April Part I

So, per my brief and vague allusion in my previous post, Chilkoot got Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. He started a fever the Friday before Easter, missed out on Daddy Son day on Saturday, missed out on Easter on Sunday (we didn’t want to infect the cousins with whatever he had — we didn’t find out until the next day that it was HFM). He started showing sores on Sunday, I think. Doctor on Monday. Last day of fever Tuesday. He only got a few sores on the outside of his mouth, one on his hand, and none on his feet — but the inside of his mouth was so ripped up he wouldn’t eat solid food for four days. One day, I think, Chilkoot consumed a total of two spoonfuls of yogurt, a pinch of bread, and half an Otter Pop. It was hard to get him to drink water. Poor kid. Anyway, I missed 2.5 days of work, KrisDi missed 2.5 days of work. Luckily, no one else got it from him. He was so good-natured about it. “Chilkoot, wash your hands!” “OK. I have hand foot mouth.” It was at least another week before he could handle a toothbrush in his mouth, and another week before flossing was OK.

Aside from that, I think KrisDi and Chilkat had a good Easter. I wasn’t there. I was with a sick kid. I think that was the day he threw up on the couch.

During Chilkoot’s recovery, we had a family long weekend in Portland. This was sort of a “We gave you kids a week at god damn theme parks, let us have some fucking good beer and good food” sort of thing. We dragged the kids to lots of breweries (Culmination, Coalition, Cascade, Hair of the Dog, Base Camp, Modern Times) and lots of restaurants (Stammtische [mediocre German regional dishes], Jam on Hawthorne [excellent breakfast], Screen Door [excellent breakfast], Blue Dot Donuts [excellent], Voodoo Donuts [novelties; taste ok], Marukin [OK ramen], Fire on the Mountain wings [good wings],  Salt & Straw [excellent ice cream], Chicagoland [good deep dish pizza]). We made a deal with the kids — we’ll buy you a new toy…if you get rid of ten others when we get home! Woo!

Chilkat started using her Magic School Bus science kit that she got for her birthday. I got her a silly joke book since she can read well enough to enjoy it. For a while, she gave us stand-up routines read directly out of the book, which was pretty funny.

Northwood came up here on a work quest to find a vendor to replace esoteric fan blades. His timing was perfect for helping with Chilkat’s Girl Scouts pinewood derby car — so our poor little girl had a metrologist, an aerospace engineer, and an engineering manager at her disposal. We did an OK job of letting her contribute. It’s green, like she wanted — it has the shape that she wanted — it has the samoa sticker she wanted. It has the profile / cross-section that we nudged her toward. It has the weighting we dictated. She helped with all the steps. It was fun to see Northwood. No one got seriously hurt.

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Photo Count Update

Yup, still a nerd.

Chilkat’s still winning. Do we love her more? Do we have less time for pictures than we did before? Do we take fewer pictures of Chilkoot because he willfully makes weird faces or hides whenever we point a camera at him?

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Halloween And Suchnot

We celebrated False Alarm G’s birthday. He turned 41. He said he wanted a Star Wars cake, and KrisDi delivered magnificently with the largest and most involved cake she’s ever made. In fact, three separate cakes stacked on top of each other. G was awed — literally speechless and drop-jawed. We lit candles, sang and blew them out, savored wonderful cakes, took a shot of Guamanian rum, and headed out for drinking and pool (G’s requested birthday activities). KrisDi and the kids stayed home with A and the kids.

G and I ate at a place that might have been named “Food and Liquor”, then pool and beer at Beveridge Place Pub, then pool and cocktails at Temple Billiards (we defaulted back to beer after G was nearly annihilated by a Dapper Dan), then pizza and beer at Holy Mountain, then we tried to go to Flatstick Pub for beer and mini golf, only to be shocked by a two hour wait. We had beer and went home.

While we were out, Chilkat and M drew a jail with a bunch of “HBs” to symbolize Chilkat spending her birthday in jail. I’m not sure why, but it was very cute.

The next morning, after G was finally coaxed into dragging his hungover corpus off the couch, we went to Bob’s Pumpkin Farm and Corn Maze with the False Alarms. My favorite part of the day was the kids’ corn “maze” — it was not a maze, just a path through a corn field. They had posted a page or so of a story about a square pumpkin (celebrating diversity) at every turn or so, and Chilkat breezed through reading all of them with almost no problems. She’s a good little reader.

