90 entries categorized "Christmas"

Merry Christmas

Normally I’d post a photo of this year’s Christmas tree with a count of the number of lights we installed (it was 2800 in recent years)—in fact by now that photo’s usually been posted for a few weeks. But this year we decided to observe the holiday in a pretty low-key manner.

No Christmas tree, for example—I’m sure our electric meter is pleased with that, no lights making it work overtime to track power consumption this month. We did lighter decorating with candles and some small lights, a lighted garland over the fireplace with our Christmas stockings. Also did some baking and we hosted a small group of family and friends at dinner on Christmas Eve, a tradition we started about 10 years ago to leave Christmas Day relaxing and uncluttered.

In that spirit, then:

Here’s to a warm and happy Christmas to you and yours, and the best wishes for the upcoming New Year and into the future.

Bruises I can’t explain, and other bits about last week

Last week was good! Fairly normal work week, random signs of injury I can’t recall, absolutely smashing good weekend!

So then.

I think it must have been... Tuesday? Wednesday, actually, now that I think about it. Anyway, when I noticed on my right forearm a large(ish) bruised area, maybe two inches wide. Hurt a bit when I pressed on it, that first day, but the second day nothing but discoloration.

This is one of those bruises I cannot for the life of me figure out how I got. I don’t recall slamming my arm into furniture or bouncing hard off any walls. Nothing fell on me or hit me within the last 10 days, and I haven’t been in a physical fight in well over a year. The bruise’s shape gives no clue to its origin—there are no faint outlines of baseball stitching or backward sports-equipment logo typography embedded in my arm.

But the highlight of the week was a weekend jaunt to San Francisco with Katharine and Julie Anne to attend a live-album recording show by my favorite singer/songwriter, Vienna Teng, and her frequent collaborator (and producer of her last album, Inland Territory), Alex Wong.

Fantastic time. We had VIP tickets for the Sunday evening early show at The Independent, got us some face time with the musicians while they were doing their sound checks. Also I’ve a newly signed poster I need to get framed at some point. It was a fascinating crowd, too, all ages (21+ only) and just about every type of person you could imagine, all clearly fans of the music and really into the show.

No idea when the album comes out, but I’m hoping to hear my voice among the whoops and hollers from the crowd. Maybe it’ll list where each track was recorded as well so I won’t be one of those fools who says, “That’s me clapping first,” only to be told that song was taken from a recording made in New York, where I’ve never been.

San Francisco was lovely otherwise. We flew in Saturday morning, took BART from SFO to Powell Street Station, checked into our hotel with no fuss (our rooms were available even though check-in time was still 4+ hours away), and were out wandering the city a little after 10:30. Spent the afternoon at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, marveling at the planetarium show and chuckling at the penguins’ antics and bemused by the free-flying butterflies in the rainforest globe. Beautiful building, they pack a lot into a relatively small space, but it isn’t at all claustrophobic—the exhibit spaces are thoughtfully laid out with plenty of room for people to move around, and the exhibits themselves are an engaging mix of old (dioramas, animal enclosures, blocks of descriptive text on wall signs) and new (Surface-style computer-driven information about the California coast and such, an all-digital planetarium with a 75-foot projection dome, a state-of-the-art living roof, the works).

We flew home this morning, allowed an hour for bag check and security screening and barely made it onto the plane for the 09:20 departure—and, as it turned out, only because the TSA agents handling the lengthy security lines were canvassing the crowds for departure times 40 or so minutes away at any given time. The bag-check agent had claimed a 45– to 60-minute wait in security; if we hadn’t jumped the line at the TSA agent’s behest, we would have missed our flight, and we had a bit over 60 minutes from bag-check finish to our entry into the security line.

The flight back to Seattle was packed tight. The Alaska Airlines check-in kiosk had even asked us if we would be willing to accept booking on a later flight (with a travel voucher to be used in the future) because our flight was overbooked, and the crowding aboard clearly indicated it would be a busy travel day all around. I think we ended up among the last half-dozen or so passengers to board, which meant that my laptop bag flew home overhead row 18 while our seats were in rows 23 and 24 (in a 27-row 737-400, oh joy).

We did get to enjoy the log-sawing stylings of the Western Conference Champion snorer. This guy could go pro, probably get taken high in the second or late in the first round. He had snorted himself awake five times before the plane was even off the runway at SFO, and several times during the flight—each time, his rowmates would all flinch with the surprise of it.

Sometime during this flight I also noticed the couple of bruises on my right upper arm, a couple of little quarter-inch dark spots on my biceps.

