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Sep '20

Trip Report: Seattle In-Town “Vacation”

Covid takes its toll on another getaway. Well, I still went, but the guest of honor had to cancel his flight (well, I cancelled and rebooked) because of a possible Covid-19 Exposure. He learned two days later that is was most likely TWO different exposures. Better safe than sorry.

I’d mention names here, but because of medical privacy concerns, I won’t.

The getaway was supposed to be in the Two-bedroom Penthouse at The Camlin, in downtown Seattle, part of the WorldMark timeshare system. Here is a link to the WikiPdedia entry. Swiped this photo from their web site:

Memories was why I booked it – the guest of honor (aka disease vector) and I used to occasionally go drink in the bar called The Cloud Room. Sadly, I couldn’t find any photos of the interior, but here is a great poster:

Normally, I’d check in right at 4PM, but I was waiting for a new computer and monitor – don’t want to leave THOSE things lying around the front door. It was about 5:30 when I was checked in, and popped the door open to MY assigned room, to find a guy lounging on the couch. Needless to say, we were BOTH surprised. He called down, I went back down, seriously annoyed. They said they had miss assigned rooms, and they would put in in 1105 (rather than 1104). Fine. Went back up to find that 1104 is a Two-bedroom DELUXE, not a Two-bedroom PENTHOUSE. Penthouse has a DECK, the Deluxe does not.

Many calls down to resolve the situation since the other people were completely unpacked, and there were at least four of them.

After waiting for them to fix it – called down and said, “60,000 Wyndham Rewards Points in my account and I’ll stay where I am.” Fortunately, I know the value of points. 60,000 points is enough for two nights in the Wyndham Grand, say Puerto Rico (where I had a reservation at one point last May, cancelled but should have gone), or 4 nights in the Wyndham Shanghai (I had a reservation for May that I cancelled because of Covid), or a whopping 8 nights at your basic Days Inn.

So, no video of the Penthouse (though you can find a post about it here with a video tour), but instead, you will get a video of the Two-bedroom Deluxe:

Besides the points they also gave us exclusive access to the current Terrace Lounge, the private dining room for the Cloud Room Restaurant. Normally, it is open to all the guests, but with Covid it is closed (and clean).

And a little Bonny Doon Le Cigar Volant – and the fine company of Jonathan. And then joined by Bliss for after dinner drinks which turned into him using the Murphy bed in the living room. Social distancing!

Lovely evening, sadly, without a deck. And the morning was annoying when housekeeping walked in on my naked ass (they saw the other side), which resulted in the front desk calling me with serious apologies. Seems the room move triggered something in their system. The call came from the General Manager of the property.

By the time I was ready to check out, Pedro (the General Manager) requested a meeting to further apologize. There would be some additional training about taking special attention to penthouse reservations and how to respond to a housekeeping request that is 19 hours overdue. Turns out he has been there for years, and even worked at The Camlin before it was a WorldMark.

When the points arrived in my InBox – they got deposited and I sent a note to Pedro. In a couple back/fourths, seems that he collects Camlin ephemera – you know, the stuff from a property that usually gets thrown out. I mentioned that on one of visits many years ago that I’d left a champagne flute for management to add to the museum that is in the basement. Never saw it displayed, but when I mentioned it, he sent me a picture of it – IT’S IN HIS OFFICE!

That is pretty much the logo that is on the poster that is in this post.

Lemons, lemonade.


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Aug '20

Home Report: The Projects Continue

Well, another room has been spruced up a bit. Mostly cosmetic, but way cheaper than tearing apart the bathroom down to the studs. When you only have one bathroom in the house, it becomes critical that you still be able to use it.

Here is the commode before:

Here is the commode after:

The bath/shower before – LOVELY laminate and bad caulking!

With thanks to my Wednesday Supper Club (cancelled since late February) friends with a stand of bamboo that needed thinning, a new frame and grab railing!

Split it in half (table saw):

Cut/miter pieces:

Turn some of them into quarter rounds, and some smaller half rounds to the tub trim since there is a steel lip under the laminate. Disassemble, paint, rehang:

Add the corner and base trim, along with a new bamboo shower caddy painted to match:

And as the final touch, add some hand grabs on the walls (tub/shower is a little small to add ADA grab bars, so this is something to steady yourself on:

And a side-by-side of before/after:

Of course, now I’m looking at the floor. Not going to tear it out (again, can’t be without a bathroom, and I’m frugal):

Could be worse, but I’m in discussions with my Trompe l’oeil expert (Wendy Barsotti). If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, I’d just fly her out. Now I’m just asking for help figuring out what I’m capable of. Not going to happen soon.

Well, that’s my latest project:


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2 Responses to “Home Report: The Projects Continue”

  1. Colonel Eric Says:

    Don’t know where that website came from, but I’m very impressed with your work. Perhaps you should stay home more often.

  2. UncleMarkie Says:

    If you went all the way back to the beginning of my blog, you would find posts from our trip to China — 2008 I believe. Surprised I didn’t share the link since I’ve been doing it for a dozen years!

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Aug '20

Trip Report: HBO Sports Documentary

Uncle Markie? Sports Documentary? Yes, it does sound odd.

