Sunday, January 15, 2012
Sunday, January 08, 2012
Year in Review - 2011
1/14 - Added a section on Camp Olson
Happy New Year to everyone. I'm finally writing up a "year in review" story, which is also kind of a holiday/Christmas card. I haven't done this for a few years, but it seemed like a good time to look back.
After 13 years, our Subaru Outback died (head gasket). The sad thing is we actually tried to fix it. This was the car that had taken us 165,000 miles, the car that carried our two children home from the hospital after they were born.
Then there was that dark and stormy night in December, 2010, when the Outback overheated before I got to the 520 bridge. I had to pull over to that bus stop right before the bridge. The head gasket had blown for the last time.
It was time to buy a new car. Here's a picture of Cameron and me on the way to picking up our new car -- the last picture of us with the old Outback:
Here we are with the new one:
Unfortunately, this car would go on to have two accidents in 2011 -- one of them involving major body work. Here's what it looked like after I was hit in that first accident (it might not look at that bad, but this was $6000+ in damage):
If you see a truck driving around from InfraSource in your neighborhood, a sub-contractor for Puget Sound Energy, give them a lot of space. They don't like to take responsibility for their employees who make right-hand turns from the left lane.
Semiahmoo - February
Brenda and I took the kids up to Semiahmoo for one night in February. There are three things I'll remember from this trip:
1. The indoor/outdoor pool with the steam rising into the cool air (actually, it was also raining).
2. The juvenile bald eagle we saw as we drove the jetty to the hotel. I thought it was a golden eagle, but the wife of colleague who studies birds identified it for me:
3. The spicy burger I ate at Packers restaurant that practically blew my head off!
Lake Chelan - June
For the past 11 years, we've gone to Lake Chelan for a conference that Brenda directed. This was our last one, as Brenda was laid off from her job in the fall. But we plan to return to Chelan again in the summer, as it's become a tradition.
Here's a picture of Cameron returning from an afternoon swim:
Here's a picture of Drew discovering the joys of the hot tub at twilight:
Hawaii - Maui - July
We took a vacation to Hawaii this year (our third trip there since 2005). Instead of going in the winter, we traveled in July for about two and a half weeks. We stayed in three places, including: Kihei, Hana, and Kaanapali. We'd never been to Maui, but I'm starting to think this is the best island for what I like to do (mostly snorkeling). But there's so much diversity on this island, with a 10,000 foot mountain, a rain forest, and some amazing beaches.
You can read about the first half here (I'm still working on the second half).
Ocean Shores, WA - August
We hadn't been to Ocean Shores in a while. And now I remember why. The vibe of this place just doesn't work for me, compared to places like Canon Beach and Manzanita, Oregon. But we had fun digging holes on the beach and flying kites.
Camp Olson in the Tri-Cities
There were a few journeys to the Tri-Cities this year: one in August and one in September. Brenda took the boys in August for "Camp Olson," which involved long days in Grandma and Grandpa's swimming pool. I joined them on the weekend, and we celebrated cousin Jennifer's birthday with lots of family, including a surprise visit by Uncle Gordy (AKA Freddy Pink) and cousin Sean.
In September, I took Cam and Drew to see Grandma and Grandpa and also visit with Dan, Kim, and their kids, who flew in from Arizona to celebrate Dan's Mom's 70th. While I'd seen Dan and Kim a lot in the past few years, Cam and Drew hadn't. Grandpa blasted the heater in the pool and we got in one last swim before Grandpa closed the pool.
Cain Lake - September
Brenda took Drew and two friends up to see her Mom and Gar in September. There was much playing in the water.
What we did on our birthdays
This was the year Brenda and I turned 44. When my Mom turned 44, my brother came up with a funny trumpet-like way of saying "forty-fouuuurrrr." Because this has become a legendary joke in my family, I thought we should celebrate 44 as a major birthday milestone. So we went to Maui.Drew had his 6th birthday at Chuck E. Cheese (a rite of passage for any kid).
For my birthday, we went to the "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination" exhibit (although it wasn't on my birthday). This was one of the coolest exhibits I've ever seen, with many original models from all six movies.
