Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Strollin' and Strummin'

AFTERMATH:  We started our day with a 3-ish mile ramble along the waterfront, through three parks: Centennial Park, Myrtle Edwards Park and the Olympic Sculpture Park. In other words, right through the grounds were Hempfest was held last Friday through Sunday.

I was wondering how cleaned up (or not) the grounds would be, two days later.  Let's just say traces of the event were still in full evidence. For instance, about the first thing we saw was a pile of bedding and some refuse.  Until I was right next to it, taking a photo of the kids, I didn't realize there was a person amidst it. oops. Apparently this gentleman was turning the three-day festival into a five-day event. 

It was about 10 a.m. when we passed him the first time. By noon, when we returned, he was on his second beer and sparking a joint.  Glad to see that he'd rallied, ha ha. Party on, Dude.

During our walk we saw vendors' tents being dismantled, stages being broken down, Porta-Potties being readied for transport. We also saw a whole lot of castoffs and garbage - everything from lighters to clothes, bedding to literature.  We even saw a number of chairs and a really nice fire pit someone had abandoned.

CJ was pretty pleased to find a "Hempnews" as a keepsake. The kids each also found a dime and a penny, which they were genuinely excited about.
As we walked, we saw dozens of people working on cleaning up the place, everything from parks crew to union contractors to Hempfest volunteers. It looks like it was a helluva party. ...

Anywho, despite the Hempfest aftermath, there was lots of pretty stuff to look at. Lots of lovely flowers were in bloom. 
The rose garden in Myrtle Edwards Park was a bloomin' beauty. 
Annabelle decided the one pictured below was her favorite specimen. I didn't do a thing to it in Photoshop - it's just that pink!
I rather like the apricot ones, myself.
The ship in the distance was Flama, under a Turkish flag, with its home port being Istanbul. It's a pretty new boat, built in 2011, 229 meters long by 32.28 meters wide. 

We also liked these multi-colored roses. 

 We saw lots of big ol' rose hips, too. 
The kids enjoyed a little beach action. 
And we eventually made our way to the Olympic Sculpture Park, where the 46-foot high white head was awaiting our arrival.
By Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, it was hard to get a good photo of "Echo" today. The face's features are so subtle, and the sun was behind her. 

We could see her profile from a viewpoint higher up in the park. 
We didn't tour the whole sculpture park, but did visit a few of our favorites, including "Perre's Ventaglio III," by Beverly Pepper, a New York artist. Made in 1967, of stainless steel and enamel, it measures 7 feet 10 inches by 6 feet 8 inches by 8 feet.
As if the Hempfest hangover scene wasn't enough, last night the kids had a brush with Burning Man. We visited with our neighbor, who was packing up for it.  CJ donned a bear suit that was making the trip. He didn't scare Annabelle, but he managed to freak out the neighbor's dog. ;)
MUSIC MAKERS: The kids practiced a little guitar this afternoon. Here, they work their way through "Let it Be."  YouTube link: http://youtu.be/jvwBPwqHgd8?t=7m24s
I am reminded of video I saw of Paul McCartney explaining how he wrote "Let it Be."  It came to him in a dream, but it was so familiar to him, he thought it was someone else's song he heard, and hesitated to record it! Here's a link to a short YouTube video of Paul telling the story himself: http://youtu.be/jvwBPwqHgd8?t=7m24s

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sharks 'n' Stuff

FOUNTAIN FUN:  This morning we had to go to Group 'Health' (ugh). I needed an eye exam and CJ needed an immunization. Christian and Annabelle got off unscathed. ;)

CJ was NOT looking forward to a tetanus booster, and Christian tells me that while sitting in the injection room, CJ was animatedly giving himself a pep talk. After receiving the injection, he reportedly said, "Well that was anti-climactic." LOL. 

I came out of my eye appointment mostly unscathed, but damn, those dilation drops ... My appointment was at 10:20 and at 2 p.m. I was still seeing double and couldn't take the light. Guess I'm a tad sensitive. ...

After Group Health, we stopped at Seattle Center to enjoy some fountain fun. We always enjoy the fountain, but I read online yesterday that the fountain's sprays would be choreographed to Beatles music, in honor of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles playing at what's now Key Arena in Seattle. In fact, Seattle Center is hosting a 'Beatles Week' to commemorate the Fab Four's visit. 

