Sunday, July 29, 2007

personality types/multiple intelligences tests

It seems every year or so, people in the blogosphere take a new version of a personality types test (think Myers-Briggs). Usually, we're all consistent from test to test and none of the results are surprising. This time around, I took the same tests as Musey, Profgrrrl, and New Kid.

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Finally, an INTJ result for me. I always thought I was, but the last few times I took the test (see notes from 2004 and 2006, although in the latter post ignore everything I said about a particular person because we haven't spoken in almost six months and I will bet you that we won't again.)

I swear I answered all the questions truthfully, and didn't try to rig it so that I turned out to be 95% Naturalist. 95% Naturalist and 50% Interpersonal sounds about right: I'd rather be outdoors than in group of people! What doesn't show on this badge is the 45% Visual/Spatial. I'm surprised it's even that high. I don't do shapes, I don't do directions, and you remember Mr. No Depth Perception from Saturday Night Live? I can relate.

I'm thinking about the people I typically hang out with and just how many of them are the exact opposite personality type. It's a wonder we all get along. Or maybe that's how it's supposed to be.


Friday, July 27, 2007

walk score

I am lucky to live in a place with a relatively high Walk Score. Chuck and Jason have both recently discussed Walk Score, with their homes having scores of 25 and 28, respectively (not walkable). Chuck thinks his score is too high and Jason thinks his is too low. My place has a Walk Score of 52 (some walkable locations) and I think it's slightly low. Both Chuck and Jason pointed out the issues with how Walk Score works (go read their posts), and the Walk Score folks themselves have both how it works and how it doesn't work pages on their site which echo some of the same issues Chuck and Jason mention.

I think Walk Score is an interesting tool and could be enhanced by turning it into a community site in which things like Chuck's comment that "If I wanted to go to a business across the street, I'd feel like I was taking my life in my hands," could be addressed. That's the sort of information not reflected in a simple "there is a business across the street +1" data point. There is a big data problem, recognized by the creators (and anyone who uses it), that their results are only as good as the data they have—in this case, Google Maps data...and that data typically excludes a lot of things on campuses, like libraries, coffeeshops, theatres, etc. That would be some of the first stuff I'd tackle if opened up for community involvement. Next would be weeding out the businesses that aren't there anymore, then adding in the ones that are. In fact, I'd be very surprised if the limited release of this tool is not simply the first step toward a community-enhanced site that would pair very well with something like Zillow or Yelp (very different audiences, but both could use the score for appropriate purposes).

But it is true: in Pullman, I walk a lot because I can. The English Dept and the Library are half a mile away, Starbucks is something like 0.3 mile away and the grocery store is just a little ways past that. My gym is 0.8 mile away. There are plenty of restaurants within, say, a 0.75 mile radius of my house: two pizza places, a McDonald's, a Jack in the Box, two or three Chinese places and a Mexican restaurant. "Downtown" is about a mile and half away—I could certainly walk there if I were so moved, and who's to say I won't be? I have to work on switching my brain to think like a person with the free time to walk if I want; I have to learn that it's ok to take the extra 15 minutes on both ends of my alloted workout time so I can walk to and from the place instead of driving.

Anyway, Walk Score—interesting concept, room for expansion, many ways to leverage the content. Good luck with that!

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"America’s Army" Coming to Arcades

Via Boing Boing: The US Army has developed a stand-up arcade version of its video-game "America's Army".

Uh, yeah. 1984 called. They want their video game back.

[I had to make a new tag for this! Welcome to the "snark" tag.]


settling in and backyard birds

I've been in Pullman for nearly a month. A month from now, classes will have started and I'll be buried in academic endeavors once more. I've bought all my books and am going to start reading on August 1st. That's also the day I switch from being an employee to a contractor at my job. All that really means is that I don't have to sit around waiting for work to come in, disallowed from wandering very far away from the computer. Instead, I'll get up and do work in the morning and then if there's an emergency and I'm not in class I'll get called to do it. That's a huge difference [and we rarely have emergencies]. Of course, so is the salary. :) But it's cool... long as I sell my house, which has yet to sell. I know it's only been a month and it's not a seller's market, but it's freaking me out just a little bit. I can probably muddle through to the end of the year paying a mortgage and HOA fees for an empty condo, but that would wipe out all my savings. Then again, it's almost all interest and I'll get it back in taxes. Sigh. Whatever. I just need it to sell. Anyone want a nice 1BR condo in San Jose with all new appliances in a quiet, safe, gated community? Just holler. I have one. Comes with ducks, occasional geese, squirrels, and a lot of birds if you put out a feeder.