That afternoon, we went to Popita’s birthday party at a local Y. Kids ran and played, we hung a pinata (in the process of doing so, I think I may have permanently hid a bottle of water in their ceiling). I also delivered the Pope’s presents — a bottle of whiskey from Guam, and a bottle of whiskey from Japan.

The next day, we had Daddy Son Day and Mommy Daughter Day. Chilkoot and I went to a park, then went swimming, then had a “trucknic” lunch for him at a QFC, then went to a brewery for my lunch, then we went to Chuck E Cheese, then we went home — Chilkoot fell asleep on the way, and then he slept on me while I napped on the couch. It was great.

We had a family night at Chilkat’s school. We picked and carved a pumpkin. Well, we picked, and I carved. Apparently Chilkat had a bottle of paint explode on her in an activity while I was busy carving a pumpkin.

KrisDi hired a photographer to do a quick 30 minute photo shoot. She decided to use it to get holiday pictures for holiday cards. So, we all dressed up and trooped out to a tree farm and preened in front of a camera. Our kids are cute.

We spent the afternoon and evening with T Dog brewing beer. Some other friends came along. It was the first time we’ve participated in a brewing activity for about four years…the last time T Dog brewed.

Halloween, of course. Chilkoot and I were gnomes (people guessed Santa, Elf, Wizard…). Chilkoot got to wear his costume with me at my work. Chilkat was Alex from Minecraft, and she asked KrisDi to be a Creeper. We trick or treated around the neighborhood. We hit maybe twelve houses before the kids got sick of it. Then KrisDi and I sat on couches while the kids answered the door for trick or treaters. Chilkat loved the opportunity to boss people around. “Only take TWO pieces! NOT a handful!”

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Japan and Guam

As all (both) of my readers know, I go to Japan twice a year for project meetings, once around April and once around October. You may or may not know I usually fly into and often out of Narita airport outside Tokyo.

My older brother recently moved his family to Guam for a three year assignment.

There are basically two ways to get to Guam from the USA: Through Honolulu, and through Narita. Since I was going to be in Narita anyway, I decided to casually drop in to visit my brother in Guam for the weekend after my fall Japan trip last week.

Japan was basically normal — not a lot to say. But, I took pictures of every dish put in front of me for two meals (9 dishes for one, 8 for the other) just to give people a better idea of what my business dinners in Japan typically look like. I also took a picture of the polite little note the hotel put up saying, “We’re sorry, but if it looks like North Korea is actually firing missiles at us, a bunch of alarms are going to go off, even if it wakes you up” (This is paraphrased). The one adventure I had was looking for fresh wasabi root for my brother and KrisDi (and also picking up a variety of other things and getting one of my Japanese friends to order a traditional sharkskin grater from Amazon Japan).

I left the US on Sunday, arrived Monday, had dinner with my boss Monday night (I asked him to take me to a delicious yakitori place we have often visited, but I didn’t take any pictures). Meetings Tuesday through Thursday. I went to the airport and flew to Guam on Friday. It’s a ~4.5 hour flight, and I got bumped up to business class, which is pretty sweet.

No real sight-seeing on Friday (unless you count a trip to Home Depot as sight-seeing). My brother’s neighbor (we’ll call him the Chamorro) has taken a real shine to Eldest, and apparently his whole extended family felt the need to put on a roughly 8 course buffet (including ghost-peppered beef feet). The locals appear to be totally, delightfully warm and welcoming (I’m sure this drops away when tourists are rude or stupid). The neighbors were super, super nice. The Chamorro himself might be a little crazy (he claims to have beaten a man to death with his bare hands), but he’s funny and outgoing and incredibly eager to please.

Guam is jungly. Everything is green and damp and teeming with life. ‘Seething’ might be a good alternate verb, as it implies a little more conflict. I saw geckos, monitor lizards (the one I saw was ~4′, Eldest claims a ~6′ lives near his house), multiple wild pigs, hundreds of wild chickens, tons of bugs, tons of fish, tons of birds, hundreds of ‘wild’ dogs (apparently called “boonies” or “boony dogs” — strays), cows, carabao (they look like oxen to me), goats, and probably more that I’m forgetting (not including the incredible quantity and variety of plant matter).

