New friend, old friend

26 03 2010

I met Craig today. I’ve been following Craig’s blog for about 3 years, since just before he left Melbourne to live in Seattle. I don’t even remember how I stumbled on his blog, but I’ve been following his life as an Aussie in the US since that first post I read. Until today, I’d never met Craig — he was just a voice on a blog; an Aussie voice, but just a voice nonetheless. And there’s always a sense of trepidation meeting someone for the first time and putting your life in their hands.

Our paths didn’t cross last year, but this year we were both in the same city at the same time. We were going to do brunch and then he was going to take me to the airport. Unfortunately, his car battery died as he got to the hotel to pick me up, so after the AAA came out and replaced it, we headed off in the rain to Redmond, Bellevue etc. as Craig thought I’d like to get some idea of the size of the Microsoft ‘city’ of buildings. Wow!  It’s HUGE! Then it was off to the airport, and ultimately we didn’t get to have that brunch as time just ran out. However, we did spend a bit of time driving around Seattle in the rain, just gabbing!

I liked Craig immediately — I thought I would, as he comes across as such a nice guy from his posts. He’s a funny, likeable, and genuine nice bloke. I can see why his Mum is as proud as punch of him — and I know his late Dad was equally as proud of him.

Thanks for taking me to the airport today, Craig. I really appreciated it — and really appreciated meeting you. You make the world a happier place.

Fair’s fair

26 03 2010

I caught a very full flight from Seattle to Los Angeles today. There were many announcements pre-boarding and when we were on the aircraft about how the plane was totally full and how all large carry-ons should go in the overhead lockers with smaller carry-ons put under the seat in front of us. The attendants even gave instructions on the best way to maximise space by telling us how to put our wheeled carry-ons into the overhead locker. All good so far and pretty much everyone seemed to be doing the right thing, with some even helping others sort out the limited overhead space to get the most out of it.

So what sort of d*ickhead was the guy (in his 50s no less) who sat in Row 14 but decided to dump one of his bags into the overhead lockers in Row 10 on his way down to Row 14? The Row 10 people then had less room to put their stuff.

Not fair. Rude. Selfish bastard. These were some of the words that sprang to mind… I won’t repeat the other words I thought of!

Even the puddles don’t go downhill

22 03 2010

It rained a bit in Seattle today. Not a lot, but enough. This picture shows how puddles stay parallel to earth’s something or other (magnetic field? sea level?):

What’s wrong with this picture?

22 03 2010

It’s Seattle. It’s raining. The owner of the bike has carefully locked it and put a plastic bag over the seat. But there’s something not quite right with this picture…

Picked it yet? The helmet is totally exposed to the rain!

US trip 2010: Awesome lunch in Seattle

22 03 2010

My friend Char, her friend Emma (and now my friend Emma), and I had a late lunch together today. We had no clue where to go — Emma’s from Vancouver in Canada, Char is from Boston, and I’m from Australia. So we drove around in Emma’s car and she spotted a little place in E Olive Way called Dinette. The menu looked really interesting, the place was small, and the atmosphere was warm and friendly.

We ended up ordering almost everything off the menu! Most were small dishes, and we ate the LOT — including dessert! The food was awesome, and the company was even better.

If you live in Seattle or are visiting, give this little out-of-the-way place a try. For those at the WritersUA conference this week, they’re open Tuesday and Wednesday night, but not Monday. Their website is:

Here are some photos, including the menu (click on each to see a larger picture):

Amazing fruit and veges

22 03 2010

Pike Place Market in Seattle has the most AMAZING fruit and vegetables, and other produce. Here are some massive beefsteak tomatoes that were on display at one of the stalls (note the sign for the brussels sprouts below them — the stall owner said a little boy called them ‘Little green balls of death’ one day, and they decided to go with the name!):

