Saturday, August 19, 2017

Going APE 2017

Well, today was the annual Washington State Geocachers Association jamboree known as Going APE, held as always in and around Iron Horse State Park at Hyak, Washington. We've done this before, and the experience was much the same as it was back in 2011 (though if anything, my hip joints hurt more this time. owie.), so if you're curious, take a look here.

One thing was different, though. This time we actually logged a find on the APE cache, which is sort of a big deal as it's the last one left in North America, and until relatively recently it was thought to be destroyed. A contingent of rugged and determined geocachers hunted all around the area, found where the cache had been ditched by thieves, lugged it back to ground zero and managed to get Groundspeak to take the cache out of archived status, so woot woots all around!

Also, this time we brought lightsticks. We were hoping to find the Fen Dweller and have a little Tunnel Rave Party right there in the middle of the mountain, but alas, he had to go on break as he'd been busy all day getting passersby to sign his cache. So we had to be content with whirling our lightsticks around and making Homestar Runner techno noises as we walked. (It was far from the most annoying noise we heard today, believe me.)

Several times today we ran into Fen and Mitch. Not literally -- although if that were true, we should probably sign up for roller derby or something -- but figuratively, doing their thing for the WSGA. And we saw three hominid critters: the ubiquitous black-furred ape, the aforementioned Fen Dweller (not to be confused with the other Fen, who dwells elsewhere) and a Sasquatch hanging around the APE cache, posing for pictures. I did not opt to have my picture taken with Mr. Squatch this year.

As far as the walk through the tunnel is concerned: because the prevailing wind blows from west to east, it's a lot cooler walking through the tunnel to the caches on the other side than it is walking back toward Hyak. Every now and then I stopped and let the wind catch up with us. AH YEAH COOOOOOL.

So, while my legs are now burning and my hips are hurting and I'm walking around like an arthritic octogenarian this evening, I'm still proud. Even though I'm totally out of shape, I completed a walk that was over 5K long. Not too shabby for a fat lady!

And now to take way too much ibuprofen. mm sweet ibuprofen come to mama.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A trip to Seattle ReCreative

Those of you who know Miss V well are probably already aware that she is a big fan of Halloween, and that she loves costumes. But she is also a real stickler for precision and getting details right. Which is why we have visited countless fabric stores and other stores-that-sell-fabric in the Seattle area, trying to find fabric of just the right color, sheen, weight, etc. for this year's Halloween costume. It has become the Task of Eternity.

Something good has come out of this, however. In our quest to find Just The Right Fabric, we stumbled across a place in the Greenwood neighborhood called Seattle ReCreative. I've been muttering for years now that a city the size of Seattle really ought to have some sort of creative reuse center like the ones in the Bay Area or Portland, and lo! they do! *insert happy Sooz dance here*

"Uh... what's a creative reuse center?" I hear you mutter. Hold on, I'mma tell you.

Creative reuse centers are like thrift stores for creators. They're mini-Meccas for artists, crafters, and anyone else who enjoys messing about with creative supplies. People or businesses donate various goodies they no longer need to the creative reuse center, which then sells those goodies for a pittance. In addition to offering usable items for a fantastic price, creative reuse centers help keep perfectly good materials from being tossed in a landfill somewhere. Since stock is based on donations, the supplies for sale will vary from visit to visit -- so if you find something you can't live without, better snap it up, as it probably won't be there the next time you come in.

On the day we visited, Seattle ReCreative had yarn, fabric, all kinds of thread and notions, paper and other ephemera, paints, jars, pens and pencils, wood, metal, tile, fine art supplies, and random donations from local businesses. Prices ranged from reasonable to crazy cheap. We picked up an invisible zipper for V's costume at a price that hasn't been seen since the late '60s, and a metal belt buckle for 10 cents.

Things for sale are displayed in buckets and on bookshelves, stacked in filing drawers, squirreled away in cubbyholes and chests, and overflowing from wire baskets. (It's like the whole store was designed and merchandised by a very organized hoarder.) If you're looking for a specific item, you may be frustrated; it's better to go with the flow and see what kind of serendipitous discoveries you can make.

Only one thing about our visit frustrated me: as with a lot of city businesses, Seattle ReCreative has no designated parking anywhere nearby. You'll need to take the bus, ride your bike, park out in BFE somewhere and hike in... or take a chance and park in some other local business's designated parking, hoping your car will not be noticed and towed. (Not that I have any firsthand experience with such rash and dangerous behavior. Ehem.)