While I was on my Austin trip, I got this email out of the blue from a documentary producer in New York City that was working on a piece about a “fallen from grace” morning sports radio announcer. What they wanted was to use some footage that they found on YouTube of one of my trips to Whistler. For me, it was particularly poignant because all four of my trips to Whistler were cancelled this summer. I spent hours tracking down the original video files for one lift in particular, the Whistler Peak Express.

Finally found the last of four videos when I got back on Thursday – the 360-degree pan of Whistler Peak. Not sure how much of my footage will be in the final cut, but I made the credits list!

What does Whistler have to do with a morning sports announcer? Apparently, as the scandal was unfolding, he and his wife took a trip to Whistler, where, while on the Whistler Peak Express without his wife, he contemplated suicide, and was literally talked down with a phone call to a friend.

Apparently of the THOUSANDS of videos of that ski lift, I’m the only one that pointed the camera DOWN to show how dramatic that ride is. Not sure which one they are going to use, but here is one of the ones I gave them:

Technically, I didn’t “give” it to them, I licensed it for $500. Not bad for being hunched over a computer for a couple of hours. I can’t imagine that there will be all that much “screen time” since it’s a minor point in the whole documentary.

Here is the overview for the show:

HBO Sports will premiere our documentary WILD CARD: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth on October 7, 2020 at 9pm. The film looks at the rise and fall of Craig Carton, the extraordinarily talented co-host of the renowned Boomer & Carton show on New York’s WFAN. Craig Carton was one of the most dominant voices on morning radio in the country but resigned from the show in 2017 after being arrested by the FBI. He was subsequently convicted of securities fraud and conspiracy, shocking millions of fans by admitting to a secret gambling addiction. He was sentenced to 42 months. In a series of interviews before beginning his sentence, Carton talked candidly about his addiction and the millions of dollars he risked at the blackjack table. We also filmed revealing interviews with key people in his life including co-host Boomer Esiason and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The film will air at 9pm.

Too bad I’m not back in grade school so I could do a report on how I spent my summer vacation helping on an HBO documentary.

Well, that is it for this totally random adventure that came out of the middle of nowhere.

[? ? ?]

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Aug '20

Trip Report: Shakedown Trip To Assess Comfort Level

I forget how long ago I booked this trip, but I thought it was far enough out that we would be back to normal. Part of how I booked it was that even in this time of free changes, parts of this one were not.

The upside is that it was booked in First Class, and Alaska is blocking the seat next to you until the end of October. Most of the lounges are open, capacity controlled…

Back to serving liquor…with safety in mind with “Mind Your Wingspan” stickers…

And an inexpensive, genius way to open bathroom doors without installing expensive motorized doors! L bracket with some grip strips in it.

So far so good with my comfort level for travelling – everyone masked, everyone distancing.

As promised – the seat next to me open, should have moved into the window for an easier photoshoot:

Since seats 1D and 1F are blocked so that one of the flight attendants can use it during take-off/landing (so they aren’t sitting next to each other on the jump seat). Most of the flight I had the whole first row of First Class to myself.

No hot meal service in First Class for the foreseeable future, but you get a snack pack – and later, a passed basket of other goodies…

Beer, wine, soda in First. Cocktails are not back, yet. Thought it odd until I realized that means they don’t have to cater ice – another contact point. Sadly, the wine it’s exactly “top shelf”…

Got to Austin on time. No checked bags for me this time – one less touch point. Probably half the restaurants were closed in the airport – not surprising since travel is off 50% or more:

Grabbed a Lyft (5x points on my Chase Business Card) and headed to the WorldMark/Wyndham Austin.

The three floors over the garage are the WorldMark units.

And they are practicing social distancing in Austin as well.

If you are curious about what part of Austin – the pen points to the WorldMark:

Here is an interior tour of the unit:

And a night video:

Here are some detail shots of the unit:

The unit was ready when I got there, so first thing was to get supplies…whiskey and mixer.

Set up a Drizzly account, and 40 minutes later, there was a knock at my door:

Drinks taken care of, time for some food. It is 103 degrees in Austin, and sort of feels like a ghost town…

Fortunately, Ranch 616 was open – it is one of my favorites (they specialize in quail and frog’s legs, and damn fine fried oysters). They open at five, and that’s when I was there:

But social distancing is the norm here as well:

I was just getting takeout – but NORMALLY there would have been four times the number of tables.

Went for quesadilla special, and they were even serving drinks to go – so, what the hell.

Grabbed a late take-out breakfast at Walton’s Fancy and Staple:

And again, everywhere was practicing masks and social distancing.

I’m in the

I’m in the south – so biscuits and gravey!

Late afternoon I grabbed a turkey/jalapeno cheese Rueben – I saw Rueben and said yes before getting it home and realizing. Royal Blue is a great mini-mart/deli a couple of blocks from the condos, which in this heat is all that I’m good for.

After dinner decided to see if I could get a Whole Foods delivery. It was about 5:30pm and they said, next delivery time was 11PM since everyone and their mother is ordering stuff. I’m a night owl, so no problem. Started getting updates, and by 8:30pm, the order was at the door.

Had a MUCH better Rueben the next day back at Walton Fancy and Staple, mingled in with food from the delivery.

Thursday it was back to the airport for the return home…stopped in the lobby to say goodbye to Emmett who works on the Wyndham side pushing timeshare presentations, and grabbed a picture of him in one of my masks (I tend to travel with a handful to hand out).

