Back Yard Burial

A reader recently asked the Seattle PI if people could bury their pets in the backyard when the die.  That answer was that they could, as long as it didn't pose a nuisance. Apparently, the law also pets under 15 pounds to be disposed of with "household waste" which, while logical, seems all kinds of wrong.

I had gerbils for several years when I was a kid, and a few of them did make it to the back yard after they lived out their gerbil lives.  Joe The Gerbil had  a crazy long tooth that really was never right. He was the first to come into the house, and the first to make it into the back yard.  I remember packing him in a Maxwell House coffee can with woodchips when it was time for his burial. 

I also remember taking and old, heavy, slate, stepping stone of some sort and working on it with a hammer and chisel to carve his name into it.  Now, it feels like that was a project I spent days or weeks on, but it could easily have been just an afternoon. I must have been in that 10-13 year old age bracket at the time.

Writing this, it almost seems like a sad story (I suppose I could punch it up and make it a real tear jerker (the handicapped gerbil with the weird tooth would put it over the top)), and I was probably sad at the time.  But it wasn't a traumatic experience; it didn't scar me.  Carving that tombstone wasn't a labor of love.  It was just what you do.  It seemed natural, and I took to it like the project it was. 

Over the years, there were several more gerbils, and several more backyard burials.  They came in and lives through their normal gerbil lives.  I think there was only one more tomb stone, though.

I'm not sure what the point of this story is.  It started off as a tale about paint, but I guess that will have to be a future post.  I can't always be certain just which story will want to be told. 


Fig Newtons Vs Fat Free Fig Newtons

Fat Free Fig Newtons sound too good to be true.  Are they?

2010-10-24 Fig Newtons (4)


2010-10-24 Fig Newtons (3)

The answer: Pretty much.

First, lets look at the numbers.  The two packages cost the same, but the regular Fig Newtons weigh in at 14 ounces, while that fat free version is just 12 ounces.

It's not that they made the cookies smaller; then didn't. Instead, you get fewer cookies in the Fat Free version.  The Regular version has 26 cookies.  The Fat Free version has 24.

2010-10-24 Fig Newtons (9) 2010-10-24 Fig Newtons (8)

So there's no cost advantage to the Fat Free.  It must be a great alternative for those on a diet right?

The label starts with the absurd notion that a serving is two cookies.  Seriously?!?! Who eats just two at a sitting? One of the most misleading things about nutrition information is the absolutely ridiculous servings sizes listed on the label. They are pure fiction for the vast majority of people.

Regardless, a "serving" of regular Fig Newtons is 110 calories with two grams of fat.  The Fat Free Fig Newtons are 90 calories per serving with 0 grams of fat.  They also have a little less sodium and potassium.  

So, a regular Fig Newton is 55 calories with 1 gram of fat and a fat free one is 45 calories.

Is it worth it to switch to fat free to save 10 calories per cookie? That's a little less than a 20% reduction in calories.

Let's looks look at the cookies themselves.

2010-10-24 Fig Newtons (10)

They look similar, but the Fat Free version has more color variation in the breading.

2010-10-24 Fig Newtons (11)

The crust also appears a little thinner on the Fat Free version.

That brings me to taste.  It tried them both, knowing which was Fat Free. 

The Fat Free version tasted okay (it's not the disaster that the Lean Pockets Cheeseburger was).  It did seem a little flat, however. The regular version had a fuller taste.  The fruit itself tasted the same; the difference was all in the breading.  The traditional Fig Newton crust was more flaky; it crumbled better.  The difference was less about flavor, and more about texture.

The GF tried them both in a blind taste test.  Historically, she hasn't been a big fan of Fig Newtons,and, with less invested in the process, was in a better position to offer some insight.

She tasted them both and clearly preferred the traditional version over the Fat Free. She described the crust on the fat free version as "more dense," and said the Fat Free version just didn't taste as fresh.

After this limited test, I'd say the traditional Fig Newtons just pop more.  The difference between them is all in the crust.  

If you plan to sit down and eat all 24-26 Fig Newtons at one, then if might be worthwhile to switch to the Fat Free to save 240 calories.  Of course, if you're eating them all at once, you're probably not concerned about the calories.