[ETA: Since writing this blog post, I have discovered there's a Diamond pay parking lot just around the corner from Seattle ReCreative. In my defense, I did not see it AT. ALL. on the day we visited, but I intend to use it in future. Please don't come after me, other businesses!]

Note: Seattle ReCreative did not pay me to write this blog post (though I would happily accept a discount from them. Or a designated parking space. I'm easy like that). It was simply a source of happy squeeing for me, and perhaps it will be for you too. Even if you're engaged in a Task of Eternity.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Cheap thrills

 few days after David's funeral, I headed home to Washington. Luckily, this time I was able to drive the route with a family friend, which meant a) much less need for caffeine and b) much more conversation. Over the course of the 14-odd-hour drive, we each brought up a number of topics, including the shared experience of growing up in Provo, Utah in the 1980s. My companion pointed out that there wasn't much to do in Provo back then. I think my observation was that '80s-era Provo was the polar opposite of what people often say about New York City: it was a nice place to live, but you wouldn't really want to visit. In the era before Seven Peaks Water Park or even widespread Internet access, the young and thrill-seeking were left to their own devices to come up with something fun to do in Provo.

That's not to say there was nothing fun to do. You just had to do a little digging to find it. My parents (and, later, my mother) set the example of finding cheap or free things to do when my siblings and I were little. As I got into my teens, I started looking around for fun freebies in Provo. Fortunately, there were lots of cheap or free things going on around BYU campus, and most of them were advertised on the campus bulletin boards. The student center had a game room with Foosball, air hockey, pool tables, a bowling alley and a video arcade, where if you had good hand-eye coordination you could make a quarter last a long, long time. The fine arts building always had some kind of art show on display free of charge, and every now and again there would be a student art sale, where some up-and-coming artists would sell their work for a pittance. Downstairs in the same building you could watch a student-directed one-act play in the experimental theater once a week during the semester, and upstairs you could usually find one of several senior student music recitals; both were free. The auditorium in the Kimball Tower hosted International Cinema, where foreign films were screened once a week; I remember it cost a couple of dollars. The planetarium in the science center had weekly student-run shows that were half-educational and half-DJ training, and afterward (at least on clear nights) you could climb the stairs to the observation dome and look at the real stars and planets through the university telescope. The Lee Library was five floors full of fascinating things, where if I couldn't think of anything else to do I'd visit their extensive collection of science fiction and fantasy and read for hours. And those were only the typical options for bookish introverts like me. If you were more sports-oriented, there were numerous trails to hike, a couple of canyons to explore, mountains to climb, a "river" (really, more of a creek) to go tubing in, and world-class skiing in the winter. Even in "boring" Provo, there were numerous low-cost activities available if you were willing to look around for them.

These days I live near Seattle, which isn't really known for its dearth of things to do. But Seattle's most popular activities can burn through the contents of an average wallet in nothing flat. If I want to have fun without going broke, I fall back on the old habit of searching for freebies -- and I've found quite a few. Many museums offer free admission on the first Thursdays or Fridays of the month. During the summer, the Seattle Shakespeare Company puts on a couple of Shakespeare plays in local parks, free of charge. Seafair is in full swing right now, with all sorts of free or low-cost activities. There's almost always something going on at Seattle Center. The city has all sorts of parks, large and small, to discover and explore. You can go window-shopping (and people-watching) at Pike Place Market, spending little or nothing. If you have a smartphone and a fondness for finding hidden objects, you can download a geocaching app, sign up for a free membership at, and go on a treasure hunt in the city. You don't have to haunt the community bulletin boards (though these are still a great way to find cheap or free things to do close to home); type "free things to do in Seattle" into your favorite search engine and you're away.

Point is, there's always something to do. And it doesn't have to cost you a mint. You may have to look around and stretch your brain a bit, but you'll find something amusing.

What do you do for cheap fun in your part of the world?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

David Brian Ashton

David is my cousin, but like all my cousins on my mom's side of the family, he's nearly as close as my siblings. I've written about him here before -- actually, a couple of times.

My Ashton cousins, clockwise from left: Lisa, Jon, David and Tom.
As you might be able to discern from the photo, David is a complete goofball. He loves telling naughty jokes and laughing hysterically. He's always been a nurturing person; I suppose he picked up the trait from his mom, who was a registered nurse. He loves to cook and eat. He loves Madonna and belting out show tunes. He loves the Muppets, especially the fabulous Miss Piggy. He loves his family. He adores his nieces and nephews.

And he's been aware for some time now that he was born with a congenital heart defect.

