Friday, October 16, 2009

Update, Olympics, and Curling

Another long stretch without an update. I finally have pictures from WDW ready to put online, when I get around to it. Maybe next week.


The Olympics are coming! Yesterday they unveiled the Vancouver 2010 Olympic medals. The medals themselves in recent games have been one of the most visible ways for the host country to showcase their individuality. From the donut-holes of Torino, to the jade-inlaid medals of Beijing, the 2010 medals are no exception, recognizing the Aboriginal roots of the Pacific coast of Canada. On first glance they may look rather artistic, yet traditional.

That is until you look at them from the side and realize they are far from ordinary -- and far from flat!

Rather amusing. I actually like them a lot. Too bad I'll never get one. :)


In related news (well, related only because curling is an Olympic sport), the curling season has started again. This year I'm curling on Tuesday and Friday nights, which should give me a bit more manageable schedule (to fit in everything else that's going on in the world). I'm once again managing the Friday night league, because it's still fun. We'll see how many more years until I give up on that. :)


How 'bout them Dawgs? Who would have possibly expected we would be 3-3 halfway through the season. Well, perhaps me, but it wasn't the 3 wins I was expecting to have. Husky Stadium has come alive again, in a way I haven't seen since the beginning of the decade. And maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to make some holiday plans this year to go find a football game to go to. We'll see.

This will mark the beginning of a new round of blog posting. I hope. I just have to get in the habit of it again. I'm trying not to leave my were-to-be-avid readers waiting. Until then...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I know, I know... I still haven't posted an update after my Florida trip, but that will have to wait until I'm inspired again (which by my calculations will be about 3 weeks from never). But in the meantime, I need to do a musical review of Wicked.

Wicked made its way back to the Paramount this year after a 3 year hiatus, but this time with an incredible month-long run. Avid readers may recall all the way back to one of my inaugural musical reviews from from September 2006, where I briefly graced the show with my coveted 5-star rating. It's exciting to see it again to see what I may have missed the first time.

I actually attended opening night of the Seattle stop on the tour, which if I see correctly, is actually the first stop on the entire tour. The performance was not without its share of hiccups, but overall it's still hard to beat such an outstanding collection of music and an amazing performance. That said, this performance wasn't quite as brilliant as I recall. That's not to say it still doesn't receive my 5-star rating, or that I wouldn't go see it again next time it comes to town.

Most notably, the ensemble seemed a bit on the weak side musically. I fully expect this to improve over the course of the run, but it was a bit rough at points. Also, the role of Glinda was performed so over-the-top that I actually found her to be somewhat annoying. Musically weaker than I've previously seen (and certainly weaker than the outstanding performance by Kristen Chenoweth in the original Broadway production), and just overacted. Fortunately, these minor weaknesses in the performance were more than compensated by the phenomenal performance of Elphaba, which was as good as any performance I've seen or heard.

My ratings for this performance:

Script: 5-stars - still a hard show to beat.
Music: 5-stars - I don't think there's a bad song in the show, compared to a typical musical where you maybe get a couple showstopping numbers and a lot of fill.
Cast: 4-stars - The only weakness in the production, but minor at that.
Technical: 5-stars - Still an amazing set and a true theatrical spectacle.
Overall: 5-stars - You should still see this any chance you get. Still in that elite class of musicals to receive my 5-star rating along with Avenue Q and RENT.

Wicked continues to play at the Paramount in Seattle through October 4th.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 1 - Epcot

Day 1 - Epcot

Aha, you all were expecting something else? For the last day, I choose ALL of Epcot. A whole park you can't find anywhere else! Of course, the first thing people think of when they hear Epcot is the iconic geodesic sphere housing the Spaceship Earth attraction. I know it's the first thing I think of.

Epcot is divided into two parts: Future World, consisting of most of the ride-based attractions in the park featuring primarily science and technology; and World Showcase, featuring 11 pavilions representing countries from around the globe. The pavilions of the World Showcase span around the aptly-named World Showcase Lagoon. What I love about it is that Disney has done such an amazing job theming each country, it's almost as if you've taken a small trip around the world. Most of the countries have at least one attraction, though most of them are some sort of interesting movie-based show, most are pretty good. Though, no doubt by design, the United States pavilion is at the center of the showcase, and contains I believe the best attraction in the showcase, an show featuring an audio-animatronic history of the US entitled "The American Adventure". Or as I also like to call it "the best 30 minutes of air conditioning you'll find in Epcot."

Disney is also known for its spectacular nighttime shows, and Epcot has one of the finest in IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. Fireworks, lasers, fire, and water, all synchronized to another amazing soundtrack. (Hey, I'm a musician, a good soundtrack means a lot to me.)

Tonight I'm on the redeye out of Seattle (with an intentionally ugly layover to coordinate flight times), so I'll be in Florida by morning. Updates to follow later.

Friday, August 07, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 2 - Tower of Terror

Day 2 - Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


What: A one-way ticket to The Twilight Zone in a broken elevator.
Where: Disney's Hollywood Studios

Only 2 days of WDW left, and we reach the only ride in WDW to make me legitimately scream everytime I ride it. Like Splash Mountain, this ride is so elaborately themed it's hard not to love it. Even if you're deathly afraid of the ride, I believe that everyone should "survive" it once, just to see how amazing it is inside.

The ride itself, well, for those of you who haven't ridden it or its much younger (and vastly inferior) brother at Disney's California Adventure, I won't spoil too much of the magic. But it's not hard to assume that the centerpiece of the ride is a 13-story drop in a runaway elevator car. As if that's not bad enough, for you physics majors out there, the car actually falls faster than the pull of gravity, and you literally would fly out of your seat if not for the fact that you are securely (and they double-check that you are) belted in.

When this ride first opened, it was terrifying. Then they made it scarier. In a fit of Imagineering genius, they reprogrammed the entire drop sequence to be random. I've ridden this ride countless times, and sometimes it's FAR more terrifying than others. Maybe I'm an adrenaline junkie afterall. It's fantastic.

One day left... tomorrow night I leave for Florida. What will be the last day of WDW anticipation? We'll see...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 3 - Expedition Everest

Day 3 - Expedition Everest

What: A thrilling roller coaster through the Himalayas.
Where: Animal Kingdom

Our only stop at the Animal Kingdom in the 9 Days of WDW takes us to the newest mountain on the Disney landscape: Expedition Everest. Last time I was in WDW, this was heavily under construction before opening in April 2006.

Since I haven't actually been on this ride yet, I have no idea what to expect. Other than it should be a pretty exciting roller coaster, like the Matterhorn only crazier! OK, I don't really have much more to say. There's nothing to compare this ride to, there's nothing to explain about it, so I'll just be excited about it.

And the fact that there are only 3 days left! WOOHOO!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 4 - Splash Mountain

Day 4 - Splash Mountain

What: Log flume ride based on the Song of the South.
Where: Magic Kingdom

Finally, after 5 days of WDW, we actually make it to the Magic Kingdom. One of my favorite rides at any Disney park, and not because of the excitement of the big drop. What makes Disney attractions the best in the world is the stories they tell, and how well the ride is integrated into the story. Splash Mountain takes a fantastic ride and wraps it throughout a great story, told through even better music, to make the ultimate ride.

