ISS Pettiness

You can't put too many people in the International Space Station. Despite the ongoing construction, size is too limited. So what the best way to decide who eats what food and who uses which toilet?

Let an Earth based committee make up rules for it.

This article appeared in the Seattle Times:

Gennady Padalka told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper as saying space officials from Russia, the United States and other countries require cosmonauts and astronauts to eat their own food and follow stringent rules on access to other facilities, like toilets.
Padalka, who will be the station's next commander, said the arguments date back to 2003, when Russia started charging other space agencies for the resources used by their astronauts. Other partners in space station responded in kind.
He said he had inquired before the current mission whether he could use an American gym machine to stay fit.

"They told me: 'Yes, you can.' Then they said no," he was quoted as saying. "Then they hold consultations and they approve it again. And now, right before the flight, it turns out again that the answer is negative."

While sharing food in the past helped the crew feel like a team, the new rules oblige Russian cosmonauts and U.S. and other astronauts to eat their own food, Padalka said, according to the report.

"They also recommend us to only use national toilets," he was quoted as saying.




Before I set out to take pictures at Louisa Boren Park, I took a few moments to make sure I had all my gear, and that it was working properly. Normally, this means shooting random things in my apartment. But the sun was out, so I decided to step outside and scare the neighbors with my telephoto lens.

I stumbled upon just the right lighting to get some nice images of the cityscape reflected in the glass towers of downtown Seattle. Looking at the city by reflection is a little different than what I've come to expect playing Super Paper Mario on the Wii, but is still a nice way to examine my surroundings.

There are a couple pictures in this post. You can see the full set on Flickr.

And there are no scared neighbor pictures.

2009-02-16 Builiding Reflections in Seattle

2009-02-16 Builiding Reflections in Seattle (3)

2009-02-16 Building Reflections in Seattle (9)


AT&T's Phone Booth 2000

At some point, AT&T had a vision. They presumably looked forward to the year 2000, and considered what a public phone booth might look like. I am assuming they put these in 10 years ago in the Columbus, OH , airport.

It seems like a great idea. Though now I'm not sure if it's futuristic or retro. Regardless, there are several of these Public Phone 2000 installations in the B terminal.

They provide a tiny bit of privacy in the bustling airport.

The seats are slightly off balance, but they are a place to get a little bit of work done. Fortunately, the airport has free Wi-Fi, because I'm not sure that the telephone system of the future -- the telephone system of that grand year 2000 -- is really going to be all that effective.

Here it is.

Public Phone 2000 takes us back to that innovative era that gave us -- THE TABLE. Thrilling, isn't it?

I imagine this was a really cool display at some point, but whatever technology they had became obsolete. Still, it's great that these spaces are available and that the electrical outlet actually works. I'm glad they didn't rip them out.

But they might want to update that advertising.


Tough enough to speak

Most occupations have some sort of competitive element. People like to push their limits to show they are tougher than others. In some, it means they go with out sleep. In other occupations, people may push through the pain of stress. Or they might endure colder or hotter temperatures just to prove how tough they are.

The same thing apparently happens in public speaking.

I just got back from a trip where I did an hour and fifteen minute presentation each of 4 days. There was 1 speaker before me, and two after me. We had a different audience each day.

The crowd ranged from 80 to 120 people in medium sized conference rooms. At one facility we had a microphone available.

I came up for my slot and noticed the mike sitting there on the table, and commented to previous presenter on it. She said she noticed it, but she didn't need the microphone. I offered it to the speaker who came after me. He said he hates microphones and won't use them if he can at all avoid it. I, however, clipped it on an used it.

I guess I'm some sort of wimp.

The fact of the matter is I can fill the space without amplification. But that takes more energy. That drains me more by the time I'm done. I'd rather use the microphone, project my voice a little less, and focus on other aspects of my presentation.

I don't need the microphone, but I want it. And given the chance, I'll use it.

I guess I'm just not as hard core as the other speakers.


President Harrison house

I had a few hours available this afternoon, so I asked my trusty Neverlost Lady where I should go (though lately we've been having problems -- I think she suspects there's something going on between me a Judy Garmin).

Since I was in Indianapolis, she suggested the President Benjamin Harrison house. Actually she suggested several museums, the brickyard, the state house and a few other things, but I figured parking would be easier at an attraction designed around a President most people have never heard of.

