What Are You Doing?
The Stranger Walks In On a Boiler Mechanic, the Guy Who Creates the Halo World, a Punk Rocker Turned Yogi, and the Most Powerful Woman You've Never Heard Of
Damien Worly spends most days waiting for something to go wrong. As the day-shift operator at Seattle Steam, he's in charge of monitoring four boilers and the auxiliary equipment for 20 miles of piping that run beneath the streets of Seattle, carrying up to 550,000 pounds of steam per hour to apartment buildings, office buildings, schools, hospitals (not just to heat their buildings but also to clean their surgical equipment), Seattle Public Library, and Seattle Art Museum. "Some of the art needs to be at a specific humidity," Worley says. "If they need more moisture, they'll leak a little of the steam from our pipes in there." Before Worley worked for Seattle Steam, he was a nuclear machinist on navy ships. "A lot of the skills transfer," he says. "Motors, turbines—but here we're using big fires instead of the hot rock." He sits in a spartan control center most of the time, monitoring computer screens and paper readouts, but some of his work is done by ear: listening for pumps rattling, feeling vibrations in the floor change, noticing a motor stick when a sliver of metal gets jammed in its works. From his desk in the heart of Seattle Steam's blue-green building on Western Avenue (with a killer whale painted on it), the boilers and motors sound like a dull rumble and whoosh. Worley can hear it when the city comes home from vacation. "On Monday morning, after people have been away all weekend, they turn up their thermostats. The boilers kick up and it sounds like a motor revving. And it's like, 'Oh. Everybody's back.'" BRENDAN KILEY
Jason Pace works in a secret, remote location with some of the world's top physicists, mathematicians, and military-weapons experts—people who previously worked on space shuttles and weapons design and supercolliders that could theoretically turn the earth into a black hole. Pace is the creative director at Microsoft Game Studios. That is why he works in secret: He manages hotshot video-game designers. Seriously. His team lures professionals away from their jobs with supercolliders and space and the military, and gets them to make video games instead. Like Halo Waypoint. Surely you've heard of Halo? The video-game series has sold more than 27 million copies worldwide. "Most people don't think about what it actually takes to build an immersive game world," says Pace. "We need to simulate things like gravity, inertia, light refraction, fluid dynamics... the difference between getting this stuff right and getting it wrong has a dramatic impact on how 'alive' a game world feels." Who better to write the world's best gravity simulation than the world's top physicists? Same with weapons. "Our games are popular in the military, and they expect to be fighting with 'the weapons of the future.' So we have to design these weapons using 'future technology' and write 500-page manuals on how to theoretically use them." Pace loves his job creating what he and his team want players to feel and experience—a world somewhere in the distant future where cybernetically enhanced human supersoldiers shoot the shit out of aliens in space. In a way, Jason Pace is God of Halo Waypoint. Bow down. CIENNA MADRID
Gary Smith is wearing nothing but a Speedo, and he's got the temperature turned up to 105 degrees. When Smith isn't fronting megasnarky punk-rock band Partman Parthorse (for which he also strips down to his Skivvies), he's teaching Bikram yoga at the Sweatbox on Capitol Hill and in Shoreline. Late last year, after years of practice, Smith spent two intense months training around the clock in Las Vegas (and gorging at buffets; each class burns around 1,500 calories). As you might expect from a singer who sneers lyrics like "Losers, I hate you/Die, die, and go to hell/You are so stupid/Jerks, does it hurt," Smith describes his classes as "a little unorthodox." He adds, "I try to teach how Bikram himself teaches. Not to put myself on that high of a plane, but he makes it fun." (Smith further enthuses about Bikram: "He's not some Yoga guru up on a mountain—he lives in Los Angeles, he drives Rolls-Royces, he wears jewelry, he's fucking crazy!") He continues, "So my class, it's not just word for word, 'Do this, do that.' I make jokes... sexual jokes. I kind of push the limits a little bit, but I make it fun. 'Cause this class is freaking hard, man—90 minutes, 105-degree heat? If it's not fun, it's gonna suck. Like today, I taught the class as myself and as a robot; I quoted Tupac and Scarface. Plus I just bought a bunch of little Speedos, so that helps. I get to play music and I get paid to teach yoga, and for both of them I get to not wear clothes." ERIC GRANDY
Kathleen Taylor is the most powerful person you've never heard of. The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington typically lets other people on her staff speak to the press. "I may be invisible, but the ACLU certainly isn't," says Taylor. When she took over the state affiliate of the ACLU 30 years ago, there were only three employees. In the 1980s, her branch helped stop the Seattle police from collecting information on activists. A few years later, the group overturned the public schools' statewide tolerance of teachers proselytizing religion in classrooms. In the late 1990s, Taylor and her colleagues reversed onerous drug laws requiring testing of city employees and all public-school students in the state involved in extracurricular activities. This decade—having built a 30-person staff (including an eight-person legal team) and attracted 20,000 dues-paying members—the group lobbies heavily in Olympia, pushing successful bills restoring voting rights for felons, requiring sports facilities to equally accommodate women and men, and ensuring that vehicle GPS tracking information can't be released except to the owner. In 2009, the ACLU of Washington gave $32,000 and strategy assistance to the campaign to approve Referendum 71, which upheld partnership rights for gay couples. Currently, Taylor sits on the committee searching for a new Seattle police chief. "I think it sends a message to all the police chief candidates when the ACLU is at the table asking questions," she says. Pick a fight with Taylor, and you'll be fighting a losing battle. DOMINIC HOLDEN
Ask Jason and Gary anything you want to know about their jobs in Questionland!