Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Continuing my photo journey... here's some pictures:

Looking down my wintery street...

At least, I think there's a street there somewhere...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December Snow

Snow... in December... in Seattle... that doesn't happen!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Christmas Lights

I guess I've reasonably finished decorating the house for Christmas. Since I promised to post a picture, here's the outside of the house. If you want to see the inside, you'll have to stop by and see it. :)

Holiday Pops

Last night I went to the Seattle Symphony's annual Holiday Pops concert.  This being the first one since Marvin Hamlisch became the principal Pops conductor this year.  What a concert!  I always have claimed the holiday pops concert to be one of the best of each year, and this year was far and beyond better than any past.  I think what makes Hamlisch's pops concerts standout so much is that it's more than just a lot of great music, it's usually much more of a stage show.  As is usual, there was a sing-a-long portion, which the entire audience was implored (er, required) to stand up and sing it out.  And, as always, the music was spectacular.  Benaroya Hall was packed, and at the conclusion after the encore, the applause wouldn't stop, so Hamlisch comes out for one final bow, and this time drags the concertmaster off the stage with him.  :)  Even more so than usual, next year if you make it out to see one concert, this is the one that is a must see! 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I thought I was done decorating...

... until I stopped by Lowe's on my way home tonight to pick up some purple Christmas lights, and found that starting today all of their holiday decorations are 50% off!  AND they had purple, gold, green, blue, red AND white lights... all at $1.20/each on sale.  Let's just say, I stocked up big time.  And bought a whole bunch of other Christmas decorations at half off, AND I get to enjoy them before Christmas!  

Excited, excited... AND more excited!!  

Time to put the tree up! 

Weekend Update

Back to work, and time to take a few moments to update on the activities of the past weekend.  

Wednesday we got out of work a bit early, as is the standard operating procedure around here the day before a holiday weekend.  It was a very good thing because it gave me a chance to make it to Safeway (which was crazy) and then home to bake cookies for Thanksgiving.  Of course, I neglected to purchase one key ingredient necessary for the cookies... butter.  That required me to take a nice walk the 2 blocks from my house to Safeway to pick up some more, but on the brighter side, pretty much every cooking / baking product was on sale, so I stocked up!  And the cookies turned out, well, different than usual and I'm still trying to figure out why.  But I actually liked them better!  Just as tasty!  

Thursday I actually slept in a bit, which was nice.  I got up though, and did some work around the house before I went to catch the ferry to my cousins' house on Vashon Island.  Part of the reason for the delay was that Andrew was coming into town to visit (and to spend Thanksgiving day with my family) so I was waiting for him to get in from the airport.  He rented a car and drove up to meet me at Fauntleroy.  We were originally going to combine into one car and drive over, but once we saw how long the lines were and how easily parking was, we just parked there and walked a block to get onto the ferry.  My mom and uncle drove down to the Vashon ferry dock and picked us up.  It worked out well (and we saved the extra $10 by not taking a car on the ferry).  Thanksgiving was nice as usual, with the whole crazy family.  Food was great, nothing to complain about, it was all good.

Friday Andrew left to drive over to Richland to visit one of his brothers, and I went down to FW to visit the parents.  We proceeded to unpack all of the Christmas decorations from the garage, and I went through and found what was mine / what I wanted to take now that I have a house of my own to decorate.  Now I just have to put the decorations up... hmmm.  But that was fun.  Went to dinner with my parents and then eventually headed home.  On the way home though, my sister called and was heading out to check out the new Snoqualmie casino with a few of her friends.  I wasn't wanting to either stay out late, or spend much money, but I did want to see the new casino in the middle of nowhere, so I joined them, where I proceeded to stay out later than I wanted to, but on the bright side, made a killing and won about $525!  Not a bad way to start the holidays.  :) 

Saturday morning I went up to help out with Christmas decorating at church, before heading home to do some Christmas decorating of my own.  Yeah, like that actually happened.  That was the plan anyway.  I managed to do about as little decorating as I could, before I decided I was still tired and it was time to take a nap.  Later in the evening Andrew made it back from his trip, and we decided to go get some Mexican food for dinner at Chevy's in Lynnwood.  Little did we know until we arrived that Chevy's went out of business!  SO disappointing!  I still have a craving for chips and salsa now.  But we went over to the Old Spaghetti Factory instead and that was mildly satisfying.  

Sunday I went Christmas shopping with my sister.  We were very productive, after going to Alderwood, Costco, and finally ending up at Northgate, we had taken care of Christmas presents for mom, dad, both sisters, and the niece and nephew.  It was a big win all around!  Now I can just worry about a few other Christmas presents and I'm done, almost a full month before Christmas, and let me tell you, that's a first. :)  That night after I got home, Chris and Jonell came over and we had pizza, while waiting for Andrew to get back from his afternoon/evening with some other friends.  Of course, he was later than expected, so we had pizza and hung out without him. :)  As expected, he arrived about 15 minutes after C&J left. 

Monday I took the day off of work, and it's a good thing.  Andrew helped me put up Christmas lights on the outside of my house, which currently looks pretty awesome, if I do say.  Though I am slightly unimpressed with some of the LED lights I got because they just look too... what's the word... freakish.  I used them to outline around the door of my house, but they really just look out of place among the rest of the regular non-LED lights I used on the trees and bushes.  I think I'm going to do a bit of reworking some of it and limit the LED lights to the shrubs where they might be a bit less obtrusive.  But first, I must point out that in this city it is next to IMPOSSIBLE to find purple lights.  I think everyone buys them up and I can't find them anywhere.  OK, so the only place I really have looked was Target, I do mean to look elsewhere eventually, but whatever.  I'm sure it won't be so bad.  But I need about 4 or 5 sets of them, so hopefully it isn't too hard to track some down.  Spent the rest of Monday hanging out with Jonell and Andrew, before he caught the red-eye out last night to head home.  

Now I'm back to work, pretty tired, and oddly hungry even though I shouldn't be.  Maybe I need a snack, but it's nearly lunchtime.  Either way, I should work.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

They'll name a street after him someday...

Ever wonder where some of these street names in the city come from?  Sure, some of them are obvious, but others maybe not so much, especially for we younger generation who may not have been around the city for as long as some.  So I decided to do a little research and found some interesting stories that really tell a bit of Seattle history.

Royal Brougham Way - Few can go to a Seahawks or Mariners game without seeing a loss crossing Royal Brougham.  I, for one, have always wondered "what's a royal brougham?"  Imagine my surprise when I realized the question should have been "Who?"  He was a sportswriter for the Seattle P-I for nearly three-quarters of a century, and a local legend.  Appropriately, the street running next to, at the time, the Kingdome was named after him.  Fascinating reading:  "The life and times of Royal Brougham"

Edgar Martinez Drive - Fortunately for those of us who have been around Seattle in the last decade know Edgar Martinez.  In 2005, the city took the street just south of Safeco Field and renamed it after the man who spent his entire 18-year career with the Mariners.  

Denny Way - It's hard not to find references to Denny throughout Seattle geography and landmarks.  The Denny Party, led by Arthur Denny, sailed to Alki Point, before eventually relocating to Pioneer Square around which would become the city of Seattle.  Denny Way, though, was named after his younger brother David Denny, who staked claim on the north end of the settlement.  Also members of the Denny Party?  William Bell who claimed the area now known as Belltown, and Denny's brother-in-law Carson Boren.  Later joining them?  Henry Yesler and Thomas Mercer.  

Monday, November 10, 2008

Office Excitement

The biggest, most exciting thing that's happened around our office in years is about to happen...

... that's right, after 5 1/2 years working here and having next to zero food options around our building, other than a couple of over-priced delis, or a long walk to Taco Del Mar...

... a Subway is opening right across the street from the building on Westlake.  

It's glorious.  It's spectacular.  That Subway is going to get a LOT of business. :)  

Now everyone's walking down the hallways doing the $5 Footlong hand gestures.  OK, maybe not, but that'd be hilarious.  I think I might start that. :)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Paint the Town - Leg 7

And without further ado... we're off on Leg 7.  Who will be eliminated next?

Looks like we'll be staying in India for a while longer.  First off to a big apartment complex, to find the next clue... what the heck?  

Roadblock - Holi Festival - Run thorugh a bunch of powdered paint-throwing locals having fun and celebrating and find your clue.  What a mess.  Hilarious though... and colorful!  Oh no, Starr doesn't want to smear her makeup too much.  Whatever.   Oh wow, the paint throwers seem to have gotten more and more aggressive with each successive racer.  And ONCE AGAIN the Divorcees misread the clue and make it much harder than it needs to be.  No wonder they're divorced.  And human tie-dyed.  We can only hope the next stop on the race is a shower.

Detour:  Bleary Eyed or Teary Eyed.  Count numbers on electric lines, or haul bags of dried chilis and grind into chili powder.  This is a toss-up.  Both seem incredibly hard. 

In the Speed Bump for Ken and Tina, their penalty for coming in last in the previous leg, they have to help serve holy water to all of the temple goers.  Easy, but time consuming task.  And hopefully it consumes enough time, because I'm becoming even more sick of these two and their incessant bickering. They now have to make it back to the detour.  

Off to the Pit Stop.  

OK, let me take a bit of a sidetrack here.  It seems to be they used to have a bit more puzzle-like challenges throughout the race.  These days it's nothing but physical challenges with really simple things that must be found.  This either says something about a lack of creativity by the producers after 13 seasons of this, or a lack of intelligence by the racers.  :)  

"Nick and Starr, you're team number 1!"  again... and you win a fabulous trip to Hawaii! 

Toni and Dallas, mom and son, team number 2.  

