Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First days in Seattle, first thoughts...

It's a night of firsts here, folks. It's the first night I feel like I have "living" space and not a repository for IKEA boxes. It's the first night I have been on the interwebs here bc my wifi card has been on the rag or something that prevented it from working as normal.

Incidentally, if you need some IKEA furniture built, I am your guy. Though I'm pretty sure that after the next - and last - piece there is to assemble, I never want to see a wooden dowel again for at least a good 30-day period. But I digress...

The movers arrive at 9 a.m. or so tomorrow. The next two days I am spending the bulk of time getting the place in some kind of basic shape, moving items into our storage unit and getting it ready for the arrival of the fabulous wife and dog (and Spragg!) on Saturday.

That said, I have been working full time this week and a few things that are immediately notable:
  • I have a 10-minute commute. Walking. You have no idea how fantastic this is unless you've done this in a city before. But even in NYC, I had a walk to the subway, then a 20-minute ride. My walk goes like this: 1) walk out of the building, 2) look up and see the Space Needle, 3) turn left, 4) climb a big, 2-block hill and 5) go a couple more blocks and arrive. Walking home, I get the Olympic Mountains and great views of downtown.
  • Neighborhoods! Oh, how I have missed this. I can walk a few blocks and feel like I'm in a whole different place. And it's all so easily accessible via mass transit. Which conveniently runs on both streets that make up the intersection where my apartment is.
  • You may have heard this, but there are one or two places in Seattle where you can get a decent cup of coffee.
  • I was thinking I should keep track of rainy days, but what fun is that. Instead, let's put it this way: the only day I didn't see sunshine was yesterday. This whole "all it does is rain" thing is hilarious. Seriously, come to Seattle and see. Also, the trees are already blooming here, which is just outstanding.
  • The time change isn't hitting me - on my end of things. I keep forgetting the east coast is three hours ahead of me. It would be good to remember this...
And the funny story...

So, I didn't think to pack a set of bed sheets. I have no idea why. Because I am a fool.

Anyhow, night one, I slept on our new mattress alone. That... wasn't ideal. But it was less ideal when I woke at 2 a.m. and was freezing cold. I put on socks and another shirt. Woke up an hour later still freezing. I put a hoodie on. Hood UP. Even that got cold. I ended up... putting my coat on and sleeping in my coat. Like a homeless person! I never realized this, but sheets and such insulate. Fortunately, I have coworker friends who live nearby and take pity on foolish people like me (and have extra sets of queen-size bedding).

Anyhow, it's been a smooth transition overall. I only have a handful of scratches from furniture assembly. I have only walked aimlessly around my new building looking for the trash bins once. I mean, that's good!

And what I can say is that things already feel right here. I think I've been smiling every time I have started my walk to work, just looking at the new city that surrounds me.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A shift in time...

I just changed the settings on my computer and Blackberry so that everything is on Pacific Time. From here on out, I'm three hours behind the east coast I have long called home. In five hours, I hop on a plane and land 3,000 miles away... at home. Kinda cool, no?

Sarah, Ashley and friend Jen are en route, as well, via car. I strongly suggest you follow their travails on Sarah's blog over the next few days.

There will be much to report on a new city, but before that, I think it's only proper to send off Charlotte, a place I have enjoyed greatly. I've made great friends, had good times and learned a bit about what makes the South the South. So... a few things I will miss about Charlotte and some I won't (and people don't count on here. I am talking about material things...)

I will miss:

  • The trees. Charlotte is still a city of trees. Crepe Myrtles, Magnolias, Mimosas... even some palms here and there. The coniferous Northwest beckons, but there is something about driving in Charlotte from February until September and always having some manner of flowering tree.
  • The language. Might-could. Fixin' to. Wonderful turns of the tongue that make the South stand out.
  • CLT airport. Fortunately, Sea-Tac is a pretty fantastic airport as well. But, take it from a traveler, Charlotte-Douglas Int'l makes the process of traveling pretty easy.
  • Bad food. Look, it'll kill you, but if you want bad food, the South is your place. Bojangles. Waffle House. Just outstanding (and knock you down dead bad) food.
  • Sitting poolside in March. That says it right there.
  • Manners. Living in the South has made me more patient and more polite. Things come with a "please" here and it's OK to smile at a stranger. In fact, it's kinda weird not to. That, I will miss.
Won't miss:

  • Traffic on I-485 at rush hour. It's like Charlotte wanted to build a little Los Angeles from Exit 67 to 59...
  • The left turn out of my old neighborhood. I'd like to thank the driving deities for not having someone broadside me turning out of there for 2.5 years. Also, I wish I had added up the minutes of my life spent waiting to be able to turn safely.
There are a handful of other things I'm going to be happy to be away from, but sorry... those you'll have to come get a drink with me to hear. :-)

See you soon, Charlotte. I have friends and family (Hi, Maggie!) here and we'll be back soon enough.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A True Dilemma

You know the saying "you are what you eat?" I have a whole new view on it since I read Michael Pollin's The Omnivore's Dilemma last fall.

Now, don't get me wrong, I still grab myself a Bojangle's Supremes combo every couple months. But the book demands you look not only at what you eat, but also at your place and role in creating the food you consume.

What the book basically gets at is that, if we are what we eat, what we are is corn. Piles of corn. High fructose corn syrup. Corn oil. The chicken you eat at most restaurants? Fed on corn. Beef, too, which is actually really bad for cows.

Pollin gets into the reasons for all this. And I couldn't do it any justice by typing all the reasons here... you should just read the book.

What's interesting is that Pollin isn't some holier-than-thou warrior for vegetarianism. In fact, he's pretty clear on the idea that simply looking at a human shows we're supposed to eat some meat. Our teeth handle meat well. Our bodies have acids and things that break down meat that serve no digestive purpose on plants. He accepts that, perhaps, the philosophical arguments for vegetarianism have merit, but he's by no means saying the world is going to be a better place if we all stop eating meat.

In fact, what he proposes is something much different. Basically, he's looking for all of us to eat 1) seasonally and 2) locally.

Seasonally, you say? He attacks the culture we have where every food is available all the time. Plants and animals. He has a special place of scorn for "organic" produce that is brought to the US out of season on cargo jets. And you also probably don't want to know what "organic" means in FDA speak.

Point being, if it's April, that's not generally the time of year when certain plants and animals are ready for harvest per the natural cycles of things. Only modern efficiency farming methods have made this possible, and often to the detriment of our diets and the soils we require to grow food.

As for locally, it's amazing none of us find it odd that someone in Burlington, VT can peel a ripe Florida orange all year 'round. I'm not sure that, in and of itself, is harmful. But on a macro scale, it makes it has a lot of effects, notably on the price of food and the methods used to mass produce it. Certainly, in the case of meat, it makes a difference.

Pollin spends the course of the book looking for the perfect meal... one that is truly organic that he can feel good about eating. It was not an easy task, and certainly not the cheapest route to take.

The end result for me is a bit of dismay. We should all be wary of just what we're consuming - and I don't mean from a calorie standpoint or chemical standpoint. Simply, humans have never eaten the way we have started to eat the past 20 years. We don't really know what side effects there will be.

But we're going to find out because the only solution is a culture change so drastic as to simply not be realistic. Me choosing to eat differently is lovely and all, but my options are so thoroughly limited because the economics of food make it much easier for everyone else to eat "badly." Honestly, short of a list of holistic reasons, there are few practical reasons to eat in a way that is sustainable for our health and society. We've built a food system that may well be harmful to us all... but there's no exit ramp, unless you have a whole lot of money.