Seems parts of me were beaten senseless over the last several days and I’ve no memory of it.

Anywho. Back home now, all is good and I have a two-day work week because of the Christmas holiday—we get both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, for some reason I absolutely am not questioning aloud but still wonder about frequently. Bag is unpacked, cats won’t leave me alone, the wind is rattling my balcony door, and the weather forecast calls for rain and chance of snow tonight and tomorrow.

Just as things should be for December in Seattle. :-)

So how was your week?

For your holiday pleasure: Lighted boats on the weekend

From the Seattle Times, Lighted boats will buoy up your holiday spirits (paywall).

Since we live in one of the more nautical corners of the planet, it’s almost considered mutinous not to watch a parade of brightly decorated boats every December. You have multiple chances to join in the salty holiday spirit this weekend.

2600 in 6

Julie Anne’s Christmas tree, 2009Twenty-six strands of lights and the entire ornament collection all in six hours, to the accompaniment of the “Christmas favorites” iTunes playlist and a lovely dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers. Oh, and a brief pause to watch the lighting of the Westlake tree, the Space Needle, and the KING5 broadcast tower atop Queen Anne Hill.

Been a busy day!

Must be the holiday season?

Julie Anne in Baking ModeThis morning we stopped at Starbucks for eggnog lattes and at Target for Christmas lights, candles, and a wreath and hanger.

Now back at Julie Anne’s discussing the particulars of her holiday decorating plans before we retrieve the dozen or so Christmas boxes from her storage unit, all while she’s mixing up a batch of home-made bread and Christmas songs waft from the living room.

Definitely that time of year.

Happy holidays! :-D

2007 in IM status messages

After the jump, lists of the custom “available” and “away” status messages I used in iChat in 2007.

They made it easier to extract this info from iChat in Leopard. You can now choose “Edit Status Menu” from iChat’s buddy-list window, select the item(s) you want from the list(s), and use the Copy command to get a comma-separated text list. Only problem for me is I use commas in some of my statuses, so it’s not a simple search-and-replace function to get the list into a usable format, but it sure beats having to fire up Property List Editor and extract the list that way. Minor trade-offs, I suppose.


Continue reading "2007 in IM status messages" »

Merry Christmas. :-)

Season’s greetings, happy holidays, and all the other salutations of the time.

Quoted below, one of my all-time favorite songs, and it happens to have a Christmas relevance: The Atheist Christmas Carol by Vienna Teng.

Hear the song:

it’s the season of grace coming out of the void
where a man is saved by a voice in the distance
it’s the season of possible miracle cures
where hope is currency and death is not the last unknown
where time begins to fade
and age is welcome home

it’s the season of eyes meeting over the noise
and holding fast with sharp realization
it’s the season of cold making warmth a divine intervention
you are safe here you know now

don’t forget
don’t forget I love
I love
I love you

it’s the season of scars and of wounds in the heart
of feeling the full weight of our burdens
it’s the season of bowing our heads in the wind
and knowing we are not alone in fear
not alone in the dark

On Vox: QotD: My Current Top 10

According to Last.fm, though this doesn’t take into account my iPod listenings (I haven’t found a reliable way to ensure iPod play counts are reflected in Last.fm stats):

  1. Providence — The Fat Lady Sings
  2. Here’s Where the Story Ends — The Sundays
  3. What About Everything — Carbon Leaf
  4. Be Still — The Fat Lady Sings
  5. Gravy Train — The Fat Lady Sings
  6. Lonely Stranger — Eric Clapton
  7. The Boxer — Carbon Leaf
  8. Summertime — The Sundays
  9. How You’ve Grown — 10,000 Maniacs
  10. The Atheist Christmas Carol — Vienna Teng
  11. Songbirg — Fleetwood Mac
  12. Arc of a Diver — Steve Winwood
  13. Signe — Eric Clapton
  14. Twist — The Fat Lady Sings
  15. Never Going Back Again — Fleetwood Mac
  16. Arclight — The Fat Lady Sings

Sixteen items in my Top 10 list because of ties. A list in the style of TopFive.com’s Top 10 lists. ;-)


What are your top 10 most-played songs currently?

Originally posted on donnunn.vox.com

Tuesday music

For most of the time I was home today, I had iTunes feeding my living-room and bedroom stereos via AirTunes. Makes for good audio distraction when I try to sleep in the afternoons on weekdays, I’ve found.

Tonight I thought, hey, I wonder how many songs played today, including while I was using my iPod at work this morning. So I created a Smart Playlist to show me all the songs played today, scrubbed the list through Excel to make the formatting prettier (all hail the CONCATENATE function), et voilà.

