Thursday, August 09, 2007

this is seriously my worst nightmare

Rattler's decapitated head bites Prosser man

PROSSER — A man was bitten by the decapitated head of a rattlesnake on his property near Prosser.

Fifty-three-year-old Danny Anderson and his son saw the five-foot snake Monday evening while feeding horses. They pinned it with a pipe and cut off its head with a shovel.

When Anderson reached down to pick it up he says the snake head twisted around and bit his index finger. He says if felt like his hand was in a fire pit.

In the ten minutes it took to reach Prosser Memorial Hospital the venom spread through his body and his tongue had already started to swell. He was treated with shots at the hospital and at Kadlec Medical Center in Richland.

State Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Mike Livingston says it's possible the snake had the heat-sensing ability to make one last attack or it may have been a reflex.


I think I would die of shock.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


It's funny now that I didn't even mark this house down to go look at. When I saw it on Redfin (online listings) I skipped over it, with the thought, "That has got to be the ugliest paint scheme imaginable."

We found our new house by accident. Korwin, Kendall and I were headed to Wenatchee to celebrate Elle's first birthday party. Korwin printed out a few of our favorite listings and we made our way around the city, hoping to visit a few open houses. (Usually in the first week of a listing, a house will be shown on Sat. and Sun.) None of the houses we were looking at were open - maybe due to the gray drizzle ruining what should be a summer Saturday in Seattle. We had one more house on our list, in Columbia City; I think Korwin wanted to get going but I said we might as well go look, so we drove down there. The house was actually open so we got out of the car and walked around, knowing that we probably weren't really that interested. Korwin drove up the street we were on and we saw an open house at the end. I said, "Oh yeah! I remember this one; let's just stop and look."

Three days later, we submitted an offer and accepted the seller's counter-offer. Four days later, we were in the house getting it inspected. Five days later, we are deciding on loans and financing. It's amazing to me how fast things can happen.

Some important details: Our house is three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with a partially finished basement. It is about 2000 square feet, has a really nice yard and patio, and a little garden/tool shed. It's backed up against a nature preserve called Hitt's Hill, and it's two blocks to the center of Columbia City. We're also located a short walk from the new light rail line from the airport to downtown (opening in 2 summers.) The address is 5231 37th Avenue S., Seattle.

We do have some exciting eventual plans for our house (tighten up some seals, remodel the bathrooms, change the cabinets and counter-tops, and redesign the basement), but it is extremely livable for now.

Except for the paint. In the entire house, I think I like the color of one room. Any ideas? Feel free to comment, email, etc.


Friday, July 20, 2007

if only - observations of a perfectionist

Overheard yesterday at Greenlake while jogging (slowly enough to hear peoples' conversations...)
"I definitely think I'm going to sign up for Yoga on Mondays and Tuesdays. I need to start doing something."
"If only I could actually be diligent about it, I'd be in great shape."

I have purchased notebooks for the sole purpose of making lists. To-do lists, food lists, exercise lists, grocery lists, housecleaning lists, lists of books I intend to read, lists of people I intend to email. The list (of lists) goes on and on. Here's the problem with list-making. List-making doesn't actually get anything done. If it did, I would be productive to Wendy-like proportions. Korwin has read some parts of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen - I like the idea that by writing things down, you remove them from the swimming pool of your brain and allow yourself space to think about new things. That's still no guarantee that you get anything done, which probably just means that I actually need to read the book.

Katie suggested starting one new habit per week. I like that idea. Sounds achievable.

Next week, here's my new habit: a new list, called an action list. At the end of the day, I will write down what I did that day. In order to live my life next week, I will not make any to-do, to-buy, to-write, or to-figure out lists. I will just live.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles...and Tuk-tuks and Elephants and Bamboo Rafts...

Thailand is the Land of Smiles, and the land of transportation options. In the sixteen days we were there, we used twenty different modes of transportation, which provided a lot of the personality/color/hilarity of getting from place to place. I think the process of traveling was at least as memorable as the individual destination. I will use the following list to tell part of our Thailand story:

Airplane: We flew China Airlines from Seattle to Taipei, then on to Bangkok. The flight was a total of approximately 15 hours. China Airlines delivers flight cabin messages in four languages: Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, and English, making for really long announcements. They also win my prestigious award for Worst Airplane Food in the History of the World, with delicacies such as braised chicken with rice and vegetables (chunks of mystery meat on top of whitish mush with "broccoli"). Each seat included a personal TV with the standard array of movies receiving from 30-60% on Rotten Tomatoes. Unfortunately, the fabulous REI travel pillow I brought for the long flight had the same color pillowcase as the standard-issue China Airlines pillows, so I walked off the plane with the wrong one. We retained all of our luggage, without any extra delivery, a big plus! (Confidential to Northwest Airlines: you could really learn from this.)

