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a perfect weekend

Lighthouse Through Trees - Lime Kiln Point State Park On Saturday morning, Gerald and I dropped Lane off at Lili's house, and headed north to Anacortes, where we caught the 11am ferry to Friday Harbor. On our past trips, we've always parked and walked on to the ferry, but this time we decided to take our car--and I'm so glad we did.

After we checked in to our very nice room at Elements (an old motel that's been renovated into quite chic rooms, with lovely lighting, bedding, and shower fixtures) and took a nap, we got back in the car and did a full circuit of the island. We drove through Roche Harbor (which looked like your typical touristy town), and then stopped at English Camp National Historical Site, San Juan County Park (omg, so beautiful, I'm actually thinking that I might be willing to camp there, and I'm not really a camping out kind of a girl), Lime Kiln Point State Park, and then American Camp National Historical Site.

We ended the day with a lovely dinner at a restaurant by the marina, and a good night's sleep. In the morning, we had a leisurely breakfast at a local eatery, parked our car in the line for the 1pm ferry, and then went to my favorite bookstore in the whole world, Serendipity Books, where I got three novels I've been wanting to read, Gerald got a great bok on birding in the San Juan islands, and we found a gorgeous book of photos of Alaska, to whet our appetite for the cruise we're taking in August.

I took photos all along the way, including up-close-and-personal shots of a fox and some young bucks who allowed us to pull up next to them on the road. I pined for a telephoto lens, though, for shots of the further-off wildlife. That will definitely be my next big-ticket purchase.

All in all, it was perfect weekend...capped off by my WoW guild finally downing all of the bosses in Shadow Labyrinth, something we've been trying to do for month.

Tonight I'll go to bed tired and happy.

a perfect day

After a lazy morning of sleeping late and then surfing the web, Gerald and I headed downtown to spend some time at Pike Place Market. We parked at our favorite little lot right across the street from the market, then wandered inside. We were hungry, so walked into the first restaurant we found, a lovely little French (vraiment!) café called Maximilien in the Market.

Unbelievably great food. Brioche and croissants that taste the way french pastries should--light, buttery, delicious. Entrées like my to-die-for croque-madame (basically a ham and cheese grilled sandwich with fried eggs on top,m but that doesn't come close to describing the flavors), and Gerald's crêpe stuffed with scrambled eggs, Dungeness crab, tomato, basil, and cheese. All served on an outdoor patio with a view of the harbor (where the cruise ship we'll be traveling on in August was docked) and the Olympic mountains. Decadent, delicious, and delightful. We'll definitely be back.

Then we shopped at the market, picking up my favorite kind of honey in the whole world (fireweed), a pound each of jumbo sea scallops and wild sockeye salmon, and a bouquest of fabulously fragrant sweet peas.

On our way back to the apartment, I mentioned that we were going to need to bring the rental car back this week, since we only had it for month, and then decide what we wanted to rent for the rest of the trip. I couldn't remember exactly which day it had to go back, so I looked at the paperwork--and realized it was due back in an hour! So we dropped the fish off at the apartment and headed back out to the airport.

When I got to the Avis counter, they didn't give me a hard time at all about getting the corporate rate, which was great. But they didn't have any of the intermediate size cars that you get for that rate. At first, she said that all they had were SUVs, and that we could have one of those for the intermediate rate, which I wasn't thrilled about. But when I said that I'd wander down the aisle and talk to Enterprise about their options (a bluff, since I knew full well they didn't have any cars available today), she told me that we could get a Prius for the same rate! w00t!

So we drove home from the airport in a brand-new 2007 Prius with only 1200 miles on it. I haven't driven it yet, but Gerald was very impressed!

All in all, it was an excellent day. And it promises to only get better when Gerald cooks up the seafood for dinner...

(Oh, and I took pictures, especially of the beautiful flowers.)

home sweet home away from home

It was a lovely weekend in Seattle, which Gerald and I spent getting me settled into the new apartment, and celebrating our fourteenth wedding anniversary with a dinner cruise on board the Royal Argosy. It was hard to walk out the door this morning and say goodbye, but I know he'll be back in just three weeks.

The apartment is quite nice. Not luxurious, but very well located. We're two blocks from the Redmond Library (where I went tonight to get my card), and across the street from a plaza with a grocery store, game store, Hollywood Video, and chinese takeout. And we're adjacent to the Sammamish River Trail, which is making me seriously consider learning to rollerblade. There's a pool just outside our balcony, which will be great for the kids, but means that we get an awful lot of noise throughout the day from people frolicking. Still, if you have to have noise, joyful noise is the best kind.

Today was new employee orientation. While they claim it has been significantly revamped since I went through it just 23 months ago, it didn't seem that way to me. And again, as a visiting researcher I fall through all the cracks--they ended up once again putting me in the intern group, where I feel completely out of place.

