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Hip Flexor Not Flexing September 29, 2008

Posted by thepixelsuite in Running.
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No pain. No gain?

No pain. No gain?

NY Times illustration by Bob Eckstein

Yesterday’s run was marred by a nagging hip flexor injury which flared up so badly I couldn’t get in my full twenty miles. Instead I settled for 15 (with some walking), and a heaping dose of self-flagellation. And now come the questions. “Should I rest a few days and hope this injury goes away?” “How will giving up running for a few days affect my training?” “Should I even bother signing up for another race before this injury is healed?” “Is this really an injury, or just a strain?”

With these questions in mind, Trish sent me this Gina Kolata article from the New York Times. Hopefully a couple of days of stretching and rest will get me back on the road in the next few days without resorting to “jumping into the pool with [my] running clothes and shoes on…”

And I really want to avoid panel number four in the illustration above.

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Sports Day In Seattle September 24, 2008

Posted by thepixelsuite in Vacation.
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Taking a breather after some expert paddling.

Taking a breather after some expert paddling.

For our last full day in Seattle, we decided to try our hand at kayaking, which we thought would be a unique way to see what the city has to offer. On the recommendation of a friend of ours, we headed out to the University District to rent a couple of kayaks from the good folks at Agua Verde Cafe & Paddle Club. . After signing the requisite waiver and handing over some ID, I figured we’d get at least a couple of moments of kayak safety lessons. You know, in case we tipped over or something. Instead we were handed our spray skirts and led down to the dock. Moments after slipping into our kayaks and having the foot pedals (for rudder control not propulsion) adjusted, we were paddling the waters of Lake Washington.

Trish took to handling her craft right away quickly and expertly making her way across Portage Bay as I clumsily struggled to steer and paddle with any sense of grace or style. After a few minutes of getting my sea legs, I caught up to her, and we headed through the Montlake Cut into the large bowl of the Union Bay section of Lake Washington. Each side of the Cut is painted with colorful slogans from crew teams from the University of Washington, which borders the lake. It was fun reading the signs filled with chest-thumping bravado designed to inspire the local crew teams to victory from water level.

Emerging from the Cut we paddled to the right to take in what we thought would be a view of the Washington Park Arboretum, but instead turned out to be a closer look at one of the local freeways. In danger of ruining our mood with sounds of traffic on 520, we decided to turn around and head back to the dock to take advantage of the other service Agua Verde offers-good food. After a leisurely meal and a couple of beers we headed back to the hotel for the midday rest.

Sports Day continued into the evening, when I headed out to join a group of runners for a store run put on by the Seattle Running Company. I usually run alone during my training runs, but, since I was on vacation, I thought I would take the opportunity to participate in the local running scene. And I’m so glad I did. I had already run a couple of times during my stay, and had a great time running along Lake Union and through Pike Place Market. But running with the SRC I experienced a beautiful, challenging route I would never have found by myself. Tuesday night’s run is generally a four to six mile affair, and this evening’s route was a six mile loop starting at the store, shooting straight through a Capitol Hill neighborhood before emerging into Volunteer Park. From there we veered downhill into another neighborhood before getting in a little trail running in Interlaken Park and finally running through the Arboretum where we turned around and headed back uphill to the store.

It was a terrific, beautiful run, and I even enjoyed the unpleasant uphill in the park. But I was so intent on not getting lost, I stuck behind one poor soul for quite a long time during the run. When I was certain of the way back I picked up my pace a bit, but I felt I had perhaps ruined the other runner’s reverie. Turns out I had nothing to worry about, and after finishing up he and I chatted for a while and enjoyed the camaraderie running engenders.

Back to the hotel to shower and freshen up and then out for our last big meal in Seattle. We chose to stay close to home and ended up at Barolo,

where tradition and innovation merge in modern comfort; Italian ancestry and family spirit, encased in a warm and inviting setting surrounded by wax-dripping candelabras, Italian glass chandeliers, a 20-seat communal table, comfortable booths to watch the action in the room or a cozy table for two to catch a private moment.

In other words, a beautiful upscale environment which treated us to fantastic service and flavorful food. Trish chose fresh, organic greens for her salad, while I felt like such an “elite” with my radicchio, arugula, and Belgian endive salad which was much lighter than yesterday’s bleu cheese bomb. Trish’s smoked salmon filled ravioli caused her to swoon with delight, while my gnocchi disappeared quickly accompanied by, yes a white wine, CMS Hedges White, a Chardonnay, Marsanne, Sauvignon Blanc blend. It sounds a little like the vintners second-class line of wines, but it tasted delightfully French and was a Washington wine which I’ve been trying to stick with this whole trip.