For the last few years, David has been in and out of the hospital -- surgeries to replace his mitral valve, more surgeries to fix problems with the new valve, surgeries to install a pacemaker, etc., etc. Just recently he had a bout of pneumonia that was worse than he'd imagined, but things seemed to be clearing up.

On Monday, David went into work at the Pier 1 he manages. He put in a full day of work, finished up for the day, went out to the parking lot -- and suddenly collapsed. A co-worker saw him go down and called 911. The paramedics did everything they could, but they couldn't stabilize David's heartbeat, so they took him to the hospital. There the doctors tried numerous methods to get David's heart working again, but nothing worked.

David passed away around 9:30 that night. He had just turned 41.

David and little Miss V.
David and Miss V were very close, especially when she was young. He often took care of her, and she thought of him as her Uncle David (technically, they're first cousins once removed, but who's counting?). This has been hard for her; she wanted to tell him she loved him one more time.

Mormons don't really hew to the classic Protestant notion of heaven and hell; we do believe that when people die, their spirits go to a place called the spirit world. It's here on Earth, though perhaps not in the same dimension; we don't ordinarily see them, nor do they see us. So although I will miss David tremendously, I believe he is not that far away. I believe that when my time here is up, I will see him again. And I take great comfort in thinking about David being joyously reunited with his mom, his grandmas, and the other people he loved so much who had gone from his life. As my sister pointed out, if there's such a thing as food in the spirit world, they're all probably in the kitchen making casseroles right now (David loved casseroles, especially tuna casserole with peas and crushed potato chips).

Anyway, I'm making plans to drive out of state to attend his funeral, which is scheduled for this coming Monday. Lots of time with family, lots of stories about David, probably lots of laughing and crying. After all, as David would readily tell you, he was kind of a big deal.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The last date, or, "I don't get it. I'm a nice guy..."

O the other day, Captain Midnight, Miss V, my sister Jenny and I all went out for dinner to The Restaurant That Shall Not Be Named (not because it's Chez Voldemort, but because it was not in any way responsible for the events that follow). We were seated next to a couple on a date, and they were engaged in a spectacularly awkward conversation.

Well, I label it "conversation" in the broadest sense, as it was overwhelmingly one-sided. The guy dropped a metric ton of mansplaining about the meal, not stopping to consider that his date did not seem like an idiot and thus might be familiar with all the information he was firehosing in her direction. He talked nonstop about his place of business, badmouthing everyone who worked there and placing the blame for work-related screw-ups on everyone but himself. He sprinkled his comments with casual vulgarity. He packed all the audible space with his own thoughts and experiences, hardly letting the woman opposite him -- you know, the one he took out presumably so he could get to know her better? -- get a word in edgewise. And he made no attempt to pick up on his date's body language, which was a real shame as he could have learned a lot from it. She was as polite as her obvious discomfort with the situation would allow, but from my position I could see her hoisting the Oh Hell No Never Again flag and flying it boldly through the duration of the meal.

By the time the bill came, she already had her charge card in hand. Immediately she grabbed the black folder and slipped the card inside without bothering to check the total. (Hint, guys: this is the dating female's equivalent of gnawing off a limb to escape a trap.)

"Oh, I was gonna pay for that," said Mr. Everyone At My Work Is A Total Fricking Imbecile. Somehow he convinced her he should pay the bill, and eventually -- perhaps realizing she could at least salvage a free meal from the smoking debris of her Friday evening -- she let him. A few minutes later, they gathered up their things and made their exit (to separate cars, one hopes).

I waited until they'd left the building, and then: "Well, that was interesting," I said.

And that busted open a virtual piƱata of discussion at our table, because as it turned out, everyone had been listening to their conversation, astonished and slightly horrified at what was going on next to us.

I don't know if we witnessed their first date (it sure felt like one), but I'm certain it was their last. I'm also pretty certain that Mr. See, You Use The Eating Utensils Like This will have a mournful conversation with his favorite bartender next weekend. He'll nurse a beer, musing, "I just don't get it. I mean, you know me; I'm a nice guy. Why can't I ever get a second date?"

Mister, let me count the ways. I mean, we didn't actually catch you picking your nose and wiping it on your napkin, or letting a juicy fart fly in public, but those were about the only social faux pas you didn't commit. You are not a nice guy, you are a Nice Guy -- the kind of oblivious jerk who has to label himself as Nice, because no one else is keen to do it. Mutta.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Yes, still alive

I know, it's been a while. My excuse: my sister Jenny's been here. During the day we go out and have adventures, and at night (when I typically do my blogging) she sleeps in the room where my computer lives, so I haven't had much of a chance to write updates. In fact, I don't have much time to write this either, because the Nerd Brigade is coming today and I've got to do some cleaning up. Soooooo... later, skaters!
Skaters gonna skate skate skate skate skate.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Political observations

Between family members, friends and acquaintances, I've come to know people from all sides of the American political spectrum: conservative and liberal, libertarian and authoritarian, and people who claim to have zero interest in politics. And the behavior I've seen recently from many of them isn't merely disturbing; in some cases it actually mimics the signs of mental illness.