For a more normal sized snack (5-7), I'd say get the traditional Fig Newtons.  The calorie reduction in the Fat Free Fig Newtons just isn't worth the sacrifice in taste and texture.


Book Review 58: Company

Monday morning and there’s one less donut than there should be.

Keen observers note the reduced mass straightaway but stay silent, because saying, “Hey, is that only seven donuts?” would betray their donut experience. It’s not great for your career to be known as the person who can spot the difference between seven and eight donuts at a glance. Everyone studiously avoids mentioning the missing donut until Roger turns up and sees the empty plate.

Roger says, “Where’s my donut?”

Page 1

Occasionally a novel comes along that reminds me why I am so grateful that I work from home. Company, by Max Barry, is such a novel.

Like his previous novel, Jennifer Government, Company cynically skewers life in cubicle land. Unlike Jennifer Government, Company takes place in the present day, rather than some dystopian future. It’s the type of thing that could theoretically happen in most people’s lives. Since reading the book doesn’t require accepting an entirely different universe, it’s more relatable. Also, since Barry uses today’s world, the reader can focus more on the story itself, and less on understanding a new context.

The book is similar in tone to the movie “Office Space,” but the scope iis much bigger. If you enjoyed that movie, you may want to pick up this book.

Characters in the book cynically work around the impediments that senior management throws in front of them.
Jones says, “So with this freeze, how did you hire me?’

“It was Freddy’s idea. We process your salary as office expenses. Copy paper, specifically”

“That reminds me,” Freddy says to Holly, “do you have to xerox all of Elizabeth’s orders? Because the paper in that machine has to last until January.”

“We probably won’t last until January. I might as well xerox while I can.”

“I’m copy paper?” Jones says.

“Don’t worry, it’s just a paperwork thing. It doesn’t affect anything. Well, unless they cut our stationery budget. But there’s nothing to sweat about, this is just a little creative accounting. It goes on all the time.”

page 25-26

Large portions of the books are about the unintended consequences of senior management decisions. What happens when you cut the budgets so far that a department can’t function properly? Or when you pit departments against one another?

“Infrastructure Management bills for windows. Covering them up cut our overhead by 8 percent. But we’re just getting started. Today we’re getting rid of our desks and chairs. We figure we don’t really need them anymore, since we’re not doing any marketing. And it’s way better feng shui. We’ll put the computers on the carpet.”

“What do you use the computers for?”

The communications manager’s eyes widen. “Hey hey. That’s the kind of thinking we could use in marketing. That’s a great idea.”

Holly stops crunching. “If you’re not actually doing any marketing, aren’t you worried they’ll cut you?”

“With expenses this low? Which company do you work for?” She laughs. Her ponytail swishes.

Page 60

Salespeople who really focus on their clients are doomed to be disappointed. Especially because the clients they are selling to are other departments.

On level 14, Elizabeth is falling in love. This is what makes her such a good sales rep, and an emotional basket case: she falls in love with her customers. It is hard to convey just how wretchedly, boot-lickingly draining it is to be a salesperson. Sales is a business of relationships, and you must cultivate customers with tenderness and love, like cabbages in winter, even if the customer is an egomaniacal asshole you want to hit with a shovel. There is something wrong with the kind of person who becomes a sales rep, or if not, there is something wrong after six months.

Elizabeth doesn’t rely on the usual facades of friendship and illusions of intimacy: she forms actual attachments. For Elizabeth, each new lead is a handsome stranger in a nightclub. When they dance, she grows giddy with the rush of possibilities. If he doesn’t like her product offering. she dies. If he talks about sizable orders, she feels the urge to move in with him.

Page 11-12

My favorite story is one that explores how absurd practices can be perpetuated.

Holly folds her hands on her desk. “These chimps, they’re in a cage, and the scientists poke in a banana on a stick. The chimps try to grab it, but as soon as they do. the scientists electrify the floor, so all the chimps get a shock. This goes on until the chimps learn that touching a banana equals electric shock. Right? Then the scientists take one chimp out and put in a new one. This chimp, when he goes to grab the banana, he gets beaten up by all the others, because they don’t want to get shocked. You see?”

