Tuesday, May 31, 2005

7 Hills of Kirkland

This morning I met up with Chris, Sandy, Francesca, and Jennifer for the 7 Hills of Kirkland bike ride. The ride had three distance choices: 7 hills route (42 miles), 11 hills route (78 miles), and new since the city of Kirkland is celebrating its centennial this year, the Century (100 mile) route.

Chris and I opted for the century route. I originally thought the 78 mile route would be plenty for me, but he was interested in the century. I figured, if he is flying in from the Chicago area, where it isn't very hilly, and wants to do a hilly century, then so can I!

I originally planned to ride my Trek, since it has a triple chainring, which would make the hill climbs easier. But his bike, a Felt S25, only had a double chainring. So, I decided I could ride my Cervelo and its double chainring as well. Besides, I have bigger gears on my derailleur (12-25 versus his 11-23), so I would have an "easier" time. After all, if he can climb on the 11-23 then I can too on the 12-25.

You might detect a slight competitiveness here, but that wasn't really it. Chris is a stronger cyclist than I am. This was more that I needed some pushing to work a bit harder than I originally would have, which makes for better training. Kind of like how a coach will make you stretch a little bit farther than you would on your own.

We all rode up straight into Market Hill, immediately out of the start area. This is pretty gentle compared to the next two hills: Juanita Hill and then Norgate Hill. We took it easy, not wanting to exhaust ourselves 20 miles into a 100 mile ride. At the first food stop Sandy, Jennifer, and Francesca caught as as we were leaving, so we chatted briefly and took a few photos.

Me, Francesca, Sandy, Chris

Chris and I left to do Winery Hill, which was really tough. We climbed a residential street right next to the hill, which had two steep sections with flatter grades in between. At the top was some entertainment: a kilt-wearing bagpipe-playing gentleman, who was really good and a nice diversion from the effort.

After this the route took us by the food stop again, and on down to the Sammamish River valley. We climbed 60 Acres hill (that is what I call it, but it is probably part of Education hill) and midway up was the split: 11 Hills and Century course kept going, while the 7 Hills course turned. Up until this point the course was busy - lots of riders. But after the split, we looked back and saw that nearly everybody following us turned for the 7 Hills route.

We kept going up Education Hill, so named because an elementary, junior high, and Redmond high school are all on it. After a steep descent to Avondale road, we we soon climbing up Novelty Hill Road, a long but reasonable grade. Near the top we turned off and road over to Union Hill and had a nice descent to the next valley, which I think is called Cherry Valley. Food stop #2 was located here, and we took advantage. At this point we were around mile 45 of the trip.

I gobbled up some apple slices, spreading peanut butter on them. I also grabbed a bunch of fig newtons, and decided I wanted more peanut butter so I spread more on the fig newtons and ate them up! After refilling water, we got back on our bikes and took the Century route fork.

This section of the course was a loop through Carnation and Duvall, back to the food stop. It is quite rural, and Chris said it reminded him of his area a little bit. We pedaled on a road that Jennifer and I have biked on, passing the Nestle Regional Training Center, before coming to 203. This part of the route wasn't the greatest, since 203 is busy and doesn't have much of a shoulder. We rode along single-file until Stillwater Hill road, where we turned into a sharp grade and kept climbing for a while.

Fortunately, this road was really a gentle grade, looping around the hill Duvall is on. After circumnavigating Duvall we were back on 203 riding north. There are only a few bridges across Cherry Valley, and the one right at Duvall would be really unwise to bike - two lane, heavy traffic, no shoulder. Our route took us several miles north until we came to a suitable road and bridge we could use to get back across the valley.

At this point we were around mile 65. I've noticed past 60 miles or so, my lower back starts to stiffen up. I stretched a bit while riding, and when we got back to the food stop at mile 74, I hopped off my bike and did various leg and back stretches. And of course, ate more apples, peanut butter, cheese squares, and fig newtons. I had plenty to eat, because I was also eating some gel every 30 minutes or so.

Now we had to climb the nice long Union Hill descent, which seemed like it went on forever. After a lot of work, we were coasting down Novelty Hill road again. Chris was several bike lengths ahead and going too fast to make a turn, so he passed it up. But he signaled and I saw it in time to slow down and make it. This was my only complaint about the course marking - the Dan Henry mark was literally 10 feet before the turn, which isn't enough time to react when you are coasting along downhill at 25+ mph.

I made the turn and saw him slowing to cross the road and come back, so I rode along for a bit, and got off my bike to stretch more while waiting for him. Chris caught up really quick and we took off, getting back to Education Hill at 116th St. After two rollers we found a "mini stop" in a church parking lot, which let me refill water and grab a few snacks. We were at mile 85 at this point, and knew we were almost done.

Throughout most of the ride past the 7 Hills turnoff, we were by ourselves. But now, we found ourselves with half a dozen others, which was nice. As a group we rode back from Education Hill and took the turnoff, so we were back on the common route. We pedaled along Willows Road, which was flat. Chris was leading and two or three others drafted off of him, including myself. But at the first slight hill, we lost them all, only to group up again at a light.

Only one last hill to climb: Rose Hill. I ride this every week, as part of my "basic home hill loop". So I knew as we climbed up that it was in the bag. We left behind the small group and climbed up Rose Hill and turned south to finish up.

We got back to the Kirkland Marina, and ate strawberry shortcake to celebrate. My bike computer showed 103 miles in 6:41 (ride time), which I was pretty happy with.

Afterwards, we went to a Memorial Day barbecue at Eve's house. Sandy made some delicious asparagus and steak, and we ate very well. I prepared some homemade ice cream, and finished it up at Eve's. It turned out OK - I used 2% milk instead of whole, and I could taste the difference - but nobody complained and most of it was eaten on the spot. Next time I'll use whole milk - it just doesn't make sense to use 2% given what else goes into homemade ice cream. ;)

Monday, May 30, 2005

Guild Wars

Several years ago, I played an MMORPG/MMOG named Asheron's Call. There was a fancy back story and in-game lore, but basically this was an online game where you killed monsters to earn experience and money, repeat. I burned out after a while, and went back to playing offline games on the PC and PS2.

One thing that bugged me slightly was the monthly fee. It wasn't much, $10 or $12 a month, and for the hours I played, that worked out to far less than the cost of going to the theater, for instance. Still, there are so many computer games to play that don't charge a fee, it seems like a ripoff. Plus, by paying a monthly fee it always made me feel like I had to play to get my money's worth.

When I heard the Guild Wars wasn't going to charge a monthly fee, I was intrigued. It seems they plan to make their money by releasing expansion packs every six months or so.

