Sunday, April 30, 2006

beau.raines - Our New House in Washington

I've been asked several times for pictures of our new house. Finally, I've made an album. The layout isn't the greatest, but here it is! Enjoy.

beau.raines - Our New House in Washington

Friday, April 21, 2006

Muppet Personality

You Are the Swedish Chef

"Bork! Bork! Bork!"
Your happy and energetic - with borderline manic tendencies.
No one really gets you. And frankly, you don't even get you.
But, you sure can whip up a great chocolate mousse

Dude, this is so sweet and I didn't even try to throw the rating.
The muppets are cool. I've got Muppet Stamps from the USPS that are so cool.

The problem with working from home

I've been working a lot from home lately, but today I went into the office. I had the front door key, my key card and I thought I knew the code for the alarm. With that description, you'd think I work in a vault, but that is only what you need if you are the first one in. Since I was the first one there this morning, I needed all three.

Luckily for me, I was only the first one by 30 seconds or so. Otherwise, I would have gotten to met the Kent Boys in Blue. From lack of use, the code for the alarm had decayed in my head. I had all the right digits, just not in the right quantities. My co-worker had her code (on a card in her purse) so she quickly entered the code before we had a run in with the 5-0. Wouldn't that have been a "welcome back to the office" surprise!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What's your pimp name

Halloween costume , 2004. Yes, this picture was taken at work.

Your Pimp Name Is...

His Majesty Dazzle

Sunday, April 16, 2006

King Kong ain't got nothing...

We watched the new King Kong last night, or should I say, King Long. Holy cow, that movie is 188 minutes long. And boring. And you watch half of the movie before the giant ape is even seen.

I never saw the original, so I can't speak to it's verisimilitude.

There was too much CGI and it wasn't good. King Kong was nicely done and when it fought with dinosaurs, the physics and motion seemed good.

We had to stop the movie because one of the kids had to go to the bathroom, at which point, there were 67 minutes left in the movie and they hadn't gotten King Kong back to New York City.

I fell asleep shortly after King Kong started tearing up NYC and woke up for the credits.

This movie wasn't very good.

Life Lessons from Maxim Magazine

Our kids got punching balloons for Easter and our littlest one was bouncing his like a basketball and said “Girls can’t play basketball.” We’d really like to raise our kids without those sexual stereotypes.
Well, it just so turns out that in the first issue of Maxim that my wife subscribed to for me (yes, it is addressed to her – she is so cool) has a small article about the new Adidas_1 basketball show and has one of their staffers playing some one on one with Swin Cash, who is evidently and WNBA star (I don’t watch much televised sports, still).
Bottom line, she runs him up and down the court and their little game ends with her on top 11-1.
It was perfect to show our son that girls can play basketball.
Dads: get a subscription to Maxim for the valuable life lessons for your kids.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Blog Tracking

Last night, I set up website tracking with StatCounter to see what kind of readership my blog has. In the last 8 hours, my wife checked it out and some one from the UK loaded my Week in Review.

What was really cool was that the tracking told me that he left by searching for 'calendar sync outlook' on Google. Maybe my prostelitizing worked and there is a new Google convert out there.

Big brother is watching!

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Week in Review

There have been several things that I've wanted to post about during the week, but I was spent from my gigantor travel blog. I didn't expect it to become the monstrosity that it was.

So, I'll catch up with a Week in Review.

iTunes had a 4 track + video She Wants Revenge live album and since I really like the band, I purchased it. Let me just say, save your $4.99 and go buy lunch at Taco Bell. It's not that the music was bad, it was just identical to the studio version. It was recorded live someplace in LA, but it didn't have any of the live feel, no sounds of the crowd, no "You rock, LA," none of that. Great band, but if you already have these songs, there is no need to get this.

The kids are on spring break, so I stopped work early to go with my family to the DoubleTake exhibit at the Experience Music Project. I always enjoy going to art museums and have gone to several with the kids. The art work is from the personal collection of Paul Allen and the art is paired (or grouped) in a way that asks the viewer to compare and contrast the artwork. It was a really neat exhibit and made you think about different works of art.

