Archive for December, 2006

It’s a Seattle Light Rail Christmas

I’m about 2 weeks behind all the other bloggers, but it’s not for lack of interest on this. 🙂

Sound Transit started showing off the new light rail car to “the public” the other day: http://www.soundtransit.org/x3970.xml. Carla (Bus Chick) was on the invite list, evidently, as she got some great photos and write-up of the experience.

Here are the specs: Central Link vehicle specs sheet. Soooo cool. Can’t wait!

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Skiing on Xmas Eve

Jodi and I went Skiing at the Summit on Xmas Eve Sunday this year. We had planned to go up on Saturday the 23rd, but weather had been uncooperative (chains required, long backups along I-90 due to avalance control, etc).

No problem; change of plans and we just go on Sunday instead.

It was AWESOME!

We got there right at open, and – since we have season passes and our own equipment now – we were able to just waltz right up to the lift. There were effectively no lines. Visibility was 10/10. Fresh powder plus perfect grooming.

We skied for about 2.5 hours (a lot more runs than you’d think, given the lack of lines!), had some lunch (again, no lines… and easy to find a table), and then had a great drive back home just as the bad weather started to roll in again.

Best. Day. To. Ski. Ever.  Note to self.

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Books Books Books

Two more books to write about. Both of them historical non-fiction.

First, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Like just about everyone, I find Abraham Lincoln to be a fascinating American president. As the stories go, he came from practically nothing to be one of the greatest US presidents in our history. After reading this book, I have a renewed respect for the man… clearly the greatest president in our history.

He was a gifted dealmaker, with the ability to unruffle even the most ruffled feathers on his arrogant peers. His methods for keeping the “team” (his cabinet) together and working effectively through such a perilous time in our history were quite intriguing and interesting. As expected, very good book.

Second, American Prometheus:The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. This one wasn’t available on Audible, so I waited 6+ months on the Seattle Public Library reserve list to get it. This biography was thorougly engaging. I must admit, I knew almost nothing about Oppenheimer before reading this book. I also knew almost nothing about the nuclear weapons development work and underlying theoretical physics work done through the 30s and 40s. Worse still, I knew almost nothing about the horrors of the anti-communism campaigns of the 50s.

This book exposed me to all three of these topics, and I found it to be a very engaging read (since it was from the library I was pretty time-rushed to get through all 700+ pages before it had to be returned, but I did it… much because it was such an interesting book!)

I realize the book was just recently written, so it’s no surprise there are some transparent allusions to the misdeeds of the current administration. But reading about some of the horrible things Truman and his administration did brings it home.

I spent a little time reading up on Truman and his administration (yet another area where I was lacking any knowledge prior to this book). History looks favorably on him, it seems.. United Nations, Marshall Plan, Israel, Berlin Airlift, desegregation of the military. All good. Now here comes my revisionist historical interpretation: But he dropped two bombs on Japan to “end” the war (cough, to send a message to Russia) and he was complicit in the anti-communist hype (loyalty boards). I came away from the book thinking Truman was just an awful president. Perhaps he’s considered a great president because he was able to temper his awful decisions with some good ones that have equally long-lasting impact (a bit like LBJ — Vietnam War vs Great Society/Civil Rights advances).

In any case, I’d recently read some commentary about how GWB considers himself a present-day Harry Truman. Maybe so. Depends on your opinion of Truman, maybe. And only history will really tell how this comparison is borne out.

Interesting fact: both Harry Truman and Gerald Ford died on December 26th.

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Finally, a new TV

About a week ago, we finally replaced our reliable-but-old 27″ Sony Trinitron TV with a new 46″ Samsung DLP model.

I’d been saving and waiting for this particular TV for a couple of years, and it was worth the wait! It hooked directly to the media center via DVI/HDMI (vs S-video for the old TV) and picked right up at 1280×720 resolution.

Now we just need to get a high-def signal somehow and we’ll be golden.

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Word 2007 and Zip Code Labels

I’m dismayed to report that Word 2007 won’t print my zip code labels. <sniff>

That’s right, one of my favorite parts about sending our xmas cards out was printing the address labels. Labels that have the recipients name and mailing address. And the little zip-code scanner bars at the bottom.

Sure, I’m a huge dork for wanting to print zip code bars on all of my mailing labels. But I DO want to print zip code bars on all of my mailing labels.

And I spent easily 20 mins in the new Word 2007 looking for this feature. And then I found it. Sadly, I found it in the “Word 2007 Help” rather than in an actual feature:

Why can’t I include a POSTNET bar code or FIM-A code on envelopes or labels?

Symptoms

In an earlier version of Microsoft Office Word, I was able to get a bulk mailing discount on my mailings by inserting a POSTNET bar code, as well as a FIM-A code on envelopes and labels. In Microsoft Office Word 2007, I cannot find the options for adding these codes to my envelopes and labels.

