American Airlines Castle

American Airlines employees based in Seattle built a cardboard facade of a castle in 2008, and they've been  deploying it at gate A9 for Christmastime since then.  It was excellent boarding a 737 via a castle door!

The castle is part of a project called the Snowball Express that sends children and spouses of US military personnel that were killed on duty, for a Christmas trip to an amusement park.  This year they departed to Six Flags Over Texas near Dallas.

Ice Skating

Winter ice skating, outdoors, really helps set the mood for Christmas.  This is the rink in Bellevue Downtown Park.

Last year at this time, my workplace sponsored a rink that turned out to be a plastic cutting board.  It was a grave disappointment, with very little in common with a real ice surface.  The same fake surface is currently installed at Cal Anderson Park; please don't go.

Christmas Carousel

The business association for downtown Seattle organized to have a carousel placed in Westlake Park for the holidays.  Income from it is split between the association and a local foster kids organization.

The location is perfect, under the Macy's star, and the kids sure looked to be having a great time!

Bellevue Botanical Garden Christmas Lights

The Bellevue Botanical Garden has an annual Christmas light display, and this year's featured a dragon (with steaming nostrils!) in the Asian part of the garden.  It was very crowded, but as everyone was sporting a festive demeanor it hardly mattered.

Cherry Wood

The beautiful texture of the wood of this 50 year cherry tree became visible as we felled it.

The straight boughs will be useful for stakes about the garden.  And the rest of the wood will burn wonderfully once seasoned!

Truck on Fire

It looks like this truck's brakes are on fire, or at least dangerously hot.  But no, its wheels have just been cleaned by warm water as it exits a construction zone, and every warmed surface is steaming on this cool morning.

The wheel washing device is similar to this one, and thankfully avoids the alternative of tracking mud and construction junk across the freeway.

Seattle at Night

Seattle's downtown, viewed from the 50-year-old Space Needle.

The Seattle Center Monorail tracks show up well against the streetlights down 5th Avenue.  Shamefully, Seattle wasted $124 million between 1997 and 2008 only studying the feasibility of building a larger monorail network.  If they'd instead just gone about building track, they could have completed 6mi of the network (using construction costs from 1961 inflated to modern dollars).

Harborview Backboards

Harborview is the urban hospital in Seattle where the most serious regional cases are sent.  Here is their impressive collection of backboards from EMS departments around the state.  They cost around $200, and are owned by the emergency services that send patients here.  I imagine that agencies like Snoqualmie Pass Fire Rescue (in the foreground) come by every once in a while to reclaim their equipment.

Macy's Window

Macy's has an annual "holiday window display," and this year in Seattle it's a pretty good toy train set.  Obligatory clumps of lichen form the shrubbery, as is the case in any diorama, anywhere.

It's reminiscent of the truly excellent Myer Christmas Windows in Melbourne.

Tree Sweaters

For some reason, it costs $23,500 to fully outfit a public square with tree sweaters.  Suzanne Tidwell makes one sort of art: stripey stockings on everything.  Consequently, the Alliance for Pioneer Square managed to gather plenty of donations to commission Suzanne to gussy up the trees and lampposts in Occidental Park.  Don't be mistaken; this has nothing to do with Christmas — it's a Holiday Installation.

Mount Rainier Sunrise

Sunrise greets Mount Rainier (14,411ft) from Mount Si (4167ft). Little Tahoma Peak is visible to the left, and Curtis Ridge and Liberty Ridge are seen following the view to the right. An excellent diagram of climbing routes helps visualize this face, which is the view from the north.

Total Lunar Eclipse

Just prior to morning twilight, a total lunar eclipse was visible in the Pacific Northwest. Morning fog crept over much of Seattle, obscuring the view, but I got up early for a hike up Mount Si to get a better view. I was joined by around six other parties who had the same idea.

The primary frustration to my photography was the maddeningly quick rotation of the Earth. This limited exposures at this focal length to around two seconds, after which the moon and stars become streaks rather than nicely resolved images.

The various remedies for this are quite expensive: a f/2.8 lens that lets in more light, or a motorized equatorial mount to a tripod, which tracks the apparent movement of the sky around the polar axis.

Super Beetle

This is a 1970s era VW Type I Super Beetle, probably with the 1.5L 54hp flat four cylinder engine, and a 4-speed transmission. It looks fantastic in orange.

VW Beetles continued to be built in Mexico through 2003, and served as the dominant taxi model in Mexico City until a very recently. In taxi use, the front-right seat is removed to allow easy passenger access (and room to squeeze in a few more people).

Utopian Heights

At 37th Ave NE and NE 62nd St lies Utopian Heights, a venture by Seattle artists Dennis Evans and Nancy Mee. There's a shrine off the sidewalk where visitors can offer public or private notes.

This is one of Nancy's sculptures, at a neighboring house across 62nd. I'm not really sure what sort of art Dennis makes.

Forestry Road 2219

This is Forestry Road 2219, a road we thought would be plowed this winter. As it wasn't, we parked a mile away from where we were planning on beginning our snowshoe. The noise of the freeway quickly receded, and it wasn't long until we became the only tracks around.