So I bought a copy and started up. These kinds of games can be major time sinks, which is a concern. However, I am positive I can resist. And, I am happy to say after having the game for 15 days, I've only played a total of 12 hours total.

The general setting is some mythical kingdom, which is under attack - the ongoing story will involve heroes (i.e. people playing the game) getting strong enough to repulse the alien invaders.

The setup is very quick - you choose a profession from among six choices that boil down to 2 fighter classes, 1 healer class, and 3 spell caster classes. A few tweaks to your appearance (hair color, skin color, etc.) and then you name yourself and appear in the game. I mulled it over for a bit and decided to play a female ranger (fighter that uses bows and ranged weapons) and started up.

You begin the game in the days before the attack, which is known as "The Searing" in the game. Pre-searing, there are several starter quests meant to familiarize yourself with moving around, grouping with other players, and questing. Quests are easy to find, because the game puts a large floating exclamation point above people who can give you one. After talking to them, the quest shows up in your journal, with a checklist of things to do. Even better, the in game map shows you where you have to go in order to complete it!

He's got a quest!

Through various quests and item hunting, I managed to upgrade all my armor and bow, and stash some money which I know will come in handy. One fun thing about the ranger is they can tame a pet - I managed to charm a lynx (in game they are called "Melandru's Stalkers") and named it "Kitty", so now I have a faithful companion that follows me around and helps me fight.

Me and My Pet Kitty

I've pretty much exhausted all the Pre-Searing content and am ready to move onto the rest of the game. Post-Searing, even more quests will become available, with harder monsters and better rewards.

A Little More Info For RPG Fans

In Guild Wars, each class has attributes and skills. Every time you level, you get attribute points to spend which improve your general abilities. For instance, as a ranger, one of my attributes is Marksmanship. Putting points into this makes all my shots do more damage. Under Marksmanship are various skills, such as "Power Shot", which does even more damage. Skills cost energy and time to use, which limit how often they can be used. For Power Shot, it is once every 6 seconds, if I have the energy, which naturally recharges. Skills can be bought from certain merchants, or gained through various quests.

All quests areas are "instanced", meaning a private copy of the quest world is created for your party. This solves a lot of problems: camping (other groups waiting for quest monsters to appear), griefing (other players interfering with your group), and game balance (the challenge and difficulty can be set by the game designers, based on a maximum number of players).

The extra twist in Guild Wars is while there are dozens of skills, you can only select eight for usage during a quest, and you can only change them out in cities (i.e. when you aren't on a quest). So you need to choose carefully and make sure what skills you bring meshes well with what the rest of your group is bringing.

In the Pre-Searing game, you have a chance to try every class out - the game makes available starter quests for everyone. In fact, you have to, as you must pick a secondary class before moving onto the Post-Searing game. I chose Mesmer as my secondary class, which is basically a spell-caster that casts illusion-type spells.

Taking in the sights

Wait, is that the Loch Ness Monster in the water?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Bainbridge Island Ride

Another beautiful sunny, and dare I say hot day in the Seattle area. Sandy, Chris (visiting from Chicago), and I met at Francesca's house for a bike ride. We decided to show Chris and Sandy around the area and picked Bainbridge Island for a nice moderate challenging ride - basically we could do the Chilly Hilly course.


So we rode away towards the ferry terminal, but decided to detour by the Ballard Locks. We arrived and walked our bikes in, since riding them isn't allowed on the grounds. Soon we were standing at the fish ladder, which is more like a fish fire hydrant. On one side, incoming water is channeled to a narrow chute, with mesh-like sides, so that some water spills out; on the other, a big tube that suddenly ends in mid-air, shooting salmon out to fall to the water below. After watching and seeing a few salmon blasted out of the end of the tube, we walked out the other side of the locks and continued towards downtown.

Locks Sculpture

Once on Bainbridge Island, Francesca and I discovered neither of us brought a map. Fortunately, the route was marked by paint on the road - so called "Dan Henry's" we could follow. We followed the route (except for two wrong turns a few minutes into the ride) and enjoyed the challenge, but decided not to overdo it and took the shortcut route of 20 miles. Still, the total ride was around 50 miles counting the round trip to/from the ferry terminal.

Seattle from the Ferry

During the ride we passed a woman who was doing the same route... on a unicycle! Her unicycle had a really big wheel, at least compared to a bike wheel. She also had some extension for resting her arms. I rode next to her for a bit and she was moving along at 11 to 12 mph. She said it takes about a week to learn to ride, but three or four years before you are skilled enough to ride the moderate hilly route we were on. I can't imagine having the balance to do hill climbing and descending, on a unicycle. She said she was training for a "Swiss Alps Unicycle Tour" - wow.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

House Sale

Lowering the price apparently did the trick. Another realtor called me and said his client really liked the house and wanted to make a full-price offer on it! This morning, my realtor and I waited at my house for the other agent. He appeared, and explained his clients cooled on the offer overnight, and were now prepared to offer $365K instead of $370K. He gave us the offer and went off to leave us alone.

One thing important to me is the closing date, when they would like possession to occur. Their offer gives me until July 4th to clear out, which is perfect - I can have the movers come after IMCdA, which is all I really wanted as far as timing.

My realtor didn't like two other things about the offer. First, they inserted a "neighborhood inspection" clause, which allows them to back out of any offer within 3 days, for any reason. The purpose of this is to allow a potential buyer to scope out the neighborhood, their commute, the neighbors, and change their mind if something doesn't quite add up. Sometimes, this clause makes sense - I had one when I bought the house, because I was moving from Seattle. But in this case, the couple offering on the house lives close by, so my realtor said she didn't think it is necessary and therefore she would ask for that clause to be deleted. Her reasoning was, they live nearby so they should already know the neighborhood. Plus, I wouldn't really know if I sold the home until Monday.

Second, they inserted a "sliding closing day" clause, which said if closing were delayed for reasons out of their control, they wouldn't be penalized, for up to 5 days. My realtor said she had only seen those clauses for new construction, meant to protect against construction delays. In this case, we aren't new construction so she said she would ask for the clause to be deleted as well. Or at the very least, pay me some penalty for each day.

We also split the difference on the price difference. Thus, our counter offer was to sell the home for $367.5K, and have the two above-mentioned clauses deleted. I went off for a run, while my realtor went to meet their realtor at the local Starbucks to hash it out.

After my run, I checked my messages and found that the counter offer was accepted! So, the home selling process is moving right along. They already scheduled the home inspection for tomorrow at 9 am, so I'll clear out by then. The inspection is standard for any real estate transaction - the inspector will compile a list of issues and then I get the chance to address them (fix the issues or offer to compensate).

