Archive for April, 2007

A beautiful weekend bike ride

I’d actually gone for the “first bike ride of the season” 2 weeks ago, but my Garmin Edge didn’t work quite right due to a partially-completed GPS-firmware update so I ended up without a map to post. Drat.

In any case, yesterday’s bike ride was the same course and the weather could not have been better.

I did the same “up and around through the Ballard Locks” route that I’ve grown quite fond of. It’s about 18-19 miles depending on whether I round it out with Jackson St or via Dearborn St.

April 22nd Bike Ride

According to MotionBased, I finished this 18.51 mile course in 1:36:15.

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2nd Annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

April 14: Jodi and I made it up to (our) 2nd annual Tulip Festival today, with MIL in tow. It was a bit drizzly at first, but eventually it cleared up and we had a great trip with lots of great photos. I had rented the 105mm Nikkor Macro lens this year (vs the 60mm last year) and was eager to try it out. We continued our tradition of getting a Kiwanis BBQ Salmon lunch at Hillcrest Park and then stopped at Carpenter Creek Winery on the way home!

Photos at Doddsnet:


Part 2 with the Macro Lens:

April 14: After returning from the Tulip Festival, I realized that it was a beautiful day out and I still have the 105mm Nikkor macro lens for the rest of the weekend. I spent an hour walking around the neighborhood looking for anything fun to photograph. Even though it takes great photos, this is a hard lens to work with! In the 2 years I’ve had my D70 I’ve hardly ever used the “Depth of Field” button when taking photos on Aperture priority… today I used the heck out of it to overcome the razor-thin focus in the macro shots!

Photos at Doddsnet:

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R.H. Thomson Expressway

This is definitely the longest I’ve ever sat on writing any of my blog posts. I got interested in the topic of the R.H. Thomson Expressway about 18 months ago, when I first heard the story. Then I went “onsite” almost exactly one year ago to take some photos for a blog post. I filed them away in a folder and then never got around to writing the blog post until just now. At the time I first heard about this freeway, I couldn’t find a lot of details on it. In the interim year, however, it’s been brought up in reference TONS of times due to the Pacific Interchange option in the SR520 rebuild, and even more often in connection with the recent SR99 viaduct vote. So now there are lots of reference links out there to find!

The R.H. Thomson Expressway doesn’t exist. It’s a ghost freeway. HistoryLink has some of the details. This expressway was going to be built starting in the early 60s to mirror the function of the viaduct — ie, be a huge, ugly freeway along the Seattle waterfront. Except this time, the waterfront we’re talking about was the west-side of Lake Washington rather than the east-side of Puget Sound. It was to connect from SR520 in the Arboretum down to a high-volume run on Empire Way (ie – MLK). (It also was to go north and connect to other highways, but I find that part far less onerous and far less interesting). 

Wow. What a terrible idea that would have been (spoken as someone who prefers the current Arboretum to a high-volume highway addition).

But the good news is, this was never built in-full. They got the interchanges to/from SR520 built, and then the project was scrapped after a bit of “Freeway Revolt” in the late 60s / early 70s.

These photos show the bits of the “ghost highway” that are still around from this era, at least until SR520 itself is rebuilt eventually…

  Ghost highway off-ramp
Vandalism is evidently ok though
End of the road…
… starting to get the picture? This place is wicked “naturely” except for the big concrete highway interchange…
  … a place of quiet serenity and nature, not a place for cars!

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My ATSC dilemma

I have basic cable. I have a Windows Media Center computer (still running MCE 2005, although I’ll update it to Vista one of these days when I have a free afternoon and nothing set to record).

Now, for the dilemma… I also have a nice Samsung DLP HDTV. Hooked to the media center computer over DVI and running 720p.

Why is that a dilemma? Well, because standard definition TV looks markedly LESS good on a big-screen DLP TV than it did back on the Sony 27″ CRT we used to have. Because it’s blown up much bigger onto the larger screen, I guess. Makes sense.

But it still stinks. Especially since at every level of this setup there’s no good reason why I can’t get the shows in high definition.