There are slight variations between the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland versions of the ride. As is usually the case, the Disneyland ride came first in 1989, then was replicated at WDW in 1992. Some improvements were made, yet some corners were cut. First and most obviously, the logs at WDW are 4 rows of 2 across, rather than the single file 6 down the log that Disneyland has. This makes it immensely more comfortable to ride in, and less of sliding around the seat feeling like you're going to fall out of the log. As for the ride itself, a few differences of little consequence, except that it has just over half the number of audioanimatronic figures that the original version has.

As to which one is better? I guess I'm partial to the Disneyland one, but overall it's pretty much a toss up. This is one where the second version isn't vastly inferior to the first, and I look forward to it wherever I am.

Only 4 Days to go...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 5 - Soarin'

Day 5 - Soarin'

What: Ride that simulates flying over California.
Where: Epcot, The Land pavilion

This first-and-only-of-its-kind ride originally debuted as "Soarin' Over California" with the opening of Disney's California Adventure in 2001, and was replicated simply as "Soarin'" at Epcot in 2005. As far as I'm concerned, this ride demonstrates the sheer brilliance of Walt Disney Imagineering. Unlike roller coasters that jerk you around and give you the thrill of speeding through the air, Soarin' gives you the same thrill of flying all while completely seated and with nothing but gentle movements carrying you.

I think what makes this ride such a success is that it really appeals to people of all ages. Young or old, everyone feels comfortable on this ride (with the possible exception of the severely acrophobic).

I've actually ridden this ride more times than I can count, primarily at DCA, but also several times on my most recent visit to Epcot, just after that version opened. Despite the fact that the experience is identical each time, it doesn't affect the repeatability for me. It's just fun!

Not to mention the soundtrack that was composed for the ride is absolutely amazing. Just how a soundtrack can define a movie, the majestic soundtrack here enhances and defines the ride.

Just 5 days left! Almost here...

Monday, August 03, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 6 - Toy Story Midway Mania

Day 6 - Toy Story Midway Mania

What: A ride through a world of 3D interactive carnival games.
Where: Disney's Hollywood Studios, Pixar Place

One of the latest additions to WDW (and also at DCA in California) is Toy Story Midway Mania. Opening just last year, it features the next generation of ride technology. Since the ride is fully interactive, it's like being in a carnival game each time, so you could ride it infinitely and have fun each and every time.

Obviously, the ride is themed around Pixar's popular Toy Story movie franchise. Just from the picture above you can see that you are intended to be toy-size and in your own world of toys and games. I like toys... I like games... should be fun. :)

In fact, I have not been to Disneyland or WDW since this ride debuted, so I have NO IDEA what to expect. All I know is from what I read, which makes it sound pretty darn cool if you ask me. At least worth a ride or two.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 7 - Universe of Energy

Day 7 - Universe of Energy

What: An Epcot pavilion devoted to Energy
Where: Epcot

OK, so this probably wouldn't make any sane person's top 9, top 10, or even top 40 lists of attractions at WDW. But I had to pay homage to the Epcot pavilion from which my web site's name is derived.

The building itself is a model of smart energy use, as the entire roof of the building is covered in solar panels, which actually supply a large amount of the power used by the attraction, and are also used as an architectural feature. Fear not folks, a little science while you're on vacation wouldn't kill you.

The lone attraction that consumes the entire pavilion is Ellen's Energy Adventure, starring Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy. This ride/show originally opened in 1996, at the height of Ellen's first rise to mainstream stardom, and probably would be "old and played-out" if not for Ellen's resurgence as an (even funnier, IMHO) talk show host. Even Bill Nye is probably a bit dated at this point, but he's always funny to me. Again, this is a quirky, cheesy show, but I find it a welcome break, mainly because it's nearly 40 minutes of air conditioned, sitting down and riding through the Universe of Energy and being entertained. In the middle of a hot Florida day, it's hard to go wrong. Oh, the point of the show? Who cares, it's funny. But if you must know, it's all about the history of energy, where energy comes from, and oh yeah, there are probably some of the largest and coolest animated dinosaurs you'll ever see, short of watching Jurassic Park.

One week to vacation... the excitement builds...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 8 - Port Orleans Resort

Day 8 - Port Orleans Resort

In all fairness, I had originally planned Day 8 to be a salute to Disneyland Classics, such as the Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion. But then I decided that rather than spending countless words comparing and contrasting the rides at both Disneyland and WDW's Magic Kingdom, I'd focus on something that exists only at WDW, and happens to be the resort I'll be staying at.

Port Orleans is divided into two parts, Riverside (formerly Dixie Landings) and French Quarter (formerly Port Orleans, before the two joined together and jointly kept the name). I've stayed at Port Orleans Riverside twice before, and I find it to be one of the coolest resort Disney has. The theme of the resort is the antebellum South along the Mississippi River. So as expected, the hotel rooms are divided among 4 buildings designed to look like classic plantation homes (though much bigger, as each building has about 250 hotel rooms). On the other side of the Riverside resort is a section called Alligator Bayou, with smaller buildings designed to represent rustic lodges in the bayou. The neighboring French Quarter is themed much more towards New Orleans and the real French Quarter.

Why do I stay at a Disney resort when I go to WDW? Aren't there other cheaper "regular hotels" you could stay at instead? Of course there are, though considering how I only go to WDW when I can get a too-good-to-refuse deal, the cost difference isn't usually too great. But the bigger reason is what I've found consistently every time I go to WDW. You get there, and you're completely immersed in the "world". No highways outside the hotel room, no worrying about what's happening on the outside world, it's all in one place! It's the ultimate vacation for relaxation and fun... well, to me anyway. There are also some great perks to staying on property, including "Extra Magic Hours", where each day one park will open an hour early and one will stay open 3 hours later, exclusively for those staying in Disney resorts. Plus Disney will whisk you and your luggage to and from the airport for free, so you're saving there too. No thought required, and I definitely don't want to think when I'm on vacation. Except maybe at Epcot. :)

This will be the first time I've gone to WDW in August, though I've gone in September twice before. I expect it to be hot, but what do I care? I'm on vacation, there's plenty of air conditioning when you need to beat the heat. And a little sun won't kill anyone (though a lot might). 8 days left... wooo...

Friday, July 31, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 9 - MuppetVision 3D

Few people don't know my enthusiasm for Disney and well, mainly Disney theme parks. Fewer still understand it, so I've stopped trying to explain it. :) But in my own efforts to build up the excitement in these 9 days until I make it on my next vacation to Walt Disney World, I decided to resurrect my blog and present 9 things I'm looking forward to on my trip. Some perennial favorites, others just things that for some quirky reason I find cool, and some I'm looking forward to but are new since the last time I visited. For those keeping count, this will be only my 4th trip to WDW, the last one being nearly 4 years ago in September 2005.

