May 27, 2007
Last weekend, Kellie, Kristen, Katya, Christopher, Barbie, and I went out to the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington for a little wine tasting. After a brief stop at the XXX Root Beer Drive-In for lunch, we headed to Ellensburg for a fun filled evening (there were no hotel rooms in Yakima that evening). We had a good time playing hearts (which I never played before, but now I'm a fan) and drinking beer at the Tav, a good dinner at Pearls-on-Pearl, and more bar fun at the Starlight Lounge and Oak Rail Tavern. Nothing like partying with a bunch of college kids (from Central Washington University - the only thing in Ellensburg.) I really liked the Tav and Starlight Lounge; Pearls-on-Pearl was nice too.
After a slow morning at the luxurious Comfort Inn (I got a in a five mile run before almost anyone was up and got to watch Americas Cup TV coverage!) we headed over to Red Mountain, an AVA about an hour east of Yakima. We hit six wineries in a short period here. Of these, I really liked Fidelitas and Tapteil.
Fidelitas, in particular, was a group favorite with several of us joining their club (many of these places have a wine club where you "subscribe" to their quarterly or semi-annual mailings of a few bottles of wine). Their M100 reds and whites were very nice low-priced table wines, and their 2004 Syrah and eight Syrah were fantastic. Their new wine room was very nice too.
We had a pleasant lunch at Tapteil inside their cozy wine room (we brought a picnic lunch, but it was too windy to eat outside). Their 2001 Cab Merlot was our lunch wine and very tasty, especially once it opened up. We also found some good wines at Hightower Cellars and Kiona Vineyards Winery (esp. their Chenin Blanc ice wine - lush and tropical...). I didn't care for Sandhill Winery or Chandler Reach (although their 36 Red wasn't bad) as much.
Honestly, I think six wineries was too much for me. My taste buds were blown by the fifth place (Kiona), so I chose to sit out for a while; I probably didn't give Chandler Reach a fair shake because of this. After all that wine (thank goodness Barbi, who doesn't drink, was driving the mini-van), we had a quiet dinner at Gasperetti's in Yakima. Gasperetti's is supposed to be some kind of institution in Yakima (I'm sure it is), but I thought it was only OK. We saw a few kids out in prom-wear; ah, young love. Apparently, prom in Yakima includes Cheetos, since Barbi saw a bunch of girls in prom dresses buying bags of Cheetos at the gas station. We made a half-hearted attempt of going out in Yakima (including a few rounds of shuffleboard on the worst table ever at the Sports Center in Yakima) and called it a night.
After another night in a luxurious hotel (the Cedar Suites in Yakima), on Sunday morning we hit a few more wineries, all of which we loved. Our hands-down favorite was the new Agate Field Vineyard. Pretty much everything was gold there. I especially liked their 2002 and 2003 Red Blends (esp. 2002) and their Syrahs. Another favorite was Wineglass Cellars; Linda, the co-owner, was very charming and helpful. I bought a few of their older Cabernets and loved their Elerding and Rich Harvest. I'm looking forward to trying the ones I brought home. Masset was a nice surprise as well; I thought their Margaret Alice Late Harvest Viognier was especially good and slightly unusual. Sheridan was pouring their second label, Kamiakin, which was fine. Unfortunately, I had hoped to try their Sheridan branded wines. (Don't go to Sheridan on a Sunday, I guess.)
The cars loaded down with wine and a yummy Mexican lunch under in our bellies, we headed home. We had a great time and found a lot of tasty wines. There are apparently over five hundred wineries in Washington now, so I guess we have a lot more tasting to do...
Click here for Kellie's account of the weekend (I can't believe she got her post out before I did...)
Yesterday I took the boys over the Blake Island for our regular adventure outing. Blake Island a small island a few miles away from downtown Seattle in the middle of Puget Sound (map). It used to be a private estate owned by William Pitt Trimble, until his wife died of an accident, after which the heartbroken Trimble abandoned the estate. It's now a state park with a Native American arts and culture center called Tillicum Village (complete with salmon dinner and dancing show - not bad actually). It's only reachable by private boat or tour boat (the Argosy cruise line runs back and forth).
