Sunday, September 27, 2009

Departures: Flying – Does It Feel Like This To You?

Deserted and Creepy Flight
Our favorite magazine, Departures, arrived today. I can’t flip through it without finding something that stands out to me. In this case it was this ad from Cathay Pacific. An awkwardly skinny woman passenger is handed what looks like are pajamas in a deserted cabin with very spacious berths. Where is everyone? Why doesn’t flying ever feel this (wonderfully) desolate to me? There is always a child kicking the back of my seat, someone in front of me that goes to full recline mode, and a mouth breather next to me. The text reads “What I loved were the little touches that made me feel so cared for.” Well if you are the only passenger and that flight attendant is feeling lonely too on that deserted plane, of course you’ll bond.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Counter Burger – More Choice is Not Necessarily Better

The Counter Burger BrochureThe Counter Burger Brochure
Oh, how far we have fallen. At one time we would be able to write something about a restaurant in Florence and now it’s just The Counter in Ballard - a new eatery at the Ballard Blocks. We thought we’d try it after a light workout at LA Fitness just next door. Without knowing anything about it we walked in with no biases. Upon stepping in you are given a clipboard by one of the 200 (I’m kidding but there were a lot) of the wait staff. With the clipboard and a pencil you pick from dozens of items in a few different categories to build your own customized burger. They claim over 312,120+ combinations are possible. (We are not sure how they arrived at that number; we tried different ways to calculate it. Here’s the menu. Give it a try.) Anyhow, we ordered – nothing too crazy – had some fries and were not overly impressed. Quality-wise it was okay, not great. More choice is not necessarily better. The burgers were too big to even get into our mouths. (You can get a burger on a bed of lettuce which might be better.) The meat they said was going to be pink inside was gray instead.

Hands down, we would recommend Blue Moon Burgers or Red Mill Burgers instead of The Counter.

When we got back to our car we found the flyers shown here plastered to the windshield. If we’d had known it was chain, we probably would not have gone. If we’d had known it was endorsed by those stalwarts of common sense GQ Magazine and the Oprah Winfrey show, we definitely would not have gone.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Music Recommendation: Niobe’s Blackbird’s Echo and Wilco’s Wilco

Niobe - Blackbird's EchoWilco - Wilco
Two standout albums in the last few months for Travelmarx are, drum roll please: Niobe with Blackbird’s Echo and Wilco with Wilco.

Yvonne Cornelius (aka Niobe – taken from a character in Greek mythology) has a few albums under her belt and I can't say I’ve listened to any of them. Her latest Blackbird’s Echo ended up in my lap via a friend and I was immediately taken by its quirky lyrics, vocal styling, and general art-house feel. The songs at times feel like experiments - a splice of sound here, a deconstruction there – deliberately calculated to let you experience a song in a totally different way. I think it works. Favorite track: Fever.

Wilco’s Wilco (The Album) is the second favorite. In this case, I’ve followed most of all of Wilco’s work so I dutifully went out and bought this without thinking much about it. I listened once or twice and it didn’t stick. Then picked up again and now it’s just as good to my ears as A Ghost is Born or Sky Blue Sky. Favorite track: Bull Black Nova. Happy listening.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Corson Building

Corson Building Entry
After hearing about the Corson Building for so long it was great to get to finally try it for a nice leisurely brunch. Apparently, the owner/chef Matt Dillon (who we didn’t see at brunch) has quite the reputation in Seattle as a cook. The Corson Building is a take (at the increasingly popular genre) supper club, communal dining experience. We are thinking of the Art of the Table that we recently went to.

There were six of us and we arrived around 11 am on this beautiful, sunny Sunday. First thing you might notice is the location, slightly under a freeway overpass, near some train tracks, and under a plane route. Some might be put off; we think actually makes the experience more interesting. Not once during the meal inside did we feel like the location was a problem.

Moving beyond the location, you can’t help but notice the building is not what you might be used to seeing in Seattle. Apparently, the building is about a century old and used to belong to an Italian stoneworker. It looks vaguely European. Take a few minutes to explore the gardens and spaces outside.

Inside, the setting is rustic, communal, and comfortable. On this particular Sunday it wasn’t at all crowded so we had a table to ourselves. I think that this is not at all like the dinners from what we can tell, so we may not have had a “typical” experience. The food: very good, but we can’t say the flavors or the presentation was over-the-top or the best we’ve had, but it was definitely very, very good. Staff was attentive and friendly. We would love to back and try dinner there.
Corson Building - Sunday Buffet

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bike Ride – Fremont to Marymoor and Back

Looking South along Sammamish River Trail
We took a bike ride from Fremont to Marymoor (going around the north end of Lake Washington) and back. We were frustrated that there wasn’t an obvious path around Lake Washington so that we could come across I-90 to make a loop. All in all, the 55 miles (roundtrip) ride was nice. We had a so-so lunch at the Redhook brewery, just a one minute diversion off of the Sammamish River Trail. (The Herb Farm pratically shares a parking lot with Redhook– now that might have been more interesting…).

