Monday, December 31, 2007

Holiday Madness

I appear to have been in another of my predictable blog droughts. It's not that there hasn't been enough going on, in this case there's probably been too much going on. As a result, this blog is brought to you by Google Calendar: "The only way to know what all you did the past month!"

  • Went to two musicals plus the Seattle Symphony's holiday pops concert. All of which deserve their own reviews, but may or may not get them. We'll see how much time I make for them today.
  • Lots of curling, culminating with a break from actually curling, only to be the head official for the state junior curling championships this past weekend. Being both competent and willing to volunteer is a dangerous combination. Tiring but a lot of fun.
  • Started the process of looking for a house. I'm sick of my apartment, and after waiting for a year or so until the market is finally right, it's time to buy a house. Now I just have to find the right place. Once the new year starts, it should be prime time for people to start selling decent places again... I hope.
  • Christmas came and went, and New Year's is here. I don't think I really realized Christmas was coming until about the Friday before. Things have been a bit hectic.
  • How can I forget how this all started? The day I got home from vacation in Hawaii (well, actually the day before I got back to work), my company decided to lay off 18 people, including half of my team. I was spared, but half of my friends and coworkers were told their last day was December 12th. It's made for quite the uninspiring holidays around the office. Fortunately a few of us insisted on making things a bit cheerier and helped decorate the office for the holidays. I strung my customarily tacky Christmas, er, Secular Festive Non-Denominational Culturally-Inclusive Wintertime Holiday Lights, throughout my aisle of cubes and from the ceiling and all. It was quite nice. Regardless, unless things drastically change around work, 2008 may become time to look for a new place to work.
  • And yes, I know I'm behind on Amazing Race episode blogs. Legs 6, 7, and 8 are all on my DVR waiting to be watched, I've just had more important things to do. At least this way I can just sit down and watch them all at once one of these days.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

AR12 - Leg 5 - Counting Gnomes

7 teams remain, who will be eliminated next?

Off to Vilnius, Lithuania. The biggest question I have is will the two teams with their photo-finish at the end of the last leg team up and work together, or will they continue as adversaries. Hard to say.

Observation of the night #1: is it really that hard to pronounce "VILNIUS"? I think it's pretty much as it's spelled, nothing to funny there.

It's reaching the point in the race where the energy has worn off and now the teams will start to get sick of each other.

Who would have thought getting airline tickets would be such an ordeal. The conclusion I have come to is to always have your tickets before you leave. :) It's officially 20 minutes into the episode and no team has yet made it to the airport. This isn't much of a race. 3 different flights with 3, 3, and 1 team respectively. Now it might get interesting.

Team Tacoma took the gamble and were the only team flying through Prague... good gamble I think, they easily could have come out ahead with that one, but in this case it didn't work, and they have ended up in last.

Roadblock... deliver the package, deliver another package, get a clue. This is the kind of roadblock I like, it's entertaining watching them find it, yet not frustratingly complicated. Team Tacoma gains huge time by completing the roadblock and are back in 3rd place.

Oh, the blondes' car nearly gets t-boned by a tour bus. Classic. DC1 is about to kill each other. Also classic.

THE ROAMING GNOME IS BACK! How exciting! I have my Travelocity Roaming Gnome sitting on my bookshelf in my living room. I love the gnome. Sure it's gratuitous corporate sponsorship, but man that gnome is cool.

Detour: Count Down or Step Up. Count the pickets in a picket fence, or walk on stilts down a path. Counting pickets would be easy, except that they put all kinds of distractions along the fence they needed to ignore along with it... and there were 717 pickets. Too funny.

Andrew apparently speaks gnoma and has translated the Travel Gnome's travel myths for us...
travel myth #122: 7 teams of two cannot find flights to lithuania
travel myth #42: blondes do have more fun... and count really well
travel myth #49: men with hernias cannot walk on stilts
travel myth #78: anyone can find their way to the university square in a foreign country
travel myth #460: lithuanians don't have forks larger than their heads
travel myth #45: the last one to the carpet is given a reprieve

TK and Rachel, the Newlydaters make their first appearance as Team #1. The Goths finish closely behind at #2. Tacoma finished 3rd. Siblings 4th. DC1 5th. Gramps comes in 6th. The blondes are the last to arrive and are eliminated.