The International Fountain is our number one spot for fun in summertime. The soundtrack of Beatles' songs today made it just that much more awesome. :)  This shot is CJ amidst the water storm. 
And here is some of "Yellow Submarine." Please keep in mind, while shooting it, I couldn't see a darn thing. :( http://youtu.be/2hD_ZK3LxsM

Christian (and his much better camera phone and without being blinded) got some footage of the kids frolicking to other Beatles' hits. 

GREAT WHITE:  Sunday morning also found us at Seattle Center bright and early. A couple days prior, I had received an email from Pacific Science Center offering us free tickets to a sneak preview screening of "Great White Shark"

We received notice the screening was sold out, and because the movie is 3D and knowing the theater, we knew we wanted to get there early to get seats where we could watch it comfortably. 

Here was our view while waiting in line ...
Here's CJ's review of the film ... 
   Yesterday, I went to the Pacific Science Center to see a 45-minute documentary known as "Great White Shark" in the Paccar theater. One of the first parts of the film talked about how sharks evolved long before mankind or even the dinosaurs evolved. The narrator of the film mentioned that although sharks are becoming increasingly rare as poaching increases around the world, there is one species of shark that is dominant when it comes to the danger of being around them:
Carcharodon carcharias. In other words, the great white shark.
   The thing is, Great white sharks are *very* dangerous to be around, especially if you aren't prepared. However, it is actually more likely that you will die after falling out of bed than you will die after a Great white attack. Much of the film was composed of interviews from people who have been involved with searching for great white sharks.
   One important part of the film was how many of the interviewees actually gave some instructions on how to deal with a great white shark sighting. One of the steps was to stay still and keep eye contact with the great white, signaling to the shark that you are more than just prey to feed on. If you follow those instructions, you might just save yourself from an attack that might send you to the emergency room if you get lucky
   The narrator told us that if you're looking for great whites, then go no further than Los Angeles. On a beach in Los Angeles, if you swim far enough from the beach, you can very easily find great whites.
   In the end, I thought the movie was great and I will be thrilled when a DVD release comes out.
And Annabelle weighs in ... 

On August 17, I went to a special preview screening of a movie simply called "Great White Shark". It was a documentary on sharks, how we should protect them, and why you're more likely to die falling out of bed than by a great white. It was very interesting learning about the habits of sharks, and why we actually don't know much about them. The opening credits were funny, as instead of shark footage it had toy sharks on a blue construction paper background.

There were lots of specialists on sharks who have done studying from all the way in the lab to free-diving with sharks! They describe swimming with sharks as you observing the sharks, and the sharks, vice versa. Apparently teen sharks act just like teen humans: they like causing trouble. They have tagged sharks and see they can move incredible distances. The Santa Monica shore has many juvenile sharks near the shore!

Overall the movie was interesting, and the footage was great. But the movie seemed a bit long, with random streches of "Here's a shark! And another one! And another!". It was pretty good, i give it an 8/10
Here's a link to a trailer for the documentary: http://youtu.be/k8A2u-6GKrU

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fired Up

CENTERED: This afternoon, we had an appointment at the Pacific Science Center, as part of our on-going participation in a focus group to give them feedback on one of their rotating exhibits. 

We left home plenty early, so that we had lots of time to look around before our appointment. However, as soon as I hit 15th Ave (the main north south arterial between us an Seattle Center), I knew something was up. Traffic was capital T Terrible.

I started to notice lots of NO PARKING signs in lots we pass by all the time, where they are usually welcoming of people entering. After about two blocks of gridlock, it hit me: Hempfest (a festival celebrating 'cannabis culture.' Oh noooooo. That means the worst weekend of traffic of the year for our 'hood.

So not only was traffic terrible, parking was a zoo. We wound up doubling back and parking north of the Center, in just a 2-hour spot (because Hempfesters need more than two hours to get their buzz on).  That meant we'd basically need to run the five blocks back to the car after our appointment in order not to get a parking ticket. 

The Center was crawling with people today. There was a tattoo expo on the grounds, a concert at the mural event, throngs of tourists, and Annabelle spied our second "Pianos in the Parks" encounter.
There were also many buskers on the Center grounds today. We stopped for about 5 minutes to watch a gentleman who said he was from Mexico City perform a couple of magic tricks. He had a good shtick - more funny than magical. ;)
Afterward, we headed to the white arches of PacSci. Upon checking in, I noted a live science show was set to start in 15 minutes. Sweet! We always love those. We hustled right over to the stage, and the kids got front row seats (a good thing, because every seat was full and standing room only people were 10 deep by the time the show started). 
The theme of the show was combustion, so it was basically a half hour of the entertainer/teacher lighting thing son fire and blowing stuff up, which the audience loved, naturally.