But back to Pullman. My duplex is craptastic in its college-town kind of way, so I like it a lot. It's very spacious and even in the 90+ degree heat that's been here for almost the entire month, I've figured out how to keep it relatively cool. I will very likely be here as long as I'm in Pullman. The only downer is the old fellow next door. He's a perfectly nice old fellow, legally blind but gets around just fine, and he's quiet, and he's lived in the other half of this place for something like 15 years. And he's a heavy smoker. I knew this going in, and when I talked to the people who lived here before me they said that they could only occasionally smell the smoke because recently the landlady triple-insulated all the common walls and such. But on certain days, depending on the breeze, his carcinogens invade my space. Living in California probably made me ultra-sensitive to smoke, since there's very little of it in public spaces in California (unless you're standing near a certain Medievalist in the SJSU English Dept!). So on some days my apartment smells like Renuzit "Sunny Laundry" air freshener plus smoke. Oh well. If that's the only negative I've encountered so far here, I'm doing ok.

The dude's smoke hasn't kept the birdies from visiting my feeder. Indeed, the paranoid birds are much less paranoid now. In addition to the very common black-capped chickadee, the feeder also has attracted the red-breasted nuthatch and the common robin. I've seen upwards of three birds on the feeder at one time so I think they've gotten used to it and me. There are two squirrels who take turns at the squirrel feeder (a bowl of seeds just for them so they don't bother the birds), and the other day I saw a rabbit in the yeard in the early morning. The cats are happy to have KittyTV back, even if it's not to the same extent as the wildlife preserve that was my patio in California. The local magpies swoop over the yard and hang out in the trees, but they haven't eaten from the feeder. I think it's too refined for their tastes; they prefer the neighbor's garbage can.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge

Pine Lake Loop TrailAfter visiting Steptoe Butte, I kept on driving north to Cheney (45 more miles or so) and Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. The primary inhabitants of the refuge are birds, specifically waterfowl. I do not possess the skills or patience to photograph birds (and I didn't try), but I saw and heard many different types.

My love of duckies has been documented before. At Turnbull, there were several different kinds of ducks, geese, and swans. Most of them were hanging out in the Pine Creek area; there's a short loop trail that goes around the area and as I walked around it, the waterfowl would shift to a different part of the lake. A gaggle of geese was so offended by my presence that they just got up and flew off and didn't return until I left the trail. I did see a lovely bluebird in a tree, though.

On the trail, I saw a lot of mammal poop. However, the only mammals I saw were the eight million or so chipmunks that appear to be the official park guides. The lack of large mammal sighting was not unexpected; the trail was paved, after all, so it wasn't like I was in the deep forest. There are three longer trails that go along the outskirts of the refuge, away from the paved area and away from the gravel (loud) road. I'm sure there are mammals back there, and I'll see them when I go back to Turnbull in a couple weeks and drag my buddy Mary along with me—she's dumping her husband for a few days and coming up to hang out before school starts and she has to teach a bunch of freshmen. But I digress.

The bulk of visitors to Turnbull follow the 5.5 mile gravel "auto tour," and I did the same. Along the way, there are little stops with short little walks out toward ponds and what not. I took advantage of the ones at Pine Lake, the Kepple Lake overlook, and Blackhorse Lake. When I go back, we'll do the 30-Acre Lake trail through the middle of the auto tour area, but also the Headquarters Trail to the end of Cheever Lake and the Bluebird Trail which I believe houses a ton of bluebirds.

Although I didn't see any large mammals in Turnbull, it really is a lovely place for a walk or three. I got my mammal fix in on the drive home. Somewhere between Plaza and Rosalia on the drive back down 195, two deer were walking through the fields just twenty or thirty feet from the highway. Then, just after the llama farm in Colfax, I looked over to the left at a bunch of trees on the hillside and thought of the shade and cover they provided and thought, "If I were a deer, that would be a lovely place to hang out." No joke, a deer then walked out from under the trees.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Steptoe Butte

Steptoe Butte 6/7         Steptoe Butte 4/7

I did not climb to the top of Steptoe Butte. I think I could have, using the "mad scramble" method, but I am not mad and I don't really like to scramble. Instead, I took the winding road all the way to the top.

Steptoe Butte has an elevation of 3612 feet and is 1000 feet higher than the surrounding fields, making it the highest point in the area; there are plenty of antennae on top of it to attest to that fact. The views, as you can see if you embiggen the pictures above or look at the entire set, are spectacular (trust me on little digital camera doesn't do them justice). In this photo, you can see Mt. Spokane in the distance—a 75+ miles away distance.