Without further ado, with 9 days remaining we have:

Day 9 - MuppetVision 3D

What: A 3D movie, with audience interactivity.
Where: Disney's Hollywood Studios

What can I say when you combine Muppets with a Disney attraction? Something spectacular happens. Yes, it's utterly cheesy, but it's the Muppets, so what more do you expect? MuppetVision 3D is pretty much what it sounds like, a 3D movie with, of course, the inevitable Disney interactive magic added in that brings the movie to life. What's probably the most amazing part of this is the elaborate theming throughout the whole theatre and show building. It's like you've completely entered the world of the Muppets, and you're stuck inside an episode of the Muppet Show.

Why do I like it? Because. It's cool. Hey, it's Day 9, we gotta work our way up to the really good stuff. :)

Friday, June 19, 2009


Wednesday night brought another performance of RENT to the Paramount. It's been just over 2 years ago since the last time it came to Seattle. [You can see my review of that performance here.] Making this the 5th performance of RENT I've seen, I will start by saying this is quite certainly the best performance I've ever seen overall.

This tour includes the two pioneers of the original Broadway cast, with Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal as Mark and Roger. I have very little to complain about here. These are the voices most people will recognize from the original cast album, and and the benchmark by which all other actors since have been compared. Of course, they probably have performed these parts more than any other actors, but they still put a bit of differences from what I've seen and heard in the past. The only part I slightly questioned was in Another Day, Roger (Adam Pascal) seemed to be channelling the lead singer from the B-52's with his recitative chanting. I was amused only because I've heard him so many times on the album I didn't quite expect it.

The vast majority of this touring cast had played these roles in some previous incarnation of the show, either on Broadway or a previous tour. One notable exception is the role of Mimi, played by some girl who was apparently a contestant on American Idol this season. All I can say about her performance is: overacted and underwhelming. Not only was I unimpressed, it really stuck out in such an outstanding cast top to bottom.

Overall, absolutely incredible. This didn't have an of the issues that plagued previous performances I've seen. It did clock in at about 2:30 + intermission, which flew by like it was maybe an hour.

Ratings (which should be no surprise):

Music: 5 stars - Brilliant music, and the band performed it fantastically.
Cast: 5 stars - Even Mimi can't bring this cast's rating down.
Technical: 4 stars - This isn't a theatrical spectacle. But outstanding as it was.
Overall: 5 stars - One of my must-see musicals, and a performance not to be missed.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Long Overdue Updates

A month and a half without an update.  Certainly not for a lack of things to write about.  

Curling season ended the first week of April, but over Memorial Day weekend, I went down to a summer bonspiel in Hollywood.  It was a nice way to spend the weekend, and my team managed to nearly win, only losing in the A finals for a 2nd place finish.  Not so bad!  But now I'm definitely done curling until the fall.  

Never-ending Car Challenges
This story could be a 5-page blog unto itself, but here it goes.  I loved my car, a 2001 Nissan Altima, built like a tank, over the past almost 7 years hadn't had a single breakdown, no major expenses other than routine maintenance, and most importantly it was reliable.  Until recently.  Back on Christmas Eve, driving home over the horrendously icy roads, my dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree (festive, right?).  I make it home without any trouble, still perplexed as to what the problem was, though by the indicators, it seemed to be something electrical.   Day after Christmas I decide to drive over to Schuck's to get a new battery, assuming that was the problem.  Just as I get a block from the store, one-by-one every electrical component in my car starts to shut down.  As I pull into the Schuck's parking lot, the car dies completely.  I replace the battery in the parking lot, and the car starts up again, but no difference in the dashboard lights.  The guy there brings out his tester and determines that my alternator is dead.  I had enough in juice in the new battery to get me over to the Nissan dealer, and I got the alternator replaced, and thought all was fine.  Then two days later, I'm at home and try to start my car, and the battery is dead.  I get it jumped and go back to the dealer that replaced my alternator, and they claim the problem was the battery (that I bought new at Schucks).  Instead of messing with it, I had them replace the battery and I would just take the defective battery back to Schuck's.  I tried that, and they hooked it onto their tester and said everything was fine.  Something didn't add up, the chain of logic wasn't there to me, but I went with it.  The car proceeded to work flawlessly.  

Fast forward to May.  First free weekend I'd had in months, I decide to get up and drive to Canada in search of some Olympics merchandise and just a nice drive.  Had a great time, start to head home, when I get stuck in stop-and-go traffic getting out of Vancouver.  After about 30 minutes of the traffic, my car starts acting strange.  Next thing I know, one-by-one every electrical component in my car shuts down.  (Sound familiar?)  Moments later, my car is stranded in the middle of a 4-lane street, in who-knows-where suburb of Vancouver in another country.  Resisting the urge to panic TOO much, I call AAA, which automatically gets routed to the CAA offices in Vancouver who take care of me just as if I were still in the States.  Just as I get on the phone with them, a tow truck pulls up behind me, just passing by.  The nice guy reaffirms the obvious that this isn't the best place to be stuck, and he drives onto a side street, unhooks the car he already had on his tow, and then comes back and tows me off to the side street, rehooks the other car and goes on his way.  At least now I'm not in the line of traffic anymore.  Of course, it's 5pm on a Saturday, and every shop in town is closed until Monday.  The best they can do is send out one of their CAA mechanics, who jumped the car and determined that the alternator was undercharging, but if I kept the revs up on the highway, I should make it home.  Lo and behold, that's exactly what I did.  The next week, I took the car back to the Nissan service folks, who proceeded to find ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH THE CAR.  

For the next 2 weeks, I don't know if it was just my own skiddishness worrying that my car was going to break down on me or what, but my car did not run happy.  I'd get stopped at a red light for more than a minute or two, and the engine would start to rev funny, or something else would make me think there was a problem.  I just didn't trust my car.  I was constantly feeling sick whenever I got into my car, no doubt having mild panic attacks worrying about whether it was going to break down in a horrible place again.  

I'd had enough.  I'd been considering getting a new car for a while for other reasons, but this was the last straw.  So that's what I ended up doing.  I bought American this time, and got a 2009 Dodge Journey with about 12,000 miles on it.  Never heard of it?  I hadn't either, but our used car guy who hasn't led me wrong before knew it was what I was looking for, and I think it is.  Though I have to admit, I miss my Altima, at least I trust my car again.  So it goes.  

I previously mentioned the new Jim Henson exhibition at EMP|SFM this summer.  Well, as it turned out, I obviously needed something more to add to my summer schedule, so I am now volunteering there once a week.  What they have set up is a puppet stage where people can use some of their specially-made Muppet-like puppets (in the style of famous rock musicians, of course) and try their hand at what it's like to be a Muppeteer.  The volunteers are staffing that area and basically having fun playing with puppets and helping other people doing so.  For the most part, I'll just be there on Wednesday evenings from 4-7pm.  The exhibit is pretty amazing, and well worth seeing!  

Well, I guess I'm caught up with the major stuff, time for more random blogs in the future. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Last night I saw the musical Cats at the Paramount.


Folks, I go to musicals for great music, and usually an entertaining show to go along with it. This show had neither.

The musical originally opened in London in 1981. The music was probably bleeding-edge at the time: almost entirely synthesized. What a waste!