Back to the action... the Divorcees and the Frat Boys are still counting numbers, and both are failing miserably.  The Divorcees perhaps would be slightly more productive if they actually GOT OUT OF THE CART AND WALKED instead of being lazy.  AND the Frat Boys offer to work together, and the Divorcees DECLINE saying they'd rather work alone.  These two are quickly surpassing Ken and Tina on my "need to be eliminated" list.  And then Ken and Tina help the Frat Boys figure it out.  Good karma points there.  

Andrew and Dan are #5 - that leaves only... Kelly and Christy, Team #6... and they are eliminated.  And I'm not the least bit disappointed.  Onward!  

Car-in-Green Delhi - Leg 6

Just 2 hours before tonight's episode, I'm finally getting around to watching last week's episode.  Here we go...

n-1 teams remain... who will be eliminated next?

And all teams are headed to Delhi, India.  Dallas and Starr trying to flirt, how touching.  

Welcome to India.  Lots of horn honking.  Animals walking down the highway.  Traffic.  Roadblock.

Go Green - Paint the tram Green, after masking the yellow parts with newspaper.  Don't worry, the producers have obviously paid these guys enough money to fix any of the bad paint jobs the racers do.  And Ken and Tina are so lost... because Tina couldn't stop talking. 

Off to the Ambassador Hotel.  Looks fancy, but it's also the middle of the night by now... and the frat boys have taken the lead.  But somehow they got lost, and the siblings made their way there first.  

Detour:  Launder Money or Launder Clothes.  10 Rupee notes adding up to $780... so some quick math, not knowing exactly what denominations I have to work with would be... 7 $100's, 1 $50, 1 $20, 1 $10. I'll presume that works.  

What was that again?  I believe Tina just said "Si" to the taxi driver.  Sorry, wrong language, Tina.  

Baha'i House - is the pitstop.  Will this week finally be a non-elimination leg?  Who knows, but Nick and Starr are Team #1, and each of them won an electric car!  Well that's pretty cool.

OK, I'm sick of Ken and Tina, probably almost as much as they're sick of each other.  Too bad the frat boys are still trying to iron clothes at the detour.  This looks like a close finish, but I suspect it's less close than it appears to be.  NO!  Andrew and Dan are team #5!  

I take back everything I said... i hope this is an elimation leg... PLEASE be an elimination leg!  Ken and Tina you are the last team to arrive.  NOOOOOOOOO... they stay in the race.  There will be a speedbump on the next leg of the race, that only they must perform.  Well, I can only hope the other teams stay ahead of them.  We'll see.  

Rock on... and in another hour, we'll have Leg #7. 

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Random Update

A week's worth of updates crammed into this space now:

Saturday night went and saw Bill Cosby at Benaroya Hall.  I don't think I've seen Benaroya that packed in recent memory.  Certainly there are some rather full symphony concerts, but not usually like this.  I must say, Bill is looking a bit old, but sounds just like he always has.  The show was basically Bill coming out, sitting in a chair, and telling stories for 2 hours.  It was uproariously funny, in that Cosby kind of way, since he is indeed the master of just telling stories in a funny way.  It was definitely worth seeing him live.

Those who know me know (or for all I know I've had a rant somewhere in this blog at a point in the past) that I have had a long standing stance that I need my cell phone to do one thing:  make calls. I've held similar resistance to the iPod and everything that comes out of Steve Jobs over-enthusiastic mind.  Well, friends, I've crossed over to the dark side.  The allure of Apple engineering has bitten me, and over the weekend I got an iPhone.  Once the price no longer became a determining factor (and my sister offered to buy me one for my birthday), I really had no excuses left.  And I must say, this phone really is as cool as everyone says it is (and as I've found by playing with other folks phones).  

Election mayhem is finally over.  And the excitement of election night was definitely worth it.  I don't think anyone fully expected the post-election Obama-mania that happened seemingly everywhere on Tuesday night.  But really what made me more excited is the initiative and proposition results.  Tim Eyman's horrendous initiative failed handily 60/40, though I'm sure Tim's already got some way to spin that into a moral victory for him and his supporters.  In response, his next initiative will be to support changing the state constitution to require only 40% support to pass initiatives, which he will call a "super-minority".  Look for it next year. :)  More excitingly, Prop 1 for Sound Transit is leading with close to 60% support.  Light rail will stretch to Northgate, Bellevue, and almost Federal Way by 2020.  Now, I guess that's 11 years from now, but hey, by then who will really want to be driving in that mess?  The one thing we can count on next year, another 0.5% sales tax in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, bringing most parts of King to 9.5%, except restaurants which already have an extra 0.5% tacked on (in KC only) which will make dining in restaurants in King County hit the magic 10.0% Sales Tax threshold.  That's the small downside to big transportation projects, which I think is actually worth it.  But yeah, cost of living is high here, but still not as unreasonable as some states.  Only California, Arizona, and Alabama have higher sales taxes on some items, all of which also have state income taxes, and Alabama is the only state that does not offer an exemption of sales tax on groceries.  Personally, I'll take our sales tax without any income tax, thank you very much.  

Finally, I give a hearty endorsement to my new favorite streaming internet radio website:  Pandora Radio (  You create your own radio station by telling it what artists/songs you enjoy, and then it finds other songs with similar characteristics to create a radio station of all the music you enjoy (or might enjoy) without the crap you don't want.  If you like a song, give it a thumbs up and they'll find more like it.  If you don't like a song, give it a thumbs down, it'll immediately move on to the next song and you'll never hear that song again on your station.  Brilliant and worth checking out.  

That's all the news that's fit to print for now. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Broadway at the Paramount 2009

The Paramount announced their 2009 Broadway Season last week, and it looks like it should be another interesting one:  

The Lion King (February/March) - I missed this last time it was in town.  By all accounts this will be a Broadway spectacle beyond all measure.  Looking forward to this one.  

Cats (April) - This is a one-week engagement, not part of the regular season.  Another I've never seen, but tempting to get tickets to this one since it is indeed a Broadway classic now.  

Frost/Nixon (May) - Every so often they throw a non-musical play into the mix, and this is the most recent.  From the synopsis:  "Direct from Broadway, Frost/Nixon tackles the question:  How did David Frost, a famous British talk show host with a playboy reputation, elicit the apology that the rest of the world was waiting to hear from former President Richard Nixon?"  Tony Award nominated, should be interesting, if also from a historical prespective.  

RENT (June) - Yet another return engagement, but this time Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp, from the original Broadway cast, return to reprise their roles.  I always say this is a must see everytime it comes to town, and this is definitely no exception.  

Wicked (September/October) -  Returning again after just two seasons ago, but this time for an entire month.  This received an "unconditional 5 out of 5 stars" in my previous abbreviated review, and you absolutely must see this when it comes to town.  If you don't like it, there's something wrong with you.  

August: Osage County (October) - Highly praised, yet I've never heard of it.  Probably because once again, it's not a musical.  Read your own reviews.  

Fiddler on the Roof (November/December) - Numerous classic songs in this, from "Tradition" to "If I Were a Rich Man".  Hard to argue with this one as another great one.  

Should turn out to be a heck of a season, I'd say.  

Boring in Cambodia - Leg 5

When we last left the race, we were in New Zealand... 7 teams remain, who will be eliminated next?

I'm thinking we're reaching the point where we'll have a non-elimination leg to spice things up a bit.  Either way, I'm thinking some twist will happen on this leg... but I've been wrong before.  

6:03am - Ken and Tina kick off the leg heading to Cambodia.  
8:19am - Terrence and Sarah - over 2 hours behind to start the leg.  
9:32am - The Divorcees - another hour behind...
10:15am - Mom and Son depart...
11:34am - Nick and Starr depart, her arm is fine, despite the drama of the last leg.  
12:44pm - Frat Boys, 6+ hours behind the first team.  
3:04pm - Aja and Ty - 2:20 behind the next to last team.  

Quite a stretch between teams, but I'll expect that they'll all bunch up again before the next pitstop.  

Terrence and Sarah are pulled over by the cop in New Zealand, going 117km in a 100km zone.  Just hearing the cop say you were going 117 was oddly hilarious.  But they should be back to catch the 1st team on the same flight.  

And as expected, all but the last team will arrive in Cambodia at the same time.  This is going to be quite a stretch for Aja and Ty to catch up... but you never know.  

Boring boring boring... blah blah blah... OK, seriously, these ASU frat boys obviously did not choose Arizona State for the education, ehem.  

Detour:  Village Life or Village Work.  Pick up 3 items and deliver them to the dock.  Or find 2 fish traps and deliver the fish to the dock.  OK, this is an interesting cultural view of Cambodia, but still rather boring.  

Roadblock:  search the Angkor Wat temple for the chamber of echoes.  Wow, this would be fun, if only you knew where the heck you were going.  Very cool.  Now it's a race to find Phil.  

"Nick and Starr, you are team number one!"  As expected, they're right in the race.  I believe this was another case where the video editing made the race seem closer than it really was.  It looks like teams 1-4 were relatively bunched together.  5 close behind. The frat boys somehow managed team #6, and as expected, the deficit was unsurmountable and Aja and Ty are going to end up the last team to arrive.  And though I didn't expect it, they were indeed eliminated from the race.  

In the epilogue, we find that Terrence and Sarah will be assessed a 30-minute penalty to start off the next leg for their little speeding incident.  

I'll rate this leg of the race a C.  Seeing Cambodia was fascinating, it's not exactly a tourist destination you always hear about.  But the elements of the race itself... zzzzzzzzzzz.  

Friday, October 24, 2008

Birthday Recap

Well, yesterday was my birthday, which most people know means very little to me.  Everyone's excuse is "but you're one year older," to which I respond "everyday I'm a year older than I was a year ago."  