2009-03-24 Harrison House (2)

The house is a 16-room mansion. President Harrison bought it before he ran for president, and paid $4,000 for the land. Building the house cost another $25,000.

It looks a lot bigger on the inside than it does on the outside. The two main floors have 14' ceilings, and the top floor was a ball room. Inside, the property is beautiful and looks quite comfortable. What I find interesting is that houses that have been built in the last few years take up the same or bigger foot print, yet have fewer rooms or less effective use of space on the inside.

The volunteers do a nice job of showing off the various parlors, bedrooms, the library, kitchen, and other spaces. I wouldn't mind having President Harrison's home office (though they called it the library back then). It was filled with Harrison's actual books. He was a fan of other presidential administrations and of classics.

The house had two staircases. One was for the family and guests. The other one was for the servants in the back. The main one was large and easy to climb. The servants were not so lucky. They had a narrow, steep staircase with shorter stairs. It was a bit nerve wracking descending it.

I didn't take any pictures inside the house because it was all on a guided tour. The tour costs $8, and there were only two other people in the group. I felt awkward stopping to take pictures so i passed. The other weird thing is that the middle of the tour includes a visit to the gift shop, in what used to be the butler's pantry. The guided stops to give people the opportunity to shop. After you browse and make purchases, the tour continues.

The guide was informative, and I learned a lot on the tour, but I would have preferred the option to take a self guided tour, so I can wander at my leisure as I read every placard.

If you get the chance, stop by. It's an hour and a half well spent.

The guide talked to us about some of the key events in Harrison's presidency and campaign.

The one-term Republic served from 1889 to 1893. He served between President Cleveland's two terms, and was the only president to interrupt two terms of another president. He was also the only President to have a grandfather who also served as President. He came to office after losing the popular vote, but winning the electoral vote.

The campaign was quite different than the recent, 15 year long 2008 campaign we just survived. Harrison didn't seek out the nomination. He wasn't even in the same city as the Republican convention when they nominated him on the eighth ballot. He accepted the nomination in between two of the rooms we saw on the tour.

His campaign was one of the first front porch campaigns. Rather than travel among the 40 states, he entertained visitor and delegations on his front porch. At larger events, people would steal parts of his fence as souveniers.

During the campaign on 1893, his wife died of tuberculosis. He didn't campaign after that. Once he heard about it, his opponent, former President Grover Cleveland also stopped campaigning, rather than take advantage of the President's wife's death. Harrison did lose reelection.

His White House biography, and his Wikipedia entry highlight some of the key events of those four years Harrison spent in the White House.

He was the first President to have a Christmas tree in the White House.

He was the first President to advocate flying the flag on a regular basis.

He wrote the first version of the Pledge of Allegiance.

During his administration, for the first time ever, the US Federal Budget exceeded $1 billion. At the beginning of his administration, the budget showed a significant surplus, but he and the congress spent that down, in part by expanding pensions for Civil War Veterans.

One of the biggest political challenges was the question of what to do about tariffs. From Harrison's Wikipedia page:

The issue of tariff levels had been a major point of contention in American politics since before the Civil War, and tariffs became the most prominent issue of the 1888 election.[66] The high tariff rates had created a surplus of money in the Treasury, which led many Democrats (as well as the growing Populist movement) to call for lowering the rates.[67] Most Republicans wished the rates to remain high, and to spend the surplus on internal improvements as well as the elimination of some internal taxes.[67]

Representative William McKinley and Senator Nelson W. Aldrich framed the McKinley Tariff that would raise the tariff even higher, including making some rates intentionally prohibitive.[68] At Secretary of State James Blaine's urging, Harrison attempted to make the tariff more acceptable by urging Congress to add reciprocity provisions, which would allow the President to reduce rates when other countries reduced their rates on American exports.[66] The tariff was removed from imported raw sugar, and sugar growers in the United States were given a two cent per pound subsidy on their production.[68] Even with the reductions and reciprocity, the McKinley Tariff enacted the highest average rate in American history, and the spending associated with it contributed to the reputation of the Billion-Dollar Congress.[66]

That's right. The Democrats were calling for lowering taxes and the size of government. The Republicans were resisting those initiatives, and supported using the surplus to expand social programs. The Republicans pushed for protectionist tax measures; the Democrats supported free-er trade.

He signed the Sherman Anti-Trust act and expanded the US Navy in the Pacific. He had major foreign policy initiatives with other countries in the Americas, and nearly got the US into war with Chile.

