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Uncle Markie out and about.

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Apr '17

Trip Report: Spring Break For Jonathan

This week just a quick little trip a couple of hours north to celebrate Jonathan’s Spring Break at the WorldMark Blaine.

Nice little two-bedroom place:

With a pretty nice view…

Our room would be one floor down, right hand balcony:

And even a rarely used lounge (at least in the times I’ve visited this property):

To me, the downside of this place is that the decks don’t have BBQs – just a couple of shared ones outside the lounge:

Marinated chicken thighs the first night. Pork loin the second night. Pretty much cooked all the meals in. The second night the wind had kicked up so I had to use the grill cover to block the howling wind from blowing out the flames.

You can see what the wind was doing to the bay…

And I was definitely bundled up…

But the end result was worth it! We even did our breakfast’s in… scrambled eggs, bacon, fried risotto cakes.

All too soon it was time to return to Seattle, somebody (that would be me) is leaving the country Friday, but it was a fun little quick holiday.

[? ? ?]

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Jul '16

Home Report: Jonathan Fixes The Honkin’ Huge Printer

You might remember a couple of weeks ago (maybe a month) when I posted this video:

And said I was just going to roll the Honkin’ Huge Printer to the curb – until Jonathan volunteered to install a new carriage belt – so, this is really a HUGE HONKIN’ SHOUTOUT to Jonathan. Thanks – I’ve already printed all the tourist maps I’ll need for my upcoming Puerto Vallarta trip.

A pro can do this in an hour….Jonathan took longer, but was meticulous in his effort:

As the parts pile up in the living room – you really DO have to break this thing down to the carcass to get to this belt:

That pesky belt – it’s supposed to be in one piece, not shredded:

And his reward!

Thank you Jonathan for fixing my printer.


If you got here from a direct link from FaceBook, you can see all the posts at: https://blog.unclemarkie.com.

Apr '09

More Test Results.

And Dinner With Jonathan.

Fuck, I’m not going to die anytime soon….

Here are the results from my doctor’s appointment yesterday… yes, test results in a little over 24 hours. I like them already!

So, here are the results (and his comments):

Your cholesterol looks fine.  Some values are elevated, but you were not fasting for these labs so this is fine.


Triglycerides: 264 (goal < 150)

Total Cholesterol: 214 (goal < 200)

HDL “good” cholesterol: 46 (goal > 40)

LDL “bad” cholesterol: 115 (goal < 130)


Your glucose was 183 (like to see that below 100), but again you were not fasting.  Your other labs looking at your kidneys and liver were normal.


Your tests for HIV and syphilis were both negative and the test we did for your prostate was also normal.  All good news.

So — apparently I’m not checking out any time soon. Damn. Guess I’d better get that DNR necklace for myself. (Inside Joke). And to think what I drink!

So — work today. Checks signed, cashed, spent. Yard mowed and trimmed. Dinner cooked for Jonathan (Fillet Mignon, Lamb, Chicken, Beans, Salad, Bread, Wine).

Finished a nice run through the equipment tonight, god I love cleaning the new machine.


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And Dinner With Jonathan.

Apr '18

Home Report: Scholarship Time!

If it’s spring, it must be time to read scholarship applications!

For those of you that don’t know – I have an endowed scholarship that I set up back in the 90’s (when I was WAY more liquid) at The Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington. That would be The Mark Stephen Souder Scholarship For Information Dissemination, whose selection criteria is, as follows:

Offered to a new or currently enrolled student attending full time who demonstrates an interest in information dissemination, e.g., writer, Web designer, teacher, musician, activist—anyone helping to influence the way people think about their world, to change the concepts of “nons”—non-residents, non-Caucasians, non-heterosexuals—to create a more equal, intelligent and compassionate society. Preference will be given to non-resident gay or lesbian students, demonstrating quality and creativity of prior work in the area of information dissemination. Financial need will also be considered.


  • Letter of application addressing your passion for and level of expertise in the dissemination of information. Tell us where you have been with this concept, what you are doing now, and where you want to go in exploring how information is shared.
  • A portfolio of work that expresses your beliefs about information dissemination and demonstrates how you have put those beliefs into action.
  • Two letters of recommendation from individuals, other than relatives, who have personally experienced the power of your work in information dissemination.
  • FAFSA or Renewal Application.

Some of the verbiage is in the criteria because of Washington State passage of I-200 floated by shyster Tim Eyman who routinely uses political contributions to support his lifestyle. The gist of the initiative was to prevent “prohibit racial and gender preferences by state and local government”. Sadly, it passed with 58.2% of the voters who actually bothered to vote.

For the last five years or so, we’ve been holding the scholarship readings at The Camlin Hotel, now a WorldMark property in downtown Seattle:

Generally, I try to get one of the three penthouse units because of the size of the living room area, and the attached rooftop deck, which, sad to say, does not have a hot tub (though there is a hot tub and pool on the first floor, along with a small museum in the basement).

This year we had 10 applicants, down from 15 for last year’s reading, and 11 for 2016. It tends to bounce between 10 and 20 applicants per year.

We got a late start because I worked closing at the shop, which means I didn’t get there until 7:30. Usually we start earlier. We had 7 readers this year, down a couple from last year owing to it being on a Saturday night. Here is a shot of the “crowd”:

Yes, I’m in my bathrobe and slippers!

