Donors and dogs

I went with some friends to donate blood on Saturday and I can say without hesitation that it was the sketchiest medical experience I've ever encountered. A friend is convinced we've donated blood to the black market and based on what we saw, it could appear to be that way (although I do believe the operation they were running was legitimate).

First of all, we were told to report to 5th and Pike Street in downtown Seattle. This is the heart of downtown and we expected their trademark Bloodmobile to be parked on the street. We met up at 5th and Pike and wandered around for a bit – no Bloodmobile. No signs either. Nothing to signify that a blood drive would be occurring at all. One of the buildings at 5th and Pike currently houses the BODIES Exhibit, which is a museum-type exhibition about the human body – featuring actual human bodies. We approached their ticket booth hoping someone could perhaps point us in the right direction. As we got closer to the booth, we started to see flyers inside the booth that said there was indeed a blood drive on January 23 but gave no instruction as to where it was located, but that if you registered and donated then you would receive a discount on a ticket to the BODIES Exhibit. We asked a few employees about the blood drive but couldn’t get any definite information until someone ushered us inside the building and said the donation center was downstairs. Downstairs? In the basement of an exhibition center featuring real but dead human bodies? Something about this just doesn’t feel quite right…

At this point we had about 12-13 of us waiting for further instructions and corralled inside the entry to the BODIES Exhibit. We could look in and see some of the exhibits – one of the bodies held a tennis racquet and was tossing up a tennis ball as if to serve. Finally, a representative from the Puget Sound Blood Center approached us and said that they only had four beds and weren’t equipped to handle such a large group so late in the afternoon. They said they could take four of us immediately but the rest of the group would have to visit one of their other donation centers. We decided that Luke, Julia, Melanie and I would stay and the rest would find another place to donate.

We followed the representative through part of the exhibit, down a flight of stairs and through a concrete and black curtain lined hallway. There were others in line in front of us, so we had a moment to chat with each other and say things like “Where are we?? This does not seem right… definitely the sketchiest blood donation place I’ve ever been to!” Luke and I peered around the corner of the hallway into the room where everything was set up, and saw a dog laying on the floor. A dog? In a blood donation center? We later learned that he was a service dog of one of the employees, but still. Isn’t that some kind of health code violation? Then the poor nurse couldn’t find my vein and I had to endure a needle rummaging around inside my arm (although, to be honest, this has happened before and Saturday’s experience didn’t even compare to the bruising I experienced from my prior encounter with the needle). When Melanie and I had finished, we had been there for a full three hours and were definitely ready to get out of the dingy, concrete, fluorescent-lit basement and into the sunlight outside. I won’t be giving blood again any time soon (at least for 56 days) but you can sure bet it will be in an actual clinic next time!

Midweek Tidbits

Congratulations on making it to Wednesday! As promised, a new batch of Midweek Tidbits.
  • Yes I know, Bill Gates is everywhere. He's the new darling of social media. See what's going on in his head (and the Gates Foundation) at his personal Web site.
  • Have you ever opened your pantry/refrigerator, sighed and said "There's nothing to eat!" Supercook will solve your problems! Simply enter your ingredients (i.e. chicken, black beans) into the Web site and it will search other recipe Web sites and return recipes you can make with those ingredients. It's a great site when you don't want to hit up the grocery store.
  • Read about one man's attempt to catch the man who stole his iPhone. Mildly entertaining and chock full of graphics - all the information you'll ever need to track down a thief.
  • Follow Apple's unveiling of (what everyone thinks is) their newest gadget, the tablet, here. From the article: "Rumor has it that [Steve] Jobs has even said the tablet 'will be the most important thing I've ever done.'" The event takes place today.

We fought the law...

completely by accident, we swear!

My friend Alissa and I met up Monday night for some beer and conversation at one of my favorite Seattle hangouts, Third Place Pub. The pub resides in the basement of Third Place Books, and its wooden walls and windowless interior lend it a sort of rustic ski lodge appeal. Perhaps this is because nearly everyone I see there is wearing a thick, woolly sweater.

