January 13, 2007

Sorry Buddy, You've Got Two Months Left To Go

Today was a pretty cold day for Seattle, with highs a few degrees below freezing. As Bonnie and I were walking into Broadway Grill for brunch, we passed a man walking out. He looked up at the sporadic flurries falling, then said out loud "I'm officially sick of winter".

17:13 | Seattle | Comments (0)

January 10, 2007

Snowpocalypse 2007

It's been snowing here in Redmond for over four hours and the highways are only now starting to clear up (the overturned bus on 520 has been cleared). I've been stuck at work, occasionally looking out the window to see the streets turned into very narrow parking lots, with the occasional fenderbender or car in the ditch.

It's almost 8:00pm, and luckily for me, today's team lunch was at Claim Jumper, whose servings are large even by the hungriest American's standards, so I haven't had to resort to a vending machine dinner.

I guess it's about time to brave the roads (I'm giving up on the bus and getting a ride with two guys who learned to drive in California... we'll be taking it slow). Needless to say, I don't think I'll be coming to the office tomorrow.

UPDATE 10:45pm: after a quick bite at Red Robin, we finally got back to Capitol Hill... two and a half hours after we left.

19:40 | Seattle | Comments (1)

November 26, 2006

Snow! May God Have Mercy On Us All

It just started to snow here in Seattle. Expect highway shutdowns, cars sliding into ditches, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

Here's hoping for another snow day!

14:52 | Seattle | Comments (0)

October 29, 2006

The Winter Seasonals Are Here

It's the end of daylight savings time, and here in Seattle, it means overcast and drizzly days and commuting home in the dark. But my spirits aren't down. That's because I have my own way of cheering myself up: Seasonal Beers.

Ok, strictly speaking there are seasonal beers for every season, but the winter seasonals are the ones that I love. Dark ales, porters and stouts all help warm the cockles even though the feet may be soaked. Here's a quick rundown of the (mostly) local beers I'm most excited about this winter:

For my own notes, I'll be updating this list of winter beers as I consume them.

16:44 | Seattle | Comments (2)

October 22, 2006

Chris' Favourite Seattle Establishments

In an ongoing effort to share with you, my loyal readers, all my favourite places to eat, drink and hang out in Seattle, I offer this page, which I will be updating as I discover new places. Feel free to leave suggestions for new entries or any comments.


American (Pacific Northwest)
Summit Public House
The Stumbling Monk


Top Pot Donuts
Live Music
Faire Gallery and Café


Shanghai Garden
Dim Sum
House Of Hong
New Kowloon
Le Pichet
The Byzantion
India Bistro
Fuji Sushi
Mr Villa
Annapurna Café
Than Brothers
Pub Grub
The Elysian
74th Street Ale House
Rom Mai Thai
Café Flora

22:52 | Seattle | Comments (1)

October 13, 2006

Sisterly Visit Recap

I had a great time showing off Seattle to Alexis and Derek this past weekend. The first thing we did after getting back from the airport is go out for and some dinner at The Deluxe. Afterwards we met up with Miguel and Rachelle at The Cantebury where I got to introduce them to some fine American microbrew.

Saturday we did the tourist thing. We went out to breakfast, then to the famous Pike Place Market. We then walked northwards towards the Space Needle, stopping several times for beer and snacks along the way. We walked around Seattle Center, and planned to take the monorail back downtown, but once again, it was out of commission due to "mechanical problems". I think there are more sunny days a year in Seattle than days the monorail is operational.

Crossing the first item off Alexis' list of things to do in Seattle, we grabbed dinner at Mama’s Mexican Kitchen in Belltown. Stuffed with burritos and beer, we waddled back to my apartment and crashed.

Sunday we waited an hour for the best breakfast in Capitol Hill, Glo's (I was assured that it was, in fact, worth the wait). Derek wanted to check out Seattle’s dual stadiums (coming from the Toronto area where our MLA team and CFL team share the same stadium, this confounded me as well), so down to SoDo we went. Since neither the Seahawks nor the Mariners were playing, that part of town was completely dead. Luckily for us, we were spared boredom when we stumbled on Seattle’s very own indoor Gold Rush National Park.

We hit the shopping area downtown (ok, I'll admit it, I did most of the shopping), then back south (thank god for the Free Ride Zone) to the International District for Alexis' second and final list item, a fabulous sushi dinner at Fuji Sushi. Our bellies swollen with raw fish, we went to Uwajimaya to check out the weird and exotic fish counter and beer snack aisles. Satisfied, we took out last bus back up the Hill (and were treated to a monologue by a resident bus weirdo).

We were up at the crack of dawn the next morning and drove to Sea-Tac Airport to get those two on their plane. I had a great time hanging out with my sister, re-experiencing the subtle culture shock with US-first-timer Derek (he was absolutely mortified that hosts allow their houseguests to walk onto the carpet with their outdoor shoes on, a custom I'm still not 100% comfortable with) and having an excuse to tour the town, eat some great meals, and most important of all, go on a shopping spree.

08:15 | Family , Seattle | Comments (0)

July 24, 2006

It's Too Hot Today

Seattle is in the midst of a week-long heat wave that should (blessedly) be breaking early this week. Although many parts of the US and Canada are in worse shape than our measly 90+°F (32+°C) with a mere 50% humidity, Seattle is woefully unprepared for any kind of humidity, let alone above-room temperature heat. Few apartments have air conditioning, and the apartments with nice views (including mine) are west-facing, which bear the brunt of the afternoon sun.