But that's not to say I don't appreciate all of the birthday greetings I received.  It's always nice to see everyone come out of the woodwork who you rarely hear from otherwise.  

In other news, my company gave me a birthday present yesterday too... a 5% salary cut.  In an effort to cut costs and prevent layoffs, they decided to cut the entire company's salaries 5%.  This actually was a reasonable solution, and they handled it well, but it still sucks.  In addition, they are going to be raising our health insurance rates, and the office will be shutting down the week between Christmas and New Year's, forcing all employees to take 4 days of vacation.  I guess that's not so bad, I've got a lot of vacation I didn't have major plans for anyway, so it's not such a big deal, and it might be nice having December 24-January 4 off as a sort of winter break.  I haven't had one of those since college!  Maybe I should make some fun plans that week.  

Last night to celebrate my birthday, I went curling as usual.  Had a good time though.  All does seem to be well in the world.  

But so far my Friday has been less than stellar.  I hope it improves.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

To the Land of Phil - Leg 4

8 teams remain... who will be eliminated next?  Time to leave La Paz, Bolivia.  

More drama between between the Divorcees and the Siblings during the pit stop.  Seriously folks, spare me.  And we're off to Auckland, New Zealand... now that's a long trip from Bolivia... and one that's sure to put all 8 teams essentially even to start out the leg.  

I immediately sense that this is going to be a rather boring leg... because there's a lot of wasted time just getting to the airport.  Aja & Ty exhibited the first "relationship breakdown" we saw so far, but looked just like a little sleep-deprived frustration.  Nothing too bad.  If the producers had to squeeze every ounce of drama out of that, things must have been pretty peaceful around. What it must be like to be one of the cameramen whose only job is to videotape every teams most dramatic conversations.  Must be quite the experience.

And wow, that flight to New Zealand took all of about 5 seconds.  Impressive video editing. Ah, and we're back in rental cars with the teams driving around and getting lost... oh, and the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car, nice.  Aja and Ty got a flat tire... too bad.  

Untie the Gordian Knot to find the next clue... the summit of Mount Eden... AND we have a Fast Forward option:  go to the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere and climb this maintenance ladder from the top to the VERY top of it.  Nice.  I'd totally go for that... as long as I was in first place.  

Roadblock to find the warrior with the tattoo that matches the picture.  Ha.  Not as easy as it looks.  But not so hard.  

Has anyone else noticed how many times the teams have to get their clue from someone who pulls it out of their pants?  

Is it just me or are the roadblocks not nearly as difficult as they've been in the past?  Usually there's at least one that's physically demanding or a scary challenge, but we've just had some pretty bizarre mental challenges for the most part.  

THE GNOME RETURNS.  In its first appearance of the season, Travelocity's product placement of the Roaming Gnome becomes the next challenge.  Use binoculars from the top of a building to find a roaming gnome somewhere in view, and THEN go and get it.  This is a big challenge.  One of the better ones using the gnome.  I think we'll call this a new route challenge, the Gnome Hunt.  Because really, that's almost always what you have to do... find the gnome in some bizarre way or other.  It's like a lifesize Where's Waldo? puzzle.  

Oh yeah, the blondes are STILL trying to find the Gordian Knot and untangle it.  So, when the rest of the teams were doing this challenge, it was the middle of the night, and now the blondes are doing it in the day.  I'm pretty sure they're a LONG way back.  It's these other teams' race to lose now.  

Ken and Tina successfully captured the Fast Forward, and got to take a helicopter to the pit stop... not bad for transportation!  :)  And there's Phil on the magic carpet... and only appropriate with Phil in his homeland of New Zealand that joining him as the local ambassador is... Phil's Dad! Hilarious!  

Back to the rest of the racers, who did not fast forward:

DETOUR:  Matter of Time or Matter of Skill.  Stomp kiwis, make juice, and then drink a glass.  Hmmm, can't say I've ever had the honor of enjoying a glass of kiwi juice.  Matter of Skill has to assemble a blowcart and ride it... whatever.  Giant lifesize puzzle.  Who cares, let's go back to watching the teams meet Phil's dad, that's more fun. 

Starr thinks she broke her arm after crashing her blowcart... ow, that looks painful. 

It all comes down to Aja & Ty, and the Blondes... both of which must be at least 5 hours behind the other teams, based on my assessment of the amount of daylight left (which by now is zero).  Aja and Ty are shocked to come in 7th.  As Marisa and Brooke arrive on the magic carpet crying, Phil's dad looks like he has tears in his eyes too.  And they get a hug from Phil's dad.  How cute.  But alas, they are eliminated.  

I admit it, I was wrong.  This actually was a really good leg, probably the best of the season so far.  Now I'm kinda excited for next week.  

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Didn't I Say "Remember the Clues"? - Leg 3

When we last left off, we were in Fortaleza, Brazil.  

Apparently some pit stop drama kept the excitement going in the meantime.  Rarely do they show anything that happens from the time the teams hit the mat to when they start the next leg, but apparently some drama between the divorcees and the siblings was too good to pass up.  This could get ugly.  But that's what the race is all about, I think.

Off to La Paz, Bolivia.  Once they arrive, they have to find the morning paper to find their next clue hidden in the classified ads.  Well that sounds like it would be easier said than done.  :)  

Terence and Sarah just realized that all the other teams are out for themselves, and that this isn't a popularity contest and they need to compete against the other teams.  HELLO?!  If you're just now realizing this, you have NO right to be in this race.  Seriously?   What did you expect, the Miss Universe pageant? 

La Paz is high altitude, so the endurance factor may be important here.  Though how will that affect the airhead blondes?  Only negatively, no doubt.

OK, so the classified ad says they need to go to a hat store and buy a hat.   They also have made it very clear that you must hold on to your hat.  (I presume this will be required at the pit stop or before.)  I will guess with certainty that some team loses a hat and get some sort of penalty for it.  Let's see.

Detour:  Musical March or Bumpy Ride.  Collect musicians and form a band, or ride a wooden bicycle and go down the cobblestone streets where you need to.  U-Turn ahead, forcing a team to go back and do the other detour.  Oh the advantage of being first here.  Though if these teams are smart, they won't use the U-Turn.  With this many teams, if you're in first you have no need to.  One team took a cab when the rules specifically stated they couldn't.  I sense another potential 30-minute penalty enforced at the magic carpet. Oops, they figured it out, and they're heading back to the start to do it on foot.  They might have been better taking whatever penalty they were assessed.  

Collecting a marching band along the way, awesome.  If I were in this race, I'd have a hard time not choosing the musical march, even if I thought the bumpy ride were faster, which I think it is. But maybe not so much.  That was a funny detour.  The Divorcees are having a bumpy road on the bumpy ride, if only because they can't seem to ride a bike.  

And the U-Turn, Starr wants to U-Turn the Divorcees, which by my estimation would effectively guarantee their elimination.  But Nick disagrees, and they avoid it.  

Mom and son managed to pass the divorcees in last place.  Oh, but it's a roadblock.  Fight a girl.  HA.  This is a stretch and kinda stupid.  I don't care if it's cultural or whatever, it's dumb.  ...  I take that back, that was funny... once, but not any more than that.  

Pit stop... Ken and Tina arrive first!  This isn't much of an exciting finish.  Except that I must have missed the fact that one of the other teams also took an illegal taxi to the detour.  Mark and Bill incurred a 30-minute penalty, they were the second-to-last team to arrive, and due to the penalty they were eliminated from the race.  I have to say, there have been a fair share of time penalties throughout the seasons of the race, often resulting in a loss of position, but I can't recall a previous time where the penalty directly resulted in elimination.  

Next week should be interesting.  

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Things that surprisingly annoy me

  • People who pronounce "taco" like "TACK-o".
  • People who use "u" instead of "you," "r" instead of "are," and "thx" instead of "thanks" outside of a text message or IM.  
  • People who use "heart" as a verb.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Vacation Wrapup and The Week Ahead

Without much trouble we made it back home from the islands, and never have I been more pleased to have 50 degree weather and a distinct lack of sun.  :)  Unfortunately, now I have a half dozen things to do in the next three days, not counting getting back up to speed with everything going on at work.  Running down the highlights of the calendar:  

  • Tonight I need to make my way over to the curling club to meet my Thursday night team who wants to get some practice time in so we might be able to win a few more games this year.  Should be fun, hopefully I'm still awake by then.  
  • Tomorrow I have a meeting for the Husky Band Foundation, followed by the customary pop culture trivia night at Jillian's.  That'll be fun and a nice break from work, but unfortunately, all these other things have to be done too.
  • Friday kicks off the curling season with, of course, the league I manage.  So as usual I've got the next two days to figure out who all is planning to curl on Fridays, get a rough idea of how the teams will be all organized, and hope that nothing falls through the cracks.  Looking at my recent registration lists, I can see that there'll be plenty of the usual last minute people who didn't see fit to register early, and I'll have to shoehorn them into the roster in some capacity.  Why can't everyone in the world be more organized?  Seriously...
  • Saturday I volunteered to help out with another curling open house, so I'll be back up there teaching folks how to curl again.  At least that'll be fun and fortunately with the Huskies bye this week, I don't have to worry about juggling that with a UW football game. :)
  • In things without an allotted time, I need to do laundry from my trip sometime.  
  • I need to figure out what Vancouver 2010 Olympics tickets I want to put into my order.  I've got about a month to figure that out, but I want to iron it out sooner than later, mainly because it's fun and it'll be cool to plan what I want to try to get tickets for.  How exciting.  And how ridiculously expensive can tickets to the Opening Ceremony be?  Oh, anywhere from $700-$1300 each.  Ouch! 
  • Any number of other things I've forgotten.  What a week, what a week...  

