Archive for July, 2010

Just took my usual summer evening stroll over to Alki Beach to get the buzz. As usual, there wasn’t any.

I always make a point of walking by the restaurants to see if I spot anyone I know eating. I never do. At this time of year, the sidewalk patios are jammed with diners. Earlier in the summer, they had to brave the brisk, chilly breeze blowing in off of Elliot Bay. Now one has to contend with the bright sun reflecting off the water. I don’t think there’s ever an ideal time to dine al fresco at Alki. Myself, I would ask to be seated inside.

One restaurant patio is especially tempting, however. Pegasus. Known for pizza. I’ve never eaten there. But the pizza looks good. It’s served on elevated platters. The patio outside is very narrow, and patrons eat just inches away from passers-by. Walking by, I have often been tempted to distract a couple eating (isn’t that Brangelina coming out of Starbucks?) and make off with a piece of pizza! Maybe grab the glass of Chardonnay as well!

I wonder if anyone has ever tried it?


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Good thing Facebook is in the news a lot – else the little lower-case f on the blue background that shows up all over the Internet would be a mystery.

I have also never seen an episode of Lost – or any of the Survivor series. I last watched American Idol in 2002.

I have never seen the following movies: Star Wars, Ghandi, Titanic or Jurassic Park.

I think the last movie I went to see was Something About A Boy, in 2002. I have never used NetFlix.

I don’t follow any sports.

I still have yet to see Susan Boyle – on YouTube or anywhere else.

I haven’t been to a WalMart since 2001. I have never been to a Trader Joes, Whole Foods or Costco.

I haven’t flown since 1999.

I have never had a gym membership.

I have never bought a lottery ticket.

I met Freddie Mercury in a pub in London in 1981.

And I have been in Starbucks twice every day this week!

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It helps to desire less. You’re more likely to have your desires met.

Don’t compare yourself with celebrities. You’ll always come up wanting. It helps not to watch television shows or read magazines that feature celebrities.

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. It is still possible to look nice.

Pay attention to ordinary people. It’s a rough world out there, and seeing what others have to contend with makes you more appreciative of your own situation.

Don’t feel obligated to follow all the feel-good advice out there.

Work on being resourceful and self-reliant. It won’t make you selfish. You’ll be better able to help others.

Give yourself permission to age and slow down. You can still be youthful and healthy.

Try to have a workday morning or afterwork routine (ideally both) that you look forward to. Then you won’t just live for the weekend and dread Monday morning.

Make your home a wonderful place to come home to.

Eat beans.

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Yesterday, I expressed skeptism that America could really embrace the Bhutan concept of Gross National Happiness, and ended my rambling on a rather cynical note. But today, I had time to think it over, and came to a more positive conclusion.

One has to remember that Bhutan is a rather small country of people that have a long common culture and religious history. Therefore, one might expect the people of that country to naturally have a common ideal of happiness that can become part of government policy. I don’t think the same can be said of America. This is a culture of individuals, and it makes the place rather different. Gross National Happiness is the collective sum of Individual Happiness of each and every person who lives here. And that rather precludes government leading the way!
So let’s try to be happy:)

I’m not one for reading books about self-help and happiness, and back in the days when I had a TV, I generally switched off Oprah if her guest was an author of such a book. But I did read The Art Of Happiness by The Dalai Lama around ten years ago. Today, as I was researching happiness on the Internet, I did find a podcast of His Holiness discussing chapter two of that book. To précis it: once our basic material needs have been met, our happiness is determined more by our state of mind, than by externalities.

How one achieves that state of mind? That’s the challenge. Despite all the books, and seminars, and workshops, and guided meditations, and weekend retreats in out-of-the-way places, and afternoon-long fundraising specials on PBS – and Oprah! – I don’t think there’s a prescribed formula you can follow. No one-size-fits-all approach.

When once asked about religion, the Dalai Lama joked that ideally we would have 6 billion religions on Earth – one for each human alive right now:) The Art Of Happiness is also a matter for the individual.

I’m still trying to figure it out myself. I know this for sure – I’m happier when I get plenty of sleep and drink lots of whole milk!

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Sounds quaint doesn’t it?

This morning, Google Earth took me to Bhutan, and I was reminded of the idea. Gross National Happiness is an important philosophy of government in that country, and it is sometimes examined in the West as an alternative to Gross Domestic Product as a metric of how well the economy is serving the people. In simple terms, an industry that employs many people and generates a lot of wealth will always contribute very highly to GDP. However, if that industry also produces massive amounts of pollution and makes large numbers of people sick, it does not contribute so highly to GNH. Bhutan is a country that is very eager to modernize and develop, but in a way that is consistent with the ideals of Buddhism, the country’s dominant religion. It reminds me of the Utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham, the goal of which is to “maximize happiness”.

