Friday, February 29, 2008

Knee Surgery

Had my highly anticipated left knee surgery this morning. This injury is the possible result of a particular mountain run last summer and has been bothering me a lot ever since, especially on long days in the mountains. It went quickly - I arrived at the hospital at 6:45am and was back home before noon already planning climbing trips for the summer! The doc found a small tear halfway between the inner and outer part of the meniscus. It was small enough that he just cleaned it up and taped it shut to heal. Here's a shot of the "grinder" used to clean the wound up before taping it - pretty wild!

It's cool to look at all the pictures of the tendons, etc. they took - the quality is amazing!

So there wasn't any nasty huge damage, meaning the recovery should be relatively complete and hopefully not too lengthy. The surgeon said no deep knee bends for 6 months. That leaves hope for skiing in April in my world!

Eric baked up an incredible loaf of cocoa and cinammon-laced banana bread just before coming to pick me up. I had set up a bunch of fruits, veggies, chicken, sauces, etc. to cook up a mean meal but the banana bread trumps that for now!

Mom, I wanna go skiing!

But I've got plenty of work in front of me...this just being a very small portion of it. The output of these near-future musical mega-sessions will be unveiled for a national audiance in Seattle in July...

Plus I'll soon have the help of THESE sometime next week, to get me deeper into the music:

I'm already feeling a bit penned up, but I've got plenty of projects lined up so there shouldn't be a boring moment (including being hired to build a large built-in set of cabinets/bookshelves for a friend - it will exercise my woodworking and carpentry skills). Here's to a speedy recovery - I can't wait to go dance, ski, climb with everyone soon!


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Portland Valentango 2008

Another amazing tango festival, many of you have heard me rave. So here's the unfolding of events:

It started, essentially, by having one of THE most stressful days at work ever after reviewing the worst planset I've ever seen in my career, which was about to be finalized and stamped. After sorting all of that out I blasted off at 3pm in a total rush to catch the 4:20 flight to Seattle. Get on the plane hoping dearly that it would be on time so I could sneak onto the 9pm flight to Portland, rather than waiting for my scheduled 11pm flight. The plane did indeed land in time, and I barely make the 9pm flight, landing in Portland at 9:30, over 2 hours ahead of schedule and stoked that I get 2 more hours of dancing in. Blasted off with the rental car to the milonga completely stoked, albeit without having eaten anything for dinner.

At the milonga, I began the fun process of saying hello to tango friends I haven't seen in a long time and found a partner to warm up with. Oof, definitely rusty, but that's what the first night of a festival is all about. Danced until 2am to mediocre music on a poor sound system, but still had a good time.

Friday I woke up pretty late, ran some Portland errands, met some friends, talked and finally arranged to have dinner with J, Felipe & Dave, and told J he blew it 'cause all the women backed out of the invitation at the last minute. So we drive to SW Portland to this upscale italian restaurant, and I found out Michael worked in the wine industry for 12 years. That meant I was drinking on this night, a rare event. He selected a $35 bottle of excellent red wine and we proceed to get so carried away and loud talking about tango that I thought we would get booted from the restaurant - it was hilarious! Then we blasted off to the Friday milonga, stoked that my friend Shorey was DJing.

The milonga rocked and I was feeling much better than Thursday night. Had my best set ever with Caroline and danced with a lot of favorite tango friends. There were over 540 people in attendance that night and the room was packed like sardines, but it didn't phase me. It was a great night and I left higher than a kite. As usual, at every festival there's a surprise connection and here it was with Mila from San Diego who I barely know. Funny moment: At one point I ended the song by placing the last step such that it put her perfectly in a corner of the room, just barely missing the walls on both sides, a mischievious trick I like to play because when they open their eyes they usually freak from being so close to the walls. Not so with Mila, she just opened her eyes, glanced around, looked at me, and didn't even flinch at all. But another friend Jenna didn't recognize me and thought some jerk was taking advantage of a woman in the corner and she came after me....of course she was shocked when she realized it was harmless mischief but it was cute how concerned she was!

Saturday I don't recall much, it is kind of a blur but I had a good time at the Grand Ball, then we went to eat after midnight with a fun group of friends, then to the late night milonga which was in a poor location that I hate. Once again Mila proved to be a stable, enjoyable partner amongst the storm of high expectations and low results due to poor navigation and a worthless venue.