Of course, the plot line... oh, wait, there isn't one. The entire script (with a couple of exceptions) are taken from some poems by T.S. Eliot. Somehow this became a legendary musical still making national and international tours after nearly 30 years. You've got to be kidding me.

To cap it off, it contained the staple of classic musicals, the one thing I abhor more than anything else in musical theatre, the utterly painful presentation -- the 10-minute dance number.

The rest is a waste of space, here's my ratings:

Music: 2 stars - replace the synthesizer with real music and you might make 3.
Technical: 2 stars - entertaining set with lots to look at, but nothing more.
Cast: 3 stars - adept and generally impressive, too bad they were in THIS musical.
Script: 1 star - spare me
Overall: 2 stars - I do not need to see this again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I didn't realize it was so long since my last update. Sorry, avid readers... the daily routine has left something to be desired, I suppose. Here comes the roundup:

Well, I made it home from the Olympic Trials in Denver, and back to the grind. Hard to believe there are only 2 weeks left in the season. Once again, the season flies by and spring should be near. Someone tell the weather that. Fortunately, my teams managed to make the playoffs in both the leagues I play in. We've made it to the semi-finals of the B division on Thursday night, and, well, we're the second-from-the-last seed in the Friday B division, but we have high hopes... to be out early and done. :) What will I do when the season ends? I'll have so much free time.

The Huskies finally made it back to the NCAA Tournament. We're a #4 seed in the West Region, but somehow must have drawn the ire of the selection committee with our matchups. Thursday we kick it off against Mississippi State, who made the tourney by knocking off Tennessee to win the SEC Championship. The Dawgs are 5.5-point favorites as far as the Vegas oddsmakers are concerned, but somehow I think this will be one crazy battle. If we get past the Bulldogs, we'll likely match up against the 5th seeded Purdue, followed by the potential rematch with top-seeded UConn... again. I predict that if the Dawgs can make it past Miss St. tomorrow, they'll clear all the way to the Elite 8. I'm not exactly certain how a potential matchup with #2 Memphis would work out though, but at that point, I won't care. Tomorrow's game is key... I'll be taking a late (and slightly long) lunch for the 2pm game. :)

Economic Tips
In these difficult economic times, I have managed to find a fool-proof way to keep costs down. Of course, I stumbled onto this without realizing it when I opened my natural gas bill to find that over the past month I used exactly zero cubic feet of gas. A few interesting things with this... I still pay just over $10 for the privilege of having gas hooked up to my house. Furthermore, I am impressed by the fiery orange glow my fireplace provides when there's apparently no gas flowing into it. Doing a bit of investigation on my own, it's apparent that the dials on the gas meter haven't moved since sometime around the end of January. Sadly, I'm too honest of a person and rather than letting PSE finally figure this out on their own, I called them up. Of course, you get their customer service people who incredulously assume that you're calling up to complain about something and put up their rough exterior. I simply pointed out that "I believe my gas bill is too low." She looked up my account, and began with, "Well sir, it appears in the last month you used... uh... I see, let me transfer you to our meter department." They were of course closed for the evening, and I'll await a call back from them today. Personally, I'm in no hurry for them to fix it at this point, but I have done my duty to promptly inform them of the situation. I am however curious if they will attempt to estimate my usage and backcharge me for the prior month. More to come on that...

Work in the Down Economy
My company continues to coast along... just barely. Reducing fixed costs and financial liabilities seems to be the chief goal, in an effort to reduce or eliminate the need to lay off employees. As we recall back to December, we had a mandatory office shutdown for 1 week between Christmas and New Year's, requiring every employee to take 4 days of paid vacation, in an effort to reduce vacation balances and their associated financial liabilities on the books. Well, yesterday we were informed that in this and next quarter each we will have additional 1-week shutdowns. This time they are a bit more flexible, however, in that in lieu of actually taking the designated shutdown weeks, we have the option of simply using 5 vacation days anytime during the quarter and designating that as our "personal shutdown". (my words, not theirs) As it works out, this won't affect me too much, as I nearly had enough vacation already planned for the next 6 months, with a few days planned in April, and a week in Orlando planned for August. Others I work with are hit a bit harder, as some of them had extended multi-week vacations planned for the summer, and this cannibalization of vacation by the company is wrecking havoc on their schedules. I suspect they'll work something out, but it's a dangerous trend messing with employees' hard-earned vacation time. As it is now, those employees who earn 3 weeks of vacation annually have basically just been told (along with last December) when they must take all their vacation. We'll see how it ends up.

It's in on the P-I (website)
I leave with just a brief memory of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. I've actually always been a Seattle Times reader myself, but the loss of a Seattle icon is always disappointing. Strangely enough, my fondest memory of the P-I is the plexiglass paperweight (I guess that's what I'll call it) that my grandpa made and enclosed the P-I headline and masthead from the day I was born. I've wondered where that is... I know I don't have it anymore, so I presume it's in some box or desk drawer at my parents' house. On the one bright side, the Times has assumed a few syndicated bits from the former print P-I, including some of the best comics around.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Denver - Day 7

A late night and an early morning.  I think I got about 6.5 hours of sleep, and morning came around way too soon.  We had the last men's draw this morning, followed by one women's tiebreaker that was necessary for seeding.  At 4pm today we have one men's tiebreaker as well, followed by the 8pm 1v2/3v4 playoffs for the women.  Fortunately, I don't have to work until the 8pm draw tonight, which means naptime is coming up soon. 

And things are getting a bit hectic around here, as NBC just arrived and they're going to start getting things ready to broadcast the semi-finals and finals live on UniversalSports, their new all-Olympic sports station.  You can find it in Seattle on Comcast channel 115, or over the air (if you have digital antenna) on 5.2.  Check local listings for other stations.  For reference, the schedule is:  

Women's Semi-Final: Friday 4pm MST (3pm PST)
Men's Semi-Final:  Friday 8pm MST (7pm PST)
Women's Final: Saturday 10am MST (9am PST)
Men's Final:  Saturday 3pm MST (2pm PST)

I'll be on the ice working the Friday 4pm and Saturday 10am draws, so feel free to look for me if they get bored showing coverage of the teams and I happen to walk by. :)  

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Denver - Days 4-6

So busy I haven't had much of a chance to blog updates.  When I've been in the hotel room, it's been mainly to sleep.  But I have a few minutes here so I thought I'd update the past few days.  

Monday was business as usual, working a few draws and finding times to eat and sleep when it was convenient.  

Tuesday was my day to go do some things around Denver.  I started out by heading down to the U.S. Mint and taking a tour.  After going through a fairly intense security screening just to get in the door, we were taken on a short (about 20 minutes of actual stuff to see) walk through a observation deck where we could see the presses churning out pennies by the thousands (through some hefty glass, so we couldn't get our grubby little hands on them).  It was interesting to see the mint in action, and quite a bit of historical coinage and artifacts were on display, but overall I was unimpressed.  The tour was so constrained, there wasn't a whole lot to see and it just wasn't really worth the trouble, I think.  But I did it, so there.  