And the fabled rooftop deck view (thanks Randy for both these shots):

Jonathan stayed late to finish reading applications (he is thorough) and do the math on what the ranking is for each of the applicants. We give Evergreen the results ranked in order. Usually the top applicant gets the scholarship, but occasionally, our first choice is lots of other scholarship’s first choice, and they spread the wealth. Here are the redacted numbers:

It always amuses me that even though people grade on different scales, the chart seems to line up. Interestingly enough, last year’s recipient was also the one that we chose this year as the top ranked.

Next year’s reading will be on Tuesday, April 9th, same venue.

So, that’s how I spent my Saturday night.


For more blog entries, CLICK HERE.

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Mar '18

Trip Report: Another Return Home

Early, but not wretchedly early flight from Nagoya to Tokyo…8:30am.

The plan was to have breakfast in the Japan Air Lines lounge rather than the hotel. I should have had a little something at the hotel since the lounge was comfortable, but underserved in the food category:

One the upside – look, it’s a machine that dispenses highballs (whiskey and soda) AND beer!

Guess which one I went for, though I used better whiskey than was in the machine:

Nagoya is a nice airport…

But this doesn’t look like enough people to fill a 787…

So, once again, a HUGE airplane for a 45-minute flight (think Seattle to Portland). And again, my seat was listed as “Economy”, which if this is economy, I’ll take it!

But with only enough time to get some of their “signature” Kiwi Punch. Looks like a radioactive urine sample to me.

It wasn’t long before I was in Tokyo’s Narita Airport for a six-and-a-half-hour layover. Long enough to get bored, not long enough to leave the airport and do something even though I had to go back through security.

Fortunately, the Japan Air Lines lounge in Narita is MUCH better – including a second-floor cafeteria…

Which yielded these plates over the course of the day…breakfast:

And lunch:

At least I could get some work done…

Hours later I was able to board the flight to Vancouver (when you use miles for Business Class, you take whatever routing they give you):

Not as private as on the way over, but not bad.

But the dinner was excellent:

As was the meal before landing:

Watched an interesting Vietnamese movie with some vague homosexual undertones…

And availed myself of the bidet in the airplane bathroom…

Had to do customs and immigration into the US in Canada, which meant that I could have brought back unlimited amounts of alcohol, but I already had two carry-ons because of my gift purchases. Lounge in Vancouver was mediocre, so much so that I didn’t even get a picture (though I did get two cocktails).

By mid-afternoon I was back in Seattle, preparing a meal for Jonathan and myself, including fresh baked bread.

Doesn’t everyone do that after they’ve been travelling for 24 hours?

[? ? ?]

For more blog posts, CLICK HERE.

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Jan '18

Home Report: Twelve Hours To Party

Nothing like being home twelve hours between trips – and have a dinner party. Got back from the coast at 3:30pm, got up for my flight at 3:30am the next morning.

And it was a wild dinner party – thanks to a new device in my kitchen. That would be a shot chiller that dispenses Sweet Vermouth and Bourbon. Just add a cherry and some bitters to a martini glass, and press the buttons for 14-degree chilled liquor to come out the spout:

It works so well, Jonathan was able to prove that you can use the TV to make drinks!

Much fun was had, which might have been why I overcooked the pork a bit. For your amusement, some pictures from dinner:

Wow, no pictures of the food, other than the shrimp appetizer. Might be a new record.

[? ? ?]

For more posts, CLICK HERE.

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Aug '17

Trip Report: Day Three On Kauai – More Thrifting

No particular plan for today. Tried visiting the meadery across the road, but each time I went there were like 15 people crammed into a small apace – maybe tomorrow.

My walk also discovered this small place – aloha Hawaii!

And this great decal on one of the cars in the parking lot…

Through people who are in my life still from my Microsoft days, I tracked down the condo complex that I stayed at in 1990 – to my memory, it was four women and myself in a 1-bedroom condo. Turns out it was TWO DOORS DOWN from where I’m staying!

Went into Lihue (again), hit another thrift store (Humane Society), found another shirt (Quick Silver embroidered – $4), and another Tommy Bahama ($6) at the Hospital Thrift Store.

The two items on the right of today’s haul are two three-packs of Brita Water Filter knockoffs at 50% off, from the Safeway across from the condo, which REALLY needs more checkers:

I’d seen these the day before, and finally found them again in the store:

They were surprisingly good! I actually managed to save some to take home for Jonathan.

It was a lazy evening for me, just laying around in the heat.

[? ? ?]

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May '17

Tour Report: 520 West Approach Project

If you’re a longtime reader, you know I love my infrastructure, so when I got an email for the bridge tour, I jumped on it – these things fill up instantly. Had to randomly think about who would be available on a Wednesday – chose Mags. When I got the acceptance for the tour – learned Mags couldn’t make it, so subbed in Jonathan.

When the details arrived Monday (for the Wednesday tour), there was a work/hiking boot requirement. Hello, Payless. Actually, got a decent pair of hiking boots for $35 – and I’ll need them for late June hiking around Whistler (yes, I hike – from bar to bar on loop trails from each of the mountain tops).

What the details DIDN’T mention was that this was a two-mile hike:

The blue line was our path – luckily our group did the long walk first.

Don’t we look great in our safety gear?

The first stop on our hike:

Nice day for a hike in the city.

This is where we are headed

A gaggle of orange ducklings…definitely in an active construction site:

Intersting to see the “ramps to nowhere” being torn down


Our tour was interrupted by a big bang – the sound of air brakes engaging fully. Apparently, a Microsoft Shuttle lost air power, which means the brakes instantly lock up. These people no longer have a good commute.

Man am I glad I don’t do that commute anymore!