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Closing out the Week - Days 6 & 7

Sunday was a day of recovery.  We all had originally planned to get out and do things, but instead decided to spend the day around the house, playing in the ocean, and actually cooking and eating some of the food we had bought.  It ended up being a spectacular day.  

Monday Carley, Chad, Maija and myself made our way down to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.  Last year when I was down here, I was too lazy to wait around for 2 hours in order to do the film and trip out to the memorial, but today we arrived around 11am and got tickets for 1pm.  That gave us 2 hours to leave and go over to Hilo Hatties to procure some fine Hawaiian merchandise before grabbing lunch at McD's and making our way back in time for the 1pm entrance.  

By the time we made it out of Pearl Harbor it was about 3pm and we decided to just head back to the house, having accomplished everything we had planned for the day.  We picked up some last minute provisions at the store before getting home to relax a bit then start making dinner.  We managed to use most all of the food we had bought at Costco, and everyone seemed to enjoy it all.  

After dinner, and making some BBQ smores, we took some time to do some tidying up around the house before we leave tomorrow morning.  I still need to get some packing done tonight, but besides that I think we're pretty much ready to go.  A successful and restful week of vacation is nearly complete.  

I think my internal clock will be a bit askew for the rest of the week trying to get to work on time, but thankfully I tend to adjust better traveling east than west, so I may be OK afterall.  

Aloha and Mahalo.  

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Remember the Clues - Leg 2

[I'm writing this one as I'm on my own Amazing Race... well, with one destination: Hawaii.  I think I'm in the lead, but I haven't been able to find Phil and the magic carpet yet... ]

We're in Salvador, Brazil.  We're flying to Fortaleza, Brazil.  Brazil is big.  I think someone should have to take a train or something.  But apparently not.  

"I can't control everything and I want to control everything," says Starr... sounds like my sister too.

Terence... totally drama.  Rarely is the guy drama, but in this case it's definitely so.  Oh, I think Sarah is drama too, so maybe they're a good team.  

Wow, Ken and Tina made impressive work convincing the airline to switch the early flight to a bigger plane so there's more space.  I don't think I've seen that happen before.  But the airport drama is even bigger as now Tina believes that they should be first on the plane because they're the reason everyone's on the plane.  "What's fair is fair."  Hmmm, last time I checked, just because I check in first doesn't mean I board first... well, unless I'm flying Southwest.  "DING!  You are now free to race around the world."

OK, point of order... in Brazil, they speak Portuguese, not Spanish!  Save the three words of Spanish you know for a country where they might actually understand you.  I'm sure you'll hit one sooner or later.  "RAPIDO! RAPIDO!"  Seriously?  Every season I think I make my Rapido rant, and this is the first, and probably not the last.  

Doom Buggies across the sand... then detour..Beach It or Docket.  Maneuver a heavy boat across the beach, or search a shipyard for a specific container you're looking for.  In this case, I think Beach It is probably going to be faster usually, but I'd totally do Docket because it sounds far more fun.  The Southern Belles meant to do Docket, but went to the Beach It because they apparently couldn't follow the GIANT signs that said "Beach It" or "Docket".  Too bad for them.  And the other blondes attempted to do Beach It using the Docket instructions.  Wow, the producers have outdone themselves this season.  

Mark and Bill are total geeks.  Anyone who can speak Yoda better than Yoda himself... 'nuff said.  However they ARE the only team to choose Docket.  

As we reach another commercial break, and I'm watching live so I can't fast forward, I reflect on the amount of team drama this season.  Maybe that's just because the other teams aren't featured much yet, because they aren't doing anything stupid. :)  I tell you, friends, especially in the early legs, the Amazing Race is NOT WON BY SPEED.  It's won by NOT DOING STUPID THINGS!

And the first road block of the race...  find the name of your next destination on the giant wall.  This one's just plain tricky.  But smarts and creativity prevails, as the nerds write down every name on the wall in hopes one is right.  Success!  Other teams think too hard.  This is brilliant work by the producers, because everyone is starting the race thinking that these puzzles will be complicated and tricky, and this one's nothing more than simply reading off the wall until you get it right.  

Ken and Tina are separated... seriously Ken should run as far away from Tina as he can... but that's for after they get eliminated.  Despite it all, they find the magic carpet first and are team number 1.  The geeks come in right behind.  

What a mess.  Phil seems to be enjoying the mayhem.   Teams 3 4 and 5 arrive at practically the same time.  5 teams remain.  "I don't mind playing dirty as long as I'm the one who benefits from it," says Nick, but successfully the siblings come in #6.  Yeah, remember that when one of the other teams benefits from it.  :)  

Finally we reach... Anthony and Stephanie... who were as unmemorable as their elimination is.  We'll see you at the finish line with the rest of the losers.

It's odd that these first couple of episodes have been much more focused on team drama than having many actual race elements.  I guess that's expected considering the teams are still new and we have much to learn before we completely start hating them.  Hopefully they get the race moving before too long or I might get uninterested like I did last season.  For now I'm still entertained.  

The Wedding Day - Day 5

Saturday finally brought about the reason we all came here, Nick and Christie's Wedding.  Those of us spectators enjoyed a nice morning at home, and managed to catch the first quarter of the Huskies terrible performance before heading down the street to the wedding.  

I have to admit, this is the first beach wedding I've ever been to.  The weather cooperated, as we were just out on the beach behind the house Christie's family had rented, and it was slightly breezy with occasional clouds shading us from the sun.  The ceremony was rather quick, and quite nice, but I think we were all glad to get out of the hot sun once it was over and made the drive down the island to the reception.  

The reception was at Ko'olau Golf Course, which also has a large conference center/ballrooms connected to it.  Everything went perfectly (at least as far as I could tell) and everyone had a great time.  

They say a picture says 1,000 words, so go look at the pictures and I'll space you rest of the words.  

What has become a tradition at most of the Husky Band-related weddings I've been to in recent memory, as the evening wears on and the glasses compound on the table, my attempt to fashion a musical interlude was once again successful.  This time though we managed to get it on video for everyone's enjoyment.  

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Leisurely Friday - Day 4

Friday was pretty uneventful, by design.  For once we didn't make any big trips down to the south end of the island, and just took some time to relax and do things around the house.  This is what a vacation needs to feel like sometimes.  

For lunch, I took the opportunity to visit one of my mom's friends from college who happens to live less than 5 minutes from the house we're staying at here in Laie.  They have a beautiful house right on the water.  I remember visiting them probably 15 years ago when my family was down here, and haven't really seen them since.  But we had a good lunch and it was nice visiting with them for a couple of hours.  

I came back home and those of us around decided to head out to the beach.  The surf was quite a bit better than the other days, so the boogie boards were far more functional.  We played in the waves, and got plenty of white sand all over us.  After we were tired, tanned, or toasted, we came back in and later in the afternoon all of the wedding party-related folks were off to the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, leaving Annie, Adam and myself to relax and find dinner on our own.  

We decided to go down the street to a local drive-in place with "Hawaiian Barbeque"?  I think what we had was "Chinese food" but it was still good.  There aren't a lot of dining options in Laie, other than making good food yourself.  We stopped at the grocery store on the way home, and then pretty much relaxed the rest of the evening.  It was nice not being quite so busy.  

Today is the reason we all came... the wedding.  Once again, the wedding-related folks are all gone to get ready, and the rest of us are just hanging around until later.  There's plenty of college football on TV that's keeping us entertained, and we all hope to catch the start of the Husky game (around 1pm here) before the 3pm wedding.  

Friday, October 03, 2008

It's starting to feel like vacation - Day 3

Someone told me it was Friday today.  I'm not entirely sure.  

Whatever it is, yesterday was another eventful day.  Once again, we all seem to get up whenever it gets light out, which usually means sometime around 6:30-7am.  Yesterday was a bit more humid than the few before it, with frequent bouts of rain passing through and a noticible lack of wind.  Today fortunately the wind is back and flushing out the humidity a bit, which makes it much more tolerable.  

After getting everyone ready to go, Christie the bride came by and joined us to go up to Waimea Falls, which after getting to we decided not to pay the $10 to walk up to the actual falls, but went around the outer grounds and enjoyed the grenery of the Waimea Valley a bit.  Then we continued around the island to the obligatory stop at the Dole Plantation.  We rode the Pineapple Express through the pineapple fields, and of course I had the obligatory cup of Dole Whip.  Beyond that thouse, this place has gone from being a creative tourist promotion of Dole and pineapples, to being a total tourist trap trying to sell you everything from the food you eat to the massive amounts of Dole-related and pineapple-themed merchandise.  Not impressed.  

After the plantation, we headed back to the house for a brief moment in the afternoon.  =\\\\\\\-'


Sorry for that interruption, baby Maija decided to inspect my keyboard to make sure the keys still worked.  She has now decided to go inspect the TV remotes on the table instead.  :)

Later in the evening, Nick's bachelor party required Chad, Adam, and I to drive down to Waikiki for dinner at Sam Choy's followed by hitting some bars downtown.  Dinner was good, but we didn't do much on the bar front before I was not feeling well from the long running days, and the three of us decided it was time to head back before it was too late, considering we had another hour drive to the north end of the island.  We made it back in around 1am and the night was over.  

Friday leaves a much less busy day, yet should have plenty of stories.  More on that tomorrow.  

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Aloha and Mahalo - Day 2

Aloha. This will probably be a rather quick post because I'm tired, and it's been a long day. I guess that means it should be longer, but I'm lazy.

