Pike Place Brewery

With a spare half hour downtown, I enjoyed a Pike Place IPA. The Pike Place Brewery sits underneath the Economy Market Atrium, to the south of the main market.

The beer was delicious, and was poured one-handed.

DHS FOIA Request

In October, I made a Freedom of Information Act request of the Department of Homeland Security, to ask for records referencing me in DHS databases.

The response took a bit over three months to come back, and included 83 pages. Many pages were simple records of my comings and goings. Some pages offer a paragraph of detail that explains the result of a secondary immigration screening.

This page is the APIS data that Northwest Airlines sent to the DHS in advance of a commercial flight from Kitchener-Waterloo to Detroit.

The Christmas Story

Dick Bruna's illustrated Christmas story is read each year prior to my family's Christmas Eve dinner. (This year's dinner was held a week early to accommodate a celebration with my other family.)

The hardcover, originally published in 1964, has significantly appreciated in value.

Columbian Lime Flask

This is a fancy flask for lime (calcium hydroxide), seen at the Gold Museum in Bogota. Coca leaves are usually chewed with lime, as its basic pH aids in liberating the alkaloids from the leaf.

Modern betel nut consumers use lime for the same purpose, though they haven't yet crafted such a fine container for their lime.

SR520 Winter Dawn

A few minutes earlier, the sunrise looked completely different. Sadly, I was queued on Montlake Blvd then.

The resident bald eagle chose to pick the artwork on the north side of the bridge for his roost, and so evaded this picture.

LAX Qantas Dawn Arrival

VH-OEB is a Qantas 747-400 called Phillip Island. Here she is after landing at dawn into LAX, likely from either Melbourne (via Auckland) or Sydney.

She's headed east on taxiway E, and headed for a gate at the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Mt Si in Winter

Mt. Si manages to miss much of the snow of the Cascades due to geography; most moist air can find its way further eastward before being forced out as snowfall.

It is a brisk 3200ft climb, and offers spectacular views west to Seattle. Mt. Si featured prominently in Twin Peaks, as it looms over North Bend, where many scenes were filmed (including the title screen).

Driftwood Fort

Growing up involved numerous glorious trips to the beach. West coast beaches frequently offer a generous assortment of construction materials, and on many occasions I found myself constructing a driftwood fort.

Walking along the beach in Discovery Park, I found a particularly plush fort awaiting my exploration. This driftwood fort featured floorboards, room enough for an adult to get inside, and a superior west-facing view. The craftsmanship was superb.

Why Hello Mr Jefferson

I love the US $2 bill.

When a temporary Bing Cashback rate of 15% allowed the purchase on eBay of uncirculated and sequential notes for less than face value, I jumped at the chance. These bills haven't seen much daylight since being turned out by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and still bear the original straps around bundles of 100 notes.

This is a nice variation of the US Mint Direct Ship scheme for earning frequent flyer miles, but with the subsidy being borne by eBay and Microsoft (instead of the Treasury).

Christmas Lights

The weekend after (US) Thanksgiving is the time to start arranging Christmas decorations. With a few strings handed down from my parents (who have gone all-LED this year), I chose to decorate an azalea and the cottoneaster by the steps. Across the bottom is the light reflecting off the roof of my car.

Winter Is Coming

Time to scrape the ice off the car.

This camellia in the front yard will have no trouble through the winter. However, the Norfolk Pine Christmas tree I picked up recently advised "for indoors only," and for good reason. It has no tolerance for frost, and will have to stay a houseplant.

Fernando Botero, Bogota

Fernando Botero is a Columbian artist, notable for sculpting and painting fat people and animals. If you think that a sparrow must be by nature skinny and frail, take a look at Botero's sculptures.

This 1998 painting, "Guerillas de Eliseo Velásquez", is in the fantastic Museo Botero in Bogota, Columbia. My photo shows color a bit more richly than the museum's collection listing.

Camp Pendleton

Camp Pendleton is a Marine Corps base, stuck between the I5 along the Pacific ocean, and the coastal mountain range. It has a huge cache of military helicopters sitting out in the California sun.