These expansion joins are ready to be installed:

Soon, we were under the bridge

Here is a shot of the seismic bumpers the new bridge approach:

All in all, it was great to explore the Arboretum hiking back to the visitor’s center. Thirty-plus years in Seattle and I’d never explore one of our cities treasures.

And speaking of traffic messes…this truck got itself stuck trying to make an illegal turn….

Yep – that is a full 53′ trailer and a long cab tractor –stuck and trying to back out into rush hour traffic – ignoring the clearly posted sign that says, “No Combination Trucks”.

We found another way home that didn’t use that freeway entrance.


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Sep '16

City Report: Two Tours Not Open To The Public

Being in town the week – I know, how unusual – got to keep busy. I set up these two tours a month or so ago for when Jonathan is out of school (and not working).

Tour Number One:

Not open to the public, it just happens that my buddy Seth is one of three machinists at the, part of UW’s Nuclear Program.

What you need to understand is that Jonathan is an engineering student at South Seattle – so this is cooler for him than me, that and I’ve been here before to meet Seth for lunch.

Here is the overview of the place – a view I HADN’T seen before:

And some of the individual machines….

Most of the equipment is World War II vintage – but as you can see, has be upgraded to the modern world. I wouldn’t want to help move ANY of these machines.

One of my favorites of this shop is how they recycle stuff that has served its original purpose, but is now “upcycled” into other useful things:

Nice reworking of Lucite shipping mounts.

Tour Number Two:

This tour WILL be open to the public in about a year and a half – it’s of the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Kent, Washington. Turns out that I know the guy that is in charge of all the center tours in the US – like the one that I had booked in Indiana for October 4th, that I cancelled when I got a much better option called, no airfare, hotel, rental car, just ugly traffic.

The downside, blogging wise, is that it’s a photography prohibited area, so, you get the outside…

And the lobby signage:

And the secure nature of the faculty – badge coming in, metal detector coming out – my buddy has a plastic belt buckle and a wooden watch (I kid you not, CLICK HERE for Wooden Watches on Amazon) to speed the process (and the watch is cool!)

But it was an amazing tour – it was an incredibly efficient Rube Goldberg Device of pick, pack, robots, multiple sorting, dump it on a truck. Our hosts quest is to eventually make this the “gold star” tour of fulfillment centers in the US, to couple with the tour of Amazon Headquarters that Mags and I did in August. CLICK HERE for ink to that post.

If you’d like a list of Amazon Fulfillment Centers that are currently open for public tours, CLICK HERE. Mind you, they are popular and book up quickly.

So, that’s how I spend my non-travelling weeks, exploring the odd bits of my region.


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Apr '16

Trip Report: Puget Sound Circle Tour

You never know when you book several weeks out what the weather is going to be like. This time I lucked out.

This trip started because of KPop – Korean Pop music which I know nothing about, but the 13-year-old daughter of a friend is nuts about it. During a random conversation at the shop, it was mentioned that the 19th was said daughter’s birthday, and that she’d already gotten her birthday present in advance (a different KPop concert), but her actual birthday her favorite band was playing in Vancouver. As a surprise in case the parents relented, I booked a two-bedroom at the WorldMark Vancouver that just happened to be available.

In the end, they couldn’t make the date work, and rather than cancel the room, I decided to keep it for myself and string it along with a couple of other nights – and this was the result:

Day One – WorldMark Seattle – The Camlin

I already had the Camlin booked for this year’s scholarship reading party (part two), so after work it was setting up the nibbles for the readers (Salamander, Roxy, Courtney, Mr. Whippet, Jonathan and Rodney). Here is what the results were:

And all of us hard at work!

It wouldn’t be a post of mine without a couple of shots of the rest of the two-bedroom unit…

Day Two – WorldMark Victoria

The morning found me up early – off to an 8:30am “Owner ReEducation” presentation that “promised” to me an “information” session rather than a “don’t you want to get to the next level” hard sell. I agreed to an hour (for a $100 AMEX card), which was taken up with the information part, leaving no time for the hard sell since I had a ferry to catch to get to the next WorldMark…

Yes, that would be my ferry – and below, arriving at Bainbridge Island – I love the Olympics in the background of both these photos:

It was a good thing that I made a reservation on the Coho Ferry – I didn’t get to the terminal until a little after 1pm for a 2pm sailing because the rarely opened Hood Canal Bridge was OPEN, delaying my about half an hour. As you can see, I’m at the end of the line:

They even managed to get all the standby cars on!

And me looking grim with the mountains in the background…

Goodbye United States…

Hello Canada! Victoria, British Columbia to be precise.

Got all checked in – here is the view:

Since Courtney liked the video in a previous post I put a video here of the inside of the unit:

So far, I’ve had two-bedroom units, and no one to share them with – tonight, none of my Victoria peeps have the time to hang and have dinner. Sigh. I did get to see Royce since he is a checker at the Thrifty grocery store where I shop. Came back with a steak and a salad (and a view):

I do love the WorldMark Victoria – think it is my favorite of all the WorldMark Resorts.

Day Three – WorldMark Vancouver

Another day, another ferry ride. Had a reservation for this one as well, but it was only 25% full (MUCH larger boat). But the reservation did get me onto the boat before those without. A nice perk:

And it was a beautiful day for a ferry ride:

A slight hiccup checking in at the WorldMark Vancouver – I’d forgotten to change the name on the reservation – it was still in Courtney’s name – luckily as the owner, it was OK once they found the correct paperwork.

