Eight national parks

August 13, 2007

My list of national parks that I’ve visited in my adult lifetime is now up to 8:

* Badlands
* Yellowstone
* Yosemite
* Mt Rainier
* Joshua Tree
* Bryce Canyon
* Zion
* Denali

Only 50 more to go, unless Congress makes more and/or I wimp out and unilaterally declare that the National Park of American Samoa and Virgin Islands National Park are not on my itinerary.

I learned in Alaska that it’s next to impossible to get to most of the other national parks up there — you have to hire a floatplane or a multi-day charter boat, and the “season” is only from June to the middle of September. Many of them don’t have campgrounds. Some of them might not even sell refrigerator magnets!

Speaking of refrigerator magnets… I visited Badlands before I started collecting them, so I don’t have one. If any readers of this blog happened to pick one up for me next time they’re at the park, I would be forever grateful :-).

Snarky in Seattle

August 2, 2007

I’ve been in Seattle for a couple days, decompressing before progressing to a six-day vacation in Alaska. As even my mother, a known hater of the Pacific Northwest, admits: August in Seattle is heaven on earth.

Anyone who questions the difference between Silicon Valley and other tech centers should have been at the Seattle Facebook App Developers meeting with me last night. It seemed to be like 80% Microsoft employees, who came across as really smart and hard-working but in a totally joyless way, like princes in exile. I tried joking around with them — like claming that the reason Seattle didn’t have that many startups is that they’re too into cool timesucking hobbies like kayaking and snowboarding… but one dude actually declared in evident seriousness that all the most successful people he knew had rigorous workout schedules (two words: Bill Gates). I got the impression that devs in Seattle find it hard to give up their fatty pay packets, institutional prestige, and important projects for the motley life of the fly-by-night startup that is so romanticized in the Bay Area.

I did make one very cool new friend though: Lester the Licker. He’s an 8 month old Labrador Retriever who is being trained for a career as a guide dog for the blind. We hung out at the meetup, and then later took the bus home together. I learned that guide dogs are taught secret commands, including one that means “curl up really small” and one that induces them to poop on demand! Geeks of the world, here’s a tip: there is no more powerful chick magnet in the world, bar none, than a guide-dog in training. It sends all the right messages: I like puppies, puppies like me, I can commit to projects that take 18 months to complete, I’m doing good for the world, AND I am firm but kind. I bet a future guide-dog standing next to you in the photo would account for AT LEAST 3 extra points on Hot or Not.

However, I’ve realized I have developed a new pet peeve: people who don’t exhibit proper etiquette in ramen restaurants. Maybe I saw Tampopo too many times at an impressionable age, but I find that I require mental tranquillity to enjoy my Japanese noodle soups. It fatally disturbs my wa to be surrounded by idiots who try to shoehorn a table for 8 into a restaurant with no more than 16 seats; ‘tards who linger for hours over a quick bowl of noodles (7 minutes, people!); vegetarians who insist on injecting irrelevancies like “health” and “ethics” into issues of art; and especially noobs who cut their noodles with their teeth rather than slurping! A pox on all their ilk… may their broth always be lukewarm, their noodles always overcooked, their luck always being cut off, and their corpses nibbled by heedless fish.

And speaking of fish, I am now off to pursue the noble halibut and the magisterial salmon in their native habitat. Hopefully I will also add Denali to my life list of national parks. Photos in a week or so, if I can figure out my new digital camera.