It's a curious thing to see Seattle residents in oppressive heat. On the one hand, we don't want to squander the few precious days of sunshine a year, but on the other, it's too damn hot to be in the sun. So many people end up doing almost exactly what they would normally do, that is sit around coffee shops, drinking iced versions of their regular espresso drinks.

Bonnie and I spontaneously decided to see an afternoon showing of Thank You For Smoking for the opportunity to get out of the heat (incidentally, a movie I highly recommend).

Saturday was the annual Microsoft Company Picnic. This was my fifth picnic, so I was less than enthused about taking part in the sweat-generating activities, and having just gotten back from Vegas, the fake casino didn't have the usual allure. That is not to say we didn't have a good time. The group of us took part in one of my favourite activities: sitting in the shade drinking beer and eating ribs.

It's now Sunday night, I'm covered in sweat, and I'm really looking forward to going to the air conditioned office tomorrow. In fact, I may even show up early.

00:00 | Seattle | Comments (1)

July 8, 2006

Mr. Glitch's Retirement

I was walking down my street last night when I was confronted face to face with an enemy from the past. There, a metre tall, is the face of the ill-tempered Mr. Glitch, who will eat you if you are wrong. For those of you who didn't watch Square One Television, it was my favourite math-themed TV show as a child. Mr. Glitch was Mathman's arch-nemesis in a math-related PacMan-ripoff videogame. So what was he doing plastered on the side of a bus in Seattle?

It looks like since finally defeating his life-long enemy Mathman (who was finally eaten after guessing 9 was prime), Mr. Glitch's life has been somewhat devoid of purpose. With no big football helmet to grumble at, Mr. Glitch has moved out of the math business altogether and became a spokesperson for Beacon Plumbing.

The Ill-tempered Mr Glitch Beacon Plumbing Mascot

22:22 | Nerd , Seattle | Comments (3)

April 17, 2006

Totally Gay

I go to the barber shop just down the street from my apartment. Living in Capitol Hill, which is also the gay neighbourhood, it should come as no surprise that most of the staff of this barber shop are gay. One day as I'm sitting in the barber's chair, I overheard two of the male hairdressers talking:

Hairdresser 1: "I was reading this magazine that listed the Top Ten Gayest Things You've Ever Done."
Hairdresser 2: "Really? What was number one?"
Hairdresser 1: "I don't remember... wearing some kind of gay outfit or something."
Hairdresser 2: "That's funny. The gayest thing I've ever done was have sex with another man."

08:30 | Seattle | Comments (0)

February 6, 2006


Yes, I spent yestday afternoon in a bar with friends drinking beer and watching the Super Bowl. For someone who doesn't usually care at all about football, I sure drank like I had been a Seahawks fan all my life.

08:05 | Seattle | Comments (1)

November 13, 2005

I Only Watch The Weather Channel

Ever since I moved to my current apartment, I have been without a television. I’m not writing about this to tell you all about some sort of life decision I’ve made, or how TV is the downfall of society, I just personally don’t feel I need one in my life right now. The reason I bring it up, is because in the Seattle neighbourhood of Capitol Hill, I can’t bring it up without bizarre one-upmanship from people who claim not to watch TV. A typical conversation goes like this:

A: "Did you see that commercial with the monkey wearing the hat?"
Me: "No."
A: "Seriously? I mean it’s on all the time."
Me: "Actually, I don’t have a TV."
A: "Oh... well, I only watch mine on weekends."
Me: "Um, ok."
B: "I have a TV but I don’t have cable."
Me: "So what about this monkey commercial?"
C: "The only reason I have cable is so I can watch The Daily Show. The rest of the time I keep my TV unplugged."
Me: "Uh... That’s great."

For some reason, people need to try to justify to me their possession of a television set. It’s like they need to convince me that they’re not couch potatoes. The truth is, I don’t give a shit.

There are some TV shows I do enjoy, and when I want to talk to my Capitol Hill friends about them, the conversation is reminiscent of the conversation from Pulp Fiction between Jules and Vincent about pilot episodes, but with none of the chemistry:

Me: "That reminds me of a great Family Guy joke. Do you know the show?"
D: "I don’t watch TV."
Me: "Fine... but are you aware of this humorous animated television program?"
D: "My life is too busy to sit in front of a TV all night."
Me: "You’re an asshole and I hate you."

So to avoid any further awkward conversations, keep this in mind: I may not have a TV, but if there’s an interesting program you want to tell me about (or a commercial involving a monkey), I’d love to hear it, and I promise not to bring up the fact I don’t have a TV. If the subject comes up, promise me you won’t tell me the only reason you have a TV is for your cat.

15:49 | Rant , Seattle | Comments (2)

November 4, 2005

Drive Carefully

For a few months now, the Seattle police have been implementing a campaign to encourage careful driving in busy Seattle neighbourhoods. One of the ways they're trying to get people to slow down is to put up signs like this:

Drive Carefully Sign

I think "clever" signs will only distract drivers, causing them to take their eyes off the road, chuckle to themselves, then wrap their cars around a telephone pole.

They also have a website of pedestrian and driver safety tips, complete with brain-dead comon sense tips ("Never pass/overtake a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk.") and typos ("Don't let your passengers interfere with our [sic] driving.").

