Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Weekend getaway

Saturday the three of us drove up to Leavenworth for an overnight getaway. For those not familiar with Leavenworth it's a lumber town in the Cascades that's about 100 years old. In the 1960's the town begah dying because the railroad pulled out of town. So, the people in the towny agreed to re-invent the place as a Bavarian mountain village and make their primary industry tourism. It was a pretty successful idea. The town itself is cute and quaint, but in a Disney sort of way. You know it's fake and didn't always look like that, but the setting is nice and it's a fun place to go. In the summer it's swarmed with tourists and gets old really fast. However, in the winter and specifically at christmas-time it's very different. The real charm of the place comes out with the christmas lights, which were everywhere, and all the snow covering the town.

We left Saturday morning and headed across Stevens Pass, which turned out to not be the best idea. The faster route across I-90, Snoqualmie Pass, was closed that morning so we went the only way we thought we could get there. Stevens Pass is notoriously bad since it's almost all 2-lane road. We did fine crossing the pass and the conditions weren't bad at all. It was snowing but the road was mostly clear. However, as soon as we headed down the pass we came to a complete stop, and sat in place for almost 90 minutes. In the end, it took us about 6 hours to make a 3 hour trip. But no matter, it was at least pretty scenery along the way, and when we got there.

We had booked at a small hotel a block from the center of town. It was basic, but comfortable and the location couldn't be beat. We were able to wander into town any time we chose and didn't have to deal with parking. There's not a lot to do in Leavenworth other than eat, shop, and wander around and look at things. We did all of those, except we didn't buy anything in the stores. The town has such a nicer feel this time of year than the rest of the year. It was busy but no one seemed to be in too much of a hurry and it didn't seem overly crowded. Plus, it really is beautiful with the snow and the lights. For the first time after many visits to the place it made sense so to speak.

Saturday night we just wandered around, looked at lights and such, had dinner at Bären Haus, and then went back to the hotel and sat in the outdoor hot tub at the hotel. That night it snowed close to 6" overnight so we woke up to a refreshed winter wonderland. After breakfast in town we spent the rest of the morning wandering around taking pictures. We slid around most of the main street and then wandered some of the trails down by the river in the city park. Every view seemed prettier than the last.

On our way home we stopped in Roslyn, another little old town in the Cascades, this one where the TV show Northern Exposure was filmed. We had lunch at The Brick, which has apparently been there forever. After that we drove through our final snow of the weekend going across the pass. Of course it was snowing as we crossed but the roads were remarkably clear.

As always, here are pictures from the weekend.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas and a movie review

As usual, I'm not very timely with this, but I figured I'd put together a quick update of my christmas weekend. I was lucky enough to have Wednesday through Sunday off, so it made for a nice break from work. The holiday itself was low-key, and that was fine. Anthony, Jayson, and I opened our gifts to each other that morning, then fixed a nice dinner. We had set spending limits this year for gift buying, and it didn't seem to diminish the gifting experience (at least from my perspective). I don't need or want that much stuff so whatever I get is usually a nice thing to me, and I don't see the holiday as an excuse to get free stuff. Jayson's friend Madhu(sp), whom I call Mondo, came over for dinner and they went to the cafe that Jayson volunteers for to serve food for the evening. Like I said, a very low-key day, but nice.

Before they left for the cafe we all watched Mama Mia! on DVD. I actually enjoy a lot of ABBA's music; it's a requirement in the contract I signed when I chose the gay lifestyle after I was converted. But, I'm going to say something that will threaten my standing in the gay community: I didn't like the movie. I know, part of being gay is liking Barbra Streisand, Cher, Project Runway, and this movie. But, I thought it was just not very good. It wasn't that half the cast couldn't sing any better than I can yet were still cast in a musical. It wasn't that I have a problem with the format of a musical where the cast breaks into spontaneous song and highly choreographed dance with an unseen band/orchestra hidden somewhere on the beach (I'm used to that from the classic, good, musicals like My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music). And it's not that I can't enjoy a lighthearted movie that is merely meant to be fun for a couple of hours. Meryl Streep did her usual excellent job - I would be hard pressed to find a role I didn't like her in - and the rest of the cast was quite likable as well as long as they weren't singing. In the end, I just didn't think it was a very good movie. It was nothing more than a vehicle with which to get ABBA songs out to a new generation of listeners. When there's one hour and 40 minutes of movie, I expect more than 12 minutes of story. The songs seemed gratuitously placed into the script, chosen not because they fit well but because it was a song that was popular and it needed to be in the movie. I found myself annoyed through much of the movie because the songs just seemed to be dropped into the film. The story actually seemed to get in the way of the songs at times. As for it being a happy movie, it was almost sickeningly deliriously upbeat. I half expected Hannah Montana to make a cameo and start bouncing around the scenes. I would have been happier putting on ABBA's Greatest Hits, which I do have on CD, and looking at some still pictures I took of Greece when I was there. I guess I'll just turn in my gay card now before the gay mafia knocks on my door and demands it back.