“That’s a terrible story,” Jones says.

“The scientists keep switching chimps, one at a time. until none of the originals are left. Then they add one more. The new chimp, he goes for the banana and the others jump him, same as before. But, see, none of them was ever shocked. They don’t know why they’re doing it. They just know that’s the way they do things.”

“So I’m the new chimp.”

“You’re the new chimp. Don’t try to understand the company. Just go with it.”

Page 49 - 50

The natural evolution of a company is to a slow, stagnating death.

Last is what The Omega Management System officially calls Realignment but is privately referred to by Project Alpha agents as “Evacuation.” This is when all the employees who are unhappy with their new role polish their resumes and start trying to find a better job somewhere else. If they’re successful, they leave; otherwise they stay, along with those who were close enough to Senior Management to be tossed a political scrap. In essence, the company is quickly reduced to to the incompetent and the corrupt. But it will struggle forward, laboring for as long as possible under the illusion that it is suffering from mere teething issues and not a deep, systemic sodomy of the entire corporate structure, until that becomes impossible and Senior Management does the only thing it can: announce a reorganization.

Page 220

The story has a number of surprise twists, and we get to follow the various characters along their growth paths. I don’t want to spoil the surprises, so I won’t go into detail on that, but the plot is solid and the moves at a decent pace.

The book does not glorify the cubicle worker who drives the white collar world. In political squabbles small and large, they are no better than the mythical senior management.

What I like most about the book is Barry’s humorous style. It’s funny despite its darkness. the characters are a little flat, but not distractingly slow.

The action sequences and epilogue could have been tighter and clearer, but they were still good.

If you’re interested in a novel that satirizes corporate life, or are just looking for something to read in your cube when you don’t think the boss is watching, pick up Max Barry’s “Company.”

You can see more of my book reviews here.


Tokyo Travels Part 16: Sensoji Temple and Nakamise-dori

After the Sumida River Cruise, we planned to visit the Sensoji Temple at the end of Nakamise-dori in Asakusa.

The plan did not quite work out.  We happen to be there on the last day of the Sanja-Matsuri festival, one of the three biggest festivals in Tokyo each year.  I suppose it's like trying to walk through Rockefeller Center on December 23.  With enough time and dedication you can do it, but it's not for the timid or those with a deadline.

The festival celebrates the founders of the Buddhist Sensoji Temple -- three fishermen who found a golden statue in the Sumida River.  The fesitval brings out people, music, and portable shrines from throughout the area.  You can learn more about it on Wikipedia.

It was an exciting afternoon, and I am still blown away by the crowds.

The temple is at the far end of Nakamise-dori (or Nakamise Street). The street is lined with permanent vendors who sell snacks and souvenirs to the visitors.  We made it only part way down the street when we visited with the tour.

Music played, people hoisted shrines, and Japanese visitors took pictures of one another flashing peace signs.

We started to walk through the main gate, but after a while we diverted through one of the side streets.  This video will give you a taste of the crowd. To shoot most of it, I put the video camera on a monopod, and held it way above my head.  The video is 5:36.

You can also see the video here.

I shot nearly 30 minutes of video.  You can see the raw, unedited footage here in Part 1 and Part 2

These are just a few of the pictures we took that afternoon.

Some of the temples and drums sets were built to be pulled/played by children.

Two days later, we went back.  The crowds were much thinner and we could see more of this important structure.

Of course, Denny's is nearby if you need a Grand Slam.

There were definitely a lot of shops.

Do you think this shop is targeting the locals or Western tourists?

The scale of the commercial operation contrasted with the peace of the Buddhist Shrine, but the two certainly coexisted.

As we headed back to the train, we couldn't help but smile when we saw this guy on the roof.

For more pictures of our trip to Asakusa and to Tokyo in general, click here.  I'll be adding more to the set over the next few months.

For more posts about our this trip to Tokyo, click here.


Coffee lids in public

Do you need a new neurosis?  Perhaps you already have this one.  But if not, here's something to think about.