The road to the top winds around the butte, and it lacks a guardrail on the outer edge. I was already going slowly because of all the birds and chipmunks on the road, but even if the road lacked wildlife I would have been going slowly because roads without guardrails freak me out a little bit. When I got to the top, I gave a little sigh of relief and took these pictures. Going back down was not as freaky as going up, because I could hug the inside with no fear of falling off the outside. I coasted the entire way down the butte.

The coolest bird I saw was a black-headed grosbeak. Very colorful! As far as mammals go, I saw approximately one million chipmunks and two yellow-bellied marmots.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

plans for sunday

I'm going to Steptoe Butte and then up to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Anyone want to come with?

I'm just having a blast up here in the middle of nowhere. I have rooms with beds and futons, plenty of food and water, etc. If any of you need a refuge from stuff, consider this a standing invitation to visit!

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palouse falls

Palouse FallsMost of the localish state parks and hiking areas are more in the north and central parts of the state (and then of course there's the entire western side), which means a lot of driving. This morning I went for a drive to see just how long it takes to go x number of miles on these country roads—I knew it would take less time than Google Maps said it would, but I wanted to check it out for myself. True enough, when I went off to the Palouse Falls overlook (84 miles away), it took just over an 75 minutes and not the 120 minutes that Google Maps said.

Palouse RiverPalouse Falls is a state park but it's really just a grassy area for picnics and not-very-rough camping. The overlook is fenced off, but I read of some unofficial trails that you can scramble down to get to the bottom of the falls. Although I wanted to go to the bottom, I did not want to scramble down rocks filled with rattlesnakes. Not only are there rattlesnakes, but then there's the climbing back up. I'm not an idiot; I took my photos from the fence around the parking lot.

The Palouse River flows over this 200-foot waterfall and through the Palouse River Canyon on its way to the Snake River (just a few miles south). To get there, you have drive a few miles through a wilderness range. I didn't see any mammals in the range, but I did see two wild turkeys.

Once you arrive at the little park, you see signs about rattlesnakes. Given my incredible fear of snakes [childhood incidents], I always wondered what I'd do when actually faced with one [calmly step aside? run screaming like a little girl?]. Didn't know today would be the day I would find out! The answer is: I swear and quickly step away. Hey! No screaming like a little girl!

So that was kind of cool.


obligatory small-furry-creature photo for karen

[click to embiggen]
This is a Yellow-Bellied Marmot. It was hanging out in the rocks at Palouse Falls.

The marmot was part of a can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees lesson. As I was looking at the falls, I almost missed this little furry creature right in front of me [was probably ten feet away].

After I took this picture and walked away toward my car, I thought "there's a lesson here about not being distracted by the bigger things, and enjoying the little things too."

At that very moment, a loud rattle sounded and I swore and took a quick step away...away from the western rattlesnake in the grass a foot away from me.

There is no photo of the rattlesnake, sorry.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

shakespeare people: go talk to my friend jim

My buddy Jim ruminates on literature and language way too much for a guy who says he's going to law school instead of into a PhD program. He also blogs these things, but since his online persona is a hell of a lot more shy than his real life persona, he doesn't get a lot of traffic or blog comments.

So, while my stupid posts on things like rain and food and driving a long way get lots of eyeballs and comments, his posts on Othello and Lear go unnoticed and that's a tragedy. [heh, get it? tragedy? ha.]

I admit that I feel like an impostor sometimes, as I'm the one studying literature but I haven't really written about the stuff I work on and when I do it's not some brilliant piece of prose, but he just pops off with these ruminations as "just" a regular guy.

Jackass. :)


rain! and cooking

As a rule, I like weather. I like seasons and I like rain. Living in California for the eleven or so of the last fourteen years, I've missed things like seasons and rain. When I moved to Washington I was thrilled to know that there are actual seasons up here...and as soon as I arrived the area plunged into a record-setting heat wave. Fires broke in the wilderness regions of the northwest. Listening to the news, it appears as if all of eastern Washington and western Idaho is on fire, plus a little bit of Montana for good measure [it's not].

But! Last night it rained! Actual accumulated precipitation combined with cooler temperatures. Outstanding! Spectacular! The cats are sitting at the screen door wondering what all the dripping is about. They're intrigued. But then they wander off to the Book Room (aka the Cat Food and Litter Room) and play with their new catnip toys and couldn't care less about the rain. But I still do. Rain! Rain! Lovely rain!