I hope everyone had a good holiday and enjoyed whatever they did!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Back to the grindstone

I finally made it to work today, and with no problem. I'm surprised the side streets in town are still as messed up as they are, but the main roads seem to be clearing out nicely. Yes they are still a slushy mess but easily passable. It took me longer to get the snow and ice off the truck than it did to drive to work. I kind of enjoyed getting out farther from home and seeing the landscape. There is still a lot of snow around the area. Looking out my window at work I can see the south side of Queen Anne hill and every roof is still covered. Usually the roofs clear right away, but not this time. We ended up with a foot on the ground and drifts higher in some places. It seems as if it might stay around for a few more days, which means we'll have that ever-elusive white christmas.

And as it turns out, today is not only my first day in the office this week but my last. It's nice to work a 2 day week with one of those days being at home!

Monday, December 22, 2008

How to heat a high house

This will most likely be boring to anyone but me, but oh well! The layout of our house is somewhat unique and creates its own challenges. Our house is four levels and three stories high. All the "public" rooms are on the ground floor. One full flight up is a bedroom and bathroom. 1/4 of a flight up and across the hall is another room we use as an office (read: full of heat generating computers). 3/4 of a flight up from that is another larger bedroom and bathroom. One end of that room is a closet that is open to the room and at the back of that is a finished attic space that is open to the closet. Each room has electric wall heaters on individual thermostats. Yhere is a gas-fired "wood stove" in the living room on an electronic thermostat that stays at 68 when we're home and 63 overnight and during the day when we're gone.

The problem has not been generating heat. The problem has been how to distribute the heat evenly throughout the house. The gas stove in the living room is more than capable of heating the entire house. The problem is that the stairwell acts like a chimney and most of the heat goes right up to the top of the house, as it would be expected to do. So, we close the door to the top-floor bedroom to keep the heat out. The problem with that is with it being in the 20's outside, that room then quickly cools down into the 50's, which is way too cold. And, all that heat just pours into the office. If we leave all the doors open, the office gets even hotter than the bedroom. The heat seems to congregate at the top of that level and then add to the heat in the office from the computers. If we turn down the heat from the "wood" stove, the ground floor gets too cold to use and it seems silly to send heat upstairs to rooms we don't use that often.

So, how to keep from freezing in some parts of the house and burning up in others? We could use the electric heaters in rooms that are closed off but those are expensive to run. Going to bed in a 50 degree room is not a fun thing, believe me! The solution that seems to work the best is, believe it or not, a curtain. We used a tension rod to hang a set of curtains (simple attractive ones) across the hallway at the bottom of the flight that leads to the office. We have the option of keeping the curtains fully closed, opened in the middle slightly to allow some heat up, or opened all the way to all lots of heat upstairs. So far it's worked pretty well. When we have the curtains closed all the way the heat seems to be pushed back to the living room ceiling (which is open to the stairwell, and it heads back down the living room.

So that's our high-tech solution to keep the house temperature regulated without spending lots of money heating individual rooms we're not using. I'm surprised that a simple curtain could be so effective at keeping the temperature regulated within our tall narrow house, but as long as it works I'm happy!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More snow pics

After breakfast today I took a little walk with the dog to enjoy the snow some more. It was hard going since there's a layer of ice on top of the snow that is itself several inches deep. The dog was having a difficult time, and so was I, so we headed back to get warm. On top of that it's snowing again.

Happy Solstice

So, after today the days begin to get longer. Having all this snow on the ground is a great way to officially welcome certainly feels like it right now! When I first moved here over 10 years ago the short winter days seemed interminable. The short days seemed to go on and on and I thought we'd never have more light. Now winter seems to come and go very quickly. Just when I get used to it getting light late and dark early, it begins to change. Either I've simply adjusted or I'm getting older and time is just moving more quickly (or both).

I hope everyone enjoys the shortest day of the year and is happy to welcome winter!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

More snow!

It's highly unusual, at least since I've lived here, to have it snow in Seattle while snow from the last storm is still on the ground. The flakes started very lightly this afternoon around 3:30 and it's been snowing ever since. Luckily Anthony and I were just walking back to the truck to finish our errands when we noticed it starting. We were home 5 minutes later, and the roads were already starting to get a new layer on them. I took the dog out later after dark and we romped in the empty field that's just around the corner from home. Supposedly we'll get 1 to 3 inches tonight, but as of now there's already 2 inches (or more) here at home, and it's supposed to snow all night.