This is the Seattle's Best Coffee shop in the South Satellite Concourse at the SeaTac airport.  This scene repeats itself at coffee shops and fast food restaurants around the country.

After you fill the serve-yourself soda, or you add the cream and sugar to your coffee, you take a lid from the stack and add put it on your cup.

I can never grab just one lid.  They stick together so I get two or three at a shot.  I peel off the lid I need, and then -- what?  What do you do with the extra lids?  Do you just throw these perfectly good lids in the trash?  Or, since they're unused, do you put them back on the stack?

I'm reasonably confident that the the staff at these facilities at least occasionally washes its hands. I'm not nearly as confident that the other customers do the same.

When I get the extra lids, despite my reasonably good hygiene, I toss them in the trash.Other customers do put them on the stack.

So the next customer to come along grabs the lid that will be in contact with their mouth and beverage from the stack, and they have no way of knowing who handled that lid before them.

That just seems kind of nasty.  And it's why I appreciate it when a store hands me the lid rather than just relegating them to the mass public pile.


Old images revisited

I was going through my old photos and I stumbled across this one.  I like it quite a bit.

It's a picture on a 10/100 Linksys ISA card that I installed in my desktop computer.  I tool the picture with a Toshiba PDRM70 3MP digital camera, back on 2000-07-29.  As I recall, I took the picture because I needed some numbers from the chips for some sort of tech support type of reason.

I hesitate to call it a Macro image because I don't think I was using those settings.  And I didn't put in the kind of effort that would be expected for "Macro Photography."

I think it does demonstrate the importance of going back and looking at old images from time-to-time.  What seemed dull then, may have become fascinating or beautiful over the ears, or with new eyes.

Do you have favorite image from the past that you only recently rediscovered?


Choose: Strip Search or Molestation

Do you want to be strip searched by the Back Scatter X-Ray or molested with TSA's "Enhanced Pat Down" at Seatac?

TSA is now installing the strip-o-matic machines at the North Satellite security check point. These machines use back scatter X-Ray technology to conduct a virtual strip search of passengers.You can see samples of these strip searches by doing a simple Google Image Search.

Some might say the images aren't so bad. Afterall the agent seeing them will never see the passenger being screened and will not be allowed to have any recording equipment in the room where they view the strip searches. Which, of course, confirms their explicitness.

TSA also claims the machines can't record images.

From the Seattle PI:
Regarding privacy, Parker said images from the machine go to a separate room, where a screener can radio back to the checkpoint if there's something suspicious. She said the screeners who see the passenger never see the image, while those who see the image never see the passenger.

The machines have no capacity to store imag [sic], and the screeners in the room may not have any cameras, cell phones or other recording devices. The TSA also applies a "privacy algorithm" that makes the images less explicit.

The don't appear to be segregating the machines and screeners by gender. You can't be sure who's looking at you and your kids.

Of course the claim that they don't store the images offers little reassurance. It's only a policy decision not to do it. It's not a hardware limitation.

In fact, the US Marshals service used similar machines in Florida at a courthouse.

From CNN:
The U.S. Marshals Service is confirming that it has stored more than 35,000 "whole body" images of people who had entered a U.S. courthouse in Orlando, Florida.

The images captured by millimeter wave technology are more ghost-like and far less detailed than those produced by "backscatter" machines commonly used by the Transportation Security Administration at airports nationwide.
Do you trust TSA to be more respectful or airline passengers than the US Marshals are of courthouse visitors?

Of course, it's entirely "optional." If you don't want TSA member virtually undressing you from a hidden room, you can opt instead for an Enhanced Pat Down. What is that like?

From The Consumerist:
"To call it a pat-down is a euphemism," said a spokesman for the ACLU in Massachusetts. "They really go for it."

He says that -- unlike the antiquated pat-down, which required TSA screeners to use the back of their hands when searching sensitive regions of your person -- the enhandced pat-down allows them to use their palms and fingers to feel and prod passengers.

One traveler who got the deluxe treatment at Logan sums it up thusly: "If anybody ever groped me like that in real life, I would have punched them in their nose."
From the Boston Herald:
Logan airport security just got more up close and personal as federal screeners launched a more aggressive palms-first, slide-down body search technique that has renewed the debate over privacy vs. safety.
For now, you can avoid this disgusting choice at SEA by not using the North Security Checkpoint. You can access all gates by clearing security at any checkpoint.