Winter Squash

This winter squash is probably a Hubbard, though it's hard to be sure. It was pale green when we harvested it in September, and gradually yellowed in the basement.

One evening we had two quarters roasted, and the following night we steamed it in cubes. Brown sugar and butter may have been involved. Yummy!

Fuel Coffee

A new-to-us coffee shop within an ambitious walking distance. Fuel had a good atmosphere, and was open on Thanksgiving Day, unlike many other establishments.

Chainsaw Art

I'm not sure if this was carved by the legendary Steve Backus, but it wouldn't be surprising. He was the inspiration behind Pemco's Northwest Profile #16:

Inside every piece of castoff driftwood is a floppy-hatted dwarf, orca, dragon, or even a mythic thunderbird yearning for freedom. Mr. Roadside Chainsaw Woodcarver, yank that cord and let 'er out.

A Raft of Ducks

I thought the collective nouns for birds were generally silly, until we spotted what is very much a raft of ducks. They're a dense collection of mallards, rowing in a consistent direction together on Lake Washington.

Frosty Hebe

This frosty bush is a Hebe, originally native to New Zealand or South America. I've been looking for something to fill in a few places in my front rockery, and I think this might do quite nicely.

Unhappy Haircut

This young boy was very displeased with his trip to the barber. Perhaps he wanted a mohawk? Perhaps he has nightmares of scissors? Hopefully he'll grow out of it.

Winter Peas

I've planted Austrian winter peas as a cover crop to improve the soil condition for planting next year. Most growers are trying to attract turkey or deer with winter crops like this, but my purpose is nitrogen fixation.

Rhizobia bacteria in the soil infect the pea root system, which supplies carbohydrates and oxygen. The pea (and whatever I plant in the spring) in turn benefits from the ammonia that the bacteria produces. The symbiotic relationship between the two leads the pea roots to invite infection by the bacteria.

Not Much Fall Left

This dogwood will soon lose its leaves, and winter will arrive. The colors of the leaves are fantastic, and the red stalks complement them nicely.

The twigs will keep this deep red through the winter, when very little else is colorful.

Delicious Pomegranate

Pomegranates are lovely - juicy and sweet, and with a fantastic flavor. Separating the kernels from their rind is tough going, and the sticky juice (that goes everywhere) stains badly.

But it's worth it. Yum!

Comparing Technologies

On the left: Nikon D40, 1/400s @ f/10, ISO 400, auto WB, no exposure bias, on a 50mm prime lens with a DX sensor.

On the right: Nikon FE, ~1/300s @ f/11, ISO 200 FujiColor film, no exposure bias, on a 35mm prime lens with a 35mm frame.

Top Pot on Film

It's been two years since I wrote about a visit to Top Pot Doughnuts. The colors and character of the image are quite different here on film.

The coffee remains excellent.

Carkeek Park Salmon

A beautiful chum salmon digs in gravel to spawn after coming up the Pipers Creek in Carkeek Park. Most are hatchery returns, as conditions in the park are imperfect for natural spawning.

Foggy Commute

Fog shrouds the western highrise of the SR520 floating bridge. Eastbound commuters slide into the fog and go to work.

Two story military housing that was built in 1938 has been converted to condo title at the edge of Madison Park to the right. It looks like a lovely community, if you excuse the freeway noise.


Contemporary with the founding of Dick's, Burgermaster started here near the University of Washington. It's a very different place, with a proper dining area and an extensive menu.

At their Aurora location, you can get true drive-in service. And I'd venture that the burgers and shakes are a bit tastier than at Dick's.

Snow Lake

Alpental Valley leads to Snow Lake, at 4020ft. Access is via a saddle at 4350ft or so. Chair Peak looms off to the right. It was spectacular, especially in sunny weather!

Alpental Valley

I may have exaggerated last weekend, which was not yet the last hike of the season. It's possible we cheated a bit, with a new pair of traction devices strapped to our boots.

This is the valley running northwards from the Alpental ski resort.

All Lower 48

Earlier this week, a Boeing 747-800 finished a 18h test flight that touched all 48 lower states. On closer examination, it may have missed West Virginia, but that could be just an artifact of the logged track rather than the actual route flown.

Foggy Jaywalker

Mornings of coastal fog make for a dangerous jaywalk across NE Pacific St. This fellow had the cheek to sip from his coffee as he crossed the median.

This was actually a boundary between clear air and dense fog in the distance. In November here, foggy mornings usually clear up well before noon.

Douglas Fir

This was once a Douglas Fir, but is now cut and seasoned firewood awaiting a cozy night by the fireplace. It burns cleanly and quickly.

Jack o' Lantern

This evening's Jack o' Lantern has a crooked toothy smile, and was wildly successful at luring youngsters up the stairs to trick or treat. The neighborhood was lively with well costumed children, including a forest elf complete with a lighting system.

