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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Very good. Strong, and oddly almost sweet or flavored. I liked it, but I could see it being divisive.
- Good, but weird. The texture was a little soft or even gooey, and there was an odd flavor note, perhaps mint.
- 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.
- Good. A solid roast, good neutral coffee flavor, but slightly watery.
- Good. Slight citrus taste. Seems to rely on the glaze for sweetness, as the body seemed under-sugared.
- 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
- Very good. Solid coffee, but nothing unusual.
- Bad. The donut was unglazed! Not very sweet or flavorful.
- 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.
- Good. A little cooked; probably better when fresh.
- Very good. Mostly chewy, good flavor, and spot-on sweetness.
- Good. Almost enough jam, and the donut itself was good, but it was not super flavorful on the whole.
Tonallis Donuts & Cream
- Good. A nice, medium roast. Nothing exciting and nothing objectionable.
- Very good. A little too sweet for me, and a little too much crunch, but still very good.
- Bad. Too sweet of a jam with not enough flavor. The donut itself tasted good, but the texture was only OK.
- Good. It wasn't burnt. It was slightly watery and slightly bitter.
- Good. The texture was wonderfully chewy and melt-in-your-mouth, but there was an odd, bad flavor to it.
- 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
- Bad. The terrible, burnt crude of a million cliche diner scenes.
- Excellent. Good flavor (a hint of something like cardamom), and the best texture of all the old-fashioneds I tried.
- 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.
- Good. If I liked darker roasted coffee, I'd rate this a lot higher.
- Awful. Tastes like old oil.
- 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.
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.
Yes, I'm still alive. And despite some recent major changes that I would have hoped cure the condition, I'm still stressed out of my mind. So this post is going to focus on the awful. All of the good news (and there is a lot!) will be posted on Sunday.
Work has continued to be crazy. Though it's definitely somewhat calmed down after the Epic Release shipped, these past 2 weeks have been a lot of me doing several other people's work (since the deadline for same was today) and getting shit on for it. So, no more of that. Several other key people have been on vacation or otherwise out of office, which has significantly hampered progress in several key projects.
Because of the above stress, I didn't have time to put together a presentation on my awesome new tool for the Epic Release, and the tech conference (where my worldwide target audience is all in Seattle at the same time) was this past week, so not only did I not get to put on a show, I now have the task of somehow distributing that information. That'll be fun.
I'm also, as of today, officially not taking any courses at UW this quarter, because of the repeated Epic Fail of their bureaucracy. In fact, things are so messed up that I actually have to reapply to the program. No idea how that happened. So it's been nearly a year that I've been trying to go back to school, and I feel like I'm back at square one. Which I am. ARGH!
Off to Canadia for a bit, to visit cow
. Total of 2.5 days in Vancouver, and 4.5 in Toronto. After that, a few more days off for sanity, then my brother comes to stay for a week, and then it's PAX. FUN!!
Things are good, if busier than than they have any right to be. It feels like a mantra at this point, but I keep hoping that the work insanity is over. My non-work backlog is piling up faster than ever. I have decided to trade money for time, and am investigating ways to implement that. We'll see how that goes.
But I have been doing many fun things as well! Lots of local(-ish) travel has been done, visiting random parts of the city, even if just to take a walk. I've gone to more Belltown restaurants this month than some previous years (although one of my all-time faves, 94 Stewart, has now closed its doors). Even had a (somewhat) surprise trip to Portland a month ago, mostly to see Star Trek in the Park (a group of actors do an amazing job putting on a low-budget reenactment of an ST:TOS episode, and this year's was "Mirror, Mirror"; how could I miss that?). Got to see the Seattle version of same (except with "This Side of Paradise") just today with ctseawa
Many more travelings are happening as well! Going to visit cow
in Toronto in a few weeks, and have some days in Vancouver on both sides of that. Still hoping for a week long San Francisco/Phoenix trip sometime in September/October, but that hasn't been planned yet. But the big adventure for November/December has been booked! I am so excited! I'll be taking the Empire Builder from here to Chicago (a full 2-day trip), spending a week there with my sister (and hopefully her newborn daughter; I'm going to be an uncle!!!), then take the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to Boston, and spend a bunch of time on the east coast. I'll be back in PA for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and flying back here (first class! on miles!) for New Year's, but expect to be staying with my brother in the North End of Boston for a good chunk of late November and early-mid December, including during the LISA conference. Further dates and scheduling can be had via email!