The only sort of trick part was the leaving the Burke Gilman Trail and connecting to the Sammamish River Trail. At Blyth Park, instead of going left, we went straight over a bridge (into Blyth Park) and that takes you somewhere else. Stay on the west side of the river! Once, we got on the Sammamish River Trail we found it to be very nice, in some ways nicer than the Burke-Gilman.

If you get a flat in Bothell (like one of us did), Bothell Ski & Bike is a few hundred feet off the trail near NE 180th St and can assist.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cedar Grove Visit – Green Waste to Compost

A pile of finished compost at Cedar Grove facility in Everett Washingon
We both had the opportunity recently to visit the Cedar Grove compost facility in Everett Washington late last month and were impressed. Besides exciting our geek circuitry, it just made us feel good that green waste (organic matter) is being kept out of landfills and being recycled into a useful product – compost.

The facility uses a system called the GORE™ Cover System which so simple and elegant. Basically, incoming green waste is ground up and then put in piles under a cover similar to what is used in GORE-TEX® fabrics. Once covered, air is introduced as needed and the green waste starts breaking down. The covered compost piles can reach temperatures up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit removing pathogens and weed seed. A usable compost can produced in just two months, though in practice compost is aged longer.

Walking around the piles of compost in various stages of completeness you notice non- or not-easily composted items that inadvertently got mixed into the waste. Metal is separated early in the process, but other items like plastic can make it through the process remarkably intact. These items are of course screened out before the compost is bagged. One such item was a pack of father’s day cards pictured below.
Father's Day Cards Don't Break Down So Easily
Cedar Grove Site Plan
Cedar Grove Technology Info

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Julie and Julia

Julie and Julia Movie Poster
Last night we went and saw the movie Julie & Julia (2009), a comedy-drama about the parallel lives of Julia Child (1912 – 2004) in the early years of her career in the 1950s and young New York woman, Julie Powell (1974 - ), in the early 2000s. Both women are trying to figure out what they’ll do in life, how they will make a difference. The connection between the women is underscored by Powell’s 2002 documented effort to cook all 524 recipes from Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) in one year (she does).

The good points of the movie (getting on a soapbox here): no violence except for the boiling of lobsters and the boning of a duck. Also, the movie is a food lover’s paradise of kitchen, dinner, and food scenes. Okay we’ll grant you that some scenes like Julia arriving in France and coming into her new apartment with her husband Paul might be a bit over-romanticized but it worked for us.

Mastering the Art of French cooking was first published in 1961 and was authored by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. The cookbook was aimed at making French cooking accessible to the American cook. The foreword to the book sets out the goal: “This is a book for the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned on occasion with budgets, waistlines, time schedules, children’s meals, the parent-chauffeur-den-mother syndrome, or anything else which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat.” In 1962 Julia Child began her first cooking show on WGBH in Boston and the rest is history.

One aspect of Julia Child’s life that I left the movie with more of an appreciation of was her marriage with Paul Child (1902 - 1994). It seems they successfully combined friendship, partnership, and love seamlessly in their relationship. In the movie, there is a scene showing Julia and Paul posing for one of their infamous Valentine’s Card they sent to friends and family in 1956 of them in a bathtub.
Julia and Paul Child in a Bathtub

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Magicians

The Magicians - Lev Grossman
I wanted to like The Magicians more than I did, really. This new Harry-Potter-for-adults book by Lev Grossman has its interesting points for sure, and I eagerly read it cover to cover. However, I just didn’t like the main character, Quentin, that much. Worse, I didn’t find his actions at certain points of the story believable – even for a teenager/young adult.

The idea that Grossman returns to often is that “real” magic is hard and very tedious to master. Furthermore, there is usually no all-powerful evil villain (aka Voldemort) that is the center of everyone’s attention and has everyone on red alert. So, without giving too much away, Quentin discovers he is more than just a magician in the vein of fancy card tricks; he goes on to formal training to become a real magician and discovers just how tedious it can be. This is all fine and good, but Quentin just wallows way too much to be believable. At one point, Quentin and magician friends stumble into a parallel world (you’ll have to read it) and instead of being awestruck Quentin mopes around pouting about his girlfriend. It strains credibility.

On a related note, I thought the recent Harry Potter movie (Half Blood Prince was it?) was a bit of a snooze. The only thing that really caught me attention was when Dumbledore used the word maudlin or mawkish (very similar anyways) during one of the scenes. As a word choice it seemed so out of place with all the other dialog.