Author Archives: scmckee

This is the Starship Enterprise

ConsoleNo, seriously, this is the actual console from the TV series.  We ambled over to the Museum of Popular Culture, formerly the Experience Music Project, where a surprisingly thoughtful exhibit of gear, wardrobe and cultural notes ends this week with the show’s induction into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

We chose this week to visit because of an overlapping tribute to the work of Rube Goldberg.  I got movies of a couple of working models of Goldberg-like devices, but the most interesting items were his original drawings.

One non-functioning exhibit reproduced the Enterprise’s teleporter, pictured here:

transporter

December 2016

Most of our news this year is from pretty close to home:curbside

Greetings to all from our newly-remodeled lobby.  The sculpture has been relocated, the furniture has a younger look, colors are somewhat more neutral, and the downstairs bookshelves have given way to a counter for computer users.  There’s also a big new television.

In other building news, this summer saw the advent of our rooftop herb garden, a welcome addition for those of us who like to avoid plastic supermarket packaging but who are too lazy to grow plants on our own balconies. Fortunately, some of our neighbors are really good at this!  We used lots of cilantro, basil, oregano, and even some tarragon.  There were excellent tomatoes that we mostly left for others.  Below is a picture of our roof, with its three little maple trees, from last Fall.

roofspace

There’s a bit more news in earlier posts, mostly about cycling, in case you missed them.  We’re planning another bicycle trip in Europe late next summer.

Happy holidays and a bright new year, from Scott and Alex!

Drug culture

Well, marijuana has been legal here for a long time now, so who could resist acquiring some, even if just to say we had?  Alex and I had talked about going shopping together, but I finally took matters into my own hands on a trip back from the library.  There are two licensed shops located fairly conveniently; I chose Herban Legends, on Bell Street a bit north of the Pike Place Market.herbanI was carded inside the door (a big change from the old days, but always flattering for a person of my years). Even without ID you can choose to turn left into the paraphernalia department and acquire cool hemp-themed items; but I entered the dimly-lit drug den itself.  I headed for the comestibles.  A fellow customer asked me if I were a fan of edibles, but the answer is probably that I am just no longer a smoker.

squareI bought a couple of peanutbutter-cup-like items, since that’s what we eat too much of at Halloween.  Another thing that’s changed:  the last time I bought tetrahydrocannabinol, there was little  discussion about organic production or gluten-free ingredients.

The candies were six bucks each, cash. On my way out I met another customer who also offered identification but was just waved through.  I guess maybe he was a regular.

Our other drug-related story involves Los Pollos Hermanos.  Fans of the series Breaking Bad will recognize this as the name of the business that was the front for Gus Fring’s distribution network; but of course the temptation to use it in the non-fiction world has proved irresistible. Some folks have apparently been sued for copyright infringement, for duplicating the logo that appeared on TV; but the trade name would be a different story.

Our local version is a Peruvian/Mexican store and restaurant, just south of the place where we used to eat when we biked to Shoreline. We were already shopping here for things like epazote and the elusive lime Jarritos, even  before we tried out the prepared food.  Days after our first meal the Seattle Times gave the place a glowing review and apparently it was very busy for a while.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe barbecue-style chicken has a most wonderful and distinctive flavor.  The paradox is that the chicken is itself so plump that the sauce has trouble keeping up.

Fall Color

It is not to the Northwest that people flock, for scenes of brilliant Autumn color. Hardwoods colonized the continent starting in the East, and were still scarce in Puget Sound by the time the Old Settlers arrived. At its start, Seattle was unrelievedly green, year-round.

Deciduous trees were imported, mostly for landscaping.  Absolved of the requirement to provide fuel or timber, they were free to be decorative.  They have a lot more flair for shade than our native Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar.

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An out-of-the-way plaza in Seattle Center

DallasOur big windstorm this October happened before most trees were ready to give up their leaves, so we have had a few additional fine days to enjoy their colors. Here’s a picture of Alex pedaling along Dallas Avenue, our shortcut through the South Park neighborhood. This route skips some of the landmarks on the recommended bike trail, but it provides a chance to stop at Duwamish Waterway Park.

