New Year’s at the North Pole (aka Seattle) 2013

Who is that Eskimo?

Who is that Eskimo?

 

OK, it’s not really the North Pole. Though I’m dressed for it.

In fact, it’s not even freezing, nor even cold by Seattle’s standards. In our first winter living here, the winter of 2009, the mercury dropped to the single digits. Early mornings, driving to yoga, I thought How can anyone LIVE in weather like this?

So this New Year’s is…not that.

It just feels that way. I don’t know if it’s the humidity, the wind, both, or something else entirely but even with temperatures in the upper 30s and lower 40s,  it’s bone-chillin’ cold!

My friend Linda, who is from Canada no less, says the winter weather here has two speeds: warm, gray, and rainy or clear and cold.

It’s clear and cold.

But as you can see, I’m bundled up like an Eskimo in my puffer coat, fake-fur hat, scarf, and fur-lined gloves. Enjoying it. Except for my fingers, which are like icicles no matter what.

At least the clear air is good for photographs. Bigfoot got some nice ones, which I’ve posted below.

Enjoy, and here’s to the New Year–Skoal!!

Mt. Rainier rising over the Port of Seattle

Mt. Rainier rising over the Port of Seattle

 

Ducks at the Ballard Locks

Ducks at the Ballard Locks

 

Tree full of crows

Tree full of crows

Crow in winter

One flies away.

 

 

 

I Found a Four-Leaf Clover! What Does It Mean?

Four leaf clover

The real four-leaf clover I found, photographed with background added by BIgfoot.

 

We were walking on a woodsy trail in Discovery Park, Bigfoot and I. It was overcast and getting ready to rain, as it usually is in Seattle when it is not actually raining. The massive big-leaf maples and alders surrounding us were leafed out for summer, their wide green canopies hiding a gaggle of chirping birds. All the greenness and fresh oxygen, the big, protective trees, even the rain-is-coming low air pressure gave off a feeling of strength and abundance, of peaceful containment and self-sufficiency.

The forest, setting of fairy tales. I have always loved it.

Dark field in Discovery Park

Dark field in Discovery Park

On a trail at Discovery Park with dog

On a trail at Discovery Park

We took an unaccustomed turn on our way back, and off it, Bigfoot spotted what he said had been a trail.

“Let’s go this way,” he said, and headed off. I followed reluctantly.

In fact, it was sort of a narrow path, but you couldn’t really call it a trail.

“Maybe it was a trail, but it isn’t now,” I grumbled. “You know I hate bushwhacking.”

We walked on and soon found ourselves immersed in a giant field of clover.

“I’ve never seen so much clover in one place,” Bigfoot said.

Stretching out for several yards all around us were clover plants of every size and variety, large and small, some deep green, some a lighter green, and others with white inner markings. We were literally “in clover,” and now I could see how the expression came about. Out of the woods, you stumble upon a clearing filled with rich, green shamrocks. Life is easy, after all.

I bent down to examine the different types, and as I always do in a clover patch, searched for the elusive lucky one. I did see something that looked like it might have four leaves, so I reached down to part it from the thicket of surrounding plants. Usually the magical apparent four-leaf clover disappears when you do this, its fourth leaf turning out to belong to a neighbor.

But this time–I couldn’t believe it—the fourth leaf didn’t go away. I reached down farther and plucked its stem.

It was! A real four-leaf clover!

“Look!” I cried, holding up my prize to Bigfoot. “I hope it brings me luck! Do you think it means anything?”

“Think about what you were doing when you found it,” Bigfoot said.

I was walking. So what?

“You weren’t just walking, you were forging your own path. Think about what we were talking about.”

Big trees, Little Domesticus

Big trees, Little Domesticus

We had been talking about an email I had just sent to someone complaining about an attractive job I interviewed for, but am unlikely to get. And the recipient of my long-winded, self-pitying email had replied with the same words that Bigfoot has repeated to me many times: It doesn’t matter. You’re better off on your own. Don’t get a job, keep freelancing. You have valuable skills. You can do it!

But I’m not so sure. The security of a job appeals to me the same way a clearly-marked trail does. It’s no guaranty that something won’t go wrong. But it beats bushwhacking.

“I wasn’t forging my own path, I was forced onto it,” I say in answer to Bigfoot. Which is the case with freelancing too. Without a job, I am forced to try it. Though without Bigfoot’s encouragement, I probably would have left this bushwhacking path for a job–any job–by now. I’d probably be working at Starbucks. Instead, I’m giving this dark path full of unknown perils a chance.