More than 12 hours of music, about half of which I slept through, listed in play order.

Song — Artist, Album

Continue reading "Tuesday music" »

On Vox: QotD: But It Tastes Good!

When I was a kid in Salt Lake City, we had Winder Dairy home delivery service for milk once a week. At the holidays we would order egg nog and chocolate milk and various other products specific to the holiday season. One of our big indicators for the holidays was when the Winder Dairy truck started leaving more than just the standard gallon-size bottles of milk behind and sometimes the deliveries would go from once a week to twice or even three times depending on what we were ordering.

I was a major fan of their chocolate milk. It was thick and rich and way too strong to be drunk straight from the bottle. I usually thinned it about 1:1 with regular milk and even though it was cold at the end of November and through December, it didn’t matter, because the yummy chocolate flavor warmed up the world.

So one year when we had a holiday party at the house, we kids were just floating around being inconspicuous (we were good at that) and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen because that’s where the chocolate milk was. Turns out it was also where the sweet pickles were, and so my meal that night consisted of miniature sweet pickles and chocolate milk.

Heavenly. I got a lot of weird looks when people wandered in to get more ice or whatever but I didn’t care. It was a flavor and texture and temperature combination that brought the entire holiday season into specific physical reality and it rocked my world.

Now of course the very idea of it makes me cringe a bit and I can’t think of anything weirder than that in the years since.


What are your favorite weird food combinations?
Submitted by Dulce.

Originally posted on donnunn.vox.com

Songs grouped “Fave”

All of the songs in this playlist are tagged Fave using the Grouping field, another attempt to allow greater flexibility in my iTunes Smart Playlists.

These are favorites for many reasons. Some of them I like because they remind me of friends and family, or of good times over the last 20 years or so. Others I like simply for the songs themselves.

Listed in the order they’re shuffling through my headphones right now:

About music sharing

Music I’m willing to share is linked directly from this page. No link, no sharing—don’t email asking for files.

Song — Artist, Album

  1. Spirit Voices — Paul Simon, The Rhythm of the Saints
  2. Windmills — Toad the Wet Sprocket, Dulcinea
  3. Signe — Eric Clapton, Unplugged
  4. Always — Steve Winwood, One and Only Man (CD single)
  5. Here’s Where the Story Ends — The Sundays, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
  6. Jezebel — 10,000 Maniacs, Our Time in Eden
  7. Homecoming (Walter’s Song) — Vienna Teng, Warm Strangers
  8. Snow — Grey Eye Glances, Eventide
  9. Wall of Silence — October Project, October Project
  10. Anna Rose — Vienna Teng, Warm Strangers

Continue reading "Songs grouped “Fave”" »

2006 in IM status messages

On the bandwagon of the “year in review” posts everyone seems to adore this time of year, I hereby present the full listing of status messages I used in iChat in 2006, in the order I originally entered them.

I like this time of year specifically because it’s so easy to fill dead air. :-)

Without further delay. . . .

Continue reading "2006 in IM status messages" »

A wonderful holiday

We spent the holiday among family and friends.

Started Christmas Eve with our traditional holiday dinner. Mom, Katharine, and I spent much of the afternoon cooking, and our good friend Julie Anne joined us midafternoon to add another person to the kitchen entourage with her baked Brie appetizer and two kinds of pie. Our newer friends Dave and Jack joined us for dinner and we spent the evening reveling in the spirit of the season, telling our oldest stories and enjoying the good meal and chance to get to know everyone.

On Christmas Day, we made waffles with my new waffle iron (rocked utterly) and spent the late morning with gifts and coffee and a bit of reminiscing. In the afternoon we brought out Katharine’s game Mad Gab, an amusing (and sometimes incredibly difficult) game of nonsense phrases put together to sound like common words or sentences. You try to guess the actual word or sentence by sounding out the printed phrases, with sometimes comical results (see tagline).

We spent half an hour or so in the early evening trying to filter out and package the turkey stock we’d created overnight. Turns out it takes several containers to hold the fluid volume of a 12-quart stock pot. Seems plainly evident now but last night it was such a shock as we cast about trying to find just one more jar or canister or plastic container to fit the last of the stock for the ride back to Julie Anne’s kitchen.

Today brings the return to work, our return to normalcy somewhat. I’m working with Katharine tonight (we get just Christmas Day as a work holiday, even though everyone else has today off too), so I won’t be in the office until tomorrow, which is why I can be lounging around my townhouse in shorts and a T-shirt just before 09:00, making this web-site entry instead of freaking out about being late for work.