I go back again tomorrow for just a half day, and then (finally) get to head to MSR. I'm so looking forward to getting to work with Lili, and seeing so many of the people I got to know when I was here before.

This week will be spent working primarily on the planning for the '07 social computing symposium, which is going to be in September. After that, I've got a couple of ideas for what I can work on that I need to bounce off of Lili before I start talking about them here. But never fear, more blogging is near. With the boys away, I'll have more time than usual for both reading and writing in blogs.


Ghost Campus I stopped by campus this morning to move a monitor from my office to Weez's, and as I left the building I was struck by how empty the atrium was. The balloons were still attached to the ficus trees, the "congratulations" banner was still strung across the wall, but the building was close to deserted. Staff were working quietly inside their offices, but the bustle of students and faculty--which reaches near fever-pitch during the last weeks of the quarter--was absent.

It reminded me of how it used to feel when I was an undergraduate student in Ann Arbor, where I often chose to spend the summers working and playing with friends. There's something almost magical about what happens in the spring when the swarm of students leaves for the summer. The strikingly quiet buildings and walkways invite you to slow down, to look around at how beautiful a campus can be, and to notice that while you were cloistered in classrooms and offices spring had arrived in all its glory.

For professors who are also parents, late May and June are particularly precious--because the kids are still in school, but we aren't. So today I'm soaking up this brief, peaceful interlude between the just-finished chaos of exams and paper grading, and the impending excitement of heading to Seattle on Saturday.

july plans

It's hard to believe it's been nearly a year, but June 30 is my last day at Microsoft. At work I'm wrapping up some projects, and working on ways to continue others from 2800 miles away. At home, I'm pricing shipping options for household goods, weeding out the kids' clothes, and trying not to panic about the packing to be done. (No last-minute second thoughts, at least not yet. It feels good to be going back.)

The wrinkle in our relocation plans is that while our lease here ends on June 30, our tenants in Rochester will be in our house until July 31. So for the month of July, we're technically homeless. And because I'm scheduled to speak at MSR's faculty summit in mid-July, we need to stay in the NW area until then.

So here's our plan:

  • June 30-July 13 we'll be aboard Sabbatical, with a few trips into the Seattle area for parties
  • July 13-July 16 is still undetermined. We might stay with friends in the Seattle area, we might spend a few nights at the condos on Crystal Mountain that the boys liked, we might head to Ocean Shores for a few days. Still working that out.
  • July 16-18 we'll be at the Bellevue Hyatt for the faculty summit
  • July 18-31 will be a slooooow trip down I-90, stopping at national parks and roadside attractions along the way. Definitely a few days in Montana--Scoble's photos made me think that we really need to soak up some of that scenery. Yellowstone, Badlands, Mount Rushmore. Possibly a few days in Ann Arbor, staying with my cousin and her family and showing the kids the places I lived when I was a student (if they haven't been condemned and torn down...) What else? Are there must-see spots along 90 that you think we should visit?

Not a bad way to spend a month, I think.

The boys (and I) were a little worried about Internet access during our month of transience, but they don't need to worry any longer--I just received my new Verizon EVDO card, which gives me high-speed internet almost anywhere! (In fact, I'm posting this entry from the bus on my way to cool is that?) I figured I'd take advantage of my 20% MSFT employee discount while I could, and order it this month. I did the one year contract (can't do it for one month, alas), but given that I'll probably be traveling a bit next year, it will be nice to have broadband access without paying airport and Starbucks surcharges. I won't be able to use it with the MacBook Pro, alas, since it's a PC Card and the MBP uses a different card format. I could buy another card in the right format, I suppose. But I have another plan.

I'm also ordering a new Vaio SZ240 laptop--which weights in at under 4 pounds!--as our primary traveling machine, since we won't be able to set up Gerald's desktop in most of the places we're headed. I'll still be getting a 17" MacBook Pro, but I cancelled the order that they kept delaying, and my department will order me one for my return in August. I love my 17" powerbook, but it's a bear to carry around, and I'm looking forward to having a lightweight, fully-featured laptop that I can use when traveling.

So that's how plans are shaping up.

spring has sprung with gilded greens

I don't have many blogging rituals, but marking the first appearance of golden-green spring leaves is one of them. I did it in 2003, 2004, and 2005, and it's time to do it again.

It's remarkable how much earlier spring comes here in the pacific northwest. I noticed the telltale golden glow on the not-quite-bare branches the day we returned from Rochester, nearly a month before the same signs are likely to appear back east.

Here's my annual tribute to this beautiful and fragile time of year.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

--Robert Frost

good spot for watching space needle fireworks?