I feel safer already.

08:33 | Seattle | Comments (3)

October 31, 2005

Recap Of Brotherly Visit

Yesterday I dropped my brother Matt off at the airport after his week-long visit to Seattle. My entire division had been given the week off for releasing the .NET Framework 2.0 (shameless plug), so I invited him to come hang with his big brother. This was his second visit to Seattle, so we forwent much of the tourist fare and just hung out.

I decided to rent a car for the week (for those of you who don't know, T and I have been living car-less for two months now. Seattle's bus system is good enough that we can get by without one, or use Flexcar for short trips), so we had mobility. I used to laugh at the people with tickets under their car's windshield wiper, parked directly under a No Parking sign. Well, Monday night I was one of those people. I had barely had the car for 3 hours when I got a ticket for parking in a zoned area without a permit.

Tuesday Matt and I walked downtown and checked out Pike Place Market. For a snack, I treated him to a Piroshky before we headed over to Queen Anne for Korean BBQ with friends. After eating more beef in one sitting than I had eaten all month, we stopped off at the Stumbling Monk for some good Belgian beer with friends.

Wednesday Matt and I jumped in the car and drove down to Portland, Oregon for a two-night stay at the fabulous Days Inn. Portland has a great downtown, and it's small enough to explore in a day. This surprised Matt who described it as fitting into one of the neighbourhoods of downtown Toronto. We grabbed drinks at Saucebox before crashing for the night.

Thursday we hit downtown again, grabbing a Greek lunch at the restaurant with the inflatable purple octopus on the roof. Our waiter also donned an octopus on his bald head, which we decided deserved a tip, regardless of the service (which, incidentally, was very good). We shopped at Powell's Veritable City Of Books (an entire city block of bookstore) and I picked up a winter coat for myself (to match my new hat... more on that in a future blog entry), taking full advantage of the lack of Oregonian sales tax. We shot some pool, grabbed some beers, and got soaked in the rain. All in all, a good Pacific Northwest night.

Friday we headed back home, making excellent time in our little Kia Rio (the Cadillac of rental cars). For those of you looking to rent a car in the near future, be warned that the Economy class car really lives up to its name. No power locks or windows. I even think this particular car was missing shocks, since we felt every pebble we ran over. I pulled over at one point, convinced we had blown a tire, only to realize it was only the crappily paved I-5 highway (ASIDE: for all you Washington voters, yet another reason to vote No on I-912!). That night the three of us had dinner at the Kingfish Cafe for some Southern soul food (Matt had their famous fried chicken, T had the pork chop and I had the catfish). We made a half-assed attempt at the dessert, which was an enormous piece of cake, the likes of which ye have never seen. We finished off the night with drinks at Cyclops in Belltown.

Saturday we got up late (big surprise). Matt and I walked to the International District for some sushi, but were disappointed that none of my favourite places were open for lunch, so we settled on dim sum. I showed Matt Pioneer Square and the harborfront before joining up with T. We caught a bus to the 74th St Alehouse before going to a Halloween party. We were the lame ones without costumes (having an out-of-town guest is a great excuse). It was a relatively early night, since Matt had an AM flight on Sunday.

I had a great time with Matt. Only in writing this blog post do I realize how much we saw and did (and ate). It was a great time and I look forward to more visits from family and friends.

23:27 | Misc Rambling , Seattle | Comments (2)

August 1, 2005

Japanese For Common Sense

Last Tuesday Teresa and I went to the SAM to see the Isamu Noguchi Sculptural Design exhibit.

Noguchi's sculptures varied from the practical (he designed furniture that clearly influenced modern Ikea's wares) to abstract theatre sets that remind me of the art from Beetlejuice, to futuristic children's playgrounds.

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, even if the curator pretended not to realize the handouts looked suspiciously like Ikea catalogs...

20:43 | Seattle

June 8, 2005

Dav and Khris and T's Excellent Adventure

I have been pretty bad about blogging about my exciting weekends. Three weekends ago, Dav came to visit. The first time he visited me in Seattle, I had only been here two months, so basically all I knew were the touristy things (Space Needle, monorail, Starbucks) and my immediate neighbourhood. This time, older and wiser (also accompanied by Teresa), we showed Dav some of the cooler parts of town, like The Stumbling Monk on Capitol Hill, Gasworks Park and Freemont. We also stayed up all night and drank a lot of beer.

Then we hit a rift in the space-time continuum and visited the future (actually the Seattle Library on 4th Ave):

Chris and Teresa in the Seattle Library

Thanks again for the visit Dav!

20:47 | Seattle

April 26, 2005

Spring Has Sprang

It's springtime in Seattle, which means only 80% of our daylight is filtered though gray canopies of clouds. According to the weather reports, it's been over 20°C (70°F) all this week, but I wouldn't know. When I leave for work in the mornings it's still cool enough to see steam rising off my coffee, and by the time the sun sets in the evenings it's almost cold. Every day this week I optimistically wear sandals, but since I know better, I also bring a jacket, which means I pretty much blend in with most Seattleites.

Seattle is the kind of city where you need to bring an umbrella and sunglasses with you when you leave the house. Far be it from me to call the weather forecasters incompetent; they've just had bad track records.

I can't believe I just blogged about the freakin' weather. I must be tired...

