Friday, December 24, 2010


Huh, I've just found a picture from the blog being referenced on another site (which was strangely exciting, to be honest!): here. It's part of a set of surreal' images: And in case you still hadn't clicked, this is the picture they found sufficiently surreal to qualify for their collection:

Interesting... that's, of course, mini doors getting painted in Gunnar's garage. Not my mini specifically, but another one he'd been working on, which was, incidentally, getting to be a very similar color to what I envision mine ending up with! Read all about that particular day in October - I refer to the site as very 'surreal' in that post incidentally.

And speaking of the mini, I went to pay it another visit yesterday, and an amazing discovery was made: a floor!

That gaping hole in the floor, which you may just be able to spot in the pictures in the post linked above, has been replaced with a shiny new floor panel! A wholly un-rusted, un-mangled by Mongolian 'roads,' floor panel - awesome! Merry Christmas, dear mini!

Cyrus, myself, and Gunnar appreciating Gunnar's handy work

Let's got for more surreal! Yesterday, there was also a brief excursion to Gas Works park to witness the Christmas Ships on Lake Union, Christmas Carrolling by the Seattle Girl's Choir, aboard one of the ships, included. Sites (no sounds):

The Ships all lit up for the holidays on Lake Union

The Seattle skyline at night.

Gas Works Park in the darkness

Speaking of surreal... Maybe they'll post this picture of Gas Works too?

I'm starting to really appreciate my new camera's ability to take night shots! Also (as I'm about to uphold the finest of Jewish holiday traditions and head out for Chinese food): Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

turkey, basketball, and pinot noir

There's no use even trying to pretend that I'm really all that busy these days, not working and all - and yet ... I've been meaning to put up this blog post about the Portland trip for almost a month now! And, so far, just couldn't find the time. Well, better late than never, I suppose... Besides, Portland's as far as I've traveled in the past three months, and I've got to try and keep the blog exotic and entertaining somehow!

And so, we begin back where we left off last time - back here in Seattle over Thanksgiving:

The Mu's were hosting, the turkey was delicious, and I ate so much that I had to take a bit of a nap to recover in time for desert.

And having survived the feast of Thanksgiving turkey, it was time to move on to basketball and wine. Basketball being a Duke game, against the University of Oregon down in Portland, and the wine being the delicious Pinot Noir that Oregon's Willamette Valley is so famous for. I recruited Erica to come with me on the Oregon adventure (and to drive...) - the prospects of Pinot Noir doing most of the sales job (as well as my charming personality, obviously...)

Down in Portland, we met up with Shima, whom I knew back from Duke, and headed straight over to Voodoo doughnuts - one of Portland's must-see hole-in-the-wall attractions

In fact, Saturday was largely dedicated to exploring the sites of Portland, as the game was at one, which left plenty of time to wander around the city, yet not enough time to get anywhere out of town. I'd been through Portland a number of times before (most recently on the way to Burning Man just a couple of months ago), but had never actually spent any time in the city itself. So, this was a fun and novel adventure for all of us, but first things first: the game!

The Oregon mascot roaming through the crowds prior to tipoff. We had very good seats...

Duke's Mason Plumlee dominating the opening tip - Duke would go on to dominate the rest of the game too

Singler vs. Singler!

The game was sort of a big deal around these parts: Kyle Singler, Duke's All-American senior, is from Oregon, and his little brother, E.J. is a sophomore starter for Oregon's team. This gigantic poster, covering a side of a building in Portland's Pearl district and picturing both of the brothers Singler, was here to promote. Of course, Oregon's football team was busy being undefeated and ranked #1 in the country at this point in time, so the locals weren't really all that heart broken over the basketball team's loss, or really overly interested by the game - easily half of the crowd was featuring Duke garb on this afternoon. And the other half didn't have much to cheer about... (Let's Go Duke!)

After the game, more pretty shots of Portland

The wineries weren't on the schedule till the next day, but we got got in the mood by visiting Coalition Brewery Saturday night, one of many breweries in Portland; this one justifiably famous for its King Kitty Red (a beer which gracefully combines a funny name with its delicious taste)

Brunch the following morning (Portland's apparently, and deservedly, quite famous for brunch) at the Blossoming Lotus. It honestly didn't seem fair that all of their food could be so astonishingly good while remaining strictly vegan!