I hope your holiday brought the joy of family of friends and the warmth of togetherness similar to what we enjoyed. Merry Christmas. :-)

Friday-morning pre-holiday randomness

My drive to work took 28 minutes door-to-door. Absolutely no delays anywhere, exactly as I expected.

Now this is the way I like it.

My drive home—actually, into downtown Seattle, as I’m meeting family and friends for dinner—will likely take considerably longer as everyone tries to flee the city for their own holiday celebrations. I’ll be monitoring bridge traffic quite closely all afternoon.

:: • :: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Last night I carried a couple bags of trash out to the bins but they were full, so I carried the bags back to my garage for quick disposal after the apartment folks empty the bins into the big compactor.

When I got back into the kitchen a minute or so later, my left index finger was completely numbed out from the last knuckle to the tip. It’s an odd sensation—the tip of my finger feels about twice as large as it really is because the skin’s touch sensitivity is reduced so much.

No idea why it happened. No bruising or pain, just the numb feeling, and it goes away if I rub vigorously at the fingertip or while I’m typing with the repetitive striking of keys. But the numb sensation returns after a minute or so of inactivity.

:: • :: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Speaking of odd sensations:

Last night I pulled my car up to the front door when I arrived home. I had some groceries and I wanted to unload them through the front door directly into the dining room rather than trooping through the garage, up the stairs to the living room, down the corridor past the kitchen, and finally to the dining room.

I forgot I’d left the car out front until about two hours later, by which time I’d changed into my usual alone-at-home casual clothes, cotton shorts and a T-shirt. I was also barefoot because in the trash-bin trek earlier, I’d soaked the soles of my slippers, and they were drying in the garage.

So when I remembered about the car, I just walked outside in shorts and T-shirt, barefoot, and hopped across the (cold! wet!) lawn into the car for the quick drive around the building to the garage.

It’s weird to drive a car barefoot. I’m used to the thickness of my shoes and I nearly sent myself through the windshield twice when I stepped on the brake a bit too hard.

:: • :: • :: • :: • :: • ::

On my way to the grocery store last night, I managed a 6.4-mile stretch without a single stop for red lights on my old back-roads route home from the lab.

In the nearly two years I’ve lived in this area, I’ve never managed to make that stretch without stopping for at least two red lights. I was pleased.

:: • :: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Today promises to be fairly dead at work, which means it would normally be a good day to learn a lot of stuff. Except nothing much is happening, and since the best (for me) learning experiences happen with active projects, it’ll probably be a day of chatting with the three other workers on-site and the occasional allegedly high-priority problem report and a fair bit of coffee-drinkin’.

Also counting the seconds to the end of the shift. :-)

:: • :: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I thought I had a lot more to say today but it’s all dribbled out of me brane. Have a good weekend and a Merry Christmas.

Holiday trains

Holiday trains at Seattle Center Winterfest
Holiday trains at Seattle Center Winterfest
Seattle Center’s Winterfest in full swing with an extensive train set-up mimicking an 1880s town. Kids can take a guest-conductor turn for a $5 suggested donation.

Christmas meme

Got tagged for this one by my old friend Chris, so I’ll continue it and pass it on to Katharine (if she ever has a site of her own, or she can do it here if she likes) and to Julie Anne:

  1. Egg nog or hot chocolate?
    Hot chocolate. I like egg nog, but absurdly sparingly—it’s so rich, a single small glass is all I need to last me the entire season.
  2. Does Santa wrap presents or just place them under the tree?
    Wraps. Everything under the tree is wrapped no matter the source.
  3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
    When I was a kid, we had a riot of different colors and sizes of lights on our tree, including some of my all-time favorites, the bubble lights. Now, we use the small-bulb white strands and the effect is simply spectacular.

Continue reading "Christmas meme" »


I’ve had iTunes running for much of the last 24 hours and, via the magic of a smart playlist, just found out I went through two hundred and change songs.

About music sharing

Music I'm willing to share is linked directly from this page. No link, no sharing—don't email asking for files.
So of course my next impulse was to post the list here.

In play order:

Song — Artist, Album

Continue reading "213" »

Two hundred thousand doesn’t buy much nowadays

Seattle CVB branding logoThe Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau unveiled their newest marketing campaign, an effort aimed at encouraging continued tourism in Seattle’s non-peak season.

They had to invent a stupid word to do it:

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Seattle’s cold-weather tourism is heating up
Luring visitors to rain-swept city? Try conventions and a brand-new word

The clouds are rolling in, and the cruise ships are sailing out on their final voyages for the season. Ticket lines dwindle at the Space Needle just as foot traffic tapers off at Pike Place Market.