Alissa and I met over four years ago on a bus to Whidbey Island for an SPU-related retreat. We were both new editors for The Falcon, SPU’s student newspaper, and the year that followed would be filled with newsprint, late nights and what probably amounted to gallons upon gallons of coffee. While we still nurse coffee addictions, Third Place offers none of the sort so we chatted over a pear cider and a Mac and Jack's, catching up on each other's lives even though we see each other at church every Sunday.

We were so engrossed in conversation that when the time came to leave, we set down our glasses, put on our jackets and headed out - and completely forgot to pay our tab! We didn't even notice until we were in the car and on our way to I-5. I was on the phone with Mark and told him I'd be there soon because I was taking Alissa home, and then Alissa and I realized at the same time that we had forgotten something, and a very important something at that! Mark was privy to a chorus of "OH NO! HOW EMBARRASSING!" before I said I wouldn't be home as soon as I thought because we had to go make things right.

We nervously re-entered the pub to a smiling bartender who just said, "I was so confused... I thought maybe they'd paid earlier?" We apologized up and down and said we'd never do it again. And now Alissa and I have a shared experience called "Remember that time when we stiffed the bartender?"

Midweek Tidbits

Welcome back to Midweek Tidbits! Feel free to share these with your friends and check back next Wednesday for more distractions. Happy Wednesday all.
  • If you're like me, then you know at least one person who is allergic to gluten and must navigate the world of food labels and wheat substitutes. Gluten-Free Girl blogs about her experience and shares recipes from her gluten-free life.
  • You can now follow Bill Gates on Twitter. Everything you ever wanted...
  • Ever marvel at the versatility of Morgan Freeman? This handy flowchart shows how trusty ol' Morgan has played about every role in the book.
  • The Muppets take on Queen and sing "Bohemian Rhapsody".
  • Finally, check out One Day's Wages, a Seattle non-profit working to end global poverty. It's simple: donate what you would earn in one day, keeping in mind that nearly 3 billion people live on less than $2/day.

Pass the dish soap

I don’t normally post work-related items on here, but I thought this was too good to pass up. The dishwasher at our office is around 18 years old and is just about to kick the bucket. For months we’ve had to re-wash everything that goes through the dishwasher because either the soap won’t rinse off or food is still stuck on the dishes. Money has been tight on the company, so the purchasing of a new dishwasher has been repeatedly postponed despite frequent appeals.

Last Friday was the tipping point for our office manager. It took just one more dirty spoon before she lost her composure, emptied the cupboards and silverware drawer into the sink and hand-washed everything. Hands practically still dripping, she e-mailed the rest of the office telling us that the dishwasher is officially DEAD and we will all need to wash our dishes by hand from here on out. The new hand-washing rule was in force for about five hours until one of the partners of the company e-mailed the office and announced he had bought a new dishwasher and it would be here within a week.

Nothing like a little threat of MANUAL LABOR to get the wheels turning around here.

Countdown to Hawaii

We will officially be leaving for Hawaii in 84 days! We got our plane tickets yesterday and I can't wait to finally step on a sandy Hawaiian beach for the first time. I need to make myself a reading list so when we get there, all I'll have to do is set down my chair, pull out a book and sip an icy drink. The hope of Hawaii is going to get me through the darkness (and dampness) of our Seattle winter!

Midweek Tidbits

Greetings! As a new Wednesday feature, I want to introduce "Midweek Tidbits". I will do my absolute best each Wednesday to post some links that I find entertaining to help get you through hump day! Because once we get through Wednesday, it's all downhill from there.

