the various construction projects were finished, ships could carry cargo such as log, wood, and fish from the lake to the coast and in reverse.

The locks make it possible for boats to move up and down the Lake Washington Ship Canal, travelling inland from the coast or vice versa, even though there’s a big difference in the level of the water in Lake Washington (which is more than 6 metres above sea level) and in Puget Sound (which is at sea level).

Here are a sailing boat and a dinghy entering the locks from the direction of Puget Sound, wanting to jump vertically upwards by a few metres into the canal. There’s a dog accompanying the sailor on the yacht:

The yachtsman secures his boat in the lock:

The lock gates close behind the boats:

The lock operators watch from the side:

The filling-valves open below the water level, letting in the water from Salmon Bay. The water rises in the lock, lifting the boats with it, until eventually the water level is the same on both sides of the top gate, and the boats can move into the lake:

This lock is the larger of the two Ballard Locks. Things can get quite busy. In fact, the Ballard Locks are the busiest locks in the US:

A dam wall with a spillway holds back the waters of Salmon Bay from plunging down into Puget Sound. This picture shows the spillway, viewed from the Commodore Park side of the canal, which is on the side opposite the locks:

This video is taken from the walkway above the spillway, looking down at the patterns on the moving water, then raising the camera to look out towards Puget Sound.

This is the view from the spillway, looking west towards Puget Sound:

On the Commodore Park side of the canal is the fish ladder, winding up the bank from sea level at the bottom to the lake level at the top of the ladder. In all, there are 21 steps in the ladder:

This is the dam wall seen from the Salmon Bay side, with part of the fish ladder in the foreground:

Here’s another picture of the salmon under the water, on their way up the ladder from the ocean to the lakes:

That’s all for today, folks.

Triffids have landed in Seattle

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark (I haven’t aged at all since I first wrote this introduction) and I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Alarm! This worm was wandering along a quiet Seattle road when I encountered a triffid. Fortunately for me, the creature was firmly rooted in the ground, gathering sustenance no doubt for its next foray into the world of us earthlings.

The photos

Approach with caution! A triffid rooted on a suburban Settle street:

The thing dwarfed the TC, but nevertheless, as is her wont, she insisted that I approach it for the obligatory portrait.

Me in a hazardous closeup with a triffid:

That’s all for today, folks.

Published in: on 16 July 2018 at 12:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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High in the Rockies

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark (I haven’t aged at all since I first wrote this introduction) and I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC, and the “TC once removed”, are in Boulder, Colorado. Yesterday we took a day trip into the Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s an easy drive from Boulder. Once in the national park, we wound upwards along Trail Ridge Road, passing the highest point at over 12,000 feet (3,700 metres), then descending slightly to the Alpine Visitor’s Center.

Word of the day

Lustrum is the word of the day. It means a five-year period. The term originates in ancient Rome from the name of the closing ceremony after each census of the Roman people, which took place every five years.

The book I’m in

Lustrum, by Robert Harris. I’m embedded in book two of the Cicero trilogy. Roman intrigue is a cutthroat affair.

Travel tip

Take lots of water with you, and moisturise copiously. In summer the air is hot and dry. This worm’s skin felt like paper each time I stepped outside.

Recommended restaurant

The Kitchen in Boulder has good food, graciously served, in an attractive and restful environment.

The photos

Me and a few alpine aspens and pines, on the way to the Alpine Visitor’s Center in Rocky Mountain National Park:

Yes, that’s snow. In summer. (The TC would have inserted double exclamation points at the end of the last two sentences. I refrain, but you, dear reader, may imagine them there if that brings the scene alive for you.)

Here’s another shot of the same scene, this time not graced with my noble form, but with the background in focus:

At close on 12,000 feet (3,600 metres), the Alpine Visitor’s Center on Trail Ridge Road is the highest of all visitors centres in the US national parks system. This shot shows the range of snow-capped peaks visible when you stand with the visitors’ centre behind you, looking to the left:

Beware the effects of the high altitude. (The previous sentence provides another opportunity for an exclamation mark, if the whim takes you.) The TC and the “TC once removed” were both affected by dizziness and fatigue.

This photo shows the view from the same spot, looking towards the right:

That’s all for today, folks.

Mt St Helens, a mountain with a story

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark (I haven’t aged at all since I first wrote this introduction) and I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC were in Seattle in the USA last week, and we took a day from our busy schedule to visit Mt St Helens. It’s about a three-hour drive from Seattle to the mountain. Well worth the trip. This mountain is more than just a pretty face. It has a story to tell. One of destruction and renewal.