US trip 2010: Travelling north

21 03 2010

The good

  • Crocs are fantastic for airport security — kick them off, slip them on, done.
  • Orange County airport is much friendlier and less hectic than LAX. Even the TSA people are pleasant and helpful.
  • Alaska Air flight to Seattle left 2 minutes EARLY — never my experience in the US before!
  • Alaska Air flight arrived 25 minutes EARLY. Wow.
  • Alaska Air provided little snack packs of nibblies and a non-alcoholic drink for free — twice.
  • Alaska Air’s flight attendants smiled and looked you in the eye.
  • Alaska Air’s flight attendants didn’t stop those in the early rows of economy class using the business class toilet.
  • Alaska Air honoured the ticket from my travel agent that said I could have 1 piece of checked luggage for free (normally it’s $15 per checked piece)
  • While waiting at the gate for my flight, I saw 3 then 4 then 5 then 6 people come off the arriving flight in bright lime green t-shirts. Eventually there were 10 of them! All the one family. Mum, dad and 8 kids ranging from late teens to babies. No wonder they wore bright lime green shirts — that’s a lot of kids to keep track of! Very sensible idea.
  • My suitcase came out quickly at baggage claim at Seattle.
  • Greeting my good friend Char when she arrived from Boston about an hour after my flight arrived.
  • The new Link Light Rail from the Seattle-Tacoma airport to downtown is quick, good and cheap ($2.50 one way).
  • The weather in Seattle was good. Partly cloudy, fine, 65F.
  • The food variety and prices at the Westlake Center food court in Seattle is good. Value for money.
  • The high speed wireless internet service I found was cheap and blisteringly fast (compared to anything I’ve experienced in Australia).

The not so good

  • Flying on a Saturday meant less traffic getting to the Orange County airport and possibly less people in the airport, but more families travelling who had young children with hacking coughs, or who were chucking tantrums, squealing, and making lots of other noises. My tolerance for young children is not high…
  • Alaska Air charged me $50 for an overweight bag! The suitcase (two nested suitcases, actually) and its contents weighed 60 lbs, which is less than the 32 kgs allowed by Qantas and other airlines on international flights. Alaska’s limit is 50 lbs. They wouldn’t take into consideration that I was an international passenger and told me to claim the $50 back from my travel agent!
  • What’s with people making loud private cell phone calls in public places like airport waiting areas? Sorry, but I really don’t want to hear what you and your family is doing, or how much money you’ve lent your loser brother-in-law to support his gambling habit!
  • The flight attendant in business class spent much of her time reading a novel in the little door alcove out of sight of passengers — and she had another novel alongside her waiting to be read. I thought her job was to look after the business class cabin, not read a novel.
  • No blankets! The lady in the window seat next to me had a cold draft coming at her and she was freezing. She asked for ab lanket and was told that they don’t supply blankets now ‘because of swine flu’. Because of swine flu??? Come on. Try the truth — they’re cutting back expenses and the dry cleaning bills plus the extra weight was just too much.
  • The biggest bugbear about the Link Light Rail at Seattle-Tacoma Airport is the LONG walk to the station. If you didn’t have wheeled luggage, you’d be sick of schlepping your bag all that way.
  • We couldn’t get a room upgrade at The Westin as the hotel is fully booked — there’s a Microsoft conference on here too. And because we didn’t have a suite (like last year), we didn’t get a complimentary basket of fruits and cheeses.
  • Two people sharing a room who have two computers cannot both be on the internet at the same time using the hotel’s internet connection, even if there’s both wired and wireless in the room. One has to wait to use the other person’s computer (not their own if they didn’t do the sign-up), OR pay for a second connection, OR sign up to another (cheaper!) plan with a wireless provider outside the hotel. I’ll blog about this failed user experience by high-end hotels on my Cybertext blog in the next day or so.

US trip 2010: Southern California

20 03 2010

I had a relatively quiet day today, though very little sleep last night — jet lag? or the ginormous nachos? Sue and I were up very early (5-ish) and we had breakfast and chatted until I left San Diego just after 9AM. She showed me some of the cool stuff she was doing to create Windows Mobile Help, too.

I headed north to Carlsbad and the outlet malls there. On my shopping list was the purchase of two new suitcases. Our old ones are starting to come apart, and I knew the Samonsite outlet would likely have something suitable. And they did! I found two nice dove/silver grey ones (I did NOT want black — every man and his dog seems to have a black suitcase, based on my baggage carousel experiences this past week). I got some of the other things on my (short) list, then headed out at 11:30AM hoping to be back north of the Orange County Airport to meet a fellow technical writer for lunch. But it was not to be. After making really good time (65mph maximum = 80mph in reality on the I-5), I got caught in a traffic snarl near San Juan Capistrano. There was no way I was going to make our 12:30 lunch appointment, so we took a raincheck for next year!

