Saturday, January 24, 2015

Still raining

Shirley, Ebba, Connie, Lauren
Do they look wet? Yep, they are. I just got home from the Saturday walk, and fifteen of us showed up in a light rain, hoping it would stop before too long. Well, it didn't. We walked more than six miles anyway, and I have to say, we do look a little bit on the soggy side, don't you think? Lauren didn't even wear a raincoat, just a fleece, and although she doesn't look as wet as Shirley, she is.
Theresa in her Seattle Sombrero
This hat was admired and commented upon while we were walking, and I asked if I could take a picture, just to show my readers how nicely it worked in the rain. All those pretty raindrops on the brim kept her under what almost seems like a portable umbrella. I want one; I wore a baseball cap, which is what I usually wear in wet weather. Now that I am home warm and dry, it was a fun adventure. Hardly anybody stayed for coffee afterwards, though, as most were too wet to stick around. I was one of four who stayed.
John and Bob at Avellino's
This picture was taken at the coffee shop yesterday, showing John is finally back exactly one month after having both knees replaced. It was his first excursion driving himself since being released from the nursing home on Wednesday. He said that when he went down the elevator and walked to the front door, more than a dozen staff members were there to say goodbye and wish him well.

He's walking pretty well with the cane, but everything is still quite a challenge. Not bad for a 75-year-old, though. He will be back on his tractor by springtime, as he hoped. The surgery for knee replacement has come a long way in the past few years. He's still got quite a bit of physical therapy ahead for awhile, but I'm impressed.

This afternoon I am going to Al's birthday party, who is 75 years old today. The invitation reminded me that 75 years is considered a Diamond Jubilee, so I'll look in my jewelry box to see if I have something suitable to wear.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Well, we got some exercise anyway

You know it's not a wonderful day when only five Senior Trailblazers show up at the Senior Center for our weekly hike. After three days of full sun, I woke this morning to the sound of rain. It was forecast for the day, but it was supposed to stop early and possibly even give us a few rays of sun. But that was not to be.
Best view we had all day
We started our hike up Olsen Creek in a light rain, but we were optimistic when we began to see the fog lift a little, and the rain stop completely. This is is the best view we had, but we were quite comfy, the temperature mild and no more rain, so we kept going. We knew that there was timber logging that had started earlier this month in the area, so we were curious to see how far we might get.
Carol and me
By the time this picture was taken, we had taken off our rain jackets and were delighted to have a view behind us. You can see we were quite happy at this point on our hike. We didn't realize that it would be the best part of the trek, either.
Steve, Doug, Al
By the time I got this picture, our view was already beginning to fade, as the clouds and fog began to close in again, but still the temperature was mild and we were in good spirits. And then we reached the logging area. Our trail was obliterated, but we hoped if we made our way through the branches, we might reach the area where they have not yet begun to clear the trees.
Steve and Al making their way through the brush and branches
Every once in awhile we earn our Trailblazer title, when we have to try and find a way through the branches left by the logging operation. There actually is a road under there, but after a short time we realized it was futile. Plus, we could hear the operation nearby, and we didn't want to get in the way. By this time, the fog had closed in and the rain began once again. We remained in a light rain all the way back to the cars.
Cupcakes to celebrate Al's birthday
Yes, you guessed it: we hightailed it over to the closest Haggen cafeteria to have our lunch and celebrate Al's birthday. Carol brought the cupcakes, and we enjoyed a very nice warm lunch once again, indoors instead of huddled on a wet log somewhere outside. We only went around six miles and maybe 1,500 feet of elevation, but it was good exercise, and I have to say it's always nice to have a warm cozy place for lunch.

Now that I'm home and can get the mud off my clothes and boots, I'm happy I went. But it was only some good physical activity and good company; there wasn't much else to recommend today's outing. Those of you Trailblazers who missed the hike today made the right choice!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Movies and more

Rotten Tomatoes on Selma
If you go to that link under the picture, you'll see that the critics gave Selma a rating of 99% "fresh." That's probably the most of any movie I've seen for ages. The audience rating is 88%, but still. I went to see it on Sunday.

I figured that because of the playoff game between Seattle and Green Bay that the movie at 12:00pm would be lightly attended. That was an understatement: I was the only person in the huge theater until about five minutes after the show started, when another woman came in by herself. The weather outside was frightful; lots of rain and wind, and most of Bellingham was inside hunkered around the TV, watching the playoff game. Now the weather is sunny and will stay that way until Thursday, my hiking day. (grump)

I loved the movie, plain and simple. It tells the story of the three-month period in 1965 when Martin Luther King rallied support in Selma, Alabama to secure voting rights for the black people in Alabama who were not able to register. Plenty of the scenes brought to life the injustices of the period: Oprah Winfrey plays a black woman who tries to register to vote, and she's expected to know the entire preamble of the Constitution (which she did) and the names of all the judges in Alabama, which of course she didn't. The actor who plays King (David Oyelowo) gained thirty pounds for the role, and he embodied King amazingly well. I was disappointed that neither he nor the director were nominated for their contributions to the movie. But I suspect that this movie will continue to be shown for decades, it's that good, long after others also nominated for Best Picture will be forgotten.