For Brenda's birthday (also in May), we did a bunch of stuff around Seattle, including a visit to Cupcake Royale in Ballard:
Finally, for Cameron's 11th birthday (yes, also in May), we went to Great Wolf Lodge with three of his friends. The waterpark was one of the loudest places I've ever been.
Alan White Interview
In October, I interviewed one of my drum heroes, Alan White, for a lengthy, technical drum discussion for his website. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that seemed a little surreal at the time. I found Alan to be a genuine, talented, funny person with so many great ideas and anecdotes about his life, drumming for Yes, and much more. I'm pleased with the results, and I'm glad a lot of the fans have enjoyed the interview. I'm working on a longer story about this experience that I'll publish on this blog soon.
Cameron's first Jazz performance and drum solo
Cameron joined the Jazz band at his school, which meets after school for two hours twice a week. At his first concert, he surprised me with his confidence and swing behind a drum kit (and I wasn't the only one who noticed). As I told people, I knew he could play drums, but playing with a big band in front of hundreds of people is another story. It takes a lot to perform like that. He even had a few solo fills. It's amazing to watch your kids start to do things you never did (I was never good enough on the drums to play in Jazz during Jr. High and High School).
Earlier in the year, Cameron played in his school's talent night. He played a drum solo in front of a lot of people (again, something I haven't done). You can watch it here:
Rush - Time Machine Part 2 - Phoenix and The Gorge
Once again Rush traveled around the United States, Canada, and Europe on the second leg of their "Time Machine" tour. I saw two shows in 2011, both of them better than the 2010 shows. While I blogged about the first in Phoenix, I didn't write about the show at the Gorge, the last of the tour. One reason was I went to Hawaii shortly after that concert. But another reason was it was such a magical show that I didn't think I'd be able to put it into words. Instead, I posted pictures and a video.
Famous people who stopped by my work
Tom Brokaw stopped by my work to talk about his new book, The Time of Our Lives. It's pretty amazing to see someone like Brokaw in person, after seeing him on TV most of my life. Watching him on the stage as he talked about the United States, past, present, and future, I was reminded about how we really need journalists like Brokaw to synthesize information and communicate it to the masses. We seem to be missing real journalists now, as commentary and comedy both pass for journalism.
Michael Moore stopped by my work in October to talk about his book Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life. I wrote a long article about this experience. He was one of the most genuine, patriotic, and passionate people I've ever seen.
Once again, Happy New Year, and peace, love, and understanding in 2012.
Labels: Year in review
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
The 520 bridge toll: Big time savings
When tolling started on the 520 bridge on Thursday, December 29, 60% fewer cars crossed the bridge than on a normal day. It was clear that many people were diverting to avoid the tolls. Everyone knew the real test would start today, January 3, when most people were returning to work from the holiday vacations.
I took the bridge around 8:00 a.m. this morning, Eastbound, and it was one of the best commutes in a long time. I came back to Seattle around 6:00 p.m, and again I experienced no delays -- until I got to I-5.
In all, it took 20 minutes to drive 15 miles this morning using 520. (Average time in the past was around 30 minutes.)
In the evening, it took around 30 minutes to drive home -- mostly because I-5 was backed up. (Average time in the past was around 45 minutes.)
According to the WSDOT site, things went pretty well on 520:
- Westbound SR 520 from Bellevue to Seattle was 5-7 minutes faster. Traffic volumes dropped by 45 percent from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. Typical travel times are 15-20 minutes. Volumes edged up a bit in the 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. hour after a disabled semi-truck blocked one lane on westbound I-90 on Mercer Island and pushed drivers to SR 520.
- Eastbound SR 520 from Seattle to Bellevue was 5-7 minutes faster. Traffic volumes dropped by 35 percent. Typical travel times are 12 -20 minutes.
The same wasn't true for I-90, the bridge that doesn't have a toll:
- Drivers used I-90 as an alternative to SR 520. Westbound I-90 traffic increased 25 percent until the disabled semi-truck blocked one lane on Mercer Island. During the incident, traffic dropped 8 percent below average. Travel times increased by 15 minutes during the incident.
- Eastbound I-90 traffic increased by 20 percent and travel times averaged 4 minutes longer. Typical travel times are 10-16 minutes.
I've heard a lot of talk about this new toll -- mostly negative. But it sure was nice to have a smooth, fast commute for once. I'll be curious to see if this continues.