It's also a strategic site for locating the San Clemente Border Patrol interior checkpoint, which is cheerfully documented for all in a GAO report (p55-62). Northbound traffic on the I5 is profiled and questioned for immigration violations.

Illegal immigrants must appreciate the detail when planning a strategy to evade the enforcement!

Cabo Sunset

In Cabo San Lucas, the beach between Playa del Solmar and Land's End has a few rocky parts, and is a joy to scramble around. I was disappointed with the flat light prior to sunset, until the sun snuck below the upper cloud layer. This provided about 5 minutes of true sunset magic!

The First Jumbo

I'll be flying this weekend, but fortunately not on this airframe. It's Boeing 747-121 serial number 001, rusting away in a parking lot at the Museum of Flight. Boeing bet the company on the audacious scale of this jumbo jet, and has already produced 1418 of them. It will be exciting to see the upcoming 747-800.

Today I received a notification that a different itinerary has had schedule changes applied to it. Calling to confirm, I see that my future trip has grown to 9 segments! Due to the limitations of the booking engine, it was not originally possible to ticket such an extravagant routing. But sometimes the scheduling gods smile down upon you!

Top Pot Doughnuts

Yesterday's post reminded me that I haven't yet shown a Top Pot coffee. Let me correct that!

It may surprise that my typical reason for visiting Top Pot is for the coffee, not the doughnuts. Although not immune from the occasional mediocre coffee, Top Pot usually delivers a winner. If only Cafe Cugini was closer...

Scooting to Top Pot

I caught this security guard scooting down W Galer St last weekend. It must take fierce concentration to pilot a machine with such tiny wheels when it's wet out.

The outing was also an excellent opportunity to sample a new Top Pot Doughnuts location. Mmmmmm, doughnuts.

Lake Washington Blvd Metering

The A option for what to do with the Montlake Interchange through SR520's replacement has just been chosen. The proposed twinning of the Montlake drawbridge is the cheapest and least disruptive way of adding capacity to the strained interchange. Predictably, community groups oppose this plan; they would oppose any plan.

Here is the queue for the Lake Washington Blvd onramp from this morning. Metering slows the rate of entrance to SR520 eastbound.

Queen Anne Stairways

The Queen Anne neighborhood is quite hilly, like much of Seattle. The city constructed numerous stairways to allow pedestrian routes across sections of Queen Anne that are too steep for streets.

Oddly, this stairway doesn't actually go anywhere. The right of way at the bottom has disappeared! That might explain why the stairs were overrun with fall leaves and looked completely unmaintained.


It's a little late for Halloween, but I can't resist showing one of this year's Jack-o'-Lanterns. A key design feature is the offset lid, to allow for adequate ventilation for the tea lights within.

We had a decent showing of neighborhood kids coming by for candy, including a boy whose father introduced himself as a previous tenant of our house!

Berlin Wall Segment

Building 33 at Microsoft in Redmond houses a segment of the Berlin Wall. It was donated to Bill Gates by Daimler-Benz AG in 1996, and is now a part of the Microsoft Art Collection. Yesterday marks 20 years since the wall fell, and the first time that travel restrictions for those in communist Eastern Europe were eased.

From my understanding of the wall's design, the grafitti on the wall face shown in this picture is from the eastern side.

Southlands Fall Walk

This afternoon as the rain cleared up, we went for a walk in Southlands, a neighborhood on the north shore of the Fraser River, facing the Vancouver airport. It is an area dense with horse paddocks and horse people, and we passed a number of riders on our walk.
This section of trail follows the boundary of the Musqueam Indian Reserve #2, and also follows a stormwater drain outwards to the Fraser.

Harbor Island

Here is a different perspective on Harbor Island, not long after takeoff from SeaTac aboard N598UA, a United 757-200. Both levels of the West Seattle Bridge are seen spanning the Duwamish waterway.

