Signs of Spring

Spring has finally come to Seattle.

In front of our house, a grand old magnolia tree is in full bloom. Actually, it’s past full bloom now, dropping its pink-white petals in bursts like snowstorms, lining the walkways with hazardous beauty. Across the street, where an equally large tree blooms, a lady tripped and fell on the blossom-lined sidewalk. A neighbor called to warn us, and now Bigfoot goes out to shovel the magnolia snow every other day.

Our neighborhood is called Magnolia, and looking around, you would think it was named for these magnificent trees. But the truth is, it started as a mistake.

When Captain George Vancouver discovered the area in the 1700s, he noticed the bluff lined with madrona trees–another beautiful tree, with striking deep red bark; sadly, there are few left–but misnamed them “magnolias” in his ship’s log. The name stuck, and residents started to plant magnolia trees to make the neighborhood live up to its reputation. Surprisingly, these magnolia grandiflorae, grande dames of the American South, took to the northern clime and decided to stay.

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, cherries and rhododendrons are bursting with mouthwatering colors, and daffodils and tulips are popping up in gardens. We see an occasional wild daffodil along the trails in Discovery Park.

On sunny days, blooms and small new light green leaves give hope to the most hardened of cynics. When it rains, a scent of fresh grass fills the air.

Beautiful in its own right, spring presages the long sunny days of summer, a time when the Pacific Northwest shines like no other place on earth.

Here is Bigfoot’s unusual photo essay showing the brightness of spring emerging from winter’s den.

Click on the small photos to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

Foreclosure Investing: A Young Investor Gets Started

 

 

foreclosure investing

Foreclosure Investor Jessica Ko

Former loan officer Jessica Ko was between jobs and serving on her condo’s board when she learned of an upcoming foreclosure at the complex where she lived. She went to the auction to see if she could pick it up at a low price. She had never been to an auction before.

“Of course I got outbid,” says the diminutive 27-year-old. This story has now been published by RealtyTrac. To read the rest of it, please click HERE.

 

 

How To Wear A Scarf

We’ll admit it–we were tying scarves in ugly knots before watching this video. Despite being an over-the-top francophile, Domesticus did not have a clue how to wear a scarf until Bigfoot, tired of seeing big ugly knots all winter, sent us this video.

Of course, it isn’t just for neck-warming winter scarves. In fact, all the scarves Wendy Nguyen uses in the video are the long, silk decorative kind. The kind Domesticus doesn’t own because what’s the point if you turn it into a rope?

But now that we’ve learned a thing or two, we might invest in some.

We got curious about the lovely young woman behind the video, so we went to her website, where we were amazed to learn that she grew up in foster care and kept her belongings in a plastic trash bag. But she managed to graduate from college, and nowadays, she’s an actress and fashion blogger, and also volunteers to help troubled, previously-incarcerated youths.

We really wanted to interview Wendy but couldn’t get ahold of her. But we keep returning to her video so much that we decided to share it as something that has now become a part of our life. Maybe it will have the same effect on you.

 

Chicken Parade

 

 

For a fabulous musical slide show of the chicken parade,  please visit this site and click on Slideshow on the right.

Who would drive 75 miles on a Saturday morning to go to a chicken parade?

Domesticus would, and did. And is pleased to report that the good people in the tiny hamlet of Edison, WA (population 149) and their fine-feathered friends made it well worth the trip.

Even though we missed the actual event—but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

We thought it would be a race, but it didn’t really work out that way, chickens being what they are. It was called the “Keep Your Chicken In Line” parade, with few rules and no prizes.

Still, Sydney Hedington, holding Mr. Fluffy, had the pre-event jitters. “I found out it’s for hens only,” said the wide-eyed  8-year old.

“Tell them it’s a family rooster,” advised her 10-year-old sister Hannah, holding Mrs. Fluff.