Cooler temperatures also brings about a new enjoyment for cooking. Since I arrived here, I've cooked a bunch of things as part of my new save money/don't eat takeout/eat healthier/lose a ton of weight in the next four years life plan. But it's been hot hot hot and cooking has not been enjoyable. But this morning I made oatmeal instead of cold cereal and it was good good good.

Other things I've made since I've been here include my old standby of boiled cabbage, potatoes, and sausage. I love that stuff. It's from my childhood, although no one in our family is Irish so I'm not sure how that happened. I am also a fan of cube steak. It's cheap and quick. That's also from my childhood. And yes, for the record, I also like liver and onions. Sheesh, looking at that list you'd think we were poor, but we weren't. Just frugal.

I also had the opportunity to make some of my favorite risotto dishes, such as Risotto with Sage, Prosciutto, and Mozzarella. I also made a new (to me) recipe: Spring Risotto with Peas and Asparagus. Good stuff! Very minty and lemony without being overbearing. The next risotto recipe I'm going to make is Beet and Beet Greens Risotto with Red Wine.

I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get good stuff up here, since the area lacks a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. But the IGA and Safeway have proven just fine for everything I need, and their "organics" aisles are the same size as the stores in San Jose. There's also a food co-op in Moscow for more organic and local stuff, and the Moscow farmer's market is small but has good stuff.

Funny anecdote about the farmer's market...I had my eyes on a big, luscious cabbage and when I pointed at it and said "I'd like that one, please," the farmer who grew it apologized for it's size. She said, "it's really dense, lots of leaves, so it's heavy." I said, "awesome!" and she said, "but it's $2 per pound and it's three pounds" and I said, "that's why I picked it! and please don't apologize for your produce!" and she laughed. Maybe you had to be there, but I haven't ever encountered someone who apologized for their produce when it was big and healthy and wonderful. When I moved to the next table and picked up a bag of red potatoes "right from the ground" (so said the label), I knew this farmer's market might be small but it had all the things I like: lots of herbs and lots of root vegetables. Those potatoes were the best red potatoes I ever had, too.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

a friend from the past pops up out of the blue

It was just a few days ago, in a post about waking up early, that I said "The day before our comprehensive exam in the English Dept. as undergrads, a few of us drove from Staunton to Charlotte and back [274mi each way]." The next day, and unrelated to reading that line, one of the people on that drive friended me on Facebook! Totally out of the blue, and really cool. At least I think she was one of the four people on the trip. If she wasn't, it doesn't matter, because she's someone I randomly think about every so often. She was one of my best school chums for awhile.

20-minute-cliff, aka milepost 19 on the blue ridge parkwayAnd now that I think about it, it wasn't the day before our exams. It was darn close to it though. [Cut me some slack. It was 15 years ago!] The day before our exams, we went to 20 Minute Cliff. During Spring semester, a bunch of us would go up to 20 Minute Cliff, aka milepost 19 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and just hang out and read. Here's a 360-degree virtual tour, and over the wall, which you can't see in this photo or the virtual tour, is a large white rock (the top of the cliff). The cliff face itself is a straight drop down. It's not terribly high. I've walked to the bottom and looked up (not being a climber, I've never climbed up the cliff, but people do). The cliff is so named because in the summertime, the setting sun hits the cliff 20 minutes before it goes down behind the mountains. So, back in the olden days the farmers in the valley below would know when to start packing it up and heading back to the homestead. Most people think spots in the mountains + college kids = drinking, but we didn't do anything of the sort. We read. So, the day before the comprehensive exam, a few of us took our Shakespeare/Chaucer/Milton and hung out all day on the cliff. I don't think we actually read all that much, but it was less stressful than sitting in the library.

The Blue Ridge Parkway parallels the Appalachian Trail. One thing we all knew about our friend Nina was that her goal was to hike the AT. As years passed and I fell out of touch with everyone (that happened almost immediately, actually), there were just a few people I wondered about and Nina was one of them. I wondered if she ever hiked the AT. She sure did, in 2000. Here's her trail journal; it's a good read.

It's not a surprise that her trail journal's a good read, as she was the best of the English majors at our wee school. She was the only one who achieved super-special honors on her comprehensive exam, and all the faculty loved her. Me? I did not achieve super-special honors and only half the faculty loved me. I think they were all disappointed when I was the one to go to a PhD program (which I immediately quit) and not Nina. But hey, I'm in one now...I just needed those 15 years to get my head on straight.

Anyway, Nina went off and wrote a book, too: 50 Hikes in Louisiana. And she seems to have married a totally swell fellow who, oh, just freaking walked across America.