In other fun times, I have finally, in my 4th year of trying, been able to procure many pounds of sour cherries (aka pie cherries), to turn into drunken cherries. I now have four lovely Ball canning jars of red awesomeness slowly maturing in the bottom of my closet; they (and their liqueur) should be ready just around the time I get back from my holiday travels above. Woo!
Well, that's all for now. Hope to see you soon!
One of the groups that I'm part of is meeting up for the Seattle Pride Parade. They're meeting at "Westlake Plaza, in front of the Lush, across the street from Sephora." How's that for landmarks? :D
Suspect problems receiving email on my main accounts; if you've sent me something anytime after early morning of 6/10, I probably haven't gotten it yet. Updates as events warrant. If you've gotten a bounce or non-delivery warning, please let me know.
The day started off with a comedy of errors. Despite the busy days before, I had sufficiently packed, and was able to get up early enough for the train. The bus I wanted to take to the station ended up leaving 7 minutes early, but no big deal, another (involving a slightly longer walk) was supposed to be along shortly. It didn't show. As didn't several other buses that the arrival app said had come and gone. It turns out that due to the haze of insufficient sleep, I was waiting on 2nd Ave, not 3rd. Oops. OK, fine, walk to the bus tunnel, and just miss another bus. Ended up waiting several more minutes for another bus to take me down to King Street Station, only 15 minutes later than I wanted. However, between the holiday weekend and the fact that one of the two ticket machines was down, the station was 10x crazier than I'd ever seen it, and that was almost not enough time to get ticketed and on the train. Yay once again for booking business class. While pulling out of the station, we stopped to let more passengers on. I'm not completely convinced that some people weren't left there, what with the crazy lines, but I guess I'll never know.
The ride down was pleasant and uneventful, and despite the late departure we actually pulled into Portland early. And this is where the second round of break downs began to occur. I'd only had a flimsy breakfast on the train (not enough time to get a good one before boarding), and I was very much in the mood to complete the task. Walked down to the Bijou Cafe (one of my usual spots), and it was packed out the door. Walk a few blocks south down to Mother's, which is even busier. OK, well, Yelp recommends a particular brunch-oriented food truck; nope, it's closed for the holiday weekend. *sigh* Fine, Flavourspot now has a downtown location, so I'll take the MAX over that way. Whoops! Yelp's/Google's map is completely wrong
(though the listed address is correct) and the actual location is 12 blocks in the other direction, within sight of the Bijou Cafe where I started. ARGH! Fine, they're open, and they're not out of sausage! But they are out of lemon curd! And they don't take credit cards anymore! DAMMIT. As it happens, I had $9 in cash (only because the tunnel bus in Seattle was free!) and another $1.25 in change, which was precisely enough for a sausage/maple waffle, a Black Forest (nutella and jam) waffle, and a small coffee. So, breakfast, finally, and only just barely*
Things got a lot better from there. Checked in to the hotel, did a bit of relaxing and planning my days, and headed off for some shopping. I randomly ran across the store for Moonstruck Chocolates, which I had attempted to visit in the past, given their rave reviews. Thanks to a generous sample policy, I can say that their caramels were disappointing, but their alcohol-enhanced truffles are amazing! I bought a few of those (scotch, cognac, and port) and a hazelnut praline truffle to take home, as well as a small cup of their caramel malt hot chocolate. That last was good, but not great. If I go there again, I'll definitely try their dark hot chocolate.
From there, it was off to Clear Creek Distillery for another sort of tasting. As it happens, that was one of the two days a year they do a tour of the facility, which was a nice little bonus. It was especially interesting hearing the details of the distilling process, and all of the fun things that they use the "head" of each batch (which is mostly methanol) for. They mentioned that their "scotch" whiskey will be bottled in late June, which I made specific note of. Got to try another small portion of their offerings, and ended up buying some raspberry and loganberry liqueurs, as well as mini-bottles of some things to try later. Bussed it back to downtown, did some more shopping, and dropped all my acquisitions back at the hotel.
