December 31, 2010

Messing with a classic, part II

One of the podcasts I listen to played this song while I was out on a run yesterday. It is a take off on "Linus and Lucy" from a "Charlie Brown Christmas". Again, messing with a classic is dangerous territory, but I have to admit it was a great song to run to.

This is the only video I found that featured the song. It has a dog and it is about Christmas, so it's not too bad.

Happy New Year everyone!

December 30, 2010

Messing with a classic, part I

This is my favorite scene from one of my favorite movies. The fact that someone would mess with it should piss me off, but this is pretty good.

The Chatty Duelists

December 29, 2010

Drive nice Tacoma!

From the Seattle Times article:
Tacoma drivers may be noticing a series of public-service advertisements around town, urging them to exercise care around bicycles and pedestrians.
The "Drive Nice, Tacoma" safety campaign is placing the yellow-and-black caution-style signs on Pierce Transit buses and shelters and the Link trolley. One sign shows a human outline being bumped by a car, with the slogan "Pedestrians are not hood ornaments."Another shows a auto-bicycle collision (the rider loses), under the admonishment "Don't disappoint your driver's ed teacher."
"We wanted a campaign that would make people stop and think, so we used very clear and recognizable images," explained Diane Wiatr, mobility coordinator/urban planner for the City of Tacoma. "We also wanted to take a tone that was humorous rather than preachy and Rusty George Creative developed these ads that we hope really hit the mark."

December 26, 2010

I hate wind

Out of all the elements of weather, wind is my least favorite. I have worked outside for much of the last decade, and have been running and biking for over half that time, so I am exposed to the elements all the time. Living in Washington, it seems to rain year round. Rain I can deal with though. Unless it is a torrential downpour, I can generally tune it out.

But wind is so random. There is no predicting it, bracing against it, or tuning it out. When working, you can't keep any drawings out, sawdust becomes an unpredictable cloud, and a long piece of wood or aluminum on your shoulder becomes a sail. When you are out riding or running, a headwind makes everything twice as hard. No matter how hard you press, it doesn't feel like you are going any faster.

I have gone on a few runs while up in Seattle. It has definitely been colder, and I have been rained on a couple of times. But the wind had been brutal. I went on an 18 mile run on Monday, and the rain and wind made it feel about 15 degrees colder. I am pretty sure that Monday's run lead to a cold I am still battling.

Today I headed out for another long run, and the winds were even worse. I debated even going out since I was still feeling under the weather, but the marathon is less than four weeks away and I have already skipped a few scheduled runs. I was also feeling pretty fat from all the Christmas indulgence, so I wanted to burn some calories.

So I tried. The first half of the out and back it was raining, but the wind was more or less at my back. But it was blowing hard. The trees along the path were being bent over in the wind, and there were whitecaps on the Slew. As soon as I turned around, I wished I had just stayed at home. I was already wet from the rain, and the wind cut right through me. The rain was now being blown straight into my face so it was hard to see. Birds above me were flying in place, and it didn't feel like I was making any better progress.

Within a few steps, I decided to cut my run short. Normally I would press on because you can't wait for good weather here in Washington,but it was clear I was only going to make myself more miserable by trying to stick to the scheduled run. Unfortunately, I was three and a half miles from my car so there wasn't much I could do but lean into it. It was a long slog and in the end I ran only seven of the scheduled fourteen miles.

Usually I'd say it was tough but I'm glad I did it. Today, I should have just stayed home and nursed my cold. Stupid wind.

December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

It is hard to believe Christmas Eve is already here. As is tradition, I left some things to be done to the last minute and I was certainly not alone. Places were filled with procrastinators and the most difficult thing to find at the last minute was a place to park.

Tasks completed, I stopped into Starbucks for another free cup of coffee, and though it was busy, the feeling was quite different. Friends were there to exchange gifts and just spend time with each other a day away from Christmas. A mother shared a cup of coffee with her daughter as the grandchild wandered around greeting each table. Baristas ending their shift went around to other workers and regulars to wish them a Merry Christmas since this was the last time they would see each other before the holiday. The coffee shop seemed to be a little hideout from the last-minute chaos just outside the doorway, and I found myself setting aside my notebook just to enjoy the atmosphere.