Except that I can’t. Well, at least not with Cable. Not to rip too much on MS or any of the other players, the short version is that currently you really only have a couple of choices:

  • Get an over-the-air (OTA) HDTV antenna and some way to get OTA HD channels into the media center
  • Buy an expensive, new media center with “CableCard” OCUR device and pay a bunch more each month to the cable company
  • Get a crappy HD DVR from the cable company and stop using media center
  • Stop watching TV and/or give up on HighDef

So, realistically I need to drop the last 2 from the list since that would defeat the whole purpose of having the MCE box (unifying all our media-music/dvds/tv through a single device). And the 2nd one is also not realistic with a baby on the way. So I guess I’m down to the first option.

Which is not actually too bad of an option… I reviewed the TV that we regularly watch and >75% of it is free broadcast channels (nightly news, NBC sitcoms, etc). 2 weeks ago I bought a small, indoor HDTV antenna and confirmed (with the tuner in the Samsung TV) that we can get pretty much all of the channels locally — benefit to living in a 4th floor condo at the top of a hill, plus, right in downtown Seattle. 🙂

Next, to get the HDTV (ATSC formatted, since it’s OTA broadcast) into the media center, I just bought an HDHomeRun. I’ll plan to follow up here once I receive it and can comment on how it works… maybe we’ll just end up canceling cable. Do you hear that, cable company?? You’re far more likely to LOSE ME AS A CUSTOMER than get me to sign up for HD cable because you’ve been part of making this whole process so frustrating and expensive.

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5 things you don’t know about me

I got tagged on my work blog for the “5 things you don’t know about me” meme…. have a look at the results!

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The Mighty and the Almighty

I recently finished Madeleine Albright’s book “The Mighty and the Almighty” (from Audible, of course). I wasn’t all that thrilled with the first part (where it seemed to me like she was justifying government working in combination with religion), but after finishing the whole book I think I’ve come around to better understand her point.

Now, disclaimer — I’ve always been a HUGE fan of Ms. Albright. She’s always struck me as very intelligent and rational, while still being a real person. I wish she was US-born and wanted to be president. I would vote for her in a second. (which was all the more reason I was a little distressed by the first part of the book).

So, where did I go wrong? What was she really saying? Well, after listening to the whole book, it seems to me like she was saying not that government should comingle more with religion, but rather that government should be more AWARE of religion and the influence of religion throughout the world. A good example of this would be that as “religious” as our current government is, it’s hopelessly tied to Christianity — not really a benefit when trying to understand cultural differences and do diplomacy with many nations around the world which as not majority Christian.

Overall, a very interesting book from a very interesting author! Highly recommended.

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Who’s cuter?

The whole world has been watching Knut the Polar Bear at the Berlin Zoo since his plight came the world’s attention a few weeks ago when his mother rejected him. And yes, without a doubt this godless, killing machine (per Stephen Colbert) is hella cute.

But is he as cute (or even cuter?) than Seattle’s own abandoned animal? That’s right… Seattle’s zoo has a tiger cub around the same time back in December who was ALSO rejected by his mother. And they’re having a naming contest right now!

The key difference is not how cute each respective fuzzy, baby animal is, I think. The reason Knut, over in Germany, is so widely known is most likely because “Animal Activists” initially suggested that the Berlin zoo should just let the polar bear cub die like it would have in the wild.

Now, although I’m a big fan of animals and love the zoo, I don’t pretend for a second to fully understand the mind of the average person who self-identifies as an “Animal Activist”. And, as might be expected, once the world opinion came down firmly on the side of NOT letting the polar bear just die, the quoted animal activist clarified that he didn’t STILL want the zoo to kill the polar bear now that the bear is a little more capable of taking care of itself.

Jodi and I were talking about this the other day, and I pointed out that if you take the “it’s a polar bear, not a human” argument from the picture, this animal activist’s argument is a bit like suggesting that if you find an abandoned crack baby in a trashbin somewhere (ok, admittedly, an extreme example)… you should just let it be. I don’t buy this argument. Not for a second. And I suspect nobody else does either.

An animal in a zoo is under the protection (and responsibility) of the zoo. I’m glad to read that both the Berlin zoo and the Seattle zoo never for a second seriously considered letting the abandoned cubs die. Whew!

Strange, strange, strange. Note that Polar Bears were recently proposed for inclusion as an Endangered Species.

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