Sydney holding Mr. Fluffy

 

Hannah holding Mrs. Fluff

Hannah holding Mrs. Fluff

“Let’s get going, girls, or we’re going to miss it,” said their dad Phil. Phil used to work in construction but now he works for a big a farm that grows corn and wheat. He has 30 chickens at home. He was cradling tiny, quivering Tye-Dye, a serama breed that he said is “the smallest chicken in the world.”

"The smallest chicken in the world"

"The smallest chicken in the world"

Some people like the Hedingtons carried their birds in the race-cum-parade, and others leashed them or pulled them in wagons domed with chicken wire. Some decided to let their chickens run free, and they promptly raced away from all the commotion at warp speed. After the parade their owners were still chasing after them with nets down the back streets of Edison.

And so it was that Fred, normally a free range chicken but confined to a leash for the parade, strutted to the finish line first.

“The free range chicken leads the way!” crowed owner Austin Breckenridge. Like Phil, Austin works on a farm. In the farm’s off-season, he manages a duck hunting club.

Domesticus interviews Austin, owner of the Chicken Parade winner

The parade “from one end of Edison to the other” lasted less than five minutes. If you blinked, you missed it. And it’s a good thing Bigfoot was there with his camera, because Domesticus blinked.

After all, it’s a long trip from Seattle to Edison, and you have fuel up with a grande mocha from Starbucks. So by the time you’ve arrived and done your initial reporting, a short detour to the Old Edison Inn becomes necessary.

Though hundreds of chicken paraders thronged the street outside, the Inn was dark and empty. A young man behind the bar muttered to someone in the kitchen, and we thought we heard the words “fucking chicken thing.” However, when we apologetically asked to use the facilities, he gave us a genuine smile and said, “Sure,” pointing us to a door marked “Gals.”

And in that brief interlude, we missed the whole chicken parade.

But we caught the spirit of the thing, and it will stay with us for some time.

Somebody dressed up as a chicken

Somebody dressed up as a chicken

 

Somebody learns about chickens

Somebody learns about chickens

 

 

 

Snow White and the Magnificent Seven

Once upon a time, an elementary school in Kirkland, Washington decided to put on a play about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

They’d done it before. But this time, the school’s worried principal decided to edit out certain elements of the story, in light of the school’s human dignity and anti-bullying policies. Quite a hubbub ensued.

In fact, the story was censored edited in such a thoughtful and sensitive manner that Domesticus immediately recognized the consulting firm the school must have hired to do it:

Official Three Stooges logo. L to R: Moe Howar...

 

Here is a transcript of their work:

Larry [reading]: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Moe [tearing the script from Larry’s hands]: No! Gimme that, you nitwit! [Turns his attention to the script] We can’t say dwarfs.

Curly: Can we say dwarves?

Moe: No! We gotta use gentle woids, on account of the tender innocent ears of all them little pitchers out there. With mommies and daddies some ‘a which is legal types that can send the whole school board to Sing Sing if we ain’t careful.

Larry: How about The Seven Short People?

Moe [shaking head]: What do I do with such nincompoops? No, we can’t say short people, you idiot!

Curly: Why can’t we say short people?

Moe: On account of Randy Newman.

Larry: How about Snow White and the Vertically Challenged Helpers?

Curly: Helpers, now there’s a gentle woid.

Moe: Them elemen-ter-arry kids ain’t gonna figger that out. Plus, it don’t sound real gentle-like.

[A thoughtful pause. Moe and Larry squint in concentration. Larry takes a sip of water and smacks his lips. Curly leans back in his chair, puts his feet on the table and stretches his hands behind his head. As he does so, his elbow bangs Larry in the head.]

Larry: Hey, watch it, you! [Shoves Curly’s feet off the table.] Keep your hands to yourself!

Curly: Them ain’t gentle woids!

Moe: Shut up, you numbskulls! [Jumps between them and bashes their heads together.] Whatsa matter with you? Can’t you see we got woik to do? [Struts back to his seat.]