I have to say, I'm really loving this weather! It definitely feels like winter, as opposed to just the greys skies and rain we usually have. I took a quick walk around the block to try to get pics but they didn't turn out so I'm not showing them anyone. But, it's really beautiful outside. The city is almost always loud, but right now there are no cars on any of the roads and it's just silent outside. It's also so bright I could read a book from the light reflected from the snow. I'm anxious to see what's on the ground tomorrow morning. I intend to be out playing in it!

I guess I sound like I'm gushing, but this type of weather (which is common in many other parts) is a rare treat here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Scenes from a snowy south Seattle

Forgive the alliteration in the title, but it's after 8:00 PM and my brain shuts down around 7:30. It snowed all day here, and it was great. Usually the snow turns to rain part way through the day here, but today it stayed snow all day long. I worked at home and enjoyed watching the snow out the window throughout the day, and each time a new round would start it was really exciting. The weather forecast called for 1 to 3 inches, and by 4:00 this afternoon there was easily 6 to 8 inches in our neighborhood. I got out a couple of times with the dog and he loved romping in the snow. I have to say that I enjoyed it too and took several pictures on both outings.

It's odd snow...odd in that the temperature isn't really that cold (around 30). Water in our pots our front isn't even frozen; it's all just slushy. But, the snow is very dry and powdery, which would seem like it was colder outside. Underneath the snow is a layer of slush that's easily compacted into ice. Anthony and I made a run to the grocery store in my truck and even in 4x4 "low" there wasn't great traction. The 4x4 did help get moving but I used the engine to slow down about 95% of the time. It was OK to drive, except trying to put into the alley behind our house. I lost traction on the turn and almost got stuck halfway in the street. Due to my deft maneuvering and superior vehicular control abilities, I got the truck out and went around the block to get into the alley. I won't be taking either vehicle out of its parking space until the roads are melted.

All the slush under the snow will become solid ice overnight, and that's not going to pretty tomorrow. I'm already planning to work from home again since I'm not about to get out and play bumper cars just to get to work. I am hoping the snow hangs around for at least a couple of days. It's nice to look at, nice to be out in, and also a nice change of scenery around here.

One other interesting thing today was the hummingbird that came to visit. We have a plant called a Mahonia planted in front of our stairwell window. It blooms in the winter with a spray of tiny bright yellow flowers. We were told by the nursery that the flowers attract a species of hummingbirds native to Washington. As I was walking down the stairs mid-morning I looked out and there was a hummingbird having a feast on the flowers. He was much more rotund than other species I've seen but was still bright green with a vivid red spot on his chest. He was dining for several minutes and even took a break and sat down on the leaves a couple of times. Sadly he was gone before I could get the camera but it was a real treat to see something like that in the middle of winter.

And for your viewing pleasure, pictures from the day.

Walkin' in a winter...thunderland?

I woke up to almost 2" of snow on the ground this morning, which is really beautiful. It's even nicer since it means a work at home day for me. What woke me up was the LOUD clap of thunder that rattled the entire house. About 5 minutes later there was another bright flash and half a second later another clap almost as loud as the first. I've never seen it snow with thunder/lightning before. It's definitely interesting. It's still coming down right now but I'm guessing it will taper off and stop soon.

Jayson braved the roads and drove to work. Anthony went out to wait for the bus only to find out that it wasn't running today due to snow, so he turned around and came back home. I'm assuming that since I didn't hear anything from Jayson that he made it to work OK. I probably could have driven in but I have the option of working from home, and I really didn't feel like getting out the scrape all the snow off the truck. There's a lot of windshield and window area to clean off. I'm much happier sitting at home looking at the snow, plus I think I'll get out into with the dog in a little while.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jinger awr the way

I had the pleasure of having lunch today with a good friend at a local ph restaurant. Ph makes for a nice warm cheap lunch on a cold winter day. However, the restaurant made the unfortunate decision to play an all-Asian selection of christmas carols. They were recorded by, apparently, the same Asian singers who re-do the latest pop hits which are then sold in street markets all over Asia. I heard music very much like this in markets throughout Hong Kong and Bangkok. It sounds like four or five Asian women all singing together, no harmony, over a monotonous continuous beat that sounds as if it's being played on a Windows 3.1 MIDI keyboard. Who needs Madonna singing Madonna when we can have Asian singers pretending it's karaoke night singing Madonna?