It may have been a short 4 years, but the legislation and initiatives Harrison pursued have had a significant impact on today's economy. The impact of the Harrison administration is much broader than I recalled from high school.

As we deal with the economic challenges the country faces today, it may be time to take a closer look at what happened during Harrison's administration and the Panic of 1893 that followed his administration.

And it's all because the Neverlost Lady showed me a quirky option.

2009-03-24 Harrison House (5)


What do these 3 things have in common?

Wil Wheaton's "Dancing Barefoot:"

Jonathan Coulton's "JoCo Looks Back:

D-Link Wireless Router:
They were all part of the one of the geekiest orders I've ever placed on Amazon.

What was your geeky combo?


A classic

Hmm. I guess typing has made me hungry this week.

Generally, the best food in the city isn't in the high tourist areas, but Roxy's Deli in Times Square does make a heck of a sandwich.

This the dinner you get for just about $20.

2009-03-17 Roxy's Diner Pastrami Sandwich (2)

Tbat's a pound of pastrami on on the bread, a bowl of cole slaw, two pickles and coffee. Yes, I'm sure I could have gotten dinner cheaper elsewhere, but it was convenient and awesome.

It takes practice to eat a sandwich like that. I di have to resort to the fork at some points, though.


Missing the point of frozen

If you need this warning for your Frozen Yogurt, you're doing it wrong.

2009-03-14 Hot Frozen Yogurt

I think theGF and I will be going back to Moobery in Ballard. It's both tasty and mildly amusing.


Theatrical Tribute

A wistful smile crossed my face when I saw this marquee in Times Square the other night. It seems a fitting tribute to a great actor.

Today, most people now Jerry Orbach as Baby's father in Dirty Dancing or, more likely, as the wise cracking homicide cop Lenny Briscoe in Law and Order. Most don't realize he got his big break playing (and singing) El Gallo in The Fantasticks, making this theater naming all the more appropriate.


Retirement is just around the corner?

At least according to T Rowe Price.

I got this notice in email today.

Now, I understand the importance of saving for retirement. I've been doing that since I was 25. I know I shouldn't plan on Social Security being around. It probably will be, but there's no guarantee. And I can easily see myself working past 65 or 70, not by necessity, but by choice.

But even so, I'm only 27 37 today. And retirement is just "a few years away?" Really? Do they think people retire at 40? Or maybe 45?

Seriously, these people at T Rowe Price have my age and time with the company on record. What are they thinking? Do they know something about my career prospects that I don't?

In the best of times, you can't assume that 99% of those under 40 are just a few years from retirement. But now? With more people losing their jobs with minimal savings, they think people in my age bracket are about to retire?

With 401Ks and traditional pensions taking huge hits in the stock market free fall do they really think retiring on these nest eggs makes any kind of sense? Have they checked the market lately?

Is someone at T Rowe Price just trying to artificially create opening for their own college graduate kids who are now looking for jobs?

Retirement is not just a few years away. It's a few decades away. I think that's a reasonable assumption to make for most people in their thirties. And, yes, we should all be planning for it, but that is long range planning.

If T Rowe Price has such shoddy financial planning that they think the majority of those under 40 are just "a few years away" from retirement, then perhaps I shouldn't trust them with my retirement savings.

Or perhaps someone needs to teach them how to filter and appropriately direct their broadcast emails.

"retirement just a few years away." Yeah. I have my doubts.


Bonuses and taxes

I've been listening to the story about the $165 million in bonuses AIG is about to pay out. And the accompanying outrage.

If these bonuses were going to one of the divisions that is profitable, and they were significantly less than the profit, then I wouldn't have a major problem with it. But they're not.

According to CNN, they are going to one of the very groups responsible for the shambles they current AIG is:

In a letter to Geithner, obtained Saturday by CNN, AIG Chairman and CEO Edward Liddy said his company was taking steps to limit compensation in AIG Financial Products -- the British-based unit responsible for issuing the risky credit default swaps that have brought the company to the brink of collapse.

In the letter to Geithner, Liddy said the unit's 25 highest-paid contract employees will reduce their salaries to $1 this year and all other officers in the unit will reduce their salaries by 10 percent. Other "non-cash compensation" will be reduced or eliminated. But he told Geithner that some bonus payments are binding legal obligations of the company, and "there are serious legal, as well as business consequences for not paying."