Taxi - Flat Fare:
You might think I'm cheating by including two different types of taxis, but I'd like to make the case that they are very different. It's standard to take a flat fare taxi from the Bangkok airport, which costs 400 baht (approximately 12 US dollars), and delivers you straight to your hotel in any part of the city. During the first minutes of driving, I had several observations: "Oh yeah, they drive on the left side of the road!" "Wow, there's hardly any traffic on the expressway!" "Taxis drive pretty quickly here and have a liberal definition of the word 'lane'." When we got off of the expressway, we were sitting in a sea of traffic, which is much of the city of Bangkok from 3p.m. to 8p.m, give or take a few hours. All cars drive quickly and fluidly, the type of driving that works there and would get you killed in Seattle.

Taxi - Metered: Except for getting to the airport, savvy travelers (us?) know to avoid flat-fare taxis if they want to save money. Unlike U.S. taxis, metered taxis in Thailand are unbelievably cheap. We sat in a metered taxi for almost an hour and paid 100 baht ($3 USD). However, we also learned that metered taxi drivers sometimes drive at unbelievably excessive speeds - since they only get paid for the mileage, it makes economic sense for them to drive as fast as they possibly can. Most of the time, you have to firmly tell a taxi driver that you want him to use his meter, because he usually tries to quote you a flat fare that is at least triple the fare you will pay. You don't generally tip taxi drivers in Thailand, and when they try to get you to tip, it's okay to say no. We probably used a taxi six or seven times in the city. In general, taxi drivers are really friendly, helpful, and efficient. Except for the one guy that Char wanted to pay extra to, specifically for driving lessons.

River Ferry: Unquestionably the best deal in Thailand. You can ride the length of the muddy brown Chao Praya River for 13 baht (approx. 40 cents.) They whistle to indicate each stop, and the boat stops by shifting its motor into reverse and throwing a rope onto the dock. A fabulous way to see the city!

A tuk-tuk is a funny three-wheeled vehicle, kind of like a rickshaw with a motor. Usually you bargain with the driver for the fare. We stuffed four people into one tuk-tuk which was fine until we got caught in a monsoon on our way to the Hualamphong Railway Station. I think Korwin was the wettest, with the lady at the train station laughing uproariously at his soaked clothing. In general, Thai people really like to laugh. Sometimes they laugh at you, but it's all in good fun. When you walk down the city streets, people make eye contact and smile. It's cool.

Night Train: We took an overnight train from Bangkok to the Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. The train was unbelievably slow (about 13 hours for 420 miles, avg. speed of 32mph) and unbelievably dirty. We purchased a first-class ticket (about 70$ for two people) which included a little compartment with a bunkbed, which was connected to Adam and Charlene's. The train ride made for some great card playing, laughter, and a surprisingly restful sleep. The night train also received our unanimous award for Worst Meal in Thailand (breakfast of "eggs", "ham", and "bread.")

A songthaew is a pickup truck with two bench seats along either side of the back of the truck. It also has a roof, sometimes with plastic sheeting on the sides in case of rain. We rode in a songthaew several times, including from the train station to the Libra Guesthouse where we stayed for a couple of nights, and on a long ride to the place where we began our trek, up switchback-laden mountainous jungle roads. On Ko Samui, songthaew drivers honk whenever they see a potential rider; if you turn and look at them, they stop to let you climb in, and they continue picking up riders until the back is completely full.

Rented Motorbike: The most enjoyable form of transportation in Thailand! We rented motorbikes in Chiang Mai from an anxious lady who, for some reason, was especially worried about Korwin's lack of motorbike experience. In Chiang Mai, driving the motorbikes is really fun; we were among the few who were wearing helmets (mostly farang, or foreigners wear them.) The motorbikes just zip in and out of traffic and drive alongside cars fluidly. We also used them for an exhilarating journey up a mountain road to Doi Suthep, a famous wat. On Ko Samui, we rented another motorbike for 150 baht/day (less than $5.00). Open-air riding isn't as much fun on Ko Samui, because of the rampant smell of sewage in the crowded beach towns.

: Had to include this one, just because we trekked in the mountains on some rarely-used paths (Piroon, our wonderful tour guide, forged the way with machete in hand). The first day of our trek was just filled to the brim with magnificent sights; I couldn't get enough of the dense bamboo forests, rice fields, lush vegetation, wild fruit, waterfalls, and intense green. We also did a lot of beach and city walking.

Motorbike Taxi: We did not intend to use this form of transportation, but we graciously accepted it after all four of us, sick with food poisoning, had spent a sleepless night involuntarily emptying our stomachs (great stat: we threw up almost a combined 30 times in a 24-hour period.) We didn't think we would make it to trek four hours up a mountainside the next morning, so Piroon arranged for some young local hilltribe guys to take us to the next camp via motorbike. They biked for 40 minutes through streams and over steep, curvy paths in the jungle, probably hoping we wouldn't get sick on them. Korwin, being bigger than most Thai men, was the subject of some good-natured jokes about his driver not having the easiest time ascending some hills.