From the Seattle PI:
Starting Sunday, Sea-Tac Airport will close the North Security Checkpoint while the TSA reconfigures the layout to include the new scanners. Officials expect the closure to last approximately two weeks but say it should not cause delays because TSA will open extra lanes at the other checkpoints and have extra staff on hand to guide travelers.

So for you now, those who pay attention to the farce that is TSA do not have to make that choice at SEA. The only people subject to the strip search or TSA molesting will be those non-frequent travelers who are not familiar with the airport.

This insanity needs to stop. Treating everyone like they are being arrested is not going to help aviation security.  It's not making us safer.

And it is certainly not protecting our freedoms.


$2 million to study the lunch line

I know research is expensive.  And I know that $2 million is nothing in the big scheme of things. If it improves the health of tens of millions of kids, it's worth it.  But isn't there a better way?

Yes.  Skip the psychologists.  Talk to the marketers.

A recent article in the Seattle PI talks about psychological research to encourage kids to eat better.  It's worth a read.

Hide the chocolate milk behind the plain milk. Get those apples and oranges out of stainless steel bins and into pretty baskets. Cash only for desserts.
These subtle moves can entice kids to make healthier choices in school lunch lines, studies show. Food and restaurant marketers have long used similar tricks. Now the government wants in on the act.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced what it called a major new initiative Tuesday, giving $2 million to food behavior scientists to find ways to use psychology to improve kids' use of the federal school lunch program and fight childhood obesity.
A fresh approach is clearly needed, those behind the effort say.
Some tricks already judged a success by Cornell researchers: Keep ice cream in freezers without glass display tops so the treats are out of sight. Move salad bars next to the checkout registers, where students linger to pay, giving them more time to ponder a salad. And start a quick line for make-your-own subs and wraps, as Corning East High School in upstate New York did
The agency requested proposals from researchers on how to get kids to actually eat the good stuff. Cornell scientists Brian Wansink and David Just will get $1 million to establish the child nutrition center. Fourteen research sites around the country will share the other $1 million.
For example, some Corning schools had express lines for a la carte items - mostly chips, cookies and ice cream. The idea was to reduce bottlenecks caused by full tray lunches that took longer to ring up. But the result was a public health nightmare.
"We were making it very convenient for them to quickly go through the line and get a bunch of less nutritious items," Wallace said.
After studies by Wansink, they renamed some foods in the elementary schools - "X-ray vision carrots" and "lean, mean green beans" - and watched consumption rise. Cafeteria workers also got more involved, asking, "Would you rather have green beans or carrots today?" instead of waiting for a kid to request them.

I hate to disappoint the USDA, but this research has already been done.  Maybe it's not published in psych journals, but it is done.  Talking to the psychologists is the wrong answer. They need to talk to people in Marketing.
This is a merchandising and marketing issue.  Grocery stores, retail stores, and markets around the country conduct this experiment everyday.  The experts in displaying foods and promoting one item over the over work it all out in aisles and cubicles around the world.  They know how to do it because their jobs depend on it everyday.
 The USDA needs to step away from the psychologists and work with the product marketing and store merchandising specialists who already know how to move the product.


Movie Review 15: The Social Network

John Keating: Language was developed for one endeavor, and that is - Mr. Anderson? Come on, are you a man or an amoeba?
John Keating: Mr. Perry?
Neil: To communicate.
John Keating: No! To woo women
That classic exchange from Dead Poets Society is the key theme that drives the story of “The Social Network” and likely the creation of Facebook in the real world, as well.social network poster
The Social Network, written by Aaron Sorkin, and based on the book, The Accidental Billionaires purports to be the story behind Facebook.  While the general content may be true, there are plenty of fictionalized accounts in the movie. Sorkin did not approach the subject matter and a journalist, but as a story teller.  And as a story teller, he did a great job.

When I first heard there was going to be a Facebook movie, I was skeptical.  When I saw the previews I thought, “Huh.  This might not suck.”  Now that I’ve seen it, I can honestly say this a surprisingly good movie.