Yesterday, one more tradition was observed. A few of us played a round of golf for the "Scott Phibbs what the heck are we playing golf in December" tournament. About every other year, a few of us gather to brave the elements to play a round of golf a couple of days before Christmas. The last year we played, the ground was completely frozen to the point we could not put a tee in the ground and we ended up using bottle caps to tee off of. We were all bundled up in ski jackets, hats and gloves in order to play. It was another one of those ridiculous moments that make just being there all the more fun.

When we had called to make sure they were open a couple days before Christmas, the lady said "Honey, we're open every day." Though they might be open every day, it turned out that we had the golf course and the clubhouse afterwards all to ourselves. At one point, the woman working there had to go run an errand, and told us to help ourselves to the cooler and just keep track of what we drank. None of us had met her before, but somehow we were trusted members of this little nine hole course. Maybe it was the Christmas season.

This year, five of us went back to that little course in North Bend for another round of golf. Two of our fivesome are local teachers, and it turns out that my oldest niece is one of their students. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing for her.

The course is halfway up the mountain pass, and is surrounded by deep forest and some smaller peaks. We saw an elk or a moose the year of the deep freeze. This year it was chilly but not frozen. It rained a bit but we were mostly battling the strong winds. It had been a couple of years since we had played there, and the simple clubhouse where we grabbed our own beers is now a nice restaurant. But the course was much the same and we fell into our friendship like the intervening years had not happened.

When the question of why we are playing in December is rhetorically asked, there are several answers. Because we can, because it is Christmas, because sometimes stupid things create the best memories, and even though things change through the years, things like tradition and friendship are worth preserving.

Merry Christmas Eve!

December 23, 2010

I miss my dog

I am not without dog companionship while up in Washington. My parents have a great lump of a black lab, and he is a very sweet dog. But I miss my own pooch. I took a picture of her in front of Matt and Holly's tree so I would have some sort of Christmas vision of her. (Neither she or my camera were cooperating).

I was just on Facebook going through pictures, and think this is my favorite picture of her. There are definitely cuter ones, but this one just makes me happy.

December 22, 2010

Another inspiring "loser"

I have been a fan of The Biggest Loser since it started. Beyond the game play, I find the journey and the stories inspiring. Holly has become a fan as well the last few seasons, so we are both on the couch Tuesday evenings to see how the contestants do each week. The recent season just ended, including the marathon episode where one of the women finished in 4:38. The new season is only a few weeks away, but in the meantime I thought I'd pass along a video.

The video chronicles the journey of an ordinary guy who loses 120 pounds and ends up becoming a runner and triathlete. He has been unhappy for some time, and something finally clicks inside to make him lose the weight. I haven't seen Tim recently to see if he has been successful in his own journey, but that is only because I have been lax at getting to the gym to swim.

YouTube link

Round two

I've printed out a copy of the first draft of my novel. Armed with a highlighter, pen and a strong cup of coffee, it is time to read it and rip it apart. Give me strength.

December 20, 2010

Early Christmas present

My Mom has been saving all of these empty coffee bags for me. Why? Because each one is worth a free cup of coffee at Starbucks. So the next 12 cups are on Mom.

December 19, 2010

Vacations are no time for rest

It has been a whirlwind so far. My flight up was delayed for about two hours, but there haven't been many pauses since. I have been able to see a bunch of friends so far, and I haven't been to bed before 2:30am the last three days. I also haven't slept in the same place twice, so it is that much more chaotic.

Last night was another great Christmas tradition. One of the couples in our circle has hosted a Christmas party/sleepover for the last ten years or so. Most of us met when we worked together at a restaurant over 15 years ago, and we have stayed close friends long after we stopped carrying drinks to tables. The party goes into the wee hours, and people are encouraged to stay the night, usually curled up in a sleeping bag wherever they can find floorspace. There are kids now, so things are a little tamer these days, but not by much. The morning after there is lots of coffee and bacon, and we hang out into the afternoon enjoying each other's company at a less frenetic pace.