It’s the end of Seattle’s peak tourism season and the beginning of an annual challenge for the city’s marketing gurus: how to break through the national perception that this is a rain-drenched outpost and get people, and their money, to visit.

“Winter tourism is sort of interesting because locals think, ‘Why would anyone come to Seattle?’” said Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau spokesman David Blandford. “But they do.”

Even as the weather changes, new hotels are popping up all over downtown, and room bookings are setting records.

In fact, officials plan to announce today a new marketing campaign that will serve as Seattle’s image to the world, bureau President and Chief Executive Don Welsh said Thursday. It took about a year to develop and cost $200,000, he said.

The bureau will spend $300,000 promoting the brand, which includes a newly invented word—“metronatural”—and the concept of a metropolis juxtaposed against natural beauty, Welsh said.

The trademarked word will replace the current logo designed in 1999, which features an eyeball, the @ symbol and the letter L. (See-@-L.)

In the gray months, Portlanders and Vancouverites stay overnight to see the opera, cheer on some football and holiday shop. But even those vacationers aren’t enough to close the seasonal tourism gap.

Instead, the city fills its hotels in autumn by selling conventions and marketing the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, a hulking state-owned building on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Pike Street.

Since it was built using public bond money in 1988, the convention center has grown to become one of Seattle’s tourism staples, last year contributing $13.5 million in revenue to the state. In 2005, the center’s 507 events drew almost 400,000 attendees.

That’s why the biggest portion of the tourism bureau’s $8.2 million operating budget is spent selling meetings and conventions. It’s not that tourists aren’t welcome, say officials, it’s just that business travelers and convention delegates spend more—about $640 per trip, compared with the average tourist’s $474.

The tourism bureau’s job is to sell the city to meeting planners and tourists. It holds contracts with the city of Seattle, the Port of Seattle and about 1,000 dues-paying businesses, including hotels, airlines, cruise lines and attractions.

“We operate very much as a business because tourism is a very competitive one,” Blandford said.

Differentiation is key, he said. Seattle’s convention center promises that delegates can be in lectures by day and on ski hills by night, boasts a chef that hails from the Four Seasons and puts visitors steps away from shopping and restaurants.

Conventioneers also get a discount—hotel room rates fall 15 percent to 25 percent in the fall and winter, according to the Seattle Hotel Association.

All that, with some help from positive national press clippings and the cruise ships, helped King County post a record 9.1 million overnight visitors in 2005.

Tourism is a $12.4 billion industry in Washington—which puts it on par with aerospace, software and wood products in terms of its contribution to the gross state product, according to state research. King County is the state’s travel engine, accounting for more than half of the total spending and room sales collection, according to the state tourism office.

Seattle covets conventions that will fill 1,000 hotel rooms. Downtown has 6,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the convention center, according to the bureau.

Just about every U.S. city has a convention center. . The tourism bureau employs two people in Washington, D.C., to push Seattle to the 20,000 associations located in and around the Capital Beltway. A third marketer works full time in Chicago to cater to the 9,000 associations based there, Welsh said.

Seattle’s advantage over big-time convention cities, such as Chicago, is the lack of bitter cold.

“We have a bit of a challenge in convincing meeting planners that that’s the way it is,” Blandford said. “People mistakenly believe it’s snowy, too. It’s satisfying to say, ‘No, it doesn’t snow in the city.’”

About one-third of the conventions are health care related, according to Michael McQuade, the convention center’s director of sales and marketing. As medical associations become more specific—recent conventions included the American Association of Blood Banks and the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons—more delegates will be heading to Seattle, he said.

Other conventions vary—ranging from international trade groups to professional societies to niche groups such as the Brewers Association, which held its beer conference in Seattle in April.

Convention season peaks from now until Thanksgiving and picks up again in spring, according to the bureau.

The winter holidays always have softer demand and more vacancies. To combat that, hotels turn to rate cuts and packages. For example, The Westin Seattle offers a $3,000 Seahawks package that includes a limo ride to the game and high-end tailgate food, said Elisabeth James, general manager of the city’s largest hotel.

Also, hoteliers change their marketing philosophy to promote holiday shopping and eco-tourism, rather than spectacular views, said Karl Kruger, president of the Seattle Hotel Association.

“The one thing that we need to work on as a destination is to create an event which will highlight our city in the shoulder and low periods,” he said. “Perhaps a festival in January, maybe an art fair in November. There needs to be some attraction where we can market ourselves to our 500-mile radius.”

The tourism bureau also plans a campaign to encourage people who live elsewhere in the Puget Sound region to come into the city to see the attractions.

