southpark

Score!

For some time, I've been researching different ways to improve my living space. One specific aspect was the high level of dust that my apartment tends to accumulate, and one way to help with that which kept coming up was to get a new, high quality vacuum cleaner. I did a bunch of research and looking around, and was guided partially by the vacuum repair technician AMA on Reddit. I was sold then on a bagged model, and started to ponder sticking with an upright or trying out one of those fancy canister-style vacuums.

The obvious high quality model (powerful, excellent air filtration, compact, durable, quiet, and cute!) was the Miele C3 series which comes with staggeringly high price tags. I am financially comfortable enough to afford this extended time off, but I simply could not be convinced to part with such dosh over a vacuum, and started looking for more reasonably priced alternatives. Canister vacuums command quite the premium, it turns out, so I resigned to stick with an upright, but none of what I found really caught my eye.

Since I do have more free time these days, I also put up a bunch of Craigslist searches to check daily, just in case something interesting should pop up. Today, about 4 weeks later, there was exactly the model I was after being offered new in box for about 40% off retail (the owner had won 2 in an auction and was keeping the other for themselves)! WIN! Whenever I find something like this, I'm always afraid it will get sold out from under me or will turn into a bidding war, so I made sure to run out and finalize the deal while not trying to appear over-eager. A quick test to make sure it works, and it was mine.

I spent a good hour playing with my new toy today. I wonder what it says about me that getting a new vacuum cleaner gets me this excited.

Time may certainly change my opinion (I've owned it all of 7 hours now), especially since I just read 2 other tips for adjusting how it works. Right now though, overall, I'm... happy and satisfied with my purchase, but I don't think I would have been if I'd paid full price.
  • Current Mood
    jubilant jubilant
southpark

State of my world

I'm doing OK. My extended vacation is generally agreeing with me as much as I hoped, although it has only been this month that I've really had some extended time to myself. It's still very weird not working. But I am so happy to be gone from my former employer. It was a great, great ride for the first 6 years, but went pretty downhill after that, and never fully recovered. I may end up missing a lot of the positive aspects, but I was so tired of the management and the lack of salary and respect/appreciation. May also try to pick up some short-term, 20hr/wk contracting to get some extra spending money, but I'm not desperate to be re-employed.

Back in December, I left earlier for PA than I usually do because my Mom needed some help with renovating her house. Then I spent most of January in Chicago helping out my sister after her child care situation evaporated suddenly. It was really nice seeing my niece and nephews, and I did get to spend some time exploring Chicago a bit more. It left a much better impression than it had on my previous visits. Sure it's sprawl-tastic, but I'd forgotten just how nice a truly large city can be. Boystown was great (had never spent any kind of time there before), the bars were absolutely wonderful AND well-attended, and there were so many instances of each type of store.

But since being back in Seattle, I've been slowly but surely going down my list of Things To Get Done. My bedroom closet is about half deep-cleaned and organized. I want to wait until it has been gone through completely so I can put everything back in a good arrangement. Many piles of things are out in my hallway and living room awaiting the remainder to be complete, so I can know what sort of free space I have to put them back into.

I've also been going through my list of Fun Places To Visit, though more slowly. Most of those involve food, and I'm seriously trying to lose weight. I've been dieting consistently, and am taking the "one cheat day per week" approach, so despite my excess of free time there is less gluttony available. Been going to the gym 3 days a week consistently, and am unable to push myself to do 4, frustratingly. Still, I'm down 14 pounds since Jan 1, which is 2 better than my goal!

As for a longer-term plan, my current thought is that I have too much travel I want to do in the 2nd half of this year, so trying to move internationally before then seems unworkable. Waiting a year only loses me 1 point in the Canadian immigration schedule, which is not trivial, but I really cannot fathom beating that deadline regardless. My goal then is to continue to generally clean up my life and myself, and enjoy Seattle while I'm here.

A trip to Essen Spiel is high priority for me this year, but British Air (where I have MANY miles) has been spectacularly unhelpful in finding a usable set of flights. I shall try again this week.

I've also booked a space for me in Madras, OR for the total solar eclipse in August this year. That is a neat little town on the edge of the OR desert, just past the mountain ranges, so the chance of cloudiness is among the lowest across the whole path of totality. Further likely-clear and high-totality-time places are available by driving east along conveniently-placed US highways, although roads are likely to be crowded if such travel would be desirable. Other things in Madras' favor are that their viewing site is almost dead-center along the path of totality, and they seem to be actually preparing for significant crowds, with multiple backup parking places, a festival with prepared vendors, a shuttle bus around town, etc. In short, they seem to be taking the massive temporary influx of crowds seriously. As opposed to another unnamed town east of there, with even better August weather odds, whose main website says they might think about having an eclipse planning page in the future and they will email you if they do, but in the meantime there's some extremely expensive RV parking 60 miles out of the way. Anyway, this may evolve into renting an RV with some friends, but right now it's just me sleeping in my car the night before. Which is fine; at least I'll get to see it.
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    happy happy
southpark

The perspective that time naturally brings...

