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For the first six years that I’ve lived in the Seattle area, I’ve had to drive to work. It was simply too far to walk as it would have taken 1.5 – 2 hours every day to get in. But in 2013 we moved closer to work and since then I’ve been able to walk. It takes between 20 and 30 minutes depending upon what building I am working in (the company moves us around a lot). I walk almost every day except when (a) it’s pouring rain in the winter (or snowing), or (b) it’s really cold, or (c) I have to go somewhere before or after work. So, basically I’d been walking to work for about 4 years.

However, earlier this year the company temporarily moved my team to downtown Bellevue, a distance of about 5 miles. This is too far to walk, it would take me two hours both ways so I had to drive in.

I was ambivalent about moving to a high rise in downtown Bellevue, but it turned out that I liked it for the most part. I could listen to the radio on the way in and the way home, and I liked being in the middle of all the action in downtown (there are lots of good restaurants around there, as well as being across the street from a shopping mall). I think most people enjoyed working in the downtown office, including myself.

The drawback was that I missed walking into work. I would deliberately park further away while working downtown so I still had to walk about 10 minutes to get to my office (if I took the stairs to the 11th floor). And, if I wanted to walk during the day, I had to motivate myself to do it during a break in the middle of the day, which I didn’t always do.

After moving back to the main campus, I started walking to work again. I realized that I really missed those early and late walks because I would listen to podcasts on the way. I never did that while driving to work, and only once in a while did it when going for a mid-afternoon walk or in the evening when I would try to catch up on my 10,000 steps. Not only that, but walking to work – depending on the building I am in – is a “free” 6000-7500 steps because it’s part of my daily commute of 20-30 minutes. When driving to work, it took 30 minutes but I would only get about 1000 steps each way, so I had to make them up in the evening somehow.

This is now part of the problem of living and working where I am living and working. I like walking to work because it’s decent exercise that I would otherwise struggle to get. It’s close by so if I ever have to drive, it takes less than 10 minutes; if I have to walk, it takes about 30 minutes.

If I want to switch jobs, my commute will increase as I will either have to drive or take the bus (or both). That means it will, once again, be more difficult to get my daily step count. And if I had to commute into Seattle, it would take me more than 30 minutes to get in, probably 45 minutes at a minimum. In rain, it would probably take 60-90 minutes.

I am fortunate that I enjoy doing what I’m doing, but on the other hand I sometimes wonder if I should try something different just for a change of pace. I hear all the time that it’s unusual for someone to stay in the same job for decades, yet that’s what I have done for the past 13.5 years. But I don’t want to extend my commute because a long commute time is one of the biggest causes of life-dissatisfaction. I’ve driven across the bridges in this city during rush hour, and it’s not fun. Even on the bus, it sucks the life out of your day.

But for now, I guess I’ll sit back and enjoy the ride.

I mean walk.

 

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If you’ve ever had a cat, you’ll know that they can be kind of quirky. Our cat Ruby has more quirks than our other cat Zelda (by far). However, Zelda has a couple of quirks of her own.

One of them that she has developed this past year is wanting to stand or lie down in the bathroom sink. For you see, after I eat breakfast, I head up to the bathroom to brush my teeth and all that, and the cats usually follow me up shortly thereafter. Most of the time, they want to jump on the window sill so I’ll open the window and they can look out. That’s one of their favorite activities.

Both cats do that, but lately for some reason Zelda’s goal has simply been to lay down in the sink. What she’ll do is she’ll jump on the toilet and then hop onto the sink (after I’ve gotten to the bathroom, never before) and then start walking around the edge of the sink. And frequently she will stand in the sink, and sometimes she’ll even lie down in the sink!

I say “Uh, Zelda, what are you doing?”

Sometimes she starts trying to drink from the faucet, so I’ll turn it on a little bit, and then she’ll drink. Then, when she lays down in the sink, I’ll turn on the tap so it dribbles on her a little bit, and then I gradually turn it up so she gets more wet.

But it doesn’t bother her that much. She lets it run on her for about 15 seconds before finally getting up and starts sniffing, then pawing, the running water. And this entire time she’s asking for pets on her back and head. Zelda is not normally a cuddly cat, but once in a while she is.

Eventually she gets bored and jumps down. And a good thing, too, because I have to brush my teeth. You might ask “Why don’t you just kick her out of the sink?”

I can’t do that. You’d understand if you had a cat.

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Today, I turned 39.

I know a lot of people start freaking out about the passage of time, and getting older and whatnot, especially as 40 years of age approaches. And sometimes, I do too.

But for the most part I don’t.

My birthday was lower-key this year than in years previous. We were a little tight for time. I had to go to church to run the lights, and afterwards the wife and I went to Costco to get groceries (we’re real swingers here, doing responsible things and all).