[Larry and Curly both rub their aching heads. Suddenly, Larry’s eyes light up, as though a genie has appeared to him.]

Larry: Hey! I got it!

Moe [leering]: Oh. A wise guy, eh?. Whadda you got, you miserable pink-faced monkey?

Curly: Them ain’t gentle –

Moe: Shut up, you numbskull! I’d knock your brains out, if you had any brains.

Larry: Are you ready? Snow White … and the Magnificent Seven!

Moe [hesitates a moment, then pounds his fist on the table, splashing water from Larry’s glass into his eyes]: Now you’re tawkin! [Rubs palms together.] In that fine spirit, let’s read through the rest of it and clean it all up for them poor innocent tykes.

[They huddle together over the script in silence.]

Curly: It says here that Sneezy calls Dopey stupid.

Moe: We can’t say stupid.

Curly: Why can’t we say stupid?

Moe: On account of it might offend some people who’s liable to take it poissonal.

Larry: Who would take it poissonal?

Moe: Why, the school board, you nitwit!

Curly: Look at this! This here girl is singin’ the praises of her coivy-coives!

Larry: Ooh, coivy-coives, where’s dat, lemme see dat!

Moe: We can’t have no coivy-coives.

Larry and Curly [faces fallen] Why not?

Moe: On account of it takes their innocent little minds away from the subject.

Larry: What is the subject?

Moe: You gotta whistle while you woik.

Curly: Some people can’t whistle.

Moe [rubbing his chin]: Hmmm … Maybe we oughta take that out. But we still got a nice little ditty at the end they can all relate to.

[Sings]: Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho! It’s home from school we go.

Where we rush to play our God of War and Grand Theft

Au-to!

Larry Fine (right) with Moe Howard and Curly H...

 

 

DotAnythingGoes

 

 

 

Think you need to spend megabucks on that domain name just because it’s a dot-com?

Well, think again–the era of “exotic” TLDs (top level domains, like dot-co, dot-cc, etc.) has arrived! See my article for Hewlett-Packard’s website HERE.

Welcome to the Office Tribal Council

If you take care of her, I’ll take care of you.- Rob Mariano on Survivor.

Is the workplace turning into high school, or even Survivor, with employee cliques instead of good, hard work becoming the ticket to success?

Maybe so–at least that’s how we interpret this Wall St. Journal article, which describes a company that is crowd sourcing its employee stock options–letting employees vote anonymously on who they think should get the most shares in the stock-option jackpot.

They can’t vote for themselves, but there’s nothing to stop scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours deals from forming.

But even without such blatant abuse, this system smells like a garbage dump on a hot summer afternoon.

Because we’re all human.

Who do you think will get the most votes? Assuming you have too much integrity to make a deal, who would you vote for–the quiet guy in the corner whose name you always forget (though he may be a diligent, honest worker with good ideas)?

Or the gal who always has a ready smile and an encouraging word for you?

Let’s face it, we all judge each other subjectively, mainly by how the other person makes us feel.

This system was created with the thinking that employees could be more objective judges of one others’ performance than the boss.

But in fact, they are less objective.  They are all indirectly, and sometimes directly, competing with one another. They can choose ignore this awkward aspect of reality most of the time and work together in relative harmony.

Until a system like this comes along and turns the workplace into Survivor.

At least, that’s how Domesticus sees it.

But maybe we’re old fashioned. We  have the same sort of problem with 360-degree feedback. Which was developed, by the way–We are not making this up!–by the Nazis. Really. Read the history section in Wikipedia.

What do you think? Is crowd sourcing a good way to award money to fellow employees, or does it worsen the competitive atmosphere?

Late Bloomers

Meadow in the Olympic Peninsula

See more photos of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Cape Flattery, and Rialto Beach HERE.

