Starbucks are everywhere. I've been around the world and seen them in some unexpected places (like the Forbidden City (although it looks like they are about to be banned)). While on the one hand, I think it represents a company that has found its niche by creating a product/service that people really want, I have a hard time getting behind some of their other business practices. Those with similar reservations might be interested in this tool, created by a friend, which helps you find alternative local coffee shops*. But I digress....
If you stand at 15th and Commercial Ave. in Anacortes, WA, you will be within 3 blocks of 3, count them, 3 Starbucks; two of them are within 1.5 blocks of each other! To be fair, 2 of the 3 are inside grocery stores, which, I guess, makes it a little easier to understand, but still...
Anyway, in all my travels, I haven't seen quite this density anywhere else. Does this make Anacortes an anomaly in that way? Can we start adding that to our travel brochures to entice those SUV driving, suburb dwellers (or whomever it is that keeps Starbucks going) to visit Anacortes?* Tell me, have you ever seen a higher number of Starbucks stores nestled together?
|Sunday September 23 2007||File under: Anacortes, misc|
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|Sometimes a tiny step can take you to a world away. This point was well illustrated to me as I hopped on the ferry and journeyed out to Lopez for their annual jugglefest. Within the minutes of getting off the ferry, there were strangers hugging strangers in introduction and conversations of the 3 "D"s of Taoism. I couldn't help but note that experiences like these, which are far from my normal practices, are the norm for some people and they would be equally as unaccustomed to being told to shush when Alex is reading the clue for final Jeopardy*. Anyway, it felt good to be exposed to this different style of life.
But enough with the esoteric crap, let's now discuss the festival. The Lopez JuggleFest ranks right up at the top of my list of favorite juggling events. It is held all outdoors* with camping on site. The property consists of a great big lawn for juggling with a beautiful garden (from which comes a portion of the big meal), a great campfire circle, fruit trees, and a lake nearby for swimming. The atmosphere is laid back with cooperation and community oozing* from every person. Everyone pitches in to make the big Saturday meal. In the years past, I have been on cider squishing and ice cream cranking patrol, but this year I got to do the salmon marinade. When the first line on the "recipe" calls for 6 quarts of soy sauce, you know it is going to be a feast!
The highlight for most first time attendees is the naked fire juggling*. I, myself, tend to shy away from participation in this tradition. I'll leave that to the pros.
Yep, a weekend away from my little bubble is a good thing. My mind has been going non-stop since (hence the disarray of this post.)
|Wednesday September 19 2007||File under: juggling|
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|By now, anyone who reads this blog knows that I am a bit of an eco-geek: I like public transit, local foods, solar energy, etc. When the opportunity to attend the Pacific Northwest Clean Energy Expo* arose, you shouldn't be surprised that I didn't pass it up.
The expo was held at the Seattle Center Pavilion. The room was split space-wise equally between alternative-fuel vehicles and booths with products for your home. Additionally, there was a podium and seating for the various lecturers scheduled throughout the day.
The vehicles were very interesting. While there was nothing overly cutting edge represented (like that oh-so-sexy Tesla), there were some home-brew electric cars, factory electric cars, bio-diesels, and "neighborhood" cars. One of the speakers was the president of the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association, who I caught after the presentation to further delve into the details of converting a gas powered vehicle into an electric*. The general gist I got from all the vehicle stuff was to do anything truly alternative, it will cost you.
The home booths ranged from tankless water heaters to solar panel salesmen. In talking with the representatives, it seemed like they were more there to transact business than discuss the finer points of energy savings with a non-homeowning eco-geek, but I got a few concepts clarified. My favorite booth, however, was a little old(ish)* lady who had made up her own guide to transportation in the north Puget Sound area. It has rate and schedule information on all transportation choices from public transit (SKAT, WTA, Island Transit, etc.) to Greyhound, Amtrak, and the Airporter. She and I chatted for a good long while.
While the Expo didn't blow me away with the latest and greatest, it gave me the opportunity to see what is actually available consumer-wise, hear about what type of projects people are pursuing on their own, and filled me with motivation, enthusiasm, and inspiration that you get by being surrounded by like minded people.
|Sunday September 16 2007||File under: environment|
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We all know you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose (whether you can pick your friend's nose is completely up to them), but I am now giving you the opportunity to pick your blog post. I have 3 blog posts here, none of which are fit for a post of their own (we do have some standards here at BdW). To a certain people, any of the three items could be of interest. Chances are, all of them won't be of interest to everyone. With that in mind, I allow you to choose one of the follow posts to read and enjoy.