After that, I walked back downtown to the 16th Street Mall, which is the main shopping street through the middle of downtown Denver.  It's a pedestrian-only street, with the exception of some extremely convenient shuttle buses that continuously travel up and down the street, so you can just hop on and off as you want to quickly get from one end to the other.  Quite impressive.  

I went to the far end of the street, where I found the Colorado State Capitol building.  As it has become one of my quirky trip traditions to stop at every state capitol I come to, I went inside and wandered around the entire place.  Being a weekday, the house and senate were both in session, and I wandered into the viewing gallery to see a bit of the Colorado legislature in action.  They have a partial museum up in the lower part of the dome of the capitol which I went up to see, though unfortunately you can't climb all the way to the top of the dome, there was a viewing deck at the bottom of the dome.  Pretty interesting.  State Capitols are always fun to visit.  

I did some shopping on the 16th Street Mall and worked my way down to the other end of the city and over to Coors Field.  Not much going on there, but it was good to stop by and see where it was.  Finally made my way back to the car and left downtown.  Upon additional recommendations, I decided to drive all the way up to Fort Collins to check out the New Belgium Brewery.  Just a mile away from it happens to be where one of my sisters works.  I stopped by but she had already left for the day.  In any event, I've been on quite a few brewery tours, but the New Belgium brewery tour was by far the most entertaining I've ever taken.  Just a fantastic place.  

Tonight after I finished officiating at the early draw this morning, I drove back to Loveland, just south of Fort Collins, to meet up with my sister and have dinner with her.  It was good, mainly because if I went to Denver and didn't meet up with her, I'd never live it down.  :)  But we had a good time, and then I came back and here I am.  Now heading back over to catch part of the late draw at the trials before finding some more sleep.  Pictures to be posted later, it's always something.

More to come...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Denver - Day 2 and 3

It's been a relatively uneventful first couple of days here at the Olympic Trials.  Getting into the groove and not getting too much relaxing in at this point.  My initial impression that this wouldn't be much of a vacation has been so far true.  I put up a few pictures that I snapped tonight.  Nothing too exciting there either. I'll try to take some better and more interesting shots later in the week.  

This area (Broomfield, CO) is actually quite nice.  I definitely ended up with a winner with the hotel here.  Free made-to-order breakfast every morning (unfortunately, I'm not much of a breakfast person, so it's not exactly the most thrilling feature, and this morning I actually had to be out of here before they even opened), but the biggest advantage is that I'm not more than about 3 minutes away from the ice arena.  Brilliant.  I haven't had too much time to see much else, but expect to make it into the city on Tuesday.  The high altitude hasn't affected me much at all, though fortunately drinking lots of water and staying hydrated I think has helped that a lot.  What HAS bothered me is the dryness.  My hands especially are getting chewed up, and I need to constantly remember to put lotion on them or else they will die.  

Time to get some rest before the 6:30am alarm goes off.  Why is it always that I get up earlier when I am on vacation than when I'm not.  Something is seriously wrong. :)  

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Denver - Day 1

Thus begins a series of blogs on my 8 nights in scenic Denver, Colorado.  I'm here primarily to officiate for the US National Curling Championship / Olympic Trials.  I worked the day today then caught a 6:45pm flight, which departed a few minutes late, but other than that was relatively uneventful.  

Arriving in Denver, I was greeted with sub-freezing temperatures.  All indications were that it had snowed earlier in the evening.  So after my luggage finally coming out, I headed outside to catch the shuttle to the rental car place (which is not so conveniently nowhere near the actual terminal).  After waiting outside in the 22-degree or so cold for about 15 minutes, the shuttle finally came and we made our way to the cars.  I ended up with a red Prius hybrid, at least that's what I think I unearthed when I froze my hand brushing off the layer of snow and then scraping the ice off the windshield and ungluing the wipers.  10 minutes later, I figured out how to turn on the silly car and how to use the 50 bazillion buttons and knobs.  I swear, I think this thing is more complicated than the space shuttle, and at night it looks like mission control, with the actual dashboard, plus the whole touchscreen that controls all of the audio/climate control/engine status, and then my life-saving GPS that I threw up on the dash next to it.  Finally we had liftoff, and I zipped out of the parking lot and on my way (getting something on the order of 40 mpg).  So then I had about 35 miles to get to Broomfield, not realizing that the shortest distance between two points involved toll roads.  $13 in tolls later, just after midnight local time I managed to made it to the hotel.  

Now the hotel I got on Hotwire.  If I was going to be here 8 nights, I wasn't going to pay a whole lot a night.  So with my luck, I ended up with an inn just a mile away from the ice arena where the competition would be.  The front desk closes at 10, but they had left an envelope with my room key out front (there are only 16 rooms here) and I made my way into the nice warm room without any problem.  This room is about as nice as some studio apartments.  King-sized bed, sink, microwave, minifridge, couch, gas fireplace, internet... can't complain too much for the $45/night I'm paying when the going rate for the room is about $129.  I'll take some pictures later.  

Well, at this, I need to get up in just over 7 hours.  Day 2 will continue tomorrow with the opening ceremony and first day of competition.  It should be interesting to see the arena all set up for curling.  

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Lion King

Last night I attended the touring production of The Lion King at the Paramount.  While this show has been around for a while now, this is actually the first time I've seen it.  While some shows have brilliant music (which tends to be weighted much more highly in my reviews than other factors), this show definitely had what I would consider one of the greatest theatrical experiences I've seen.  

As I think back to when The Lion King animated movie originally was released--which turns out to be 1994 believe it or not--I can't tell you how many times I've seen the movie over the past 15 years.  I'm pretty sure I have the original movie soundtrack on CD somewhere around, though haven't listened to it in ages.  But if you're expecting the musical to have the same music as the movie, you're partially mistaken.  Sure the big numbers from the movie are still there, but a handful of new material has also been added, which frankly contributes a lot to the musical production.  Obviously the story line is mangled a bit for the stage, cutting out some filler from the movie and adding some new material to tie up the loose ends.  

I so often use the term "theatrical spectacle" to describe shows that may not have the greatest music or story lines, but more than make up for it in the visual stage experience.  This show is the rare package deal, with great music, a reasonable story line, and the show to go with it.  It's no surprise, given that Disney produced the stage show, that the experience is as amazing as it is.  As a connaisseur of the finest theme park attractions Disney has to offer, think of this show as its own 2.5-hour ride that they delivered to the theatre.  

Despite all of the great things I have to say about it, I can't say it's the best musical I've seen, or even one that I'd choose above others to see again if given the option.  In this case, it's definitely a show I'd say everyone should see once, but now I've seen it and don't really need to see it again.  Not that I wouldn't, but I wouldn't be chomping at the bit to see it.  

Onto the ratings...

Music - 5 Stars - The songs were great, and you could listen to them again.
Cast - 4 Stars - Rafiki, Scar and the young Simba were definitely the high points.  
Technical - 5 Stars - The mark of a true Broadway spectacle
Story - 4 Stars - It is what it is
Overall - 4 Stars - But you should see it anyway. :) 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

TV Commercial Roundup

It's been a while since I did a roundup of interesting TV commercials.  So once again for the benefit of you Tivo users who may not have seen any of these, here's what you've been missing.  