My timeline now looks like:

  • June 13th to June 17th - house hunting trip (exact dates to be scheduled)
  • June 18th or June 19th - throw myself a going away party :)
  • June 30th and July 1st - movers come to pack and load my stuff
  • July 1st or July 2nd - fly out

Friday, May 27, 2005

Napoleon Dynamite

I Netflix'ed this movie because I had heard so much about it. I also heard you either love this movie or hate it... let's just say I'm more towards the "hate it" side. I think this is supposed to be a comedy, except I didn't laugh the entire time. I even let the credits roll fully and watched the extra footage at the end, of the wedding scene.

The plot centers around an awkward misfit high school student, Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder). The plot sort of meanders around and the movie is quirky for the sake of being quirky. This can sometimes be funny, but it just didn't work for me this time. I found the main character to be quite irritating, from his speech pattern, facial expressions, actions, oddball outbursts, and abrupt manner. On the other hand, if the character were supposed to be unsympathetic, then the actor absolutely nailed it.

I'd say see it yourself to make up your mind, but then I can't really recommend it. Netflix it if you are a subscriber, so you can disguise the rental fee in your monthly charge.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Ring Tones and House Listing

Over the past days, I've had lots of people come through and look at the house. Traffic was the heaviest on Friday and Saturday, tailed off a bit on Sunday, and just a handful of people on the weekdays. A total of perhaps 20 or 25 people have come through.

Usually, the buyer's agent will call up to give notice. If they can't reach me, the message is typically "I'd like to show your house at X p.m. and if that is a problem, please call my back at XYZ". I got tired of talking to so many buyer's agents, I decided I needed a way to tell one way calling.

Enter ring tones - my phone, a Nokia 3120, has caller groups, which allow me to sort my contacts into various categories. I set the default ring to "Heavenly", and put all my friends into their own group with the ring tone "Robotique". Now what happens in when somebody I know calls, I hear Robotique. And when I hear "Heavenly" instead, I know somebody is calling that isn't in my address book - e.g. a buyer's agent. If it is convenient I answer, but if not, I don't worry about it and check the message later when I can.

So far, nobody has offered on the home. My realtor called up the other realtors to get feedback, and generally heard some people didn't like the yard layout, and others didn't like the kitchen. As for the yard, the back is small - most of my yard is on the side and half of that is on a gentle hill. My kitchen isn't updated - cabinets are older I suppose - but this is hardly something I'm going to address before selling.

So, my realtor suggested dropping the price by $5000. She's going to do another market analysis to see if there are new homes on the market. We had originally priced it a little higher to account for roof negotiations, and it looks like for whatever reason, that was too high. Hopefully it will sell at the new price; I think we will let it list for a week or two more before changing anything.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Board Games: Evo

We had various schedule conflicts last week, so the board games group met tonight. We decided to play Evo, a fun game where you play a dinosaur species fighting for survival.

The game is played on an island map, and each player accumulates points to use to bid for genetic mutations, which in turn give your dinos an edge on survival. The mutations give your entire species various advantages: move faster, survive in heat, survive in cold, lay more eggs, fight better, and so forth.

This game favors defense, so I didn't attack and instead moved to my strategic advantage. I also spent as little as possible on buying mutations, bidding on heat/cold survival rather than attack enhancements.

Midway through the game, I had sucessfully fended off a half dozen attacks and was in second place, close to the leader (Jeff). Another player was essentially out of the game (Ken), and the fourth was far behind (Stephane), but closer on the map to the leader so they were fighting it out for territory. I had moved my dinos to spaces they would survive, but new births wouldn't - I had a large stable population that wasn't growing. At this point I knew the leader would have to attack me to try to pull further ahead, so I took a chance and fell behind in points to secure better fighting (and defense) capabilities.

I was a point or two behind, when basically Stephane and Jeff got sucked into a territory battle that wiped out most of their population. Since you get points every round on how many dinos you have on the board, I was able to pull away and coast in for a victory, my second in a row (counting last time's win at Starfarers of Catan)!

This may have been my last board games evening with the group; perhaps I can make one more in the middle of June. Over the years we've played some pretty good games, and I've wound up buying my own copies of several ones I liked. Plus, taken a chance and bought a few games based on reviews.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Whale Watching

One thing on my Washington State "to do" checklist is whale watching, so earlier in the week I booked a trip with with Island Adventure Cruises in Anacortes. Our boat was the Island Explorer II which held 50 or 60 people.

Anacortes Dock

The general route wound through the San Juan Islands towards Canada. Along the way, the naturalist pointed out various birds (bald eagles and turkey vultures), sea lions, and a few colorful sea stars on the way out. See the orange sea star in the picture below? It is on the rocks near the water line. Ellen (the naturalist) informed us these animals are no longer called "starfish" because they aren't fish - instead, the new preferred name is "seastar".

Sea Star

Eventually spotters radioed that J-pod Orcas were sighted in Canadian waters, so we sped north and eventually spent most of our time offshore of Padden Island. I wondered what the term "J-pod Orcas" meant, and found out that was just for classification - there are three orca pods that live in the area, named J-pod, K-pod, and L-pod. I'm not sure what happened to A through I pod - maybe they live further north, south, or at sea. Anyway, J through L pods make up the "southern resident community" of orcas, and occasionally when all three pods come together, they are referred to as a "superpod".

At one point the captain cut engines and Ellen lowered a hydrophone so we could listen to the orcas. We did hear lots of clicks and hoots, as they called out to each other. But soon it was time to move and the hydrophone had to be reeled in before restarting the ship's engines.

We did see plenty of orcas, but my pictures are all rather disappointing. Our boat was large and not allowed to approach closer than 200 yards (so one thing to do in order to see them closer is book a tour using a smaller boat). That combined with the fact the orcas surface and dive quickly meant most pictures missed the best action. The following photo is about as good and close that I got.


We were out a total of 7 hours, and because we spent extra time off Padden Island, we were able to see groups of 5 to 6 of the J-Pod orca family. I saw a breach (jumping out of the water), lots of spyhops (peeking out of the water with their head), a few tailflops (smack the water with their tail), and even what looked like an orca waving at us, but was probably just him/her rolling around.

Orcas are in the dolphin family, but are also known as "killer whales". To really see one close up, you could just visit Sea World. ;) I think it would be really cool to see a real whale - one of the huge blue whales for example. But, that probably means a deep ocean trip and quite a bit of luck as well.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Listed House

A major milestone towards my move to Florida happened this morning: my house is now listed.