Back a Lyft and off we go.

Had a pulled pork quesadilla from Salt Lick – finished half, saved the other half for the plane.

More social distancing at the bar – and a very empty airport for the middle of the day:

Both the United and American Lounges closed (American open as a service center for issue resolution).

Speaking of American – the have several planes painted in the colors of airlines they’ve merged with – this one was America West:

Back on board, back in the first row of First.

This time I sat in the window for pretty pictures!

It is at this point to say that during the flights to and from Austin, I was close to tears of joy. Just to be travelling again. The physical feeling of travelling.

So much so, that I stopped in the Lounge in Seattle for a “last one” before grabbing an Uber home…

Not many people in here. Feeling safe.

[? ? ?]

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Aug '20

Home Report: Masks and Pillows

I seriously thought when I made the first 48 masks that would be enough for a lifetime. Apparently, I’m a creature with more than one life. Not a cat, I’m allergic to them.

Last week was upcycling bad wine, this week it is turning thrift store Hawaiian shirts that have seen too much love to wear, become yet another useful item. The production line has been restarted.

First up, LOTS of cotton back panels – many thanks to Quillayute River Lodge for their donation of old sheets. I know have a 2-inch stack of 7×9″ back panels.

Here is a scene of Satan’s Workshop:

Last week’s project of Lavender Rosemary Infused Vodka still on the table.

New materials for version two: ¼ elastic bands to go around the head, not over the ears…

And metal bendy things for the nose…

And more source materials, like these dying couch pillows, that started out as thrift shore shirts, worn to death, worth to death as pillows, and now salvaged one last time…

This is what is left of a Men’s 2XL shirt after making mask panels:

That particular shirt – the one that over the years is the most complimented one, yielded 12 masks, but no pillowcase.

Such fancy bookkeeping. If we are talking numbers, each of the masks took a third of the time as version one. It’s the around the head elastic that makes the difference. Here are some of the new patterns:

The above is exclusive for Jonathan from one of his favorite shirts – he is getting a total of 11 masks, and one pillowcase. The one below is from an Indonesia fabric robe that I picked up in Thailand more than twenty years ago:

And many more flavors and colors….

Into the laundry they go, then they are put in polybags to keep them clean:

Here is a great shot of masks and their matching pillowcases…

The “plain looking” black one is actually Tommy Bahama silk with back-on-black embroidered pineapples. The far right (Jonathan’s shirt), is also Tommy Bahama.

Made 24 this round, made 48 the previous round in March. This time around, I’m not think that it is going to be the last batch. Sigh. At least I have another bunch of pieces precut for the next round.

Let’s hope that I don’t have to sew them up.

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Jul '20

Home Report: Unplanned Project

If there is anything in this world that I dislike more that “45”, it would be plumbing repairs.

This week was slated to be version two mask making week (elastic head [not ear] straps, wire insert by the nose for better fit.

The saga begins a month ago when I swapped out the float mechanism on the toilet since it wouldn’t shut off all the way.

Then, a couple of days ago, the tank started dripping…guessing I knocked something out of alignment.

Thought it was coming from the bolts that hold the tank, so, new bolt and big rubber washer kit…

Several attempts stop the leak, finally decided to test the tank over the kitchen sink where it was easy to dump, easy to work on, and easy to see where the leaks were.

Final answer was the flapper assembly, so back to Home Depot for yet more parts. On a positive note, 100% mask compliance at Home Depot, and only saw one sketchy guy at Safeway without one.

After several attempts at getting seated correctly, finally got it all put back together…

Deep-cleaned the rest of the rest of the bathroom while I was on the floor, and then tackled the 6-burner stove in the kitchen.

Grates are in the dishwasher for an easy clean.

Not really how I wanted to spend my last three days.

Joys of home ownership.


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Jul '20

Home Report: Living Room Redo Done

Just realized that I’m cleaning/redoing the décor in a very slow clockwise path. Finished the living room this afternoon.

Here is the before:

Can you say CLUTTERED!

I’d been wanting to change out the artwork for the last couple of years – but the piece with the massive frame weighs a lot. The frame is built on a 2×4 base with quarter inch plate glass in the front. 70 pounds is my guess.

Thanks to Roxy and Shua, the piece has been relocated to the “art closet” in the garage, and several large pieces that hadn’t seen the light of day will go in their place.

Yes, we had to take the door off to get “The Legs of Christ” into the closet. The artist is David Best, best known as one of the major temple architects at Burning Man.

That was almost a month ago. Nothing on this house redo is getting done quickly.

And now the after (still need to clean and sort the junk on the couch (a.k.a. my office):

I’m turning Japanese, I really think so. Of course, I had to look up who the artist was from the 80s. That would be The Vapors.

All the Japanese city scene oil paintings are by Kristina Hagman (daughter of Larry Hagman, granddaughter of Mary Martin of Peter Pan fame).

Complementing her pieces are some Japanese wall hangings – which are actually traditional obi, the fabric sashes festooning kimono.

One of the things slowing down the living room was figuring out how to hang the obi. A week or so ago I had an inspiration, and even had all of the materials on hand:

Wish I’d had gold three-inch screws, but couldn’t find any in the garage, and not worth a trip to Home Depot.

The last one is actually a composite of two different obi.

