Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Yuzu jasmine

No, I haven't been blogging much.

Being sick with three annoying things in succession -- norovirus, a quick cold, and another one of my back things (aggravation of an old herniated-disk problem) -- filled up the time I usually spend doing things I later blog about. (Postponing and rescheduling my annual visit to my mom in Florida made me berserk, as well.)

Whining and crabbing don't yield much good blogging material, so considering yourself spared.

Now I'm emerging from it all to discover things aren't as grim as I'd feared. I have plenty of writing work to do, and the household and the cats are in good shape. The weather is even pretending to warm up.

Today I went downtown to see Larry Swanson, the therapist who is helping me with the range-of-motion problems I was having with my right arm in yoga class. After the appointment I went to Pacific Place and visited Eddie Bauer, J. Jill, Nordstrom, Aveda, and Williams Sonoma. I scored some great Bremerton-fit pants at Eddie Bauer, nothing at J. Jill, but some new yoga leggings at Nordstrom and a pair of fuzzy bed socks on sale for $2. At Aveda I managed to buy a lip gloss without being lobbied too heavily to buy a dozen related makeup products. (When I say "I don't wear makeup" they look at me and it sinks in that I'm telling the truth.)

The true luxury was what I bought at Williams Sonoma: Five bottles of their dish soap -- wasabi green tea, Meyer lemon, French lavender, Valencia orange, and Yuzu jasmine. The lavender smells like the scented water my grandmother used to spray on her ironing.

These dish soaps work quite well, smell gorgeous, and look elegant on the countertop. Of course they cost more than Dawn. But a few years back, when we remodeled the kitchen, I decided I was never putting a bottle of butt-ugly, toilet-cleaner-blue dishwashing liquid on that beige Corian counter. So I bought some Williams Sonoma liquid in the elegant clear bottle, and have never looked back. Not even when Zorg opened a bottle off the stuff labeled "pink grapefruit" and wrinkled his nose.

He got used to it.

I expect to be back downtown quite a bit this week and weekend, not for more medical/retail therapy, but for the Left Coast Crime conference at the Renaissance Seattle. Linda Richards, mystery author and the founder of January Magazine, will be on a panel tomorrow afternoon about finding mysteries that are "outside your comfort zone."

Interested in crime fiction? I believe there are still conference tickets available.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Vista bombs

Around dinnertime Saturday evening our neighborhood was shaken by the sound of bombing. I thought "Fireworks?" and we looked out at Shilshole, where neighborhood kids will often set off fireworks in a empty parking lot. But...nothing. The noise was deeper than fireworks -- truly much more like artillery fire.

The loud "bombing" continued at intervals, and we were puzzled. We looked at some online local news sites, but they made no mention of it. I looked outside and noticed that there were no airplanes (we live on a flight plath for Sea-Tac airport). Had air traffic been grounded because of some sort of attack?

The din finally stopped. A while later Zorg heard from another player in World of Warcraft that the noise had been from a Microsoft publicity stunt connected with the release of the latest Windows operating system, Vista -- a massive fireworks display a few miles to the southeast, on Lake Union.

Accounts of the display, from people with a view of Lake Union, say that it was absolutely spectacular. For those of us without a sightline to the event, it was just disquieting and annoying.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

No more Mr. Nice Guy

This is Kaylee, the bulletin board bandit.

She removes push-pins from bulletin boards, causing important papers and reminders to cascade onto the desk, onto the floor, and behind bookcases, where they are found months later.

The word "no" means nothing to her. She loves it when people chase her off the desk and race around the house, shrieking. She finds it particularly amusing when they skid on the fallen papers, or stomp on a push-pin.

Her reign of terror is about to end.

My new year's resolution was to take back control of my bulletin board. I've re-pinned and re-papered the bulletin board, and placed a filled squirt gun in a empty mug on the desk.

Film at 11.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Let's play the Bookworm Meme

1. Grab the nearest book
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the following three sentences on your blog, along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book on your shelf! (I know you were thinking about it!) Just stick with whatever is closest.
6. Tag 5 people

The nearest book is on the top of my pile of books to be catalogued with Delicious Library: Rains All the Time, by David Laskin.