My thoughts are drawn to United today, as I had to reschedule a sequence of flights in January that now misconnect due to schedule changes. Examining the options carefully, I saw that there is an internationally configured 767-300 on ORD-DEN offering reasonable connections. The fare books into A (first suites), and there were just two seats left for sale on the flight in question.

The agent cheerfully refunded $3.60 per ticket, due to slightly different airport PFCs in the new routing. I did hear a bit about how inexpensive the fare was (6 segments in first class, $93.02 base fare).

Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid

The botanic gardens in central Madrid (Real Jardín Botánico) have an excellent collection of edible plants, bonsai, and landscaping plants from all corners of the earth. They've even got a recently-discovered Wollemi Pine from Australia, whose story I was unfamiliar with.

One of the two greenhouses includes a desert climate and was stocked with cacti. Afternoon sun and a vantage point from a walkway above the ground level allowed this picture.

3 and 2 Monitor Setup

Upon moving into a huge, vacant lab, I was instructed to "build a fort". Instead, I scavenged for hardware, and assembled this nice set of monitors. The amphitheater picture was a challenge to assemble, but I found that the result was worthwhile.

Unfortunately, a move and reorganization has required relinquishing the structure propping up the upper row, and my setup is now a simple row of five monitors in portrait orientation.

Fort Casey

Fort Casey on Whidbey Island is a boy's (and my) dream. It's a maze of pre-WWI bunkers, magazines, and emplacements for disappearing guns. The fort overlooks Admiralty Inlet, and could control all marine traffic destined for Seattle and Tacoma.

Ciutadella Alleyways

Ciutadella is a well-kept town in Menorca, Spain. The heat of the day was still present during our September visit, so we kept a slow pace and allowed stops for refreshment. Part of our visit was at the lull of the siesta, and the absence of pedestrians led to some good pictures!

Madrid Afternoon Drinking

The street cafe scene in Madrid is excellent, especially in decent weather. Drinks, tapas, and chat flow out into the street around numerous plazas.

Early Morning at CDG

This weekend included a 6am transit of Paris - CDG. The Schengen side of Terminal 2F was full of sleepy people, and it was not difficult catching someone exhibiting the stereotype by ordering a croissant.

Dogwood Fall Colors

Fall is descending, and the dogwood on our front lawn is ablaze with color. I expect to be busy with the rake next week.

Indomie Mi Goreng

Indomie Mi Goreng noodles are indisputably delicious, and are offered at a ridiculously low price point. It surprises me why anyone would donate an Oxfam goat to a needy family, when you could feed a family with delicious Indonesian noodles for months for the same cost.

Decadent westerner that I am, I upgraded to the Premium Indomie line (20c more!). They're wonderful.

M/V Elwha

The Elwha is a Washington State Ferry built in 1967. She used to run Sidney to Anacortes, but her top-heavy design led to stability problems across the sometimes-rough Haro Straight. These days, she is scheduled between the San Juan islands instead.

Arbutus Menziesii

The arbutus of the Pacific Northwest is a striking tree, never growing straight, and always with characteristic peeling bark. On a hike this weekend, I saw this arbutus, and heard it actively peeling away as I stood by it - a subtle crinkling sound, ongoing even without wind.

I am working on germinating a few seeds, to try to add an arbutus to our garden.

Abandoned Orchard

There is no greater fall pleasure than going for a walk or a hike, and unexpectedly coming across an abandoned orchard. Apples and pears continue to bear fruit well beyond the lifetime of the homesteaders who originally planted them. It's a little taste of the past!

NE 68th Street

Walking back from Top Pot Doughnuts, we caught this view down 68th Street NE.

Lake Washington, Kirkland, and then the Cascade mountain range is visible in the distance. The road inline in the distance is NE 85th Street (which becomes Redmond Way).

Yakima Canyon

The Yakima Canyon has been bypassed by I-82, but it still hosts a highway (SR-821) and the BNSF railway.

The valley is beautiful, and was being enjoyed by hunters and fly fisherman on my way through on the weekend.

Shimmering Road

Photographing an inferior mirage is challenging, but this hot and level section of SR240 provided some decent images.