 

fullmoonBig projects sometimes call for big trees. Thirty-fifth Avenue, in Lake City, for example, is lined for half a mile with Raywood Ash trees, like the one that we planted at our old house on Queen Anne Hill.  At the other end of the scale are Japanese Maples, possibly no larger than shrubs, in every shape and color of leaf.  I believe that the ones seen here, on our current rooftop garden, are called “Golden Full Moon.”

larchFinally, as if to contradict what we said earlier, there are some conifers bred in such hostile climes that they, too, have learned to shed their leaves for winter.  These conical yellow trees are larches, caught in downtown’s wonderful Freeway Park.

Westlake

Yesterday we were riding north and discovered that construction is complete on the Westlake Bike Lane, with a dedication ceremony set for tomorrow. I got pictures!

The new Westlake Bike Path, looking south from the Galer Street pedestrian bridge.This view from the Galer Street Pedestrian Overpass shows the new lanes headed south toward downtown.  The lanes end at the Mercer Mess, at the south end of Lake Union Park, while the adjacent Westlake Avenue continues well into tourist country, almost to the southern monorail terminal.  We used this same route for a long time even though it meant dodging cars in a series of linked parking lots — it seemed easier than the hill on nearly-parallel Dexter Avenue.

The project caused concern over loss of parking and disruption to businesses during construction, but improved traffic flow may be worth it.   Most of the accidents along this route over the years were low-speed collisions; but back in 2001, while there were still remnants of railroad tracks, I fell and broke my hip near Boat World.  Piled into a push-cart while Alex rode up to the top of Queen Anne Hill for the car, I had plenty of time to think how pleasant some new asphalt would be.

North toward Fremont from the Galer Street Bridge

The best connections are at the north end of the lanes.  Immediately across the Fremont Bridge, the Burke-Gilman Trail stretches in either direction and links to other regional trail systems.  Go west under the bridge instead and you’re headed along the Ship Canal Trail, and thence either south along Elliott Bay or west to the Ballard Locks and Discovery Park.

Seattle’s weather and topography present some challenges for cyclists, but we’re thankful to the City for effective attempts like this one to encourage human-powered travel.  The counter on the Fremont bridge already shows an average of over three thousand bike trips a day.

December 2015

LobbyWe did manage to get outside a bit (see below), but our biggest achievements this year may have been in the field of televiewing.  We gave up our cable subscription, but with a faster internet connection we are able to watch a lot of regular programming, including getting the BBC World News hours before it is broadcast locally.  And, living within sight of several antennas, we receive the major networks the old-fashioned way, over the air.

TV2What we have done mostly though is watch videos. We do this on the cheap also, since Alex has learned how to get a steady stream of them from the public library, and soon after they are released. Being retired, and no longer expected to engage in water-cooler conversation about recent offerings, we have been happily viewing years-old movies and series that we missed completely while we were living in Mexico and even before.  One of our first projects was to binge-watch the entire run of 30 Rock, for instance.

This strategy has allowed us to watch over 500 theatrical releases in a year.  They weren’t all new — there was the occasional flim noir or neglected classic — but thanks to careful attention to the critics we only “walked out” on a couple of them. This year’s list isn’t available yet, but the names of movies I’ve seen for the prior thirty years or so are available here.

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I guess we’re not entirely couch potatoes: we are again visiting our climbing gym, Vertical World. And a fair amount of kayaking occurred also.

Fall 2015

With an increase in latitude and the occasional rainy day, I had imagined that my cyclist’s tan might begin to fade. That peculiar tan — the very short sleeves but very long shorts, the edges made starker by elastic; the high collar with the plunging neckline; and for the hairless, the topping of Klingon stripes left by the helmet. But neither time nor high-octane sunscreen shows much effect. Fortunately I am seldom called upon to appear in bathing attire, and then it’s usually with a drysuit as well.
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Another surprise: the blackberries bloomed really early, but then we waited and waited for the bumblebees to arrive to pollinate them. I’m not sure I’ve found two dozen of the burly bees the whole summer, and those from only two of the four species that we used to see regularly. By some miracle there was a big crop of blackberries anyway — plus the best thimbleberries ever. I don’t know how to account for this, but I sure would like to see the bees again.

Our Summer

At the beginning of the year we were kept off the streets by an injury and Alex’s jury duty. An early spring and a record-hot summer got us out on our bikes again, though, and recently we’ve tried some new trips and revisited old ones.