The 5th - 8th sentences on page 123 are:
"John M. Wallace, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington and a prominent member of the climatology community, describes some of the groundbreaking research that he and his colleagues at the University of Washington have been pursuing in the past few years: "This has been a very active area of research here, and the pieces are fitting together to give us the big picture of what has happened over the last seventy to eighty years, which is about as far as we go back. Relying on historical records of sea surface temperatures, pressure patterns over the Pacific, temperature along the coast, runoff in rivers, fishery records, and winter snowfall, we've concluded that there has been substantial inter-decadal variability--bigger than you'd expect to happen purely by chance."

Whew! Too bad it was a quote. I liked Laskin's writing better than the professor's...

I've sent tags to five other bloggers, but consider yourself tagged as well!

Saturday, January 20, 2007


My "flu" turned out to be a norovirus, the type of food-borne virus associated with cruise ships. I didn't go on a cruise, but it's fair to guess I picked it up on the previous week's travel to and from San Francisco.

I'm still considered contagious until Wednesday, according to the doctor I saw this morning. (And I still feel pretty awful.) The doctor wrote a letter to American Airlines and I cancelled tomorrow's flight to Florida. Even with a doctor's letter, cancellation still involves penalties, complications, and requires that you re-book on the same airline; however, I had $15 trip insurance, which bypassed the airline bureaucracy, netting me a full refund.

Back to bed...thanks to all of you who've emailed with "get well" messages.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

iPhone hyperbole

The lighter side of iPhone: Conan O'Brien shows the first iPhone commercial; Saturday Night Live parodies Steve Jobs' keynote speech scarily well (if you just listen to the audio).

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A short hiatus

I have the flu and am taking a few days off from blogging. The Zorg is on his annual snowshoeing weekend in Winthrop and the cats are taking care of me. Look for me again on Wednesday...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Seen on the street (and in the stores)

It's been fascinating to watch the transformation in San Francisco during the past six Macworlds. I attended the 2001 Macworld came just as the dotcom bubble was on the verge of bursting. It was a dizzying explosion of limos, conference schwag, and lavish, wild parties -- but not much to celebrate.

The 2002 conference took place in a city that looked almost post-apocalyptic -- empty storefronts, abandoned renovation projects, and an enormous population of street people. Rumors were that the hotel limos were now being driven by former dotcom art directors.

Gradually, over the past few years, the area around the Moscone Conference Center (a few blocks from Union Square) has come back up. The better-planned projects have been completed, and mid-range stores (including the Apple Store) have moved into the shopping areas along Market.

In its current incarnation, this area of San Francisco is a great place to look at fashion, particularly because the weather is mild and people don't go around bundled up against the cold or rain. Here, boots and coats are a fashion statement, not a necessity.

The city's lively, off-beat take on design and fashion is strongly fueled by retro concepts. 1950s-era jazz is heard on the street; there's still a tinge of Haight-Ashberry rusticity and pop-art color; and from Union Square you get a strong dose of elegant 1960s Italian fashion (classic tailored black wools and gold jewelry). Top it all off with the leather-and-chains look that remains perennially the mode in the Castro District.

Yesterday I saw people wearing clothing I couldn't imagine seeing in Seattle -- beautiful Italian leather hobo bags; wildly elaborate post-hippie tops and skirts from Anthropologie; designer jeans and spike-heeled black boots everywhere. You can buy the look for big bucks at Nordstrom or Kenneth Cole, or cheaply at Forever 21. But wherever you shop, the words "plain" "basic" and "practical" probably don't get spoken very often! And certainly not "boring."

Monday, January 08, 2007

Plane crackers

It was the usual Southwest trip -- left on time, got in ahead of schedule, comfy leather seats, and an empty middle seat in the row I shared with a fellow who commutes between Bellingham and Baja.