This also was the first exhibit that I've been to with an audio commentary. At times, I wasn't sure what I thought of it. Basically, in the exhibition room, there were all these people with a thingy stuck to their ear and hardly any whispered discussions of the art. In the end, I think it was nice, because there were so many different pieces of art that the commentary helped bring focus and attention to the things to compare and contrast.

Afterwards, we ate at a nice Vietnamese restaurant, Huong Bihn, in the International District in Seattle. It was really good. I think it was the first Vietnamese place I've been too.

Google Calendar was released. I've been waiting for this for a while. I am a huge fan of the company Google. They make some of the greatest most flexible tools available. I imported my Outlook Calendar into it and have been using it side-by-side (because sync'ing isn't available yet).
Heather has wanted to be able to see my calendar and now we've got a good tool to do that. I also created a calendar for each of the kids to better keep track of their boatload of events.

I totally recommend Google Desktop Search, Gmail, Google Earth, Google via SMS and Google Calendar. Heck, Blogger is even a Google tool. Leave me a comment if you'd like me to share my calendar with you.

The end of the week is here. We got a lot of work done, but at the same time it was a frustrating week. I tire very quickly of people who are out of the loop and don't follow their own project's progress and then say how they are going to run to various Executive VPs because their isn't enough capacity when they change the scope of the project at the last minute.

Today was a rough day because Heather wasn't feeling well and Chase threw up more times that I can remember during the day. Three times in our bed. Not in a bowl on our bed, but on the bed itself. Sucks.

The day ended on a high note, when Alec went out to get the mail. The first issues of Maxim, Stuff and Blender that Heather got for me. Woo-hoo! It's gonna be a fine weekend!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sunday in Vancouver

Forecast: I don’t know, but it is raining.

Everybody woke up this morning around 8:30, which was surprising considering how late the kids stayed up. I went across the way to Starbucks again (can you figure out my morning routine while traveling?) and then we had a lazy morning in the hotel room, getting ready to go out.

We checked out of the hotel at about 11:30 pm (only 30 minutes before the check out time) and headed to Dim Sum. Heather found what was reviewed as the Best Dim Sum place in Vancouver, but it was also not in a very good neighborhood. Several of the reviewers made comments about their car getting broken into. Luckily, but not for us, this restaurant had a parking garage. Not for us, because our Expedition is 6' 5-3/4" tall and the garage was listed as 6' 6". We found some street parking, after driving around the block a few times.

The Dim Sum was good, though there were more fried entrees than steamed entrees. It was really good, but we didn't get as many steamed dishes as we wanted.

The rain stopped before we left Dim Sum and headed to Gastown to check out a dinosaur exhibit and a live history of British Columbia, BC Live. Both exhibits were interesting and it was funny how they portrayed the Americans (both gold rush miners -drunken - and the president - buffoon) and the Queen of England (ditzy). It was humorous and informative on the history of BC.

I fed the meter a few times so that we could check out the sights in Gas Town. For the first time in a long time, I was hit up by panhandlers and some dude lit up a spliff while walking down the street. Gas Town is home to a Steam powered clock, which is kind of interesting. Gas Town is also home to many tourist shops. I had been quite pleased with us not buying any touristy crap, but that was shot down in the streets of Gas Town. I think we stopped at three tourist trap stores and bought stuff. It was good to try (note the use of try) to use up our Canadian dollars (I think I've got $12 CA in my pocket now and only $2 US - what is up with that?).

It was about 4:30 when we finally left Gas Town and decided we would do one last thing in Vancouver - eat - before we headed home. Heather found a really cool restaurant, Feenies, whose chef was an Iron Chef winner. I'll start by saying that it was a very cool restaurant and worthy of it's own separate posting (especially if I blogged about the Stanwood Grill).

Feenies was a hip and trendy bistro. All the staff was young and cool and there was a birthday party party for a bunch of 20 or 30 somethings. The decor was colorful and modern and the wine rack built into the wall had a clear glass back, so you could see through from the bar to the dining room. It must be a popular place, we walked in at about 4:50 and they had to check their reservations pretty hard to be able to squeeze us into a restuarant that had only one other party in it. We were told we could have the table until 6:30 - we took the table knowing we weren't going to be that long.