Dinner was, as planned, a multi-stage affair. First stop: Blueplate, an old-timey soda fountain place, which, in addition to phenomenal homemade sodas, also serves delicious, petite meals for cheap. I sat at the counter, and chose the beef stroganoff, which I got to see cooked up right in front of me (by the very attractive Chef Jeff). For a beverage, I went with the "Purple Haze", a sweet-tart number full of star anise, allspice, and hibiscus. Both are recommended! Second was Mother's, for their mac-and-cheese of the day. Sadly, though, that day's was ham, mushroom, and swiss cheese, which somehow wasn't working for me, so I headed right over to stop number three: Widmer Gastropub. Now, Portland has no shortage of brewpubs, each seemingly better than the last. Sadly, though not unexpectedly, they were sold out of the amazing, amazing mead I had last time, so I had to "settle" for a hot pretzel with cheese fondue and a pint of their Drop Top Ale. As good as Widmer is, it doesn't displace my current favorite of Deschutes; I like the beers at Widmer a bit better, but their food is that same litlle bit inferior. I'm sure I'll be back to both!
Since I wasn't able to indulge in some mead, there was enough time to head back downtown for another soda at Blueplate. This time, a Hawaiian Sunset: coconut cream and pineapple, with a strawberry sunset. Yum. Ended up having a huge conversation with Chef Jeff, keeping him a half hour past closing, comparing transit/rail politics between Seattle and Portland. Which... I don't think I have words for how awesome that was.
The last planned stop of the evening was Ground Kontrol, which have completed their renovations from the last time I was there. Their new place is clearly TRON-inspired (blue el-wire, glowing geometric shapes hung from the ceiling, white illuminated glass-top tables), but it's definitely not overdone; upon further inspection, for example, the shapes I mentioned resemble a collection of n-sided dice instead of Bit. It was also much more difficult to get around in than I ever remember (not that it was ever trivial), but that may have been due to the massive crowd. Glad to see them doing so well! Had a great time playing a bunch of Frogger, Pac-Man, Burgertime, and Mappy; Tempest wasn't working, though.
On the way back to the hotel, on a whim I stopped at another waffle food truck I'd spied earlier, which is where I got my apple/caramel/whipped cream concoction I posted about earlier. It was great! The waffle was a different style from Flavorspot, but no less delicious. I almost can't call them a competitor, their serving approaches are so different. After that, it was an early turn-in for me.
Sunday was a deliberately slower-paced day. Got up around 10, showered, packed, stored my bags, and headed for breakfast at the Bijou Cafe. Wait was not as bad as yesterday, and it only ended up being about 20 minutes. The food was just what I wanted: scrambled eggs, house-made sausage, salad, and whole-wheat toast with jam. Glorious. The sausage patty, though, had some stray bacon on the bottom, which was sufficiently tasty to get me to order a side of it separately. This was an error; it cost $6 for 4 pieces (my whole rest of my breakfast was $8.75), and took 23 minutes to arrive. Won't make that mistake again.
Headed off to the MAX station to check out the stop at the Zoo: it's North America's deepest underground train station, and the station itself is really neat! It has, encased in glass, one of the core samples they took to excavate the station, and it's all annotated with the layers of rock and different bits of art and scientific exposition and whatnot. Took the elevator to the surface (it shows your current height above sea level instead of floor numbers), walked around for a bit, and headed back downtown. Went to Powell's for some book hunting (came away with only 3 new books: The City & The City by China Miéville, and Pattern Recognition and Spook Country by William Gibson), and then headed over to the east side of the city for some sightseeing. I wanted to hunt down the location of the coffee shop from the Portlandia sketch "Harajuku Girls". I found it! :) It was closed. :( Ah, well, I still got a picture. The neighborhood was interesting. Cute, but much lower density than I was expecting, based both on my experience of things like the Pearl District and the listing of businesses that I saw. Also, I continue to be amazed at Portland's bike infrastructure.