We've been to Blake Island once before a few years back on the sailboat we owned, and Andrew (9) went recently on a field trip. The guys have both been badgering me to go back since they like the driftwood covered beach, so I relented. We hopped on the 11:30 boat (the only one that runs this time of year) and spent two hours playing on the beach. Andrew, predictably, started building a huge house of driftwood, aided by a pretty girl who was camping nearby (lots of camping on Blake Island). Michael (6), equally predictably, enlisted my help sending driftwood "battleships" out into the water and trying to hit them with rocks. The weather was pleasant enough and everyone had a good time. We got a bit of lunch from the snack bar at Tillicum Village (I had a salmon salad - the salmon here is good since they pin the salmon on cedar stakes and cook it over an alder fire as part of their dinner show) and then caught the 2:30 boat back (again, the only one they run during May.)
It was a bit expensive - normally $40/adult, $12/kid minus a AAA discount for the round trip boat rides - plus the crazy Seattle parking rates (I paid $22 for parking across the street from Pier 55 where the Argosy departs.) Add to that the cost of snacks on the hour-long boat ride each way. On top of that, with the single boat sailing each way, you really only get two hours on the island. I think the next time we go back, we'll camp for a few days. The island has great views of Seattle and Mount Rainier, a fun beach for kids, and miles of wooded hiking trails. There are good facilities (bathrooms/showers, water, fire rings, and the snack bar with firewood/charcoal, lattes, and ice cream), and it's easy to get to.
In any case, it was a fun outing, and any day that I get to ride on a boat is a good one in my book.
May 26, 2007
The Louis Vuitton Cup determines who will go on to challenge the reigning Americas Cup champion (currently Alinghi, the Swiss team). This week, the LV semi-finals in Valencia finished up. I'm happy to report that things are going my way.
First, I'm most happy that BMW Oracle Racing(USA) lost to Luna Rossa (Italy). Of course, normally, I'd be cheering on the US team, but my feelings toward Larry Ellison, the owner of the BMW Oracle syndicate, transcend even my strong patriotism. That BMW Oracle was the Challenger of Record (the runner up from last time), this is was Larry's third try at winning (he hasn't yet), and that Luna Rossa smoked their ass 5-1 makes me even happier. After this humiliation, Chris Dickson, the CEO and skipper for BMW Oracle and turncoat from Team New Zealand, resigned. Besides, Luna Rossa, with the help of their sponsor Prada, just looks better. They have a beautiful boat and great uniforms. Look good, sail good.
Almost as sweet, Emirates Team New Zealand beat a scrappy Spanish team, Desafio Espanol, five races to two. I've been a fan of Team New Zealand for a while; they're a class act and a great example of a smaller effort producing great results. I am, of course, even more a fan of Team New Zealand after having visited their base in Auckland, had lunch at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (home club for TMZ), and sailed around Auckland Harbor on an old AC boat last year. That said, Desafio Espanol did much better than anyone expected in their first AC challenge. Props to Desafio for a good effort.
So, Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa will race in the finals starting June 1. The winner will go on to challenge Alinghi for the Americas Cup. Should be fun!
If you want to watch video highlights or watch a very slick computer representation of the race (the same one they use in the TV coverage and frankly a better way to follow the races), check out Americas Cup Anywhere.
Here's an old Larry Ellison joke just to finish things up:
Question: What is the difference between God and Larry Ellison?
Answer: God doesn't think he's Larry Ellison.
May 22, 2007
Michael (6) lost his first tooth today. He's been hoping for this for some time now, looking forward to the cash the Tooth Fairy will bring. He had considered ways to rip out more of his teeth so he could get more money. Definitely a results oriented kid.
Apparently, the going rate for teeth in his school is a video game! I think this might just be for the first tooth; regardless, the Tooth Fairy is significantly more stingy around these parts. Michael left a note under his pillow for the Tooth Fairy asking for the new Pokemon Silver game; the buck or two the Tooth Fairy leaves will have to suffice.
May 20, 2007
As a long time Microsoft employee, I am saddened and sometimes embarassed by the consistently, um, poor quality of our ads. It makes me very happy when I see a great ad coming out of the company. Invariably, it seems that they come out of our international subsidiaries and not Redmond.
Here's a very well done and funny ad from the Dutch sub. Here's the blog of the guy who did the ad.
Here's an old one from the New Zealand sub that was fantastic too. I think it was pulled though by the corporate police. Too bad.
May 14, 2007
My friends John and Ann got married today, unbeknownst to anyone at the office. John let the world know today through his blog; this is undoubtedly the first time I've learned of a friend's wedding through the blogosphere.
I think they're both wonderful and think they're even better together. I'm sure they'll be very happy together.
May 13, 2007
Last weekend, I shot the Opening Day of boating season. This is an century+ old tradition, put on by the Seattle Yacht Club (my club). It consists of an opening Commissioning Ceremony on the club grounds, the Windermere Cup crew races, and a big boat parade. There are also a bunch of activities and parties leading up to Opening Day and afterwards. It's an altogether big deal.