I've seen a whole herd of floating cows in rural Australia due to this effect.

Hanford B Reactor

The B reactor at Hanford was the first industrial-scale nuclear reactor. It was completed in 1944 as the only source for creating plutonium for the Manhattan Project. The plutonium created here was used for the Trinity Test and then Fat Man, ending WWII.

The basic design was:
  • place sufficient uranium in proximity to allow for controlled fission
  • slow the subsequent neutron release with a graphite moderator, to encourage transmutation to plutonium
  • chemical separation of resultant products to isolate the plutonium (this was done in the Queen Mary building)
The tour yesterday was fantastic. It would have been very easy to stray from the group, but with a map labeling the various radiation hazards of non-public areas, it would not have been prudent.

Alvsborg Bridge

In addition to being a 417m long bridge in Sweden, the Alvsborg Bridge is a container ship run by the "K" Line.

Here it is being serviced in Tacoma. The Port of Tacoma ran a harbor tour from a chartered boat, and we jumped at the chance to take a look.

Concorde G-BOAG

G-BOAG is one of British Airways' 7 Concordes. It has been at the Museum of Flight since its last flight in 2003. It remains sleek and impressive.

It saddens me to concede that the era that allowed the development and commercial service of an aircraft like the Concorde is long past.

S'Hostal Quarry

In Menorca, we explored a quarry complex that has been turned into a concert venue and botanical garden. The S'Hostal quarries are beautiful in their scale and precision.

Those are human-sized chairs, in an area that was worked with modern stonecutting equipment. Elsewhere in the complex are hand-worked quarries from before modern history. It was a hot day, but a rewarding visit.

Murray Morgan Bridge

Here is another view of the Murray Morgan Bridge in Tacoma. I traversed the upper structure that was added well after the original construction.

I believe its purpose is to carry communications and power cables across the span, something that is not otherwise possible with this bridge design.

Lake Serene

Lake Serene sits above Index, just off US-2. There is perhaps 2000ft of elevation gain through second-growth rainforest before getting to the lake.

Arriving at the trailhead before 10am meant that we had the trail to ourselves going up, and a constant stream of red-faced hikers facing us on the way down.

Menorcan Horse Festival

We recently found ourselves in Menorca/Minorca on the Spanair error fare that was filed in June.

The town of Es Mercadel has an annual festival displaying ridership and control of horses, staged right in the modest town square. The parade of perhaps 30 riders concluded with the town priest performing as competently and calmly as every other rider. A fellow in front of me was mildly injured when he stumbled backwards and a horse stepped on him.

The festival featured a delicious iced drink made with the island's gin and lemonade.

Big Four Ice Caves

Although a rainy day prevented serious hiking, we did get out to explore the ice caves at the foot of Big Four mountain. The caves were spectacular! They are quite unlike ice formations in glaciers.

The caves had been inaccessible for three years due to a washed out footbridge crossing the Stillaguamish river. The new bridge is shiny, well-built, and much appreciated!


The car's old tires were performing poorly, to the point that we had a hard time getting up James Street downtown in the rain.

So on goes grippy goodness to replace them! I look forward to the coming 60,000 miles on these lovely Michelins.

Microsoft's Redmond Campus

I am now a Microserf, working in one of the 78 anonymous buildings straddling the Bellevue/Redmond municipal border.

There are 41,000 fulltime employees housed in buildings like these, and perhaps 15,000 more contingent staff. The scale is impressive. The campus has grown by 2.5x since I interned at Microsoft ten years ago.

Morning Commute

The coastal fog lingering over Bellevue, Medina, and Evergreen Point brightened my commute this morning.

I'm pleased to hear that tolling over SR520 won't begin until 2010 at the earliest.

Windermere Sunset

The neighborhood of Windermere between ours and Lake Washington is quite posh. We caught a nice sunset while winding through the nicely manicured streets.

Fledgling Hawk

This fledgling hawk has been roaming around the neighborhood for the past couple of weeks. It doesn't stray too far from the Douglas Fir where it lives, and we can hear it call frequently as it moves from tree to tree.