Now, this is an old one now, part of PEMCO Insurance's "We're A Lot Like You" campaign.  This was probably the first of the series that I remember seeing, which is why I remember it so well.  But here's the twist, I just saw this commercial again today, and they've renamed it "Relentless Recycler."  Other than that the commercial is identical.  Was some obsessive-compulsive recycler not flattered by the commercial and wrote a nasty letter to PEMCO?  Has "obsessive-compulsive" got such a negative connotation that it's an insult?  One must assume...

Premiering during this year's Super Bowl, Jack gets hit by a bus.  No surprise for a company that has constantly thrived on its creative advertising campaigns.  As expected, this latest twist has it's accompanying website, and is sure to follow with a whole series of related commercials.  

Another Super Bowl ad, but this one gets credit for a different reason. MacGruber, a recurring sketch from Saturday Night Live parodying MacGyver, broke out of late-night and into the world of television commercials.  Being the big MacGyver fan I always have been, I've found these sketches quite hilarious, but the added bonus this time is the appearance of Richard Dean Anderson himself... and can I just say, MacGyver does not age well.  Oh yeah, and there's some product promoted too, but that seems irrelevant. 

Venturing into the world of infomercials, I hate to give Vince (more popularly known as the ShamWOW guy) any more credit than what he doesn't remotely deserve, but suffice it to say... he's baaaaaaaccckkk!  Yes, this time with SlapChop.  Forget the fact that you've seen this exact product advertised before under a different name.  Ignore the fact that this guy thinks he's the next Billy Mays.  And join with me in hoping this is the LAST infomercial he does.  "'Cause we can't do this all day." And someone can strangle him with that ridiculous headset mic he wears.  That's all.  

Monday, February 09, 2009

Jim Henson exhibit coming to EMP

Opening May 23rd at the EMP/SFM at Seattle Center, Jim Henson's Fantastic World.  As described on the website: 
The exhibition features 100 original artworks, including drawings, cartoons and storyboards that illustrate Henson’s talent as a storyteller and visionary. Among the variety of exhibition objects are puppets and television and movie props, photographs of Henson and his collaborators at work and original video productions, including excerpts from Henson’s early career and experimental films. 
Very cool.  This will definitely be a must-see for me.  Only running for a couple of months, from May 23-August 16th.  Check it out.  

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Olympics Tickets = Legalized Extortion

This morning, CoSport, the exclusive US ticketing agent for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, "released" their "remaining" (or so they claimed, at least the tickets they didn't think they could sell as part of "hospitality packages") allotment of individual tickets for the games.  

Almost immediately, the ticketing website was completely bogged down.  By now all of the individual tickets are gone, leaving only the "hospitality packages" to choose from.  

Ah the Hospitality Packages.  So obviously I took a look at the Opening Ceremony package, which consists of:  
  • (1) ticket to Opening Ceremony, category A
  • (1) additional event ticket "of your choice" (to be chosen from a few underwhelming events that nobody really cares about)
  • (1) ticket to the Sunday Victory Ceremony
  • (1) pass to the "Hospitality Area" (to eat and drink with all the other rich people who paid too much)
All for the low, low price of Four Thousand Twenty-Three American Dollars.  $4023?!  So if you have 4 people who want to go, that comes to just over $16,000.  YOU CAN NOT BE SERIOUS!  I honestly believe that you could get a better deal from the ticket scalpers!  

Absolute, certain, no-doubt-about-it, 100% extortion.  On President Obama's route to untangling the mess of the BCS, I might recommend he make a stop at the USOC and see what he can do about money-grubbing ticket brokers.  


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Jury Duty - Done

To finalize the uneventful story, after another hour of waiting, by around 2:45pm, just as I expected, the final case of the day was not needing a jury, so we were all happily dismissed and thanked for our service (in my case, two days sitting in the room).  

If I had anything interesting to add, I would.  But alas, I'm more just tired from sitting around the past two days.  Well, tomorrow we're back to normal.  Thank goodness.  

Jury Duty - Day 2

9:30am - We're still waiting in the jury room to be called up to the courtroom. I have this suspicious feeling that it will be a long long day today.

9:33am - No sooner have I written the last update as we're informed that they issued a continuance on the case, eliminated the need for a jury at this time and we're all back in the general jury pool again. That being the case, this might be a long and boring day today afterall. I can now say that the "very directed questions" on the supplemental jury questionnaire all related to history / experiences with child molestation with strong indications that a long trial might ensue. We'll see what new and improved cases are left on the docket today.

10:00am - And here we continue to sit. Oh the excitement. No announcement yet though just by nature of me saying that I'm sure we'll hear something in the next minute or so.

10:55am - The natives are getting restless. No new news since the break so we're all still sitting around. Though it is becoming a little more active around here. The gentlemen behind me are swapping old jury stories... just like swapping old war stories but with far less death and destruction. I proceeded to do as much work as I could from here, which mainly consisted of following up on email. I wish something would happen too. I left my laptop in the car this morning, expecting to at least be sitting in court all day. Perhaps I'll fetch it at lunch. My iPhone's battery may not hold up all afternoon anyway.

11:30am - Two cases left on the jury docket today.  They thought they'd be ready to call juries before lunch, but now the wheels of justice have turned so slowly that's no longer the case.  So we're out to lunch until 1:30pm.  Fully expecting that at 1:30pm we'll have at least one jury list called, and hopefully I'm not selected. :)  

12:30pm - Went across the street to get some lunch at Chipotle, stopped by my car and picked up the laptop bag, and now I'm relaxing in a very empty jury assembly room working.  It is now I commentate on the privilege of excercising my civic duty.  If only I weren't so busy, I would have no problem at all being on jury duty.  In fact, usually I'm not so busy that I can't take a few days to do it every couple of years.  But in fact, this time it's not the best time at work to not be there, and it's busy.  But my being here is necessary to make sure the system works fairly and as it was designed to in the Constitution.  If everyone who had to work avoided it, we'd have juries of the unemployed and retired deciding cases, and if I were the accused, that sure wouldn't sound like an impartial jury of my peers.  But is it wrong of me to hope, just a little, that I don't get selected for a jury this time around?  That my mere presence in the jury selection pool is upholding my Constitutional mandate?  Is it indeed an honor NOT to be selected?  We'll see.  

1:35pm - Back from lunch, no news is good news?  No announcements, save the lady sitting next to me repeatedly popping her gum and making noise with her little handheld sudoku game.  Do these things not have sound-off switches?!  I digress... waiting for more news of the final 2 jury panels.  Oops, a bailiff just walked in delivering something, that's not a good sign.  And here comes the jury clerk to make the announcement... 35 names this time.  5 names down, 10 names down, 15 names down, 25 names down, 30 down, 35 down!  Not me!  Dodged another one!  One jury panel left to be called, "sometime this afternoon."  All I need is for this to get delayed at least until tomorrow, and it becomes someone else's problem.  Tick tick tick.  

Monday, February 02, 2009

Jury Duty - Update 2

1:30pm - back from lunch and immediately they're ready to call the next juror pool, 50 names this time.  10, 20, 30, 40, 50 names called and I dodged the bullet again.  Yes!  Sounds like that should be the last for the day.  