  • Can't get enough Jackie Chan? Word has it that the star is writing a musical about his life. And if that doesn't sound entertaining, I don't know what does.
  • We all know what happens when Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter collaborate on a movie: weirdness occurs on a bizarre and grand scale. Think "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", "The Corpse Bride" or "Sweeney Todd". The trio are reunited once more in Disney's "Alice in Wonderland", and the list of songs from the movie soundtrack were revealed yesterday. Notably, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals cover Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit". Trippy, to say the least.
  • The fugly blog is one of my favorite time-wasters and has become a familiar reference in our apartment. The writers of the blog post pictures of celebrities wearing crazy/weird/ill-fitting/inappropriate outfits and then write about them. I visit the blog less for the pictures and more for the hilarious critiques and suggestions. Even Mark recognizes the blog's draw. We were channel surfing the other night and landed on the People's Choice Awards, and this came out of Mark's mouth regarding a presenter's dress: "Ugh, that'll probably be on the fugly blog tomorrow." And sure enough, it was. Hey, someone's got to tell it like it is.
  • Another time-waster (as if we need more): Failbook. Mark and I spent WAY too much time on this site last night. Failbook works the same way as the fail blog, only it posts status updates/conversations from Facebook walls (user-submitted). Some of the posts are pretty inappropriate, but there are some real gems in there.

Burgers at the Red Door

If you’ve checked out the Fremont Sunday market, chances are you’ve eaten on the steep steps of the Red Door. Saturday marked the first time I’d actually been inside the restaurant itself, and we weren’t disappointed. I was in the mood for some greasy comfort food so I ordered the BBQ burger slathered with sauce, onions and cheddar cheese. Add an African Amber and some fries and I was a happy camper.

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Locked out

I can think of plenty of situations where it would be OK to be locked out of your car.

a. HOME: A spare key resides inside. Of course, this only works if your house keys are separate from your car keys, or if you’ve mastered the art of breaking into your own residence. Which I totally had, but then we moved.

b. Costco: Simply make your phone call, turn back around and help yourself to some more free samples. I actually have locked myself out of my car at Costco and I used the opportunity to treat myself to a slice of pizza. This might be less ideal if you have a shopping cart full of food with you, or you’re lugging around a large flat-screen on a push cart.

c. The mall: Treat this like Costco. I heard there’s a sale at ALDO and I need some gray pumps! Plus you can order a Cinnabon while you wait for the locksmith to arrive.

Last night was NOT one of these times. I was stuck at work for an additional hour (and who wants to be stuck there?), trying to figure out what my insurance would cover and waiting for the locksmith. Just to rub things in, a friend of mine from Colorado was in Seattle for an extremely short window of time (a matter of hours) and we had made plans to meet briefly at our apartment as soon as I could get back from work. My opportunity to see my dear friend slipped away as I counted the minutes until the locksmith arrived.

Lessons learned:

a. While you’re mastering the art of breaking into your own residence, challenge yourself by figuring out how to also break into your car. Or maybe just hide a key on its exterior.

b. Keep copies of your insurance information somewhere other than your GLOVE COMPARTMENT. Not helpful. I was lucky to be near a computer with an Internet connection. Maybe I should use this to make my case for a smartphone.

c. It’s just a lockout. It happens. I was fortunate to be in a safe place and not stranded in a scary parking garage or something.

Garbage here, recycling here

I have my own personal Jiminy Cricket. He pops up when I’m bustling around the kitchen, cleaning this and that. He sits on my shoulder and as I reach for the garbage to toss in a can, he says “Are you going to recycle that?” My Jiminy Cricket wears Tevas and enjoys kayaking in his spare time. He’s my Northwest conscience.

Never again will I be free to trash whatever I want. Junk mail? Better slip that into recycling. Egg shells? They need to decompose with their friends in food waste. The paper towel you used to blot the grease off the bacon? Paper + food = food waste. When you open our cabinet under the sink, you’ll see three bins for three separate purposes. The smallest bin, lined with a biodegradable bag of course, is for the food waste – a smaller bin encourages frequent emptying so the mold doesn’t hold a raucous party under the sink.

Jiminy doesn’t seem to maintain an awareness of his surroundings. My office doesn’t have an option for food waste but Jiminy’s there all the same, nagging me about my apple cores. At least I’m not as bad as this lady: her Northwest conscience is much bigger than mine!

How 3-D works

Anyone who has seen James Cameron's "Avatar" has had 3-D on the brain lately (at least I know I have). The New York Times published an article today that contained a concise explanation of how the new 3D works, so I thought I'd share it. I'm sure personal 3-D televisions are a ways out for most of us who are right out of college, but who knows? Maybe we'll get buddy buddy with Bill Gates and he'll have us over.