Cause

Periodically, the United States Postal Service (USPS) changes the way it calculates postal bar codes. When this happens, bulk mail that uses the bar codes generated by Word may not be accepted by the USPS. To avoid providing bar codes that may become obsolete, Microsoft has removed this feature from Office Word 2007.

Resolution

Your bulk mailing can still qualify for a discount, but you must work with a third-party provider and the USPS.

Prepare a bulk mailing

This procedure provides general steps to follow. For more information about how to qualify for a bulk mailing discount and discount mailing services for businesses and organizations, go to the USPS Web site.

  1. Have your address list verified with the USPS through a third-party service provider.For information about third parties that provide this service, visit the Microsoft Office Marketplace on the Microsoft Office Online Web site.
  2. Assemble your bulk mailing.
  3. Use the bar code that is provided when your list is certified.
  4. Sort the mail according to USPS requirements.

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The Great Power Outage(s) of 2006

This week we lost power at home twice. Once, on Tuesday afternoon, for about 3 hours. The second time, late Thursday night through Friday for almost 24 hours.

This was pretty traumatic, and really helped to crystalize how important electricity is in our every day lives.

When we lost power on Tuesday, I was gone (to work) when it happened and it was already back on by the time I arrived home. Jodi had called to tell me about the incessant beeping of the various Uninteruptible Power Supply (UPS) units hooked to computers and electronics around the condo, but eventually these had all run out of juice and quit beeping — abruptly powering off the computers attached to them, of course. Ugh.

On Friday at 1:07am we lost power during the huge windstorm’s peak gusts. The power remained off the rest of the night, all morning and afternoon Friday, and finally came back on at 9:18pm Friday night.

We were lucky! Clearly a lot of people went through Friday night (and will probably go through Saturday night) still without power. If a large condo building (and the dozens of square blocks surrounding it) 10 minutes from the central business district of Seattle can be without power for 24 hours, it’ll be a while before the outlying areas are fixed. See, we have mostly underground power feeds here. And well trimmed trees that mostly don’t fall on the few above-ground power lines. Not so out in the suburbs.

Strangely, based on our empirical evidence driving around the area looking for a place to serve us dinner Friday night, the two areas that seemed to be least affected by the power outages were downtown Seattle (think tall building) and downtown Bellevue (again, tall buildings). Once you got away from the tall building areas more than a few blocks, power was out. I guess our building wasn’t tall enough at only 5 stories. 🙂

Yesterday was also either a great day for business or a terrible day for business, depending on whether you had power. On the “great” side, the restaurants in Seattle and Bellevue with power were all probably 150% capacity last night — everyone had to eat out with no power at home, and there weren’t a lot of choices of restaurants with power to suit this higher-than-average need for restaurants. We were looking at >1 hour wait for a table in Bellevue by 4pm. I can’t imagine how busy is must have gotten by 6 or 7! Same “great” day for Hotels with power.

The “terrible” side are those business that didn’t have power: restaurants that couldn’t even serve their typical Friday quantities – plus they were missing out on that great rush, hotels that were booked Friday night but couldn’t stay open due to no power, grocery stores that probably had some huge portion of their stock go bad during the day (or days) with no power for refrigeration, etc.

I’m glad our power is back on, and I hope the rest of the area isn’t far behind!

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Flat Stacy

Pete and Jenny’s daughter Alexa (up in Sheboygan) sent to us her paper doll “Flat Stacy” as an activity as part of her Brownie Troop. Flat Stacy is going to spend a few more days with us here in Seattle before she goes back to Wisconsin.

So far we’ve already had a number of adventures, starting last weekend with father-in-law Joe and Step-mother-in-law Amanda here in town. 🙂

For instance, we all went out for a pancake breakfast:

We took her to Microsoft campus:

And we showed her REI:

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CityView at the Space Needle

Father-in-law Joe and “wicked” step-mother-in-law Amanda were in town for a few days at the front of December. We took a trip to the top of the Space Needle to eat at the SkyCity restaurant. It was a bit foggy when we first got up there, but it cleared up quickly and we had a great view of the city for a couple of rotations while we ate (it’s one of those rotating restaurants, of course).

We spent the rest of the weekend wine tasting and showing them around the city. One fun thing was Saturday night when we were struggling to find a place that could take us for dinner without a reservation (who’d think it would be so hard in the off season, especially starting at 5pm!). We walked around downtown for 45 minutes or more and couldn’t get in anywhere that interested us. Then we found the Union Restaurant and sat in the bar just “for a drink”. And they allowed us dinner in the bar at a table with a great view of 1st Ave… and dinner was FANTASTIC! A great experience, great food, with great service. Highly recommended.

Couple of photos are posted at Doddsnet: http://www.doddsnet.com/Photos/2006/2006DadAndAmandaVisit/Default.htm

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