Show host Chris started small.
But his combustions got bigger ...
and bigger ...
and bigger!
By the way, the crowd is chanting "fuel,heat, and oxygen," three things needed for combustion, as a countdown instead of 3-2-1, because this was about education and science. :) 

After the show, we ran over the the meeting place with the PacSci person, the Studio, which is part of their larger Wellbody exhibit.

Right now, the rotating exhibit is about stem cells. There were a number of interactive games/quizzes, videos, some static displays and there was a science center staffer there manning a table with a 'game' about cells gone wrong. 

The videos we watched featured information about Seattle labs involved in stem cell research, including the Chuck Murry Lab at the University of Washington, which works with heart stem cells and hopes to treat cardiovascular disease in people, and the Colleen Delaney Lab at The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center uses donated umbilical cord blood to cure leukemia. http://youtu.be/lkWZdMlXPiM

We also learned about a private Seattle lab (Nortis) based on the UW campus where scientists are creating a "kidney on a chip," which is a model kidney for use in drug testing. 
FAIR MINDED:  This morning, the kids and I spent a couple of hours stuffing envelopes with tickets for the Washington State Fair.  For the past four years I've volunteered to take orders for a homeschool group for free admission tickets under the fair's awesome educational program.  The fair runs, and just last yesterday p.m., we received the packet representing a whole lot of fun for a whole lot of families.
The kids were helpful in processing the orders.
To say this ticket order taking and distributing is a bit of a chore would be an understatement. Every year, I tell myself it's going to be the last, and this year, when I put out the notice to the group (via email), after giving people very clear instructions about how to order tickets, I actually included a rambling section called THE RANT:  Here it is. 
THE RANT First, let me preface this by saying a big 'Thank you!' to all the lovely folks who follow the rules as outlined (above).  This rant (below) is not meant for you and you can (and should!) stop reading here.  ...
That said, now the rant.  I have been handling the*** fair tickets for a few years now and very nearly decided not to do so this year because it has become an increasingly unpleasant task, which I found surprising, because it's really very simple - the program is only for your own homeschooled student(s) age 6-18, and one adult educator per household. Easy! However, each year I've headed this up, there has been an increasing number of people requesting tickets for children other than their own students, people sending me a self addressed stamped envelope to be stuffed with tickets they never actually bothered to order, people requesting multiple adult educator tickets, people requesting tickets and then not sending me a SASE, people forwarding this ticket notice to other groups' (schools, parents, etc.) email lists, people deciding not to personally use the tickets and then offering them to friends/neighbors/anyone (the fair considers that fraud). ... Unfortunately, I could go on, but I'll stop here.  Needless to say, all of the various  'irregularities' put me in an unpleasant situation.   
Sorry for the long-winded and rather cranky rant, it's just that I felt compelled to share the info in hopes that everyone will read and follow the rules this go-round so that we can keep this great opportunity open to the *** community.
The good news is, the rant prompted lots of nice thank you notes from people - but these are the people who always follow the rules, anyway!  The bad news is, this year there are more people than ever who are making it unpleasant. For example, they send me an envelope with just their initials or first name on it. Really?! There are like 100 people ordering tickets, so then I have to spend a significant amount of time trying to figure out who is whom. Or the last name on their envelope flat doesn't match the last name they gave me in the email, and I have to figure out whom they are by process of elimination.   And for every person (and there are MANY) who didn't bother to send me an envelope in the two plus months they've had to do it, I have to hunt down their email address and write them individual emails. Did they think I was going to hand deliver them? Mail them at my expense (if I even had their address)?  I mean, a full 20 percent of people requesting tickets didn't bother to send a self addressed, stamped envelope. That's all they have to do to get free tickets. But apparently it's too much ... Sigh.

The good news is, by the time we actually go to the fair in a couple of weeks, this whole needlessly annoying process will just be a bad memory. And the fact that it's only once a year, makes it just barely long enough for me to forget each year how unpleasant this process/project is.

As a happy aside, we did get to see a lot of neat stamps. Every year I save them for one of the group members who collects canceled stamps. 

PRACTICE SESSION: A brief snipped of CJ getting his McCartney on this morning. 