This morning I managed to wake up at, oh, about 6:30am. Or rather, at that point I couldn't really sleep any longer and decided to get up. I wasn't the first up, nor was I the last. But everyone managed to make it up by around 7:30 or so.

We interrupt this blog for a late-breaking observation: when it starts raining and it blows inside halfway across the room to where I'm sitting, it's time to close the windows.

So after having breakfast and everyone decided to get ready, about 9:00 we made our way out and back to the south side of the island (a trip we will likely be repeating several more times on this trip). We went to Diamond Head crater and made the 0.8-mile, up-560-feet hike to the top. Took some great pictures you can check out in the album here.

After Diamond Head a few of us went over to Waikiki for lunch and to wander around a bit, then eventually we all managed to make our way back up the island to the house. After regrouping, we headed over to the Polynesian Cultural Center for an evening luau and their night show. We all had a good time, ate good food, and the show was pretty good too.

Of course, I write these blogs in my head throughout the day, then completely forget about them by the time like now when I write them down. Seriously, there was some pretty funny stuff in my head at one point. Oh well, time to lock up and find some sleep. Tomorrow I've heard a plethora of different "what's happening" ideas, so we'll see what materializes.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Aloha from Hawaii - Day 1

It's about 7pm Hawaii time, which means 10pm for you folks on the west coast, and my goodness, 1am for anyone crazy enough to be reading this who lives on the east coast. Hey, I don't exactly know how far this blog reaches, every day I'm constantly amazed that people I never knew knew my blog existed were avid readers.

Anyway, it's been a long day. I left my house at 6:30am this morning to head to the airport (that's 3:30am Hawaii time). The flight was about 5 1/2 hours long, but overall went by pretty quickly. I had a bit of a headache building throughout the second half of the flight, due probably at least in some part to a lack of sufficient food, lack of sufficient sleep, or the complimentary mai-tai at the beginning of the flight after a lack of sufficient food and sleep. Whatever the case, the flight was done and all is well.

We collected the stuff and fetched rental cars. Annie and Adam got one rental car, and I got a car with Carley, Chad and baby Maija joining me. We made our way from the airport to Costco, though in a nod to primitive research, my car was the one that made it there without getting lost. :) After stocking up on food for the week, in an effort to save in the long run by not eating out much, we made our way along the coast up to Laie. The trip was all of about 30 miles, and of course took at least an hour to get there. But fortunately we're feeling the Aloha spirit now and not worrying too much.

As we pulled up to the rental house, flashbacks to the opening sequence of Magnum, PI. Though my red Chevy Impala does no justice to Tom Selleck's red Ferrari. Oh well, I'll get some pictures posted and you can see for yourself. This house is huge, I believe you could have one heck of a party here if you really wanted to. We'll suffice to hang out on our own and be lazy.

We stepped out the back door, out the gate in the back yard, and but a few white sand steps away was the ocean. Warm water, white (well mostly) sand beaches, who can argue with that? We grabbed a few boogie boards from the house and went down and played in the ocean. After I had had enough salt for one day, we made our way back to de-sandify before heading to the local grocery store to pick up those things we didn't need egregious Costco quantities of. In hindsight, we should have just picked up massive amounts at Costco, as we severely underestimated the inflated costs of groceries on the island vs the mainland. $9.00+ for a gallon of milk... enough said.

We're currently sitting around the dining table trying to figure out what to do tomorrow. It sounds like the current plan is to head down to Diamond Head, through Honolulu to Pearl Harbor, before making our way back up here for (probably) a luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The consensus is that we may be a bit overzealous in attempting to do everything on one day, and that we'll probably make a second trip down to Waikiki sometime later in the week.

We'll see how long we survive... I don't think any of us are motivated to immediately adjust to Hawaii time, but we'll see what happens. It's currently about 10 till 8 and we're all falling asleep. Just wait until we wake up at 5am... maybe...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Local News Close to Home

All over every major Seattle news outlet today, but as KOMO puts it "Newborn Baby Abandoned at Federal Way Church".  Early this morning, a baby just hours old was left on the doorstep of the church.

Why it's interesting to me is... that's my church!  Well, the one I grew up in anyway, and my parents still go there.  Interesting seeing the bizarre stuff hit so close to home.

Obviously there are worse places you can leave a baby than a relatively protected front door of a church on a Sunday morning, but still... I guess it's hard to find logic in anything connected to abandoning a baby in the first place.  

Amazing Race 13: The Race Begins

Here we go with another season of Amazing Race!  Thank goodness they resisted the urge to make this a 2-hour episode, because nobody really needs that... especially me. 

Los Angeles, the popular start for the race that served as the starting point for AR4 and AR12, is the starting line for AR13.  As usual, the adrenaline rush and enthusiasm typical of the first leg of the race is present again.  Save some of it for later folks, it'll be much more useful later.  Being the first team to the airport is NEVER essential in the first leg of the race.  Sure you might get a slight advantage, but there are far more important ways to use your energy later.  And they're all on plans to Salvador, Brazil.  Brilliant.  

And already we have a talker.  Andrew and Dan, frat boys from ASU, already become the people who think they can talk their way out of any situation.  Should prove interesting, and if history has shown us anything, it's that big talk will get you far... at least a few legs before you get eliminated.  

The first alliance of the game is formed between Nick & Starr, brother and sister, and Ken & Tina, separated couple attempting to renew their marriage and win $1,000,000, but quickly dubbed "mom and dad" are creating a "loose alliance."  What is a "loose alliance" exactly?  I'd say it's an alliance of convenience, enforcible only until a better offer comes along.  

Kelly & Christy, the divorcees, seem to insist on dressing alike in all situations, but seem to have a bit more going on upstairs than this seasons blondes (doesn't every season need a blonde team?) Marisa & Brooke.  

My early money is on Nick & Starr.  Brother and sister groups have had good success in the race, and from personal experience, I can guarantee they'll be a force to be reckoned with.  

Terrance & Sarah are first to the mid-leg overnight stop, with the 9:00am departure the next morning.  Not too exciting at all.  This is more of a "meet the teams" episode as usual.  Though as it was noted last season, I gave up halfway through and stopped watching.  Hopefully this one keeps my attention.  

Detour:  Hard Way Up, or Soft Way Down.  Climb up a staircase on your hands and knees then answer a question, or go to the top of an elevator then go down a cargo net 200 some feet.  Hmmm... normally I'd say take the hard one because it's faster... but man this one seems like I'd take the soft way and plus it'd be much more fun. :)  Nick & Starr make it to the soft way first and take the lead.  The Talkers seem to be the only ones who took the hard way, making it up all the stairs to find out that the question is "how many stairs did you climb?"  Ouch.  I guess I would have expected that, if I had thought.  

"Nick & Starr, you're team number 1."  Ah the magic carpet looks as nice as ever... and the travel gnome sponsors the first place prize as usual.  Last to arrive, the hippies, who get their one and only mention now.  Meh.  

Well, the teams seem interesting.  Should make for a good race, but we'll see what kind of creative things we can do in Brazil next week.  For now, the DVR is set and we'll see what we can do.  

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Mildly amusing site of the day:

Some selected graphs...  

song chart memes
song chart memes

song chart memes

song chart memes

song chart memes

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Swingin' with Marvin

Last night I attended the first Pops concert of the Seattle Symphony's season.  It definitely did not disappoint!  This season we're lucky enough to have Marvin Hamlisch as the symphony's Principal Pops Conductor.  The last several seasons have each featured one concert conducted by Hamlisch, which usually was one of the best concerts of the season, and now we get him all season long.  And what a ham he always is too.  As usual, the concert would evolve into a stand-up musical comedy routine, with still outstanding music to go with it.  

The music was top notch, with a collection of jazz and swing standards as the theme of the concert.  The featured guests were the US Army Jazz Ambassadors, an outstanding group of Army musicians who performed with the symphony.  We were also treated to several young musicians from the Seattle area, including a jazz quartet, and an amazing clarinet player who's a senior at Garfield HS.  

The featured vocalist was a 14-year old singer from Canada named Nikki Yanofsky, who was absolutely amazing.  Keep your eye on this kid, you'll be hearing a lot more from her in a few years.  

Featured in the concert were tribute medleys Irving Berlin, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington among others.  Marvin's interactions with the audience were of course a highlight, as he managed to heckle one person in the 2nd row who had binoculars, and invited them to move to the front row if they were having trouble seeing.  Just before intermission, he also questioned the audience "what exactly do you folks DO during intermission anyway?"  

Looking forward to the Holiday concert.  

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What Will YOU Celebrate?

I was all ready to post a poignant rant about the current state of the economy, and how unfettered corporate greed over the past decade has brought upon us the sorry financial world we are now trapped in... but then I found something much better to write about...

Today Disney is announcing their new marketing campaign for 2009, replacing the 26-month long "Year of a Million Dreams" that has been running since October 1, 2006.  Coming in January, the question on everyone's (or at least Disney's) mind will be...  What will you celebrate?

As any good marketing campaign needs a gimmick, Disney took the novel approach of celebrating the one thing that everyone in the world has:  a birthday.  Everyone who shows up at the park on his or her birthday gets in for FREE.  That's right, Disney is actually giving away something worthwhile for nothing... or so it would seem.  

As I always like to do, let's break down the numbers.  Based on current reports (Disney generally keeps actual numbers a secret) the average daily attendance at Disneyland is 40,000 people.  Assuming an even distribution of birthdays (~1:365.25 people having a birthday on any given day), on any given day at Disneyland about 110 people are celebrating their birthdays.  Letting those 110 people into the park for free isn't so much of a cut into the bottom line, and the reality is, most of these people aren't going to be celebrating their birthday at the park alone.  They'll bring their friends, their families, plenty of other admission-paying guests which should well make up the difference.  