And, yes, the far-left clock is set to Tokyo time.

Whew! Another room down. Now the kitchen, then the garage.


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One Response to “Home Report: Living Room Redo Done”

  1. Mary S Willi Says:

    Fabulous work Mark Stephen Souder! Your living room looks great and the clean-out is impressive. Love the colorful art work.

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Jul '20

Home Report: Failed Cooking Experiments

I post all the pretty dinner pics on Facebook – but rarely the disasters.

My first attempt at making zucchini fries crusted with parmesan. Definitely, a fail. Maybe if I had cooked smaller batches with them spread out. Oh well.

Plus, I accidentally put in too much salt – and with the parmesan, definitely noticeable.

In an attempt to salvage something out of the recipe, diced up the rest of the zucchini, and three grilling onions…

Sautéed them up with some bacon…

And crumbled up the parmesan fries to use on top of the sautéed veg and bacon… to create a “hot dish” as they say in the Midwest, for reheating later.

In the end, just cooked up the rest of the bacon in the oven (I made a rack for my 8×8 Pyrex baking dish to keep the bacon out of most of the fat)…

Made some fries and called it a night.

Probably should have made a salad as well. Maybe tomorrow will be salad night.


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Jul '20

Home Report: Second Bedroom Done

Second bedroom is a bit misleading…technically, it’s the Master Bedroom, i.e., where the Master (that would be me) sleeps.

Before, the shit show of leftovers from years of travelling:

Thought it wouldn’t need all that much time, but that’s when “project creep” comes into play:

  • Jewelry chest needed to be cleaned, items passed onto friends (so that had to wait until they came to dinner), lid screwed back on, and organized
  • Closet needed going through (have a dozen and a half t-shirts that haven’t bee worn in years, and an equal amount of socks which are too lightweight or too heavyweight
  • Gave up on waiting to build a small dresser and ordered one off Amazon. Was hoping to make one out of 6-bottle wooden wine boxes, and maybe I will, but not in in the cards at the moment
  • Like every other place in the house, serious amounts of dust (which reminds me, need to replace the furnace filter). My maid retired at least 5 years ago, and really, the dusting has gone seriously downhill
  • And piles of random travel gear, Hawaii shirts to turn into pillowcases, though probably another round of masks

And the after picture. I still haven’t attacked the storage (and dust bunnies) that live under the bed:

And this shot shows how you can watch TV from the bed. It’s on a pivot mount meaning you can see it full screen in the bedroom, the living room where it lives, or swing it around to watch in the kitchen!

And, yes, there is a theme to my bedroom. Sex and Death.

The throw rugs on the floor are Afghani War Rugs from when the Soviets occupied – tanks, bombs, aircraft, farm animals, all woven into the rug:

The oil paintings (done by friends) are thematically death. One is based on the refugee camps in southern Mexico when people were fleeing civil wars in their Central American countries, the other, harking back to the war in Vietnam.

I’ll spare you the sex part, needless to say there are numerous framed photographs of mostly naked men.

Feels good to let go of this pile – now I just have to find an open donation station:

Now it’s onto finishing up the living room, which is 80% done.


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  1. Michael Scott Says:

    Donation stations have finally opened here in the UK so I’m able to clear Mum’s stuff out at last. Great relief. BTW I love your Afghan rugs.

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Jul '20

Home Report: Pantry Update

One would think that with this 4+ month travel grounding, that I’d be further ahead on my cleaning/organizing. Hard to get excited about anything.

This project wasn’t even on my list, but the purchase of an Air Fryer, I needed someplace to actually store potatoes (and onions).

And I needed a better (heavy duty) potato/vegetable cutter. The old plastic one on the wall, and they beefy one that cost more than the air fryer:

I believe that is called “project creep”.

The “before” shot:

The “after” shot, with the potato cutter bolted THROUGH the wall on one side:

With a close-up of the new root cellar:

Why, yes, the root cellar is made from recycled wooden wine boxes. It allowed me to get an extra self out of the space.

One more room down….still to come is the living room and the Master Markie bedroom.

[? ? ?]

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Jun '20

Trip Report: Road Trip To The Woods

After three and a half months of being in my own bed every night, what a joy to take a road trip!

Hatched the idea on Sunday, with an email to my friends that run the Quillayute River Resort outside of Forks, Washington. Enquired about how their occupancy was since they reopened a month ago. Usually, they are completely full in the summer – but not this year. They have as many guests as they can handle with the enhanced cleaning (4 hours per unit). There was room at the inn for me!

Had I taken the ferry, it would have been less driving, and if I timed it right, about the same amount of time plus $16.00 each way since my car is under 14′, $20.40 – BUT, they aren’t sailing on their full schedule, so if you miss it, the boat is full, you wait around for another hour plus. The sun was out – and I was looking forward to driving … anywhere!

The resort has changed to a contactless check-in system so you can go directly to your room, punch in a code, and bingo. Here are some of the pics of the place:

There are six suites (one two-bedroom, the rest, one-bedroom), arranged in a shotgun style, with garages between each unit to there are no common walls with your neighbors. The garages are for housekeeping, guest laundry, lawn maintenance equipment, etc.

There is a main check-in building/front desk area that in other times would be open to the public (lending library, etc.). The owners live upstairs.