I met with my realtor yesterday to finalize some paperwork, and strategize on pricing. Since we last met, a few nearby comparable homes have sold, giving her confidence my house would sell for between $370K and $375K. So, we priced it towards the upper end of that, since we know we'll likely have to negotiate on fixing the roof. Plus, I suppose pricing it up slightly gives room to lower it a little, should I get no decent offers on the home.

I'll see how it goes. Someone already called to ask about bringing some potential buyers by tomorrow afternoon!

There is still one maintenance item outstanding - replacing three windows that have cracked seals (so moisture got in between the panes and the windows are foggy). That will happen next Wednesday, and I didn't want to hold up listing the house for that.

So I have my fingers crossed that doing all the work I've done on the home will be worth it. It is an interesting economic question actually - what to do to maximize buying interest and offers on the home? Many things were fairly cheap to do and really made a big visual improvement - painting the study, for example. I know from my own house hunting trips that I saw plenty of homes that didn't appeal just on cosmetic issues. It is also partly psychological: most people would rather not have to take care of a bunch of things when they move in. If they do, they are less excited about the house and will thus offer less for it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

I don't see many midnight movies, but when some friends at work decided to go see Revenge of the Sith as soon as possible, I tagged along. I missed seeing Brazil at a midnight show recently, but could swing this because I would get about 90 more minutes of sleep. ;)

There isn't really a plot to spoil. Really, everybody who is going to see it already knows what has to happen, since the next 3 movies came out first. You know Anakin falls to the darkside of the Force and becomes Darth Vader; he gets horribly injured and needs his signature all-black suit; Palpatine is the Sith Lord, and he seizes control of the Empire; Padme gives birth to a boy (Luke) and girl (Leia); all Jedi except Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi are killed. That covers most of it, so what is left is the story surrounding all these events. There is quite a bit of fighting: Obi-Wan versus Anakin, Yoda versus Darth Sidious, Obi-Wan versus a cool looking four-armed robot - General Grevious, and so forth.

Anakin's fall to evil was even setup well: the Jedi Council wants him to spy on the Chancellor, while the Chancellor wants him to be his representative on the Council. He has conflicting loyalties, and Palpatine reveals who he really is in a bid to gain him as an apprentice. Anakin reports Palpatine is the Sith Lord, and when the Jedi go to arrest him, Mace Windu gets a little carried away and tries to kill him. Palpatine defends himself and kills Windu, and then uses that to show Anakin the Jedi aren't to be trusted. Instead, if Anakin would join Palpatine, he could help end the war and also learn dark side powers that will help save Padme from death. So, Anakin switches sides.

Now you'd think Anakin could step back for a minute and say, hey, you're the guy responsible for the war in the first place, are eager to grab more and more power, want me to go kill off a bunch of people to clean up... this doesn't seem right. So while his fall from grace was a bit rushed, it was at least reasonable. Ironically, and predictably, his shift to the dark side causes Padme's death - first an injury by a force choke hold, and then she loses the will to live after a difficult childbirth.

Other nits include the romance between Anakin and Padme, which seemed a bit forced... Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman don't seem to have any believable chemistry. But overall, the movie was pretty good and I did like it, much better than The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

House of Flying Daggers

I recently watched this movie, after having it sit around the house for a week or so. Like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers is a movie of the WuXia genre.

The movie is set at a time when the government is corrupt, and a rebellion called the House of Flying Daggers, named for their curved boomerang-like daggers, has emerged as champions of the people. Two army officers (Leo and Jin) plot how to arrest the leader of the Flying Daggers, first by investigating a rumor that a nearby girl (Mei, played by Zhang Ziyi) is a member.

Jin goes over and meets Mei, who is blind but dances beautifully. She is exposed and arrested, but later Jin sneaks into the prison, defeats the guards, and frees her. They escape to the countryside and flee the soldiers sent to bring them back - in a nice fight scene, Jin saves Mei from four guards with his bow and arrow, and wins her confidence. All this time he has been charming her, and they bond a little bit. Later, when she is resting, he sneaks off to meet Leo in the forest and we find out that Jin is only playing the part of an aspiring rebel - everything is staged and his mission is to win her confidence.

However, there is a twist - Leo explains the general sent another regiment of soldiers to hunt them down, so they are on their own for survival. Jin is outraged he might have to kill his fellow officers, but he has no choice - the soldiers are ordered to kill them. So he and Mei keep fleeing, but they are surrounded and trapped by dozens of men. As they draw near, dozens of swooping daggers fly out and kill all the soldiers - the House of Flying Daggers has appeared to save them!

Jin and Mei are brought in, and Jin finds out the Mei isn't blind after all, she was just pretending. Another surprise - Leo is actually an undercover agent sent by the House. He's infiltrated the army and has been there for three years, working the setup this situation - the general has overcommited his troops and the rebellion is at last ready to squash the corrupt government. Leo is ordered back to continue his work. But we also find out Leo has been in love with Mei for years, but it is unreturned.

Unfortunately, the leader order Mei to kill Jin, to protect their secret. She takes him out, but sets him free, because she has fallen in love with him. He loves her, and in turn, they have a... romantic moment out on the hillside. It is beautiful scenery: multi colored trees and jagged mountains.

Jin asks her to run away with him, to be together but fugitives. She initially hesitates, and he rides off, but then she takes off after him. As she gallops across a field to join him, Leo appears, and throws two daggers at her. She blocks one but takes the other in her chest. Leo explains that he is basically jealous, he's loved her for longer but she loves Jin instead.

Jin goes looking for her, finds her stabbed with Leo holding her, and the two square off for a sword fight. It rages on for a long time - snow starts to fall but they don't notice. Mei regains consciousness, the two stop fighting, but she dies trying to save Jin from what she thought was a fatal attack by Leo. The movie ends with Jin holding her body while Leo staggers away.

So, not the happiest ending but a pretty good movie. The plot had a few twists, but over time, the romance angle dominated the story. The costumes were colorful and elaborate, plus it had all the gravity-defying martial arts and well choreographed fight scenes I was expecting.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Painting 3

The painters finally made it and finished up the hallway. In general, they did a mediocre job, proving the adage "if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself". They missed a few spots, leaving me to do some spot touch ups, except for one place I can't reach.

Ultimately, I was dependent on two things: a) their ability to reach the high corners of my hallway, and b) spray my popcorn ceiling above the hallway. The ceiling turned out really well, I must add.

At this point, I just need to make another vacuum pass through the house before meeting my realtor on Wednesday. We'll have to strategize about my roof - it is the original one from 1981 or 1982. It doesn't look horrible but some of the shingles are coming up and apparently a house inspector has to certify the roof for 5 years in order to sell the home. Since a roof typically lasts 25 years, mine is about up. In reality, a buying agent will use the roof as a negotiation technique so I may need to address it somehow - either repair the roof (I found a company that will do it for about $6000, which is actually on the inexpensive side for this type of work) or just somehow offer a discount on the house. Hm....