Instead, I filled up the rental car with fuel (one less job to do on the way to the airport tomorrow), and headed back to my uncle’s place, where I spent much of the afternoon removing packaging and tags off things, and nesting the new suitcases one inside the other then packing the inner, medium-sized one with my shoes and clothes.

My uncle and I had an early dinner of grilled salmon and stir-fried veges at the California Pizza Kitchen in Fashion Island at Newport Beach.

I leave fairly eary tomorrow morning for Seattle and the conference — and to swim with my own fishies again! 😉

US trip 2010: San Diego Zoo

19 03 2010

Yesterday, I went to the San Diego Zoo with my good friends Sue and Dave. It was a gorgeous day; fortunately, nowhere near as hot as the previous day, but I still got a little burnt on the back of my neck and tops of my shoulders.

Because we’ve all been to the zoo before (Sue’s even a friend of the zoo), there was no pressure to see it all. We started with the bus tour around the zoo, then after a bite to eat, we decided to go back to the Elephant Odyssey — a fairly new exhibit that looks much much nicer for the elephants than their previous enclosure.

After that we did the Skyfari (both ways), then the reptiles, then Sue and I got a caricature done of the both of us while Dave laughed and took pictures! 😉 The caricature was awesome — the young guy who did it is very talented. Sue will get a copy printed for me at Kinkos and give it to me at the conference when she arrives on Sunday.

By 4:30pm it was margaritas time! So we went to Baja Betty’s on University Ave, where we had a margarita each and a MASSIVE plate of nachos –we couldn’t eat all of them. All up, just under $24 for the 3 of us, including tax and the margaritas! Pretty good deal for a meal for 3 and and 3 alcoholic drinks!!

Pictures from the zoo — and that massive plate of nachos — to come (I’m writing this from Sue’s computer so haven’t uploaded my pictures yet)…

Update: I forgot! The best quarter (25c) we spent all day at the zoo was on the Footsie Wootsies! These are super industrial strength foot massage ‘chairs’ that you have to use with your shoes on. They were amazing and our feet felt SO good after!! Great for a day walking around the zoo.

US trip 2010: Melbourne to Los Angeles

18 03 2010

QF93 left Melbourne about 45 minutes late but arrived right on time in Los Angeles, at just after 7:00am today. We were at the gate and being deplaned just after 7:15 and I was through immigration, baggage claim and customs and in the rental car shuttle bus by 8:00am. That has to be a record!

The seat next to me remained empty the whole flight, which meant I could dump pillows, blankets etc. there whenever I needed to get up to go to the loo. We were served two meals — I had the roast rump of lamb on a pumpkin puree for dinner, and scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast. There was a snack bar too, where we could help ourselves during the flight.

Despite the fully flat bed in Business Class, I still didn’t sleep, though I felt my eyes closing about 1 hour out of LA… Wish it had been earlier! Instead, I watched 3 movies, read about 30 PDF articles I had accumulated on my laptop, and almost completed a novel.

The movies I saw were: Up in the Air (starring George Clooney; pretty good); The Blind Side (with Sandra Bullock; absolutely brilliant performance from her and she deserved that Oscar; great story; I’ll be more than happy to see it a few more times); My One and Only (with Renee Zellwegger; don’t bother; waste of space).
My rental car from Alamo is an ‘Intermediate SUV’ — a Ford Escape. It was cheaper than a standard or mid-size! Go figure. It was around $40 per day and no drop-off fee at Orange County Airport, and I got that deal via
I was in Newport Beach just after 9:30 am and spent the day with my uncle, catching up on some sleep, and generally just hanging in the heat (it was close to 100F today). Tomorrow I’m off to the San Diego Zoo with my good friends, Sue and Dave. Can’t wait! Though I hope it’s nowhere near as hot…
BTW, what’s with the St Patrick’s Day thing here? My uncle cooked corned beef and cabbage, then in the evening his neighbour came over with more corned beef and cabbage! Is that even an Irish dish????