 

The day my sister and brother-in-law leave it’s appropriately gray and cold, despite a weather forecast of upper ‘80s. Losing my family, even if only until Christmas when I’ll visit them in Florida, hurts a lot more than expected.

Ain’t no sunshine. Bill Withers got that one right.

There was a time when the sadness of their departure would have been tempered by relief. Not that we couldn’t stand one another; we all more or less got along, the two sisters and two husbands, then two sisters and a different husband. We did OK, with some tense moments. But it also felt good to kiss them good-bye and get back to my own life and lengthy to-do list.

This trip is different.

The four of us sit cramped in a car for hours the morning after my sister and her husband’s long flight from Florida, but no one complains. Instead we revel in the shifting scenery of dark evergreens and the glinting Sound as we head for our whirlwind tour of the Olympic Peninsula.

It is a trip of surprises. Hurricane Ridge, which I remember from an October trip as a long drive just to see some distant, foggy peaks, is a giant panorama of mountains whose sharp contours slice the sky, and we walk along once-icy paths of alpine meadows blooming with lupine and fireweed.

I am jolted again in the mossy depths of the Hoh rain forest, where I have demanded that everyone bring raingear and hats – surely the world’s wettest spot will require them. But by the time we pull up to the trail we have seen how the sun has blasted its way even through the densest canopy, and it is obvious we don’t need this stuff.

Snap! My husband snags a photo of us looking sweaty and bedraggled as we step across a log breaching a cool stream.

Snap! In a mind-boggling change of climate, we pose among driftwood skeletons along Rialto Beach, bundled in hats and coats. In July! we will exclaim to each other in years to come.

My sister wielding a bat of kelp amid the driftwood

On the last day our only dispute, despite the heat, the cold, and the endless driving, is over the fastest route to the Three Crabs restaurant before catching the last ferry.

By the time the crabs arrive, I’m mellowed out with wine, and plying the metal implements to crack them and pull out the juicy strands of meat seems beyond me. My sister, unasked, cracks and pulls for me before getting to her own plate.
Is this really my sister, the one who always insisted on keeping our possessions separate and wrote “Leave it alone” on all of hers?

Without the wine, perhaps I’d feel like the heel that I am, but as it is, I revel in the moment.

Outside, in a spirit of crazy exuberance, we hunch over and gyrate like three crustaceans under the Three Crabs sign.

Snap! There we are, looking ridiculous.

The Three Crabs

A large party of fellow diners, perhaps perceiving a sense of camaraderie in our nutty behavior, asks us to join them in a group-hug photo. So we throw our arms around one another with a bunch of friendly strangers.
“Friendly strangers” bounces around and echoes in my mind. It strikes me that that is what we have been for so many years ourselves, but now something has changed, and we are more than that.

Why? We haven’t done anything out of the ordinary, just gone to some beautiful places and taken some goofy pictures to remember them by.

It’s more what is missing. Gone are the old rivalries, the not-so-subtle insults and insinuations, the insecurity disguised as bravado and sarcasm. Without realizing it, we have all become more tolerant, more supportive, nicer. Has it really taken us until middle age to get to this point?

We are two grown women now, my sister and I, close friends, with husbands who are also becoming close —  remarkable, considering that one is a leftist, the other a libertarian, and both are passionate and argumentative about their views.
It must be hard for them, I think, to hold back that gush of venom that I know wants to burst forth in response to the day’s news or a passing remark. But they don’t look strained, identifying trees and birds together and discussing the finer points of Photoshop. My sister and I also flow together, laughing at absurdities and offering advice without being intrusive.

And this is the best surprise of the trip: it turns out being with family—in-laws and all—is a joy. I never expected that as I hurtled through the years trying to navigate my own life with my own goals, an early one of which was to get far away from family and home and rush headlong towards – well, someplace else.

At long last the me, me, me has receded a little, just enough so that I am getting to know these wonderful, now middle-aged people around me, and realizing how lucky I am to have them.

And how sad it is we live so far apart.