Suites in the summer are in the low $200 a night range, winter, half that. That said, you get a lot of bang for your buck in addition to the beautifully cared for grounds. Check out in suites themselves:

Gas fireplaces, comfy furniture.

Memory foam mattresses (either king or two doubles), heated bathroom floors.

Kitchen will all the gear you need to cook, like pots & pans, glasses (including wine glasses), coffee maker (with coffee!) and an electric kettle for tea lovers, olive oil, spices, etc. I would have killed for this place as a college student!

Nice touches include fast charging outlets in the kitchen at usable height, wireless (and wired) routers in all the units, flatscreen TVs in the bedroom with a massive DishTV lineup – and if you have a Tesla, there is a charging pod with two cords in the parking area.

If you look as the number of “high-touch” items in the kitchen, it explains why it takes 4 human hours to clean the units between guests. Gone are the books, puzzles, cards in the room. All the silverware is boiled (and allowed to cool so it can be put away), all the dishes/glassware/cookware gets a water/bleach dip, all the linens down to the mattress pads get laundered, packed, and spend three days in quarantine before they are used again. It also explains why they block off a unit for a day between guests.

The day I arrived, the owners (longtime friends) were off for a 12-mile first hike of the season. It was just nice to chill by the river, make a little dinner, have a little whiskey and wine (not in the same glass).

Panko-breaded Portuguese Sausage SPAM, mac and cheese, green salad, Bonny Doon Vin de Gris rosé.

Fortunately, the next night they invited me to a socially distanced dinner complete with appetizers in the main lodge. I brought the wine – more Bonny Doon, including a magnum of the 2008 Le Cigare Volant. In normal times, the lodge is used for weddings, meetings, etc., with it’s full catering kitchen.

They fired up their wood-fired oven for me!

And voila! Pizza!

They have been using the wood-fired oven in the kitchen even before the interior was done on the main lodge – in the past they have made other pizzas, fresh pita bread. Amazing.

It had been too long since I’d been out to visit – probably a year and a half. Left them a couple of versions of my brandy as a thank you. The food and the conversation that distanced evening was so heart-warming, I should have left them a case!

My return to the city started out with mist (but I still had the top down), and a return to the resort ten miles out because I’d left one of my bags, but eventually made it home. Would have been quicker, but there was a massive accident in Tacoma. But home is home.


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  1. Melba Toast Says:

    Hi Markie, you might want to look into staying at the Alta Crystal Resort on Mt. Rainier just a couple miles outside the National Park gates on the way to Crystal Mtn. Very nice place, it’s where I’ve stayed when Roderick was camping with people nearby, next to the river. They are offering COVID deals — we are going there for a couple of nights soon — $150/night and we can bring Banjo. Two nights minimum. You might enjoy it there. Tell them I sent you. 🙂


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Jun '20

Home Report: Back Bedroom Clean/Organize

Three months into the lockdown, I’ve finished one project, the cleaning/organizing the back guest bedroom to make it more comfortable for guests. Like there will be any guests anytime soon.

The before, trashed version:

The after, before stuff starts showing up on all flat surfaces (nature abhors a vacuum):

And from the other direction – space for one more suitcase (in my bedroom at the moment) up top, and space on the rack for guests’ suitcases to be open and accessible, with room for another small piece of luggage, and a pole for hanging shirts/etc.

And, yes, that is a 42-inch inkjet printer which I’ve been cranking out posters on now that I can actually get to it (physically, and network-wise).

In addition to promotional posters for a friend’s business: (http://www.greenfireloft.com):

And even “How Is Your Covid Feeling” posters:

Complete with lamination!

Doesn’t everybody have this equipment in-house?

Also in progress (albeit small) are switching out the artwork in the living room, and cleaning/organizing the garage. Anyone else feel that they aren’t making progress on their projects even though they are no longer travelling?

[? ? ?]

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May '20

Home Report: Covie-19 Feeling Chart

Periodically during this pandemic I’ve been feeling a wide swing of emotions. I decided to make a “fire danger” chart for myself and everyone else to use.

So, if you’d like to download a copy of this, you can find the PDF at this link. It’s formatted for landscape letter (US) size.


I decided to make a really big one for myself.

First, you need to have a 42″ printer in your guest bedroom that hasn’t been used in months due to the Covid-19 virus.

Then you have to reprint it in landscape so that you can get it through the laminator that you need to warm up in the garage.

The machine on the top is a polybagging/shrinkwrap machine.

Then you trim it down….

And add an arrow – since I had to reprint twice so I have two arrows and I don’t need to cut into the original.

Think I’m done with Ennui, I’m back to Resignation.

Sunday nights for me are like Friday nights for people who work an M-F 9-5 job. Throw care to the wind, stay up late, turn off the TV, listen to music, drink, drink some more, get up in the late morning and do the weekly grocery shopping after breakfast at noon.

It’s a good thing I didn’t make this a “spin the bottle” game where you had to adopt the mood you landed on!

I think this falls into the category of, “has too much time on his hands”. Seriously, I need to get back to travelling.