Next was Voodoo Doughnut. As it happens, their downtown location is closed for remodeling, but their other Portland location was right in the neighborhood. And, man, was it popular: the line was out the door. It moved quickly, though, and it ended up being only about a 40 minute wait. Got a bunch of really good stuff! Dinner was at the nearby Fire on the Mountain, home of the best buffalo wings I've found on the west coast. The tater tots are a nice addition, too! Took another bus back downtown, got questioned 8 different times about the Voodoo Doughnuts box in my hands ("Yeah, it's about 20 blocks that way." "Oh, nevermind."), and gathered my belongings at the hotel.
As luck would have it, I was running a bit early, so time for a delightful little latte at Backspace, just to cap things off. While waiting in line, I spied a postcard
with some very nice art of Spock looking into a mirror at Evil Spock, with the quote "Conquest is easy, control is not". Intrigued, I flipped it over.
O. M. G. They're
doing a *live* performance of the ST:TOS episode "Mirror, Mirror". Apparently this is a thing
. I'm told that these people put massive effort into it, and it's actually impressively good! Immediately, I decided I must see it, and given the Clear Creek bottling, the dates work out, so I'll likely be back in Portland the weekend of 7/9. Because how could I not?
Yay for Portland!*
First world problems of the now.
Groupon, a while back, had a deal for what amounted to a half-price round-trip ticket to Victoria on the Clipper. I'd wanted to take the Clipper, since it seemed the very definition of convenience: I could walk to the pier where it leaves from, and it drops you off right in the harbor in downtown Victoria. Indeed it was convenient; however, the trip itself was boring. I'd really been hoping for more, but 30 knots is just not that fast, subjectively on the water, and the weather was cloudy so there wasn't tons to look at. The ship itself was nice, but nothing really noteworthy. The coffee was good, and cheap, so that was a plus, and customs and immigration on both sides was the best I've been through. The trip was relatively fast, convenient, not crazy expensive, and it seems safe, so while I likely won't be deliberately seeing out another trip, I certainly wouldn't object to taking it again. Next time, though, I think I'll try Kenmore Air. It's faster and supposed to be picturesque, though significantly more expensive.
Victoria was nice! The weather on Saturday rebelled against the forecast of solid cloud cover and was actually sunny and fairly warm. I'd waited too long to get a cheap decent room, so I splurged on the hotel rather than settle for something mediocre. Checked in, walked around a bit to re-familiarize myself with the area, and tried to do some shopping. Several stores I'd planned on revisiting, however, have closed up in the intervening months; shops in Victoria seem to have lifespans more commonly associated with fruit flies than retail establishments. However, both the British candy shops were still there, so I bought many, many imported items. Best were Hula Hoops
(vaguely in the potato-chip sphere of snacks, but ring-shaped), Irn Bru, a Double Decker candy bar
, and Orange Kit-Kats. I was cruelly tricked by the "flying saucers" they had; they seemed to be these saucer-shaped wafer things from my childhood, but instead of the sprinkle-like hard candy I expected inside, there was a disgusting powder. Ugh.
Did more shopping and walking around, and went to go pick up the car I'd reserved. My main destination was the Merridale Cidery
, where I previously had been with cow
. I did another round of tastings, but decided to not walk away with any of their typical cider products. Instead, I went for their distilled stuff. I bought several bottles of their "Winter Apple Cider", which is what I describe as "apple pie in a glass". It was very, very good, although not quite the nigh-orgasmic experience that I recalled from last time. I also bought a few bottles of their "Pomme Oh!", which is an apple cider augmented with cider brandy. Not nearly as sweet as a usual dessert wine, but quite lovely; I suspect it would be best with some medium cheddar.
