More Bus Fun

Warning: Rambling anecdote follows. Proceed at your own risk.

I love riding the bus in new places. It reinforces the power of public transportation when a person unfamiliar with an area can get where they are going without resorting to taxis or calling a friend to pick them up. With the proliferation of online trip planners, finding your way around a non-familiar area is easier than ever. That said, it doesn't always go so smoothly.

Yesterday, I took the train down here to Portland. (My love affair with trains continues, despite them not showing a movie...) Andrew, being the good friend he is, offered to pick me up at the train station. "No," I said. "I'll just hop on a bus." I had done my research before hand (on trimet.org) so I had schedules and routes all documented.

I exit the train station and find my bus stop. There was someone else there, so I quickly confirmed that this is the bus I wanted. We had 20 minutes or so to kill, so we struck up a great conversation*. The bus comes and we go on our way. Trimet buses have reader boards displaying each stop as you pass it, so if you are paying attention, you won't ever miss your stop. I was paying attention.

While I don't know Portland overly well, I've spent enough time to get a general feel for it. From that general feel, I sensed the bus wasn't going in the direction I was hoping to. "Have faith," I told myself. Often buses take meandering routes to get to their destination. When everyone else had gotten off, my faith started running dry. I asked the driver and sure enough, I got on the right bus, but going the wrong way. Alas.

Armed with new directions from the driver, I get off and start trudging to the nearest bus stop. (By this point it is after 10:00). As I am walking away, the driver opens her window and yells, "I got a better idea. Get back on." It turns out that she was officially off duty and returning the bus to the garage, which was in the direction I wanted to go. So she turned on the off-duty sign, made me promise not to tell how fast she drove, and then floored it. In the course of my personal bus ride, she told me her life story, another meaningful conversation with a stranger courtesy of the bus.

I finally made it to my destination, perhaps a little later than I might have, but filled with inspiration from meeting a few good people and an ever renewed sense of appreciation for public transportation.
Friday September 26 2008File under: transportation, travel

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Lopez JuggleFest 2008



This weekend, I hopped out to Lopez Island for the 18th annual Lopez JuggleFest. It was my 5th(?) time attending and this year was as magical as ever. My thoughts from last year still apply: wonder and appreciation at the cooperation, thankfulness, and thoughtfulness shared. Oh, and there is always some kick ass juggling too.

As I was explaining to a friend recently, annual events such as this provide an opportunity for me to notice changes in my life that might have happened slowly enough that, without this chance for comparison from year to year, would go unnoticed. This applies both in a concrete sense (my first lopez festival 6(?) years ago, I had to leave early to get back to a housesitting gig just as I did this year i.e. some things don't change) and more conceptually (the practice of sharing a hug with a [near] stranger has gone from unheard-of-ly uncommon (and uncomfortable) to unremarkably common (and enjoyed) i.e. some things do change).

All this is to say that while my juggling skills got a much needed workout* this weekend, my mind-brain also made a few laps, both in analysis of change and merely of revisiting times past. Next weekend's juggling festival in Portland will be a little more juggling focused and a little less thought-provoking. Stay tuned for a post on that which will be a juggling post actually about juggling.
Sunday September 21 2008File under: juggling

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A Corny Experiment

It is corn season here in the Northwest. There are trailers parked on the side of the road at freeway on-ramps and at various locations across the Skagit flats advertising 6 ears for $1. Here soon, it will undoubtedly drop to 10/$1 when the peak of the season hits and people are starting to get tired of seeing kernels everywhere they look*.

I love corn, esp. when it is so fresh and sweet like we have here. Each year, I tell myself that a) I will try to grow some and 2) I will try to put some away (either by drying or freezing). Every year at my local foods party, I get mad at myself for not having put some up the previous year so as to have local corn meal to try out with new recipes. This year, I'm happy to say, I can check both things off my list.