Still, I hope the four-leaf clover brings me a job. At least, I think I do.

But instead, it strangely seems to be pointing me toward a freelance career.

The logo I chose recently for my new freelance business website is a shamrock. Shamrock is simply the Irish word for a regular three-leaf clover.

In designing the website’s logo, I looked at symbols, I looked at initials, I looked at abstract designs, and nothing appealed. I couldn’t even think of an image I wanted, until the shamrock popped into my head. It just seemed right, somehow. I thought about using a four-leaf clover instead, but it seemed like cheating. It seemed to imply I was lucky, or worse, that I thought I was special.

I downloaded some stylized shamrock images, but they didn’t look right. So I plucked a real clover, which I also found in Discovery Park, brought it home, and had Bigfoot take a picture of it and design a logo. AND HERE IT IS.

But now I’ve found a  four-leaf clover.

My clover is being pressed in the fold of a tissue inside a heavy cookbook with an even heavier atlas on top of it. After it’s fully dried, I’ll probably put it in some sort of enclosure and  keep it on my desk.

As for my website, I’m not sure if I should replace the shamrock with the new four-leaf or not. The idea seems less pretentious now that it’s real.

Maybe it would bring me luck.

Maybe I should stop thinking about luck and get busy writing.

What do you think? I’m open to suggestions.

That’s the way of the freelancer.

Bunny in Discovery Park--He eats clover.

Bunny in Discovery Park–He eats clover.

SuperMoon

Super Moon Seattle May 5, 2012

They called it Super Moon Saturday–the biggest and brightest moon of the year. The moon was the closest that it gets to Earth, which made it appear about 14 percent bigger than it does when it is farthest away.

Photographers were lined up to see it, including our own Bigfoot, who nabbed the shot above, and a little later, the one below:

Super Moon Seattle, May 5, 2012

According to the Seattle Times, increased  incidents of strange occurrences and weird behavior at the time of a full moon are just folklore.

However, Bigfoot did lose his wallet on the shoot. From his extremely deep pocket. In a pair of pants that, at other times, he has held upside down, and still the contents didn’t spill out.

He only walked around a little, and spent most of the time in his car.

It isn’t there.

Cue the Twilight Zone theme.

We hope the wallet turns up.

But if $6 and a passel of credit cards (now cancelled) was the price the moon exacted for capturing her mysterious beauty at the height of its power, so be it.

Truth be told, he wanted a new wallet anyway.

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.

 

 

Efficient Technologies

Image courtesy of Mundo and www.FreakingNews.com

 

Has technology really made life more efficient?

Or have things gotten worse?

Today we have:

 

                                                  

 

 

But we remember when people got things done without them.

When Domesticus was a kid back in the Pre-Digital Age,

Digits were on your hands, for easy use as a math tool (and somewhat later, a math tool hidden under your desktop).

Texting wasn’t available, but American Sign Language and crumpled paper balls did the trick.

Transportation was getting everywhere you needed to go in one pair of Keds or loafers, usually with at least one hole in the bottom.

Meals were consumed at a table with the family, after being cooked in an oven by a grownup; and

Toilets worked!! Did the job with one quick touch, and almost no need for maintenance. True, they wasted some water. But what about the human energy we waste now, when they don’t get the job done the first time around? What about the disgust factor?

Then there’s hot water faucets. Used to be, you turned on the tap and right away, the water that came out was hot enough to make instant coffee (a beverage from the pre-espresso era.) Now you have to wait. It probably has something to do today’s 3000-square-foot homes requiring longer pipe extensions than our old 1050-square-foot apartment. Which somehow housed three people comfortably. (We stored a lot of things under our beds. It was quite efficient  in its way.)

Garbage. Used to be, you bought stuff at the store and carried it home—on foot—in a brown paper bag. Later on, the bag went into a big metal trash can, along with apple cores, milk cartons, chicken bones, coffee cans, and once a year, a pair of Keds or loafers with rundown soles and a hole in the bottom. The trash men came and picked everything up. End of story.

In Seattle, where I live now, every household is provided with one large plastic trash can and two gigantic plastic bins: one for recyclables and one for yard waste. Over time, some of these plastic containers get holes in them, or their lids blow into the street and get smashed, or their lids get cracked by people who place heavy rocks on them in a vain and pathetic effort to keep out raccoons.

So the city kindly replaces the cans unasked and at no extra charge—until your monthly rates are inevitably raised.

