Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rural King County Wins

We traveled through some amazing places in rural King County this week. First, we went out to Index, and saw the most amazing scenery I think I have ever witnessed. It was breathtaking, from clear rivers to towering granite mountains. It was like seven folk songs about America all rolled into one 360 degree view. I can't describe it well enough. Here is a picture.

Then, as part of the King County Farm Tour, Jaime and I took the kids to several farms in south King County. (Which, apparently, is the 14th biggest county in the US. Weird.) We had a great time, and saw some more of the most lovely farmland I have ever imagined. The Little Farm at Windwater is like some postcard that sprung to life. Even the animals were picture perfect. We had a picnic lunch there, with perfect roosters running around us, that was maybe the highlight of the day.

I've been traveling through the rural parts of the county for the past month, and every drive I discover something else amazing. It's partly the gorgeous views, with the Cascades always looming over you, and the giant trees hanging over the rivers. But it's something else too. There is an intensity about the land out here that really grabs you. I was really put off by the intensity at first. It's so alien and harsh. But discovering places during my rural drives brings that calmer, more Appalachian feel that I miss. In many ways, Enumclaw or Auburn could be plucked up and dropped in the Ohio valley and no one would notice on either side. (In positive and negative ways; people are meaner looking, there is more smoking and drinking.) I like that. I'll take the minuses, because the pluses are so important to me. Especially when I realize I am still a short drive into the city, with donuts and teahouses and dance clubs with hot latin music and loose women.

(Okay I'm joking about the clubs and women. But it is nice to have options.)

I'm having a good time find these places and exploring the countryside around me. I had no idea, after over six years here, that what I was missing and what I found I needed were so close.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Mighty O And Doctors

Arkaedi Sue had a well child visit today, including a blood draw. She wasn't terribly happy with it, but she's a trooper. To make the entire event less of an ordeal, we stopped by Mighty O Donuts on the way. That made everyone, especially me, very happy.

I tried a strange and wondrous thing while I was at Mighty O: I had a donut without coffee. There was no coffee for me, just a donut. It was odd. Not entirely unpleasant, but a little like swimming while trying to use only one arm. It works, but you wonder why you are even trying it.

Of course I'm glad to be cutting back on coffee. I certainly needed a break. I do feel better overall, and I believe in cultivating good habits while I have the patience and energy to make the effort. And there is always tea.

Arkaedi Sue did so well at her appointment. She is such a stable kid. It's amazing how little phases her. She got her blood drawn, and fussed for a minute, then waved goodbye to Dr. Tracy as we left. Viri would have been crying for six days. It's nice to have a kid who is as calm as her. I need the break.

Fall officially arrived here, and it's warm and sunny. I used the nice day to clean out the car, and get ready for a return to work. Overall, it was a very successful morning. There were donuts, doctors and cleaning. I'm ready for another few days of flying solo with the little ones.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Going, Going... GONE!

I'm headed off to my last baseball game of the year in a few hours. I haven't seen or written about baseball nearly as much as I had planned, due to our wacky home life and lack of tv at my house. But I've followed a lot of the season, including the dramatic walk off wins the past two days, one over the evil empire of Yankees.

This season Ichiro broke yet another record, this time for most consecutive 200 hit seasons. There are not words for how amazing a ballplayer he is. I can never tire of watching him work magic with his bat. If there were words, actually, he would find them, since he is a quote machine. (One of my favorites: "If I start doing things I don't like, baseball won't be fun anymore.")

That some people even question his entrance in to the Hall of Fame someday astounds me. He holds the single season hit record, he's a career .333 hitter, a nine time Gold Glover. The lack of respect for what he does shocks me. He is one of the all time greats, and history will show that few people ever saw the ball and hit the ball like he did. The person whose record he just broke, Baltimore legend "Wee" Willie Keeler, used to say, "Hit 'em where they ain't." Ichiro has transcended that; he hits them wherever he wants, and if they are there, he outruns him. He's a first ballot Hall of Famer, and anyone who loves baseball and understands baseball would vote accordingly.

I'm sad for the end of the season. It has been a surprising success for the Mariner's, and they likely will finish above .500 after an abysmal 2008. We got to see Griffey come back, and even with a poor year seeing him in an M's uniform and watching him pal around with Ichiro was worth the nickel. I hope our situation is better next year, and I can make a few more games. Perhaps I can even hook up that televisual device and watch a few games on the picture tube. The prospect of a season in HD will inspire me to really work hard over the winter. We'll see how successful I am at convincing J to go all out.