Sat at their patio a while, snacking, and enjoying the view. From there, it was down to the other cidery on Vancouver Island, Sea Cider
. I'd read about them in some magazine or other, and have had the clipping on my fridge for nearly 2 years. They are a rather different operation than Merridale. While Merridale appears to be a more down-to-earth place, with actual operational equipment, and a clearly added-on dining area which is deliberately a little rough, Sea Cider looks like a converted farm house, with an expansive, well-tailored dining room, with 6 long communal tables taking up the majority of the public space. They have a decent selection of edibles to pair with their ciders, but since I was driving I couldn't really do a meal and drink, so I had to be content with some bread and local sausage, and small samples of less than half of their cider selection. The cider was good, but not really great, and I think that this points out another difference between them and Merridale: the latter is also a distillery, while Sea Cider isn't, so most of Merridale's ciders are the usual, classic styles, and their experimentation seems to be among their distilled products, but Sea Cider has many, many more esoteric styles of cider. Unfortunately, most did not live up to their billing; the English style was good, but nothing special, and the "rum-style" cider was overpowered by the additional flavors. I decided not to try to make another trip up the next day to try the rest of the menu, and only brought home two of their sweeter ciders.
Rested for quite a while to make sure it was OK to drive, and then headed back downtown to return the car. I wanted dinner, but when I went to the possible places I'd picked out, none seemed that appetizing; either it was too crowded/noisy, or the menu didn't have anything that looked good, or it was crazy expensive. So in the end I happened upon one of cow
's recommendations, Siam Thai. Had a very, very good stir fry, and the super hot Thai boys a few tables over didn't hurt the experience any, either. Next up was Canoe: one of my favorite brewpubs in Victoria. They were sold out of their BBQ sliders, which was a big letdown, but the edamame was quite good, and (to continue the theme from earlier in the day) I had some Rock Creek Cider, which was better than I expected. The scenery at Canoe was nicer than usual, but the place was louder and more obnoxious than usual also, so I quickly headed out. From there, I made a stop at one of the small bits of LGBT nightlife in Victoria: The Ledge. This was actually a very interesting find. It's a hotel bar that's also a gay bar. Hello, Canada! It was nice! A medium-size space, tucked away at the back of the second floor mezzanine, with a bar, tables and chairs, TVs, a pool table, fair alcohol selection at (relative to the rest of the city) very reasonable prices, and some absolutely adorable bartenders (a cute, impossibly thin man, and a super-cute friendly little baby dyke woman). It was a wonderful little out-of-the-way place for people to gather, and there was certainly a good cross section present. My favorite were the group of people in essentially full leathers, who it turned out were in town and dressed up for a wedding! Squee!!!
Even though it was only 10:30pm, I was dead, so I walked back to the hotel for an early bedtime. Got up very early the next morning, as planned, and headed out for a long stroll around the harbor areas. Found a great little coffee shop by the docks for a quick bite to eat, and kept going along the edge of the island. The rain had really started up in earnest by this point, though, and my Seattle Sombrero could barely keep up. I walked out to the jetty they have which serves as a breakwater for the naval base there, and juts out a fair bit into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It's a popular place for the locals to walk and jog and fish, and there were several people doing each of those even that early and in that weather. Walked back to the hotel, about 2 hours after I'd left (it was a nice, long walk!) and was thoroughly drenched. Peeled off my clothes, put on my bathing suit and hotel robe, and put my clothing in the dryer while I took a soak in the hottub. *bliss* I need to get one of those installed in my apartment as soon as possible.
Gathered my belongings, headed back up to the room to shower and change, checked out, and left my bags behind while I checked out another spot that cow
had mentioned to me: Three Mile Pub. The place was trivially easy to get to, a half-hour bus ride from downtown stops just down the road from the pub. (As an aside, the bus was a gorgeous double-decker bus that ran every fifteen minutes from downtown on a Sunday; why can't *we* have nice things?) The brunch buffet was.... decent. For C$16, it was good. Some things were missable, but the Eggs Benedict were actually quite tasty, and there was certainly enough variety to keep me sated. The beers may have helped in that regard as well. :) That said, while I certainly wouldn't hesitate to go back again, I won't be rushing there either. It was nice, but the place just had an underwhelming, everyday appearance about it; certainly nothing out of the ordinary, as I imagined "The Oldest Pub in BC" would merit. Glad I went, though.