22:03 | Seattle

January 9, 2005


Defying forecasts calling for snow all last week, the snow has finally arrived in Seattle. There was only a centimetre or so of accumulation that has since melted, but it raises hope that the roads will be sheer ice tomorrow, and I'll have to stay home from work since Seattle only has one snowplow.

13:54 | Seattle

January 6, 2005

The Long Commute Home

It's been hovering around freezing the past few days here. There's been frost on the grass, and puddles are iced over. The weather report is forecasting snow starting this afternoon, and going until Tuesday. The City of Seattle has taken the precaution of closing steep city streets in anticipation. Sounds like we're going to get a repeat of last year.

What would really suck is if it starts snowing while I'm at work today, in which case I should expect a long commute home. I'm packing snacks.

07:39 | Seattle | Comments (3)

December 6, 2004

A Holiday Treat

It's that time of year again: Christmas music percolates through department stores loudspeakers, giant iridescent snowflakes adorn street lamps, Salvation Army Santas ring their bells at pedestrians feigning blindness to them, and local grocery stores replace low-fat soy products in their dairy coolers with Egg Nog. This being Seattle, local chain coffee shops have combined my two favourite drinks into the wholly unappealing-sounding Egg Nog Latte.

It's a rich, bitter drink that both lulls you to sleep with its warm creaminess, and jolts you awake with its Arabica perk. Although I felt a little sick after only 8 of the 16 creamy oz, I was happy with my purchase. I highly recommend it as a drink to fill your gut with warm eggy caffeine and Christmas spirit.

20:18 | Seattle | Comments (2)

September 30, 2004

Celebrity Mud Slides

As I mentioned yesterday, if/when Mount St Helens erupts, the danger to surrounding settlements will not be lava, but lahars, rivers of ash and mud, that could wipe out entire towns.

I was thinking if there were a lahar so huge that it reached the small town of Burton on Vashon island (in the Puget Sound, north of Tacoma) and wiped it out, people would be talking for years afterwards about Lahar Burton.

07:36 | Seattle | Comments (3)

September 29, 2004

Ash Wednesday?

Oh goodie. Looks like volcanic activity at Mount St Helens. Luckily Seattle is far enough away not to be hit with steaming lava or washed away by lahars (mud flows). We may only get a light dusting of ash, and if Seattle drivers drive in ash like they do in snow, I'll get a day off work.

07:25 | Seattle

May 21, 2004

Tolerance And The Left

The neighbourhood I live in here in Seattle in called Capitol Hill. It's the more festive part of town, which means it is also probably one of the more politically left parts of Seattle. Usually when you hear people speak of social liberalism, they tend to lump it with peace (anti-war), tolerance (pro-alternative lifestyles) and upholding constitutional rights (separation of church and state). After living here a month, I've come to realize that left-wing people do believe in upholding these things, so long as they're in line with leftist ideas. What do I mean?

Walking home from the bus stop one day, I saw a poster someone had tacked on to a telephone pole. It bore an American flag as the backdrop and stated how Capitol Hill Republican-supporters were in favour of the war in Iraq, against gay marriage, and generally pleased with George W.

The very next day, I saw that same poster half ripped off the pole, the other half crumpled on the ground.

One of the things left-wings complain about is the infringement of the separation of church and state, which is codified (more or less) in the first amendment of the US Constitution. By tearing down this poster, they've showed a lack of respect for Freedom of Speech, also codified in that same amendment.

I realize not all politically left people approve of this kind of behaviour. I also realize not all politically right people are in favour of church-state intermingling. I guess my point is that just because someone is Left, it doesn't mean they're tolerant, or are above selectively upholding the Constitution.

13:11 | Seattle

April 1, 2004

Oh, Cliffe

Fast and painless. That's the way I like apartment shopping. I found a great apartment on Capitol Hill (just down the street from Matt) at the Roundcliffe.

It was built in the 1930s, so it has all the character of an old building (like hardwood floors, crown molding, etc), and the amenities of a new one (cable, spectacular view).

I'm on my way to hand in my Notice to Vacate form to my current landlords, and the rest of the paperwork to my new ones.

Anyone up for a bitchin' housewarming party?

07:13 | Seattle | Comments (2)

March 28, 2004

No Vacancy

My friend John was in town this last weekend for an interview with Microsoft. We spent Saturday hanging out and walking around the more colourful areas of Seattle, grabbing lunch at a French café and dinner at a Senegalese restaurant.

Sunday I went apartment shopping. Yes, my one-year stint in Belltown is drawing to a close, and as much as I've loved living in the posh trendy club centre of Seattle, I'm ready to move on.

I'm currently looking for a place in Capitol Hill (see any vacancies, Matt?), and I'll keep you all posted on my progress.

You're riveted to the edge of your seats, aren't you?

19:49 | Seattle | Comments (4)

March 16, 2004

Back From Lopez Island

As promised, photos of our trip.

A weekend away from the city was exactly what we needed. I took off from work at 4:30, and Teresa drove us straight to Anacortes to catch the ferry to Lopez Island, one of the San Juan Islands, south-east of Vancouver Island.

I had booked a cabin earlier that week, so we drove right there, got into our bathing suits and relaxed in the outdoor hot tub before going to bed.

On Saturday we hiked up Fisherman's Bay Road towards the park. Locals in their cars would wave as they drove past us. After walking along the beach, we went into the village for a malt at the drug store. Can you say small town?