Prior to 5:30, they still serve from the afternoon menu. They are pretty adamant about it, there was another party, who got there about 5:10 and really wanted to be served from the dinner menu. They ultimately stalled until 5:30.

The food was excellent. Heather had a red and gold beet salad with lobster. It was really, really good. I didn't know that she was such a fan of beets - I'll have to make them more often. I had cured salmon with pickled shallots, creme fraiche and brioche. It was really good. We were warned when we ordered that they were appetizer sized (remember the Byte Bar and Cafe, Erik?), but we ordered anyway, knowing we had a long drive in front of us. The kids had a sausage dog and a nice angus burger.

This place (and probably its big sister), Lumiere, are places to visit again. If I end up in Vancouver again or pass through, I'm stopping there. Five stars. Two thumbs up. Little man jumping out of his chair. Totally bad ass restaurant. Eat here.

We headed out of Vancouver about 6 pm and headed home. The drive south was uneventful. We had about a 15 minute wait at the border. All my documents (recall, I had birth certificates for all, Heather's passport and my expired official passport) were in an envelope ready to hand to the border guard. We got up to the crossing and she extended her rubber gloved hand and asked for ids. I handed her the envelope and she pulled back her hand like I was giving her a poisonous snake. She wanted them out of the envelope, with which I complied.

She wanted to know where we went, if we were all US citizens and where we lived. Easy questions. She asked if we bought anything in Canada. Duh, of course we did. "Touristy souvenirs," I said.

"Any alcohol, tobacco, tylenol or codeine?"

I stalled out there. Heather had some flu-like symptons and I bought Sudafed - the wrong stuff for her symptoms - at the Safeway across the street. "I bought Sudafed."

It seemed like she was thinking for a while, making me sweat it out. "Your okay," and handed back my packet of ids.

We made it back!

About 9:00 we got back into our neck of the woods and decided to stop for dessert at Claim Jumpers in Redmond. I've never been to a Claim Jumpers before, but I had been told that the food and desserts were "good and huge portions." Our service sucked - we waited a long time to be asked what we wanted, when the waiter got to us, he was all excited that he had an easy dessert only table. Chase, Parker and I got our desserts so long before Heather and Alec got theirs, that the kids were able to eat half of their brownie. When Alec's ice cream pie finally came, it was half melted and the waiter said something about losing Heathers pie, so they upsized hers to the larger on. Except, they only offered one size.

My carrot cake and Heather's deep dish apple pie were disappointing. The apples had no flavor and the carrot cake was bland and so-so. The kids brownie was really good, though. And even better on Monday night.

Claim Jumper's did not impress me. I probably won't go back.

About 10:20 pm we got home. Overall, it was a great vacation and enjoyable. I saw lots of MINI Coopers, people watching was great, the break from work was needed and we had fun. I posted a bunch of pictures on my flickr account (I actually used up my free uploading space this month - I might have to upgrade), so check them out, too.

I hope you enjoyed this travel blog - it turned out to be much longer than I intended!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Saturday in Vancouver

Today's Forecast:
High 55
Low 42
Precipitation: 90%

Saturday started off being a mostly cloudy but nice day. While Heather and the kids were getting dressed, Alec and I headed across the street to one of the local Starbucks to bring back coffee (I won’t drink hotel room coffee). I paid cash, and when I exclaimed, “Oh, cool. The two dollar coin,” I probably displayed some of my tourist-ness.

We headed out a little before 10 am (we are on vacation) and went to Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe for Breakfast. We easily found parking a block away, used my $2 coin to pay for parking and walked up the street to the restaurant. There were people clustering in and out the door, so we felt okay about where we were.

It turns out that they don’t take names, but just form a line. The girl at the door told us it would be about 15 minutes for my (home) Party of Five. We hung out on the sidewalk waiting our turn; smaller parties were seated quickly. About 10 minutes into our wait, another party with five people in it came. As our kids would range on the sidewalk, when the ?manager? came out, he looked at the other group and asked them if they were the group of five that was next. We spoke up that it was actually us and were seated shortly there after. I’m not so sure about this line thing instead of names.