Good luck tonight, Mariners. I'll be in the upper decks, sheltered from the rain, cheering wildly.

Friday, September 18, 2009

One To Beam Up, Mr. Scott

A few days ago I wrote about historical periods I find interesting, or intriguing. I mentioned that I didn't ever wish myself there, even for a moment, due to the problems associated with my favorite time periods. For that matter, I imagine people there would be unlikely to wish themselves magically here, and leave what they are familiar and comfortable experiencing. I've been considering the same question, (would I transport myself to this place?) about some of my favorite fictional worlds.

I'm less hesitant to imagine this, because of the ability to better shape the fantasy world. I can go to the Star Trek or Middle Earth in my mind, shaped by words and movie images, and feel less adrift in the past. These places did not exist, and they are glorified and fanciful versions of anything that could exist. They are appealing precisely because, despite the challenges, they are better than they could be in real life. They aren't created to be perfect; but they are damn fine places to visit.

Obviously the Star Trek world would be a great place to visit. Assuming you're not on the Enterprise, and threatened by a villain of the week, it's a safe and amazing world, free of needs and with countless gadgets and worlds to explore. Honestly even the Enterprise fares okay. I could be some Ensign in the Microbiology Lab, scramble off to my quarters during those crazy red alerts, then get the story on Kirk's heroics during my weekly lunches with Sulu. (I'm buddies with Sulu; Kirk and Spock are too busy. And I'm a good sounding board for Sulu's problems with his husband.)

One of the reasons these stories resonate with us to such an extent is the nature of the worlds created. They seem like great places, perhaps the Star Trek world most of all. I could never wish myself away from the real world, with the depth and clarity of the present moment infinitely richer than any fiction. I do see the appeal in the thought experiment, however. What about these fantasies makes sense, attracts us?

My top five fictional worlds I'd like to visit, in a vaguely ranked order:

1. Star Trek, in the original series era. Sure, the Next Generation is safer with cooler toys, (Holodecks? With a "erase holodeck history" option so Jaime never ever has to know about her fabricated twin sister?) but the original series had it down. Fast ships, a noble purpose, unexplored vast expanses. It's like the Wild West, only we've befriended the natives and are bringing medicine and food. We get to be the good guys.

2. Middle Earth. I couldn't resist. Tolkien worked hard to make a world really live, and he succeeded. In Star Trek it was the Wild West, in Middle Earth it's the dark ages. No plague to devastate you, just a clear mind and sharp sword. I'd still end up hanging out eating in Hobbiton for a year. Anywhere with second breakfast and elevensies is all right by me.

3. Various JidaiGeki. A lot like the Tolkien world, only in Japan. Also usually a nicer place than medieval Japan really was, although not as romanticized as Middle Earth.

4. Jim Butcher's Chicago. Once again this isn't a nice place, but I love the sense of purpose. I assume if I get transported here, I get some magical powers. Naturally.

5. Singing in the Rain. I always wanted to be a dancer.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Consider the Puyallup Done

We continued the early fall explosion of fun travels with a visit to the Puyallup Fair. Even though I still can't get the hang of how to pronounce the name of the town, it was a good fair. I think the Evergreen State Fair, for some indefinable reason, is still my favorite; but the Puyallup was huge and exciting, and had a Weird Al exhibit. And a great theme song.

The kids were really good, and I even caved in to the sad eyes of the boy and bought him a toy sword. I can't resist either my children or weapons, apparently. But, as I said, he was so well behaved the entire day I didn't feel too bad buying him a toy.

We had a blast, though, and were reminded that there is no smoking in Sillyville. Which is good to know.

I think the Puyallup will have to make it into our regular rotation. And there will be a regular Washington trip for at least the next few years, because (bigger news than the fair time) Jaime passed her board exams! So, yay for her, and really yay to the entire family, because we have a head of the household who can make more money than I could in five lifetimes! (Grand total for me in five lifetimes: $375.24)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

War! (On Coffee)

I'm taking a long coffee break. Not as in, relaxing away from my desk kinda break. I'm taking a break from my destructive relationship with coffee. Let me explain.

I fell in love with coffee quickly after moving to Seattle. Sure, I had always heard about how great coffee was, but I was skeptical of the chemical content, the caffeine. I had always been hesitant to take anything into my body, and coffee just seemed too risky. Well, the lovely hotness seduced me, and I was sucked into a vortex of self denial and hatred. Okay, so not that bad; but I did drink a ton of coffee.