"New 3-D televisions, like the 3-D screens in theaters, work by dividing picture images into two sets, one for each eye. A viewer must wear special glasses, so each eye captures a different image, creating the illusion of depth. Filming entails two connected cameras, one for the left-eye image and the other for the right.

Manufacturers have developed two technologies for 3-D glasses in the home. In so-called polarized glasses, which can cost under a dollar, each lens blocks a set of images transmitted in certain types of light. “Active” glasses, which are better suited for LCD screens in particular, have battery-powered shutters that open and close rapidly, so each eye sees different views of each frame. These glasses can cost up to $100, but television makers are expected to package at least two pairs with each monitor."

Pulled from "Television Begins a Push Into the 3rd Dimension"

Sayonara to the holidays

All good things must come to an end, so we said goodbye to our noble fir yesterday. He was a good tree, even if he shed all over the floor.

Our cute glass Christmas tree

Look closely and you can see me

From the bottom up

Homemade teriyaki sauce

Before my elementary/middle/high school moved to its new building in west Greeley, it used to be down the street from a restaurant called Teriyaki Bowl. I'm sure the place broke all kinds of health codes but it was sure delicious.

I came to Seattle in 2003 and was introduced to a teriyaki joint in Belltown called Mom's Teriyaki, a hole-in-the-wall sorta place that you only find by accident. I've tried to find other teriyaki places with sauce that equals Mom's but haven't been successful. Then my friend Melanie's brother came to town and taught us how to make our own teriyaki sauce! Since I learned, I haven't been able to use storebought sauce. Sometimes it's just more fun to make it yourself.

Homemade teriyaki sauce:
  • Whisk together equal parts of honey, sake, and soy sauce in a small saucepan or skillet. I usually use half a cup or a whole cup of each ingredient, depending on how many we're feeding.
  • Grate about a teaspoon of fresh ginger into the mixture and bring to a low boil.
  • Simmer for about 15 minutes, skimming off any foam that comes to the top.
  • Remove the sauce for the burner and let it thicken for a few minutes.
  • Serve as an accompaniment to rice or as a marinade for your choice of meat. Our favorite is salmon!

New Year's Eve, Seymour style

We rang in the new year in style and hosted a cocktail party at our place for our friends. I learned that my bartending skills definitely need work - Josh received an extremely lime-y Cosmopolitan! I think I had the Orange Sunrises down by the end of the night though, so if you're feeling a hankering for some brandy then I'm your girl.

We had around 25 people come through the door last night, so thank you to everyone who brought food and drinks and made it an excellent party. We are so blessed to have such amazing and fun-loving friends.

Highlights from the night:
1. Impromptu post-midnight dance party DJ'd by Bobo - thanks for taking our requests! I tried to get pictures of everyone's individual dances surrounded by the circle, but my camera has been acting up lately and refused to focus. I just hope our downstairs neighbors weren't home at the time... at one point, I think seven of us were jumping to the music. Hey, I did my part - we invited them!

2. We played Bag of Nouns, a game where everyone writes down three or four people/places/things on slips of paper. The slips are put into a bag and the group of people is divided into two teams. The first round is like Catchphrase: you can describe the noun to your team but you can't say the word itself. The second round is charades: only actions may be used to get your group to guess the noun. In the third round, you can only use one word to describe your noun. The third round is the hardest, but by then you've heard all the nouns in the bag so it isn't too difficult to only use one word.

You have to get creative during the charades round, especially when the noun is a person. Mark pulled "Britney Spears" and acted like he was singing, and then chopping off all his hair.

What we could have done without:
1. I'm sure there was a more appropriate way to act out "Sex in the City" during Bag of Nouns. I hope I never have to see that ever again.

2. The smoke from the fireworks combined with the low-hanging fog to shroud the fireworks show at the Space Needle. We could still see everything, just through a smoky curtain. The smoke did create kind of a cool effect, though.

Some of the ladies at the party