Bamboo Raft: We rafted for about three hours on a beautiful river in the jungle (although, as Piroon told us, it wasn't the real jungle, since cicadas wouldn't be able to survive in the real jungle.) The rafts are made, completely from bamboo, specifically for tour groups by a local mountain man; they only are used for one trip down the river. The long rafts survive rapids and are a testament to bamboo's strength. They are manned by one person in the front and one person in the back, both of whom use long, thin bamboo poles to maneuver around rocks, trees, and debris.

Elephant: As part of our trek, we got to ride on elephants for about an hour. They have these carriages that you can sit in on top of the elephants and I also sat on the elephant's neck, behind his ears, which flapped gently on my legs. Elephants are amazing, with their huge capacity for food and their strong bodies and trunks. There's a lot of concern in Thailand about the mistreatment and exploitation of elephants, so we were glad to get to ride on elephants who really seemed to be treated with respect and given lots of space. Adam and Charlene also went to an Elephant Conservation Camp, where they got to bathe and feed the elephants.

Minibus: Really, this one doesn't count, but it's funny. Adam arranged for us all to take a minibus to a sustainable art community and project called "The Land" and then to the Chiang Mai airport for our flight to Ko Samui. We were all thinking, air-conditioned van, but instead, it was just a songthaew that said "Minibus" on it. The ride was over an hour and the driver didn't know how to get to the place, even with Adam's map, so he kept stopping every couple of minutes to ask someone. Finally, we reached The Land, driving on an extremely narrow grass road bordered by soaked rice fields. The Land is a very cool and interesting project; for more information, check out

Airplane: I guess this one is theoretically the same as the first airplane, only with a couple of quirks. Through Thai AirAsia, we bought $30 one way flights in Thailand from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, and Bangkok to Surat Thani, the gateway to islands like Ko Samui and Ko Phangan. Thai Airways planes bear the slogan: "Now Everyone Can Fly" but Charlene thought maybe they should change it to "Now Everyone Can Die." Actually the flights were pretty uneventful, but on one segment, our plane tried to take off three times before it was successful, and on another segment, we encountered some very sudden and violent turbulence where both Char and I actually thought we were going down (while the boys maintained that they were perfectly calm.)

Double-Decker Bus: We took a big bus from Surat Thani to the Ko Samui ferry, which cost about 180 baht (under $6). The bus operating companies are kind of sketchy. Everywhere in Thailand, we tried to prevent ourselves from being scammed, and were mostly successful. Since cost of living and transportation is so much less than in the US, it doesn't really matter that much if you do get taken advantage of, i.e. it's still not very expensive. Still, we tried to educate ourselves about how much things should cost and how to avoid traps. On the bus, Charlene and I played Yatzhee and a modified version of crib, while Korwin and Adam challenged two little European girls to Mario Kart on the DS (and lost).

(This is not our exact bus, but a cool one...)

Ferry: We took a big ferry from the mainland to the island of Ko Samui, where we stayed for six days. The ferry, like many things in Thailand, was old and not well-maintained, but was probably pretty cool in its heyday. We passed the hour and a half ride by playing Euchre and Hearts.

Van: A real minibus, able to transport fifteen people in air-conditioned bliss. We took this a couple of times, once with the Blue Star national marine park tour company, and once to get back to Surat Thani from the ferry.

Tour Boat: Our mode of transportation to visit Ang Thong National Marine Park, a collection of 42 limestone islands, caves, remote beaches, and spectacular rock formations. The boat did potentially have an engine fire partway through the ride, as it was smoking heavily and one of the boat operators was frantically trying to douse the engine with water. We all managed to avoid seasickness even with a pretty rocky ride.

Sea Kayak: As part of the tour, we got to kayak through some parts of the park, into a lagoon, and through small caves and overhangs. The tide being at its lowest from June - August, the water was very shallow and as warm as bathwater. Kayaking was one of my favorite things that we did because everything around us was so extraordinary and it enabled us to get up close.

Mini-Songthaew: Like a songthaew, but half the size - more like a four-wheeled tuk-tuk with a motorbike engine. Our one major scam...I don't think we have any pictures of this, but the mini-songthaew was an hour of sitting in this diesel-spewing machine on the way back to the Surat Thani airport. We arranged a ride with a songthaew driver the night before for 400 baht, but in the morning, he dropped us off at a delivery place where we were quickly ushered into the mini-songthaew -- not a very comfortable ride, and then the driver tried to get us to give him a 200 baht tip.

Skytrain: Bangkok's modern, air-conditioned monorail that connects a couple of major areas of the city. It costs a maximum of a dollar to ride the Skytrain; we rode it from our hotel to Siam Square, where Bangkok's gigantic malls are located, and to the river boat dock.

For me, the most fun part of getting around Thailand was the sheer variety of transportation and the process of securing transportation; haggling and bargaining with drivers, hailing taxis, sometimes fearing for our lives. Trying so many different things enabled us to see more of the country and immerse ourselves in a little piece of Thai culture.