I've seen an ardent Trump supporter, a woman old enough to vote (and, I might add, old enough to know better) throwing a public tantrum on social media -- filming herself as she flung a stack of her formerly-favorite novels in the trash bin -- after discovering that the author had publicly disparaged President #45. How DARE that author express her wrongheaded political beliefs? It's not as though she had some sort of right to speak her mind enshrined in a Constitutional amendment or anything.

I've seen people who cheer this administration's so-called "Muslim ban" (based both on the President's private description of it as such, and the way it targets people of a specific religion) and who ardently hope it will survive a Supreme Court ruling, even though our nation has long been known as the Mother of Exiles, even as millions of innocent people die fleeing terrorist-sponsored warfare. (For those of you convinced that refugees will bring more terrorism to the USA, look it up: since 9/11, not a single act of terrorism in America has been perpetrated by a refugee.) If we were serious about defeating ISIS, we'd be welcoming Middle Eastern refugees with open arms. Our opposition to ISIS is nothing compared to the fury of Syrian refugees whose lives were destroyed by ISIS, and who have exactly the kind of everyday information we need to target and destroy the terrorist groups who have taken over Syria. But this administration continues to think shortsightedly because EEK SCARY MUSLIMS.

I've seen people who describe Republicans and conservatives as mean, stupid, or (in one particularly vivid description) "excreted from the anuses of demons" because they oppose having their taxes raised again and again to fund various government programs. I've seen people who loudly hope their children will never become horrible, mean, stupid Republicans (you know, the political party I most often voted for, at least until this administration). Such people are engaging in a false dichotomy: either you care about people and want your taxes raised to help them, or you don't want your taxes raised because you don't care about anyone but yourself. They don't seem to remember that public virtue is a real thing. Many conservatives do want to help people, but prefer to spend their own money to help charitable organizations rather than handing it over to government, where 75 cents of every dollar is wasted by bureaucracy and the remaining funds may go to causes or organizations that taxpayers would not voluntarily support. But no, conservatives are all mean-spirited cusses who somehow think they have the right to keep the money they earned. (It's not like there are any mean-spirited Democrats, Libertarians, Socialists, etc. who would prefer to keep more of their paychecks. No, somehow Republicans have cornered the market on evil. Riiiight.)

I've seen people who want to sweep aside the established election laws of this country, oust the current president and install in his place the candidate who won the popular vote, or the candidate they wish had been endorsed and backed by the Democratic Party. While I empathize with their fears, I also realize we have election laws for a reason. Running roughshod over the law is extremely dangerous because it creates a precedent for casual or cherry-picked enforcement of that law; in future, when you hope to have that law on your side, it will no longer be in effect thanks to years of ignoring or selectively applying it. Trust me, you don't want that to happen. Seek to get the election laws altered, if you feel that strongly about it; in the meantime our current president did win the electoral college vote and was therefore sworn in without a serious legal challenge. If he is successfully impeached and removed from office, better get used to saying "President Pence." (Oh yeah, and while I have your attention: are you registered to vote? If you aren't, you should get that way.)

I've seen people who love the idea of pure anarchy, the absence of any kind of law to get in the way of doing what they want to do. In response to this, I usually sigh and yell, "READ HISTORY, DOOFUS!" Seriously. Every time in the past, when the established order of things -- no matter how bad that order might have been -- was swept away by anarchists in favor of no law whatsoever, the resulting power vacuum was filled by authoritarian tyrants or despotic governments who ruled by pure force, not law. "Anarchy now" leads to getting curb-stomped by a dictator later. So yeah, maybe quit bashing in shop windows for fun, get a real job and move out of your mom's basement? You'll enjoy capitalism a lot more when you can participate in it.

Do we really need to be beating on each other, rather than championing what is good and beautiful about this country? Has inarticulate, blind hatred really overwhelmed rational thought when it comes to politics? I hope not, but I'm seeing more and more indications that people aren't as concerned about being virtuous and seeing the good in others as much as they are desirous of scoring political points against The Other, however they define that concept. This isn't how to make America a good nation; it's a way of splintering us into petty city-states constantly at war with each other.

This is how a nation fails.