Sophie’s is a funky little breakfast spot with an outdoor patio. The walls are covered with old records, baseball pennants, metal lunchboxes and toys. It as the typical breakfast menu of eggs, pancakes, waffles, eggs benedict (my choice), but no kids menu. It was recommended as a good place to take kids, but I think that was due to the funky décor. They did give us crayons to color with, though.

Heather ordered French Toast, Parker and Chase, waffles, Alec, Kit’s breakfast with bacon, eggs and two pancakes and I got Eggs Benedict. The food came quickly but wasn’t notable. The sausage that came with Heather’s French Toast was a very fine grind and had a different flavor. Neither of us found it very pleasant.

Overall Review: Sophie’s is a funky breakfast spot, popular with the locals, but the food isn’t so great. Eat there for the funky décor, but that is about it.

After breakfast we drove to Stanley Park – kind of like the Golden Gate Park of Vancouver. It was a nice park, lots of people biking, running and roller blading. We didn’t stop and drove through the park. People in Vancouver seem pretty fit and fashionable.

You could see across the water to the shipping docks in North Vancouver. There were brilliant colored piles of sulfer and shipping containers. We didn’t stop, so I didn’t get any photographs, with the exception the one I took while driving.

From the park, we headed to Granville Island, basically a giant public market. We wandered through there, ate a snack and I was able to take lots of photos of the foods on display. Every time we’d walk through the vegetable markets, I’d get waylaid by the colorful displays.
Parking was free, albeit harder to find.

We took a roundtrip on an aquabus. These cute little boats take people all over False Creek. It is a pretty neat little public transit system.

Overall Review: The market was just another public market – lots of stuff to buy but nothing unique. It was great for people watching, a bite to eat and photography. The aquabus was a neat way to see the waterfront and not too expensive. The micro tour was worth it.

We went to the Capilano Suspension bridge after that. We didn’t have any coin of the realm left, so Heather went to try to get change. Parking would have cost us $3 CA, but I found a parking receipt with time still left on it, so parking was free there too! Admission was steep and as I charged $60 CA, I was asking myself what exactly am I paying for? Sixty bucks to walk across a gorge on a suspension bridge? I’m cheap, so I wasn’t so thrilled. The park ended up being pretty nice and very well done. There were boardwalk trails through out the park, photo spots and all kinds of catwalks and suspension bridges through the trees. There were very nice displays of the history in the area. Heather doesn’t do well with heights and especially heights near our kids, but she did well with them.

Overall Review: Expensive, but worth it. Nicely done park and display of history.

We left the park at about 5:45 or so and decided to head to Shannon Falls in Squamish. A quick check on the GPS showed that sunset was around 6:58 pm, so we’d be able to get there before dark. The drive to the park was on the Sea to Sky Highway. It has an incredible view of the sound and the mountains and the road was very curvy. It made me miss my MINI. It would be fun for a long, international rally.

We drove in about 6:30 and the park closed (the sign said they locked the gate) at 7 pm. Heather checked the map and saw that the falls were pretty close to the parking area, so we decided that we would stay. Again, we had to pay for parking, but this time it was only $1 CA for an hours parking. You’ve got to pay for parking everywhere here!

The falls were very scenic and I was able to get photos before the sunset. I didn’t see how high the falls were, but I’d guess that they were in same area as some of the falls in Yosemite. This particular park had lots of trails too for day hiking.

Overall Review: Pretty nice place. Cheaper parking and it seems like a great place for a day hike.

It was just before 7 as we left Shannon Falls and decided that we needed to look for someplace for dinner. The navigation system showed that the Howe Sound Brewery was pretty close. That was the choice for dinner.

As we drove through the little town, towards the sound, we drove past lots of closed restaurants. There was hardly anybody out and we got worried that the brewery might have been closed. The Brewery is also home to a nice hotel. The pub was off limits to people under the age of 19, so we headed into the restaurant to eat. It was nicely decorated and the menu looked pretty nice.
We were seated and very promptly the kids were brought plates of vegetables – pretty nice thing for them – and a packet of things to color. Points for being kid friendly.