And then, it was time for the Pinot Noir! That sweet and delicious nectar that the Oregon wineries are ever so fond of producing. It was Wine Country Thanksgiving in the Willamette Valley this weekend, meaning our tastings were paired with a helping heaping of tasty snacks and some longer than usual winery tours. I approved! We got to visit six or seven wineries over the course of the day - keeping track was becoming difficult after a while, especially since I was forced to do more of the drinking, so as to keep Erica able to drive... you're right, it is a rough life:

The vines at White Rose, starting to wane as the weather gets a bit colder, but looking very dramatic against the bright blue skies

Archery Summit took us on a a tour through their tunnel maze where the barrels are kept

Rain coming down on the way out of Monk's Gate, coloring the scene in a very Renoir-esque French impressionist sort of hue. I liked Monk's Gate best - small and very friendly winery; excellent product!

The striking main house at Lenné, our last stop, as the darkness was starting to fall

Erica going 'wheeeee!' at Lenné

And with that, the weekend was over, it was time to head back to Portland and Seattle and get ready to go to work in the morning... or do whatever it is that I've been doing!

Dinner back in Portland on the way home at the New Old Lompoc Brewery, the maker of the Proletariat Red, which I found to be just right, comrade!

And on back to Seattle... where the Space Needle is getting into the Holiday spirit

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The website, evolved

The website went back live about a month ago, at which point it looked fairly boring, barren, and un-interesting much as it had over its entire lifetime. Obviously, it was time for a significant face lift! I've made a number of updates over the past month, and while the core functionality hasn't changed any, the site looks a lot better (dare I say, almost professional even) - things are better organized, more discoverable, and you now get access to way more information than ever before.

So, check it out: explore, click around, and let me know what you think! And try not to get too dismayed by all the bits that remain unfinished - it'll continue to be a work in progress for a while longer, I'm afraid...

Safety Third!

If you're curious to see what the site looked like before the face lift, there's still a page with the old 'layout' here:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Winter Wonderland

The iPhone tried to warn me... In its so very iPhone less-than-entirely-clear manner, but try it did: there's probably snow coming in the next few days, maybe? I refused to believe! Sure, maybe a few sprinkles, but it's Seattle, and it wasn't even Thanksgiving yet - maybe a few flakes here and there during the night and the temperature dropping down near freezing, but nothing worse than that, right? Then it started to snow a little during our (really, really cold) frisbee game early Sunday morning. Then it snowed some more during the day. Nothing accumulated. We went to the nearby St. Mark's Cathedral to hear the monks sing at 9:30 at night - it was bitterly cold, but still no snow. I couldn't see this coming at all:

The view outside my window Monday morning

And it looked gloomy and uncomfortable too... But, hey, it's still only the 22nd of November here in Seattle, how bad can it be? I went to the gym in the afternoon, fully comfortable in the absolutely certain knowledge that later that evening we'd be playing hockey, because the conditions would just get better as things warmed up during the day.

They didn't get better. It actually got colder as the day went along. Hockey was canceled... I was suddenly glad to have talked myself out of riding my bike in the snow that morning.

Ryan and I got stuck in traffic on the 520 bridge for a full two hours on the way back to Seattle after going over to the Eastside in preparation for hockey (and to watch a Duke basketball game). Apparently, noone else had been willing to believe during the day that we'd really, actually be getting hit with a proper snow storm before Thanksgiving, so noone left work early. And now, they were all stuck on the bridge. It didn't look a whole lot better when we finally got across the bridge into Capitol Hill - there was three to four inches of snow everywhere; roads were closed off in places, some turned into temporary homes to cars and buses that had been abandoned in the face of the storm. The temperature dropped into the teens(!) - in Seattle! before Thanksgiving! I couldn't stop thinking of Costa Rica (where I hope to be this coming February again).

Tuesday morning came around, and it was a whole new day:

It was bright, clear, sunny, and very gorgeously snowy! Also, very, very cold - the snow didn't seem in any rush to melt

And that's me braving the snow outside my house, wearing shorts on a nice sunny day?