I finally quit when I realized that it was affecting my behavior. It wasn't a huge change, but subtle differences that could have lasting effects. I was impatient with Viri, and when I didn't have coffee I would have a little extra patience. I was really crashing hard in the afternoon, and my energy level was really low. Jaime suggested that perhaps, as occasionally happens in my choices, I chose what seems good above what has long term positive effects for me. I know that she is right, and I'm finally coming around to her wisdom.

The final straw was a day at the zoo. It was a good day, overall, but I overreacted to Viri's bad behavoir, upsetting both of us. It was early afternoon, and I was crashing and irritable. He was being difficult, granted, but he's three. Even a minor problem can cascade, if you don't have an awareness of it. I'm proud that I have usually maintained a high level of self awareness about my emotions, and an appropriate level of self control. So, I'm taking a break. I'm going back to my old love, my high school sweetheart, tea.

I'm going to give it a few weeks, at the least. I'll try and clear everything from my system, see if my mood continues to be as good as it has been for the past week. If nothing changes, then I think perhaps coffee will have to be an monthly treat, and not a daily vice. Actually, I know that's the best option. I'll try and make it a reality.

Monday, September 14, 2009

And Besides, The Wench Is Dead

I am enthralled with history. I cannot get enough of learning about previous time periods, and what happened, what could have happened differently, why what happened did in fact happen. Any conjugation of the verb "to happen" just gets me excited, to be honest. (Just happens to get me excited?)

There are several periods which really keep my attention, and have over the years. My good buddy Herc, as you can read from his blog, is consistently interested in the Civil War. (The US One. Not England's. Theirs had Puritans, ours had sideburns. Totally different.) Actually, the English Civil War is a period of time that does continually interest me. But the big ones, the ones that I come back to over and over, and make efforts to read books about and even occasionally watch films about, are three: late Victorian England, and to a lesser extent the same period in the US; Elizabethan England; and human "pre-history," or, "the time before we bothered to make long books about our wealthy."

I'm not sure why these three periods interest me, above all of the exciting and insane historical events throughout time. I know if I had a machine to look into the past, I would instantly zoom to these places and look. (Not go. I'm not crazy. I like it here. Maybe I'd peek in the future and see if it gets better. Or if I could take a whole town with me. But I'm not going backwards by myself.)

The England connection is obvious, since that is my cultural heritage. Ours, as a country, in a large part. I'm almost half Irish, and the rest a mix, with a huge chunk of English in there. So, them's my people, back there. If I could zoom in on the Barkers in Elizabethan Manchester (we're long gone by Victorian Manchester. Lucky us) I'd... well, be horrified, possibly. I don't really know. We were tanners, or shepherds. Barker can mean either of those, and a few others. Old English was pretty frugal with nouns. But regardless, I'd love to look.

And prehistory is the stuff of possibilities. I'm always a sucker for that. It's so far back, we have no clue what it was like. Even the land would look and smell different. Some of the animals are no extinct. It was not like our world, and I love that. It's almost science fiction.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This Is Neat

But his WV is awful looking. No one can do the panhandles.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Walking On The Mother Of Waters

We walked around atop the greatest mountain on earth today. Seriously, Mount Rainier is one of the most perfect sites I have ever visited, the sheer size and beauty of the place is enough to choke you up. I have been to a lot of places that hold great natural beauty, and only the mountains of Switzerland, and certain unspoiled islands in the Seto Naikai in Japan even come close to the power of Rainier. It is a must see place.

Due to the size of the kids and the general difficulty involved in my one man parenting tour of Washington, we didn't hike today. We parked, and walked around a bit. I took a goodly few photos, all here, as usual. (I'm going to need more albums for Fall; I'm taking way more photos than usual.) The kids were feeling very photogenic, so they actually stopped and let me take pics of them. I can't resist getting a ton of images of the mountain, of course, and the fields around Sunrise are wonderful places. We even saw some ground squirrels, a deer, and either a grouse or a pheasant or something. A chicken-y bird. (Arkaedi: "Crow? Quack?" No, and no.)