I understand that the new AIG CEO may be in a bit of a bind here. If they are contractually obligated to pay the bonuses, and the recipients are not willing to renegotiate those contracts, then they should pay them.

But that doesn't have to let them off the hook.

It occurred to me that the simplest way to deal with it -- without breakin any contracts -- is with the tax code. There's no reason Congress can't craft an income tax provisions specifically for bonuses like this, and tax them abt 99.9% or something like that.

This way, people still recieve their bonuses.
AIG doesn't have to break the contracts.
And the Treasurey recovers funds.

Fortunately, Senator Chris Dodd is already on it.

Later, Dodd told CNN he is considering an unusual approach to get the bonus money back.

"One idea we're kind of thinking about is a tax provision," the Connecticut Democrat said. "We have a right to tax. You could write a tax provision that's narrowly crafted only to the people receiving bonuses. That's a way maybe to deal with it."

Dodd said the notion is in the "earliest of thinking" and has not been settled on as a way to resolve the issue that has set off outrage in Washington and across the country.


We may not be able to allow AIG to fail. But we can make sure we don't reward failure.


Shatner-Palooza: Klingons and butterflies

William Shatner had worked with green screens for years. Here, he muses on the concept and the imagination of a 4 year old.

Apparently, Shatner thinks the SNL cast is nothing but slackers. Check out this video in a Shaterner-Palooza bonus at Not in My Book.



A few days ago I woke up with the word "sage" screaming in my head.

I have no idea why.

I like sage. It has a strong, woody flavor and a wonderful scent. It's perennial, which means it keeps growing for several years. You don't have to replant it every season.

The robust Mediterranean herb is easy to grow in containers. It stands up surprisingly well to both over watering and drying out.

Have you had Fried Sage leaves? Heat up some oil in a frying pan and drop the leaves in. They fry up quickly and crisply. Take them out after just a few moments (15-30 seconds), and add salt.

The GF suggests waiting for them to be slightly translucent and instead of regular Kosher Salt, try a little Fluer De Sel.

The soft green leaves turn into light, crispy snacks that make for great appetizers or TV snacks. It's a nice alternative to potato chips. If you find yourself with extra sage leaves, give it a try.

But whether you add a few leaves to chicken, stuff a turkey's cavity with it, or shred it for a steak, sage is a great herb to play with.

But that still doesn't explain why I woke with "sage" exploding loudly in my head. I don't recall any plant related dreams. Or oil related dreams, for that matter. My existing sage plants are still in good shape. And it's not like my alarm clock calls our random plant names.

Fortunately, while this outburst rocked the inside of my skull, it didn't actually come through my larynx. It was a silent shout.

Can you imagine the neighbors calling the police? "Um yeah. There's some guy screaming about herbs next door...No, not that kind of herb...Yes, the other kind. Here -- Listen:"

[Through the wall] "Mint! Sage! Sage! Oregano! Rosemary! Basil! Spider Plant! Basil!"

Have you ever woken up with with a random thought banging against your temple trying to burst out? Was it garden related?

And how do you use your sage?


Pandemic II

Deadly world wide diseases are rarely fun. Then again, they are rarely Flash games.

I know this game has been bouncing around the internet for a while, but somehow I've missed it (probably too busy looking at LOL cats).

In Pandemic II, you are a disease creator. You start by choosing whether you want to create a virus, bacterium, or parasite. The game chooses the part of the world your disease starts.

As the game progresses, the disease moves from one region to another if you play right. People can get infected at borders, airports, or seaports. As the disease grows, governments begin shutting down points of entry and using other techniques to minimize the spread of the disease.

You gain evolution points through the game that you can spend to improve your disease's infectiousness, lethality, resistance, and visibility.

You want the disease to spread faster than governments can react, infect as many people as possible, and ultimately bring them to death.

The goal of the game is to wipe out the human race.

As you approach the end game, it starts to get a bit disturbing. The game updates pop up with things like, "No signs of life in Peru" or "No one left alive in Canada" and things like that. Sure, it's just a silly Flash game, and worth playing, but it's sobering nonetheless.


The power of limits

In the recent issue of Wired (17.03) they included a spread focused on design. Wired has often been know for its design -- some hailing it, and some condemning it, especially for white text on neon orange pages. For many years I avoided the magazine because I was simply not cool enough to read it.

Either I got cool or they got lamer, but regardless, I've been reading it cover-to-cover for several years now.

The design spread talked about how good design comes from limits.