I am happy to have found my old friend Nina. She has a blog which I know several of you will like, so go check it out.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

morning hike at Kamiak Butte

Pine Ridge Trail 9 of 12One of the best things about being an early riser is that you can easily do fun things while avoiding the hottest part of the day. This morning, for instance, I was the first person at Kamiak Butte County Park when the ranger opened the gate at 7am.

I knew it would be a good hike when three deer turned to look at me as I drove into the park. They were big deer, too: mule deer. I thought they might be mule deer since they sure looked like the ones we saw in Yosemite (and, of course, they had big ears) in March, but these were brown. The interwebs later told me that mule deer are tan/brown in summer and grey in the winter/spring. I also narrowly avoided running over what I believe was a pheasant sitting by the road having a meal.

The Pine Ridge Trail is a 3.5 mile loop trail with approximately 1300 feet of elevation gain over the first 1.5 miles. You first head up a lovely trail to the top of the butte. Along the way, you can see grasslands below you, getting smaller and smaller as you head on up to the top.

Once at the top you have a great view of Steptoe Butte in the distance, and even Pullman if you squint—Pullman is approximately 11 miles away and today visibility was supposed to be 10 miles, but it was a little hazy due to some lightning strikes last night that turned into grass fires.

After spending time with the lovely views, you continue on along the ridge for 1.2 miles and then descend through a dense pine forest (with well-maintained trails, I might add) to the trailhead.

I met three people on my little saunter, all very nice folks. Not only are people nice in general up here, but I've found hikers to be friendly in general. Sure, I have a really small sample size, but it seems to me that people out for a saunter are more likely to say howdy than if you met those same people in the middle of their urban habitant.

I was back to my car by 8:45 (I'm slow and I'm ok with that). I drove home, took a shower, and headed off to the Moscow Farmer's Market. I bought a bunch of stuff, including some awesome red potatoes "just out of the ground this morning!" I do love me some potatoes; moving next to Idaho is going to work out just fine!

Tomorrow I might go to Steptoe Butte—it's really close. I think next weekend I'm going to take a long drive over to the Ginkgo Petrified Forest.


Friday, July 13, 2007

kitchen-related shopping alerts at Simply Recipes

I'm totally lame for not mentioning this sooner, but it's not like the blog I'm about to praise lacks readers—there are something like 239,000 subscribers to the feed.

Anyway, not only is Simply Recipes great for recipes and other foody tips, but Elise puts out shopping alerts whenever some truly outstanding item is on sale at a deep discount.

Today's alert is a KitchenAid Mixer. I already have one, thanks to generous parents, but I did partake of the last alert (in May) to get a KitchenAid Knife Set at almost $100 off the regular price. I love that knife set. I also used her alert to get a Calphalon Everyday Pan for $29. It normally retails for $168!!

So if you like to cook and you like nice things in addition to good recipes, subscribe to the Simply Recipes feed.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

i never did write about the drive to pullman

I've moved quite a bit in the last fifteen years or so, and even Max (my eldest cat) has approximately 10,000 car miles under his belt (if cats had belts). My Dad was a truck driver (of the local variety, not long-haul) and I would go with him when I was really little and "help drive," which if I remember correctly was probably really dangerous. But it was the 70s. Whatever. The upshot is that I probably inherited his stamina for driving. It used to be nothing for me to hop in the car and drive from Durham to Atlanta for a day and then turn around and come back the next [384mi each way]. The day before our comprehensive exam in the English Dept. as undergrads, a few of us drove from Staunton to Charlotte and back [274mi each way]. Basically, driving doesn't bother me.

But those trips were a long time ago, and the drive to Pullman would be1000 miles in a straight shot with stops only for gas. Up until two weeks or so before the trip, I was going to do it alone (the person driving the truck would be on her own schedule because trucks are hard to drive and don't contain cats). But one Friday night over Cosmopolitans I asked my friend and frequent commenter, Mary, if she wanted to come with. Her husband piped up right away with "Yes! You should go." I wonder what he had planned for the days she'd be gone?!?!? [just kidding] So now I had a buddy to go with me.

As for the route, I was going to go the way Google Maps said...until the day before we left and my thesis adviser and all-around good guy (and travel planner) said "Oh no. I think you should go this other way." I should mention that his son just graduated from a university in Salem OR, and the family also had just returned from a driving tour of the NW to look at colleges for his younger son, so the man knows of what he speaks. So I changed the route.