Sunday we walked around Shark Reef Park, and ate sandwiches on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The photos I took can't do justice to the beauty of this part of the world.

Before leaving the cottage, we were sure to sign the guestbook, as guests have been doing since 1999. As we left the cottage grounds, rabbits gathered on the lawn to see us off.

21:35 | Seattle

January 14, 2004

Seattle Bar Quiz

Coming to Seattle? Like to drink? Here are a few multiple choice questions to help you survive the Seattle bar scene, based on my real-life experiences.

Question 1:
You're at a bar in Seattle. It doesn't matter which one. You look at the clock on the wall, which reads 2:00 (am). What time is it?

  1. 2:00 am
  2. 1:40 am
  3. 2:00 pm

The correct answer, of course, is b. When I first started going to bars in Seattle, I was totally confused by the concept of bar time. I guess bars don't want that extra 20 minutes worth of business before last call.

Question 2:
It's now 2:00am (bar time). The bartender announces last call. This means:

  1. The server will forcefully take the drink from your hand.
  2. Last chance to order drinks.
  3. Nothing. Keep drinking.

The correct answer is a. Assuming the bartender hasn't called last call early, the establishments here feel they are constantly under the watchful eye of the Alcohol Inspector, or some such government official, and must adhere to the "no alcohol in patrons' hands after last call". I had a server imply they would be shut down if I didn't hand over my beer to him, or finish it. I opted to chug it. He stood there and watched me, to make sure I got every last drop.

Question 3:
You're at a Tiki Bar. There is live music. The band playing which style of music?

  1. Traditional Polynesian music
  2. Grunge
  3. Country

If you guessed c, you're right! I have no idea why. Maybe they were friends with the owner.

Ok, that's it for now. I'll post more quizzes when I encounter more bizarre Seattle culture.

07:31 | Seattle | Comments (1)

January 6, 2004

Snowed In

I woke up this morning to a veritable winter wonderland. Seattle was under an inch-thick blanket of powdery snow. I checked the transit website and saw the buses were still running, so I trotted off to the bus stop.

Now keep in mind, Seattleites are not used to the snow. It seldom snows at all here, and when it does, pandemonium breaks out. At the bus stop I saw three buses stuck on the entrance ramp to the highway. Only one of the buses had chains on it, and it appeared to be having the most trouble getting moving. I then weighed my options: get on the bus and wait half and hour just to get onto the highway (and risk getting stranded at work) or staying here and working from home. It wasn't a tough decision.

Since Teresa also got the day off, she and I wandered about a snow-covered Seattle. There was now over two inches (about five cm) on the ground, and the roads were choked with stalled cars. We passed one intersection and counted no less than twenty buses, all stopped. Walking along First Ave, we saw a small crowd of people pointing and laughing. We approached and saw man in a Jeep Cherokee trying desperately to stop sliding down a hill sideways. It blows my mind that people insist on buying their trendy SUVs, but when they actually need four-wheel drive, they don't know how to use it.

A little later, we saw a line of cars stuck on a highway entrance ramp. You could smell the burning rubber as the car in front gunned the engine and spun his back tires. Then he started rolling backwards. Luckily there was no collision then, but I'm sure there have been accidents all over the city today.

I guess lots of people had made the same decision I had, because there were people all over the place. We stopped in at a mall and were shocked to find many of the shops closed. I'm amazed that store managers would pass up such a great business opportunity.

Walking home, we saw another, larger crowd of people gathered at the top of a hill. We thought it was another episode of SUV Follies, but were surprised to find otherwise. A large number of people, adults and children alike, were sliding down the hill on sleds, lunch trays, sheets of metal and plastic and anything they could find that would make a good toboggan. We joined the crowd and watched this familiar winter activity, in a very unfamiliar setting.

I didn't end up getting much work done after all, but today certainly made up for the lack of snow at Christmas.

17:06 | Seattle | Comments (4)

January 4, 2004

Lousy Snow

It figures. I went home to Southern Ontario to enjoy a white Christmas, and instead of white-dusted evergreens and icicles hanging off eavestroughs, we had Seattle weather. On Christmas Eve it rained and melted what was left of the sand-encrusted lumps of roadside snow. And while I was gone, the American Pacific Northwest got a record amount of snowfall.

Since snow is so uncommon 'round these parts, many districts have closed schools and cancelled buses. I wonder if my commuter bus (the only one that runs from downtown Seattle to Redmond) will be cancelled tomorrow, thus extending my two-week holiday.

This is yet another reason (traffic being the #1 reason) I think there should be a direct subway line from Seattle to Microsoft.

21:16 | Seattle

November 22, 2003

Down With Everything!

Today I was lucky enough to see a procession of protesters march through Seattle's Pike Place Market. There were people dressed all in pink, huge Bush puppets and police escorts. There was even a man dressed as a dolphin riding a bicycle. So what were they protesting? I'm not exactly sure.

One of the problems I've heard about protests in Seattle is that there is seldom just one group protesting. People here seem to be against so many different things that they can't organize themselves into one cohesive unit. What do I mean? Well, I would have to say that the main theme of the protest was anti-FTAA. Also in the crowd were anti-Iraq war protesters, workers union representatives, the Seattle Education Association, and people fighting for the need to label genetically modified produce.