In any event, we were first treated to a 25 minute-long medley of every single christmas carol ever written, including some that I didn't know were christmas carols (who knew that Happy Days Are Here Again had anything to do with christmas?). Several song later - although who could tell where one song ended and the next began - the highlight of our lunch: Jingle Bells. Sadly it came out sounding like "Jinger bewrs, jinger bewrs, jinger awr the way". And all this to the same monotonous beat. If nothing else it made for entertaining background noise, but I wish it had been slightly further in the background.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Because smelling like ground meat just screams sexuality

There are so many things wrong with this, and so many jokes about "whoppers" and "where's the beef" that just don't even need to be said, but WTF? Who wants to walk around smelling like a piece of ground up meat-like food product?

This is a serious marketing fail if you ask me. What kind of person would buy this? I guess it's not enough these days to smell freshly showered and clean. Apparently one is only really truly seductive when he smells as if he's been standing near the dumpsters of the nearest BK, downwind of the flame broiler exhaust pipe. Just watch out for stray dogs.

Who knew the term "gag gift" was meant to be taken literally!?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christianists love McCain to death

From Pam's site, there's this disturbing story. Be sure to check out the source story here. What kind of real christian prays for the death of another person? I'm sure the justification is that praying for McCain's death would allow Palin to lead the country into new and prosperous directions. Asking their god for the death of one person would , in their minds, improve the lives of millions of people. But in the end, it's really just using religion for selfish political gain. Truly sick. And very frightening that these people have any power at all in our country.

I desperately hope that Palin is the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. Think of how easy it would be for Obama to get re-elected against that mess.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snowy morning coffee

Yes, I said coffee, not tea. With Anthony working at Starbucks and bringing home free coffee, I'm not only having a little tea in the morning but also a little coffee. So, I've joined the ranks of the coffee-swilling masses in Seattle. It feels good to belong to a group.

And yes I said snowy. It snowed about 2" here at home overnight. It started around 20:00 and probably snowed off and on all night. It's really pretty, especially since we don't see snow on the ground that often in Seattle. The problem is that for the first couple of hours of snow, the ground was too warm so it melted when it hit. As the temp dropped it of course turned to ice so there's 2" of pretty snow with about 1/4" of ice underneath.

I'm kind of hoping the snow and ice hangs around for a couple of days so I have an excuse to work at home. The sun is breaking through the clouds and I see some melt happening on some of the roofs but not much. It's supposed to not get out of the 20's tomorrow so we'll definitely have more ice. I would really enjoy a work at home day!

Luckily I don't have to go anywhere in the truck today. I think our plans today are all home-based: we still need to finish decorating the x-mas tree; we're trying to organize a load of items to give away before the end of the year; we've got to fix breakfast still; and we need to straighten up the house. Sounds like a busy day, but it should be OK. If we have to go anywhere out of the house, we'll walk.

My big project lately is that I have spent the last several weeks, off and on, ripping all of my CDs to MP3. I figure I've done about 475 discs and a total of about 7167 songs. I know that's not a lot compared to some peoples' collections, but it took a lot of time to go through every CD. It's actually nice to finally have everything digital. Now I'm thinking of ideas to be able to get rid of the CD player in the living room and use a laptop connected wirelessly to my server in order to play the music on the stereo. I think it would be pretty easy, and pretty user friendly. Sadly the sub-woofer on the stereo decided to die the other day, so there's no point in doing anything until I get that replaced. It's always something...

My other big project has been organizing the files on my PC at home. Jayson and I used to share the PC so there was stuff scattered everywhere. I've been organizing it all between the five hard drives I've got and trying to make the folder structure make sense. One of the biggest reasons is that I've got a backup job that copies everything to the large external drive and I want to make sure that it's grabbing everything I want. But, I also got tired of multiple copies of things in three different locations, all with different names. Folders named "New Folder 5" don't do any good when trying to find something! I've gained back at least 40 gigs of space across all the drives, which is pretty good! Now I just need to add more RAM to my PC to help it run better. Like I said, it's always something...

I pretty much have my x-mas shopping done this year. We all three agreed to a strict spending limit this year. None of us really NEEDS anything and money is tight all around. So, we'll each have a nice selection of things to open x-mas day without having gone into debt to do it. We always do fun things in stockings so I've got to pick up a few things for that. We're going to be spending the day at home that day which will be nice.

Well, time to get working here. Plus we still need breakfast and it's almost 10:00. And maybe we'll even go see if we can scrape together a snowball!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Just plain funny

This doesn't require much of an explanation. At least the guy was honest.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The things people throw away

Walking back to my building after lunch today I happened to casually throw a piece of paper into the garbage, only to look down and see this:

Talk about doing a double-take. I remember when Seattle used to be such a nice city. You could walk past trash cans in almost any area and not be accosted by hardcore porn. What is this city coming to...? I was so offended that I had to stop and take a couple of pictures with my mobile phone.