The movie uses two legal depositions as the framework for telling the story of how Mark Zuckerberg and his friends at Harvard created Facebook. It seems an odd choice to use that framework since “website authoring” and “legal deposition” aren’t typically buzzwords that bring people into the theater. 

The film opens as Erica Albright, Mark Zuckerberg’s (fictional) girlfriend breaks up with him in a restaurant.  He goes back to his Harvard dorm room, blogs nastily about her while drunk (seriously, folks, BWI, or blogging while impaired, is rarely a good idea (come to think of it, BWI, or Baltimore Washington International airport is also rarely a good idea)), and then hacks several Harvard networks to create a website that ranks women based on attractiveness.  He crashes the network, and we are off to the races.

social network
The reason the subject matter works as a movie is because the fact that we’re talking about Facebook is almost incidental.  The story is about friendship, betrayal, naiveté, revenge, pettiness, and honor.  The socially inept and obsessively driven Zuckerberg moves forward with his ideas and get caught up folks who are simultaneously exactly the right people and wrong people to be involved with.

In many respects, the story is about a bunch of kids who don’t have the wisdom or experience to realize they are in over their heads.

Jesse Eisenberg does a fantastic job as Mark Zuckerberg, and is all about the contrast.  He shows a great balance of awkwardness and smarminess. You’re never sure if his Zuckerberg needs a hug or a smack across the face.

Andrew Garfield does a good job playing Eduardo Saverin, though he seems to lack depth or definition at times.  Sorkin doesn’t flesh out the character or the relationship with Zuckerberg well enough. Saverin is supposed to be Zuckerberg’s best friend, but why?  Sorkin doesn’t do enough to establish that relationship, and Zuckerberg and Saverin are different enough, that we can’t just assume the friendship is natural.

Justin Timberlake plays a larger than life Sean Parker, the over the top Napster and Plaxo founder, who splits Zuckerberg and Saverin apart.  The Zuckerberg and Parker characters look an awful lot alike, which severs the story in interesting ways.  It shows Zuckerberg the person he can potentially be if things go right.  And it shows Parker the person he would like to be again.

The most interesting thing I learned about Facebook from this movie was that Sean Parker had such a role with the company.

At times, Timberlake’s portrayal is distracting.  His character reminded me less of the young genius who changed the record business for ever, and more of Neal Patrick Harris’s Barney from “How I Met Your Mother.”

Brenda Song, known to many as the Disney Channel’s London Tipton from “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” plays a very different character here.  As fellow Harvard Student Christy Ling, she connects Zuckerberg with Parker.  She appears several more times in the story, but I’m not sure why.  It’s as though Sorkin just wanted to add love interest but her presence doesn't really add much to plot or flesh out the characterizations of Zuckerberg or Saverin much.

Armie Hammer does a great job playing twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.  I had not idea it was one actor playing both of them until I read about it on the movie’s website.  The characters felt different.  In the story, they are identical twins. But as I watched the movie, I thought they didn’t look that much alike.  In fact they were more a like than twins because it turns out they were the same actor.

Characterization, though, is not Sorkin’s strong point.  He wrote them and their business partner Divya Narendra (played by Max Minghella) as nothing more than spoiled, entitled rich kids who’ve never had to earn anything.  They were the “dumb jocks” of the movie, and that seems too simple. 

They’re in the story because they founded an early Facebook competitor called ConnectU and claim they hired Zuckerberg to code it for them.  They sue him, claiming he stole their idea and turned it into Facebook.
It’s possible Sorkin’s sketch of them is accurate, but I doubt it.  It was too flat and simple.  Whereas other aspects of the film and story were more nuanced, this thread was too black and white.

Despite those concerns, this is still an excellent movie.  Sorkin’s story telling is compelling. The cinematography is also excellent.  The crew race in England is beautifully shot. The pacing is crisp.
I don’t know how much it reflects the reality of the story of Facebook; doubtless there is plenty of fictional content.  It is, after all, a story and not a documentary.

It exceeded all my expectations, though, and is definitely worth seeing.