At Wired, our design team sees this constraint as our daily bread. On every editorial page, we use words and pictures to overcome the particular restrictions of paper and ink:


The idea of operating within constraints—of making more with less—is especially relevant these days. From Wall Street to Detroit to Washington, the lack of limits has proven to be a false freedom. With all the economic gloom, you might not be blamed for feeling that the boundless American frontier seems a little less expansive. But design teaches us that this is our hour of opportunity.

I've been tossing that idea around in my head lately. Effective design comes not from a lack of rules, but from creatively using limited resources. Whether that limited resource is space on paper, time, bandwidth, or even money, the best ideas come from people doing extraordinary things within those limitations and transcending them.

And while the challenges facing the economy today are serious, these limitations we face are what will take us into the next great period of growth and strength. I'm not minimizing the pain people are going through. Nor am I saying there is no reason to be afraid for the immediate future.

But right now, the economy is going through a purge. We are facing limitations unimaginable just 2.5 years ago.

Those limitations will reinvigorate the American entrepreneurial spirit.

New companies will be born from people who lose their jobs. There is a need for companies to save money and resources through new processes and ways of doing business. Entrepreneurs will find new ways to address those problems.

While we face severe limitations, we also have more tools available than anytime in the past. The country is filled with dark fiber left over from the dot.com bust. Cloud computing and server farms offer huge IT resources at low cost. People have more ways to connect with like minded people than they ever had before. And, unfortunately, millions of people have more time on their hands than ever before.

Economic limitations mean we all face new constraints. Panic and fear from companies and consumers that are afraid to spend money, even when they have it, create even more limitations. Success in the coming years will depend on how successfully we can manage those constraints and use the new tools to transcend them.

We have a blank page in front of us. Now the only questions is, "How do we fill it?"


Life in the Garden Part 12: Gardening to save money?

I started my garden because it seemed silly to spend $3 or $4 for fresh basil whenever I wanted it. I thought I could buy a plant for that same amount and keep harvesting it.

In the end, instead of spending $50-$60 a year for fresh herbs and vegetables, I've committed nearly $4,000 to the garden over the past 6 years.

It's been fun.
It's been educational.
It's been delicious.

It definitely hasn't saved me any money.

Perhaps if I had an acre or so, I could achieve some economies of scale, but that's not the case.

This is a lesson other people are just starting to learn.

According to a recent article in the Seattle Times, there is a run on seeds. People who have lost their jobs, or who are afraid of losing their jobs, are turning to gardens to grow food and save money.

Sue is the one who answers the phone at the couple's Irish Eyes Garden Seeds, which produces more than 400 kinds of seeds (mostly vegetables), as well as 70 different kinds of potatoes and 25 kinds of garlic.

By some of the questions they get from customers, the couple know these are first-time gardeners.

"We had one person ask us which way the seed goes in the ground," says Sue.

These days, she's handling 100 customer calls a day, and the family business expects to gross $1 million in sales this year. Business is up 20 to 30 percent over last year, both in seeds under its own label and seeds it packages for companies such as Burpee and Park Seed.


A retail garden store like Sky Nursery in Shoreline says seed business is up "at least 20 percent."

And Burpee, the Pennsylvania-based world's largest seed company, says business also is up by that much.

Although it came up with the idea too late for this year's print catalog, on its Web site Burpee sells a "Money Garden" that for $10 puts together $20 worth of pea, tomato, pepper, bean, lettuce and carrot seeds.

It says the seeds will produce "over $650 worth of vegetables!"

"People are belt-tightening, particularly on large-ticket items," says George Ball, chairman of Burpee. "It results in an almost Depression mentality."


The article also discusses how some people are moving to gardening for purer, organic, non-GMO food, and others are taking up gardening to gain some control over their lives.

Those may be viable reasons, but without significant space, saving money through gardening is not likely to be a viable option for most new gardeners.

I don't want to discourage gardening and growing herbs, vegetables, fruit, etc. It's a great feeling to eat something you grow. But it takes practice or knowledge. And while you can start for low cost, it's tough to compete with low cost/high volume food available at the supermarket, farmer's market, or even specialty grocery store.

I am worried that new gardeners will start their crops to save money, and be discouraged by from continuing by the costs. And that would be a shame.


Louisa Boren Park view

Louisa Boren Park is a small, scenic over look on Seattle's Capitol Hill. It's across the street from Lake View Cemetery. You can find the map here.