Here is the WorldMark Vancouver unit:

At least on this stop I have company for dinner:

The 2-bedroom at the WorldMark Vancouver is described as “Compact – No Dining Room” – which means eating on TV tables – but look how we made a table! Whole splayed (flattened) chicken, salad, rosé – though Epick and Tom weren’t drinking – Sebastian and I MORE than made up for them, also killing off a good portion of a bottle of whiskey as well. My kind of boy!

Our rosé…

Not bad – I’d buy it again. And again, nobody to fill the second bedroom on this stop either.

Day Four – WorldMark Birch Bay

Out of the unit at noon – US bound. Stopped at Duty Free – 10% off because of my Nexus Card, plus the 25% off because of the exchange rate – it’s like they like paying me to drink!

Got to the condo around 2pm – room wasn’t ready, but they weren’t full so they moved me to a unit that was clean – which was 308:

Not bad views:

That would be the sun going down over Birch Bay – I was here two weeks ago and we stayed with a MUCH better view (and it was available, but do I REALLY need 3-bedrooms and a hot tub just for me?)

Had a late lunch next door at The Shores – yes, a Rueben. Not the best but pretty good, didn’t realize it came with fries, would have ordered a side salad – because, yes, I ate all the fries:

What I couldn’t believe was a BRAND NEW BBQ on the deck – never used!

No company tonight – though it was on the agenda. Luckily I’m fine with flying solo.

Next time I think I might add the WorldMark Discovery Bay (east of Port Angeles) and one or both of the WorldMark Whistler resorts into the Circle Tour.


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Feb '16

Trip Report: Annual Victoria Getaway

Well, with all the other travel, and the Coho Ferry (Port Angeles – Victoria) being dry-docked longer, only one trip planned to Victoria this winter.

The trip didn’t start well – my Uber driver was stuck on 1 minute away for 15 minutes, killing any spare time I had to get to the boat – I ended up driving after finding out he a flat (which I didn’t find out for 20 minutes because he wouldn’t answer phone or text) – it, worrying that the car wouldn’t start when I returned from Victoria since the battery is weak and I’d had it on the charger all the previous night. Not the way I like to start a trip – stressed. You all know how I am about getting to airports/ship terminals/etc. in plenty of time.

This helped the stress:

This is Maia’s second trip with the boys to Victoria. Maia belongs to Seth. Maia likes my roller board and wants to help even though she has two bags of her own. Good Maia:

That would be Daddy Seth‘s foot to the right.

Miracle of miracles, our condo is ready – before noon! Usually, check-in time isn’t until 4pm. We have a 2-bedroom Penthouse unit on the second floor (yes, Penthouse doesn’t mean the top floor in this case, just the level of creature comforts – like our own personal hot tub):

And the view is good, even if it is the second (out of eight) floor:

You can sort of see our “pet”, Jonathan, in this shot – here is a better one:

And no – we don’t feed him – that’s against the rules.

Lunch out is at the Blue Heron Bistro, in the same complex as the grocery store. I start with a Caesar – which is a Bloody Mary made with Clamato. The Canadians are crazy about Clamato:

Lots of fun stuff on the specials menu –

I went with the Rabbit & Chorizo Poutine – that is French Fries, then a layer of cheese curds, then a Chorizo Rabbit Gravy over the top – others went for the duck curry:

Nap time for DancingBear and me – while Seth, MoSis (his BF), and Maia went out to explore the city.

But soon, it was time for dinner….and the couple of racks of ribs I brought up from the states.

Did I mention we bought a little duty-free booze? And here is the dinner, ribs on the upper right:

We do eat well on holidays. And we do relax well on holidays as well…

This is how DancingBear and I spent our time in Victoria, in bathrobes, cycling in/out of the hot tub, reading, playing Word With Friends, staring out at the planes landing on the Inner Harbour.

That and cooking:

Yes, Seth is having greens and sauerkraut with his eggs, babel and cream cheese (where is the salmon I brought?)

More relaxing for DB and I on Wednesday, with the rest of the kids out exploring (aka trying to run Maia out of energy) while we worked on dinner which included a vegan (it was supposed to include TWO vegans). Apparently we were having too much fun to get any pictures of the second night’s dinner which was olive tapenade stuffed portabellas for the vegan(s) and chicken cordon blu for the rest of us.

We were a little short on guest this visit at our favorites RobinHood and CrowDog are on the Sunshine Coast mourning the loss of a close friend – guess I should plan for next year in Victoria!

Before you know it the last afternoon is upon us – and a BIG shout out to DancingBear for renting a full-size car to get us around town and occupy us on the last day when checkout is at noon, and the boat is at five.

Final lunch was at Nautical Nellies – Seth’s suggestion and it was a good one.

I wanted light, so I went for the tempura green beans…

Fish Tacos for MoSis:

DancingBear went for the Cheddar and Crab sandwich – which I really should have taken some of:

And before you know it, we are back on the boat headed out of Victoria –

And eating again….

Cheese, crackers, Chicken Caesar wrap, leftover cranberry juice and vodka we packed for the trip…

The car started when I got back to the garage. Because of the discount from The Clipper, parking was $30 for the three days rather than the $61 that was on the ticket. In the end the price was probably cheaper than Uber to/from.


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Feb '16

Trip Report:

Pigletté In Vietnam – Eighth Leg: The Long Trip Home

The trip is winding down – time for Pigletté and Uncle Markie to head back to Seattle. The flight to Dubai is scheduled for a little before midnight – and when the check-in counter opened, I was the third person in the business line…this is what the economy line looked like:

And there is a shared lounge for Emirates business class passengers…not bad, but no open bar, just unlimited wine. Sigh. But there is a big open buffet:

My office for a couple of hours:

Wine, seltzer, beef noodle soup…a little post dinner, pre-flight food.