People like Tukwila resident Kathleen Davis-Wright, 63, who wandered in the rain outside the Space Needle this week after viewing the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.

“I’m doing Christmas shopping,” she said, holding up a key chain souvenir marked at 30 percent off. “It’s fun to go to the different places. Little rain drops won’t hurt anybody.”

Saturday playlist

Today’s list is a mix of a few long-term favorites and some of the more recently acquired songs in heavy rotation.

Heavy on the Vienna Teng, of course—I'm still learning the favored songs from her latest, Dreaming Through the Noise. I first encountered David Berkeley when he opened for Vienna’s Nov 2005 performance; bought both his CDs and they immediately got into the regular listings as well.

I first encountered Kris Orlowski and Travis Hartnett in early June at a small gig at C & P Coffee Co. in West Seattle. I’ve found these musicians’ work complements Vienna’s and David’s in this playlist quite well.

    Song – Artist, Album

Continue reading "Saturday playlist" »


About an hour left in the month of April on the West Coast. I was distressed somewhat recently when it seemed like the standard two-day weekends were rushing past almost breathlessly, then today I realized 2006 is a third over and I’ve since been in an advanced state of WTF.

The planked halibut worked out spectacularly well last night, even if we did set the plank gloriously aflame—a couple times I had to put out flames to what I’m sure was highly comical effect, with the spray bottle and turning off the gas supply and various other machinations. We’ve decided the planks need soaking for a minimum of eight hours, which gives us the desired grill effect without the worry of the flames.

Now it’s Sunday night, a change to a new month, blah blah blah. Tomorrow also marks the day the lab’s name changes, which means I have to remember to answer my phone correctly. I changed my work email signature and my voice-mail greeting Friday afternoon so at least if people leave messages, they’ll get the correct references even as I stumble over the name for the next, oh, probably several weeks at least.

Reminds me of when I first started at the lab in June 2002. It was months before I could answer the phone without having to think that I was no longer working for the managed-care company I left when I moved out of Salt Lake City. Made for a few amusingly confused moments for lab clients, I’m sure.

I like the month of May because it means the days are still getting longer, spring is in full swing, and the annoyingly muddy months of March and April are completely finished. But I can’t get over how it was just yesterday, it seems, when we were dropping off Mom at the airport after her visit for Christmas.

Tonight’s playlist

Earlier this week I goofed and blew away the ratings for my entire 10,236-song iTunes library, so I’ve spent a few minutes each day since redoing the ratings and cleaning up ID3 tags and whatnot.

My ratings scale is a bit fluid, but in general, I use iTunes’ 5-star rating system like so.

  • 1 star: I hate these songs. They’re unchecked so they won’t play except by direct action (double-clicking in the song list, clicking and pressing Return, and similar), and they’re included in no playlists. In many cases these songs’ very existence annoys me, but I still keep the song files around. Go figure.
  • 2 stars: For non-classical genres, my “starter rating”—items I add to the library get this rating by default. Songs will play as part of my full-library or genre shuffles so I can determine if another rating is more appropriate. In addition, all videos, audiobooks, and podcasts keep this rating no matter how much I like them.
  • 3 stars: Songs I like for (sometimes very) occasional listening. Also my default rating for songs in the classical genres (Classical, Opera, Operetta, and similar); these genres are excluded from shuffle operations.
  • 4 stars: Songs I like quite a bit and will play fairly often. All genres.
  • 5 stars: Absolute favorites, songs I can hear over and over. All genres.

Some ratings I apply based solely on artist name. Barbra Streisand, for whose presence in my music library I blame Katharine, automatically gets one star, while a handful of artists/groups get 3 or more stars solely by virtue of who they are: Steve Winwood, the Natalie Merchant-era 10,000 Maniacs, Eastmountainsouth, Vienna Teng, The Fat Lady Sings, among others. But even among the higher-rated artists, some songs get 2-star or 1-star ratings.

Otherwise, the ratings are most often based on snap judgments the first time I hear given songs. I’ve found over the years that such quick judgments tend to be most accurate for the way I rate songs.

Upshot: Tonight I have a 470-song list shuffling. I created it via a Smart Playlist that matches checked songs rated 3 stars and higher with duplicates and the majority of songs in the classical genres removed.

Songs appear in the shuffle-play order iTunes generated when I started playing the list. The list totals 1.3 days of play time, so I won’t hear all the songs in a single playing session; instead I used iTunes’ Copy To Play Order function (control-click the Smart Playlist to find this option on the contextual menu) to preserve this order across iTunes sessions.