The city also provides you with a 12 x 17-inch color brochure that can be posted on your refrigerator, as long as you don’t plan on putting up anything else there, and which illustrates what to put in Garbage vs. Recycling vs. Food + Compostables vs. Other Collection Services vs. Beyond the Curb.

Just one side of Seattle's recycling brochure

 

The brochure is helpful, but it requires some deep study to get it all down. Once you do, it is a surefire way to impress out-of-town guests as they stand helplessly in front of your refrigerator, empty beer can in hand.

This city is serious about recycling. Trash collectors can and do leave your can on the curb if more than 10 percent of its contents are recyclable. And what’s recyclable? That depends, and even the people who work for Solid Waste get confused. (Read William Barrett’s entertaining blog post on the subject here.)

But Domesticus is actually OK with recycling. Just don’t ask us to compost, which involves keeping rotting tomatoes and swarming flies in our back yard. Recycling is good because it gets us to start thinking and caring about the environment in a warm and fuzzy way.

However, the more you think about it, the less warm and the more fuzzy it gets.

For instance: What is the environmental (as well as monetary) cost of having three types of trucks, run by three separate companies, come to your door on trash day?

How much water do you waste cleaning out a peanut butter jar for the recyclables bin? And what if you have cold hands and use hot water (Guilty!)

What happens to the old plastic trash cans when they are replaced with new ones? And do they really have to be made out of plastic?

You could allow this kind of thinking to go on and on and eventually trash the whole environmental movement. But that would be a mistake, even for those of us who’ve been around long enough to think that the old way, in its way, worked. Less recycling, with all its complications and contradictions, and also less stuff. A lot less stuff.
.
But we’re not going back to one-pair-of-shoes-a-year or oldie-but-goodie toilets. And even as disjointed as things are now, it’s better to care than not. You need to care to have any hope of ever improving things.

And so far, there’s no app for that.


Magnolia Car Show

 

 

Aren’t they magnificent! Those old guzzle-boats.

In person, they’re much bigger than you imagined. Even some from our own youth, like ‘70s Mustangs, which were cool little hotrods back when. They look like big boats now.

Every year Magnolia has a car show. It’s mostly rare old birds, though this year they also had a Nissan Leaf for contrast.

The car above is a 1937 Cord. No, not Ford, Cord!

We never heard of it either.

But the guys at the car show know. They can tell you all about their shiny, meticulously maintained vehicles, inside and out.

We have to admit, it is kind of interesting to peer under the hoods back to simpler days. Even someone like Domesticus, who doesn’t know what a spark plug is (Do they even exist anymore?), can see there was a beauty to the uncomplicated inner workings that made these big lions roar.

But even more fun for us was a 1932 black car, we think it was this one:

 

whose owner let us climb inside and breathe in the past from the original interior. Most of the cars had re-done interiors, but somehow this guy managed to preserve the Depression-era layer of beige plush all these years. We felt like Bonnie, as in Clyde. If we’d been in there long enough, we might have gotten into the times even more and transformed ourself  into Jean Harlow or Greta Garbo, but we worried about overstaying our welcome.

Because Domesticus could have sat in that car all afternoon. We were even tempted to ask the guy to drive us around the block in it, but, really. It’s a car show, not a dealership.

Here’s another model that will interest our friends from Hawaii – a ’51 surfer’s car (no, we don’t know the model, but maybe some of you guys can help us out):

 

 

And here’s Domesticus’  favorite, a ’49 Buick Roadmaster just like the one Bigfoot’s mother used to drive:

 

These old car guys are serious, passionate, and willing to spend as much on their cars as some people spend on a home. (But then, they probably live in their garage.)  According to our little local Magnolia News, one of them spent $130,000 on a 1937 Packard, including restoration. Another spent $180,000 on a 1939 Chevy Town Sedan.

In contrast, the Nissan Leaf on display starts at $35,000 and costs two and a half cents a mile to run with electricity.

As for the Old Guzzlers, well Domesticus doesn’t know the stats, so we asked our friend www.anythingaboutcars.com, who said:

A new car back in the 1940s cost about $800, and for 18 cents, you could buy a gallon of gas. On average, most 1940s cars got about 15 to 20 miles per gallon.

 

Not as bad as we thought. About the same mpg as an SUV. You don’t have to charge it up either. But of course gas is super expensive now, and Evil compared to charging up in your garage.

So.

We are forced to conclude that owning a Classic Car, while it may provide a few hours of fun, is an expensive, time-consuming, gas guzzling misuse of resources.

And we want one!

How about you?