Saturday, we did drive-by tourism. Eldest and J literally drove me around the entire island. We even stopped at both of the island’s breweries (Lunch at Mermaid Tavern / Great Deep Brewing, just beer at Ishii). We stopped at a number of places that were right off the road — beaches mostly, viewpoints, etc. In terms of visiting things, it was kind of like reading the table of contents for Guam. We had dinner that night at a place called Papa’s, which is a fancy-ish restaurant at a location that has a great view of Tumon bay. The food was inconsistent (mine was fine, Eldest’s was bad), beer was tainted (we ordered Steinlager bottles, and both had garbage under the cap) service was good, and the view was obscured by the thick coating of condensation on the outside of the windows, since Papa’s air conditioning was cranked and Guam is a humid, warm, tropical island.

Sunday, we had a plan to visit three locations in greater detail.

(1) Tarague Beach from Andersen AFB. Basically, your classic beautiful tropical beach. When we visited, it was a beautiful sunny day, and there weren’t very many people there. There were lots of crabs and fish and hermit crabs and snails and sand and whatnot. This is where I learned that while Guam weather is fine for lounging in the shade, it takes me less than an hour hour to sunburn, and about one minute in direct sunlight with leisurely activity to start sweating like a cold beer in hell. On our way out, we scavenged four relatively fresh coconuts and saw a dead coconut crab.

Then we went to lunch at Jamaican Grill, which was very good, and an awful lot of food.

(2) A short hike to a cave + a scenic view of some rough, coral-y shoreline. The hike was very short. Apparently, it’s a fairly common practice to make sure you remove valuables from your car, leave it unlocked, and leave a note on the dash saying something like, “Unlocked — no cash” — so thieves will only rifle through your car, instead of break your window and rifle through your car.

The hike was easy and short, the cave was really cool (the water actually might be a more beautiful shade of blue than shown in the pictures); there was a local family having a party outside the cave. They offered us food and drinks. We accepted some iced tea and went on to the cliffs overlooking the water and stared down at awesome tidal / surfy effects and big bright blue parrotfish.

(3) Ritidian point, on the north end of the island, is supposedly a beautiful beach area. To get there, you drive past Andersen AFB‘s front gate. As soon as you pass the gate, the roads become unkempt. I think it was only a two mile drive or so, but it took like 20 minutes with all the dodging and weaving and planning around potholes. At a certain point, I was laughing out loud while we were jostled violently and cars coming the other way were weaving crazily to try to avoid the unavoidable. When we got to the gate, it was closed. We went to a scenic overlook on the way out, and then braved the shitty road again.

(4) Failing Ritidian, we went to Two Lovers Point. This is, I believe, the highest point on the island (368 feet), and it’s directly on top of an amazing, sheer, vertical cliff overlooking the ocean. It’s a terrific view. There’s also an impressive “bottomless pit”. We wandered around, took pictures, paid to get up on the platform and take more pictures from a little bit higher, and then started throwing things off into the water to see if we could see a splash, but we couldn’t find anything big enough we could actually track it all the way to the water or see a splash.

Afterward, Eldest grilled steaks at his house for dinner, and we drank beer and sake and sarsaparilla whiskey; the Chamorro demonstrated the removal of a coconut husk; Eldest torched the removed husk and used it to smoke the steaks a little; we released and tormented Mr. Coco.

The flight home was pretty grueling. For whatever reason, I couldn’t sleep well that night, and I ended up getting up at 2:30AM after ~3 hours of crappy, broken sleep. Eldest took me to the airport sometime before four (only a little earlier than I planned anyway), and I paid $10 for a half-assed americano (I think it was literally watered down drip coffee — it even had a ton of grounds in the bottom) and a ham and cheese croissant with brown lettuce for breakfast (have I mentioned I hate airports?). Six hour flight with no food to Honolulu; three hour layover where I tried making a meal of snacks at the United club; maybe another 5.5 hour flight from Honolulu to San Francisco where I had a very rushed breakfast at the United club, then about 2.5 hours to Seattle, where Les and Chilkoot picked me up.