I took these pictures last month, on Presidents Day.

2009-02-16 Louisa Boren Park (3)

The view from the park looks to the North East, out over the Arboretum, SR520 Floating Bridge, and Lake Washington.

Turning slightly clockwise, you get a view of the Bellevue skyline.

2009-02-16 Louisa Boren Park Bellevue (1)

You can see nearly the whole length of the SR520 bridge.

2009-02-16 Louisa Boren Park (20)

The humps on the right and left are the Eastern HiRise and the Western HiRise, respectively.

2009-02-16 Louisa Boren Park SR520 (2)

2009-02-16 Louisa Boren Park SR520

The roadway that dips between them isn't above the water. It floats on the surface of the lake. The section in the middle is actually a draw span. The DOT opens it up when winds exceed 45 MPH. The highway can be shut down for hours at a time.

2009-02-16 Louisa Boren Park SR520 (3)

This bridge is considered obsolete, and replacing it will be one of the Seattle area's next major infrastructure projects. Given the way Seattle government and projects work, I expect we'll be driving on the new bridge sometime around 2063.

There are plenty of great views from the park so if you have the opportunity, stop by and spend a few minutes taking in the beauty of the Seattle area from this neat little vista.

2009-02-16 Louisa Boren Park (12)

You can see more of my Boren Park pictures here.


Dusting off the wishes

I'm itching for Spring, and it's not the itch that comes from too much nature. While I still want my cold weather at night, I also want the sunny days so I get out on the deck and use it for something other than playing host to some possibly dead bamboo.

I'm shopping for a grill. Because it's an apartment in Seattle, "they" are rather particular about what I do when I play with fire. There are 4 requirements I have to meet when I grill.
  • It has to be a gas grill
  • It has to use the 16 ounce or smaller gas containers
  • I have to have a fire extinguisher nearby
  • I have to have a fire resistant mat under the grill (not required, but strongly recommended by the building manager as she looked at me with those scary you-must-comply eyes)

When I think out door activities and out door equipment, I think on one solution -- The Internet.

That brought me to Amazon, as most surfing ultimately does (damn them and their convenient ordering and adequate customer service).

On Amazon, I have two wish lists. My default is the "Please buy this for me list" which (no surprise) is filled mainly with books. The second list is one that's full of things I want to "Keep and eye on." Naturally, it is called, "Keep and eye on." When I see something I think I want, but I'm not sure, it goes on this list. When I'm shopping around and looking at different products, they go on this list.

Tonight, I dropped the Weber Q200 on that list. I'm still looking at grills, so that's where it goes.

That turns out to be a pretty dusty list. As I went though it, the contents broke down roughly like this:

  • 10% Things I might want
  • 15% Things I forgot I might want
  • 25% Things I'm comparing to one another
  • 40% Things I have
  • 10% What the heck is that doing on there?
It turns out I'm as good at de-cluttering my ad-hoc book mark system as I am at de-cluttering my apartment.

Need proof? I scrolled down this list and saw this:

It includes three cameras I was considering back in December of 2005. I eventually bought one (the Nikon) but they all sat there -- waiting. And hoping one day that I would come back to evaluate them again.


Now if only I were that ruthless with the delete key in my apartment...


Not only airplanes divert

I've had my share of flight delays. Sometimes they annoy me; most of the time I just shrug them off. Diversions, delays, random routes, and strange cities are just a normal part of flying for business.

My GF doesn't have as many flight issues as I do. She gets to deal with an entirely different mode of transit -- she rides the bus.

And today, is her first Guest Post on Cromely's World. So welcome her to the blog and maybe she'll share more stories in the future.

This morning I was waiting for the bus as usual on 1st Ave., on my way to work, when suddenly a helicopter was flying overhead.

I didn’t think much of it at first. I thought maybe it was a news copter reporting on traffic. But then I began to suspect something when the copter remained in position up above. I looked at the people around me, also waiting for the bus, and people walking across the street. They were all looking up, looking in wonderment at the copter just above us. I looked down the street to see if I could get a glimpse of what was happening. I couldn’t see.

I had a bad feeling about this.

My bus finally came, only about 5 minutes late (that’s pretty good!). I hopped on and the bus continued down 1st Ave on its regular route.

About 5 blocks along on my journey, my instincts were confirmed. The Federal building came into sight, and the whole block was shut down, guarded by police. Yellow caution tape lined the block.