2:30 - The 50 are finally heading out the door, but wait there's more.  They have one more case with 50 more jurors.  Shoot.  Well, that makes 164 names for the day, and I hardly think I can dodge the last 50.  10 names down, 20 names down, 25 down, maybe I have a chance of avoiding it again!  Nope, juror #26 out of 50.  The 50 seems strongly to imply that this will be a criminal case of some sort, in fact, we get a special extra questionnaire form to fill out for this trial.  Now, I shant make any comments regarding the nature of said questions until after I serve my jury time, however, let's just say the questions were all of a similar nature lending strongly to the subject of the case that we may be a part of.  But fortunately, after collecting said forms, we're informed that they will need time to review them, and we were all dismissed until Tuesday.  We can only assume that on Tuesday we'll have quite the voir dire to whittle us down to what I presume will be 12 jurors + 2 alternates.  If my calculations are correct, only 12 people need to be challenged out ahead of me in line for me to move into the top 14.  Unless of course, I can be challenged out of the pool, THAT would be stellar.  But I wouldn't count on it.  The problem also is that it sure sounds like this trial will last more than a couple of days, which could be a mess.  Oh well, until tomorrow morning.  

Jury Duty - The next adventure

You know what's sad? When you have jury duty so many times that your blog has it's own category for it. Welcome to my world. Mildly senimental having this jury duty at the same place I had it the very first time. Furthermore the wifi Internet access here is just as terribly unreliable as it was 4 years ago. So this blog post is courtesy of my iPhone and the oddly more reliable wireless network.

Here in Kent it's pretty boring, also as it was last time. We apparently have 3 cases on the docket today and that bodes well for abou half of the 200 or so jurors sitting around me. As it works out, about 10am they called 2 case pools of 34 and 30 jurors each. I'm 0/64 so far. But I am still here hoping that perhaps they'll soon call the third group then send the rest of us home for the day. That would be nice. Of course either way could be a win if I'm lucky. Luck isn't usually on my side.

11:10am - No more cases before lunch.  We're released now until 1:30.  2.5 hours, I think I'll just relax a bit and do some shopping at Kent Station and maybe find some lunch.  More updates later.  

Friday, January 30, 2009

Seattle Symphony 2009-10

Today the Seattle Symphony announced their 2009-10 season schedule. Just like the holidays, it seems like this happens earlier and earlier each year. Looks like another season of good concerts, this year celebrating the 25th anniversary of Gerard Schwarz as the symphony's Music Director.
[As an interesting aside, on the second page of this year's subscription brochure there's a photo montage of Schwarz over the years, which I've replicated here, left-to-right from top, his first year back in 1983 "young", 1988 "dorky", 1992 "serious", 1998 "intense", 2001 "Dan Rather", 2005 "profound", and finally 2008 "old".]

As usual there are some concerts that on first look seem to be the "not-to-be-missed" of the season. The Seattle Pops series, once again led by Principal Pops Conductor Marvin Hamlisch, kicks off in September with The Fabulous '50s, followed by December's Holiday Pops Spectacular this year featuring Cirque de la Symphonie. The rest of the season includes a tribute to Stephen Sondheim, an appearance by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and finally highlights from The Music Man. Yet another amazing season lineup.

On the classical front, highlights include December's "Swan Lake & Festive Holiday Classics" slated to include The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Prelude to Hansel and Gretel, Smetana's The Moldau, in addition to Tchaikovsky's Suite from Swan Lake, among others. Additional concerts of note include Beethoven's 5th in April, and numerous other classics. (What isn't a classic, these days?)

Season subscriptions are on sale now, single ticket purchases will begin in September. Hard to believe we're already thinking out to the spring of 2010, I thought we just hit 2009. Fortunately, having not received most of the Olympics tickets I requested, maybe I'll support more of the symphony this year. It might be more satisfying in the long term.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wanna get away?

The bad economy is yours to gain, if you've got a little vacation time to throw around and can scrape up a few pennies to fly somewhere.  Airfares are about as low as I've seen them in, well, as long as I've cared about going places.  Now admittedly, if you factor in the $15+ most airlines will charge you to check a bag, it's probably only as good as some previous steals of deals, but it's still pretty amazing given the current economy.  

Southwest Airlines currently has 50% off all flights to/from Seattle.  Which can make some deals downright a steal.  Southern California or Vegas from about $65/each way, Bay Area for about $47/each way (with taxes that comes to just $115 round trip).  Or to the East Coast (D.C. rated in at about $211/RT all-in).  As noted on the website, book by 11:59pm PST today for travel through May 31st.  

Amazingly enough, there are actually some other airlines deals which are already even better than the 50% that Southwest is offering.  Seattle-Birmingham as low as $135, Orlando around $200, or anywhere else you care to travel is downright cheap through April.  This is the time to go somewhere.  

Now I just need to figure out where I want to go.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Blog Roundup

My blog articles tend to all come in groups, today is no exception. So you get three completely unrelated items of interest today:

Inauguration Excitement

Well, yesterday was probably the most excitement and fanfare I've ever seen for a Presidential inauguration. Being a big fan of the pageantry of such events, I'm always excited to watch these things, but this was even more exciting than usual. Most of my office gathered in a conference room to watch the webcast. Though I did find it somewhat funny that we were requested not to send out an e-mail about it, but we could still do it. I think some people don't understand now that the Inauguration is not political, it's patriotic. Democrat or Republican, like him or not, Obama IS the President of the USA. If you're an American, he's YOUR president. There's nothing political about it. You respect the position, even if you don't agree with the man in it. The same goes for the recently-departed President Bush. Like him or not, agree with him or not, he was President, and you show the position the respect it deserves. Somehow, I think so many people don't share my sentiment in that regard. But I digress.
Of more interest to me was the musical piece performed by Perlman, Ma, McGill, and Montero right before Obama's swearing in. This was a new composition by John Williams, "Air and Simple Gifts," borrowing the classic shaker melody most popularly used in Aaron Copland's Appalchaian Spring. Music geeks of the world unite in enjoying this, not only because it was great, but because it's nice to see John Williams write something that doesn't sound like everything else he writes. :)

Husky Stadium - To Fix or Not To Fix

Now, I'm biased. Having spent literally thousands of hours in Husky Stadium over my college and post-college career, I've been in every ominous corner of that stadium. From the terrifying restrooms, to the press box with its long, narrow hallways seemingly hanging by a thread from the roof. And if I didn't have such a sentimental attachment to it, I'd probably be saying "why bother?" But my journeys have also taken me to dozens of other college stadiums around the country, and I can honestly say few if any rival the gameday experience at Husky Stadium. As such, I'm greatly concerned with preserving that in any stadium improvement plan. Imagine my surprise when I found the latest artist rendering of a "new Husky Stadium" (above). It's spectacular! They took the rundown look of the current stadium, and wrapped it in a beautiful new layer. But it still LOOKS like the Husky Stadium we know and love. Absolutely amazing. I can only hope the UW can scrape up the money to make it a reality.