I wanted to see it on MLK weekend when we celebrate his life, and Judy wasn't available to go with me, so I went alone. I would see it again in a second, although there were some very very disturbing scenes as people were attacked and even murdered for their beliefs. Of course, in the end that's also what happened to Dr. King. We have come a long way, but we still have a ways to go. See the movie if you can, in my opinion it deserves to win.

When I left the theater, I asked the usher if she had heard anything about the game, and she told me that unfortunately we were losing big time, 16 to nothing at the half. Saddened, I came home to turn on the rest of the game and see how badly we lost. Well, that game didn't even start until the last five minutes, when we staged the most amazing comeback, then Green Bay tied it up, and it went into Overtime. What a game! So I got the best of both worlds: I got to see the movie and see the best of the game, too.
Rotten Tomatoes on Whiplash
On Saturday Judy and I also went to see Whiplash, a movie about a young jazz drummer and his really sadistic teacher, played by J.K. Simmons. He's garnered a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his part as the teacher, and the movie is also nominated for Best Picture. It is a very good movie, indeed, 95% freshness rating by both critics and audience, but I have to say, it was really painful to watch. Miles Teller is also great in it (the drummer), and I thought about the movie for a long time afterwards. I enjoyed it for the art of the movie, but I have to say I'll never see J.K. Simmons in his insurance advertisements, or anywhere else for that matter, without thinking of him in this part. He sure knows how to play a brutal, cold-blooded fiend. He deserves the nomination, for sure.

As far as the movie, it's perfectly filmed and performed, and many parts of it had my heart pounding so hard that I was exhausted when I left the theater. It's that kind of movie. If you see it and have more to say about it, let me know in the comments. I wonder how other people felt about the story.

So now I've seen all the nominated movies except American Sniper. It wasn't loved quite as much by the critics, with a 73% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but I'm not sure I want to see it. It's touted as a pro-war movie by Clint Eastwood, and I hesitate to go. I felt the same way last year about "12 Years a Slave" (because of the brutality) and I went anyway (by myself) and was glad I did. I'll probably see Sniper before it's all over. I still have to see Foxcatcher and Still Alice, anyway. They are not playing here quite yet.

If I were giving out the Oscars, Best Picture would go to Selma. But I'm not giving out the awards, and I hear that Boyhood is the likely winner. It is really good, I agree, but it's in a class by itself. I think it would be very hard to choose a winner among this year's nominees for Best Picture. We'll know on February 22.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Three weeks to go

Iceberg Lake, 2011
First of all, I just put this picture up on here because I was perusing some of my old photos and found this one taken October 2011 on one of our Trailblazer hikes. The sun, the lake, the red leaves and the snow-laden pine all added up to make me feel good, so here I am, sharing it with you.

About the title of this post: I will leave three weeks from today for a trip to Turkey. Now some of you might wonder why in the world I would travel to the Middle East while the world seems to be blowing up all around us, but it all started several months ago, when my old boss asked me if I would help him for one last conference, and I reluctantly agreed. I'm not as resilient as I used to be (who is?), and I am anxious about all the travel, since I seem to get sick almost every time I am forced to breathe airplane air for long periods. I've got some tricks up my sleeve this time. And I am finally beginning to actually get a little excited about it. I will be blogging from Turkey, so I shouldn't be missing any posts. More on this later.

We lucked out again this Saturday morning. Twenty-one of us showed up on a cloudy overcast day, with rain in the forecast. As I sit here, I can hear it drumming on the roof, but we stayed dry, with only a sprinkle or two during the six-mile brisk walk. We were all ready for it, of course, but it waited until we had finished. That always makes the day brighter, even without any sunshine.

And I'm going to see a movie this afternoon that I hadn't even heard about until the Oscars were announced. It is one of the Best Picture nominees, and it happens to be on at our local independent theater. It's called Whiplash, and after reading the dazzling reviews (the link takes you to Rotten Tomatoes), I'm wondering why it has been kept so quiet. I will be sitting in the movie theater with Judy in less than two hours from now, if all goes as planned. I'll let you know on Tuesday what I think about it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Alger Alp 2015