Referrer URLs: A study in how people find BdW
A Year of Underemployment
Lost Images Found: Underwater pictures from la isla bonita
Choose wisely, my friends.
|Wednesday September 12 2007||File under: work, travel|
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|The most exciting [blogable*] activity from my latest trip to Las Vegas was a visit to the neon museum, a non-profit whose mission it is to collect, restore, and display signs from Las Vegas's past. The museum is still in its beginning stages, so the tour was less of a museum and more of a tour of a fenced-in gravel lot. But that doesn't mean it was any less cool*.
So besides "museum" being somewhat of a misnomer, at least currently, the focus on "neon" also doesn't necessarily stand true. Many, if not most, of the signs in the boneyard are pre-neon, or at least pre-neon-overload. In my book, that makes it all the better, as it is reminiscent of the old timey Vegas before its over-the-top consumerism* as seen here.
Putting these two denotive-nitpickyisms aside, I can't recommend the boneyard highly enough. The place seems to come alive with the stories from the tour guide of the history of a certain casino chain's font choice and the pre-WWII rivetless construction style. And while they have kind of a discouraging photo policy, I managed to snap a few good shots. Read on for more reactions and photos.
|Sunday September 9 2007||File under: travel, pics|
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|You all know about geocaching, right? (If you don't, short version: it's a treasure hunt using global position system; long version: read this.) You all know about the time I was on that mostly deserted island in the middle of the Pacific, right? (If you don't, short version: I spent 3 months with the Nature Conservancy on Palmyra Atoll, a tiny island 1000 miles south of Hawaii; long version: ask me about it sometime, but make sure you've got at least an hour to spare.)
Good, now that we're all on the same page, I can begin. While on Palmyra, I placed a geocache. Part of the draw of geocaching, for me, is going to places you might not otherwise go. I say, the more isolated, the better (most of the time). With that thought in mind, I figured my geocache on Palmyra would be much appreciated for any nerdos like myself who happened to be passing through. What I didn't anticipate, however, is how long it would be before it was first found.
Two and half years after posting the coordinates on the internet, someone finally found Palmyra: No worries atoll. (There were two pseudo-finds before that, but none that actually involved finding the thing.) I was overjoyed to get the notification that it had been found. I was starting to think maybe the sharks had grown legs and plundered it. The finder's comments take me back to those shirtless days of swimming with sharks, obliviousness to the outside world, and total immersion in the natural world around me.
Anyway, in a shameless ploy to make this post interesting for those who don't care about geocaching*, here are some pictures from near the geocache on Palmyra: me on the rope swing at the swimming hole, solar shower* constructed by yours truly in an old dilapidated relic of a building.
|Saturday September 8 2007||File under: geocaching, pics|
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In hopes of avoiding the crazy crowds (and prices) of Labor Day weekend in Las Vegas, I thought it might be fun to check out Laughlin, Nevada. Afterall, when all you are looking for is air-conditioned large spaces with flashy lights and all-you-can-eat buffets, one Nevada "resort" town is as good as any other, right?
As it turns out, Laughlin was a great place to pass a day (although any more than that and you would be pushing it). There was a pleasant path along the river that passed in and out of the casinos (which is a good thing because if you tried to walk the whole thing (a whopping half mile), you would prolly die of heat stroke). The highlight for us was probably the Colorado Belle (pictured above). It was a river boat themed casino that did a great job of giving you the impression of being on a river boat. I even felt on the edge of seasickness a few times.
To complete our tour of Laughlin, we did a few geocaches on both sides of river*. We also had lunch in a great little riverside park while watching the scads of ski-dooers ski-doo (on their ski-doos).
Yep, if you are looking for a cheap relaxing mini-vacation, give Laughlin a try. If you have any class or are looking for something fancy where your stories will hold your friends' and family's attention, you might want to keep looking. Case in point.
|Wednesday September 5 2007||File under: travel|
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|I would wager that at least half of you, at some point in your life, have wanted to live in a tree house. Perhaps the desire has waned since you were, say, 12, but let me tell you: One night in a properly built tree house (complete with inter-tree rope bridge) will rekindle that dream.