Perhaps the finest outfit was a kid in a business suit with a Rick Perry nametag, who delivered the perfect line: "Watch out for my scaaaaary flat tax!"

Last Hike of the Season

The freezing level in the Cascades has been dropping for the last few weeks. Snow has been visible on the Olympics for a few weeks now, and has been creeping down the mountainsides as winter approaches.

This is Surprise Lake at 4500ft, which was marginally accessible yesterday with just trail running shoes. It won't be next week.

Nikon FE

Here's a full frame (instead of an extreme crop) from a Nikon FE. This is at f/8 on a Nikkor 50mm 1.8 AI manual-focus lens.

The exposure is about 1/180 or 1/200s. I can't tell you exactly, because when the camera is on automatic mode, it chooses the exact exposure to match what its meter reads, even if that is 4.762ms. There's no EXIF data to reveal what its choice was.

ISO 200

Enlarged detail of a scan from 35mm color negatives, developed from ISO 200 Fuji film.

As the scanned resolution (2560 dpi against the original 36x24mm frame) is somewhat greater than the underlying grain of the film, you can see the grain itself in the shadows of these maple leaves.


A ghost could scare the unwary with a perfectly delivered Boo!

Kids love being temporarily scared, and see magical powers embedded in that word. With young children, often their timing or intonation isn't quite right and they wonder why their Boo isn't appropriately frightening.

Indigenous Seeds

There are numerous seed capsules embedded in the sidewalks in the U District, containing a variety of common native seeds. It would take a very unique set of circumstances for these to be useful. Global nuclear holocaust? A rapid onset of an ice age?

The range of most plants I saw (including the pictured twinflower) extend across vast areas, and all would have to be obliterated before anyone would consider taking a jackhammer to the pavement to liberate this capsule.


Rudy's Barber Shop has seven Seattle locations and is finding its way into other regional markets. It's a simple, well-managed, and stylish place to get a haircut. Your barber introduces themselves by name with a handshake, and unlike some other shops, I've always found conversation to be natural in the chair.

It's not unlike Dr. Follicles of Fitzroy in Melbourne. Sadly, liquor licensing laws get in the way of supplying you with a beer with your haircut.

Ravenna Ave NE

There are a few public roads buried in the Seattle street grid that seem to disappear into the woods. This is the southern extent of Ravenna Ave NE, which dead-ends under the 45th St viaduct. There are a few regular houses along here, plus regular garbage and recycling collection.

Drain Pipe Garden

Seattle isn't really a place where water conservation is important, but some go to extreme lengths to make use of every last drop.

The Millionaire's Club

Three quarters of The Millionaire's Club plays at Pike Place and Stewart St. They had a lively swing and were good humored between songs.

Slim (their harmonica/washboard player) was missing in action.


Wake is a large scale sculpture erected in 2004 by Richard Serra. It is difficult to understand the exact shape of the steel while walking around it. From above, you can see a bit more, but that contradicts the different wavy shapes seen edge-on.

The first Dreamliner

ZA001 is the first Dreamliner. She was assembled in 2007 and first flew in 2009.

Since then, Boeing has logged 1304 hours of flight testing on this single airframe, and over 4700 hours in total among the six test aircraft.

The cabin of serial #1 isn't outfitted for cargo or passengers, but instead is loaded with racks of sensors and computers.

Rolls-Royce Trent 1000

This is the view peeking at the back of the right Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 turbofan fitted to the first Dreamliner. It is striking how spacious and uncluttered it is, especially as compared against older engines designs like that of the JT8D.

Rolls-Royce is busy testing the 'Package B' version of this engine, as the initial design (already delivered to All Nippon) falls short of fuel consumption promises. The first flight of a 'Package B' engine was just last month.

Cellulosic Ethanol

This is a WWII-era plant originally built to produce ethanol as an input to a synthetic rubber process. The fermentation tanks are not unlike the wooden casks at a distillery, though the scale is a bit bigger. The waste liquor from the Kraft (wood pulping) process contains 2-3.5% sugar; just add yeast, wait a bit, and the sugar becomes alcohol.

These casks fed into a four story high still. After distillation, ether was used to remove the remaining water, resulting in anhydrous alcohol that was consumed elsewhere in the plant.

Sadly, there's a current fad (driven by distorting subsidies) for trying to fuel cars based on this same process.

Screen Room, Pulp and Tissue Plant

Another visit to the Georgia Pacific site provided dramatically different light conditions. It also revealed that the Port of Bellingham has already completely demolished the steam plant, where waste bark was used as fuel to make steam to use throughout the operation.

This is a trough for pulp on its way to becoming tissue paper. It is described as a "screen room," and is on the 2nd floor.

Peace Arch

The Peace Arch has stood on the border of British Columbia and Washington State since 1921.

Besides being the site of a major border crossing for cars, it's also parkland, accessible as a provincial park from the Canadian side, and as a state park (with an entrance fee) from the US side. As there's no fencing, and visitors are welcome to wander across the border, it must be a tricky for border guards to keep track of who came from where. Park visitors are required to carry immigration documentation, unlike any other park in either country.