Another 777-300ER on the Saigon to Dubai flight. Pigletté gets settled in:

But he has to share his seat with Uncle Markie. Thanks to the lady in the window seat for this shot:

Soon it was movie time (Specter – a 007 movie):

We watched the movie while the flight attendant worked on my Manhattan:

Which came with some hot nuts – Uncle Markie LOVES hot nuts:

Even Bond, James Bond, enjoys a drink with us:

Before long, it was dinner time – and NO, that is NOT a potato, that’s a dinner roll. The starters:

The main:

Time for some more movies:

And the controller that also runs the system (in addition to buttons on the phone) – WAY too many options:

Here is a partial list of the movies I watched on the return flight:

  • Spectre (007)
  • Martians

And then there was a little sleep before arriving in Dubai at 4am in the morning – 4-hour layover, but the lounge is comfy and has “quiet areas”:

Don’t I look comfortable?

After a nap it’s time for a little breakfast before the breakfast on the Dubai to Houston flight:

Got to love Emirates Business Class Lounges in Dubai (they have three, each of which are the length of the terminal) – and how is this for boarding. The Business Class lounge is on 5 (in this terminal), First Class on 4, 3 is god-knows-what:

I love the “Upper Deck Boarding”, “Lower Deck Boarding” buttons, which correspond this this:

Yes, that is THREE jet skyways to the jet…Emirates A380-800 from Dubai to Houston is configured with

  • 14 First Class closed suites
  • 76 Business Class lay-flat seats
  • 399 Economy seats

With almost 500 seats you got to board these things from every orifice.

Wonder what economy looks like?

That would be a wild-body seating configuration of 3-4-3 (10-across). Upstairs, well, these are the back stairs – the front stairs go to First Class:

And the Business Class section which is a 1-2-1 configuration:

And my pod…

This was before I moved across the aisle so that I didn’t have to squeeze past the end table (which the feet of the person behind me slides into. Fresh flowers even:

Which was right above my 22″ tough-screen display…more reasons for changing seats.

Lots of charging opportunities…(and noise-cancelling headphone jack):

Add reading material (and Champagne) ….

And leg room …

And seat controls ….

Bye-bye Dubai …

A shot from above …

Time to settle in:

And then the food begins….

And yummy it is… another breakfast!

I opted for the Middle Eastern version of the main breakfast course… when in Rome (or Dubai) ….and more drinks:

Rob Roys with 18-year-old Chivas:

And since it’s a 15-hour flight, mid-flight mini-sandwiches:

And mid-flight work….

The flights movie list:

  • Life with father – William Powell

5 hours of sleep (Ambien washed down with Rob Roys)

  • The Man Who Knew Too Much – Kimmy Stewart, Doris Day
  • Philadelphia Story – jimmy steward, Cary grant, Hepburn
  • Desk Set – Hepburn/Tracy

Along with some hot appetizers:

At the back bar:

I think there was lunch in there someplace —

And the cheese course with a 2000 Warre’s Tawny Port:

I love some of the FaceBook comments on the cheese course photo:

Catherine: A GLASS glass?! METAL silverware!? An actual ceramic PLATE?!

Alexis: it looks to me like you are having too much carbs, only one cracker please ! x

Carlotta: Your cheese COURSE? There’ a vegetable, meat and dessert course? Soup too?

Retta: I could live off that.

Mark: I opted for the cheese and port over the chocolate lava cake, espresso and Cointreau. And yes, three courses before that. Redeeming 75000 miles gets you good airline food.

Kathy: I need to charge more on our mileage credit card, clearly!!

Mark: Happy to be anyone’s mileage consultant!

Carlotta: Well dear, you Are The Expert!

Mark: Catherine, that was a real piece of wood under that cheese.

Sean: It is so painful to see a man suffer

Jonathan: Not used to seeing you consuming grapes that haven’t been squashed and left to ferment for several years…

David: I approve!

Mikal: Pigletté loves cheese …

And then the party ended. Arrived in Houston with a two-hour layover which included customs/immigration, a terminal change, another round of security. Thank you Alaska for digital boarding passes that kept me from having to produce TWO quart bags since I’d collected all these toiletries from Janet to put in her church’s homeless packets. The downside of the Alaska gate in Houston is that there is no lounge access. Luckily I was exhausted because this was my seat for the four-hour Houston to Seattle run, in coach. At least it was bulkhead aisle:

One free drink, one bought drink, 3 hours of sleep which I dearly needed.

Cab home from the airport (about $30) about 9 in the evening – and here what was in the mailbox:

And what remained when I pitched all the junk:

International trip number one of four planned this year (next is Greece [June], then Mexico [September], then France [November]).

Next up is Victoria, British Columbia (which because it’s so close I don’t consider to be international).

[? ? ?]

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Pigletté In Vietnam – Eighth Leg: The Long Trip Home

Apr '15

Trip Report: Spring Break Number Two – Birch Bay & Vancouver

Spring Break trip number two – another student: Jonathan. Student Spring Break trips are on the cheap: driving. Teacher Spring Break trips, frugal, but flying.

The route:

Lots of miles on the Miata this Spring…speaking of which, when you travel in a small car, forget hard-side luggage, think lots of small, squishable bags:

And my stuff and ½ of Jonathan’s stuff in the trunk…not much room left:

But the reason that you own a convertible is for a little Miata on Miata action…..I really don’t know why they didn’t have their top down:

Thanks Jonathan for the great cell-phone photo with Dad’s Habitat For Humanity hat on backwards.