Unfortunately, I fear that Gross National
Happiness is being Shanghai’d in the West by those with a political agenda. You can invoke GNH to make a case for less government or more government, less regulations or more regulations – depending on how you feel about government. The same goes for religion.

I don’t think Gross National Happiness would be so quaint in America. Conservatives and liberals would each claim to own it – and it would end up just another Gross National Argument.

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My workplace observes birthdays, complete with cake, candles and Happy Birthday To You. That kind of thing makes me uncomfortable, so I asked if might be excused this time. I felt bad about asking, because I felt like a bit of a party pooper. My request was honored… but they still insisted on doing something… and when I got to work on Friday morning, I found this rather charming myrtle plant on my desk with a birthday card:)

At first I decided to keep the plant at work. I always had houseplants until my present feline roomate moved in. She has a way of trashing plants, so I gave up. But shortly before it was time to leave work, I realized I was already too attached to this plant to leave it in my office over the weekend, and decided to take it home with me – even though I was not going straight home.

I packed it carefully in my nylon tote bag and walked with it to the SODO Link station, stopping at the Post Office on the way. I rode the Link downtown and met a friend at the Central Library. We walked up to Bed & Bath so that I could buy a new bedsheet and then we went in search of a snack.

Friday after work in downtown Seattle on a warm, sunny summer day when the Mariners are playing the Red Sox at 7:10 has a way of making one disinclined to dally there once the errands are run. We didn’t find any food to excite us, so we just took the next bus home to West Seattle and shared a big plate of nachos at West 5. The plant sat happily on the seat next to me:) I made a quick stop at the grocery store before walking home with the plant – and finally setting it down properly after four hours of toting it around! It seemed OK.

I don’t think the plant is toxic to cats if eaten, but I sprayed it with water and then sprinkled some cayenne pepper over it. This is supposed to deter cats from chewing the leaves. So far it has been working… but my cat can be rather insistent. Oh. And several people have already suggested I buy wheatgrass. Tried it. She ignored it and kept chomping on everything else.

Anyway, I have decided to give houseplants another go, as I miss having them around. This afternoon, I walked over to Alki Beach for an iced chai latte and found a crowd at the Art Fair – which I had clean forgotten about. After I got my drink, I wandered around the Art Fair. I was pleased that I had been to the ATM last night, in case I came across something I wanted to buy – and I did! A rather nice lady was selling tropical air plants, some of which were mounted on rocks, shells, and pieces of wood. The plants are rather hard and spiny, so hopefully my cat will leave it alone. And I had the perfect spot in mind as I picked one out. But this one I brought straight home:)

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I think just about everyone I work with is dealing with traffic problems this summer. And my once-easy commute, disrupted through the end of 2011 by the replacement of an on-ramp which accesses the West Seattle Bridge from First Avenue, has become an exercise in positive thinking.

Unless I choose to take the long way home via downtown, my way home can be obstructed for quite a while by a slow-moving freight train, or by the opening of the swing bridge that carries Spokane Street into West Seattle.

The trains can be exasperating, because there is no way of knowing how long the delay might be. The bridge is more predictable, but it’s hard not to get steamed when rush-hour traffic is held up for 20 minutes or more for a pleasure cruiser with an overly tall mast! This is why I walk a good part of my way home. At least when the way ahead is clear, I’m not stuck far back in traffic.

This afternoon, I came downtown from work, and had to stop on Lander Street for the Sound Transit Sounder train that flies by at roughly 4:50. Now THAT I never mind. It’s exhilirating and the delay is very short. The train is usually almost filled with commuters heading home to Tacoma and thereabouts – and it reminds me of other segments of my life in places where commuter rail is a bigger part of life.

Yesterday, I was halted by the swing bridge opening. Darn it! If I had left work 5 minutes earlier I would have made it over just in time to beat the opening. So, I walked right up to the barrier across the bikepath and decided to enjoy the view. Then I noticed a staircase heading off the bridge and realized I could get a better view from the topmost landing. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my iPhone out in time to capture the opening, but I did get most of the closing – and you will see that it was a serious vessel bringing us all to a standstill:)

The bridge decks swing so effortlessly it is quite beautiful to see. If I had been stuck on a bus or in a car back on East Marginal Way, I might have been less enchanted. But as it was, I rather enjoyed the moment.