I can make an association between unions groups and anti-Free Trade (American jobs for Americans!), but I'm not sure why the teachers or the GMO people were there. And what protest wouldn't be complete without an anti-war slant and puppet of Bush with donkey ears?

A reporter and camera crew walked towards me with the intent on interviewing me. I hurried away into the crowd before they could ask me anything. I wonder what kinds of questions they would have asked?

"Do you support the giving of unlabelled genetically-modified apples to school teachers by students who will be drafted in the Iraq war, only to come home and have their jobs lost to underpaid sweatshop workers?"

Well, when you put it that way...

17:54 | Seattle | Comments (2)

November 19, 2003

Seattle Drivers Beware!

In the last few days, we here in the Puget Sound area have been experiencing all kinds of unseasonable weather. It's been raining a lot, even by Seattle standards. So much so, there has been flooding in many areas, including major roads and bridges. Poor Seattle motorists had to drive in between the lanes on SR-520 to avoid an accident on the left, and to avoid getting swept into Lake Washington on the right.

This morning commuters were in for another treat: Redmond was blanketed in a light dusting of snow. This of course meant people arrived to work later than usual, and some considered not coming in at all.

And people wonder why I take the bus to work.

20:16 | Seattle

October 20, 2003

Wet Wet Wet

I knew I would regret angrily throwing my umbrella in the trash can last week. Sure it was broken in two pieces; a thin metal stem and a blossoming black flower. But it wasn't raining very hard, and besides, it's just not cool to carry an umbrella in Seattle.

Today it caught up with me. The skies opened up, drenching everything in town. As I splashed through puddles, my hair plastered to my face, I couldn't help notice how umbrellas seemed to be back in fashion.

20:50 | Seattle

October 6, 2003

Sprinkler Madness

I find it odd that companies in Seattle aren't content with the amount of precipitation the city gets. Seattle is one of the rainiest cities in the United States, seeing the sun only during the summer months, and under a canopy of grey for the other eight. So what is it about certain Seattle companies (Microsoft included), that lead me to believe they want more rain?

Sprinkler systems.

It seems every office building or place of business with a patch of grass in front of it has a sprinkler system. I guess so they don't feel ripped off by only being able to use it during the drier summer months, they try to amortize the cost per use by turning the sprinklers on even while it's raining.

I remember seeing this several times on my walk to work last year as an intern, and I forgot all about it until tonight. Having come home and realizing that I had no clean clothes for tomorrow and there was no laundry detergent in the apartment for me to use, I decided to trek to the grocery store in the rain. On my way I walked past an apartment building with a tiny well-manicured lawn in front of it. Despite the light (and forecasted) drizzle, the sprinklers were on full force.

I wonder who would complain more if they put a tax on water in Seattle, small businesses or coffee drinkers?

22:56 | Seattle

September 28, 2003

The Last Good Weekend

Another weekend of unseasonably warm weather. On sunny weekends from mid-September on, Seattleites proclaim their pessimism with "This is the last nice weekend till next year!" Maybe they're just trying not to jinx themselves for next weekend.

Not wanting to call the locals liars, I spent the last two weekends (each of them beautiful) outdoors. This past weekend I went on a hike to Mount Rainier, the closest active volcano to Seattle (scheduled to erupt sometime in the next hundred-or-so years). In that respect, I guess every weekend we're not covered in volcanic ash is a good one.

23:09 | Seattle

September 18, 2003

Espressos For All!

On Tuesday Seattleites exercised their constitutional rights and voted NO on Initiative 77, which was a 10 cent surcharge on espresso. The money from this tax would go to fund programs for underprivileged children. It sounds kind of heartless of residents to reject paying a dime a day to help needy kids, but the biggest reason I've heard against seems to be that people here don't have faith in their government to spend the money properly.

Considering the enormous amount of coffee I consume, coupled with the inability to vote in this country, I was feeling pretty helpless. I was neither for, nor against the bill. On the one hand, I want relatively inexpensive coffee (although at $2-$3 a cup, it's a poor argument), on the other, I want to get money to the kids who need it. Ah, the joys of politics.

07:15 | Seattle | Comments (1)

September 16, 2003

Here Comes The Rain Again

Seattle has finally decided to live up to its reputation, and became overcast and rainy this week. After a record-breakingly sunny summer, I guess I can't really complain.

What's interesting is how different the climate is on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. On Saturday a bunch of us drove through the mountains to Eastern Washington to pick apples (actually it was more like the center of the state, but to Seattleites, everything east of the mountains is Eastern Washington). On our way to the orchard, I found out Eastern Washington is made up of two regions:

There was such a stark contrast between the two it blew my mind. One minute we're driving by fields of alfalfa and beans (helpfully labelled, at taxpayers' expense, no less), and the next we're in a veritable desert surrounded by deep ravines, petrified forests and a whole lot of dirt. Apparently during the winter while Seattle is being rained on, the east is covered in snow.

I made a mental note to explore this newly discovered wasteland. And this time I won't forget my camera in the other car.

22:14 | Seattle | Comments (2)

August 25, 2003

Grassy Knoll

It was a beautiful sunny day in Seattle today, and I couldn't justify staying indoors. So I grabbed the book I'm currently reading and walked down towards Pike Place market.