We came home to put stuff away, and saw that the guy who was doing some work on our bathroom was gone. So, after quickly changing clothes, we headed off for lunch in Seattle to the restaurant of my choice – Cafe Turko!

You may recall that we went there last year for my birthday, although that was a Saturday evening and this was a Sunday afternoon. Since we went last year, we hadn’t returned. It’s not that easy for us to get to due to Seattle traffic, the only exception to this is on weekends.

Just like last year, we started off with the rainbow hummus which has four kinds – regular, sweet potato, beet, and olive (or something green, it may not have been olive). The wife then got a Turkish black tea and some lentil soup, while I got some lamb dish with rice and salad. For dessert, I got a Turkish coffee and some havlah with chocolate on it.

Speaking of havlah, it’s an eastern European powdery-dessert dish that the wife and I really like. But no one else seems to. I’m not sure why that is.

We came home, and an hour or two later I had to head off again to help out with a youth group where I am one of the assistants. Finally, I returned home where we relaxed a little bit while the sun went down on my 39th birthday.

As for next year, my 40th, what will I do? I’m not sure. I was thinking of having a big party but I’ve realized that December is not a good month for a birthday. On weekends, people are either out visiting family, or doing office Christmas parties, or going to friends’ parties, or doing church events. That means they are typically booked up which means that I’d be (probably) out of luck next year with respect to scheduling unless I promised a massively great party (note: I am not a good party planner).

But it doesn’t matter. The fact is I am another year older, and I’ve enjoyed the past 365 days. I discovered I like wine much more than I used to; my neck pain has reduced; and I even got a promotion at work. So it’s not all bad.

And, I’m looking forward to seeing what the next year holds.

[Really? Another blog post about politics?]

I’ve written previously about how tax cuts don’t lead to economic prosperity the way that some politicians think they do. And yet here we are, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed a tax “reform” package that has mostly tax cuts, and the Republican-controlled Senate is trying to do the same thing. Various analyses of these two tax packages mostly conclude the following:

  • The average person on the street will see little benefit, perhaps a couple of hundred dollars, up to maybe a couple of thousand dollars for people making ~$150,000/year
  • The people at the very top, in the top 0.1%, will see big savings in the many tens, or even hundreds, of thousands
  • Corporations will save lots and lots of money
  • In 10 years, most people will see their taxes go up
  • The federal deficit will increase as a result of these tax cuts

Given all these negatives, we have to ask the question: Why are Republicans trying so hard to pass these tax cuts?

Way back in 2015 when President Trump was campaigning, and then all throughout 2016 and the first part of 2017, one of his mantras was “Drain the swamp!” There are various interpretations of what this means, but basically it’s about preventing lobbyists and special interests from buying politicians’ votes, and instead acting in the interest of the average American citizen. During the debates, then-candidate Trump would say he would do this all the time. When he needed a favor, he’d call up a politician and promise a campaign donation. Some people (erroneously) thought that a President Trump would curtail this if he got elected.

And so to answer the question of why Republicans are trying so hard to pass these tax cuts, the answer is simple: it’s not because it benefits the average citizen, but because politicians are trying to please their donors. For you see, it’s wealthy donors that are pushing for tax reform (that is, tax cuts). They are wealthy, and want to see their taxes reduced even though they are doing just fine. They are pressuring lawmakers with the threat of withholding campaign contributions. Whether they truly believe that it would help economic growth (most economists don’t think so), or they are trying to starve the government of funding and thereby force cuts to services (resulting in average citizens paying more), it’s not in the interest of the average American citizen to get a tax cut. After all, they barely get anything.

Maybe if the 0.1% does indeed re-invest the money, there could be a trickle down effect. But for a tax cut to be stimulative, it has to expand the consumer class. A few hundred dollars for most consumers who will have to pay for services they didn’t normally pay for does not expand the consumer class, since it doesn’t expand domestic demand.

The swamp is doing just fine; they will be the ones to benefit most from these tax cuts. Like most of President Trump’s promises during the campaign, this one appears to be as fictitious as the rest of them.

About two years ago, we got another cat, Zelda. She was a kitten, about 3 months old. We brought her home and our other cat Ruby did not like her at all. There was hissing, and growling, and frequent beatings. Ruby does not like other cats in the house, and this little intruder needed to be gone, and pronto.

We’ve now had both cats for two years, and now they both more or less co-exist. As long as Zelda stays out of Ruby’s face, it’s fine. They can sleep 6 inches apart from each other, and there’s no hissing.

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It’s only when Zelda gets really close to Ruby – face to face – that Ruby hisses or sometimes swats.

But here’s the thing – Zelda gets in Ruby’s face all the time. In face, one of Zelda’s favorite games is one she invented, it’s called “Beat up Ruby.” The way it works is she walks over to Ruby and tries to tackle her, succeeding about half the time. That’s it. No other rules. Ruby hates this game and hisses at Zelda every time, but it doesn’t stop Zelda from trying to play it almost every day.