It's getting exciting again. We're down to 6 teams. This was one of those episodes that made me want to go on the Amazing Race because it looked like so much fun. Until next week...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Aloha Huskies

As expected (at least by me, considering the rest of the season) the Huskies lost. I was prepared for this, and don't mind losing when you're outplayed, but when you get screwed by bad calls, I am less pleased.

But that's the short of the story, the rest of the story begins now...

We met up with about 20 of Amy's friends in 6 cars in the parking lot of an old Costco near Aloha Stadium to carpool over to the stadium for tailgating around 6 hours before the game started. Tailgating is hard work. Fortunately, they were all fully prepared with plenty of food and drink and it was a good time. Once we finally got situated in the stadium parking lot, it was more like 4 hours to game time, which wasn't so bad. I was pretty impressed with the Hawaii tailgaters, though I must admit it was a bit of a step below the supreme tailgating that the fans at Husky Stadium provide every week.

Fast forward to game time, we made our way into the stadium and found our seats. I had gotten my tickets through the UW so had pretty good seats in the 3rd row in the upper deck right on the goal line, though most of Amy's friends had tickets in various sections in the lower deck of the end zone. I must say, it was a refreshing change to actually see the game from above, it was amazing how much you can actually see the plays and what's happening. I've become so used to watching games from the bottom 10 rows or so of every stadium, which usually involves watching the games on the big screen, rather than the actual players on the field. The nice thing was that Aloha Stadium only holds 50,000, and the upper deck isn't nearly as high as, say, Husky Stadium, so our seats were remarkably close to the field and easy to see what was going on. Added advantage was the overhang over the upper deck, which just stretched to about the 2nd row. Thank goodness for that, as at the end of the first half the skies opened up with a brief downpour, which we observed from our safe and dry seats.

The game itself needs no further commentary. After an exciting and promising 21-0 first quarter score, things made their way back downhill and the referees failed to be of any assistance (at least not to the Dawgs).

After the game we went to a local sports bar back near Waikiki and got some food before everyone basically was falling asleep and headed back home. I think I made it to bed by somewhere close to 2am, and managed to sleep until about 11:30am.

Sunday was a bit more relaxed, as I decided to go off on my own and do some sightseeing and drove up Tantalus Drive as high as I could go above Honolulu. There'll be some pictures sooner or later when I get them posted. I also walked down to the beach and wandered around Waikiki, though wasn't too impressed with it all. It was still nice, when I wasn't caught in the occasional downpour.

Tonight for dinner, about 10 of us went to a Japanese-style barbeque where you cook your own food at the table and such. It was pretty fun, though I must say a bit of a novelty and far too much work just to eat. :) However, it was darn tasty.

After that the real excitement happened as we went to a local karaoke bar. It is times like this when my sister makes me proud. So this bar is obviously a hangout for the locals, and Amy decides that she's going to win them over by singing a Hawaiian song. She proceeds to sing (very well, I might add) some Hawaiian favorite, and indeed wins over the crows with quite a glowing response. It is at this point she screams out a "Go Huskies!" immediately negating everything she had just achieved. She was instantly booed and heckled. That's my sister. It took her at least another half hour to work over the locals and convince them she wasn't so bad. :) She did a good job, but all of us wouldn't let her off the hook as easily as they did. It was a classic moment.

I proceeded to be the designated driver for three inebriated and loud fools, one of whom was my sister, back to the hotel, where they wandered over next door to continue celebrating the last night here. I had had enough and now am here relaxing and catching up on some blogging. Tomorrow we head home... and it's about time to leave the world of vacation, but I'm not entirely sure I'm ready to return to the real world of work. More on that later.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


I guess I should blog a bit on my current vacation to Hawaii. For those not privy to the story, I'm down here for the UW vs. Hawaii football game that will take place tomorrow evening. I took advantage of Alaska Airlines's introductory fares a few months back when they started new service to Honolulu from Seattle... for a little over $200 round trip, it's hard to say no.

Thursday morning we went to the airport to fly to Hawaii. I must say, I was surprised how many Dawg fans were at the airport. Apparently the lack of any bowl games the past few years has a lot of the die-hard fans ready to take anything they can get, even if it's an end-of-season game against Hawaii. We had probably at least 20 on our flight who were "obviously" going to the game, and probably others who weren't so apparent.