For any number of years at my job I had one technical wish: to never, ever again have to find a bug and then say "wait, how did this ever work?" only to find that it hasn't ever worked and that some other bug was hiding the failure. I never got this wish. This very scenario presented itself yet again a mere 2 days before I left.

As one of my many goals for my current time off, I am attending to some long-ignored email messages. One of those was for a local producer, the owner of which I met in person at several public wine tastings about 6 or so years ago. At those times I ran into him, some of his wares seemed ever so slightly queer-inspired. He himself could have been described as a bear, although he was behaving somewhat formally, so I couldn't get a good read. I realize that last sentence may only make sense to me, and be fraught with subconscious peril, but I'm leaving it there. I attempted to be slightly flirty with him, or at least signal that I was gay myself, but didn't perceive any reaction. I found out earlier this year that he is gay, and married, and somewhat well known in the local bear scene.

Another of those email messages was for a local band I've been following since circa 2006; it turns out they are still around, but 4 of the 5 members have changed. I decided to spend some time finding out what happened to the original members (thank you, Internet Archive!), especially since I had huge crushes on 3 of the guys. This turned out to be quite a long and enjoyable trip down memory lane! But the results are frustrating in the end. 2 of them got married to each other and moved to Oregon. 1 of them (the extremely attractive one) moved to Portland and married another boy (and made a HUMP! film maybe? I don't know if I wish I saw it or not!). The last one is still here in Seattle, and is very different than he used to be, but also turns out to be gay. I am now very much wishing that I'd hit on one of them (or, all of them) after one of their concerts.

So I think my new wish is that I never want to find out that some presumed-straight boy I used to be interested in turns out to be gay.

I suspect I'll have as much success with that wish as I did with the previous one.

Or maybe I just need to be more forward in pursuing people, even if they are probably straight? I wish I knew what a 10- or 20-year older version of myself would say. Probably "yes".
  • Current Mood
    accomplished
southpark

Funemployed, very soon

I put in my notice today! All efforts to come up with a longer-term, sustainable working arrangement failed, so I'm done. Done! Donezo. Donezo the donezerian.

I was very nervous, but having done it I'm so relieved. I can already tell it was the correct choice.

Next steps for this year are to a) decide on a gym, b) deep clean my entire apartment, and c) plan out what I want to do next year.
  • Current Mood
    sick sick
southpark

Longshot request

Do I happen know anyone who knows anyone who is currently in Brazil or planning on going there soon? There is a very rare board game there that I'm trying to purchase, but the retailer appears to only ship inside Brazil.
southpark

Seattle donut revue

My previous writings on Portland donuts, plus a bad bout of insomnia, left me both in the mode to try out all the Seattle donut places on my radar and suddenly awake at an hour when they would still have stock left. It was a great success, although left me a not very productive remainder of the day, unsurprisingly.

The initial plan was to do what I did for Portland (1 old fashioned, 1 jelly, coffee), but I wanted to add Boston Cream, in honour of theferrett's book reading tomorrow. This fell apart pretty quickly, as some places just didn't have things which fit neatly into those categories.

Oddly, each place's coffee was about the same: a pretty unobjectional and unexciting blend just slightly on the darker side. The variations mostly weren't worth noting.

First up was Family Donut, which had a quite decent old fashioned: moist, but with some crunch, decent flavor, but not sweet enough along with a weak glaze. The jelly was good; soft texture but with a little less body than I like, and a little short on both glaze and jelly, but the taste was excellent. The Boston Cream was just meh; totally unremarkable.

Next was Original Bakery, which I'm calling the 2nd worst donut place in Seattle (Mighty O claiming the basement). The "medium roast" coffee was pretty burnt, the "old fashioned" was simply a dry cake donut, though the glaze was decent, and the "Boston Cream"-equivalent looked interesting (a donut split and rejoined with something vanilla instead of being custard-filled) but tasted absolutely dreadful, and there wasn't nearly enough filling. Even the glazed ring couldn't be saved, with a bad oil taste spoiling the good glaze and texture.