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May '20

Home Report: My Tax Dollars Spent On Trump Campaign Advertising, AGAIN

Estimado Líder Exaltado,

Si bien le agradezco por devolver $1,200 de mi dinero de impuestos, la carta de explicación que llegó dos semanas después del cheque me parece una pieza de literatura de campaña para la candidatura de reelección de su alteza. El pplazamiento de us$franqueo para los 150 millones de personas que reciben estas cartas de campaña delgadamente veladas es de 36 centavos cada uno (por un total de $5.4 millones de dólares, y estando en el negocio de correo directo durante años, puedo adivinar que la impresión / relleno / clasificación corrió otros 5 centavos cada uno, añadiendo otras tres cuartas partes de un millón de dólares, llevando el total a $6.5 millones en dinero de impuestos federales. Humildemente le pido que reembolse al Tesoro de los Estados Unidos de sus arcas de campaña desbordantes (según se informa, ha recaudado $78,8 millones). Eso sería menos del 10% de lo que has recopilado hasta ahora – no es como si no puedas pagarlo. Me recuerda a la postal que envió hace un par de meses con “consejos tímidos” que también tenían su nombre engalanada por todas partes, y que fueron a todos los hogares de los Estados Unidos, alrededor de 83,48 millones. Esa era una postal de gran tamaño (que es la misma que un sobre de primera clase), por lo que el costo de imprimir y enviar correo sería conservadoramente otro gasto relacionado con la campaña de $3,244,680. ¿Sería tan amable de añadir eso de nuevo a la Tesorería? Porque sé que las matemáticas no son tu fuerte, eso sería $9,922,680. Por favor, no pose su cheque.

Gracias de antemano por su rápida resolución a este asunto.

Mark Stephen Souder
Pequeño Empresario

In case you are not a Spanish speaker, here is the translation:

Dear Exalted Leader,

While I thank you for returning $1,200 of my tax money, the explanation letter that arrived a full two weeks after the check looks to me like a piece of campaign literature for his highness’s reelection bid. The presort US Postage for the 150 million people receiving these thinly veiled campaign letters is 36 cents each (for a whopping $5.4 million dollars, and being in the direct mail business for years, I can guesstimate that printing/stuffing/sorting ran another 5 cents apiece, adding another three-quarters of a million dollars, bringing the total to $6.5 million in Federal Tax Money. I humbly request that you reimburse the US Treasury from your overflowing campaign coffers (reportedly having raised $78.8 million). That would be less than 10% of what you have collected so far – it is not like you can’t afford it. It reminds me of the post card you sent out a couple of months ago with “covid advice” that also had your name emblazoned all over it – and that went to every household in the US., around 83.48 million. That was an oversized postcard (which is the same rate as a First Class Presort envelope), so the cost to print and mail would conservatively be another campaign-related expenditure of $3,244,680. Would you be so kind to add that back to the Treasury? Because I know math is not your strong suit, that would be $9,922,680. Please do not postdate your check.

Thank you in advance for your speedy resolution to this matter.

Mark Stephen Souder
Small Businessman


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Apr '20

Home Report: Time Travel

As you all know, I live to travel, which, sadly hasn’t happened recently, and it’s looking maybe by the end of May, maybe.

About a year ago, I was on a quest to find a world clock with the ability to display four time zones at a glance to help with my every present travel bug.

VERSION ONE: Four matching analog clocks.


  • Easy to read at a glance


  • Tags too small to read the city
  • No clue if that’s AM or PM
  • No clue what day it is
  • No automatic adjustment for daylight savings time

If you wee wondering why one of the clocks is half an hour off from the others—say hello to India. Just to make it fun, Nepal is fifteen minutes off of India.

VERSION TWO: Four matching digital alarm clocks.


  • Shows AM/PM
  • Shows date
  • Shows day of the week


  • Doesn’t show city
  • Limited viewing angle (like only when I’m sitting on the couch looking directly at it)
  • Doesn’t automatically adjust for daylight savings time

VERSION THREE: Three mismatched laptop and tablets resting in the garage (was testing proof of concept before I fired up another on)


  • Shows city
  • Show AMPM
  • Shows day of the week
  • Automatically adjusted for daylight savings time


  • Day of the week too small to read at a distance
  • They seem to want to keep updating themselves
  • Not sure if the fourth one will fit up there

Sadly, I’m still not there yet. Close, but not yet. I’ve seen the one I want, but I’m too cheap to pay the $750 to $1000 on the vinyl lettered one:

And REALLY too cheap to spend the $1700 to $2000 for the ones with LED cities:

Who know, maybe I have a VERSION FOUR in me.


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1 Comment »

One Response to “Home Report: Time Travel”

  1. Susan Campbell Says:

    Hey Mark
    I was scheduled to finally go home on March 30tth
    Guess What? COVID-19 !
    Second time I was going home
    Stuck here Again

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Apr '20

Trip Report: Last Trip To Hawaii For A Bit

It seems like a different time, though it was only a month ago. It’s taken me that long to find the motivation to document my trip to Waikiki. This was the week before the shelter in place order.

There was such a lull in air traffic, the both DancingBear and I got upgraded to First Class. Upgrades are a rarity on the SEA-HNL route with so many frequent fliers on the routes. You know that there is something up when even MVP Silver fliers (like DancingBear) are getting upgrades.

This was also when airlines were still serving food and booze in First Class, though the lounge before the flight was only serving wine and beer, no cocktails.

Since it was our last trip for the foreseeable future, we sprang for an Uber into town rather than the city bus.

Staying our two nights at the Wyndham Waikiki Beachwalk, which is a couple of blocks from the beach, and a view of the “Pink Palace“.