So after dancing until 6am and getting to bed around 7:30am, I got up around 2pm to get ready to DJ my gig at 4pm. I ate quickly, gabbed with my hosts Gene & Laurel plus their other visitors, worked on my music a bit, and blasted off to do the sound check. I had already communicated my specifications to the sound engineer miltiple times and was confident I'd have what I wanted for a sound system, a huge relief after all the poor sound at the other milongas. When I arrived and started the sound check, something wasn't quite right so I paced the room stone-faced while friends tried in vane to get my attention - for me, this is serious business. Finally I decided the bottom end was too fat on one side and sure enough, the EQ was up 12db at 25 hz on one channel, a real oversight. With that corrected and a few other minor tweaks the system sounded great. With full confidence in the sound I proceeded to put on a very good show that made everyone happy. Here's what it looked like:

Once the work was over we went for Vietnamese food (a fond tradition with my core tango friends), then the normal evening milonga. Here is where the magic started to happen. I was on big time and had some amazing dances, really feeling the floor and connecting deeply with each partner, including some that have been challenging to dance with in the past and some who I've never danced with before (Agape, Ciela, Carol...). Then we walked across the street to the late-nite milonga at Imago Theatre, which was amazing - the best venue ever, with awesome lighting, a chill laid-back seating arrangement, great floor, and a superb sound system. I walked in the door to the sound of my favorite orchestra (Di Sarli's 50's instrumentals), and there was Veronique, putting on her shoes, looking at me as I walked in. I couldn't get my shoes on fast enough and we danced several awesome sets totally dialed in. I was in heaven. Felipe kept commenting with his wild-eyed look, "Dan is having a blast tonight!" The night just went on and on like that - the crowds had thinned out so that a high concentration of incredibly talented hard-core dancers (guys and gals both) were there putting on quite a show. The atmosphere was really upbeat and relaxed. Somewhere towards the end I finally got a milonga set with Mila and once again we danced several sets which totally rocked. Then FINALLY I danced with Shorey for the final set and a half or so and one of the most amazing nights of dancing for me finished up at 6am again. We were all too wound up and hungry to sleep so we went to breakfast at 7am and I got to bed at 8:30am. Whew!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Work Pix

I always tell people I love my job. Most who know me realize I love to build things, tear them apart, figure out what makes them tick. So give me a water treatment plant that isn't functioning correctly, toss in a couple of savvy water treatment engineers and a first-rate superintendent, send us all out there together to fix it, and I'm in hog heaven. So, off we go on the usual 6am jet from Anchorage to Bethel, then on upriver a few minutes to Akiak where we meet our equipment and superintendent. This trip happened a few years ago but remains a classic.

This is what over 30 mg/L of iron in the source water can do when things aren't dialed in...yes, this is the water treatment skid, first stage after coagulation.


No worries, we'll figure it out....but first, we gotta figure out some of this automation that has never worked in the past and still didn't seem to function consistently.

After a few hours of tinkering (we'd done this before in the past...), we decided to forget the automation, especially since manual is preferred for these small plants. So we re-worked the whole process...I jumped up top and tore into the filter header after ripping some of the non-functional controls out of the way. This was about 10pm or so of that first day, but the energy was high so we kept going...

I think we finally called it around 2am, for a 21 hour day!

The next day we got up early and started in again - it took some serious brain power, and we were stumped multiple times but we kept banging away until the wee hours of the morning again, totally engaged and knowing there HAD to be a solution. Getting everything to manual was a huge help.

Finally we got our pilot study equipment laid out and operating and started jar testing and tweaking chemical doses and such...I think we were already into the 3rd day here.

By the end of day 4 or so, we had made a huge improvement in the operability and output quality of the plant. We also vowed to get some funding to install additional equipment, which was successful and the design is underway currently.

Thanks to John, Mike, and Jim for a memorable trip. The quote of the trip was when we were stumped again around 2am of day 3 and I exclaimed that we had too much horsepower in the room to not figure this out. Mike, normally bright-eyed and gung-ho, looked at us with red eyes and a dull, pathetic look and replied, "I think I'm down to about 1/4 horsepower right now." But 10 minutes later he's the one that came up with the keystone idea that got us back on track again.