Just north of the market is a small grassy area overlooking Elliot Bay, as well as Seattle's two sports stadia and Mount Rainier. There are benches, a dried up fountain and two totem poles around the unexpected downtown green space. It's a great place to sit down and relax when the weather permits.

One of the more interesting aspects of this park-ette is the social atmosphere. You have almost equal parts tourists, locals and homeless people sharing the space, but there's an unspoken rule everyone understands that this area is for hanging out only. No one panhandles, no stray market merchants hawk their wares, and no one gets uptight about the present company.

Whether I'm there to read, write or simply people-watch, it's one of my favorite inner-city getaway spots.

00:29 | Seattle

July 26, 2003

When You're A Jet

My group of friends is divided into two groups: the West Siders, and the East Siders. I know this probably conjures up imagery of leather jacket-clad greasers, snapping and dancing around each other, but believe me, my friends aren't really into that.

Since I live in Seattle, I'm a West Sider. Those who live across Lake Washington (in Redmond, Bellevue) are the East Siders. Although it's only a 20-minute drive, deciding on which side to hang out is usually a point of contention. West Siders complain that there's nothing to do on the East side, which is suburbia and practically shuts down after dark. East Siders complain about the lack of parking downtown. Since I don't have a car, I have little say on which side we spend time, so I usually let the others fight it out.

I don't know if it's because of the lake in between that makes the trek seem so painful, but usually once people settle on one side, they are very reluctant to move. I'm surprised, considering most of these guys have really nice cars (BMWs, Audis, etc), I'd think they'd jump at any opportunity to drive them.

00:00 | Seattle

July 22, 2003

Labour Party

One of the things that really struck me when I came to live in downtown Seattle is the number of day labourers standing on the side of some streets every morning. Mostly Hispanic, they stand and wait for people to stop to hire them for the day, presumably for manual labour.

Occasionally a pickup truck would stop and the men would crowd around, hoping to be the ones chosen for the day's tasks. Every once in a while you'll see a car full of tourists stop to ask for directions, or stop because they think the one of the men is waving at them, and would get swarmed.

This really struck me because I have never seen anything like this in Canada. But apparently it's so commonplace here that the city has erected NO LABOR PICKUP signs on busy streets. As one would expect, the signs are mostly ignored.

I don't know whether or not these men are legally in the US or not, but I am sure this isn't what they had in mind when they came to The Land of Opportunity.

00:00 | Seattle

July 21, 2003

Mountain Traffic

I've only lived in Seattle during the spring and summer months, but from what I've been told, the other 8 months a year are chiefly overcast and rainy. As a result, Seattleites relish each and every clear sunny day by spending them outdoors. And on days when they can't be outside, they spend the time idly gazing out the window to enjoy the beauty the American Pacific North-West has to offer. Unfortunately, even Seattle drivers are not immune.

The most direct route to get from downtown Seattle to Redmond (Microsoft) is SR-520, which becomes a bridge to cross Lake Washington. On such clear days, the elusive Mount Rainier can be seen, and like rubberneckers gawking at an overturned car, drivers slow to admire the mountain's majestic beauty. Granted, at times like these, I'm thankful to be in the passenger seat. Unfortunately it also slows down traffic considerably on the 2-lane highway.

If it's a clear day in Seattle, be sure to leave a few minutes early, lest you get stuck in Mountain Traffic. At least the view is nice.

00:00 | Seattle

July 7, 2003

The Way Home

I took the bus home from work today. It was a bit crowded, so I grabbed a seat near the back of the bus. Behind me sat a young mother an son. I took out my book to start reading silently, and so did she. All except for the silently part. For 20 minutes I was forced to listen to this woman reading Pippi Longstocking (complete with voice effects). More than once the other passengers turned around with annoyed looks on their faces. I ended up putting my book away, since the girlish adventures of Pippi took away from the bleak mood cast by my book of Camus' short stories.

The bus drops me off several blocks from my apartment. Sometimes I choose to walk along 5th Avenue, over which stands the monorail track. Other times I cross it and pass several old theatres made into cinemas or clubs. There's not much else really old in trendy Belltown. And now there's even less. A block away from where I live there stands the remains of an old church, which is slowly being gutted to be made into a condominium.

Being a guy, I wandered over to check out the construction site. The church has only two walls, which are being propped up by big steel girders. I walked over to where a wall used to be and looked inside. Twisted metal and broken pews are strewn everywhere. A yellow backhoe sits where the pulpit once was. It's weird to think that a building that once housed a congregation of hopeful parishioners is now being converted into housing for yuppies. That's progress for ya.

I looked up to where the fourth wall was. It had been flush against the next building, and when it was torn down, it uncovered something really cool. Murals. Advertisements painted directly onto the wall of a building. Not old and faded, but vibrant. Well, as vibrant as one can be, having been walled up for fifty years. One mural simply states "Queen Anne 1317 We always do good work". I don't think that was ever in doubt. The other ad is much more interesting. It's for Albers Rolled Oats. The slogan reads "At a housewife's fingertips". I have no idea why a housewife would need rolled oats so readily. In fact, I have no idea what I would do with rolled oats even if they were handy. Truly these murals are from a different era.

Here's a photo I took, in case you're interested.