Had a wonderful meal out of Bills (a Sydney, Australia-based chain) since my usual happy hour spot was closed in advance of the state-wide ban.

By the time for our next dinner, the state had just imposed a ban on restaurants serving anything other than takeout – which is what we did.

It was a quick two-night trip, a final mileage run while Alaska was offering a 50% bonus on Elite Qualifying miles. I did get some tourist shopping in at one of the largest ABC Stores in Waikiki. Particle facemasks and various salts.

For the return trip home, we were also honored with First Class upgrades! Four of the above masks I gave to all the flight attendants.

We arrived a couple of hours late back to Seattle. Early Friday morning rather than 10PM Thursday night. On Friday, Alaska announced that they were stopping food/beverage on all its flights. Not surprising since we drank the entire plane out of Woodford Reserve.

I have a couple of more runs to Waikiki scheduled for mid-May, but I’m not optimistic that those won’t get cancelled. My Alaska eWallet already has about $800 in future travel funds. At one point it was over $1500, but I booked Santa Fe for early December.


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Mar '20

Trip Report: Nagoya To Seattle

We had one last afternoon meal of conveyor belt sushi (see previous post) before I headed to the airport – since I have an early flight, staying at an airport hotel.

This time (I’ve done this before), staying at the Centrair Hotel which is directly connected to both the train station and the airport:

A little more expensive than the last place I stayed, but WAY nicer.

And nicer rooms:

Better amenities, ice machine, beer and Highball machine…

Up and out EARLY in the morning – so early that I had to weight half an hour for the ticket counter was opened.

Was the first person to check in, and with the Covid-19 virus starting to temper travel, immigration was a snap and I was onto the lounge…which, even pre-virus days, didn’t offer much in the way of food.

Or people! Luckily, the Highball machine (also beer) was working – that, and little packaged snacks…I mean tiny, like less than a handful.

Decently full flight from Nagoya (NGO) to Haneda (HAN).

By the time we took off, there was one person in the window seat, but lots of middle seats open.

Because of the virus – half the JAL lounges at Haneda are closed – and the service severely curtailed. No open bar, just beer, wine, champagne – not even any Highballs! Huge First-Class buffet was down to some sani-wrapped selections.

All this would be full of buffet items…

Good think I like those convenience store sandwiches!


My hope is that the flight to San Francisco (SFO) is operating with full food/booze service.

And the status board shows TONS of cancelled flights:

Considering I had a 10+ hour layover (no frequent flyer mileage flights leaving Nagoya later in the day), it wasn’t a bad view:

Finally – BOARDING!

Yes, the had a gangway JUST for the 8 First-Class seats.

Here is the plane layout:

And what the publicity shot from the airline’s website looks like:

And here is the reality…

The very courteous flight attendant offered to take my photo – seeing how much I was enjoying my palace for the next ten hours.

This seat is loaded with electronics. A controller for the 23″ TV:

There is even a satellite telephone (as the flight attendant said – not free, very expensive):

Once we are in the air – the food service starts…both Japanese and Western-style food choices:

Some nice 2005 Rose Champagne…

The first round of food…dinner roll, and some fire squid – apparently these squid light up like fireflies.

Then we were onto the Caviar appetizer…oh how I’ve missed International First-Class Service!

Notice the Mother-Of-Pearl spoon for the caviar!

Now for the main. Upper right is a half order of the lobster. Bottom right is the Wagyu beef.

And the flight attendant was back to take more pictures:

You might have noticed that the hands of the flight attendant were gloved, and she was wearing a mask. Since the outbreak, this is standard for all Japan Air Lines cabin staff.

For dessert there was a grapefruit granita martini – one of the most innovative desserts I’ve had on an airplane:

And that is some 30-year-old port next to it.

When it was time for bed – the flight attendant asked if I’d like to have her make up the suite across the aisle since it was empty – and whether I’d like the “hard” or “soft” mattress pad. Gee. A place to relax and a place to sleep.

A note about how many people were on this flight. I’m on a Japan Air Lines 777-300ER that CAN seat up to 240 people in 4 classes (see illustration above). My flight had 5 people in First-Class that holds 8 people. There were 8 people in Business Class which holds 49 seats, and the last of the 40 people (27) were scattered between Premium Economy and Economy. A VERY light load.

Arrived at SFO and breezed through immigration and customs because I’m Global Entry, but to be honest, the place was dead. No questions, to medical screening, just a “welcome home”.

The problem with SFO coming in International is that my connection on Alaska Airlines runs out of a different terminal which I need to recheck my bag…and the only lounge I have access to is, you guessed it, back in the International Terminal. So, out of immigration, train to another terminal, recheck bag, back on the train, through security, hang out in the lounge, take the train, back through security. If I hadn’t had three hours of layover, I would have passed. But I love the Singapore Lounge at SFO even if the noodle bar isn’t open.

Apparently, lounge food service hasn’t shut down (yet) in San Francisco.

And it was great to take a shower after so many hours in the air – should have done it in Tokyo as well.

Final leg of the trip was from San Francisco to Seattle…between a retired doctor and a corona phobic lawyer headed to his second house in the Methow Valley, by plane, to a place that has no medical infrastructure. Nothing like having a cross conversation being in the middle of two people. So much for distancing.