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Death Be Not Proud

I recently finished Death Be Not Proud, the story of John Gunther Jr., who died at age 17 from brain cancer. His father took notes during his son's medical treatment and wrote this memoir. The book gushes about Johnny a bit, but he was a good student and the memoir is written by a proud and sad parent.

The thing that struck me was how Johnny just wanted to keep up with his schoolwork, and try to be as normal as possible, despite a slight loss of coordination on the left side of his body. He earned his high school diploma, while spending his time in hospitals seeing specialists and undergoing all available treatment. It reminded me of something I read about terminally ill patients - the stereotype of somebody finding out they have an uncurable disease is that they rush off and do things like travel the world or climb mountains. But in reality, they nearly always just want do to absolutely regular things: garden, cook, walk, read books, etc. They fight to cling to everyday life.

Now I need to finsh up Life of Pi - I borrowed this from a coworker months ago and have only read 1/3 of it. Plus, a shelf of over a dozen other books to read - I'm behind!


There was a time when I really looked forward to watching the latest episode of Alias. Now in its fourth season, I think this show has completely jumped the shark and is in major decline.

The first two seasons were great. Sydney (Jennifer Garner) and her father Jack (Victor Barber) are double agents, working for one intelligence agency (SD6) while actually running counter missions for another (the CIA). The enemies were plenty: the Russian K-Directorate, and another shadowy group run by Jack's ex-wife Irina (Lena Olin), who was herself a KGB agent. Confused yet? There was a bizarre season-long arc about finding some ancient artifacts, which I didn't much care for, but overall it was enjoyable to watch. At the end of Season 2, the good guys (CIA) wiped out the bad guys (SD6), which was surprising as the show lost an entire narrative layer.

In Season 3, another new multi-national conspiracy (the Alliance) emerged as the new bad guys. This was kinda stretching things, but I followed it. Another character's wife Lauren (Melissa George) emerged as the new double agent. At the end of the season, the new bad guys were wiped out.

Now in Season 4, we have the cast reunited in yet another black-ops subsection of the CIA. So far, Sloane's (Ron Rifkin, head of the section) previously unmentioned daughter Nadia (Mia Maestro) has joined, Irina's previously unmentioned sister Sophia (Sonia Braga) has emerged as a possible new conspiracy leader, Irina was supposedly killed off-season but now might not really be dead, and in general the show has been wandering around unfocused, doing things like introducing a bad guy who was basically Sloane's clone, or giving Jack terminal radiation poisoning only to miraculously cure it by locating a doctor he helped years ago (I think the whole point of this subplot was some father/daughter bonding while he was delerious). My suspension of disbelief has a limit, and Alias hit it somewhere along the way this season.

I think J. J. Abrams is probably working too much on LOST; several people I know really like it. I'm kinda hoping Alias gets retired gracefully, rather than crash like the train wreck it is currently.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Harold and Maude

I recently finished Harold and Maude, a black comedy about a death-obsessed teenager. Harold constantly fakes suicides, to the dismay of his mother, who is also trying to set him up on dates. He wanders through his days, attending funerals to pass the time, where he meets Maude, a 79 year old, and they strike up a friendship.

Harold scares off most of the girls that his mothers brings over, except one. To impress her, he fakes hari-kiri with a katana, only to have the girl embrace him and exclaim the suicide scene in Romeo and Juliet is her favorite, so she goes ahead and fakes her stabbing death.

So if this movie sounds a bit odd, you are correct! Harold and Maude are free spirits, and despite their huge age difference, fall in love and marry on Maude's 80th birthday. But, she decides to overdose on sleeping pills and the doctors at the hospital aren't able to save her. Harold drives off in anguish, and drives his car off a cliff. Of course, he isn't in it - this is another faked death.

I'm not sure what to make of the movie. It had its funny scenes, but the romance seemed a litte forced. Well, maybe that is just me reeling from considering a romantic love developing between people 60 years apart in age. There is a brief sex scene, just them laying in bed, which is modest enough so I didn't have to gouge my eyeballs out. ;)

Still, the movie's general theme is live life day to day and love - Maude's parting words to Harold were something like (I can't remember exactly) "you're free to love again"; we had something special and you keep living your life after I'm gone.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Thievery Corporation

A few weeks ago a friend sent mail around, gauging interest in an upcoming Thievery Corporation show. I responded with an enthusiastic "yes" and looked forward to tonight's concert.

Thievery Corporation is a group I decided to try out as part of last year's "music expansion" goal. I listened to samples of songs on iTunes and bought The Mirror Conspiracy and The Richest Man In Babylon to start out, and now I own 7 of their CD's, most in electronic form. Their sound is a mix of mellow electronic beats with an international influence - everything from Brazilian to Indian to African.

As an extra bonus, our friend Sandy found a cheap flight up from the Bay Area and came up to join us! I picked him up at the airport and we ate a quick dinner and met up with Francesca, Alexandra, and Tim at the venue. Francesca was pleasantly surprised to see him, and we filed in. They played for an hour and a half, and it was a great show with booming bass and a psychedelic light show.

I recognized quite a bit of their music, but don't actually know many song titles. As Francesca says, it is easier to remember the track numbers. Thievery Corporation is a duo, but there were at least 10 musicians on stage, so I assume they had session musicians touring with them, to play all the instruments.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Scrabble - Gail Game 2

Yes, another partially annotated Scrabble game, how exciting is that?! Don't worry, the novelty will wear off soon. ;)

  • Karl: PILOT (20) = 20
  • Karl - 20; Gail - 0

I had a good draw and was able to form a 5 letter word. This is important to grab the double letter score and the double word score.

  • Gail: BOTHERS (63), PILOTS (8) = 71
  • Karl: TRANQ (26) = 26
  • Karl - 46; Gail - 71

Oof, Gail bingoed and leapt out to a big lead. I had the Q and was able to dump it using a double word score, so I took my opportunity to do it.

  • Gail: INCENTER (61) = 61
  • Karl: TIKE (24) = 24
  • Karl - 70; Gail - 132

Gail bingoed again - argh!! She was able to use the N to form an 8 letter word. Otherwise, her rack of CENTERI yields two other bingoes (ENTERIC, ENTICER; and no, I didn't get these off the top of my head, the bingo finder did) but I'm not sure they can be placed on the board. Anyway, I decided I had to use the triple word space with my K somehow. I knew the word TYKE and thought there might be an alternate spelling, and there was - which was good because I had an I but not a Y.