When back in downtown, it was another long walk all throughout the streets, in a vain attempt to work off the feast. Stopped in a variety of shops, trying to support several neat comics/toys/gaming/geekery shops which have sprung up in a little cluster on the northwest part of the business district. Bought a copy of V for Vendetta, and a big black plush Angry Bird, which now graces my cubicle at work. (Even before purchasing it, I was wondering how long it would be before some coworker lobbed it at another. The correct answer of "less than 30 seconds" surprised even me.) Kept walking around, doing a careful east-west walk while slowly making my way south, back towards the hotel, exploring the little hidden corners and the striking architecture. Unfortunately, I once again missed the Tilley Endurables shop before they closed. I shall have to make a point of visiting the one in Vancouver when next I visit there.
Grabbed a sandwich to pack for dinner on the boat, and then headed off for a small to-go order at Tim Hortons. While I had carefully been keeping track of my Canadian money, down to just over a dollar at this point, Tim Hortons stymied me by not taking my VISA credit card, so I had to pay for my 6 donuts with a US $20, leaving me with nearly that much in a variety of CAD coins. *sigh* Well, it's not like I won't be back again soon, I suppose.
The trip back on the Clipper was just as uneventful as the trip in, and it puts me back in the US just blocks from home. Success!
Things that Portland seems to have more of than Seattle:
- Food trucks
- Light Rail
- TRON-styled video game arcades
- aggressive people on the street
- Bachelorette parties
- Self-righteous Young Republicans
- Very loud police cars
There doesn't seem to be a clear winner here.
Also, I am enjoying a fresh, delicious hot waffle with apples, caramel, and whipped cream, and I thought you should know that.
Just as everyone is landing in SEA, apparently, I'm off to PDX for the weekend. This is a rescheduled trip from last month; previously it was supposed to be the whole 3-day weekend, but I wasn't really feeling that. When Amtrak wanted the princely sum of $1 to make it a 2-day weekend, that was good enough for me. So, I'll be back Sunday night, and get all of Monday to just rest.
Hopefully I'll have enough time on the train to type up a whole bunch of LJ posts; goodness knows there's been enough to write about.
God dammit, I thought I was done with 14-hour work days on weekends. I guess not.
I fucking better get my promotion this fall.
Things were more sane today, even if my stomach is trying to rebel. Also, my email is working again.
This was such an up-and-down weekend. I wasn't in the mood to get ready for a trip, so I canceled my PDX plans (yay Amtrak!), and tried to actually be productive. And I was. Kinda. But, man, this was really the weekend of bad timing. IDK. My head is still spinning.
Some good things did happen though, so I'll concentrate on those. I cataloged my wine purchases from last weekend; got some bottles I'm definitely looking forward to popping someday. Did some shopping, explored a little more of the city, finished one important bit of car maintenance, finally finished the bad-then-good-then-awful book I was reading, and had some easter candy (peeps!!!). Saturday was a brilliant spring day, so I took a lovely walk all the way down to the port, and stopped in one of my favorite bars for some delicious sake. I've also been continuing to massively, thoroughly enjoy the view out my window.
The best thing, though, was this morning's breakfast. A while back, Flying Fish (which was a fantastic seafood restaurant, about 3 blocks from me, and open late to boot) decided to migrate up to the SLU neighborhood. This was a great loss to Belltown, IMHO. Not long after their departure, a vast construction swarm covered the building. Now, for some reason I cannot convincingly explain, I would have sworn that it was being turned into another warmed-over frat-boy bar of the sort that already infest these lands, and so mentally wrote it off. But, as I was clued in to via The Stranger, this is not the case. Instead, it's another restaurant. An *awesome* restaurant called Local 360. I passed up the easter-themed specials (ham steak, or rabbit hash) for the chicken-fried steak and eggs, and it was marvelous. It didn't come with the sausage and milk gravy I'm used to; rather, it sported a tangy mushroom based gravy, and it was worth every penny of its very reasonable price. Coffee was hot and tasty, and service was prompt. Best of all, the place wasn't insanely crowded, even despite the glowing Stranger review. I think it's a keeper!