Furthermore, those who travel to Disney for a vacation are rarely going to be staying for just one day.  They'll make a multi-day vacation out of it.  So if the incentive of a free day in the park convinces people to take a family vacation to Disneyland who wouldn't have done so otherwise, Disney's making out like bandit on the deal!  

Disney obviously thought it all out too, as the free One Day/One Park pass wouldn't be too appealing to people who are coming to buy a multi-day park hopper pass, and have alternatives available.  Choose from a "Birthday Fun Card" which seems to be nothing more than a Disney Gift Card loaded with the cash value equivalent of a One Day/One Park ticket, which can be used anywhere in the park for merchandise or extra-cost activities (but not food or drink), OR instead choose a Birthday FASTPASS giving you and up to 5 guests a fastpass for up to 4 attractions in your day, OR a One Day/One Park pass usable only by you anytime until your next birthday.

All of these options seem to encourage more people to come to the parks, and for a longer time, which can't be a bad thing for Disney.  But I definitely like the idea, we'll see how cheesy of commercials Disney's marketing folks can come up with.  

Of course this begs the question, "What will I celebrate?"  Seriously folks, have I ever needed a reason?  :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Phantom of the Opera

Avid readers used to my reviews of great musicals you've never heard of will appreciate the refreshing change as last night I went to one of the most popular musicals of all time, Phantom of the Opera.  It may come as a surprise to some that I've actually never seen Phantom on stage, though am very familiar with it through all of its pop-culture ties and of course the movie that was made a few years back.  

Since most everyone (at least anyone who cares) knows the general idea of the show, I'll spare a lengthy review and instead evaluate this production, with the caveat that I have no past productions to compare it to.  

As expected, another theatrical spectacle.  This one even more so than most, as it seemed the scenery extended into the entire theatre.  The Paramount actually made a spectacular accompaniment to the on-stage sets, both having similar architectural styling.  The famous chandelier fit perfectly into the theatre's decor.  I must say there was almost a fluid quality to the production, as rarely was there a moment something wasn't moving on stage, whether the scenery or props changing or stuff appearing and disappearing off stage.  

And of course, Andrew Lloyd Webber's score with so many songs that have become ingrained in the popular music genre.  We were treated (some might disagree) to one of the understudies performance as The Phantom, which was an amazing performance nonetheless.  I was not disappointed.

Not much more to add, so on to the ratings:

Cast: 4 stars - Just because.
Script:  4 stars - "From the messed up mind of ALW..."
Technical: 5 stars - This is the kind of show that makes a Broadway musical...
Music:  5 stars - Too much good music not to be pleased.
Overall: 4 stars - This is a great performance.  I'd see it again, but I'd also choose other musicals over this one.  

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Shrek: The Musical

The latest show to make its World Premiere in Seattle before heading to Broadway is Shrek: The Musical.  The show has been running at the 5th Avenue Theatre since August 14th in preview performances to work any kinks out and fine tune the show in response to audience feedback, with the official opening set for September 10th.  

The show seemed pretty solid, though had a bit of a slow start to me.  Towards the end of the first act it was really up to speed and the second act was outstanding.  

Make no mistake, this is a true Broadway spectacle, beyond all measure.  

Just stepping into the theatre, the entire stage, as if by magic, had been transformed into a swamp.  Dramatic set changes, brilliantly vivid scenery, and everything else you'd expect from a first-rate Broadway production were present.  For this alone, the musical is worth every penny.  

You needn't look far to find the humor in this production.  From Lord Farquad's hilariously diminutive depiction, to the jokes interjected in nearly every line of the script, you'll be laughing from beginning to end.  Though I could have done without some of the cliche one-liners scattered throughout, there were plenty of fresh and appropriate lines to make up for it.  Additionally, as has become a standard in animated films, you'll find plenty of adult humor that will go right over the kids heads, which is a good thing because there were far more young people at the performance than most I attend.  I especially enjoyed the subtle references to other recent Broadway musicals, including "Wicked", "Avenue Q", and "The Lion King".  No doubt there were others, but these three were unmistakable if you've seen any of those shows.  

The music was, well, unmemorable.  While there were a few distinct tunes, well-performed by the cast and the surprisingly large orchestra, the overall music seemed rather flat.  In fact, I don't recall any siginficantly showstopping numbers that one might expect in any musical production.  Yet somehow that didn't significantly detract from the quality of the show.  The music was still very appropriate to the theme of the show, integrated well with the dialogue, and didn't interfere with the rest of the production. 

I have no doubt that this will make a huge run on Broadway and probably get several Tony nominations.  As for my ratings:

Cast:  4 stars - A great collection of proven Broadway stars.
Script:  4 stars - Hard to argue with a proven formula, but well adapted to the stage.
Technical: 6 stars - A rarity that I would exceed my 5-star scale, but there's no better way to describe it.  The lighting, scenery, and entire package was nothing short of spectacular.  
Music:  3 stars - But don't be disappointed by that. 
Costumes:  5 stars - Adding this category, because it deserves special mention.
Overall: 4 stars - I would definitely give this my highest recommendation for the first time seeing it, but it doesn't have the repeatability that I would demand from musicals that receive my coveted 5-star rating.  

Shrek plays in Seattle through September 21st before starting previews on Broadway this November.  Definitely worth seeing while it's here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olympics Musings Day 13

So much has happened it's hard to recap it all. We've finished all the swimming events, with just a bit of diving and the ever mesmerizing synchronized swimming yet to come. Leading the way in the primetime excitement now are the track and field medal events which will carry us through to the closing ceremonies on Sunday. I have yet to see any table tennis yet, but that may just be because I haven't been following as closely lately as I did in the beginning. It's a good thing the Olympics are only two weeks long, because I don't think I could handle much more than that.

In Team USA news...

* The best womens beach volleyball duo of May and Walsh took home back-to-back Gold Medals for the first time Olympics history. The Gold Medal game yesterday was amazing, especially considering it was in the pouring down rain.

* USA Softball got upset for the first (and probably last) time in Olympics history, as they take the silver, with Team Japan taking the Gold.

* Women's Soccer defeated the powerhouse of Brazil in extra time to secure the Gold Medal for the 3rd time in 4 Olympics bringing their medal record in the past 4 games to (3-1-0) having medaled in every Women's Soccer event since the event began in 1996.

* Of course, in Women's Team Gymnastics, I'm sure we all saw Team USA take the silver.

* In rowing, the Women's 8 took Gold for the USA, featuring two ex-Huskies. Go Dawgs!

* Venus and Serena took the Gold in doubles tennis. But I have to say, does tennis seem to be something that has transcended the Olympics by this point? It's a mainstream sport that doesn't really seem to fit in the Olympics to me. I say the same about basketball and soccer, and the soon-to-be-removed baseball, actually. The Olympics are all about amateur sports competition, these games that really have become professional events, need not be in the Games.

* While I'm on the topic of team sports, women's water polo, in case you didn't know we had a good team, took silver.

I was thinking today, what unique, one-of-a-kind, unlike anything else events are there really in the Olympics? In case you didn't notice... these are the same games:

Soccer, Field Hockey, Handball, Water Polo, Basketball
Tennis, Table Tennis, Badminton, Volleyball, Beach Volleyball
Judo, Taekwondo, Boxing, Fencing, Wrestling
Canoeing, Kayaking, Sailing, Rowing
Cycling, Swimming, Track & Field, Triathlon

Sure they're all slightly different, but the game is the same. You've got hitting the ball into goal, hitting the ball over a net, hitting each other, racing on water, and racing other ways.
That leaves the following semi-unique events:

Archery, Shooting (different enough to be interesting)
Baseball, Softball (really, there's nothing like these)
Equestrian (definitively unique)
Gymnastics (skill)
Rhythmic Gymnastics (artistic with skill)
Synchronized Swimming (I think they invented synchronized diving to make it feel better)
Trampoline (arguably like gymnastics, but odd)
Diving (same as trampoline, odd)
Modern Pentathalon (unique only in that who would think to put those events together in the first place?)
Weightlifting (in a class by itself)

So maybe there is more uniqueness than I had first thought. Still, there's a lot of repetition. Someone should invent something really unique... like curling.

Las Vegas

A bit of a lack in blogging, after I had appeared to be on quite a roll of the Olympics. Don't fear, there's still more to come there, but first a recap of my Vegas trip last weekend for Jonell and Chris' wedding.

Thursday morning, I had a 7AM flight to Vegas, but decided to try something different and fly down on Virgin America for the first time, rather than my typical Alaska. What a spectacular airline. Now, despite the fact that they don't have any non-stop flights between Seattle and Vegas and I had to transfer through San Francisco, the flight was great. Every seat has satellite television, so I was able to watch plenty of Olympics action throughout my entire flight. Quite comfortable, made the time go by quite nicely.

I met Andrew at the airport (his flight arrived just minutes before mine did), and we got our bags and took a taxi to the Venetian (where the wedding was, and where we were staying). As I was leaving SFO, the captain came on to let us know that "weather in Las Vegas is typical for this time of year, clear skies and a million degrees." Certainly correct on both accounts. As we stepped outside of the airport, it was about eleventy billion degrees, so hot that the real temperature doesn't really matter (can YOU tell the difference between 100F and 110F? I didn't think so.)

The wedding was on Friday afternoon, and was actually very quick and nice (about 10 minutes long) and the about 20 friends and family that were all there had a great time. For dinner that night there was a big dinner planned at B&B Ristorante in the Venetian, which is one of Mario Batali's restaurants. WOW. If that food wasn't some of the tastiest, most amazing Italian food I've ever had (sorry mom), I don't know what is. :) Dinner ended up being about a 3-hour event, after which a bunch of us went upstairs to digest and watch the Olympics.