A very interesting time to travel internationally.

Because I’m writing this a couple of weeks later, I’ll give you the update. It’s 14-days since I left Japan – and all is well (so far). This pandemic has made me realize what an integral part of life travel is to me. Everything is cancelled for the next six weeks – and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is longer than that. With all the flights I’ve cancelled this year between unexpected dental work and the virus, I’ve got over $1800 in my Alaska eWallet.


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Mar '20

Trip Report: Japanese Vending Machines

One of the wonderful things about Japan is their Vending Machine Culture. Years ago, in Tokyo in the red-light district, I saw pornography in a street side vending machine. Nothing as tawdry this trip. Just everything from cigarettes, to beer, coffee, high balls….

Cigarettes —

Hot dogs and French fries —

Sodas, water, tea —

Just coffee – some of the machines dispense it hot or cold depending on the season

Beer —

And my all-time favorite – in the lounge at the Nagoya Airport…the Highball/Beer dispenser:

So, that’s my silly tour of Japanese Vending Machine culture.


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Mar '20

Trip Report: Osaka

So, took a late afternoon Shinkansen from Hiroshima to Osaka. If you were trying to save money, you could shave $25 off if you were willing to transfer three times and have it take 6 hours rather than 2. We took the semi-fast train (more stops, but direct).

Unlike last night’s hotel, which was near the central station, tonight we are in the Dōtonbori neighborhood because it has better nightlife (according to Julian). We stayed in this neighborhood several years ago in a Capsule Hotel (see post) back in March of 2018 – wow, almost exactly two years ago!

Oddly enough, the entrance to the hotel was to the right (the bar was to the left). It had an oddly, unfinished, feel to it. And I found it even stranger that they handed you the TV remotes when you checked in.

While there ARE two beds – it’s TIGHT. This should really be a one bed room. Julian cut a deal with the front desk for a separate room for himself, as video didn’t work in mine (or his first one – they moved him again).

We’d had a late lunch, so I just had some convenience store food (which is really fresh and cheap). Julian went out for a bit. I was spent from all the walking.

The morning found us up and out early – Julian has an appointment at the US Embassy at 11:45 to get some notarized documents for his upcoming wedding (celebration in November so I’ll be back).

You can see the police bus in front of the embassy – didn’t want to get too close to photograph least they lock me up.

Looks like those people are headed to the embassy! Julian showed up 45 minutes early, got in 30 minutes early, was out before the original appointment time.

Here are some random shots of Osaka.

As a side note – there are 7-11 EVERYWHERE in Japan, and they are more than just a convenience store, you pay bills, pick up packages, etc. They also run a bank.

Time for lunch in the bowels of the Osaka Central Station – there are dozens of restaurants. Fast food near the gates, food mall on the lower level, then sit-down restaurant in the basement.

The food here doesn’t suck – whether it’s food out, or dining in with Julian cooking:

My trip to Japan is ending…longer than I expected, and somehow, not long enough.

I’m already looking forward to my return in November for the wedding.

Headed home tomorrow.


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Mar '20

Trip Report: Hiroshima

With my unexpected extra time in Japan, Julian and I decided to head several hours south to Hiroshima, yes, that Hiroshima. Back on the train go we.

And yes, there are little smoking rooms on the train:

At the train station in Hiroshima, besides displaying cars…

They also had a seating chart of the station bathroom:

And the stations are kind of gorgeous:

Got into Hiroshima in the evening as Julian had to work a little during the day – found us this place with its high-tech check-in system.

Features a free self-trouser press, and most importantly, an “Ice engine” – interesting translation:

If you were wondering what the top item is, VOD is Video On Demand, ART is…

But the room is nice.

It was dumping out – but fortunately out the back door of the hotel was this GREAT restaurant serving Hiroshima specialties (photo is of their front entrance, not the back entrance we came through):

Lively place:

Fortunately with picture menus! One for Julian…

One for me…

And the food was great!



After dinner it was time to check out their “onsen” (Public Bath).

The tattoo rule is pretty standard in Japan as usually only the Yakuza have them. The baths were great. Julian was impressed with the place I’d picked – and it beat walking around in a downpour outside.

The morning found us sightseeing as best we could do with all the closed museums. The manhole covers almost made up for the closures:


Next up was lunch at this cold soba noodle place – that had a line to get in when they opened at 11:30:

Not a big place…

And the neighborhood:

Next on the agenda is The Peace Park – ground zero for the first atomic bomb used on people. The bombed out dome down river is the far end of the park, which covers the entire area flattened by the bomb.

The museum, closed due to the virus outbreak:

This gives you another view of the scale of the park. Keep in mind that this is in the middle of a huge city.

Various memorials as well:


And finally, the bombed out dome across the river:

And some close ups:

Time to head back to the station since the Public Gardens we wanted to go to were also closed, but first a stop for another Hiroshima specialty – OYSTERS!

We ordered the set since the individual oysters were extremely expensive:

Came with an appetizer plate:

Three oysters prepared different ways:

Followed by a pasta course.

A couple of high balls later we were ready to head to the train station for our overnight in Osaka:

The Japanese are VERY thorough in explaining things about their public toilets – like where to que up depending on what you are doing:

Back on the train!

I just want to add this screenshot that sums up my day:

That’s it for Hiroshima.


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