The bus had to take an emergency re-route and leave 1st Ave, since we couldn’t get past the police barricade. Traffic was stopped. Some people opted to get off the bus and walk the rest of their journey. I considered it, since my office was only about a mile away, but decided to stay on the bus to see what would happen.

The bus turned onto 2nd Ave and drove a couple of blocks (with cars honking the entire way because the 60’ articulated bus I was riding took command of the road and disregarded the rest of the traffic flow) and turned back onto 1st again, after we had passed the mess around the Federal building. I got off at my usual stop, a block away from my office.

I still heard the copter overhead. Looking behind me, it looked like the flow of traffic was getting better, which indicated that the incident was over, and they were letting traffic through again. I walked into my office, only 15 minutes late (not bad, under the circumstances). I immediately booted up my computer and checked the news.

“Breaking Story: Suspicious package briefly shuts down street near the Federal building. A police bomb squad was called in to check out a suspicious package at the Federal Building in downtown Seattle Wednesday morning. Spokeswoman Renee Witt says federal police called at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday to report finding the package in a window well. Police closed First Ave. between Marion and Madison as a precaution. The bomb squad ultimately rendered the package safe at about 8 a.m. Police describe the package as a plastic bag containing a canvas bag.”

So, it wasn’t a sleeping bag again (like last year). But it may as well have been. On to work as usual.

You can read a little more about the incident here.

Life in the Garden Part 11: Seedling Growth

Last week I posted some shots of my seedlings just barely popping through.

Over the next 7 days, they started to explode.

In this tray, I have Thai Basil, Genovese Basil, and Coriander. The Coriander is on the far right. It got off to a slow start but suddenly burst into the lead this week.

I may have to move it into bigger pots faster than I expected.

The other batch is also doing well, but they are coming in a little more slowly.

This one is filled with Thyme, Rosemary, and Chives. The Chives are coming in fastest, which is to be expected. Chives are pretty easy.

I've tried in the past with Rosemary, but I've never successfully grown it from seed. I have two thriving Rosemary bushes in my apartment, but those came from smaller bushes I got at the nursery.

Thyme is the one my GF asks for most often. I still have the crop from a couple years ago growing in my window which has been great, but it's time to expand that crop.

Next batch to start: Sage, Mint, Oregano, Lavender, Strawberries, Tomatoes and Pole Beans.


Late Night night 1

As Conan boards the wagon train west for California, life goes on in Studio 6B.

Tonight, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon premiered on NBC. People have been expecting Fallon to fail and put in an abysmal job at Late Night. Some were worried that he would be the one to destroy the 27 year old franchise.

I'm optimistic, though. No one expected Conan to be successful, yet despite a rough start he put on an awesome show.

I actually liked the first couple seasons on Conan. He opened his first episode with a joke about peace in the middle east, and ended with a leg wrestling match between George Wendt and John Goodman.

And it got better from there.

Fallon's first episode was, well, not quite that awesome. It was Okay.

Fallon was visibly nervous and stiff. That's to be expected when everyone is anticipating your failure. There were a few times in the monologue where he started to improvise and stray from his cue cards, and those moments were good. If he relaxes and let's his own material and personality come through, he could be good.

There are a couple of problems. The "Lick it for Ten" bit was just dumb. He gave people $10 to lick random things he brought out from back stage.

Sure it's a neat way to sell additional sponsorships ("Hey, Mr. Corporation, for $30,000 we'll introduce your product and have an audience member lick it. Do we have a deal?") but there really wasn't much comedic value to it.

There was no buildup.
The stuff was all clean.
There was no reason not to lick it.

The major humor value came from the slow motion replays of people's tongues.

His interview skills need some work. In his interviews with Robert Dinero and Justin Timberlake, we learned more about Jimmy Fallon than we did about his guests.

Interviewing someone is not a conversation. The host is there to showcase and call attention to the guest. The host must be a presence, but it's about telling the guests' stories. And Fallon did not do that effectively.

To be fair, Conan, Dave, and Johnny all moved the focus to themselves from time-to-time, but they already demonstrated they had the skills to do a proper interview. And even then, it was to tell the story about the guest, not just to share their own background with the audience.

Fallon needs to get more comfortable in his role. He needs to grow more confident. And he needs to be willing to drop into the background and let his guests shine.

I see glimmers of success in there. And I'll keep tuning in for awhile to see what happens in the coming weeks.

You can see highlights of the show here.