Boy howdy am I glad I changed the route. The one we were going to take, courtesy of Google Maps, would have been absolutely idiotic to take in the middle of the night or when time is of the essence, as it took us off-freeway. What's on the freeway? Higher speed limits and regular gas stations, for one thing. I don't know what the hell I was thinking.

So, my mentor profs sent me off with a new route and a bag of plums from their yard.

Fast-forward through the packing and cat-drugging (Max didn't get drugged because he's used to this and he's old; Deuce got drugged because she needs it for stressful things like 16 hours in the car) and leaving-town errands, and we started off on our trip at 1pm on Saturday. I think I ate three plums before we got out of San Jose.

The first traffic issue was twenty miles or so into our trip. You see, the county contracts with a farmer/goatherder and sends hundreds of goats out onto the hillsides next to the freeway so they can eat up all the vegetation so that it won't catch on fire as things in California are wont to do. Apparently, Californians haven't ever seen goats before; the traffic slowdown/stoppage was purely for people rubbernecking at the goats...and then rear-ending people in front of them. Idiots.

Basically, it took us three hours to get from San Jose to Benicia...a trip that usually takes an hour. So we stopped to relieve ourselves/stretch and headed onward. However, I could only make it 40 more miles or so before I HAD TO STOP RIGHT NOW, complete with cold sweats and clenched hands around the steering wheel.

You know what plums turn into, later in life, yeah? Yeah.

Before leaving the gas station in Winters, we sacrificed the remainder of the plums to any squirrels or other animals who might want a feast. After that, it was smooth sailing into the Mt. Shasta region of California. I'd never been north on I-5, and had never seen Mt. Shasta, so it was pretty cool except for the fact that there was very little snow on it. Mary remarked that she'd never seen it so bare.

From that point, it was just freeway freeway freeway freeway freeway through northern California and into Oregon. Cats were awesome; Max was mouthy and Deuce was totally blissed out on her drugs. Somewhere around midnight and Salem, I offered a little litter box to Max and he dutifully peed in it. Deuce looked at me like I was insane. Max drank a little water, and again Deuce looked at me like I was insane. My vet said to offer water but not to be surprised or worried when they don't drink it. So I wasn't. But then a few miles later Max made a weird noise and I stopped the car again and checked him out. Turns out it was just his "I'm tired of being in this crate, so I shall puke a little bit on my blanket" noise. He was fine.

Sometime around 1am, Mary took over for a few hours so that I could at least pretend to get some sleep. I did, in between snoring and waking up and asking if everything was ok. I'm not a good passenger in my own car. Heck, I'm not a good passenger in other cars either, as I typically fall asleep on the ride from San Francisco to Mountain View after a baseball game. But I digress. Mary was fine.

I took over the car again sometime around 4am, I think. We were in Washington by then. When she was driving and I was asleep, Mary got to see the entire Columbia River Gorge by moonlight. She said it was really pretty, and imagine what it would look like in the daytime! So I picked back up in the wheatfields. Wheat wheat wheat wheat wheat and then voila: Pullman. We dropped off the cats; I set up their food and water and litter and left them in the room they'd stay in for several days while people were here and things were being moved in. Then we went to Denny's.

The truck with my stuff eventually showed up, and we moved things out of it, then everyone stayed at my house until Tuesday when I took them to the Spokane Airport. Remarkably, Mary's already planning a trip back here because it's just such a nice and calm little place!


early risers

In a set of meme responses, Flavia wonders: "Why do people seem to believe that those who get up early are more virtuous and more efficient than those who get up late?"

As one of those people who get up early [really, really early], I would just like to say that I do not think I'm more virtuous or more efficient than someone who gets up late. Not at all. I know I'm far more efficient with this schedule than any other schedule, but that's the end of my thoughts on the subject. I had a friend once who lived by this motto: "You do what you do." He was a flamboyantly gay meth addict artist coffeeshop owner, so such a motto referenced a whole lot more "do" for him than it did for me...but it still works.

My early-rising stems from never really being a good sleeper (ask my parents!). I figured why the heck not just get up if I couldn't sleep. During my elementary school years, I spent large chunks of time living with one grandmother or another. The one grandmother was a notorious early riser (in the 4am range) so she could go to early Mass. When I lived with her, the early rising worked out because she'd have breakfast all ready for me before I went off to school. School was a leisurely half-mile walk through downtown and I had plenty of time to get there [and yes, because I'm a geek, I did just go googlemap my route].

In college, I almost always had classes first thing in the morning. Since I shoved eight semesters of classes into approximately five semesters, my schedule was jam-packed and thus had to start at the earliest times. Getting up was never really an issue.