I went for a stroll around Capitol Hill, finding it to be a weird site - noone seemed to have gone to work; more people on the streets than you'd expect on a normal week day, kids goofing around on their sleds... shops closed; even our neighborhood liquor store! But it was a wonderfully pretty day - in no way gray and depressing like Monday - the mood felt downright festive. I wanted a nice warm cup of soup and a spot by a fire somewhere... I settled for a nice bowl of hot chili in a warm restaurant (sans fireplace). After battling the cold wind for an hour, I turned back for home and found that the sun hadn't done much to melt the snow on the ground, but was having some effect on the trees around the house:

Pretty Winter Wonderland...

At this point, I feel like I ought to be leading this story up to a dramatic climax of some sorts, but I'm afraid I'm just not that good or exciting of a story teller. There wasn't to be much drama - the snow slowly receded over the next few days. I got to play hockey Tuesday night (noting that, at least, most of the hockey players are transplants from places like Canada, Michigan, and Wisconsin, where driving in the snow is a regular fact of life, not a national emergency), coming back home a bit after 11 in the evening, receiving a greeting from the iPhone to the tune of 'the temperature outside remains stuck at 18 degrees'... In the days that followed, that temperature continued to hover right around freezing day and night, but, without fresh reinforcements, the snow started to reluctantly give way, retreating inch by hard fought inch.

Today was Thanksgiving, and by the end of the day, the frozen wastelands finally receded and the temperatures stayed above freezing long enough for most of the ice and snow to melt. We celebrated the occasion with an obnoxious amount of food. And, to our credit, would've done the same no matter how frozen the weather could've stayed!

Lott, feeling very proud of his deep-fried creation

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Did you miss the website?

Probably not, since I haven't actually been traveling anywhere recently, but the site is finally back up: after a much longer than anticipated transition period. No promises as to where we go from here, but it's an accomplishment for today!

A preview

Monday, November 8, 2010

Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee, in all of his living glory, on the waterfront in Hong Kong

We'll get back to you in a second, Bruce...

In the mean time... A gorgeous, sunny Seattle day at the tail end of October (weird, right?) - just four days to Halloween, probably a Full Moon too? (nope, not for another three weeks). Full Moon or not, I figured I'd take this pleasant afternoon to get into the Halloween spirit and go visit a nearby cemetery. Lakeview Cemetery is a calm, pleasant, scenic piece of land overlooking Lake Washington in the distance, just a short walk from where I now live.

On a nice clear day like this, you catch a glimpse of the snow-capped Mount Baker from the grounds

Sites of the cemetery

A pretty autumn day here in the Pacific Northwest

As for Bruce... I knew he was buried at Lakeview. Actually, as of a month prior, I only knew that his grave was somewhere in Seattle - when a group of tourists inquired about directions to Bruce Lee's grave, I sent them to Fremont... which is very much the wrong place (sorry!). But I've since checked, and Bruce (along with his son, Brandon) are both buried at Capitol Hill's very own Lakeview Cemetery. I will have to admit a general ignorance of the life and times of Bruce Lee, so I have no idea how much time he had actually spent in Seattle while alive, but, once at Lakeview, I was able to follow a steady progression of other visitors flocking to his grave site to find Bruce's resting place. There's a number of other famous pop culture stars who have met their respective ends here in Seattle (Jimi Hendrix, Curt Cobain, Lane Staley), but if they are buried at Lakeview, I failed to locate their graves. As for the Lee's:

Exit the Dragon? Well, that sure sounds terrible...

A few more bits of recent fun and excitement around these exotic lands of Seattle:

Erica and I fully outfitted for Halloween - I wanted to be a matador when I grew up... She, a crime fighting ballerina!

One... two... ah one, two, three! A little more Halloween, at a party with my Tacomatose teammates

The Gorillaz came to town... and put on an amazing show! Featuring an animated Snoop Dog in the intro

The Space Needle at night just before the Gorillaz show

sun setting over the Pike Place Market and the Pudget Sound

A night out in Post Alley to see some friends in an improv comedy show

Genesee, one of my housemates, improvising some comedy of her own, after the show

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ready! Set!

Commence Restoration!