The Unit

And finally, I don't think I've fully extolled one of my newest favorite shows on television: The Unit. I started watching it this season, only to get hooked and find out this is Season 4! Where have I been the last 3 years?! In my own defense, its first season was a mid-season replacement, with only 13 episodes, and its third season was cut short by the Writer's Strike that left it with only 11 episodes. But for Christmas, I was fortunate enough to receive the first 3 seasons on DVD in order to catch up, and last night finally finished them to get me all the way to this season. What a spectacular show! If you've never seen it before, I highly recommend it (Sundays at 10pm on CBS). One nice thing is that it follows a semi-serial format (as did one of my other all-time favorites The West Wing), where story lines do continue throughout the season, but each episode individually contains its own distinct plots that wrap themselves up nicely by the end of the episode, so you don't have to worry about having not seen previous episodes in order to keep up. (Lost and Battlestar Galactica could take a lesson in that. One of the biggest reasons I've never really picked up either of those shows.)

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

Friday, January 16, 2009

I love the Olympics... slightly less than I used to

For as long as I can remember, I've always loved the Olympics.  Two weeks every other year when the likelihood of calling-in sick to work goes up exponentially.  The pageantry, the competition, the 24-hours of always having something great to watch on TV, even if it's delayed or rerun.  

Think of how excited I must be to have that biennial spectacle taking place a mere two-hours away from where I live!  I can actually GO see events live!  And maybe, just maybe, I can score some tickets to the Opening Ceremony, historically the most elaborate and exciting event there is to see!  Then, watch that excitement get shot down when we learn of the dirty reality of the Olympics and their ticketing process.

Ron Judd, in his Seattle Times Olympics Insider blog, provides his rant and background on the ticketing process, and it's enough to give you bad dreams.  Don't read if you want to keep your visions of the Olympics as the "Disneyland of Athletic Competition."  The truth is, as with anything else, money drives the whole thing.  

It's no surprise that demand would outpace supply for tickets, especially for the bigger events.  I'm not just a bitter fan who requested Olympics tickets (that I'm fortunate enough to be in a position to "afford" though even that's questionable) and was almost completely denied.  Really, it's the process that I find appalling.  I requested tickets to several events, including the Opening Ceremony, but received only one of my requests for some curling tickets (though my credit card is quite relieved).  The so-called "ticket lottery" appears to be nothing more than a way for CoSport to offload a ridiculously small amount of tickets with the appearance that any Olympics fan could get some tickets.  

As always, now the ticket scalpers, whether professional or just "Joe lottery-winner" who happened to get their hands on a few high-demand tickets, are turning them around at what can only amount to a ridiculous markup over the already ridiculous markup they paid for the tickets in the first place.  It's enough to make my stomach turn.  

Maybe I am a little bitter about it.  But I really just wish there was a more fair and honorable system to it all, one that wasn't driven by greed but by making an honest effort to provide anyone interested the chance at reasonably attaining tickets to attend a part of the Olympic experience.  

Will it stop me from watching the Olympics?  Of course not.  But I can't say I feel the same way about them that I used to.  And who knows, maybe my proximity to Vancover will allow me to capitalize on someone trying to dump some tickets at the last-minute at a reasonable price?  I can hope.  On the bright side, the Opening Ceremony will probably look even better on TV anyway... yeah, I will at least pretend to believe that.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Well, it's been a long and eventful holiday season... one that has had countless situations I've been intending to blog about, but never the motivation to do so.  Trying to summarize all the way back to the snow will be a challenge, but I'll try to give you the highlights. 

Christmas was good.  The traditional family gathering on Christmas Eve was postponed due to the trecherous driving conditions and snow, but I did make it down to my parents' house for the day.  My car performed admirably, until on the way home after dropping my sister off at her house, a mere mile from my house, the lights on my dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree and I knew something must be wrong.  But more on that later.

Christmas Day the entire family came over to my house.  It was a nice day, despite even more fresh snow falling in the morning.  I took my morning to shovel out a couple of parking spots on the street, and then everyone showed up for the day.  Lots of food, good times, not much to complain about I'd say.  

Day after Christmas, it was time to address the car issues that I knew were going to be a problem.  Determining that there was some sort of problem with the electrical system, I considered the distinct possibility that my car battery needed replacing.  The battery was original to the car, which is now about 8 years old, so it's reasonable to assume it's time to be replaced.  Driving over to Schuck's, I made my way through the slushy mess that was the street, and as I was a block away from the store, heard my engine begin to sputter, as one-by-one each electrical component in my car began to shut down.  Pulling into the parking lot, the car died completely, not to start again.  With the help of some folks, I was pushed into a parking space, where I proceeded to buy a new battery and replace it there in the parking lot, as the snow began to fall again.  After finishing that, the car started up just fine, though the warning lights on the dash remained.  The worker at Schuck's brought out a tester, and determined that as I had suspected likely, my alternator was certifiably dead.  On battery power alone, I managed to get my car driven over to the Nissan dealer just 20 blocks away, where I had taken my car before to solve the great Window Regulator Debacle.  Of course, as I attempted to pull out of the parking lot at Schuck's, my tired got stuck in the slush, necessitating me pulling the shovel out of the back seat and digging out the tires again.  But at the dealer, they took my car and I found my way to walk across the street to the transit center, grab a bus to get me within 1.4 miles of my house, where I proceeded to walk home through the snow.  Later found out that I had both a dead alternator, and a cracked radiator hose (no doubt from driving over some ice that jabbed into it).  They fixed them, and the next day I paid $750 to get my car out of hawk, and all was well.  

My week off from work was reasonably enjoyable, though I did work a couple of days to stock up on some comp time, and New Year's was also fun.  Then we come to last weekend, where my comp time came in handy as I took Thursday and Friday off to be Chief Umpire for the USCA West Regional Curling Qualifier for the Olympic Trials.  As my math works out, I was at the curling club for about 65 hours over 4 days, but had a good time for the most part.  Met lots of great curlers from around the country, and despite the average of about 6-hours of sleep each night, managed to enjoy myself.  

And now, after a month where I had so little downtime it's hard to remember the last time I took a night off, I have a night off.  But I leave you with this random rant:  

Do the legislators in King County have anything better to do than pass these ridiculous laws requiring calories information posted on menus in all restaurants?  There is nowhere I can go without seeing ridiculous information I have no desire to know, let alone care about.  I do not want to know how many calories there are in my large curly fries from Jack In The Box.  All it makes me do is go "hmmm, that's interesting" and proceed to order them anyway.  Knowing fast food is bad for you didn't stop me from eating it before, so why would I stop eating it now that I see this (admittedly large) number posted on the menu.  As far as I'm concerned, the only number I should see on the menu when I pull up to the drive-thru window is the one with a dollar sign next to it.  

So listen to me King County.  I'm going to thank you.  Not for trying to use numbers to try to dissuade me from eating foods that might be bad for me, but for giving me the power to use those numbers to know exactly which foods I WANT to eat.  From now on, I'm going to religiously look at those calories numbers, and know definitively that the higher the calories, the tastier and more satisfying the food will be.  And that's what it's all about.