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No. I have not bought an iPhone4. Still very happy with 3GS. I’m glad to say that I do not have cell-phone envy at present:)

I hardly use mine as a phone, although I use it as just about everything else. I was joking about this a while ago to a coworker whose iPhone-owning friends tell the same story. They use the iPhone all the time, but rarely as a phone. Then I started paying attention to phone users in public places – and noticed how few people talk into iPhones, even with the earpods attached.

A couple of weeks ago, someone waiting at my morning bus stop had a new iPhone4 he’d bought the night before, replacing a 3G. He already loved it. I joked about not using mine as a phone, and he agreed. He rarely makes calls with it either!

The cynics out there will insist that iPhone owners make few calls because we’re saddled with AT&T. But perhaps many of us don’t care about poor reception and dropped calls. We just aren’t into talking on the phone – period! There must be something about the iPhone that appeals to people who love communication, but not by telephone – which brings me to the iPhone4 antenna problem. If I had bought an iPhone4, I probably would never have known there was a problem. And I’ll bet plenty of people who did buy the iPhone4 only found out about it when they heard about it in the news.

Someone left me a voicemail today. Took me a while to figure out how to get it to play:)

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I’ve had more of these than I can care to remember – and I had quite a collection long before carrying a reusable mug was the ecofriendly thing to do. In fact, I think the first such mug I remember having (back in the early 1980s) was a rather ugly thing with the Chevron logo on it. My husband and I were on one of our many long-distance drives, and as young as we were back then, we just drove through the night taking turns, and stopping often for coffee at travel plazas. Coffee to go meant those awful squishy styrofoam cups with the flimsy lids that dripped and spilled endlessly when full. So while gassing up at a Chevron station, we picked up a couple of mugs, and it became a habit for each roadtrip, until we had a little collection in the car. We were doing this merely for convenience, you realize. The reusable mugs kept the coffee hotter longer and rarely spilled in the car.

In graduate school, I carried a 20oz plastic mug touting the goodness of a Vermont coffee-roasting company. I used it for over four years – once again, long before it was the thing to do. It just made my life easier.

Then I had a year of weekly commuting, with a 5-hour drive each way. My trusty mug from graduate school did not fit in the cup holder in my car – and it was really rather gruesome inside from years of black coffee – so I splurged on a new mug from Dunkin Donuts, and that thing lived in my car for a few years.

Then I found myself in Seattle with a daily latte habit – and throwing away a disposable cup each and every time. I was walking and bus-riding rather than driving – and it was just easier not to be carrying a mug. But by then, the reusable mug had become the ecofriendly lifestyle statement, and had come a long way from the simple plastic beaker with lid. So I bought one a couple of years ago, and made a habit of it again. Funny to think, that all those years I was driving, I used a travel mug without thinking – and then lost that good habit when I gave up the car!

Unfortunately reusable mugs do not fare well with regular lattes. Hot milk is hard to clean up and has a way of stubbornly clogging up the threads and open-close mechanisms of lids. Plus, after a few months, the mug can smell rather icky – no matter how well it’s washed. Perhaps running it through a dishwasher would take care of that, but I do not have one.

Anyway, I have ended up having to toss mugs after about 6 months – which seems to defeat the purpose in using them. But then I found one made by Aladdin, that is not only made from recycled food-grade plastic – it is also recyclable! So I don’t feel so bad about tossing it and buying another. The open-close mechanism on the lid is nice and simple also, with almost nowhere for heated milk solids to get trapped. The mugs are rather plain and utilitarian and are sold at drug stores rather than coffee shops and fancy supermarkets. But I ended up decorating mine. My order is a grande extra-hot no-foam latte. Too often, the no-foam bit is heard to be non-fat. So I took a Sharpee and wrote my order on the outside of the mug! It invariably gets a laugh as I hand it over, but some baristas think it’s a great idea:)

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There were a few more blackberries out today. And these looked ready to eat, so I went for it. I wasn’t expecting anything special so early in the season, so I wasn’t disappointed that they were rather tart. They still tasted like blackberries – one of the highlights of summer.

Just in time too! This is about the time I am usually starting to get a little tired of summer. It’s not so much a matter of the weather, as just wanting everything back to normal. It’s hard to enjoy my usual routines right now. Everywhere I go is jammed with people. Traffic is disrupted by construction, baseball and other events. There are long lines in all the coffee shops. And there aren’t enough hours of darkness to get a good night’s sleep.

I’m already in a frame of mind to start counting down to the start of fall – but the prospect of blackberries will keep me happy with summer:)

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