Squires Lake
In preparation for writing today's post, I went back and looked at previous years that we have done this particular hike. It's an easy one for us, just under six miles round trip and around 1,000 feet elevation gain and loss. Not our usual ten- or eleven-mile trudges. Probably for that reason, we get more people than usual; today it was thirteen. Last year it was nineteen.
Chris and newcomer Sharon
The temperature last year was also very similar to this year's, around freezing to start and warming up ten degrees or so as we ascended. I didn't get warm for awhile, but then I stayed warm, congratulating myself on having chosen the correct layering technique. Rain was expected before the hike would end, but although we felt a drop or two, we didn't get wet.
Carol and Linda gazing at the view
This is the top of our hike, and I smiled when I noticed that I almost always take a picture from this vantage point, with different people in front. You can see the I-5 highway running left to right about a quarter of the way up. We could hear the traffic in the distance on this hike now and then, but as we stood here it was quite loud.
Looking down at the group
I walked up to a small promontory behind us and got this picture before we decided to turn around and head back down. It was still early, too early to stop for lunch, so we thought we'd wait a bit before stopping. At this point we also felt a raindrop or two, and nobody wanted to hang out for long and get cold again.
Squires Lake again
By the time we got back to Squires Lake where we started our hike, the sun was making appearances now and then, but we kept on going until we returned to the cars. This rare sunshine didn't stick around long, and nobody was all that excited about stopping. It wasn't even noon by this time.
Sign reminding people to clean up after their dogs
This sign was new, and I hadn't noticed it on the way up. You'll notice also that someone found a pair of glasses, placing them on the sign, and hopefully the owner will find them. It's always nice when somebody takes care of lost items found on the trail.
A few of us stayed for lunch at the Senior Center
Although several people decided to head home right away after we reached the Senior Center, some of us pulled out our lunches and enjoyed a nice warm leisurely lunch inside. The sunshine came and went outside, and by the time we left there was still no rain. But now, as I write this post, I see that it has come indeed, and we were very lucky to have had a wonderful day together, as well as staying dry the whole time. Another really fine day, exercised and content, as I finish the day's tasks. And it's still early!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Partly sunny iPhone

Mt Baker from my front porch
This morning, on my walk to the bus stop in the dark, the fog and temperature in the mid-30s (1.6C) made me glad to have on my heavier coat. I realize that for some of my readers, this sounds downright balmy, as I read about schools being closed because of wind chills in the -30s. Yikes! Well, I live in the Pacific Northwest and endure (enjoy) plenty of rain in the winter months, but rather mild temperatures, for the most part. It's gotten down well below freezing now and then, but it warms up again.

Today, once the sun came out and the fog lifted, I smiled at the blue skies beginning to peek through and now, in the early afternoon, it's very pleasant out there. I just went to the library and picked up some books I had on hold, and now I can settle down in my favorite chair and get started on them.

I dropped my new iPhone 6 last Thursday, right on the gravel in the parking lot at the beginning of our hike. Although I have a phone case, the glass is exposed, and I managed to get the tiniest little chip in the glass. That did NOT make me happy, so I did a bit of research and decided to order the Tech Armor Ballistic Glass Screen Protector from Amazon. If you don't know already, one of the problems for screen protectors with the new iPhones are that their edges curve downwards. This makes it difficult for screen protectors to fit all the way to the edges.
iPhone 6 in Symmetry Otter Box with Tech Armor screen cover
I thought I'd show you how incredibly tight the tolerances are for the screen protector. (The blue plastic on the outer edges show my Otter Box case.) After reading all the reviews, watching the installation video, and enlisting the help of Smart Guy, I attempted to get it onto my screen. This took some doing, but it wasn't terribly awful. There are no bubbles or other annoying things in the viewing area, but on the right-hand side you can see that there is an area of lighter coloring, which shows that the screen protector is not sealed completely on that side. The reason for that is evident, if you study the picture carefully: on the bottom lower left you can see that I didn't get it exactly right; there is just the tiniest bit of difference between the placement on the left and right sides.

The good part is that it is easy to use the touch screen, no difference really with and without the screen protector. But one of the reasons that people didn't give this protector the highest rating is that it began to peel away after a few months. I suspect this one will do the same. But it's SO MUCH BETTER than walking around with a naked screen with someone as klutzy as me.

Does anybody have a recommendation for either a screen protector or cover that is better than this? If so, I might just go ahead and order it. I love my iPhone and want to give it the best care I can.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

My schedule is back to normal

More from Dale Chihuly
Just a quick note for my Saturday post, with me being happy to have gone on a nice (albeit wet)walk with the Fairhaven ladies (and one man) this morning. It was dark and dreary when we started out, most of us surprised by the rather wet weather, since it was supposed to come in much later than it did. There were 21 of us, in the rain and dark, so you know there are plenty of us happy to walk in whatever weather the day brings us.

I learned on Facebook that my stepdaughter Susan enjoyed the Chihuly Garden and Glass show so much when we went there last Monday that she went again the next evening, and got even more wonderful pictures to share on her Facebook page. That made me want to show you a few more of my pictures from last Monday.

With the hike on Thursday and the walk this morning, I am feeling right back into the swing of my routine. Not that I'm rigid or anything (smile), but I sure do like having a schedule. I've survived the holidays without gaining a pound, and that also makes me smile. Here's another Chihuly Glass picture to round out the post.
In the Macchia Forest Room
I hope you have also survived the holidays, got all the trimmings put away, and are staying warm and dry. See you again on Tuesday!