Heather ordered the warm seafood salad from the specials and iced tea and I ordered a Santa Fe Chicken sandwich with a side of ale and cheddar soup and ale. At the last minute, we added an appetizer of yammer jammers, yam french fries. They were probably the best part of the meal.
Heather didn’t really like her salad, some of the shrimp were canned and her iced tea was a fruity tea, which she doesn’t like at all. We ended up trading beverages, so I got to drive the curvy road back (which is enjoyable). My sandwich was bland – pretty far from Santa Fe, I should have guessed and my soup was forgotten.

Overall Review: The food wasn’t worth the trip from Vancouver, though the scenic views of the mountains around the sound make up for it. The food was surprisingly inexpensive.

As we left the restaurant, it started to rain (remember the forecast), and it rained all the way back to the hotel. We got back at about 9:30 and got ready for bed. Heather and the kids watched TV until it was quite late and I read some. I ended up forgetting to take out my contacts and when I did, I dropped one (but I didn’t realize it until the next morning).

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Crossing the Border

The drive was uneventful until we got to the border where traffic piled up a bit more. We lucked out and the border guards opened a new lane, which we were the first ones into. We pulled up and the guard asked us a few questions:

“How many people are in the car?”


“Where are you from?”


“May I see id for everyone in the car?”

I handed him a packet of birth certificates, Heather’s passport and my expired official passport.

“Why do you have an official passport?”

“I was in the military.”

“Past tense?”


“Where are you going?”


“What’s in Vancouver for you?”

“We are going for the weekend.”

“Do you have anything that could be dropped off in Vancouver?”

I’m thinking to myself, I’ve got kids, they could lose their own heads if they weren’t permanently attached.

“No.” Ohh, living dangerously.

“Enjoy your weekend.”

He sent us on to our way in to Canada.

Heather said that this crossing was much more serious and had a lot more questions than when she drove to Alaska.

The border crossing on I-5 (Canada 99) leaves you in Surrey, one of the communities around Vancouver. The roads to Vancouver all take you through city streets, through neighborhoods.
With all the darkness, it doesn’t really seem like there is a city in front of you. As we found out, there are also a series of hills that hide Vancouver from you. We passed under the river and the city was before us – we could see some tall buildings finally.

We drove into Vancouver and drove past a Dollar store. Heather commented that is was such a great deal – really it is like an 89 cent store (there’s that joke again, but this time from Heather).
We found our hotel and checked in. It’s a nice hotel, clean and well apportioned. Priceline calls it a 3 star, it is a fine hotel, nothing special to it. We have to pay extra for parking in their garage (6’ 9” tall, funny not 2.07 m tall) and our Expedition just fits in.

It was about 9:45 when we got in our room and promptly went to bed.

The Stanwood Grill

The Stanwood Grill is in (you guessed it) Stanwood. While we were on the freeway, the Nav System said it was only 4 miles away, but once we got directions it was more like 7 miles. Lesson Learned: Navigation system gives locations in straight line distance and directions in road distance. We stuck it out and drove to Stanwood.
Along the way, we saw several old barns. If the lighting had been better, I would have stopped to take pictures, as I really like old barns.

Downtown Stanwood is cute and we quickly found parking, although the Stanwood Grill looked like it was a pretty big draw for the Stanwood-ians. We were quickly seated, the kids got kid’s menus and crayons (Alec got both a real menu and the kid’s menu!) and started checking things out.

The Grill had several steaks, chicken and some shrimp dishes and a few pasta dishes. I was torn between the Smoked Salmon Penne and the special Sweet Chili Grilled Prawns. I went with the Prawns; Heather went for the Prime Rib. Heather horned in on this Big Beautiful Blonde I was eyeing and ordered their Seasonal Beer to drink. I guess that meant I was driving after dinner, which is always okay with me, so I had their Lemonade. Fresh squeezed Lemonade, which was quite good.