For more of my movie reviews, click here.

Here is the movie trailer:


Bringing Bacon to the masses

You may have seen the Shoebox Chef proclaim the awesomeness of Bacon Salt.  It's a great all around seasoning on sandwiches, meats, and, of course, Top Ramen.  I've yet to try it in coffee, but maybe someday...

The fine folks who produce this magical dust, and who also gave us Baconaise, run a Seattle-Based company that produces all things bacon related.

The Seattle PI recently profiled the company that I'm sure has a strong future ahead of it -- J&D Foods.
Their business cards say "Nice to meat you" on one side. Flip a card over and read: "Everything should taste like bacon."

That pretty much sums up the philosophy that spawned J&D's Foods, a Seattle company that might be giving Starbucks and Amazon.com a run for its money as the city's most-publicized company.

These people are spreading the good word of bacon.  They're spreading it on Jon Stewart.  They're spreading it on Oprah.  They're spreading it on Ebay.  And They're spreading it on bread.

I wish them and their acolytes nothing but success.


Off to the cleaners

I'm not the best housekeeper.  My apartment is cluttered, but it is reasonably clean (defined as no odd smells or critters).  And I don't change my sheets as often as some people (of course they don't get much use consider the amount of time I spend on hotel sheets so it's okay).  But occasionally I get it in my head to actually clean something.  This year it was the bedding.

It started with the pillows.  I haven't been happy with my pillows for several years.  For a long time I had a stack of three that worked really well, but I had to get rid of them.  I think the oldest was about 25 years old.  The others were much newer -- only 10-20 years old.  But eventually, they had to go.  I've bought additional pillows here and there, but never got quite the right combination.  

So it was time to reboot.

I bought all new pillows to start from scratch, but they're still in their packaging.  I decided I needed new pillow protector things and new pillow cases, since I was getting new pillows.

That led to sheets.  As long as I'm getting pillow cases, why not replace the sheets, too?  That's now on order.

And why not throw a new mattress pad into the mix, too?  Cleaning the existing one typically meant soaking it in Oxyclean in the bathtub for a day before prying it into the washing machine.

I'm also been told I need to get a bed skirt now.  I guess that makes it easier to hide stuff under the bed.  That's also on the way.

All this new stuff brings me to this: Blankets. Lots of blankets. And comforter covers.  Some new blankets and some that I had as a baby.  Most are somewhere in between.

I have a washer and dryer in my apartment, but a single throw really tests the limits of its capacity.  I've struggled to squeeze in king size blankets in the past, and then tried to dry them, with middling success. I was able to convince myself I successfully washed them.

Over the weekend, I finally did it right.  I hauled them all to an actual laundromat.  It's the first time I stepped in one in over 13 years.  Fortunately, the attendant took pity on me and helped me with my machine choice.

3 Industrial 40 pound washing machines, 6 dryers, and about 100 quarters later, I know have the cleanest blankets I've had in years.

If there's a moral to this story, it's this.  If you need to do laundry in Seattle, head over to Transformation-Surprise Laundromat.  The place was clean.  The attendant was friendly.  The machine all worked.  The other customers were pleasant.  It was one of the nicest laundromats I've been in, and even has glowing Yelp reviews.  They have some spiritual or religious connection that I'm not familiar with, and maybe that's why it's such a nice place. Check it out if you need one.

Now I'm just waiting for the new sheets to arrive so I can use my freshly cleaned blankets.  I'm sure that's the day my next road trip will begin.


Why we need better science education in Washington state

From the Peninsula Daily News:

The Clallam County Sheriff's Office responded to a call early Thursday morning from a Blue Mountain Road resident who was concerned about an unidentified flying object spotted on the horizon, said Undersheriff Ron Peregrin.
“We took a look at it through our binoculars,” he said, and determined that it was Jupiter, the largest plant in the solar system.
Peregrin said dispatchers received several more calls that morning from people mistaking Jupiter for a UFO, although he didn't know how many.
Jupiter last week was the closest it has gotten to the Earth in decades, said John Gallagher, who heads Port Angeles High School's astronomy club. It passed 368 million miles away, its closest pass since 1963.