A slow stroll back to the hotel, and our adventure in Seattle was over. We’re flying out tomorrow, and we’ll have nothing but snapshots and a lot of great memories of our trip to remember the city by. Speaking for both of us, we had a terrific time walking around and experiencing what the city has to offer. I don’t want to offer a laundry list of what we liked and how fantastic everything is, but Seattle and the surrounding area is beautiful, and the best compliment we can pay is the promise we will be back.

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On Foot In Downtown Seattle September 23, 2008

Posted by thepixelsuite in Vacation.
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The night before Monday’s walking extravaganza, we sat down for dinner in a cool Capitol Hill neighborhood establishment called Quinn’s Pub. Don’t let the name or the four pages (out of five) of drinks on the menu fool you, though. What’s on offer goes way beyond typical fried pub food. Even the marinated olives we started with were over the top good. Trish enjoyed her risotto, while I couldn’t get enough of my grilled Kobe beef over Yukon Gold potatoes, oyster mushrooms and fresh green beans. The beef was grilled expertly and, while it didn’t have enough fat to melt in my mouth, it tasted just fine, and went well with a nice glass of Two Tone Cabernet. Not exactly a Washington State wine, but it did the trick.

Suspended crew boats remind patrons to work off their meals.

Suspended crew boats remind patrons to work off their meals.

As I said, Monday was to be filled with lots of walking, so we first stopped at the Portage Bay Cafe to fuel up. Everything on the menu is organic, locally sourced, sustainable. You get the drill. Breakfast was both delicious and smugly self-satisfying.

We struck out toward Pioneer Square with Elliott Bay Book Company our ultimate destination. We meandered along the downtown streets reveling in the gorgeous, sunny weather, (I thought it rained all the time up here) and stopped in to look at some artwork featured in the Foster/White Gallery. A little out of our price range, but some beautiful, moody pieces along with one painting riffing on Lyle Lovett’s If I Had A Boat song.

Before we got to the bookstore we passed an absolutely breathtaking building, the Seattle Central Library.

Kind of like the Luxor, except with books.

Kind of like the Luxor, except with books.

Much of contemporary architecture leaves me cold, since I get the impression much of it is for the aggrandizement of the architect and not designed for practical public use. This is not the case with this Rem Koolhaas designed gem. The building is hard to describe, and I recommend you do a Google or Flickr search for images, or better yet, visit Seattle and see it for yourself. The glass skin is criss-crossed by pale blue steel beams sloped in such a way to make you feel you’re inside a glass pyramid when you’re in the library’s lobby. Inside, many of the building details like escalators and furniture are presented in funky colors which promote a retro-future vibe with art installations cropping up in an unforseen locations. My favorite part of the whole library, though, is the book spiral. Starting on the 10th floor, I was able to walk among the stacks all the way to the sixth floor along one continuous path which hugged the inside edge of three sides of the building. On the fourth side, room was set aside for elevators, performance spaces and other types of rooms. And as if a four story sloping path among the stacks wasn’t enough in itself, each set of shelves’ Dewey Decimal group was represented by a rubber sign embedded into the floor.

The Book Spiral

The Book Spiral

Hard to describe, but I think this picture captures it well.

We finally reached Elliot Bay Book Company, and, while it wasn’t as architecturally interesting as the library, it is a beautiful book store. Well stocked and staffed, there’s lots of room to peruse the stacks and different levels to browse or sit down and pore over a potential purchase.

A clean well-lighted place for books.

A clean well-lighted place for books.

While Trish wandered around, I sat down with a digital photography book whose tips I’m hoping may help improve my photo-taking skills. And when we left, Trish had a little surprise for me. She’d picked up a copy of Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running for me.

The remainder of the afternoon was filled with a slow stroll in and out of various galleries along with a stop for what we thought would be a light snack, but turned out to be a couple of salads which would lose out to a Big Mac for nutrition value. Who knew bacon, bleu cheese, and dressing could be that heart-stoppingly delicious? Back to the room; a little rest; a little run; and then out to Etta’s for dinner. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here because I was not impressed by this Tom Douglas restaurant. The ambience was non-existent, our service was poor, and my salmon was cold and barely cooked. That coupled with the dour plate presentation was enough for me to remove Etta’s from my list of places to come back to.

So, a bit of our sour note to end the day, but all in all we had a terrific time, and the next day beckoned with more possibilities.

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Taking In Seattle September 21, 2008

Posted by thepixelsuite in Travel.
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Very trendy

Very trendy

Greetings from the Evergreen State!

Trish and I arrived in Seattle yesterday, and were greeted by a typical rain-filled Seattle afternoon.

Looks like rain.

Looks like rain.