WE LEAVE YOU WITH THIS:  Forty five years ago today, Jimi Hendrix played Woodstock. I had the kids listen to his watershed version of the Star Spangled Banner. I suggested they try to sing along, ha ha. 
Of course, we had to watch and listen to his performance of "Purple Haze" at Woodstock
The kids' favorite Hendrix song is "Let Me Stand (Next to your Fire)," since they play it after every Mariners' home win. :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9-uFiTDi-k
We *still* need to go tour Seattle's Garfield High School, where Jimi once walked the halls as a student. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Familiar and New

DOCK WALK: We started the day with a brisk walk down to a frequent destination of ours, Fisherman's Terminal. It's about a 2.7 mile round trip, maybe a bit more the way we meander. 

Once down at the terminal, we decided to walk out to the end of Dock 8 and check out the eclectic mix of ships tied up along it.
CJ's favorite vessel was this imposing one, Thor.  I wouldn't want to mess with Thor.  Annabelle favored a little electric boat named Juliette. Different strokes. ;)

We saw some big working ships. 
And we also spied the boat that conducts the Sunday morning ice cream tours.
I've always wanted to go on one of those. I remember reading about it years ago, when we first moved here. We're going to have to follow up on that. Per their Web site, the boat departs on the hour, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.  They offer a 45 to 50 minute tour of Lake Union, with highlights including Dale Chihuly's studio, Gas Works Park, and the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat. Admission is reasonable, as are snacks on board. They tour year round. Sounds fun!  I found a story about the boat's captain, Larry Kezner, on the KPLU radio sitehttp://kplu.org/post/tour-lake-union-captain-whos-circled-it-2800-times.  That's Kezner standing on the top deck of the boat in my photo (above).

SECRET PROJECT: Annabelle and I spent a couple of hours on a book project we're working on. I think we've slogged our way through to page 5 at this point. Most of our work together consists of me telling her how something should look and then her figuring out how to make it happen in Adobe Illustrator. :)

STUMBLED UPON: Yesterday, during our rounds, we encountered a couple of torn up roads and so we wound up taking an alternative route to the Greenwood Fred Meyer. 

A few blocks away, in unfamiliar territory, we passed a big ol' Seattle City Light substation at North 105th Street and Fremont Avenue North. While the enormous, electrical-related equipment was what caught our eyes first, I also noticed a number of bright-colored object, moving.  We drove on past, but about a half block later, I said, "You know what, we've never been here before, and we might not ever be here again. We should check that out," and back we went to the Viewland/Hoffman Electrical Substation.

I'm glad we stopped, as what we found was a large art installation, dating back to 1979, and a first of its kind project, from what I read online today. Artists worked with structural and landscape architects and engineers to plan the overall concept and layout of the substation. One of the things the design team did was include 27 whirligigs, made by Emil and Veva Gehrke, of Grand Coulee, Washington.
There's a fading plaque on site, noting the Gehrkes' contributions. 
Their wind-driven pieces are made with recycled/upcycled/found parts, everything from wheels to toys, hard hats to dust pans. A chain link fence surrounds the Gehrkes' creations, which is great for protecting them, but it is too bad the public can walk in and around them.  
I found a YouTube videos of the whirligigs (much better than my bad cell phone photos!):

There was a sign on site about the construction of the substation. It's fading away ...
 as is a plaque about Eugene R. Hoffman, who was superintendent of Seattle City Light from 1939 to 1953.
Per an article on HistoryLink.org, "the free online encyclopedia of Washington state history," Hoffman had been Hoffman an engineer with the Public Works Administration, the state Parks Department and for the state highways prior to taking on the Seattle job.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Summer Fun

SALTY SHORE:  Monday afternoon we took a field trip we've been meaning to make for over two summers now. We wanted to test the (salt!) waters of Colman Pool, in West Seattle.

Getting there isn't all that easy.  It's on an outcropping of enormous Lincoln Park, and the nearest parking lot is a half mile away.  
But it's definitely worth the walk! How many heated, outdoor pools have filtered Puget Sound water, a phenomenal view of the Sound, and a corkscrew slide?!
It's a popular place. VERY popular.  A veritable sea of humanity. The cashier who took our money said every session sells out. 
The walk to and from the pool is pretty. There's almost always a ferry - or two - going by, since it's right next to the busy Fauntleroy terminal.
 It was SO hot on Monday, even the geese were in hiding. 
Check out the red spots on their backs! It almost looks like someone spilled Kool-Aid on them or something.