What really started my early-rising-as-lifestyle-choice was when I worked at Sun Microsystems in the mid-90s. That job was the first time I really had an on-the-freeways commute with the gajillions of people in Silicon Valley during bubble time. After a week or so of a hellish commute, I decided that 8-5 wasn't going to work for me and switched to 6-3. The new timeframe worked not only for me but for the people I worked with, who at the time were in either Ireland or Asia. I was the Document Localization Writer/Manager for a certain set of OS docs, and I had to coordinate with the folks in Asia and Ireland quite a bit via phone; 6-3 catches both timezones a lot better than 8-5 does.

I've kept up the early rising/early working deal since then, and currently at my job we have specific things that have to be done for a client at 5am three times per week. Throw in other 5am things that have to be done on other days or sometimes the same day, and some things that have to be done at 2am, and what you have is a boss who is happy to have someone who naturally gets up early. And no, these are not tasks I could automate, unfortunately, for several boring reasons that have nothing to do with us. So I get up early. Like 4:30am early. I often get all my work done for the day by noonish, and end up sitting around for five more hours waiting for someone to dump work on us at the last minute because they can't plan [sorry, peeve].

I don't think I'm better than anyone just because I like being done with my work and like to take a nap in the afternoons. In fact, I think I'm pretty lame because I typically fall asleep before most young children do, and if I do sleep in and get up at 8 or 9 or whatever, I'm screwed up for the rest of the day and don't get anything done.

So, you do what you do. BUT! If I'm in your department, you can always count on me to teach the 7:30am classes that you don't want to teach, so...bonus for everyone!


Monday, July 9, 2007

ten minute walk

It's a ten minute walk from the English Department building [henceforth known as Avery] to my house.

Note I said "from"...that's because I'm an idiot and managed to take just about every wrong turn possible on the walk to Avery and it took 30-40 minutes.

But hey! Now I know where to walk. End of the street, turn right, then left, then right, then left. Easy peasy. And ten minutes.


paranoid birds

I swear, the birds in Pullman are totally paranoid.

You know how I like teh nature, yeah? One of the first things I purchased was a birdfeeder...not just any birdfeeder but the kind on a pole with plenty of seed and suet. Hanging from one side is a finch feeder (the mesh sack) and from the other side is a hummingbird feeder.

How many birds have alighted upon this feeder? Zero. How many birds have flown around it a few times or stepped up to it and then flown off? Several.

I don't think it's because it's crap stuff. I think it's because it's such a cool feeder that they believe it to be some sort of trap.

It's not a trap! I just like to feed the birds! Come on birdies...visit!

UPDATE A Black-capped Chickadee has visited. Unlike the birds that visited my patio in California, this bird flies over, takes one seed and flies away, then returns moments later.


Sunday, July 8, 2007

that whirlwind trip to yosemite

[This trip happened on June 22nd, before I moved to Washington. I've been working on this post since then, because I am a dork and because I had eighty-seven billion things to do.]

We had grand plans for all the stuff we could fit into a one-day trip to Yosemite, but we ended up only doing some of them and still managed to have a great time. Imagine that! I plan to come back a lot, though, so it's cool.

The plan was to head out at 5am. I set my alarms for 4am and 430am. At 4am I figured I'd get up fully at 430...except the 430 alarm didn't sound. So at 5 til 5 I jumped off the couch, brushed teeth, said goodbye to the cats, and headed to the gas station/atm and finally to my friends' house to pick them up. We were only half an hour off a schedule really matters when you're going off into the wilderness.

We made good time on the road and stopped at Denny's for breakfast [because who doesn't love breakfast!?!?] then zoomed onward to Yosemite. We were struck by the lack of cars on the road, even within the park. So we changed plans on the fly and decided to go around the Valley floor and take some photos. We assumed it would be packed with people since it was the end of June after all, but I would say there were only about 30% more people than when we were there in March (and it was empty then).

We walked to the bottom of Bridalveil Fall but didn't get wet. Not even misty! However, I did meet a fellow from Scotland (I remarked "wow, someone's a little Scottish!" when I was eavesdropping on his conversation; he was probably happy someone recognized the accent and didn't think he was Irish). He was a chaperone for a group of teens from Scotland who won some sort of environmental studies award named for Muir, and their prize was a trip to Yosemite! Makes a lot of sense.

Bridalveil FallWe drove around the Valley floor and took some photos, such as the one seen here of Bridalveil [embiggen]. Compare the water flow in that photo to this one from March. What a difference!

You can compare the flow of Yosemite Falls as well. Check out the photo here and compare it to this one from March. Wherefore art thou, snowpack?