00:00 | Seattle

June 22, 2003

Splendor Solstice

This weekend was a typical rainy Seattle one. Saturday was the Solstice Parade in Fremont, just outside of Seattle. Attending the parade was an interesting experience. There were Seuss-like floats, cyclists wearing body paint (and not much else), and more naked people than I care to see in one day. The whole Solstice Festival had (surprise, surprise) a very hippy feel to it. There were tents where you could buy crafts, tie-dye shirts and even sign up for the Green Party. The tent that seemed the most out of place was the Vietnam Veteran's tent. Did they really think that a hippy festival would be the best place to set up shop?

Walking among the tents, I was stopped by a man with a clipboard.

Man with clipboard: "Sir, could I get your signature..."
Me: "For what?"
Man with clipboard: "To support women's right to vote."
Me: "What?!"
Man with clipboard: "Oh, I mean, uh, to support, uh..."

Look, don't expect people to sign your petition if you can't even explain what the petition is for.

After walking in the rain for a few hours (and seeing more than I cared to see of the citizens of Fremont), we headed home.

00:00 | Seattle

May 21, 2003

Drivers Wanted

Today I got my Washington State driver's license. I took the written test last week, and driving test this morning. I didn't blog about it earlier to avoid the shame if I failed.

The written test wasn't difficult. The hardest part was trying to remember all the unposted speeds in miles per hour and distances in feet. I only got one question wrong, but in my opinion, this is one law that should be changed. Let's see how you do.

If you are involved in a collision in which there is a death, injury, and/or over $700 in property damage, how long do you have to file a report with state police?

  1. 48 hours
  2. 4 days
  3. 1 week
  4. 1 month

If you answered "a", like I did, you'd be wrong. The correct answer is "b". Apparently in Washington State, if you kill someone with your car, there's no need to cancel your weekend plans. Take off and have fun. And when you get back, then consider turning yourself in.

The driving test went fine. I screwed up my parallel park, which didn't come as much of a surprise since I hadn't parallel parked since my first driver's test 9 years ago. They issued me a temporary license and invalidated my Ontario one (it's against the law to possess more than one valid license).

Since I don't own a car, I had to rent one for the test. I also had to provide proof of insurance on the car (which luckily, was supplied with the car rental). This got me thinking:

Lucky for me everything worked out because I have an out-of-state license, but I wonder how people without cars (and aren't driving their parents') run into this situation.

00:00 | Seattle

May 1, 2003

Moved In

Wow, the move went surprisingly smoothly. I made sure to be in the apartment by 7:30am, just in case. Good thing too because Ikea arrived at 7:50. Ten minutes later they were gone. I got half way through butting my futon together when the movers arrived. Not much to report. They moved my boxes up and left by 9:30. I unpacked most of my stuff and set up the Ikea furniture. I left my books -- the bulk of my shipment -- in boxes until I get a bookcase.

I think I'm going to be happy here. The apartment is big, it's downtown, and there's a Starbucks on every street corner. Who could ask for anything more?

00:00 | Seattle

August 5, 2002


Sunday I was up at the crack of dawn (actually 7:00 am) to go hike a trail on Mount Rainier, an active volcano in a national park of the same name. It a long, cold hike through snow and a barren rocky landscape. I loved it. We only hiked a couple miles (a far cry from the epic journey I took up Mount Fuji last year), but it made me realize just how out of shape I am (like I needed to be reminded). The weather sucked; it was foggy,raining, and at one point snowing. The fog was so thick we didn't get to actually see the mountain, but I got some good shots all the same (my current host only gave me 10 MB for this site, so I can't really post a lot of pics. Maybe when I get back home I'll get a real host. And a real URL. But that's another story).

I had a good time, and surprisingly, I'm not sore this morning.

00:00 | Seattle

June 27, 2002


Ang arrived safe and sound yesterday morning, and I had the pleasure of experiencing Seattle rush hour first-hand. Since there were two of us in the car on the ride home, we got to use the envied Carpool Lane. Only motorcycles and cars with >=2 passengers are elite enough to drive in this lane. It was so sweet. I passed dozens of singly-occupied cars and avoided stop-and-go traffic for miles. I made it home in half the time it took for me to get to the airport (wrong turns notwithstanding). But how does this marvel of modern road infrastructure work? I've seen Diamond Lanes in Mississauga that are ignored by everyone (including myself), so how does Washington state make it work? I'm glad you asked.

Anyone caught abusing this lane is charged $86. How are these people caught? Other drivers can report violators via a hotline: (206) 764-HERO. That's right, by ratting out single-drivers (or trucks with 3 or more axels) normal citizens become heroes in their own right. Stand aside 9/11 firefighters, here comes Johnny Snitch with his cellphone, a true American hero.

Shot of man with one arm on chest, the other clutching a cellphone. He's standing proud in front of a backdrop of the American Flag with a bald eagle soaring overhead. The Star-Spangled Banner plays in background.

00:00 | Seattle

May 13, 2002

Rantless In Seattle

I realize I haven't written much lately. That's probably because I haven't had much to rant about. I've been sleeping at least 8 hours a night, so I've been in a cheery mood. I've been getting exercise, riding my bike, and doing various other activities, so I'm feeling good, not my usual raving self. We've even been having good weather, although it still takes me a while to figure out if 70°F is good or bad weather. And best of all, I get paid this week (eyes pop out of head making cash register noise).

I guess the only bad thing is that it's raining right now, and I have a 20 minute bike ride ahead of me. Life is so unfair.

00:00 | Seattle