I look forward to this party each year, but this Christmas it was that much more special to see everyone now that I am down in California. I am exhausted, but wouldn't change a minute so far.

But tonight, we sleep!

December 17, 2010

Christmas traditions

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, but the meaning has changed over the years.

Of course as a kid you counted down the days until Christmas morning, and it seemed to take forever. You folded pages over in the Sears catalog (dating myself) and wrote everything down so you could pass on your wishes to Santa. I can remember sneaking candy canes off the tree every day. I would start with the ones in the back, thinking that I was so clever, but of course nobody was fooled when there were none remaining by Christmas morning. And of course there is that moment when the image of Santa changes in a kid's mind. I still remember seeing a present under my parents bed that later showed up with a tag from Santa. I don't think I have snooped for a present since.

As an adult, the month of December seems to fly by. As the schedule filled up more and more each year, it was harder to ease into the holiday, and a little more of the magic dissipated. It was still a wonderful day, but it took on the sense of deadline to be met rather than the pinnacle of a wonderful journey.

But in the past I did my best to stay in the moment and actually enjoyed shopping for people. I would put in my favorite Christmas CD and that would be the signal that the season had begun. The first time to the mall, I would wander around looking for ideas and inspiration. I would spend several hours that first day and buy absolutely nothing. And I loved it.

The past couple of years my family has skipped exchanging gifts. It was partly the economy and also realizing that we already had so much stuff. Christmas morning is now entirely about time spent with each other, and it is wonderful. It was never about the gifts, but at the same time, it does feel a little odd not to have that not part of the season. I think it is better this way, it is just different.

A friend recently posted something on Facebook. A nine year relationship has ended recently, and she wondered if a Christmas tree would make her happy or sad. I understand completely. Just shopping for and putting up a tree by yourself, when in the past there has been someone with you is difficult. And then you take out the ornaments and other decorations that chronicle your life, and the meaning is totally different. I had not had to face that challenge myself yet. Last year we sold the house November 30th and I was at my parent's house in December. This year I was in San Diego while trees are going up and I will be back at my parent's for Christmas morning.

But yesterday, I was down at the storage unit going through our Christmas stuff. I had offered to send down J's personal and childhood ornaments this year. I was a task that we had both put off, and of course it was difficult to go through our things once again. After seven or eight years, your tree tells a story, and it was what Christmas had come to mean. But like the other things I've mentioned, the meaning has changed.

Since I was going to be in someone else's house for Christmas again, I was going to have a pass on the decision of whether or not to put up a tree. But after going through most difficult part of opening up the boxes, I decided "what the heck" and grabbed a few of my own ornaments. My friends Holly and Kristy had given me some ornaments before leaving San Diego, and I had brought them up with me as well. I bought a small Christmas shrub at Home Depot, put in that favorite CD that I hadn't played yet, and decorated my own little Charlie Brown tree.

It is a little different each year, but it is still Christmas. And there is still some magic left.

December 16, 2010

Good stuff

A couple of good posts over at 3six5posterous.

After a moment, we each started to do the same: tossing small rocks at the crashing waves, a tiny act of futile rebellion against nature.
And somehow, spontaneously, we started labeling each rock with all the things that we wanted to let go.
“Being afraid” – plunk.
“Bossing my little brother” – plunk.
“Never feeling good enough” – plunk.
“Yelling at mommy” – plunk.
“Not being honest about my feelings” – plunk.

by Jason Oke
Despite the exhaustion that accompanies the odd hour, there is a beautiful peacefulness in the stillness of our house. The sounds of sleep make their way down the hall. Snoring from three separate bedrooms -- one husband, two sons -- and the occasional giggle from a dream worth dreaming. I listen to their noises as I plug in our Christmas tree and sit quietly in its light. I decide not to turn on the computer and work. I sit, silent.
I breathe. I think. I relax. I wiggle my toes and smile. I nestle into the corner of the couch, pulling the soft green blanket around me. Nothing Earth-shattering comes to mind. I do not solve world hunger. I do not magically feel at ease with everything in my life. I simply sit. It feels fantastic.

by Jenna Hatfield

December 15, 2010

Travelling companion

When I left Seattle to move down to San Diego, my friends sent me off in style. In addition to the parties, they gave me a nice photo album full of pictures of their families and our adventures together. Two friends also gave me a travelling companion at a later party. Not a travelling gnome, but rather a travelling leprechaun.