It is the biggest trip of the summer, and maybe the last. I'm starting to feel a little overwhelmed by my extensive driving. Tomorrow we're staying home, and I think the next week will involve some nearby trips, with fewer two hour drives. The kids have been fantastic, and they really handle everything well. Viri asks to go potty, and he's had zero accidents. They share food in the back, and don't make too much noise. I'm just tired of being in the car. For now; maybe when the weekend passes I'll want to trek around the state again. We'll see how bored I get just going to the park and the library tomorrow.

I definitely was glad to make my yearly trip to Rainier. It's an overwhelming place, and I can't imagine living much closer to it, but I have grown fond of it. It doesn't feel as intense and alien as it did when I first moved here. Perhaps it's just acclimation over time. I've come to accept a lot about this area, and I think I've grown to appreciate the harshness of the volcano as stark beauty, and not just harshness. It's not the easy rolling hills of my youth, but it is powerful and lovely. I'm okay with that, I guess.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Asahel Curtis Nature Walk

The little lad, the littler lass, and I continued our beach and park, tree and slug, truly fun western Washington explorations today. We braved the rain and fog to hike the Asahel Curtis Nature Walk, an old growth forest just off of I-90. We weren't the only ones. It was a popular trail, and I guess Labor Day brought out the crowds. It's a large enough area, though, that we only passed a few hikers. Even with little tiny legs and hands that picked up everything they saw.

I've actually hiked the area a good bit before, but never this exact section. It was a cold and rainy day, perfect for getting under the forest canopy in our rain gear and checking out the plants and insects. Viri had a blast, and even Arkaedi wanted to hike a long stretch of trail. Plus, I learned who Asahel Curtis was, and saw some of his interesting photos.

The trees in this section were amazing, some giant Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar. Some had fallen into Humpback Creek, and one huge cedar was across the trail, high enough to walk under. The rest of the photos are here, if anyone wants to see them. The kids are cute, as always, but I actually got a few good shots of the forest today. The rainy day was conducive to my photography, I guess.

I'm really enjoying these outings. I'm going to be sad when work starts up again, and I can't just wander the state searching for fun hikes and parks. But then, with my schedule, I can always wander a bit. This is the perfect age for the kids, too; either they develop a love for this kind of thing, and I have companions, or they don't, and I have some hiking buddies for now. Viri seems to be getting a taste for it. When we got home, he said, "Dragon wants to go find a fun park or beach tomorrow." Sorry dragon, I think tomorrow may be a library day. But Wednesday, it's off to Rainier!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Deception Pass And The Crazy Wind

A friend of mine told me today that it was really cool of me to take the kids so many places. I thanked him, but I was thinking: "Wait I get to go to these awesome places too. Win/win!"

The awesome place today was Deception Pass State Park, situated on the north Puget Sound between a few islands. It is a mind-blowingly gorgeous place, and today the weather even cleared for us long enough to enjoy a sunny picnic on the beach. A 60 degree beach, but, a beach nonetheless. The kids really enjoyed it, even if Viri insisted on asking why this place was different from Carkeek Park. ("It's a different place. I don't know. Do you want me to explain the fourth dimension to you? Nevermind this is Carkeek. Enjoy Carkeek!")

We walked along the bridge above water, but it was really incredibly windy. Viri was not happy with the wind. Then Arkaedi lost a shoe into the street. The narrow street on the bridge over the really scenic water. I honestly would have left it, if I hadn't had Arkaedi screaming "My shoe! My shoe!" in one ear and Viri shouting, "Arkaedi's shoe! Get it!" in the other. I had no choice but to wait for a gap in traffic then dive into the road, Arkaedi in one arm, to retrieve the wayward shoe. It's hard work being a Papa some days.

Deception Pass is definitely on my list of favorite Washington locations. I need to get back here in the winter, when the sea is really wild. The Pacific is a winter ocean. It is intense and amazing in winter. Especially up here, where it never gets warm in the summer anyways.

My only slight problem with the park as a whole was the huge crowd of people fishing, which made the beach a little inaccessible for the kids' favorite hobby, throwing rocks in the water. They listened really well when I told them we couldn't throw rocks, but they were a little disappointed. Honestly, I was a little bummed as well; I like throwing things. I think there is a swimming beach that may have worked, since it was way too cold for swimming, but we didn't find it.