Song – Rating – Artist, Album

Continue reading "Tonight’s playlist" »

Quiet and enjoyable holiday weekend

I can’t believe the four-day weekend’s already coming to an end, but we had a great time with the holiday and events surrounding it.

Mom arrived in town Friday afternoon and we spent the evening in downtown Seattle. We did our usual big holiday meal on Christmas Eve, joined by my friend Julie Anne and Katharine’s friend Dave and my PowerBook cranking out Christmas music at low levels the entire night. Christmas Day brought the joy of time with family and friends with gifts exchanged in the morning, a showing of The Family Stone in the afternoon and a trek to Bellevue Botanical Garden after the sun went down for their annual Garden d’LIGHTS presentation, an amazing collection of whimsical decorations created entirely from bundled Christmas lights.

And the leftovers, easily the best part of the holidays. Turkey sammiches, yum, I could live on them—but only the turkey carved from a bird roasted in one’s own house, mind. We outdid ourselves on the whole spread this year, so the Christmas Eve meal was spectacular as well, which also meant faboo leftovers.

I’ve lunches for a week!

The Family Stone (2005)

Movie poster: The Family StoneThe trailers portray this movie solely as a fish-out-of-water comedy wherein the absurdly uptight Manhattan businesswoman goes home with her fiancé to meet his family in the suburbs, the family members take an instant dislike to the woman, and hijinks ensue. Surely that was part of the plot, but it overlooked a couple of other plot points that left me feeling like the director wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted the movie to be, or the marketers didn’t know how to sell it to an audience.

Sarah Jessica Parker does a good job protraying Meredith Morton, the uptight and nervous strong-willed Manhattanite who becomes nearly useless in the ’burbs. Dermot Mulroney is her fiancé Everett Stone, deftly playing the balanced and reserved counterpoint to Parker’s uptightness. Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson play Mulroney’s bohemian parents Sybil and Kelly, and Luke Wilson and Rachel McAdams are two of Mulroney’s siblings, Ben and Amy. Another sibling, the gay brother Thad, is played by Tyrone Giordano, an actor I wasn’t familiar with before this movie.

Amy takes the strongest (by which I mean, most vocal) dislike to Meredith, while Ben is overtly attracted to her. Sybil and Kelly are likable (the fact that I like both actors helped enormously here) and the entire family dynamic is one of goofily amiable affection. However, things rapidly go downhill for Meredith and she ends up booking a room at a nearby inn and calling her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to help her deal with this crazy situation.

There’s a subplot involving Sybil’s health that’s barely developed but figures prominently in the movie’s ending, making me think the original screenplay probably centered on this element of the plot but it was later cut to a secondary theme as the rest of the story developed. There are some truly laugh-out-loud moments and more than a few of the cringe-worthy family/awkward moments we’ve all encountered.

Upshot: I liked this movie—we saw it today in a nearly sold-out cinema, and the audience got into the family scenes and the comedic parts equally, which made it that much more enjoyable. But the strange handling of the mom’s health problem and the weird afterthought-style ending surrounding that problem just seemed shoddily handled to me. I was most struck by the fact that the trailer only dealt with the fish-out-of-water element of the story, but thankfully the producers didn’t stick every single funny part into the trailer for marketing purposes.


Merry Christmas. :-)

May you enjoy the happiness and light of the holiday season and the joy and warmth of family and friends all year.

The Atheist Christmas Carol—Vienna Teng

it’s the season of grace coming out of the void
where a man is saved by a voice in the distance
it’s the season of possible miracle cures
where hope is currency and death is not the last unknown
where time begins to fade
and age is welcome home

it’s the season of eyes meeting over the noise
and holding fast with sharp realization
it’s the season of cold making warmth a divine intervention
you are safe here you know now

The Atheist Christmas Carol (6.2MB AAC)don’t forget
don’t forget I love
I love
I love you

don’t forget
don’t forget I love
I love
I love you

it’s the season of scars and of wounds in the heart
of feeling the full weight of our burdens
it’s the season of bowing our heads in the wind
and knowing we are not alone in fear
not alone in the dark

don’t forget
don’t forget I love
I love
I love you

don’t forget
don’t forget I love
I love
I love you

don’t forget
don’t forget I love
I love
I love you

don’t forget
don’t forget I love
I love
I love you

Christmas at the laboratory

’Twas four days before Christmas
And in some parts of the lab,
Not a person was working.
Too much fun to be had!

Yeah, so. I was going to make up a whole rhyming spiel but I couldn’t think of words to rhyme with chromatogram or 1,2,3-Trimethylbenzene and the whole thing just fell apart after that.