This is his story.

YouTube link

December 14, 2010

Christmas with friends

I am headed home for the holidays. My flight takes off tomorrow, and I am really looking forward to seeing my family and Washington friends, and spending Christmas back home.

But at the same time, it feels odd to be leaving my current home halfway through the season. My wonderful friends and roomies hosted an early Christmas dinner for me and another friend. It was really wonderful and took a bit of the sting out of leaving tomorrow.

At one point during dinner, we shared some favorite Christmas stories. One of my favorite Christmas memories was when I first moved out on my own. A buddy and I shared an apartment and also worked together at McDonald's. We were making about $4 an hour and living off of Top Ramen and cheeseburgers from work. Affording Christmas was not in the cards.

Mike and I were closing the restaurant together two days before Christmas. When we got back to the apartment, there was a decorated tree in our living room. Our girlfriends had sweet-talked a guy at one of the tree lots into giving them the tree for a couple of bucks. They snuck the tree in and decorated it with homemade things and ornaments swiped from their own family trees. It was such a thoughtful thing to do and great surprise for us both.

For most of us, Christmas is all about family, and I am one of the luckiest in that respect. I have an amazing immediate and extended family, and there will be some 40 people gathered under one roof Christmas evening. But spending the Christmas season with friends is pretty special too, and I am clearly blessed in that respect as well.

Thank you dear friends and Merry Christmas.

December 12, 2010

That reminds me of a joke

"So I am at the Goose, and a duck walks in..."

Sounds like the start of a joke, but it actually happened. There is a pub in Bellevue called the Goose, and we went there a few times after work for a beer and a game of darts. One night, a duck walks in the front door and wandered around for about five minutes before heading back outside. This was years ago, and if it had happened today everyone would have whipped out their phones to capture it on video.

So today, I am at the Upstart Crow and a pigeon walks in.

The Upstart Crow is this great bookstore/coffee shop in the Seaport Village area of San Diego. I was there with a cup of coffee finishing the first draft of my novel when a pigeon walked in. It was not there long enough to pose for a picture, but I have a feeling that this is not all that unusual. While I was sitting there, several smaller birds (finches?) flew in looking for crumbs. They also did not sit still for long, but they looked like they were plenty comfortable being inside.

At the place I had lunch earlier, there was a sign on the deck asking people not to feed the birds. I guess there needs to be signs on the tables inside as well. Not that the Upstart Crow needs to get any cooler, but having birds perched on chairs and bookshelves does give it that extra little something.

December 11, 2010

"Winter" in San Diego

I suppose winter doesn't technically start until the 21st or so, but it feels like winter should start shortly after Thanksgiving. Of course back in Washington, snow and cold temperatures showed up before Thanksgiving, so they are ahead of the game this year.

It is a little different down here. The mornings are definitely cooler, but we are still seeing temperatures in the 70's. According to the national weather service, there have only been 9 days where the temperature was below freezing in San Diego since 1872, so it doesn't look like I will be seeing winter weather anytime soon.

It looks like they do experience some stormy weather however, as each year they create these sand berms to protect against flooding. It has definitely been more windy down by the beach on my weekend runs. I happened to take my camera along with me on my run today and this is what they look like.

It is odd to be thinking about Christmas when it is so warm. The calendar says it is only two weeks away, but that can't be right. Matt and Holly did put up a wonderful tree a few days ago, and we watched "It's a Wonderful Life" this evening, but it still feels off. Like Christmas in July.

But the city is trying their best to celebrate the season. Someone has "planted" this Christmas tree in the sand at Ocean Beach, and Santa was actually visiting today.

But a Christmas tree on a beach, next to a palm tree? Well, they aren't trying to fool anyone into believing they're in a winter wonderland. Even the lamp post decorations let you know where you are.