After a quick neighborhood walk and a bite of lunch we got back to the hotel to try and check into our room only to have to wait and wait in the lobby until it was ready. As you can see from above, though, the lobby of the Pan Pacific is lovely and the people watching kept us pretty entertained. Finally we got our room, which looks out onto Lake Union, and settled in.

In the evening, we headed out for dinner at Lola, one of the restaurants in town run by Tom Douglas. Lola features dishes made from locally sourced products (the mushrooms paired with the chicken were listed as “foraged”) and creates dishes with a Mediterranean touch. We started with pita offered with a Skordalia garlic spread, before moving on to a tagine of stuffed eggplant with heirloom tomato and yogurt and a leg of lamb with blue mountain huckleberries. We were both in heaven savoring the flavors of each of the dishes complimented perfectly with glasses of Washington State wines.

I hope they do well.

I hope they do well.

The next morning, in search of a good cup of coffee, we walked over to Pike Place Market and found this little local place which opened its first shop in the Market before going national. I had to admit, the coffee was pretty good, and I hope the company does well.

Inside the temple.

Inside the temple.

Pike Place Market is a treat, and though it’s an obvious tourist draw, it doesn’t feel “touristy”. Instead of feeling like you have to walk through it in order to check it off your to-do list, the unpretentious shops and stalls with their variety of flowers, fresh produce, and fish make you feel like a local out to pick up a couple of things for dinner. We saw more than one couple with a rolling cooler filled with the catch of the day.

Dahlias on display

Dahlias on display

The main arcade is lined on one side with blocks of flower sellers offering an amazing array of colorful flowers with dahlias especially on display this time of year. Opposite the flower sellers are stalls and shops offering crafts and fresh fruit which rivals that found in our own Bay Area farmers markets. The flower stalls give way to those offering organic meats and lots and lots of fish. We were even treated at one point to the Pike Place phenomena of flying fish.

We sat for lunch at Lowell’s at a table overlooking the water before spending an afternoon walking along the waterfront and through the Olympic Sculpture Park with it’s installation featuring oversized traffic cones (see a video of the installation by clicking here) along with a massive, beautiful Richard Serra piece called Wake which evokes undulating waves, albeit huge, metal undulating waves.

Detail of Wake

Detail of Wake

And, yes, we saw the Space Needle, and, yes, we took pictures of it, but, no, we’re not going to post any. So don’t ask.

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A Little Traveling Music September 19, 2008

Posted by thepixelsuite in Travel.
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Everything you need to see in one convenient package.

Everything you need to see in one convenient package.

flickr photo by Archie McPhee Seattle

Tomorrow we’re on our way to the great Northwest. Trish and I have packed our bags and we’re jumping on a Virgin America flight to Seattle. I understand there’s a little rain in the forecast, but I’m not going to let it (you know there’s a pun coming, don’t you?) dampen my spirit. According to one of the guidebooks we studied locals will often use the rain to discourage out-of-towners from moving to Seattle. They have cute stories at the ready like the one about how twenty people fell out of bed last year and drowned. I’m not really interested in relocating, and I’m not too worried about drowning since we’ll be on one of the higher floors in the hotel.

But check back over the next few days and see how we’re doing…and how much coffee we’ve consumed.

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Blowing In The Wind September 18, 2008

Posted by thepixelsuite in Photos.
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Valencia Flags

Caught today just outside my house. A vendor had used the fence surrounding a derelict gas station to show his wares. Every few moments a light breeze would ripple through the flags making them appear as if they were straining to leap away from the fence. At the end of a long work day, this splash of vibrant colors seemed to complement the warm evening we’re about to experience.


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Insert Name Here September 16, 2008

Posted by thepixelsuite in Politics, Uncategorized.
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Drink Hack Palin here. Or at least that’s what my name would be if I had the boss totally fortune was born to Sarah and Todd Palin. Now, I don’t like to get people riled up by posting political stuff here, but I couldn’t resist directing your attention to the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator.

Enjoy the latest web meme!

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Giving New Definition To Late Harvest September 16, 2008

Posted by thepixelsuite in Vacation.
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We'll make sure to ask for the "Private Reserve". Wink.

We'll make sure to ask for the "Private Reserve". Wink.

photo by **Different Perspective**

As I said in my last post, I’ll be taking a short trip to Seattle, Washington next week. I’m looking forward to seeing the sights, maybe getting in a little kayaking, and definitely tucking into some good food and drink. Little did I know I might get a little more than I bargained for if I order a local wine.

From Monday’s Wall Street Journal: Pot Crop Infiltrates Vineyards.

Antidrug officials in the Northwest have discovered that marijuana growers are cultivating and concealing illegal crops on a large scale among grapevines in Washington state.

Read more.

And I thought the Space Needle would be cool.

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