Fuji Bakery had quite a limited selection, but I got to try their famous "crunchy cream" donut, which is a good if thin yeast donut, filled with custard, and then coated in granulated sugar and cornflakes. It was pretty darn good! I think the custard could be improved upon, but it wasn't bad, and the concept as a whole is wonderful. Sweet, flavorful, crunchy, very well cooked donut.

Rodeo in Ballard is like a slightly better, more pragmatic version of Blue Star in Portland, OR. They use a brioche dough, which is very much its own thing. I liked what I tried, but didn't love it. I might come again for a plain strawberry filled, just to see how it is. I can't really compare it to the other places.

I also award "3rd worst donut shop in Seattle" to General Porpoise. The donuts themselves looked fantastic, but man did they disappoint. They were quite chewy to the point of being gummy (wrong flour? overworked dough? IDK) and had a bad, oily aftertaste. The custard filling was quite good, but the other 4 fillings I tried ranged from mediocre (lemon curd) to terrible (the chocolate). Add in the extremely high cost (over $4 per donut!) and mandatory 10% tip and you get another place to actively avoid. The coffee was quite good, though.

It seemed nothing could hold a candle to Top Pot, but then came the last contender: Dona Queen. A very strange little SoDo donut shop with attached Korean luncheonette/deli (what a combo!) served up some excellent donuts. The old fashioned was very good, slightly drier than ideal, but very good glaze, and great flavor, although quite sweet. The jelly was possibly the best traditional-style one I've had in this city (rivaling even Top Pot's Bullseye). The donut itself was excellent: tasty and soft but with some body. The glaze was nicely sweet, and the jam was very good, bringing plenty of both sweet and tart, but sans seeds, and just shy of the perfect amount. The Boston Cream was at least good. The donut again was great, and there was plenty of filling, but somehow as a whole it was just overwhelmingly sweet. I think I like more distinct flavor in my Boston Cream, with a balanced sweetness, so Top Pot's is quite a bit better to me. Still, this was a clear winner of a shop! I will be back! Someday! Maybe!

While all the sugar and caffiene did nothing to help me avoid the natural afternoon crash which comes with too little sleep, I did do quite a lot of walking and mostly ate vegetables all day in an attempt to balance out (or at least mitigate) this indulgence, so I don't feel *too* bad about it. And perhaps most importantly I both didn't let me annoying brain ruin the day for me, AND crossed several things off my todo list, so I'm calling it a success.
  • Current Mood
    full full
southpark

2 steps forward

Instead of not blogging because I can't find any way of turning my thoughts into coherent, themed posts, I may just try talking about random things that happened. We'll see if this works out.

My weekend was pretty good. Saturday was an impromptu trip on the light rail out to the newest station, just south of SeaTac: Angle Lake. The stop was closer to SeaTac than I thought it would be, and I knew going down there wasn't going to be much to see, but it turned out to be way better than that. The new station is very nice, they even made the parking garage have a little visual interest, and the view down Puget Sound all the way to Tacoma was an unexpected bonus. I'd gotten a hot tip that the local burger place was worth going to, and found it to be quite decent, although greasy and not cheap. If I were in the area, I'd go again, but certainly won't make a trip for it. I also took a walk to Angle Lake park, which turned out to be a lovely, petite little area. It looked quite recently done (or perhaps remodeled), with lots of picnic tables and nice paths, a sort-of rocky beach, and a pier people were fishing on. And ducks! Worth the trip; greatly exceeded my low expectations.

Saturday night was supposed to be drinks with the Seattle Gaymers, but I just wasn't feeling it. I went home and put my energy into cleaning, and got a lot done, so I only felt a tiny bit bad about giving in to my social anxiety. Judging by the photos, it turns out that none of the 3 people I wanted to talk to showed up anyway, so it seems very little was lost.

Sunday started off with a million and one things going wrong, but I was able to eventually throw together a batch of meatballs in the slow cooker and then head off to enjoy the very final hour of car-free biking on Lake Washington Blvd. this year. After somehow perfectly timing my bus ride to coincide with the finale of the Seahawks game, and thus nearly missing the transfer to an *hourly* bus route, I actually had a really good ride! The weather was wonderful, the scenery was amazing, and my bike did not malfunction. The bus ride back was pleasant and uneventful, and the meatballs were wonderful to come home to, but I was utterly exhausted. Need more cardio.