I have some more time off, so I will be hitting some more great parks this week. I am hoping for Rainier before the weekend, if the weather holds. I'll try and keep everyone's shoes out of roads. No promises, though.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's A Beautiful Place

I explored a neat little section of the Issaquah Alps this week, with Herc and Sarah and the kids. Places like that, easily reached from the city, and interesting in their own right, that remind me of why I love this area. As Herc pointed out in his blog yesterday, I'd like to move to that area sometime. It's cheaper to rent a house, which J wants, and I could get even more hiking and backpacking done. Viri could see even more slugs, and Arkaedi could have ample opportunity to say "Carry you, Papa!"

Whenever I get to missing WV, I head out to the hikes in the Issaquah Alps. They remind me more of WV than anyplace out here, and without sacrificing vegan doughnuts and PCC. (I seriously appreciate PCC. That may be odd. But there it is.) The countryside reminds me of the hills of WV, but more than that it is the feel of the land. There is a gentleness that is different from a lot of the west. It's so new out here, and it can feel harsh. You go to a beautiful place like Mt. Rainier, and it is foreboding. Awesome, in the classical sense of the word. Around Issaquah, though, it's relaxed. The people are more like people in WV, in the good ways. They are nice, polite, but less likely to vote against their own self interest than people back home. The hills are bigger, but don't feel as alien as the high peaks of the Cascades. It's dark under the tree canopy, just like the hollows of West-By-God that I ran in as a lad. It's really neat to see Viri scrambling through the woods, picking blackberries like I did.

Between this hike and the recent visit to the fair, I feel like I'm getting my WV fix. Now I just need to have enough money to buy land, and build a cabin for my dad. Get him planted out here, and I really will have brought WV to Washington. Plus, I get the chance to build a cabin! Or maybe a yurt. Sorry dad, you may get stuck in a yurt, because I think they're cool.

We'll give you wireless internet and healthcare though. This is still Washington.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Day At The Fair

We had a great day today. Herc, Sarah and the kids came to the fair with me! The Evergreen State Fair, to be exact. It was everything I remembered about a fair; great animals, tractors, lots and lots of obesity. And greasy food, for my own caloric intake! I loved it. The kids really loved it. I think Herc and Sarah loved it. It was a good excursion all around.

I was really impressed with how well my kids behaved. It was a long, exciting day, and they did really well. They patiently endured my interest in animals like goats, and didn't get too whiny with walking for four hours. It was a good day. Viri was a really big kid, and I was very proud of him. For his efforts, he gets rewarded with another trip to the fair, as soon as a few weeks away. There will be more goats, we hope and pray.

I hadn't been to a fair for over decade. I think the last one was with Jaime in high school, if I had to guess. I don't know if Iiked it then; I liked them as a kid. I loved the animals. All of my cousins and friends wanted to ride rides, but I had a sensitive stomach. It didn't sound good to say I had a tender tummy at fifteen, so I still rode the rides. Going with the kids today was nice, because I didn't have to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl, and I could watch Viri ride the kiddie swings. I could go to the "swine barn" and enjoy seeing animals. It was a little depressing, since they will be food, but I still like seeing them. Solidarity, mammals.

I am going to fairs more often now. They are a blast. Fried food, people watching, animals... what more could anyone want? Have a day at the fair!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Misty September Morn

It's one of those signs that you are truly going native. The morning comes, in late August or early September, when there is a mist hanging in the air. It's cool, overcast, and the summer is really gone. And you don't mind at all. You may, surprisingly to some, gather up your little ones and take a nice urban walk through rain and errant cyclists.

I got the kids bundled up in rain slickers, and we went for a nice walk in the rain. We walked along the canal in Fremont, one of my favorite places in Seattle. I love the strange sight of boats sailing past, the cool dinosaurs made of ivy that Arkaedi is speeding past in the photo. I don't like the odd and disturbing signs of alcoholism, such as discarded malt liquor/caffeine energy drink cans(wow, thank you marketing department; amped up drunks, we really needed those!)(I was being sarcastic, marketing department. Please stop making horrible crap.) and trash. But overall, it's a pleasant little walk.

I've come to terms with aspects of Seattle I dislike, such as the small town mentality jammed into large city culture, and the odd hipster mythos. The weather, one thing outsiders expect to hate, I love. I went through a period of dislike, sure, but I am anxious for winter and the cool rains. I am looking forward to the ever present mist. (For one, it provides endless opportunities for 13th Warrior references. Which only I appreciate. But continue to make.)

I'm ready for more fun. I have child sized rain gear, I have extra clothes and snacks. I have my trusty fleece, and I am totally willing and able to run to REI and get more. I am ready to accept you, rainy season.