El Capitan from Valley FloorAs you can see in this photo of El Capitan, taken from El Cap Meadow, the weather was spectacular [embiggen]. We stopped momentarily at Tunnel View on our way to Glacier Point Road, where most of the action of the day was to take place. Speaking of action, I SAW A BEAR. Sure, I was in the car and did not stop at the meadow in which the bear was casually eating, but it was indeed a bear. There are no other round brown furry blobs in Yosemite, and besides there were others who did stop at the side of the road to see the bear. I figured doing the same would be bad bear karma.

Next, we stopped at Washburn Point. The Yosemite Hikes page for Washburn Point is hilarious, as it dutifully lists "Hike Distance" as "20 stair steps." Mary disputes this; she says it's 22. It's amazing the number of Yosemite highlights you can see from here. There's Clark Range, Red Peak and Mt. Starr King, Vernal & Nevada Falls, and Half Dome, among other peaks off in the distance like Lyell, which was one of the only ones with visible snow/glacier. At this time of the year, only the very highest peaks are still frosty.

Hanging Rock at Glacier PointWe continued down the road to Glacier Point, where you can stand and take photo after photo after photo, much like we did! At the end of Glacier Point is the Hanging Rock [embiggen], where crazy people used to go stand on the end of it. No way! I got a neat photo of the Mirror Lake/Tenaya Creek area; we hiked this 5+ mile loop in March. You're so high at Glacier Point that when you look down on Yosemite Falls they look teeeeeeny tiny.

After our time at Glacier Point, we went back down the road to the Taft Point/Sentinel Dome trailhead. We planned to do both, but after the first one we were plum tuckered out (I know it would have only been two more miles, but hey....all the better to use as an excuse to come back!).

Approaching Taft Point and the FissuresThe trail to Taft Point listed is a lovely saunter first out in the open and then under the cover of trees until you emerge into the open again. Once in the open again, you can walk along the cliff edge. I don't know why I wasn't scared, seeing as how a fall from here would kill me, but I wasn't [embiggen]. Crazy Mary wasn't scared at all. In the distance in this photo, you can see people standing at the railing at Taft Point. View Approaching Taft Point and the Fissures When approaching the point, if you turn your head to the right you have a hell of a view of the big peaks in the distance (Lyell is one of them, I think). When you look down, you can see the fissures. Here are some photos. I like the description given by the Yosemite Hikes folks: "These immense vertical gashes in the valley wall were caused, it is generally believed, by an epic battle between Mothra and Godzilla, during which Mothra slashed at his scaly foe but missed and raked his talons against the cliffside instead." I am sure that geologists would dispute the explanation, but I like it.

Approaching the Railing at Taft PointThere's nothing left to do but face your fears and step up to the railing at Taft Point. I did, but I couldn't take the final step and stand at the front railing. I stood approximately a foot and a half behind the front railing. Thus, all my photos from Taft Point, such as this one of El Capitan, have the railing in it. Oh well! Next time I'll do better. From Taft Point there are awesome views of El Capitan, the Three Brothers, Yosemite Falls, and then if you walk around to the left of the point, to a cliff without a railing, you have great views of Cathedral Rocks. So we went over there and Mary pretended she was sliding off the cliff while her husband smiled, seemingly unaware of it all. She's a ham, that one, because it's a hell of a long way down!

We spent about forty-five minutes hanging out at 7503 and then walked back. We were headed down to Wawona and to Mariposa Grove, but we stopped at the general store for some water (and ice cream) and decided we were all tired and besides it was late in the day and we'd have to rush through just one part of the grove...all the more reason to save it for another day.

Dusty and sunburned and happy, we drove off through the Central Valley and were back home by 10pm. If there's one thing I regret about my time in California, it's in a) not realizing just how close I actually lived to Yosemite, and b) not making cavort-in-the-wilderness friends sooner.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

holiday traffic

Yeah, so...there isn't any. There isn't any traffic ever.

I'm sure that will change when students are here, but it'll never be like what I was used to in California. There were twice as many people living in San Jose than live in all of Eastern Washington, I think. How strange to imagine that.

I took my friends to the Spokane airport yesterday, and took this photo on the way home. The drive is approximately 70 miles of what you see in this photo.

[sorry about the windshield bugs in the photo]


Sunday, July 1, 2007

arrived safely

We are now in Pullman (well, I am here, Mary-the-copilot is here, and my kitties are here. the truck is not...the driver is taking her time because it's a hell of a time driving a truck!).

Kitties were champs! More in a few days.