Saturday night a few of us went to see The Beatles' LOVE by Cirque du Soleil show at the Mirage. I'd seen this show before, but none of the others had, and I certainly didn't mind seeing it again, despite the price. :) Again, an amazing show. We all had a good time, after which we went back to the Venetian and were gambling the night away. Andrew and I survived the longest, not making it back to the room until about 4:15am. But surprisingly, it didn't feel that late. Overall for the weekend I ended up rather than down, so that was a good victory considering my goal is always just to break even.

Came home on Sunday and back to work on Monday, though a bit tired catching up from the weekend. Now I can relax and watch the Olympics in the comfort of my own home! :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympics News Roundup 8/12

Today's Olympics news features "things are not what they seem to be":

* Spanish basketball team poses for offensive picture - The headline says it all. This begs the question, are these guys as "estupido" as they look?

* NBC's Big Olympics Deal: Armchair Play-by-Play - Thousands of hours of Olympics coverage over half a dozen networks. Think of each sports commentators who had to make the long flight to China, breathe the heavy smog, eat Chinese food for three weeks... oh, wait, didn't I see you last night at the Sbarro under Rockefeller Center in New York? Yes, yes I did. Much of the commentary you hear accompanying NBC's Olympics coverage is coming right from 30 Rock as they watch exactly like you do, on television.

* Olympic opening uses girl's voice, not face - In yet another attempt to make the opening ceremonies perfect, that cute girl who sang "Ode to the Motherland" during the opening ceremonies so beautifully... lip synching, but not to herself, to another girl who had laid down the tracks earlier. Apparently the girl with the beautiful voice, wasn't beautiful enough to sing it at the ceremony. In tomorrow's breaking news, confirmed reports that the spectators who thought they were in the Bird's Nest for the opening ceremony were in fact in the world's largest virtual reality simulator ever constructed!

* Olympic dream a nightmare, thanks to CBC - It only goes to show, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Apparently Canadian viewers can't stand CBC's coverage so they watch NBC instead. Maybe CBC should provide US coverage and NBC can handle the Canadian coverage, then everyone might be happy.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympics Musings Day 4

Plenty of excitement in today's events, especially in swimming with the Americans killing more records and raking in the medals. Team USA also starts off their Olympic Softball competition with a mercy-rule rout of Venezuela, 11-0 in a 5 inning no-hitter. Interestingly, this game being live in the early afternoon China time, the stands are all but empty. Even in the US where softball probably doesn't get so much credit, there's a loyal following of fans, but I guess they didn't make the trip to Beijing and the locals don't even want to go.

A few additional observations on Day 4 of competition:

* Michael Phelps claims his 3rd gold medal of the games in the 200m Freestyle.

* Why is it called "Freestyle" if everyone's swimming the same way? What kind of example of freedom are we setting for the world? Sounds pretty conformist to me.

* Phelps Phans close your eyes, because here comes my Michael Phelps Phailure of the Day... he has won 9 gold medals now (6 in Athens and 3 so far in Beijing), which means he's been on the medal podium 9 times, and proudly watched the Stars and Stripes rise 9 times as the Star Spangled Banner played 9 times... HE MUST KNOW THE WORDS BY NOW. Don't just stand there like a doofus, AT LEAST move your lips to the words when the national anthem is played. We get brilliant high-definition closeups of Phelps' face throughout the entire anthem, America deserves more than his glazed over look with his mouth half open. Ridiculous. At least in the 200m Free Peter Vanderkaay, who won the bronze for the US, moved his lips to the music. Thanks, Peter, maybe you could teach Michael the words for next time.

* Speaking of national anthems, very nice orchestrations the Beijing committee organized this year. I remember clearly many of the more recent Olympics using performances of the Star Spangled Banner that sounded like they were taken off of a vinyl record back in the 50s. This year's are well performed and have some very nice harmonies that are fun to listen to. Approved.

It's now 11:25pm Pacific, or 2:25pm Beijing, with Day 4's events continuing through our night.

Olympics News Roundup 8/11

A brief update on the latest Olympics news bites:

* Part of Olympic fireworks faked in broadcast - The spectacular fireworks flyover of Beijing at night was completely bogus. While the fireworks in and around the Bird's Nest stadium were real, the rest were digitally animated (using no doubt pirated CGI software) in a presentation that even Pixar would be impressed by. Now, when I initially watched this on Friday night, I thought it looked computer generated myself, though didn't think much of it. What I find more amusing is that this has become a "big story", which is probably only due to the fact that the Chinese organizers weren't forthcoming in saying it was staged. It was still pretty impressive.
* NBC Universal off to fast start with Olympic ratings - Friday night's opening ceremonies averaged 34.2 million US viewers, despite its 12-hour tape delay on the east coast (and 15-hour delay in Pacific time). The Beijing games currently have the highest viewership of any Summer games held outside the U.S. NBC's obvious attempt to increase advertising revenue by time-shifting everything to prime time is worth it to them, as they have apparently secured over $1 Billion in ad revenue (NBC payed a record $800 Million to be the US broadcasting network for the Olympics, so it seems to be paying off).
* Chinese hush up serious injury to acrobat - In what I can only describe as "an extreme case of mistaken priorities," apparently the opening ceremonies were not without injury, as one acrobat apparently fell during a rehearsal and was left for nearly an hour before receiving medical attention due to the high level of secrecy surrounding the ceremony preventing an ambulance from arriving. Insanity.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I Love the Olympics

The first of probably many posts on the Olympics and my obsession with them.


Friday night were the Opening Ceremonies, which I have to admit had many moments of "WOW, that was AMAZING!" The overwhelming theme I use to describe the ceremony is "Synchronicity." I still can't believe how those synchronized light-up drums were. And the "box" people were equally amazing. Though all of them were probably a bit too long.

Then there was the Parade of Athletes. For goodness sake people, 2 hours?! That was way too long. My only observation here is that I seem to recall in previous opening ceremonies, the athletes dressed much more like, well, ATHLETES. This year our American athletes sported a wardrobe by Ralph Lauren, which made them look like they were getting ready to board a sailboat.

Overall, China definitely set the bar high with their opening ceremonies, though I wouldn't necessarily say they were the best ever.

Now in the dawn of Day 3 of competition, a few interesting observations:

* What's the deal with all these swimming world records being broken IN THE PRELIMINARIES?! Save some for the finals people! Of course, apparently they were, as in the mens 4x100 freestyle relay, the US broke the world record in the semi-finals, then proceeded to OBLITERATE the world record they just set by 3.99 seconds in the finals, along with 4 other teams which were ahead of the semi-final WR time. What a race, what a finish!

* Badminton is interesting to watch.

* Beach Volleyball is not the same in the pouring down rain. Seriously.

* There's been a lot of boxing on. I still don't get it. Just seems an odd sport for the Olympics.

* Michael Phelps is very good at posing for the cameras. I think he likes having his picture taken.

The Beijing medals are definitely unique. Though I think I like the Bronze medal the best, actually. The green jade is hard to beat.

* And finally, thank goodness for CBC's Canadian coverage of the Olympics. At least I don't have to wait 3 hours to watch things "live" on the west coast, even if it's not in HD.

More to come...

A Chorus Line

Slightly delayed review of A Chorus Line, which I saw on Wednesday night...

One... the legendary showstopping number from the show does a good job of describing the show as a whole.

One... act, with no intermission.
One... scene, the entire show takes place on an audition stage, no set changes necessary.
One... costume change, to prepare for the big finale, that's it.

I'll step out on my own limb here and say that the music isn't the main reason to see this show. A Chorus Line won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, something that only seven musicals have ever achieved. As the Pulitzer claims to be awarded "for a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life," the award is not unjustified. The depth of character development is rarely matched in musical theatre. This show is a brilliant play, with associated music. The story is brilliant, the music is present.

A Chorus Line made its mark as the longest running musical of its time, playing from July 1975 through April 1990. That mark has since been eclipsed by Cats, Les Miserables, and the still running Phantom. I say with confidence that this show would not have such a run if it opened today. Though despite that, it was an oddly compelling story that really captured your attention.

As for the ratings:

Cast: 3 stars - perhaps unfairly due to my lack of enthusiasm for the musical.
Script: 4 stars
Music: 2 stars - I am not a fan.
Technical: N/A - What's there to be technical? There's no set, there's not much of anything.
Overall: 3 stars - I've seen it.

One... show I probably don't need to see again.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Summer Olympics Quiz ANSWERS

And now the answers to the Olympics quiz:

1) Which of these sports has never been a medal event at a Summer Olympic Games?

D. Lawn Bowling (Bocce)

Lawn Bowling or 'Bowls', was a demonstration sport in the 2nd Olympic Games in 1900 in Paris, but never has been a medal event. The early 1900s saw medals awarded in such diverse sports as Golf (1900 & 1904), Croquet (1900), Motorboat Racing (1908), and yes, even Tug of War (1900-1920).

2) The USA has won more medals at the Summer Olympics than any other nation. How many has it won?

D. 2188

894 of those have been gold medals. Incidentally, the former Soviet Union (1952-1988) still remains in 2nd place overall with 1010 medals, and Great Britain trails far behind in 3rd place with 668.

3) What is the only year that the USA did not participate in the Summer Olympic Games?

E. 1980

In response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, 61 nations joined the USA in boycotting the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. Not to be outdone, 13 nations joined the Soviet Union in boycotting the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles. The only country boycotting both the Moscow and Los Angeles games? Iran.

