Sunday, July 17, 2005

Home, sweet home, where the wild orca roam

[Note: in the style of National Geographic, this is mostly a photo essay, with not a whole lot of connecting text. There are, however, no pictures of naked natives with plates in their lips. Sorry.]

As I briefly alluded to earlier, Christina and I recently went back to Seattle for a week and got a full dose of the good old Pacific Northwest:

We went to the weekly Farmer's Market [or, rather, one of the several Farmer's Markets] on Bainbridge Island, which was populated by the usual folks one finds at a Farmer's Market in the PNW: everybody was wearing the "Seattle Tuxedo" [fleece], a fellow was selling free-range cows [you had to buy a whole cow, and sign up a year in advance because, well, cows need time to grow ...], there were people selling art work that was heavy on orcas and wolves [never understood the wolf bit -- as far as I know, there aren't a whole lot of wolves in the PNW] etc. Christina got a few great shots of some of the flower bouquets that were on sale:

Speaking of Bainbridge Island [which is where Christina's parents live], it reminded both of us of a Norman Rockwell painting, in terms of how "wholesome" it is -- it's a small community of about 20K people, the neighbors tend to know each other, it has great views of Mount Rainier, the Cascades and the Olympics, it's lushly wooded, very clean etc. In fact, it's so ideal that it was just voted the 2nd best place to live in the US by CNN. I guess it's a testament to how sensitized Christina and I have become to quality-of-life issues that we actually noticed this ourselves -- when we lived in Seattle, we didn't think nearly as highly of Bainbridge as we do now.

One of the tricky bits about trips like this is trying to see everybody you'd like to see -- there are always too many people and not enough time. Rather than go insane trying to set up individual dinners, lunches etc with people, we adopted a batch-oriented approach and asked everybody we wanted to see to meet us at a popular watering hole in Seattle called the Garage. That worked out reasonably well, even though a lot of people were out of town. It was very nice to hang out again with all our old friends in a relaxed atmosphere -- we fit right back in, almost as if no time had passed, even though some people had apparently managed to acquire a criminal record in the past year:

Our visit to Seattle coincided with our 2nd wedding anniversary, which we celebrated by having a picnic on a Bainbridge beach, inscribing a symbol of our union on a log with raspberry juice and taking some goofy pictures:

We spent a lot of time with family [on Christina's side, obviously], which was nice, especially since I don't get to see my side of the family very much [other than my brother's occasional forays up to Boston from Philly, which has been a benefit of moving to Boston ...]. Part of that time was spent trying to contain the boundless energy of Chloe, my [very cute] 6-year old niece; an easy way of getting her to sit still for a bit was to take pictures of her, so we did that, liberally:

In more of the "this is what having kids is like" vein, we also got a full-on introduction to the rigors [and joys] of having 2 small kids when we visited our friends Lori and Paul, who have a 2-year old daughter [Claire] and a 4-month old son [William]. My only hope is that we'll build up the necessary endurance when we have to, because otherwise we're in trouble -- spending just a day with Lori and Paul, and not even having to do any of the childcare, left me exhausted. On the flip side, I can see why little moments, captured in pictures like these, can make it all worth it:

Our visit with Lori and Paul also illustrated that, should we ever need to rebuild civilization after a nuclear holocaust, software engineers will not be very useful, because we're lost when it comes to mechanical things: after Paul [a former MS VP] and I spent about 45 minutes trying to put together a children's bicycle for our client [Chloe] according to the supplied specification and failed to convince her that a rear wheel and chain that stayed on the sprocket were an unnecessary feature, we finally told her that her project required skills that were beneath us, and was too low-margin, and that she should outsource it to the local bike shop:

Other highlights from the trip include:

- going to check out our house and seeing that our renters are keeping it in immaculate shape
- getting to ride a motorcycle again, since our friends Geoffrey, Ted and Paul kindly allowed me to have a few zoom-zoom moments on their respective motorcycles
- great weather: Seattle rolled out the "welcome home" carpet for us, with 70-degree, non-humid, sunny weather for pretty much our entire trip

And that was pretty much our entire trip. The main take-away: we need to get back to Seattle ASAP [bet you weren't expecting that ;-)].


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