  • Gail: HAM (24), AB (4), MO (4) = 32
  • Karl: MOVIE (17) = 17
  • Gail: PIGGED (22) = 22
  • Karl: WRIT (9), MOW (8), HI (5), ET (4) = 26
  • Karl - 113; Gail - 186

I play defensively, trying not to open the board up too much, while playing my high scoring tiles for as many points as I can.

  • Gail: LINER (18), EL (2) = 20
  • Karl: ZEK (36) = 36
  • Karl - 149; Gail - 206

Darn, Gail was able to use the triple word score. I held the Z for a while, hoping to use it somehow (RAZED, CRAZE, were words I could form but couldn't place). So, I decided I better take the triple letter space with it.

  • Gail: ALTO (5), ZO (11) = 16
  • Karl: ID (5), ZEKS (17), BEDS (9) = 31
  • Gail: BA (4), AJAR (27) = 31
  • Karl - 180; Gail - 253

I'm making good progress, but Gail remains for ahead. A bingo would really help... and my rack of letters could spell TRICORN. I know that is a type of hat, maybe there is an alternate spelling? I'm doubtful, but I see that an E on the end is acceptable too!

  • Karl: TRICORNE (74) = 74
  • Karl - 254; Gail - 253

At last, I caught up! Of course, I had one more turn than Gail, but at least I'm not dragging so far behind anymore.

  • Gail: JO (9), BAN (10), ON (4) = 23
  • Karl: WITE (33) = 33
  • Gail: OVAL (15), PAM (7) = 22
  • Karl: JOE (10), BAND (7), ED (3) = 20
  • Gail: JOEY (14), BANDS (8), NAYS (8) = 30
  • Karl - 307; Gail - 328

I have no idea what some of the words mean, like WITE. Well, I do now after looking it up in the Scrabble dictionary. Sometimes it comes down to, hmmm, wouldn't it be really convenient if BLARG is a word? Then you look it up and boom, it is there. The website has a dictionary lookup, and I use it from time to time. We play with the "word finder" option off - I think that must study the board and your letters and suggest the best play. With the dictionary, it is more about finding the play on your own.

  • Karl: YOOF (20), FO (10) = 30
  • Karl - 337; Gail - 328

So at this point, the game is very close, and I have FOODY plus two more letters I don't remember. I consider playing EDDY in the lower right, using the existing ED and spanning a double word space. That yields 18 points, pretty good. I also looked around for another play, and found FOOD/DO, also across a double word space, for 22 points. I think, now wouldn't it be cool if I could play the Y and F across there. So on a lark I look up YOOF and find it is an acceptable word. I have no idea what it means. If you read Word Freak you'll find top players don't either - they just view everything as acceptable scoring combinations. Heck, to them, remembering the definitions takes up space in their brain which could be put towards remembering more "scoring combinations". So I'm all excited and I play YOOF without noticing that FO isn't an allowed word.

  • Gail: FAX (15), YA (7), OX (9) = 31
  • Karl - 337; Gail - 359

After Gail's play, I examine the board and see FO, and realize it is a fake. Playing fakes is part of the strategy, to dump letters and to also trick your opponent. The penalty is loss of move if you are caught, or loss of move if the challenge is wrong (that is, the word is good). But in friendly games, I don't play fakes. Except by accident.

  • Karl: URANIDE (61), WE (5) = 66
  • Gail: GLUTS (12), US (2) = 14
  • Karl: FOE (6) = 6
  • Karl - 409; Gail - 373

My new rack of letter is ADEINU? which I find spells out URANIDE, a variant of Uranium. On my last turn, instead of playing WRITE/RE for more points, I disguise FO with FOE, which is at least real. ;) I score 2 points for the leftover U's Gail has, so the final score is Karl - 411; Gail - 371.

So, another close game, but tainted - at least to me if not according to the Scrabble rules. Had I noticed the YOOF/FO error, I would have changed it to FOOD/DO. Interestingly, Gail's next play of FAX/YA/OX would have been FAX/FA/OX for the same number of points. But, Gail could have challenged FO off the board and forced me to lose a turn. Also, playing the D and saving the Y would have given me a rack of AEINUY? instead, assuming I would have drawn the same replacement tiles, and that combination doesn't bingo.

I guess we'll just have to keep playing. Gail is some serious competition at Scrabble, this is certain!

scrabble game

Monday, May 09, 2005

Housing Update

So today's entry is supposed to be about how at last, the house will be listed imminently. But no... the painter came over, took a look, and estimated about 10 man-hours to do the remaining work of finishing off the hallway and painting the ceiling above the hallway. And of course, that can't be scheduled until next Monday. Argh. The painter got on my good side immediately, merely by showing up on time. He was actually 10 minutes early! Contrast that to the window washer, who showed up an hour late - he called after 30 minutes when he was "10 minutes" away.

I just want to list the house, because the more it drags out, the more I have to do stuff like mow and edge the lawn (well I have to do that anyway of course), and pick up and clean constantly. For example, by next week I'll need to sweep off the deck again, weed the most conspicuous dandelions, and probably vacuum the interior.

Today's house errands included replacing three light fixtures, which were missing when I moved in, and using some touch-up pens along the stairway railing. These pens are pretty cool - they are a set of brown markers in different shades, and really help disguise various marks and nicks. I guess the extra days are nice since I now have plenty of time to move my "unclutter boxes" into the garage.

Looking ahead, one good thing about the Orlando area is that housing is cheaper, on average. Here in the Seattle area, the median home price is $355,000, while it is $204,500 in the Orlando area. NOTE: It appears the original Orlando Sentinel article isn't available, so I had to pluck from the Google cache. I'll see if the article is around elsewhere.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Scrabble - Gail Game 1

My friend Gail showed me a really nifty online Scrabble gaming service: the Pixie Pit. Scrabble is one of my favorite board games (backgammon is another), so we started up a game, and then I started another one with Lindsey. This is play-by-email, and you have 7 days to take your turn, to avoid having the game expire. Gail and I played a little faster than that, completing our first game just hours after starting:

  • Gail: BAIT (12) = 12
  • Karl: BITE (12) = 12
  • Gail: XI (17), XI (17) = 34
  • Gail - 46; Karl - 12

This was a huge blunder on my part - I totally spaced out and played BITE such that two I's were adjacent to a double letter score. X is the best letter to have in the whole game, because it forms so many two letter words: AX, EX, XI, OX, XU. It is usually easy to play X for big points on a double or triple letter space.