My attempts at growing corn are proving alright. Nothing staggering, but my little plot will provide a few ears. To get enough for drying, I had to turn to Joe's Garden in Bellingham. At the outrageous price of 3/$1.25, I bought 12* and set to drying. Unfortunately corn season and sun season in the northwest don't conveniently coincide, so I'm having to resort to the oven for drying. We'll see how it goes. If everything goes right, I'll take my knowledge from the garden corn to produce a decent little harvest next year AND have this year's dried corn to turn into corn bread or corn tortillas for next years local foods party.
Friday September 19 2008File under: food

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Soap Box Derby

This weekend, I competed* in the first annual Lookout Arts Center's Off-Road Soap Box Derby near Alger, WA. (Info here.) The whole experience was a hoot – from the dunk tanks and live music, to gravity fueled mayhem, to cliff diving and berry picking*.

My entry was easily the weakest of the 5 derby racers. Everyone else had contraptions either welded together by someone who obviously knew what they were doing, or a converted/modified vehicle of some sort. Me, I had a couple wheels and assorted parts and came up with this beauty. Brakes were a piece of 1x that rubbed up against the wheels and steering was by loose bolts on the front wheel that allowed you to wiggle it from side to side (which is much harder to do while cruising down the course than you might imagine).

By vote of the racers, the course was lengthened to include a gnarly stretch of trail that my horse wasn't build for, so it was no surprise that I didn't even complete the full first run. I did, however, almost make to the bottom, which is much more than I expected. What eventually did me in was a weak axle in the right wheel. The others, however gave us quite a show.

The whole thing was good fun with lots of creativity and enthusiasm. Hopefully next year will bring with it even more racers, more spectators, and more fun. See you there!
Sunday September 14 2008File under: misc, pics

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Longhorn Trivia Revisited

Seven weeks ago, Saxtor, Andrew, and I went and checked out a trivia night at a local bar. (Groundbreaking coverage can be seen here.) Since then, it has been a weekly tradition. The teams are always in flux with whoever happens to be around that particular week, but the fun is always the same. In the 7 weeks, my team has scored 3 first places, 1 second, and 3 fourths. (If it wasn't for the pesky music round, I contend many of those fourths would have been more like seconds or thirds.) Not a bad average considering there are often between 12 and 15 teams competing.

Anyway, to share the joy, as it were, I thought I'd post the visual identification round from this week. How many of these can you solve? (Team Discovery Channel* scored an 8. Hark!) For answers, hover: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
Friday September 12 2008File under: misc

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Mmmmm Bacon

I had bacon for all three meals today. (Yes, my life really is exciting enough right now that this gets its own post.) In my defense, 2, likely 3, of the bacon servings were from local sources. Skagit Slow Foods organizes a meat buying "club" with Skagit River Ranch, making purchasing local meats easy to do*. You just place your order online once a month and then pick it up at a local delivery point. Then you cook it up with two eggs over easy, put it in a tortilla, drizzle some fake maple syrup over it, and enjoy heaven's sweet nectar.

Bacon is becoming quite a theme(/meme) on the interweb these days, so just for the heck of it, I thought I'd throw in a few bacon links.
*25 sizzling hot bacon-inspired MUST-haves for fall
*Bacon reddit (Reddit is a user-submitted list of what's new and interesting on the web*)
*Bacon bra (It's amazing what a simple google image search will turn up.)
Sunday September 7 2008File under: food, misc

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Blackberry Pickin

I like blackberries. They are perhaps my favorite fruit. My like for them comes not only from their taste (which is scrumptious), but also from their egalitarianism. They are available to anyone: no special farming required, no payment for u-picking, no secret locations*. Anyone can just walk to their nearest abandoned lot and likely find more berries than one person could possibly eat.

That's exactly what I did this weekend. The neighbors and I grabbed our bikes and a few tuperware containers and headed for the industrial area of Anacortes, the best location for abandoned lots. Deanna was on a mission to make jam while Logan and I were merely there to fill our maws to the brim. While I picked enough berries to trade for one jar of the resulting jam, I also found time to play a little version of basketball using berries as the ball and my mouth as the basket. (I contend that I am a champion tossed-food catcher. If anyone wants to challenge me, I'm in.)

Anyway, I hope to get at least one more berry picking session in this season. It is a treat that satisfies the taste buds as well as the mind. Yum!.