Recently, I had a chance to briefly live that dream. My travel schedule* required me to pass a night in Bellingham. In asking around for a place to stay, a friend suggested that I might sleep in his tree house. I was hesitant at first, because if it is anything like the few tree houses I have built over the years, morning would find me lying on the ground with broken 2x4s all around and an extremely sore back.
Anyhoo, after watching a lovely sunset from Boulevard Park and crashing a party where I knew absolutely no one, I made my way through the complete darkness to find this arboreal masterpiece. I can't say enough good things about the place: hard wood floors, french doors opening onto a gorgeous view of the pond, and christmas lights to complete the magical aura. It has completely rekindled my desire to spend my nights high off the ground. This is the view I had while falling asleep. (Oh, the one glitch in the evening was the puma* that was audibly stalking around the roof to find an opening to come in and devour me.)
Anyway, keep your eyes out for good tree house trees. I'm officially in the market.
|Tuesday September 4 2007||File under: misc|
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|I've been a Jimmy Buffett fan of varying degrees for the past 10 years or so. His music has saved me from completely losing my sanity one summer when I was stuck behind a copy machine 40 hours a week, transported me away from my gloomy cubicle in the middle of a Washington winter (via radio margaritaville), and inspired real life travels to tropical places. So when it came to looking for a place to eat on the Las Vegas strip recently, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to check out the Margaritaville Cafe.
At the outset, I was somewhat skeptical of it being overly cliche and having the marketing shoved down our throats, but in the end, I was pleasantly surprised. While the music was a little loud, it was good*. There were guys on stilts walking around making balloon hats, which gave everything a kind of party atmosphere. Then, once an hour, a bikini clad lady emerged from a volcano, slid down a water slide, and ended in an extremely oversized margarita glass. It was quite a spectacle.
Besides the carnival atmosphere, the food was really good. I couldn't pass up ordering the cheeseburger in paradise. While it wasn't the best cheeseburger I've ever had, it was pretty dang good. Emily had a salad with onion and cucumber relish, bbq sauce, candied pecans, and fried chicken. While it sounded a little out there, it was actually really good.
Yep, good music, good food, and good atmosphere = a dang good evening.
|Monday September 3 2007||File under: travel, food|
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1. A pen: This is the single most indispensable thing for me when I travel. You never know when you'll need to fill out border declaration forms, copy down phone numbers, schedules, or addresses, or give your number to a sexy flight attendant*.
2. A crossword puzzle: Not only does a crossword work great for killing those minutes spent waiting for your bus to come, your food to come, or a late friend to arrive, but it also functions as a great notepad for phone numbers, addresses, schedules, todos, travel observations, and more. I always try to carry single sided crosswords when I travel just for this reason. Looking over the notes taken on the back of them when you return from your trip is always a hoot. (Oh, and I guess Sudorkus could work in a pinch.)
3. Reading material: For the waits that are longer than a few minutes, having a book/magazine/travel guide handy can greatly help pass the time. The one thing that is guaranteed* in travel is that you will always have down time. Paperbacks works great and can often be exchanged with other travelers you meet along the way.
4. Camera: I try to keep my camera handy while traveling, but not to the point of being one of those guys*. You never know when a good shot will present itself. I take pictures not only to remember my trip later, but also to share my travels with my friends and family (via this blog of course. Who actually looks at printed pictures anymore?).
5. Ear plugs: Those $.50 yellow thingies you squish up and jam in your ears can be a lifesaver for flights with crying babies, shared hostel rooms with snorers, or time when you just want to block everything out. I rarely go anywhere with a pair of these handy.
6. Spare change: Having a dollar or two of spare change can save lots of headaches when traveling. Many public transportation systems require exact change (or at least don't give change), vending machines are often the only choice for a quick meal before hopping on a bus, some fountains simply require having a wishing penny thrown in, and for the 11 people left in the world without a cell phone*, public pay phones rarely accept dollar bills.
7. Fork and spoon: While these don't lend themselves well to air travel*, they are great to have around when exploring new places. Often times when you are trying to travel on the cheap, the grocery store provides meals. Eating yogurt with a spoon is much easier than eating it with an expired driver's license. (Using your own utensils is also a great way to avoid sending more plastic to the land fill.)
|Wednesday August 29 2007||File under: travel, misc|
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