What I’d booked in Birch Bay was the WorldMark Blaine. I’ve stayed next door at the WorldMark Birch Bay in the 3-bedroom Penthouse units with the private hot tub that are out of a student’s network are lovely, but they just added the place next door (no private hot tub, no private BBQ). I’d booked the “2-bedroom Standard” and was somehow rewarded with a Penthouse Unit (again, no private hot tub, but the BBQs were just down the deck).

Top floor – out unit was on the end, at the other end was the communal lounge:

And then there is the view….

Before long, I was settled in on the deck in the sun, cocktail in hand…

It’s not a bad little place….

It was a two-bedroom 2-bath unit. Not quite up to WorldMark standards (no BBQ tongs, no non-stick fry pan), but the furniture was comfy.

Steaks for dinner the first night, then for me, it was off to WorldMark Owner ReEduction for a $100 AMEX gift card for an hour and a half of them trying to sell me more points. No more point purchases until I sell the next house, or Mom dies – and I don’t think either of those are coming soon.

The LITTLE “event” for today is Jonathan trimming my locks – thoughts? It’s short!

The BIG “event” for today is the Scholarship Reading….

The following morning we were up and out by noon (thanks for the GREAT breakfast strata DancingBear!). The only downside was that my laptop pack got put in the wrong car – no laptop on my next stop Vancouver.

But before I move on, a couple of other pictures:

It’s just me headed to Vancouver. Jonathan didn’t get his Enhanced Washington State ID figured out in town.

Easy border transit even with having to cross several lanes of stopped traffic to get from Duty Free and back into the Nexus lane…hopefully this will be fixed once they open the new lanes.

Destination is the WorldMark at The Canadian in Vancouver. One of my favorites. And when I got there after shopping for dinner, the unit wasn’t ready, but Hummingbird had already been by just getting off “work”. That would assume that being a priest is “work”.

But we did get a unit early – they switched us to get us in earlier…not a bad room:

Time for Hummingbird to start reading scholarships! And me to start working on the Pu Pu Platter for the friends arriving for dinner…

It was salmon on the menu tonight (with bread, salad, wine). Much fun. Guests were: Solus, Hummingbird, and his friend Kevin who was standing in for BamBam who couldn’t make it.

Slept in, and then couldn’t find the Cathedral where Hummingbird was doing the Maundy Service (the Thursday before Easter) so I went back to the condo and went back to bed. Another dinner tonight.

Second dinner of the visit was steak, brazed green onions, salad, bread – and of course — starting it off, the Pu Pu Platter.

No pictures—don’t know what I was thinking. Guests Helene, Tom, Stephen – and much good conversation (and knitting on Helene’s visit).

Out of the condo a little before noon – and the signs were saying 70 minute delay for the truck crossing – even the Nexus line was backed up past Duty Free – but I took a shortcut via the truck entrance to get to Duty Free which as a Nexus pass holder you get to park right out front AND get 10% off your purchases. Talk about cheap whiskey!

Between the 10% discount and the 20% exchange difference… that’s some mighty cheap whiskey, and a 1.14 liter bottle at that!

But back in the line (they shunt you into the existing line if you show your receipt) there were only a dozen or so cars in front of me:

And before you knew it I was home (after picking up my laptop bag that got put in the wrong car yesterday).


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Mar '15

Trip Report: NGO-NRT-SEA

As the trip comes to an end, there are just a couple of final flights.

  • Nagoya (NGO) to Tokyo Narita (NRT)
  • Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Seattle (SEA)

But first I have to get to the airport – and it’s basically a two-hour train ride, but only one transfer…..and by taking the semi-express, I save 340yen ($3 – should have taken the express!).

Not my train – going in the wrong direction:


My train, going away from my destination but hooking up with the main line to the airport:

A little nerve racking with the maps on this train all in Kanji – but then I remembered back to my Kanji Character Matching from my first trips to Nippon 30 years ago.

Got to the airport with plenty of time (as I always do), got through security with only a double scanning, then found the lounge to settle in and write the previous blog report, and have a cocktail or three. Sparse but comfortable service. Only one bottle of hard liquor open (luckily whiskey), but draft beer and packaged cocktail mix. No English language papers alas…. I’ll have to wait for Tokyo:

And my office in the lounge:

It was an hour flight to Narita (Tokyo) on a full flight, at least they were mostly tiny Japanese people since I was in the back (no First or Business on this Airbus A320):

But soon I was doing the maze of Narita airport, having to clear Immigration – thank goodness for the Gold/Business lanes – all I saw in the other lanes were panicked people. Personally I barely had a chance to do my duty-free shopping – to spend my last 7,000+ yen (guess I didn’t need to change that final $50 bill. Did find some “odd” things in duty-free to buy. Whiskey with emperor’s armor:

And some off menthol (though I didn’t know that until later) cigarettes that come 8 or so to a square box in different colors – perfect for Jerod. Then it was off to the Lounge – which the pictures of didn’t come out because I was in a hurry, but there was food, booze, and English language newspapers – that’s all I need.

Inserted just for amusement – this is what happens when you don’t check your images….

Did some final shopping to whittle down the change (750+ yen) – bought an overpriced sticker for my suitcase and some sushi shaped erasers for Jonathan (since he has drafting classes).