I did like the dichotomy of the Whole Foods container (not recycled I might add!) next to the "Beautiful Slut Mothers" DVD cover.

I no longer recognize marriage

I ran across this piece a couple of weeks ago and am just now getting around to posting it. It's a very interesting idea and it's not so far out there. The only reason same-sex marriage is being debated is because "some people" don't believe in it and don't recognize it and feel that they should deprive others of it. The issue over whether or not it's a right is really just a cover for their desire to force their beliefs on others. Most polls show that "some people" isn't even a majority of the country anymore. What if we all decided that anything that doesn't fit our idea of "right" just doesn't exist? And even further, what if we all decided to outlaw what we didn't believe in?

Our situation in Washington state is different than that in CA with Prop 8; it wasn't voters here who struck down marriage equality. But, our Supreme Court did rule against marriage equality saying that the purpose of marriage is procreation and same-sex couples can't naturally procreate. No reason the same logic that Tom Ackerman uses couldn't be applied to marriages here: "I don't recognize your marriage because you haven't created children. Your marriage is invalid." Would be interesting to see what reactions that got.

This post from Kos nicely sums up what I would like to see put before voters to see if they really would vote like they claim they believe. It's convenient to use the christian bible to keep others from having rights, but would they use the same bible to keep from giving themselves rights? I seriously doubt it. More often than not their faith only goes so far.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Evolution of Beards (well, sort of)

Via BoingBoing, the "hierarchy of beards". Sadly, it's a rather inaccurate hierarchy since many of the styles are not called in reality what the poster calls them. It's obvious that the poster is only designed to look like it's from the Victorian times as many of the names are made up and many popular styles are missing completely. Still, it's interesting to compare some of the styles and see different iterations of them.

I wear the "Hyneman", apparently named after Jamie Hyneman (popular 19th century TV star), although my moustache isn't as long as in the drawing.

Speaking of beards, the best beard site on the internets is still All About Beards. There's lots of good information, and eye candy, for beard aficionados.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hello again

I've been actively avoiding posting anything here recently. I just didn't feel like I had anything I wanted to say, or that what I had to say wasn't worth passing along. Life the past month or so has been the status quo, which I suppose isn't a bad thing. Since I returned from my trip to Oregon (late September) it's been pretty much just home and work and back home again. My big excitement at work is that I moved to a new disk with a very large window. I gave up some privacy (okay, really just a semblance of privacy) for light and a view. It's been a good trade-off so far.

There hasn't been any real excitement since my trip to OR. That was just a plain old good trip. I love spending time with my mother; we always have a good time, we think very much alike, and we enjoy the same things. The trip was a great break for me. We would sit at home and talk, go visit small towns, wander through old cemeteries, shop some, and were always on the lookout for food. I miss having her closer so that we can do those things on a regular basis. I know it's kind of late to be saying so, but I'm very grateful for her letting me go down there and for all the nice things she did while I was there.

Back at home, Thanksgiving kicked off the holidays. We were invited to our friends Jim and Doug's...actually it's Doug's house but they shared the hosting chores. There were about 10 people total and it was a nice way to spend the afternoon/evening. Plus, they cooked everything. Well, everything except for the vegetarian alternatives I ended up cooking for Jayson. And now that Thanksgiving is done we're putting up all the Christmas, I mean decorations. I'm not big on Christmas decorations, and as a whole the holiday has lost most of its meaning for me since I was a kid. The holiday was a big deal for my family when I was growing up. It was always secular in nature, but my parents made sure it was a special time for my sisters and me, and it was a very special time. After growing up and the death of the grandparents it wasn't as special. As I've gotten older, it's become even less so, especially with the fact that the holiday seems to start in August, at least if you go by the displays in the stores. So, I guess I have Christmas burnout. I do enjoy the time spent with friends and family, but I guess I'm not sure why that can't happen any other day of the year. I'm also not sure why we're supposed to buy gifts for people just because it's December 25th. If I see something I think someone will like, I prefer to give them that gift any other day of the year. Oh well...end of rant!

Just in time to bring out the Christmas clutter we had started getting the closets and spaces here at home organized. We're got a lot of clutter to get rid of and the closets have become messy. It's surprisingly rewarding to get rid of things and get spaces cleaned out. We're talking about getting rid of the larger dining chairs that seem to be taking up too much space and putting our antique chairs back in place. And, I want to change the red we have on the walls to a brighter red. So, more projects...

So, you can probably see why I haven't posted much here recently. I don't have much to say!