Southwest has, thankfully, removed the rancid party mix from its snack menu and substituted a custom product (by Nabisco) called "plane crackers." (See picture.)

The only off-note was Godzilla the Goth in the seat in front of me. About 7 feet tall, he was a rocker and a bouncer, who kept dislodging the tray table so it unlatched and plummeted into my lap. There's one on every flight...

At baggage claim I got talking to a delightful fellow traveling with a banjo. Turns out he's a friend of friends of mine in Bellingham -- and an amazingly generous person. He had a rental car lined up, and delivered me right to the door of my hotel in downtown San Francisco. What a great start to Macworld!

Nostalgia trip

Major nostalgia trip. I'm sitting at Southwest's Gate 6 at Sea-Tac, a place I visited nearly every week for five years while commuting to San Jose. I haven't been there since changing jobs in February, but when I walked up to the Starbucks (newly remodeled and expanded) the woman at the counter remembered my usual order ("grande Awake tea, one teabag").

The place is full of ghosts.

There's the ghost of Chris, who carpooled with me to the airport for the first two years of the weekly commute. I remember the time we got back from the trip so frazzled that we not only couldn't find the car in the parking garage, we couldn't remember if it was his Volkswagen or my Honda we were looking for. Chris works for Microsoft now, and, ironically, is headed to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show this week as I head to Macworld in San Francisco (via Oakland).

And there's the ghost of David, who's still making the regular commute to San Jose these days. He's not going down this week, though, and he'd be headed to San Jose, not this flight to Oakland. It's odd to be here without him

I remember the first year of the group commute. 9/11 had just happened, and our Apple laptops, which glowed in "sleep" mode, occasionally freaked out inspectors and stewardesses. My most comfortable winter shoes were tall, lace-up Santana boots, and it took me forever to get reassembled after going through security.

Today is my first time flying since the three-ounce liquid rules were introduced. So I checked my rollaboard with all my shampoos and stuff, and it's rather nice to be at the gate with just a small purse and a lightweight computer briefcase to tote aboard.

This being a mid-day flight, there aren't the Bluetooth earphones, high-end cellphones and iPod earbuds I remember from the heavily wired 6:30 a.m. commuter flights. The scene is quite peaceful, actually, just the mumbling of the TV trying to freak us out with the news that there was a mysterious smell in New York City and downtown Austin is closed "in the wake of mysterious bird deaths." And the soft babbling of the cell phone addicts. "Hi. I'm at the airport. Where are you?"

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Rain + coat

This won't be news to anyone living out here in the Northwest corner, but -- it's raining. Again.

The gray clouds are streaming past the windows of my office, with occasional glimpses of faint blue, but the rain is pretty much steady, and, at times, nearly horizontal.

My long, dressy winter raincoat with the wool lining, which I wear perhaps three or four times a year, is no match for this. I wore it today and the wool clung to the legs of my corduroy pants -- making walking awkward -- while the shoulders of the coat rapidly turned sodden. The hood blew off repeatedly in the wind.

I came home and hung the thing up to dry; when it does, it'll be on the fast track for the consignment shop. Then I went looking for a new dressy raincoat.

I was pretty sure that anything I bought at Macy's (that's where my current "raincoat" came from) would be purely cosmetic in terms of keeping me dry in a storm. So I went the opposite route, looking for "performance outerwear." Sounds serious. With that, waterproof is a given. But the challenge is to find something that doesn't make you look like a 17-year-old snowboarding dude.

Fortunately for me, writer Seth Stevenson set out a few years ago to explore the mystique of Goretex waterproof, breathable rainwear and discovered (via some highly amusing home testing) many products that rival Goretex, including coats from North Face, Pearl Izumi, and L.L. Bean. Following his advice, I checked out L.L. Bean's online offerings and ended up with a three-quarter length waterproof raincoat in a conservative, versatile black. (I passed on the version with the wool lining, figuring I'll end up layering with some type of fleece or wool jacket anyway.)

It was cheaper (and easier to pronounce) than Arc'teryx and L.L. Bean's phone customer service is still awesome.