  • Karl: BUTT (7) = 7
  • Gail: BUTTY (10), HOAGY (24) = 34
  • Karl: HE (10), OD (3), AE (2), CEDE (14) = 29
  • Gail - 80; Karl - 48

By now I had picked up the Q, W, Z, and C, which as you can imagine aren't that great to have at the same time. I decided to make it very difficult to get to the bottom left triple word score by playing CEDE.

  • Gail: BITES (9), PITIES (12) = 21
  • Karl: EVADE (18), BE (4) = 22
  • Gail: EISWEIN (64), BEE (5) = 69
  • Gail - 170; Karl - 70

Ouch! Gail bingoed with EISWEIN, a sweet German wine, according to the Scrabble dictionary. At this point, I was behind by 100 points and didn't have a good rack of letters. I wasn't able to use the right middle triple word score, so I decided to dump the Z and open up the upper middle triple word. My reasoning was, if there were two triple word scores reachable, I stood a chance to get to one of them. So I played DOZE.

  • Karl: DOZE (34) = 34
  • Gail: AGGER (16) = 16
  • Karl: SLOW (21) = 21
  • Gail - 186; Karl - 125

After Gail played AGGER, I decided I had to use up the middle right triple word score. The best I could do was play SLOW. The benefit to this was the O in SLOW was under a triple letter score, which I was hoping to use my Q on.

  • Gail: AD (9), OKRA (24) = 33
  • Karl: QUOD (34) = 34
  • Gail - 219; Karl - 159

Ah, there went the upper middle triple word score. At least I was able to get rid of the Q on a triple letter score.

  • Gail: PARRY (30) = 30
  • Karl: JILL (22) = 22
  • Gail: LOFT (14), NO (2) = 16
  • Karl: LOFTS (7), UNTRIMS (83) = 90
  • Gail - 265; Karl - 271

At last, a bingo of my own! After getting rid of as many letters along with the J as I could, I drew a good rack including a blank. This play let me climb back into the game.

  • Gail: ON (2), FROWN (22) = 24
  • Karl: FAVE (14) = 14
  • Gail - 289; Karl - 285

Gail opened up the corner triple word score, but I couldn't take advantage with my letters. I could have use it up spelling EF, but then I would only draw one tile and keep the V, which I wanted to dump. I was also able to spell WEAVE through a double word score, and score 8 more points, but I decided cutting off the triple word score was more important.

  • Gail: SONAR (18), JILLS (12) = 30
  • Karl: WOMEN (20) = 20
  • Gail: FAVES (11), SCANT (13) = 24
  • Karl: OH (10), ONE (3), HOE (12) = 25
  • Gail - 343; Karl - 330

This is why the S is so important in Scrabble - it lets you hook other words to score more points. Gail was able to use the lower right triple word score with SONAR and on her next move, play SCANT through a double word. Argh!

  • Gail: AIR (5) = 5
  • Karl: UN (3), DOZEN (15) = 18
  • Gail - 348; Karl - 348

At this point, we're just getting rid of the last few tiles. I'm glad I had a letter to extend DOZE with and basically score the Z again. We are tied - talk about close! This game could be decided by who goes out first. At this point in the game, I should know the tiles Gail has. The game keeps track of outstanding tiles for you, but when the tile bag empties, it doesn't display the remaining letters anymore. It is good information to have, but on the other hand, I likely wouldn't have played something other than UN/DOZEN.

  • Gail: FIN (6) = 6
  • game over
  • Gail - 355; Karl - 347

I had an L at the end, so Gail scores 1 more point, and I lose 1 point. (In tournaments the usual practice is to add twice your opponent's remaining tiles, so the score could also be 356 to 348). Dang, I was planning to front hook AGGER with my L for 8 points and go out. Oh well, great game!

scrabble game

Friday, May 06, 2005

Skydive Snohomish

My friend Gail is in town, en route to Vancouver where she will take care of some paperwork for the next few weeks. Since it was a beautiful day, Krisanne was planning to skydive, and invited us out to watch in the mid-afternoon. She planned to do a "hop and pop" or two (these are low altitude jumps with minimal freefall, because you deploy the canopy shortly after exiting the plane).

Skydive Snohomish

I drove us (Gail and myself) out to Harvey Airfield in Snohomish, which we were told is the largest private airport in the nation. Krisanne gave us a brief tour before signing up for a flight. The drop zone was basically a roomy building with furniture all around the edges: couches, TV, videos in one corner; lockers along the wall; hooks with packs and other gear taking up more space; a vending machine; and the administration desk, where the flight dispatch and payment occurs. The center space is used by people packing their canopies.

Krisanne gearing up...

Paul, one of the DZ helpers, drove Gail and me to the east landing field, where Krisanne would be landing. We got there early and had plenty of time to chat with Paul about skydiving - he filled us in on some of the associated costs. It is expensive, but then as a triathlete I can hardly point fingers about expensive gear. ;) Soon, we spotted the plane, and heard the engines cut slightly, slowing the plane down enough to safely allow people to jump out. I saw Krisanne leap out - which from the ground just looked like a spot falling back from the plane. Since this was a low altitude jump, the canopy opened almost immediately and it was easy to see her floating in the sky.


We were standing on the middle edge of the field, watching Krisanne fly down and cut altitude with S-turns, corkscrews, and 360's. It looked like a lot of fun and I bet the view must have been great. As she got closer, Paul filled in some information about the landing pattern: flying with the wind, then a turn crosswind, then another turn into the wind and the landing.


This was actually pretty scary, from my perspective. Not only was she headed towards the edge of the field near a road, she was coming in very fast at a very sharp angle - I thought for certain she was out of control and going to crash. But, a few seconds before touchdown, she flared her canopy and landed while running - stuck her landing on her feet with us as witnesses! (Later at dinner Krisanne said that is called "ground rush": beginners often think they are coming in too fast to land, and wind up flaring the canopy too high - then they fall to the ground and get injured). All I can say it from my inexperienced eye, the proper technique for landing looks way too fast!

Take Me To Your Leader... Or Back to the DZ!

After landing, she bundled up her canopy and met us halfway. We congratulated her and walked to the bus to be driven back to the DZ. On the brief ride back, we were all buzzing over how well it went.

Folding the Canopy, in Only 53 Simple Steps

At the DZ, we went outside to watch Krisanne pack her canopy. It was a slow process, but she is getting faster with more practice.

Checking Lines

First she straightened everything out and checked the lines,

Folding the Canopy

then carefully inspected the canopy while folding and interleaving it,

Squeezing out the air

then knelt on or body hugged the canopy to squeeze out air,

Stuffing into the pack

stuffed it into the pack,

Rubber banding the Lines

and finally rubber banded the lines back and forth. The rubber bands help slow deployment a little - obviously you want the chute and lines to deploy, but too fast is quite jarring. Krisanne also checked the pilot chute, which is what helps deploy everything else.