4) In 1956, Melbourn, Australia hosted the games, but due to Australian quarantine laws on foreign horses, the equestrian events were held 5 months earlier where?

A. Stockholm

Only the second time that events were held outside of the host nation. In the 1920 games in Antwerp, Belgium, the final races of the 12-foot dinghy sailing event were held in the Netherlands. The only two competitors were Dutch.

5) The 2008 Beijing Olympics will be the final appearance of baseball and softball as Olympics events. When did each of these sports first appear as medal events?

B. 1992 & 1996

A demonstration sport as far back as 1904, baseball first was granted medal event status in Barcelona in 1992. Four years later in Atlanta, women's softball joined the ranks. Leading the medal counts in baseball, Cuba claims 3 of the 4 gold medals awarded. In softball however, the USA looks to remain undefeated in Beijing, having won every gold medal ever awarded in the event.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Summer Olympics Quiz

This Friday will be the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China. In honor of this occasion, this week's quiz will be dedicated to the history of those games:

1) Which of these sports has never been a medal event at a Summer Olympic Games?

A. Golf
B. Croquet
C. Motorboat Racing
D. Lawn Bowling (Bocce)
E. Tug of War

2) The USA has won more medals at the Summer Olympics than any other nation. How many has it won?

A. 839
B. 1293
C. 1644
D. 2188
E. 2851

3) What is the only year that the USA did not participate in the Summer Olympic Games?

A. 1904
B. 1928
C. 1948
D. 1972
E. 1980

4) In 1956, Melbourn, Australia hosted the games, but due to Australian quarantine laws on foreign horses, the equestrian events were held 5 months earlier where?

A. Stockholm
B. Rome
C. Los Angeles
D. Munich
E. London

5) The 2008 Beijing Olympics will be the final appearance of baseball and softball as Olympics events. When did each of these sports first appear as medal events?

A. 1936 & 2000
B. 1992 & 1996
C. 1992 & 2000
D. 1936 & 1996
E. 1996 & 2000

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Have we really reached this point?

Picture this...

You're on vacation at Disneyland, and while standing in a painfully long line waiting to get some overpriced food at the nearest buffeteria, you notice that there's a second line that's completely closed while the one open line stretches all the way to Fantasyland. You casually pick up a comment card and sarcastically suggest that when it's busy they open the second serving line. Next year you return to the same place, and lo and behold, both serving lines are open.

What do you do?

A typical response would be: "Hey, they took my suggestion! Look at how much better it is!"

But apparently, far too often the response has been: "Hey! I gave them that idea! Now Disney owes me money for using it."

Seriously? Is this what our American society has come to?

As reported this morning on MiceAge, it's exactly what it's come to:

"In late July all Guest Relations offices in Disneyland and DCA stopped allowing any visitor to fill out a comment card or leave any comment in writing.
Whether it's a compliment about a great Jungle Cruise skipper, or a complaint
about cold gumbo in New Orleans Square, you can no longer write anything down at
Disneyland Guest Relations. Believe it or not, this new decree comes from
Disney's legal department who was getting tired of being threatened with
lawsuits from angry park visitors upset about something they had put on a
complaint form at City Hall."

The article goes on to explain the lengths to which Disney is going to ensure that in no way will any suggestion/complaint/compliment ever get any attention by the company whatsoever.

Obviously these aren't isolated incidents, and obviously they have their own various success rates based on the fact that Disney is so afraid of them. It's utterly ridiculous that our society actually allows such frivolous lawsuits to occur--that we are so consumed by greed and entitlement that no good deed goes unpunished. While many frivolous lawsuits regarding the perceived negligence of companies have become perhaps less favorable in the eyes of society, we've moved onto the age of protecting "intellectual property", in whatever form it may conceivably take. Soon, the world will be left to fend for itself. Nobody will help anyone else for fear that their good-intentioned help will be seen as a hindrance punishable by gobs of monetary damages. Is this really protecting our interests and the freedoms we hold?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Is It Good Eats? ANSWERS

This quiz proved to be harder than even I had imagined, but for your own amusement as well, the answers include the feature of each real episode as well.

1) Wake Up Little Sushi - REAL - Sushi
2) Alton Crown Affair - REAL - Crown of Lamb
3) Okraphobia - REAL - Okra
4) It's Up, and It's Gouda! - BOGUS
5) Bird is the Word - BOGUS
6) Steak Your Claim - REAL - Steak (very first episode of Good Eats)
7) Withering Bites - REAL - Dried Fruit
8) Send in the Clams - REAL - Clams
9) Starfish Wars - BOGUS
10) Rice, Rice Baby - BOGUS (the actual rice episode was "Do The Rice Thing")
11) Chops Ahoy - REAL - Pork Chops
12) Field of Greens - REAL - Greens
13) Fry Hard - REAL - Fish and Chips
14) Pretzel Logic - REAL - Pretzels
15) Ifs, Ands and Butts - BOGUS
16) Your Pad Thai or Mine - REAL - Pad Thai
17) Let Them Eat Foam - REAL - Angel Food Cake
18) Ginger and Rosemary Ann - BOGUS
19) Melondrama - REAL - Melons
20) House of the Rising Bun - REAL - Sweet Yeast Breads
21) Summer of Salmon - BOGUS
22) Churn Baby Churn - REAL - Ice Cream
23) Grand Salami - BOGUS (but he really needs a salami episode)
24) Puff the Magic Pastry - REAL - Puff Pastry
25) Great Balls O' Meat - REAL - Meatballs
26) It's About Thyme - BOGUS
27) The Icing Man Cometh - REAL - Icing and Frosting
28) Please Sir, Can I Have S'More? - BOGUS
29) Mission: Poachable - REAL - Poached Fish
30) This Spud's For You - REAL - Potatoes

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Is it Good Eats?

For those fans of Alton Brown and Good Eats like myself, it's easy to appreciate the creativity of the show's writing, which extends all the way into 12 seasons (and counting) of creative episode titles. Today's quiz challenges you to separate fact from fiction. Enjoy!

Below are the titles of 30 episodes of Good Eats... or are they? Some of them are completely bogus. Can you find which 10 titles are definitely not Good Eats?

1) Wake Up Little Sushi
2) Alton Crown Affair
3) Okraphobia
4) It's Up, and It's Gouda!
5) Bird is the Word
6) Steak Your Claim
7) Withering Bites
8) Send in the Clams
9) Starfish Wars
10) Rice, Rice Baby
11) Chops Ahoy
12) Field of Greens
13) Fry Hard
14) Pretzel Logic
15) Ifs, Ands and Butts
16) Your Pad Thai or Mine
17) Let Them Eat Foam
18) Ginger and Rosemary Ann
19) Melondrama
20) House of the Rising Bun
21) Summer of Salmon
22) Churn Baby Churn
23) Grand Salami
24) Puff the Magic Pastry
25) Great Balls O' Meat
26) It's About Thyme
27) The Icing Man Cometh
28) Please Sir, Can I Have S'More?
29) Mission: Poachable
30) This Spud's For You

A mile isn't as far as it used to be... UPDATE

Updating my previous article on changes at Alaska Airlines, the airline announced today a slight amendment to their changes set to take effect on November 1st, based apparently on numerous complaints from customers:

Money and Miles Award changes The "AS50" Money and Miles award will continue to offer a 50% discount up to $250 for 15,000 miles round-trip; however, these awards will only earn 50% of the miles that they earn today. These miles and 100% of the segments flown will count toward MVP/MVP Gold qualification. The change will apply to all Money and Miles awards booked on or after November 1, 2008.

This amends the previous plan which was that using the AS50 discount would earn no miles at all on the flight. While I did say this was reasonable all things considered, this is a far better solution in my book, and added bonus points to Alaska for listening to customers and a willingness to compromise.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sound Transit - Round 2

Despite the economic downturn (or perhaps partially because of it), Sound Transit has opted to come back to voters once again this November in an attempt to get a light rail system in Seattle off and running.

As most know, I'm a strong proponent of anything that will improve the public transportation infrastructure in the greater Seattle area, most notably light rail. While I did support last year's Roads & Transit measure, based solely on the light rail portion of it, I'm pleased to see that Sound Transit is coming back with a transit-only package that hopefully will appeal to a wider audience who believes as I do that the solution is not adding more lanes onto freeways, but rather adding more mass transit options.

The new 15-year plan includes a good compromise on time-to-build vs. reaching the most people. The features include:
  • Increased ST regional express bus service.
  • Increased Sounder commuter rail service.
  • Light rail north to Northgate by 2020 and to Lynnwood by 2023.
  • Light rail south to north Federal Way (272nd) by 2023.
  • Light rail east to Bellevue by 2020 and to Overlake by 2021.
  • More potential expansion planning and design and right-of-way purchase.

This adds on to the existing approved (and under construction) light rail service from downtown to the airport in 2009, and to the UW by 2016.

The cost? Not exactly cheap, but it's all relative. A half-percent increase in the sales tax in the Sound Transit RTA (most of King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties). This will bring the sales tax from the current 9.0% to 9.5%, a difference to the average consumer of about $69/year (depending on who you consider the average consumer, but remember folks, state sales tax is also now a deduction on your IRS income taxes).

I'm all for this, but I must admit the timeline is always a bit daunting. The first of any of this additional light rail won't be functional for 12 years, but if things are this bad now, can you imagine what traffic will be like 12 years from now? Yeah, exactly.

I know there are plenty of people who don't think light rail is the answer, for any number of reasons. Certainly there are plenty more who don't like the idea of more sales taxes. My perspective continues to be that if we don't start now, we'll never get anywhere. The time isn't going to get shorter, and the costs not cheaper. See what happens.

More details about the new plan are at