Despite having been a member for eight or nine years, I've never been to Opening Day. (I did hang out on a speed boat at the exit of the boat parade one year.) In something of a coincidence, Michelle and I were married on Opening Day a long time ago. It was nice to finally hang out at the club for Opening Day; being the "official" photographer gave me a little something extra to do while I was there.
I took over 1000 photos; a few even turned out OK. Unfortunately, I had smudged my camera's sensor the night before as I was cleaning it and didn't have the right tools to really fix it. It didn't affect most of my shots, but you can see the flecks in a few. Drat.
Easily my favorite boat in the parade was the Elvis boat from the Bremerton Yacht Club. The huge Elvis head looked great; the lips and eyebrows even moved with the music. The crew on board also looked like they were having a blast.
Anyway, I had fun. You can check out more photos here.
May 12, 2007
Since third grade, I had worn progressively thicker glasses and contact lenses. At my worst, I was -9.5/-10; this is bad. If I had to read without correction, I had to close one eye because I had to hold the reading material was so close to my face that I lost binocular vision. In fact if my vision had gotten any worse, I wouldn't have been able to wear disposable contact lenses; they simply don't make them any stronger.
So, about eight years ago, I had Lasik eye surgery done. The result was something of a miracle. I went from being effectively blind to having better than 20/20 vision. I'm a totally satisfied Lasik patient. (It's a good thing I got my surgery when I did. I guess they're more cautious about doing Lasik on people with my old correction.)
Unfortunately, with age come inevitable changes. I went in to my eye doctor for my first visit in six years (I've been busy, OK?). He said things were still really good, but my left eye could use a little correction, especially for close-in work.
So, for the first time in eight years, I have glasses again. I don't need them all time, but they're meant to be helpful for computer work and reading (not that I do much of those...) However, since my correction is slight now, I can have much cooler and thinner glasses now than I ever could before. After trying on a bunch of pairs, I picked up these Ted Baker frames.
Andrew (9) thinks they make me "look weird". Michael (6) just thinks they make me look "girlie". Michelle took the more diplomatic "I just have to get use to you in glasses again." I haven't decided if I like them yet; I need to get used to me in glasses again too.
May 5, 2007
Someone made a surprising observation the other day. Now that Andrew is nine (almost ten really), we've already passed the halfway point of the time he'll likely be living at home. We have less time together ahead of us than behind us.
This made me a little sad, really. It was a big wake-up call that we need to really spend more time together as a family during these next few years. It's even more important given that he's less likely to want to hang out with his parents as a teenager.
I guess I better think of something fun to do together for tomorrow...
May 3, 2007
Once every few years, I seem to have to relearn that having naturally darkish skin does not make me impervious to sunburn.
On the first morning of the trip to Cabo, I took the boys down to the beach; none of us had sunscreen on. Michelle had the bag with sunscreen and was supposed to be right down, but she got sidetracked trying to find a live network connection for her laptop.
Of course, I was well protected with my extensive base tan after a Seattle winter (not). As a result, the three of us were unprotected in the Mexican sun for about three hours. By the time I realized there might be a problem, I was good and red. That evening, I could barely sleep for the pain. (Somehow, the boys managed to escape serious burns; Andrew (9), in particular, just got a little more freckly.)
Two or three days later, my face started peeling in earnest. It was pretty horrific. Michael (6) started peeling a bit too, although he was more excited about it, thinking he was shedding his skin like a snake (he's clearly a Slytherin...).
As the trip was winding down to the last few days, I could go outside again without feeling the searing heat reburning my skin. Must remember to be smarter next time...
May 2, 2007
For our trip to Cabo, I had prearranged our airport transfer online before we left. Transcabo clearly warned their customers on the site to ignore the touts in the airport, explicitly stating their representatives would be outside the airport in distinctive orange shirts.
So, of course, as we left customs, I got sidetracked by a dude who looked very official and said my Transcabo guys were just out and would be back in a few minutes. He started telling me about the free breakfast, return transfer, and activities I could have. Michelle caught on immediately, said we weren't interested in a timeshare pitch, and left. I stood there like an idiot for a few more minutes until I clued into why Michelle left. Transcabo was just outside the airport holding a sign with my name on it, as promised.
Michelle, once again, proved that she's the brains of the operation.
BTW, Transcabo was great. I'd use them again any time. They were right there ready for us, the van was nice (unlike the taxi we took back to the airport), and the driver was friendly/helpful.