Ruby has figured out that Zelda likes this game, so she often walks around Zelda because she knows she might get tackled. That usually works. But it’s also not when Zelda attacks; instead, Zelda attacks at inopportune times, usually out of the blue. A common tactic is the sneak attack when in the morning, Ruby is sleeping on the bed and Zelda walks in, jumps up, and pounces on her. Oh, there’s lots of hissing (from one cat)!

Earlier this year, I took a picture of a faceoff. You can see that Zelda is about to tackle Ruby, and Ruby knows it. She lays back, paws up, ears pointing backward, ready to defend herself. In this case, Zelda abstained from going in for the pounce.

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But another time, I was able to take a series of pictures of Zelda beating Ruby up. This lasted about 3 seconds.

It starts with a face-off:

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Then Zelda pounced and they separated:

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They split apart:

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The sync up and fight again:

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And then it ended with another staredown, with Zelda finally backing down:

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Zelda is having a great time with this, but Ruby not so much.

Still, it’s entertaining to watch. Ruby has never fully gotten over the fact that there’s another cat in the house, but she has decided to live by the non-aggression treaty.

She just can’t understand why the other one keeps breaking it.

This past Thursday, I took part in the Seattle Stair Climb challenge for Cystic Fibrosis. This is a charitable fundraiser that raises funds to fight Cystic Fibrosis; two of my friends (who are married to each other) have a son with the disease, and so I decided to give some money to charity and take part in the cause.

That’s me below, the only one without a team T-shirt as I only signed up the day of the challenge, although I had been thinking about it for a couple of weeks.

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I hadn’t done a charitable event like this before – no runs for charity, no bike rides, no anything. At least, not in the past few years.

This one was a simple stair climb down in Seattle. You climb all 56 floors, bottom to top, to complete the event.

I figured I could do it; I occasionally climb all 28 floors bottom-to-top in the building where I work in Bellevue, so I figured this would take me a little more than twice as long. As it turned out, it only took 50% longer as the distance between each floor was smaller (that is, in the building at work, there are more stairs between floors than this one).

Still, on the way up I never stopped but I was breathing hard when I got to the top. When I reached the 55th floor, I “sprinted” the rest of the way. That is, I tried to go as fast as I could. My legs felt like rubber and I wasn’t moving quick at all, but I finished in 11 minutes and 52 seconds. That was good for 55th out of 171 total participants. In my age group (30-39), I finished 15th out of 33 people, so about in the middle.

I don’t know all that much about Cystic Fibrosis (I had to read about it), but it’s a disease that affects the lungs and your body produces too much mucous, and it is genetic (both parents must be a carrier of the gene). I know even less about research for a cure, but it sounds like technology such as CRISPR, which allow you to edit your genes or DNA, may be promising.

As difficult as the challenge was, I had a good time and felt like it was important to support my friends as they struggle through this challenge.

As I alluded to in another blog post, the wife and I were down in Hood River, Oregon this past summer. We went down for a wedding on Mt Hood, but this just so happened to coincide with the total eclipse that occurred this year.

Originally, the wife and I were just going to watch it from the place we were staying because it was reasonably close to the zone of totality, and we didn’t want to fight traffic. But I suggested “Look, we’re right here. We’re only an hour away from the zone, and we’re probably going to hiking later on anyway. So why not drive south as far as we can until we get to the zone, and then pull over wherever we can and watch the eclipse?”

And that became the plan. We got in the car in the morning and started driving south, planning to get into the zone of totality and then pulling over to the side of the road. To our surprise, there was basically no traffic. We had heard that there were major traffic problems, but not for us.

I kept track on a map of where we were, and checked NASA’s webpage to see where the zone started. I roughly knew where we had to get to, and when we crossed the zone we found a lake with a whole bunch of others who were similarly there to watch the eclipse.

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We parked in the parking lot with everyone else next to the lake, got out our lawn chairs, and looked up in the sky.

With our dark glasses, of course.

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The above picture was taken about 30 minutes before the total eclipse, when the moon was about 98% covering the sun. I had always thought that it would get super-dark when the sun was almost covered, but it wasn’t. In the picture, it looks like it’s still the middle of the day. In fact, it never did get super dark.

The next picture is when the eclipse was about 20 minutes away, at 99% coverage. As you can see, it looks like dusk.

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Finally, we came to the moment everyone had been waiting for, 100% total eclipse! It never got completely dark, although it was cold.

We were in the zone of totality but not the middle of the zone, so for us the total eclipse lasted around 30 seconds. I had enough time to take off my solar glasses, take this picture, tweet about it, and then it was over.

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We waited around for another 15 minutes as some of the other cars cleared out, it began to warm back up, and then we left to do a day hike.

And that’s the story of the time we saw the total eclipse in Oregon.