Souvenirs from this trip:

  • Trainer chopsticks from Japan for little J (she loved them, disassembled them, and then lost the primary part while I was there)
  • Weird Japanese candies / cookies / treats for lots of people
  • Stuffed Anpanman for Chilkat
  • Stuffed Shokupanman AKA “Super Breadhead” for Chilkoot
  • Combo-color ballpoint pens for Chilkat and Chilkoot
  • Japanese whiskey (I can’t read the brand, it’s in Japanese)
  • Green Tea Match Kahlua from Japan (I’m going to make the weirdest White Russians ever
  • Wasabi roots (one for Eldest, one for KrisDi)
  • Wasabi paste from real wasabi (one for Eldest, one for KrisDi)
  • Wasabi powder (fake)
  • Pickled wasabi stems and leaves
  • Traditional sharkskin wasabi grater for Eldest to go with his wasabi root
  • Chamorro treats for my work (cookies and whatnot)
  • Guam’s Own (only distillery) Whiskey, Rum, and Mango Vodka (all gifts — the mango is terrible, the rum is reputed to be good, and the whiskey is reputed to be terrible)
  • Guamanian shochu (for me)
  • A number of Modern Times beers I can’t get in Washington

WAY more than I usually take.

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September Part II

Zwanze day has come and gone. This year, the Slow Boat hosted again. They only sold 80 tickets instead of 100 this year, though, and they sold them all in one day. Last year, they sold 50 on one Saturday and the other 50 on the next Saturday. Last year, on both days, they lines were full to selling capacity by about 7:30 in the morning. So, to get tickets for KrisDi’s one must-have beer event of the year, I arrived at the line roughly 7 hours before ticket sales started. I had learned at this point that “waiting in line for some beer thing” is also a social event amongst those beer-nerdy enough to participate — people bring beer to share with each other, and spend the day BSing, mostly about beer. So, I remembered to bring beer, and anticipated sharing with others.

So, in essence, KrisDi selfishly took the kids out and ran errands while I selflessly read books, drank beer, and socialized with beer freaks — in the name of getting both of us tickets to a beer event both of us were excited about.

The event itself was also nice. We sat next to some people who were familiar from my line-sitting. There were only 80 people there, so lines were short. Mom watched the kids for us, so it was a quiet mom-and-dad event. And, we actually got to talking with the people next to us — a young, recently married couple that recently moved to Seattle area. About a week later, they invited us to their house for a “bottle share” (beer nerds get together and bring bottles of beer to share). There were several other people — and I was one of the less rabid beer people there. This is a little surreal for me.

I did think it was funny…this couple has lived in Seattle for a couple months, and I think they’ve made more friends than we have in ten years.

Some time ago, Chilkoot’s vacuum died. I diagnosed it as a battery pack failure, and was unable to obtain a replacement. So, I disemboweled the vacuum to salvage its motor, in the hopes of using it to make something move. I wanted to turn it into a number of lessons for the kids: Building things is fun; things don’t always work right the first time you try, but you can learn from them and improve based on what you learn; don’t get frustrated, think about what happened and what to do about it.

Anyway, the project was shelved for a while after the initial interest. The previous set of iterations had resulted in a car that could move, but not while carrying its own battery.

Recently, Chilkat saw it on the shelf and decided she was interested in resuming work on it, so we did. This time, I improved the “bearings” by using little eye-screws to hold the axles, which also gave the car a higher clearance and required relocating the motor (from the inside to the outside).

First test run had the belt slide quickly off the driveshaft, which is unsurprising. I coached Chilkat into the idea that we could put something on the end of the driveshaft to make sure the belt couldn’t come off.

So, as the video attests, we got the car moving under its own power, but the wheels come flying off after a little while. Then we had to go somewhere else.

Chilkat also learned what happens when you short a powerful battery with flimsy wires: The insulation melts and/or burns, things smell bad and get hot, and in this case, you leave permanent damage on the table top. This was my own fault for not warning her and for not disconnecting the wires from the battery while working on the car – but it was exciting. She felt really bad about it, and I had to work very hard to keep her focus on what she learned from the ordeal, instead of on the feeling that she ruined something.

KrisDi and I went to see Modest Mouse. Mom came down to watch the kids while we adulted. It was fun. For some reason, this show smelled like Amsterdam.

KrisDi let me go to the Fresh Hop Festival in Yakima with my friend and former co-worker, Mr. JJ. It was pretty fantastic, but also pretty dangerous. Most beer festival “samples” are 5 ounces on the top end — this was 8 ounces on the bottom end, with many places giving them away for “free”. It’s a long drive out there, and I didn’t feel particularly well the next morning, but it was fun. Mr. JJ and I have been out there the preceding two years, but not for the festival itself — just for the pre-festival proliferation of fresh hop beers about town. We also dragged his neighbor along with us for his first visit out there, and hit a couple breweries on the way out there and back.

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