Today for example we did our usual ride down to Fort Dent, but this time continued south along the Green River Trail. Much of this trail had been closed for years while storm damage was repaired and new flood control measures installed. Now, more of the route is off-street, and some sort of park appears every few blocks. Many of the little stopping-places offer water; one is a big natural area with hiking trails.

We rode to Kent and to the intersection with the Interurban Trail, a more utilitarian but nonetheless pleasant way to get back north to Southcenter — where we then had our usual lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen, but with an additional 20 miles under our belts.

This new part of the Burke-Gilman trail runs left-right, both under and over the new, larger Rainier Vista, the big lawn leading to UW's Frosh Pond.

This new part of the Burke-Gilman trail runs left-right, both under and over the new, larger Rainier Vista, the big lawn leading to UW’s Frosh Pond.

Other trails have been seeing long-awaited improvements too. For years the Burke-Gilman Trail featured a long detour through a busy part of the University of Washington campus, with “bonus” streets and hills, while a new section was being built to ease traffic near Montlake Boulevard. We happened upon the newly-finished portion during a random trip to Kenmore and were delighted by the change. An old web of crossings and difficult turns has been replaced by an attractive plaza, with a bridge soon to replace the street-level crossing of a big intersection.

We’re usually kept busy with rides we can do from home, but sometimes we put the bike carrier on the car and drive to another regional trail. Our first remote start this year took us to Pierce County and the Foothills Trail, which follows the old Northern Pacific grade from just east of Puyallup up to South Prairie and beyond. Entering Orting along the Foothills Trail
Recent pavement, sound traffic engineering and plentiful facilities make this a convenient ride for just about anybody. The town of Orting lies at the midpoint, and that’s where we had lunch.

Not long after the beginning of the ride, the trail leaves the Puyallup for the Carbon River; the stream bed and the water itself change noticeably, for this river is fed by the glacier of the same name on Mt. Rainier. Later, past the wetlands where Prairie Creek flows in, the trailside stream is clear again.

Snow falling on Cedar

cedarCedar here of course refers to the name of the street. Snow is pretty rare in Seattle this time of year, but Alex spotted it before dawn and we knew that we would have to get up right away in order to enjoy it. We had seen a few flakes on one afternoon the previous week, but it was gone so quickly that I’m not sure anyone else noticed it. In the picture you can just see a little accumulated on the cars, among the landscaping, and a blur around the streetlights.
In keeping with the book-title theme, Bainbridge Island was definitely not visible, busy with its own snowfall; and there, as here, strong winds later toppled trees and stopped traffic. Our own incident was at the intersection of Clay Street and Western Avenue, about three blocks away, not far from the Olympus Apartments, where we lived three summers ago.

The clouds rolled away and the rest of the day was mostly sunny — we walked down to the library and did a couple of errands. As of this moment a lot of street trees still have colorful leaves, but it’s not expected to thaw tomorrow, so that may change soon.

We’re thankful for our snug prospect here. In the top left corner of the picture, a neighbor’s lighted tree wishes all a Merry Christmas.

Our new neighbor

dimensionMajor construction is complete on the apartment building kitty-corner from our home, called Dimension by Alta.  People not wearing hardhats are sometimes seen inside now.  At twenty-seven stories it’s taller than we expected to see hereabouts.

It also doesn’t seem particularly graceful if you ask me, but there may be an explanation for that.  Apparently the City has required that new buildings not be “monolithic,” hoping to avoid the drab facelessness that resulted from some earlier, utilitarian development. Bright yellow ridges affixed to the outside, contrasting with Z-brick around the base, would seem to fill the bill.  The building should mostly fade into the mist like the monoliths behind and to the left, though.  We hope that new neighbors will mean lots of new shops and services too.

In its shape the new building mirrors the one to the right, Seattle Heights.  The last apartment we looked at, just before finding the one where we live now, was on the seventh floor there.  Sometimes we see the people who moved there in our stead, grilling on their terrace for instance.  They have a much “better” view of the new Dimension, which we admit is one reason that we chose to live at the Mosler Lofts.  On the other, left, side of the new building, at the same level, is visible a corner of the Lexington Apartments, a home through most of the 1980s.