And then it was time to get settled in for my Business Class flight home on an ANA 878-800. Welcome to my “throne”:

It DOES feel like a throne. And the service:

I found the lay-flat beds in the ANA plane more comfortable than the Emirates, with the Emirates bed feeling like a sofa-sleeper with the ribs in unfortunate places. And soon it was time for breakfast:

Landed a little before 11 – and by a little after 11:30 I was through immigration, grabbed my bag, through customs, and home bringing in the mail. A five-hour nap before going to the shop to work 3 hours for a private event. And working Friday, Saturday, Sunday. No time for jetlag.

[222.4] Nothing like a couple of days do drop the flight water weight.



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Dec '14

Status Report: More Travel Plans – Dinner With Friends – How I Spend A Couple Of Weeks At Home.

A couple of weeks at home (working lots, though) and its dinner with friends and succumbing to the joys of Cyber Monday. Here is a quick photo round-up of the last couple of weeks.

Before Turkey Day it’s a visit from friends returning from Hawaii and New Zealand and Roxy out of college (Evergreen) for Turkey Day Break:

And the return of a long lost (OK, only three years) piece of artwork – the Legs of Christ but David Best (best known for making the structures at Burning Man that get torched):

The Legs of Christ would be on the left, and weighs about a hundred pounds and comes with a box of parts. Here is it in its original state (from the Butterfield and Butterfield auction catalog in the supporting AIDS benefit in the 80’s which I tried to find the catalog for – it’s somewhere in boxes of books in the garage)


As you can see, the man on the top, along with the canes, and the fish at the bottom are now in a box below the painting. Another dinner had the arrival of a friend of Roxy’s who actually knows David Best, as does one of my contractors. Sorry, no pictures, but suffice it to say I ended up with a Malaysian couchsurfer in my bed in the morning. A first (bedding a couchsurfer). Sorry, no pictures – check back for and update of the evening – he took lots of pics.


And then we are at Thanksgiving…I worked the 11-3pm shift at the shop (http://www.madronawinemerchants.com) and then it was off to dinner at Swanda’s place, and here was the spread:



Several miscues on dinner – turkey cooked upside down (damned moist) and the combined Green Bean/Yam Casserole (it was supposed to be two different dishes, but still worked).


My response to the excess of Turkey the following day was just a Ribeye Steak and a Wedge Salad:


With the trip to Detroit and Santa Fe coming up, it’s time to start wrapping presents – it’s nice to be able to print your own wrapping paper, albeit on bright yellow paper with an image of a late seventies world map…

Saturday brought around me at work, closing the shop, and the annual Shop Small Saturday from AMEX which this year give you back $10 for each $10 you spend at three different small merchants on the Saturday after Thanksgiving… I spent it at St. Clouds:

Manhattan (2), with the cheese burger with Mexican Cheese and a Green Chili Aioli and swapped the fries out for a fresh Caesar that you could actually taste the anchovies in! GREAT.

Dinner with SalamandarHellbender on Sunday – had to send him home in an Uber as it was late and seriously COLD in Seattle. Really nice lamb chops:

And Alaska Air started their “Cyber Monday” fares at 4PM on Sunday so chock up two more (ignore Spokane, I booked that for SalamadarHellBender). Think I’m taken care of this winter for travel:

I still have two mid-weeks in February. There are two trips that aren’t on here, late January in Victoria with Lunettaand Onyx, and late February again in Victoria that I’m looking at partners for.

Monday’s project was an alcohol Menorah – keep in mind that there will be bottles on each side of the display I created since it’s nine candles/bottles for Chanukah, but only seven for the temple:

At the shop it will have nine bottles of Kosher Wine. The shop was so cold I had to come in the house and varnish the piece because my fingers were numb – not a good thing when working with power tools.

Dinner with Jonathan – another food fest – cranking up three burners on the Wolf:

50% off Safeway T-Bones on the left, asparagus center, carrots sautéed in butter, triple sec and fresh squeezed orange juice.

Black Olive Challah (with a Bloody Mary Ceviché in the small bowl next to the butter)….

And Jonathan who has his first shift as a UPS Driver Assistant in the morning. No, he isn’t having any of my wine! His is Caffeine Free Diet Coke…in a wine glass.

A crazy day at the shop today…the first work day of the month is running all the wine club sales…manually. We don’t store our customer’s credit cards electronically.

Dropped wine off with Swanda (two cocktail delivery fee, often times dinner, but not tonight as I didn’t get off until 7 and it was almost 8 by the time I arrived) and home for another steak and salad dinner.

And tomorrow it’s back in the freezing garage to build some more storage for the shop – that and the dentist (thank goodness they use Nitrous when they clean my teeth).


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Nov '14

Activity Report: My Week At Home

This was a stay at home week for me, between last week’s trip to Santa Fe and next week’s cruise to Mexico. Did I lay around and eat all the Halloween candy? Nope, it was project week.

Project Number One: Vermouth Rack For The Shop

Madrona Wine Merchants is less than 500-square-feet, yet we have over 650 different brands that we stock, and we’d like to stock more, so we need to get creative with our shelving. In this case I had to build a shelf unit to go over a small rack of white wines that has a water pipe running through it.

The finished project, with a little bourbon and ginger spilled on it:

And installed in the shop:

Project Number Two: Behind The Counter Storage Rack

If you ever have looked behind the counter at Madrona Wine Merchants, it’s a jumble of stuff randomly packed in. My quest is that before the Holiday Rush that we get a little more organized so we can find things quickly. Hence, this odd organizer that I built to extend the cash wrap to the post where the vermouth is now hanging. The drawers are made from wood salvaged from the tops of wooden wine boxes that we occasionally get in:

And installed at the shop:

Project Number Three: Install Back Board For 1A2 Analog Phone System & KSU (Key Service Unit)

I’m upgrading my “Mad Men” style analog phone system so that all four phones will have lights and the ability to mechanically put calls on hold. This, of course, means actually putting in more infrastructure than just the KSU that I currently have which is only wired up for one phone – this one:

And here is what the infrastructure looks like:

And I still have to pull all the wires under the house before the “punch-down” can begin.