The flight was rather uneventful. I guess it went by pretty fast, but I wasn't the most comfortable, and started to get a bit of a headache by the end of the flight which didn't help matters. The plane was very nice and new (probably one of the newest Alaska Airlines planes I've ever flown on), but still was just a single-aisle 3-by-3 plane, that doesn't really scream "sure, take a 6 hour flight in this aluminum tube". Either way, it wasn't so bad.

We made our way to Honolulu, and as I stepped off the plane, didn't notice the heat so much as the humidity. Temperatures were probably in the low 80's, but humidity about 80%... suprisingly tolerable. I've determined that humidity is fine, as long as it isn't accompanied by blazing high heat. We got the rental car and headed to the hotel in Waikiki.

We were all hungry (myself, my sister and her friend), and were wanting some food. I figured we could just go to the hotel and then find something from there, but Amy insisted on finding a Zippy's and getting "real" food. After winding through the tangles of streets that they call Honolulu, we finally got to it and had food. Food good. I approve.

After making it to the hotel, the rest of Thursday was pretty uneventful, besides the obligatory post-flight nap time. Our hotel, the Aqua Waikiki Wave, is not glamorous, but it's big and right in the middle of everything. It's right behind the International Marketplace, and well located to just about anything you could ever want. We explored a bit, before we went to dinner with some of Amy's friends at Angelo Pietros, what I would describe as the closest thing you can get to an Asian Italian restaurant. It was mainly pizza and pasta, though the pasta definitely had an Asian flair to it, rather than being strictly Italian. I had spaghetti with clams, and it was, however, very good eats. After that Amy's Hawaiian friends all started showing up in droves as we spent a few hours at Senor Frogs. (Well, *they* spent a few more hours than I did, but that's besides the point. Fortunately it's only 3 blocks from our hotel, and I could just walk back when I got sick of them all. :))

Friday morning, Amy slept, as expected. I got up and drove out to the USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor. I'd been there the last time I was in Hawaii, which was nearly 15 years ago, and wanted to check it out again. It hasn't changed much in 15 years. In fact, I decided not to wait the hour delay before I could take the boat out to the memorial, and decided to just head back. I stopped at Hilo Hatties for my fix of random Hawaiian junk and souveniers before swinging back by the hotel to pick up Amy who was finally up and ready to go. We got lunch at Bubba Gump's at the Ala Moana mall... I had probably some of the best fish and chips (mahi mahi) I have ever had. Food good. I still approve. We then went back to the hotel to rest for a few hours, and eventually get ready for the evening's dinner and festivities.

Long background story shortened to a few sentences... my sister Amy got really involved with the Hawaiian crowd when she was at the UW, so she has about 20 friends from Hawaii, half of which have since graduating moved back to the islands. This UW/Hawaii football game has sort of become a UW reunion for a lot of them, so it's been pretty well planned full of group events. Not a bad thing, I get to tag along and enjoy it. I actually have met most all of her friends before at various times in the past, though don't ask me to match faces to names for most of them. :)

So we went to this dinner that they had organized at the Natsunoya Tea House, which is apparently a long-standing institution in Honolulu, for a full Japanese dinner with tons of tasty food. There were 22 of us having this full family-style feast. It was tasty... mostly. :) More good food. Yet again, I approve.

Closing the evening was planned karaoke. I disapprove. I wasn't going to go, but I did for a bit. It was painful... painfully boring. Is it just me who does not understand the appeal of karaoke in the slightest. I don't really want to hear people sing bad versions of good songs. I think it would have been more fun if it were my friends, rather than 20 of Amy's friends, most of whom I don't know very well. I made the most of it for an hour or so, before leaving to head back to the hotel. Fortunately with enough of her friends, Amy can get a ride back on her own.

Waikiki is abuzz tonight, as I attempted to park in this micro-sized hotel parking garage which was completely full. I had to park in the garage on the next street over, which was sufficiently a pain in the neck, and about 20 minutes that really started to make me grumpy at 12:00am when I just want to get back to my hotel room and relax and sleep. But I finally made it back, found time to blog a bit, and now it's time for bed. This vacation is going to seriously mess with my internal clock, I say.

Tomorrow is the big game, much pre-game tailgating is planned, so it should be good times. But I should be awake for that, and that won't happen unless I sleep now. More tomorrow.