Both Heather’s dish and mine came with a salad; we ordered the ranch dressing. It was a homemade ranch dressing, so it was the more runny kind. It was great – which is why I maintain that Ranch dressing is what makes Americans obese. I got six Prawns, garlic mashed potatoes and a small pile of sautéed green beans and zucchini (not fond of zucchini). The were spicy and good, although not quite filling. Heather was surprised by the size of her “small” prime rib which was tender and served with a very nice au jus and creamy horseradish. I did get to sample quite a bit of it, which helped round out my meal.

The Stanwood Grill also had a very nice cocktail menu – a Vanilla cosmopolitan, a nice looking coffee liqueur and cinnamon drink to name a few. But since I was driving, I only got to look.
The kids got macaroni and cheese, a cheese burger and chicken strips. We almost don’t have to give them the menu – they kind of always order the same thing.

We left the Stanwood Grill as the sun was setting, only to find that the way into downtown was blocked by a freight train hooking up. With a little exploring, we found our way to the overpass over the train tracks and were on our way.

An International Vacation

For the weekend, we are going to Vancouver, BC. Yes, a vacation and an international one at that. We are staying at the Plaza 500 Hotel, right across the street from Vancouver’s City Hall. Heather, the Queen of Priceline, got us the room for $45 dollars a night, (though I’m not sure if that is $US or $CA – that will be he recurring joke through this travel blog)! The sign on the door, although dated 1999, says the standard rate for this room is $325 (I’m pretty sure that is Canadian).

I prepared the kids a packing list and the night before, they laid out their clothes so that Heather could review them and make sure they picked outfits and not just two pairs of pants, three t-shirts and shoes that didn’t all go together. So, when the kids got home from school they were ready to go.

I took Friday as vacation and hardly worked at all – maybe responding to 5 emails and only took 1 phone call. I’m proud of myself for letting the rest of them ring. So during the day, Parker and I packed his clothes, packed the car and knocked over a bank for some Canadian currency. What a deal that is; $75 CA cost me only $68 US – the dollar does go further here. Now, I haven’t tried to buy anything yet, so I don’t know if things are more expensive or not.

I’m taking my GPS with me (maybe gets me more dork rating) and I’m going to keep it on all the time and keep track of where we go. Hopefully, I’ll be able to tie places and photographs together and make a nice “this was our trip.” We’ll see how it goes.

We left the house at 4:19 pm and headed out with Heather driving. As we got north of Seattle, where I-405 joins I-5, we got bogged down in traffic. We continued moving slowly north and eventually we drove further than the commuters. Someplace around 6:30, the kids started getting whiny for something to eat and Heather started poking around in the Navigation system for someplace to eat. We decided upon the Stanwood Grill.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes Of All Time

Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes Of All Time
(as judged by notoriety, absurdity, and number of people duped)

A pretty funny and long listing of April Fool's Day Hoaxes. I have to say that the Europeans as a whole (especially the British and the Russians, both whom I would not have expected it from) have a pretty damn funny sense of humor.

What's amazing that none of the recent internet shenanigans are listed there, most of which I find really funny.


Breakfast o' Champions

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Spring Soccer

Spring soccer is upon us!

Today was Alec's first soccer practice and Chase's was last week. I'm an assistant coach on Alec's team and will most likely help out with Chase's team. I really enjoy soccer and especially like watching kids learn and develop skills.

I look forward to soccer season every year and here in Washington, they have a Spring league and a Fall league. Woo hoo! Soccer twice a year!

This is going to be fun!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Recorder rehersal

Tonight, Alec performed in the 4th Grade Recorder Rehersal. His class performed Round about Morning which was composed by MC Handel and arranged by somebody else.

It turns out that most of the songs of the night (one for each of 5 classes plus 2 all as one) were composed by MC Handel. I wonder if he is like MC Hammer or something like that.

And for your listening enjoyment, Alec's class performing Round about Morning (mp3).

They did a very nice job. The recorder can be a challenging instrument upon which to cut one's teeth. So, that's not a very good comparison, but you get what I mean.

If you want, I could also post Ode to Joy!

Technical Notes: I recorded this with my camera, a Casio Exilim, in a wave format and converted it to an mp3 using MP3 Wave Converter.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Happy April Fools Day

Check this out. This has got to be a joke - but they say "love is just another search problem" and you know there is some truth to that.

Google Romance

Happy April Fools Day