And then there is the social side of a week home…

Sunday night dinner with Bliss, Monday night dinner with Wonderful, Josh, and Jill:

Tuesday night dinner with former neighbor Emily, current neighbor Paula (who was air rescued out of the woods a couple of weeks ago after getting lost hiking with her two dogs), and Jonathan after installing the new 42″ flat screen that I picked up for $299 ($333 with tax and shipping) that fits in the same footprint as my 32″, but is half the weight.

We (Jonathan and I) also relocated the swing arm mount so that not only can I watch from the couch, but it swings so I can watch from the bedroom, and as of the relocation, I can now watch from the kitchen as well:

Thursday and Friday morning filled with helping Jonathan move from his storage locker into an apartment. Upside is that it’s right next to the Two Bells Tavern, known for its burgers (which I order two for take-out):

With a Manhattan while I waited (and their house bourbon is Evan Williams Black!)

It was amazing to me that someone who was homeless two months ago could have so much stuff in storage. Thursday afternoon he filled the 14-foot UHaul to the top, and Friday’s load was another quarter of the same UHaul – all headed into a studio apartment:

Now imagine that space filled to the top – and here is what the apartment looks like now:

Kitchen above, living room below…

And doesn’t even show the three closets and the mechanics rolling tool chest in the hallway. Whew!

It being Halloween that means its shop duty time. It takes three of us to handle the crowds. Here are the stats from 5-7PM…

  • Out of our 130 wine and champagne glasses – we had 10 clean ones at the end of the day
  • Over 200 pieces of candy handed out
  • Four bottles of tasting wine emptied

Maybe it was my outfit…

Busy week – looking forward to relaxing next week.


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Sep '14

Stay At Home Report: Dinner With Friends! Repeatedly.

Seems I have a week at home – time to invite friends to dinner (after a lovely Labor Day End Of Summer Party at Drew and Renee’s place in North Seattle.

Tuesday: Dinner with the business partner, partner’s partner, customers, customers who are vendors (www.locuswines.com) as well – good food, good company.


  • Fresh pretzel-style rolls
  • Salad
  • Green Beans (thanks Jim)
  • Sautéed Jim-gathered mushrooms and onions
  • Leg of Lamb
  • Bed of roasted root vegetables (Yellow Fins, Yams, Walla Walla Onions, Rosemary)

And especially for Shama, I baked some chocolate chip short bread cookies…

A good time was had by all, with more to come.

And then there was Wednesday which was supposed to include the Gay Volleyball player in town for a tournament, who then realized his first match was at the exact time of dinner – the rest of us had fun:

Of course to get there I had to hit the Safeway 30-50% off rack:

Which resulted in this and this:

And the bill….

Apparently I saved $130. And it took me 15 minutes to check out with all the double scanning… and the checkout line – took my 15 minutes with all the double scanning for the discount…and annoyed people behind me – never seen that many people abandon a check-out line:

Lots of spices which ran up the bill. But many of those are things to use in the Botanical Brandy blend.

Thursday night is just Jonathan and me…for a hash made of the lamb and root vegetables from Tuesday’s dinner.

Speaking of the Botanical Blend – lots of things being blended in the kitchen:

Lots of recycling….many dead cases of wine… I pity the recycle guy.


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Jul '14

Field Report: Pretty Lawn.

Thanks to Jonathan, I have a put together lawn for the first time in years.

And what is a post without a selfie….

Sunny and hot in Seattle and the top is down.


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Dec '09

My Life On The Big Screen.

A little (very little) work in the AM followed by a return visit to Home Depot. Time to get the pond liner:


… along with 400# of gravel for the previous project that is still not finished.

I got the liner unloaded (it weighs like 30#) but not the gravel before heading off to see the new movie “Up In The Air”with Geroge Clooney in the company of Jill.

A great movie for the two of us frequent flier mile whores to see together. I think it’s been at least five years since I’ve seen a movie in  theatre and not from seat 1C. A funny movie — more so because of how we travel, though there were scenes that left me feeling like I spend too much time in the cocoon of airplanes and airports.

Dinner tonight was supposed to be with Jonathan, who basically blew me off. Too bad. There was steak, salad, and baked potatoes followed by both bread pudding and fruit and nut shortbread cookies — and the Waterbrook Melange was pretty good too.

Guess I have to start inviting people that will show up.


Dec '09

Afternoon Brunch With Friends

Dinner By Myself.

What a wonderful brunch with JSteve and crowd. Brunch at his place is always on a Sunday… and features tons of food, the star being Eggs Benedict from scratch… made to order, for a crowd of 10-15 people… seriously yummy. And seriously wonderful people as well… and the mimosas…

From 2-6, I made it until 4 before I had to retreat from the mimosas to go home and deal with the bear:


I had to bring him inside — he had been outside all night and was a little damp. Now he is dry, and back in his box… waiting for the trip home to SwandaLand.

Jonathan cancelled dinner — truly fine. Something about entertaining and then getting up at 4:30 in the morning for the flight to Santa Fe that doesn’t sound so good. Luckily the first flight is up front…


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Dinner By Myself.