Here was the poor toothless, thoroughly disassembled mini when I first returned to see her at the beginning of August:

I'm afraid Gunnar had had his way with her...

meaning specifically that Gunnar had removed all the beat up, rusted out panels that made up a large part of the body. About 50% goes the current estimate. But then, things started looking up! Around Labor Day we had a full order put together for the home office back in England, where 'original' mini parts are still manufactured, and a little over a week ago, a care package arrived from across the ocean.

Naturally, I went to visit, and here's what I found:

If you were expecting more, temper your expectations! But look at that brilliant new nose panel!

Now, as it turns out, when you get 'original' mini parts from the home office in England, they are not original in the sense that they fit. They are sort of in the general vicinity - so just getting that nose panel on took some hours of work, which is where we get back to tempering expectations - probably looking at another 2-3 months of just panel re-installation, and that's not even getting to things like the suspension, the engine, the paint... But for now, the process has commenced, and I'm excited!

As for the painting...

A mildly surreal site in Gunnar's paint room... The green you can glimpse there is roughly the color that will eventually be replacing the fluorescent yellow on the mini - those aren't my doors though...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Remember Burma and Tibet?

... and the cute Panda bears in China? I hope you do because had you forgotten and tried to go back and look them up again on the blog over the last couple of weeks, you would've certainly found all of my writing, but not any of the pictures... (Thanks, Lott, for catching this!)

Well, the good news is last night, I went through and fixed everything, so the pictures are all back. I even tried to fix my spelling and grammar errors - I do tend to proof-read my posts, usually, but it seems I'm still not all that good at it. There is no bad news - everything is just back. There are some boring technical details, which you are welcome to skip, but I'll type up anyway, just in case you care (and because it gives me a forum to bitch at the governments of Burma and China for their idiotic internet policies): Burma and China aren't the types of countries that particularly encourage free and unfettered expression, such as blogging. They attempt to control it by using a standard, heavy-handed, Communist-style approach: you cannot access or from a computer in China or Burma. As with most standard, heavy-handed, Communist-style approaches to solving problems that shouldn't really be problems in the first place, the approach doesn't work. I was obviously able to post from Burma and China - all because there's a million proxy servers out there that computer users of China and Burma utilize to get around their respective governments' idiotic restrictions. In Burma, the proxy would usually be already installed on most of the internet cafe machines... In China, they had wi-fi, so I got it on my laptop. There was, however, an issue - routing all your requests to through a server in, say, Holland, made your [already slow] internet connection speeds that much slower, so I gave up on uploading pictures to blogger, putting them on my site instead, then simply referencing them from the blog. It actually took a bit of work to get the process all figured out, but pretty soon, I had it down to a science (which makes it kind of sad that I had to spend three hours undoing all of my cross-site magic last night). And this magical science worked great... all the way until last month, until I had to transfer the site from Arnie's server to one of my own - a process which allowed us to discover that when you cancel your account with 1&1 Hosting (whom I'm reluctant to recommend at this point, btw), they insist on hijacking your domain name for a month and using it to redirect traffic to one of the other sites they are being paid to host (and some nice man in Hyderabad, India will be powerless to do anything about it). This, naturally, means that all the images I had uploaded to my site from Burma and Tibet had now evaporated, so the blog posts that were pointing to them were now picture-less... So, that's the annoying technical reasons - if you are unclear on what the hell I'm talking about (or even if you are), never fear - the photos on the blog are all back now! (Unless you are reading this on Facebook, which imports my blog posts, but doesn't update the imported snapshots when I change them, so if you want to take the time to navigate their ineffective UI to get to some of the posts from last February, you will discover these elusive picture-less posts... But you shouldn't do that! You either don't care at all, in which case you should've stopped reading ten minutes ago, or you'll just use the fairly intuitive navigation tools you get at

And as a reward for indulging me in my little rant, here's a few of these 'recovered' photographs:

Shwedagon Pagoda - Yangon, Burma

The Golden Rock on Burma's Mount Kyaiktiyo at sunrise

A fisherman on Inle Lake

The plain of Bagan just before sunrise

Snake Temple outside of Mandalay, Burma

Cute pandas in Chengdu, China

Tibet's Potala Palace, flanked by the Himalayas

A terracotta general: Xi'an, China