Krisanne was ready to jump again, so after a few minutes, she boarded the plane while Gail and I headed out to the field to watch again. Unfortunately, the bus was held up by a train, and we got to the field just as she landed - too late to take more pictures.

Check out Gail's blog entry on this day, for more details AND a video of Krisanne landing!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Listing My House

I am asymptotically approaching listing my house. The closer I get, the more it seems like "just another day" is needed. Lately I've been playing phone tag trying to get a maid service to come and clean (especially the kitchen and bathrooms), and get a painter to finish off the hallway section I can't reach. It has been a lot of calling, leaving messages, scheduling time to do walkthroughs, waiting for returned phone calls, etc.

I think if I had enough time to remove various key personal items, and if insurance would reimburse me, it would be easier to have the place burn down and get a check to cover everything else. Argh!

It would be perfect timing for me to stay through late June, and basically not have to fly back for IMCdA. I just want to get my house listed so I can tell my boss it has been listed. That way I can show steady progress towards relocation - listing the house is the next major step.

As for the painting, I am again contemplating finish it myself. I need a telescopic ladder, whatever that kind is called, one that opens to more positions than two (flat or A-frame) like my current one. Then I can lean it up against the walls and reach.

Board Games

I met with my board games group for a few hours in the evening. Last time we met, we tried playing RoboRally, the game we started with years ago. RoboRally is fun, but I think we must be playing wrong because we've never actually finished a game. Basically everybody is dealt cards they use to move their robots through a hostile map, towards the goal of picking up flags - first robot to touch them all wins. Half the challenge/fun is stepping through the moves, because robots can interfere with each other. For example, if your robot moves into a square before my robot does, mine will push yours out of the way. Meanwhile, your robot will continue executing moves, with other unintended side effects. After nearly three hours of play, five people picked up the first flag (including me), and only one had picked up the second.

Tonight, we broke out Starfarers of Catan, which we hadn't played in ages. It took a good hour to setup and review the rules, and separate the zillion little pieces that go along with the game. Like the other Catan games, Starfarers involves rolling dice to randomly produce resources, using those resources to buy upgrades, and exploring and colonizing the map. You can also establish trade relations with alien species, represented by cards that give bonuses. My big break was setting up trade and picking a bonus that gave me extra resource production. This wound up being the deciding factor as I was then able to out-produce everyone else and coast in for the victory.

I almost blundered away the game by setting up another trade route and choosing the wrong card! Not that the bonus it conferred was bad - if I would have chosen another one, the game would have ended at least four rounds earlier. Instead, I gave an opponent several more turns to catch up and try to pass me, which he almost did. My victory came almost accidentally - I was attacked (random encounter from a deck of cards) and the aftermath awarded me a victory point, which gave me the necessary total for winning.

The games group is fading away - after I leave it will be down to just three of the original people. We joke about playing some games via email, but I can't think of any good ones like that. The three that will be left are all really huge into World of Warcraft, so I suspect they will fill the time by playing more WoW. ;)

Monday, May 02, 2005

License Tab Renewal

I'm sure everybody is familiar with license tab renewal - today I decided to perform mine. My tabs expire this weekend and even though I'm leaving the state in a few weeks, I don't want to get pulled over.

Washington requires emissions testing every other year, and this was my year, so I drove over to the emissions testing station and waited in line. Maybe soon I'll have a hybrid car and might be able to skip this part... or perhaps the east coast isn't as environmentally friendly and allows high-emissions belching vehicles out on the roads. ;)

As usual, the wait was about 20 minutes for a 5 minute test. There are two phases: one with the engine off, when they apparently test if your gas cap leaks, and one with the engine on. I idly wondered how many cars fail every year, and how much does it cost to "fix" them so they pass?

When I got my results - my car passed - I read the back and noted that if your car is newer than 1981, and the cost of repairs is greater than $150, you can get a waiver for free warranty repairs. What do you know, this is actually about reducing pollution and not extracting more money out of drivers - besides the $15 cost of the test of course.

With my Vehicle Inspection Report in hand, I drove over to the licensing office. After a short wait the clerk asked me if I wanted to keep my current plates. Apparently Washington shuffles license plates around too, and for whatever reason, this was my time to change them. As in, get a new license plate. For a fee of $20 I could keep my current plate, but since I don't have a vanity license plate, I didn't see the point in keeping good old 878HAZ. So now I have 456TQG - woohoo (but haven't put them on yet).

Now, I don't see the point of changing license plates. I have the same car and am the same owner... what is the point of changing? Besides creating data-entry work? It surely can't be to make the people with vanity license plates pay more - just charge them extra anyway and be done with it. Or are there so many deadbeats in the state that forcing new license plates out there is the only way to catch people with out-of-date tabs?

Oh well, I guess I can keep my old plates as a souvenir of Washington. They do have a silhouette of Mt. Rainier of them! ;)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Krisanne's Party

Krisanne threw a party to celebrate leaving her job. What was really interesting was meeting a few of her skydiving friends. She's told us a few stories, but attaching a few faces to names will help in the future.

I talked to Jeff and Karen for a bit, who have 4200 jumps and 1200 jumps, respectively. This blew my mind, to have so many jumps. I don't remember how many years each has been in the sport, but any way you slice it they both have jumped 8 or 10 times each weekend all year. And that just isn't always possible due to weather and so forth. So some weekends must have been really packed!

They both had several funny quotes (paraphrased):

  • I think you two (speaking to Francesca and I) are crazy. Triathlon is hard work, skydiving is easy! - Karen
  • Of all the people I've taken on a tandem jump, only a few said they never want to jump again. But everybody said they were glad they jumped this one time. - Jeff
  • I used to be active and an outdoors type. But ever since I got into skydiving, I've gotten lazy and out of shape. - Jeff
  • The whole point is to learn the skydiving skills... while falling. - Karen

They were actually very interesting to talk to, I'm not making fun of them.

What I found interesting was they both looked with disdain on wind tunnels. To them, those are destroying the integrity of the sport (hence Karen's quote). Wind tunnels are a method of "cheating" that allow you to get good without putting in the jumps, and they both feel skydiving is really about learning things in one minute chunks as you hurtle to the earth. The tunnel is a quicker way to gain skill, if you can afford it. Note: tunnel time is actually cheaper than skydiving, if you calculate the per minute rate, but only if you live near one and don't have to book travel and lodging.

I guess every sport has a dedicated hard core "oldtimers" group that look with disdain upon on the "newbies" with their flashy new methods and money. Hehe.