December 7, 2010

Working on the farm

So I'm digging holes and pouring concrete in December, but that really isn't all that unusual. I built decks for about seven years in Seattle, and in good years we had work into December.

No, the unusual part is that it is 75 degrees and I am surrounded by Alpacas.

We are working in a town east of us, and the homeowner raises Alpacas. He actually has a webcam so you could look at them online, but it was mounted to the patio cover we tore down. He sheers off their coats for the fiber, but I get the feeling that they are mostly kept for pets. We moved all the dirt we dug up into their pen, and each time we went in they would walk over to check us out. They are pretty curious creatures and I have to say kinda cute.

The one cool thing about working outside in December - quitting time comes early. You can't go much past sunset.

December 4, 2010

Apple Cup 2010

Today is the 103rd Apple Cup, the annual football game between the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars. Most college teams have a natural or created rival, and the game between them is usually the last of the season. The Apple Cup is our rival game and inspires lots of smack talk and jokes leading up to the game (Q: How do you keep Cougars out of your yard? A: Put up goalposts.) Even in years where neither team is very good (most of the last decade), everyone gears up for the annual grudge match for state bragging rights.

I have not been able to see many Husky games this year. They haven't been good enough to get national attention, and of course I am outside the local broadcasting area. I have had to "watch" most games online, and it is a poor substitute. This is what it looks like:

Kind of reminds me of the old vibrating football games

But the Apple Cup is being broadcast on Versus this year, which is one of the only channels we get beyond the local stations. My butt will be on the couch from 4pm on, cheering on the purple and gold. There is actually a little more at stake this year, because if the Huskies win, they should be headed to a bowl game for the first time since 2002.


December 3, 2010

Quote of the day

Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much.
~Oscar Wilde

December 2, 2010

There's a pill for that

There seems to be a quick-fix pill for nearly every problem these days. "Don't put down that bacon double cheeseburger, just take this pill and you will lose weight!" I assume that most of the American public have become skeptical of these miracle pills by now, but someone is clearly buying them.

I read about another one in the Seattle Times this morning. And they finally found one that made me go look it up - the Wake Up On Time Pill. I have mentioned repeatedly that sleep is an issue for me. Insomnia is frustrating enough, but more demoralizing problem is waking up every day tired. I never wake up thinking, "that was enough sleep". Doesn't matter if I slept seven, eight, nine or ten hours; I wake up tired, often exhausted.

From the article: (emphasis mine)
Wake Up On Time, a pill containing all natural ingredients in a delay-release coating. The pill is designed to boost energy levels and is made up of a blend of B vitamins, amino acids, guarana seed extract and Siberian ginseng...If taken at bedtime, the natural coating allows the ingredients to dissolve over seven to eight hours, and "wake you up when the alarm clock rings," Beggan said.
"It's more than a vitamin, it's time in a bottle because instead of hitting the snooze button over and over again, it allows you to bounce out of bed ready to go," Beggan said. "The product helps you to effortlessly wake right up in the morning feeling alert, happy, and ready for anything your demanding schedule throws at you."
The article continues:
The guarana seed extract is probably what gives the supplement its kick, since it has a high concentration of caffeine, said Louis E. Teichholz, chief and medical director of cardiac services and chief, division of complementary medicine program at Hackensack University Medical Center.
"I can't say whether it works or doesn't work, but if it does, it's probably from the guarana," Teichholz said. "If you're going to use it, I would recommend doing so with caution because the caffeine may cause higher blood pressure in people who already have high blood pressure and it could cause palpitations."
So it is basically a time released cup of coffee along with up to 1,667% of the recommended dose of B vitamins. I went to the site anyway to check it out, and found that they not only sell pills to help you wake up on time, but also:
  • Stay Up All Day
  • Sleep Tight All Night
  • Light'n Up
  • Loosen Up (not to be confused with Royal Flush)
  • Don't Forget
  • MenoPAUSE Chill Pills
  • Stress FREE
  • Wrinkle Remedy
  • Go Away Gray
  • As well as the generic Get Healthy
One stop shopping for miracle cures! It think I will stick with coffee. And at $1.50 a dose, I can get a good cup of coffee at Starbucks for less.