(Of course there is the whole issue of blackberries being a crazy invasive species and taking over almost any area it comes across, but as far as invasive species go, at least it gives something back to the community it takes so much from.)

((Then there is the song lyrics that always go through my head when out blackberry pickin': Jimmy Buffett's Life Is Just a Tire Swing. ...Blackberry pickin, eatin fried chicken/And I never knew a thing about pain'/Life was just a tire swing))
Monday September 1 2008File under: food, Anacortes

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Friday Comic Hiatus

As some of the more astute readers may have noticed, this morning was the second Friday morning in a row that there was no Friday comic. I'm afraid it won't be the last, either. I've found myself bogged down with work of late and it looks like said workload won't lighten for the next month or so. For the two of you out there that still tune in for the comic, I apologize. I liked doing them probably way more than you liked reading them. As for the rest of you that have become bored with the Friday Comic series, consider this a respite. My hope is that I will return in October(ish) with a few new ones, at least to complete a year's worth. Lord knows I won't be able to keep it up forever.
Friday August 29 2008File under: blog

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Sensational Salt Spring Island

In celebration of 6 fabulous decades of life for our dear old ma, us chilluns organized a trip up to Salt Spring Island Canada for this past weekend. It was a bit cramped with 7 of us staying in a cabin that was built for 4 and all piling into the Subaru* to get around, but hey, if family can't invade each other's personal space then who can?

Anyway, aside from the coziness, it was a great weekend. I've been hearing about Salt Spring Island for quite some time; about its artist communities, its natural beauty, etc. etc. It didn't disappoint. We were deterred by the rain a bit, but we got a hike in, to see the farmer's market, check out the local one screen theatre*, and see the island landscape in general, where views, forrest, and farms abound.

Speaking of farms, our little cottage was on a goat farm, which proved to be good times. They gave us something to watch from the porch and someone to feed our food scraps to. Punksto esp. liked feeding them and, after initially being a bit shy, grew more and more brazen. Then the goat headbutted her. Goats are jerks. (She was scared by it but okay.)

Yeah, Salt Spring Island is pretty neat. You should check it out sometime.
Thursday August 28 2008File under: travel

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Local Foods Party 08

This year marks the 3rd annual local foods party at casa du Wren, et al. (previous coverage: year 1 and year 2). As always, it was fun, inspiring, yummy, educational, communal, and more. This year's festivities were markedly more cozy* than previous years, partially due to improper organization on my part* and partially due to extenuating circumstances*. Nonetheless, it was a great time among friends new and old.

For a comprehensive list of the food and drink served, check out the menu. I will, however, call out a few of my highlights. Firstly, it warmed my pea-picking heart* to see that we had 3 different people include their own homemade butter in their recipes! Butter, along with salt, is always what I tell people about to help explain what this party is all about. I'm so glad the enthusiasm is spreading. (Speaking of butter, here's a picture of me making mine. Excuse the somewhat staged nature of the photo. Ma framed it to showcase her fancy new kitchen.) Along with folks getting on the butter bandwagon, I wasn't the only person to make my own salt this year. Keith's efforts put mine to shame with loads of nice clean salt. (My efforts were carbon neutral, though.)

A few great dishes that are highly worthy of calling attention to:
*Linda's zucchini/mint/[something else green] bisque served cold with goat cheese and tomatoes. In fact, I'm about to go ladle up some leftovers right now!
*Keith's dehydrated onions: as simple as it sounds but way better. Great for munching on before hand (and luckily he left us enough to keep for hikes, etc. too!)
*Goat's milk yogurt dressing: salad dressings have always been an issue in the past. This year, Ma came across local goat's milk yogurt and fashioned it into a great dressing for her summer squash salad. Then River threw together an impromptu dressing for his green salad that turned out great as well.

Yes, it was another great celebration of the season and the place we live. Thanks to all that joined in the fun. To the rest of you, I hope to see you here next year.

(Oh, and some photos from the feast: Ma's description of her dishes, the spread, the chilluns wait patiently to eat while the grown-ups goo and gaw over it all, plated goodness, post-feast mingle time.)
Thursday August 21 2008File under: food, Anacortes

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