After the swim and the park, we were off to the ballpark!
We wouldn't normally go to two games so closely together, but seats for Monday night were just $10 apiece, and King Felix was pitching. I told Christian and the kids on Saturday I had a feeling something special was going to happen Monday night, and I really thought we should go, so we did!

We arrived early enough to watch some of the Ms' batting practice.  At one point the kids were hot and wanted to go sit on a bench in the shade on the concourse.  They did, and I kept glancing over, checking on them, from where we were standing to watch BP.

At one point, a gentleman had joined them on the bench.  I eventually suggested to Christian that he go see what the guy's deal was - just another one of those feelings. ;)
Turns out the man is/was Ray Carter, president of the executive committee of Baseball Canada, the governing body of amateur baseball in Canada.  How 'bout that! Talk about a baseball guy!

Carter was in town to watch the Blue Jays take on the Mariners. A WHOLE LOT of Canadians were in town for the same reason. It felt like the crowd of 41,000+ was about a 50/50 split. 

Eventually, King Felix came out for warm ups, to a rousing ovation, which he acknowledged. 
The Blue Jays took BP and fielding practice, too, of course. Here's Colby Rasmus. We've been watching him play ball since 1999, when he was on a Little League World Series on a team from Alabama. 
The thing I remember most about that LLWS run was reporters repeating over and over that Colby's father Tony, the team manager, was made to choose between his job, and coaching the team, and he chose the team. They made him out to be some hero for it. However, right before the final game, the truth came out that he unilaterally quit his job, he wasn't forced out at all. But I guess that little folk tale is ancient history. This year, Tony Rasmus is being awarded the 2014 George and Barbara Bush Little League Parents of the Year award with his wife, Robin.  And in other news, it sounds like Mr. Rasmus is still pushing buttons and stirring things up when it comes to his son's career. Bummer. 

But back to the fun stuff! The game Monday night was phenomenal. It was a playoff-type atmosphere, with a huge, vocal crowd, which was into every pitch. The game was tight for the first couple of innings, but in the sixth, a thunderstorm broke out, and the Mariners' bats crackled to life.

It was surreal watching the Mariners go to town while lightning flashed all around and thunder roared. At one point, Robinson Cano was up to bat, and a jagged bolt of lighting touched down north of the stadium. So dramatic! I expected the PA guys to start playing the theme from "The Natural."  Instead, they played AC/DC's "Thunderstruck." Good enough. ;)

There's video of Cano's electrifying at bat here:  http://m.mariners.mlb.com/sea/video/v35298017

SCIENCE GAMES CENTRAL: Thanks to a link on the Seattle Public LIbraries' site, we have re-discovered the Web site for the Center for Game Science!  

The site is an effort of the University of Washington (Go Huskies!).  Per the description on its Web site, it "focuses on solving hard problems facing humanity today in a game based environment. Our focus is on scientific discovery games, games that discover optimal learning pathways for STEM education, cognitive skill training games, games that promote human creativity, games that explore collective over individual intelligence, and many more."

Neat-o!  The SPL link took us straight to the site's "Riddle Books" game, which is basically a challenge to solve story problems or "riddles" as they're called there.

AND THEN THE RAINS CAME: We received a reprieve from watering duties today, usually a 30 minute or so task around here these days.  An overnight rainstorm was a record breaker, shattering a 32-year-old record.

According to the National Weather Service, .85 inches of rain have fallen at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport since 1 a.m. This shatters a record of .33 inches set in 1982.

“1.33 inches fell since 9:53 p.m. last night. This is fairly uncommon for summer months,” said Josh Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Smith said rain showers are lightening this morning, but they remain in the forecast. There’s a 50 percent chance additional rain will fall throughout today.

In Bellevue, flooding bad enough that part of a main drag (Factoria Boulevard) was closed for several hours.

COBBLED TOGETHER: The skies were still dripping a bit this morning when we struck out to forage four cups' worth of blackberries to make our first cobbler of the already waning season.

It took us less than 10 minutes to get our quota, and this afternoon, we whipped one up, slightly modifying an allegedly blue winning recipe I found online (how can you not add cinnamon to a blackberry cobbler recipe?!). We also topped it with oatmeal in a little butter and brown sugar instead of the heaping topping of white sugar it called for.  The kids did the measuring and the mixing ... and the tasting.
They carefully distributed the four cups of blackberries over the cobbler's entire top.
It smelled absolutely divine while baking, so we were hopeful that it would taste as good as it smelled.
It does. :)