Word of the day

Revival is the word of the day. According to Merriam-Webster, the word was first used in print in 1651. The same year saw the first use of highfalutin words like Tenebrae as well as the more down-to-earth stewpan.

The book I’m in

Revival, by Stephen King. I’m in the hands of the master of storytelling, the magister of horror. This book is one of his best.

Travel tip

Beware the weather. Check the forecast before you go. It’d be a pity to go all that way and then be unable to see the mountain or the views. Wear layers of clothing. The temperature around the mountain can change as you round a corner. Hot under the sun one minute, chilly in the wind the next.

The photos

Me with Mt St Helens in the background:

On 18 May 1980, Mt St Helens erupted. The blast blew the north side off the mountain, and the subsequent volcanic eruptions took out the top of the mountain too. From being a rounded, snow-capped summit, Mt St Helens became a partially hollowed shell. A little like an ice cream scoop on its side.

Forest covers the slopes on the way to the mountain:

People knew the eruption was coming. Scientists were monitoring the volcano, which had been becoming increasingly active over the previous months. Residents and holiday-makers were warned, and the area was evacuated ahead of time.

The mountain pops into view. At some distance from the scene of the eruption, verdant forest clothes the hills.

But the force of the blast, and the direction it took, caught scientists by surprise. Around 8am on 18 May 2018, an earthquake triggered a gigantic landslide that carried away the north face of the mountain. This was the largest landslide ever recorded.

The weakened north face was no match for the built-up forces of steam and gas inside the volcano. A mixture of steam, gas, and partially molten rock blasted through the side of the mountain and rolled on over the landscape, destroying everything in its path.

The mountain toys with the clouds, contemplating whether to use them as a veil or a tiara:

Immediately following the blast came the pyroclastic flow. The stream of furiously hot volcanic ash, steam, blistering hot rocks, and pumice stone moved at over 1000 km per hour, obliterating everything in its path and reforming the landscape as it went.

Tree skeletons litter the way. A harbinger of the story to be told:

The story of the mountain is interwoven with the stories of the people who lived and worked around her. Vulcanologist David Johnston was observing the mountain from a ridge ten kilometres away when the eruption occurred. He died within seconds of the start of the eruption, when the volcanic blast hit the ridge where he was located. Local resident Harry Truman decided to stay in the area he loved so much, and is assumed to have died in the pyroclastic flow. More than fifty other people died as a result of the volcanic eruption.

Closer, ever closer, and the landscape ever bleaker.

Now we see the distinctive form of the north face. What was once a more or less symmetrical dome is now a scooped-out bowl, entirely missing one side of its rim:

As well as a story of destruction, this is a story of renewal and revival. After the eruption, man and nature alike are working to rebuild the area. Perhaps even more remarkably, the mountain itself is reforming. Volcanic activity constantly pushes lava to the surface. The lava hardens and cools, forming a dome in the middle of the bowl, continuously rising and reforming.

In the middle of the bowl rises a mound that will one day form a new peak:

Round the dead tree trunks new life grows:

Hardy wildflowers bloom:

Paintbrush in bright red:

Tiny clusters of white:

Purple figwort:

Everlasting off-white flowers looking perhaps more squashed than alive. At times this worm feels a little two-dimensional too:

The Mt St Helens observation point is on the ridge where vulcanologist David Johnston was located when the volcano erupted. He was observing the mountain from a location which he and others thought was safe. The sideways eruption and the force of the blast took him and everyone else by surprise. He had time to say, “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” Then he disappeared from this world, along with everything else in the path of the blast and the pyroclastic flow.

It’s sobering to stand where David Johnston stood, and view the scene that is even now so different from what he saw then. Afternoon light brings the landscape into sharp relief:

We’ve reached the end of this post, and Mt St Helens takes a bow. The story is not over. The cycle of destruction and revival will continue:

That’s all for today, folks.

Space/time glitch on Seattle skyline

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark (I haven’t aged at all since I first wrote this introduction) and I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

The picture below shows the Seattle skyline, as seen from the top of Smith Tower. The TC, bless her cotton socks, says that the light-coloured angular shape on the left half of the image looks to her like a glitch in the space time continuum. We more sober souls know it’s more likely to be yet another a skyscraper plated in reflective glass.

Word of the day

Glitch is the word of the day. This worm is surprised to learn that it’s a relatively new term, originating among space scientists in the 1960s. The word glitch first meant a sudden surge in current, which often was the cause of a malfunction. Later the word’s meaning broadened to mean a short-lived fault that’s difficult to track down.

The book I’m in

The Hunter’s Oath, by Jason Dean. Yes, I’m still stuck in the same book as I was in the previous two posts. It’s a good read, featuring action hero James Bishop. The hero is a little like Jack Reacher, only meaner.