For any Seattle-ites reading this today, where's a good place to watch the Space Needle fireworks from tonight? Preferably someplace where the traffic won't be awful coming back home (up at the northern tip of Lake Washington).

reflections on home

The boys and I got back from Rochester late (very late) last night. Part of me feels like I'm home today; another part feels as though I just left home behind. It's an odd feeling--to be not-quite-at-home in either city.

This ended up being a stressful visit--trying to squeeze months' worth of visits and dinners and meetings and conversations into a handful of too-short days. My apologies to all the people I didn't have time to really spend time with on this visit--especially Steve (who helped save the day in my mom's class!) and Eric (who's going to be stuck packing up a box of things I left in my office, without even having gotten to see me while I was there).

I had some amazing home-cooked food while I was there--Weez's eggs benedict and home fries, Tona's delicious enchiladas, Jenny's always-wonderful potato kugel, and my Mom's signature homemade crepes for breakfast. As rushed as I was, I felt loved and welcomed by friends and family, and it was a good reminder of why we've grown so fond of Rochester. It's the people, stupid! (It was also nice to spend some time in my RIT office, with its enormous window. One of the few things I don't like about my working environment at Microsoft is how little natural light I seem to encounter on most days.) Rochester is definitely where I'm most connected to friends, family, and community, and it was wonderful to see the people I care about while I was there. But being back in Seattle really makes me happy, too--the mountains are a big part of that, but so is the fact that I'm taking a lot of an enjoyment in the work that I'm doing and the people I'm working with.

Many thanks to the people who sent get-well wishes for my grandmother. I'm delighted to report that she seems to be doing much better--they've stopped the internal bleeding, and rehydrated her, and it appears that her kidney function is returning. When I spoke to her on the phone before we left (Alex had a cold, so visiting seemed unwise) she sounded cheerful and alert--a big change from how she'd been when I saw her a few days ago. I'm hopeful that she'll be back in the nursing home within a few days, and from there back to the assisted living facility where she feels so much more at home.

whirlwind weekends

The downside of working at Microsoft during my sabbatical is that I lost my summer vacation. I've gotten spoiled by the long summer break that comes with an academic job, and the opportunity it gives me to travel and relax with my family.

This summer we're trying to take advantage of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, but we're mostlly limited to weekend trips. Last weekend we went to Mount Rainier National Park, where we spent Saturday exploring the Sunrise area of the park, Saturday night at a lovely resort on Crystal Mountain, and Sunday driving to and hiking in the Paradise area of the park. It was a great way to spent a couple of days, but it would have been nice to have stayed longer. (Photos available on Flickr.)

This past weekend we did a package trip to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, through the Victoria Clipper company. (Photos on Flickr.) The package included round trip for the four of us between Seattle's waterfront and Friday Harbor, a 2.5 hour whale and sea-life watching trip, and a 1-bedroom suite at the Best Western. We booked it on Thursday of last week (when there were no hotel rooms to be found), and they were able to fit us in. The cost was a good bit higher than it would have been for us to have taken the Washington State ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor, and done the whale watching and hotel separately--but in this case, it was worth it because we were able to book at short notice.

The down side was having to get to the ship by 6:45am for check-in and boarding. The kids were tired and crabby, the lines were long, and the check-in process was incredibly inefficient. The boat was packed, and we couldn't find seats near a window, so our views were limited. (I tried going up onto the top deck, but at 25 knots on a cool morning, that's a pretty cold place to be. And it was packed, too.) All in all, it was far from a luxury cruise. There was limited food service--sandwich baskets, hot dogs, etc. We brought coolers with food and drink.

The whale watching wasn't as great as I'd hoped, either. We saw several whales from the 3 pods of orcas that inhabit the area, but they stayed pretty far away from the boat, and didn't surface much. The boys were tired and crabby from too many hours on the boat (7:45-11:30 for the trip there; 11:30 to 2:00 for the whale watching). That's where the issue of having only a weekend really rears its ugly head--we tried to cram too much into one day, and ended up with understandably unhappy kids.

Inside Serendipity Books Sunday was lovely, however. We slept in, then headed into town at around 11am. We ate at charming local restaurants where the service and food were both great, and did some shopping. Friday Harbor reminds me a lot of little coastal towns in New England, like Wellfleet on Cape Cod, and I loved being there. The kids found a toy store (Osito's) that had a great selection of items, and ended up buying some adorable stuffed animals and tiny "lucky pigs" as their souvenirs. I foundthe best used bookstore I've been to in ages--Serendipity. It's run by a retired school librarian, and both the selection and the ambience were wonderful. She's living my dream!

We got in line early for the boat ride back, so we got better seats, a booth near the window with a plug nearby for the kids' gameboys. And it was warmer, so going up top was more enjoyable.

All in all, two lovely weekends, with totally different views of the area. We enjoyed them both a lot--and I'm just sorry not to be able to take more leisurely vacations so we can explore these places more thoroughly.

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