Today’s the lab’s Christmas party. A little before noon, some poor pizza delivery fool will be burdened with 15 pies marked for the lab, and Katharine already brought in a veritable smorgasbord of beverages and baked goods. Other employees will dazzle with their own home-made delights, I’m sure—I know it, in fact, because in the four years I’ve worked here, I’ve seen some absolutely outrageous dishes created by people for whom strong acids and Dr. Jekyll-style lab glassware are parts of the normal daily routine. These people are not afraid of a typical kitchen’s oven nor the Pyrex baking dishes available for home use.

Right now I’m sipping slowly at a cup of hot spiced cider, one of my favourite ways to welcome the holiday season. I never make it at home, of course, largely because I don’t have a crock pot and while I like spiced cider, I like maybe 6 or 8 ounces of it a time or two per year and most stores around here sell cider in half-gallon or larger containers only.

Also no rum, which disappoints me, but with the chemicals and sharp tools and highly pressurized gases around the lab, spiking the beverages simply is not an option.


I’m almost certain it has nothing to do with the denominations

Had dinner with my friend Corey last night at O’Shea’s (map). Nice little neighborhood Irish pub, though I’m not a big fan of Guinness (and apparently they pour a hell of a black and tan, which I do enjoy now and then). Instead I had a couple pints of Pyramid Hefeweizen, among my favorite American wheats.

I’d never been to O’Shea’s but everyone knew Corey, and they all drew me into the thick of things right away. We were ostensibly celebrating Corey’s birthday a couple weeks back—his 30th year this time around—but in reality we were entertained by stories of the drinking habits of other bar regulars, particularly the belligerence of one guy who apparently was quite the asshole a few nights ago. I don’t know who he was, however, as he wasn’t there last night and his name didn’t stick in my mind.

So mainly we sat at the bar and sipped our drinks and nibbled at dinner (turkey and Swiss on rye for me, club sandwich for Corey) and caught up on the couple months since we saw each other, and the several years it had been since we saw each other before that. We were entertained by one employee’s horribly spelled attempt at a sign announcing a Christmas party, and a little later by that employee’s sister’s berating of the spelling and explanation of how the bad-speller sister got the artistic ability but this sister got the brains, and how spell check is bad for things like “roll” and “role” because the context is important, and oh the homonyms.

Won’t someone think of the homonyms?

We left O’Shea’s for Corey’s house by way of an ATM in Fremont followed by a stop somewhere else in Fremont for a certain smokable substance of questionable legal status. There were just two discrete quantities and thus price points, but a combined four separate purchases involved, and the mental gymnastics required to calculate the correct total price were amusing. As I turned over in my own mind the standard quantities and prices, it occurred to me:

I think the reason most ATMs’ “quick cash” options dispense $40 has nothing to do with the fact that most ATMs provide $20 bills, and two of those bills strikes banks as a decent number for a speedy transaction.

I’m almost certain the reality is that $40 is a pretty standard price for a common illicit substance in its most commonly dispensed amount (in my experience, anyway), and the ATM manufacturers are thus providing a tremendous service for those last-minute needs when simple arithmetic ought to be the least of your worries but is in fact your biggest nemesis.

Also $20 bills make nice thick bundles when you get into the several-hundred-dollars range.

But I could be wrong, I suppose. My experience is pretty limited.

Eclectic Saturday

Briefly, so I don’t lose my thoughts on it (and I’m not in much of a writing mood at this moment), in no particular order, and one name (thinly) disguised to protect the asinine:

  • Mamma Mia! at Paramount Theatre—somehow I avoided all the earworms implicit in a musical show built around ABBA songs
  • B.B. is a childish wonk who apparently never outgrew her junior-high-school years
  • Ivar’s Salmon House offers a great view of the north Lake Union/Ship Canal area
  • Some people get way way way too far into decorating their boats
  • Palm trees shaped from neon lights do not make good Christmas decorations
  • Coho salmon is pretty tasty when it’s stuffed with crab meat

Details possibly later. Happy Sunday!

Tacoma Mall to reopen today at 12:30, about 24 hours after shootings

This was a major WTF moment for me last night. I had looked at the Seattle Times site a couple of times through the afternoon and evening but saw nothing about this until it was covered on CNN, which I had on as background noise for much of the time between 17:00 and 21:00. Then I checked the Times’ site once more and finally saw a story about it, and this morning I found the story after the jump.

And on my way to work I heard a news story indicating the mall would reopen midday today, an hour or so before the alleged shooter appears in court for a bail hearing.

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