That’s all for today, folks.

Published in: on 30 March 2018 at 5:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Distinctive motorcycle repair shop in Seattle

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark (I haven’t aged at all since I first wrote this introduction) and I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

This atmospheric motorcycle repair shop is on Aurora Ave N in Fremont, Seattle:

Click on the picture to zoom in, and take a look all the bikes and flags behind the windows.

The business is Vallantine Motor Works. This worm likes the combination of gothic styling and beautiful machines. It quite makes me want to wander in and see what’s going on.

The book I’m in

The Hunter’s Oath, by Jason Dean. A good, fast read with action hero James Bishop. The hero is a little like Jack Reacher, only meaner.

That’s all for today, folks.

Mt Rainier view from Fremont

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark (I haven’t aged at all since I first wrote this introduction) and I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

The TC, bless her cotton socks, has visited Seattle a few times, but without seeing the renowned Mt Rainier. Friends and colleagues assured her it was a spectacular sight, but often hidden by cloud.

On this visit, suddenly, there it was. As if someone had dropped a great big mountain out of the sky.

Here’s Mt Rainier, seen from the bridge on Aurora Ave N in Fremont, Seattle:

The Fremont Troll lurks under the same bridge. I posted a couple of pictures of the troll and the underneath of the bridge.

Mt Rainer lies 87 kilometres south east of Seattle. It’s an active volcano. Although it’s currently dormant, it’s considered one of the 16 most dangerous in the world because of the large amount of damage an eruption would cause to living creatures and property.

Word of the day

On-premise is the word of the day, used in phrases like “on-premise software/services,” to compare such services with those in the cloud. “On-premise” is a malapropism for “on-premises”. The question is whether the malapropism is now in sufficient common use for us to start using it without feeling uncomfortable. The TC, bless her cotton socks, still feels uncomfortable with such use of “on premise” or “on-premise”.

Here’s what the TC says:

I first read the term “on-premise software” about 5 years ago. I was completely flummoxed. “What? Is this software that’s offered under the assumption I’ve accepted some premise or other? Where’s that premise written?” Now, 5 years is a long time in the tech world, but perhaps not outside our industry. As a tech writer, I want to avoid giving people that unpleasant brain-bump of “that breaks my language parser”. What’s the harm in getting it right, and saying “on premises”? I guess someone else’s answer may be: the docs sound old and fuddy-duddy.

The book I’m in

The Hunter’s Oath, by Jason Dean. A good, fast read with action hero James Bishop. The hero is a little like Jack Reacher, only meaner.

That’s all for today, folks.

Harlequin bugs on NSW Central Coast

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark (I haven’t aged at all since I first wrote this introduction) and I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC spent a couple of days on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia. This was a while ago. Now I’m on another trip to somewhere else, and thus finding the time to publish some words.

My impressions? Restful prettiness with enough history and natural beauty to occupy the mind.

Word of the day

Bug is the word of the day.  According to the Australian Museum, bugs and beetles are different groups of creatures. They have different mouthparts (beetles chew, bugs don’t),  different lifecycles (beetles undergo a complete metamorphosis from larval stage, bugs don’t), different food choices (beetles eat solids, bugs don’t), and different wings (beetles have two pairs, bugs don’t).

This worm concludes there’s a lot that beetles do and bugs don’t. Never mind, the bugs in this post are pretty. At least they have that going for them.

Travel tip

Look before you sit. The colourful bugs pictured below were roaming around on a park bench. A careless sitter would have squished them.

The book I’m in

Infinity Born, by Douglas E. Richards. Artificial intelligence runs wild in this action-packed, thought-provoking book.

The photos

Me and the rising sun, at the window of the Crowne Plaza hotel in Terrigal:

These two bugs roamed around a park bench. Luckily the TC spotted them before sitting down. I think they’re Hibiscus Harlequin Bugs. Almost as attractive as your faithful bookworm!

The bugs are reasonably large, certainly much bigger than a ladybird. For scale, the TC put her finger next to them on the park bench:

Methinks they’re in love, or one of them is. Play the video to see how one follows the other, occasionally bumping into it by mistake or perhaps on purpose:

Now for a complete change of subject, just because I can. Contrary to appearances, this is not a monster’s gullet. It’s a hollow tree trunk:

That’s all for today, folks.

Troll encounter in Fremont, Seattle

The TC caught this troll by surprise as it emerged from its den under the Aurora bridge in Fremont, Seattle.

I think the troll caught the TC by surprise too, but she had enough composure to snap the picture of the troll, and to turn her back on it to snap the view of the bridge from underneath.

That’s all for today, folks.

Published in: on 16 October 2017 at 5:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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