I ordered a new phone to try out. If you know me well, you will know how big a deal this is, given the lack of physical keyboards on modern phones. I got a Note 4, and I mostly liked it, although the fingerprint sensor seemed pretty flaky, and it was just so big. I have large hands, but it was still a little unwieldy. I don't recall finding many good alternatives though, and my current phone's OS can't be upgraded at all (even Cyanogen), and I'd really like some of the more modern Android features and security fixes. I'm in "luck", though, because this phone turned out to be a refurb even though I'd spent the extra for a New one, AND the pen sensor doesn't work. There's an inch-wide vertical strip of the screen where it just doesn't register. So, it's going back tomorrow. I wonder what I shall do next.

This coming weekend is a quick trip out of town for my niece's birthday. Flying has become deeply unenjoyable, but the flight times aren't too bad, and it'll be first class, so there are compensations.
  • Current Mood
    blah blah
southpark

Portland donuts

I've spent quite a bit of time in Portland, OR this year. A trip to Portland is always something of a gluttonous, sinful trip for me, so they have to be planned out carefully.

One foodstuff that I think Portland does very well is donuts. Voodoo is the classic hipster donut purveyor, of course, and Blue Star is the popular newcomer in that market space, but the Portland blogs are full of locals proclaiming that infinitely better, and (not coincidentally) more classically styled, donuts are available at some other shop. To give myself a goal (and a treat), I decided to make a point of trying as many of these other places as I could on my recent excursions.

At each place, I tried 3 things, chosen to maximize the chance of comparing apples-to-apples, and to evaluate both cake and yeast donuts:
  • The coffee (medium roast, if I had a choice)
  • An old-fashioned donut
  • A jelly donut

The results:

coco donuts
Coffee
Very good. Strong, and oddly almost sweet or flavored. I liked it, but I could see it being divisive.
Old-fashioned
Good, but weird. The texture was a little soft or even gooey, and there was an odd flavor note, perhaps mint.
Jelly
Excellent. Flavor was also great, but this was on the purely sweet side of things, especially the glaze. Good quality jam. The donut itself was great.

Delicious Donuts
Coffee
Good. A solid roast, good neutral coffee flavor, but slightly watery.
Old-fashioned
Good. Slight citrus taste. Seems to rely on the glaze for sweetness, as the body seemed under-sugared.
Jelly
Excellent. Flavor was great, it was slightly less sweet/more tart than many (which is good!), but I could do with a little more glaze.

Helen Bernhard Bakery
Coffee
Very good. Solid coffee, but nothing unusual.
Old-fashioned
Bad. The donut was unglazed! Not very sweet or flavorful.
Jelly
Fantastic! The jam itself was the best of any of these. Wonderful flavor, both intensely sweet and tart, and there was a good amount. The glaze was very sweet, and the donut itself was pleasantly yeasty.

Heavenly Donuts
Coffee
Good. A little cooked; probably better when fresh.
Old-fashioned
Very good. Mostly chewy, good flavor, and spot-on sweetness.
Jelly
Good. Almost enough jam, and the donut itself was good, but it was not super flavorful on the whole.

Tonallis Donuts & Cream
Coffee
Good. A nice, medium roast. Nothing exciting and nothing objectionable.
Old-fashioned
Very good. A little too sweet for me, and a little too much crunch, but still very good.
Jelly
Bad. Too sweet of a jam with not enough flavor. The donut itself tasted good, but the texture was only OK.

Donut Plus
Coffee
Good. It wasn't burnt. It was slightly watery and slightly bitter.
Old-fashioned
Good. The texture was wonderfully chewy and melt-in-your-mouth, but there was an odd, bad flavor to it.
Jelly
Good. Dough was flavorful, but the glaze was weak. The jam was good but not great, though there was a really nice amount of it.

Annie's Donut Shop
Coffee
Bad. The terrible, burnt crude of a million cliche diner scenes.
Old-fashioned
Excellent. Good flavor (a hint of something like cardamom), and the best texture of all the old-fashioneds I tried.
Jelly
Awful. The worst jelly donut I've ever had. The donut itself was OK, with a good flavor, but the texture was not good, and the jam was downright disgusting.

Sesame Donuts
Coffee
Good. If I liked darker roasted coffee, I'd rate this a lot higher.
Old-fashioned
Awful. Tastes like old oil.
Jelly
Awful. The donut was powdered! Who does this?!? I haven't seen a powdered jelly donut in ages. theferrett talked about this in his book, The Flux, and I seriously thought we had moved past this as a society. Maybe it's a coastal thing? Anyway, the donut itself had a good texture but was flavorless, and the jelly was OK but there was not enough of it.
rocked my ass off

I did it!

As of today, I am a Master of Physics.

As of today, I start to come out of my 3+ year hibernation and get my life back.

I've been seeing some wonderful signs of renewed life around here, and I hope to start contributing to that soon.
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    jubilant jubilant