Departures: Seattle: 2011 Three Months of Socializing in a Week

Red Panda attack!

In February 2011, I went to Seattle for a business trip. I didn't do much touristy stuff this time. Mostly, I talked with people. Seattle has an reputation for being introverted, but that wasn't the case this time. These are some notes I wrote so that I could remember them later.

Achieving Kirkland

Right away, there was something I knew I wanted to remember: Don't fly Virgin America Airlines again. There was a little video screen for each passenger, right in front of the seat. That sounds like a good thing, until you find out how they use it—to play ads. The video screen has a power button, but while those ads play, you can't turn the screen off. Worse, the first ad that showed was for my employer. I was complicit in my own annoying.

Some of my co-workers were on my flight. Most of them were heading over to Chris' (a local co-worker's) house for a party. I was pretty wiped and just wanted to go straight to the hotel. I asked if anyone was driving there that I could mooch a ride from.

I was soon in a mini-van with Suzie and Angie, and was surprised when Suzie asked me to figure out how to get to the spot on Google Maps. Maps was confused: it had labeled the spot as Chris' house in Seattle, but the placemark wasn't in Seattle, but on the other side of the lake, about in Medina. We were generally confused: these folks were going to Chris' house, hadn't twigged to my wish to go straight to the hotel.

I didn't just want to bail on them; if they followed the map's directions, they were going to end up far from Chris' house. We wrestled with our phones until we got some proper directions to Chris' house. Chris' house in the northern part of Seattle. Yay, these people weren't lost anymore. I asked Suzie to exit the highway in the U-District so that I could make my way to the hotel.

In the U-District, Suzie didn't just let me out. She drove a few blocks, asking me questions—was I sure I wanted to do this? Suzie didn't know Seattle well, and was nervous dropping me off on what semed like some random streetcorner after dark. I knew Seattle, and I was getting nervous about Suzie finding her way back to the highway without having to jiggle the phone... which might snap it back into Chris-somehow-lives-simultanously-in-Seattle-and-Medina mode.

Eventually, Suzie relented; I hopped out, grabbed my pack, and wished them well. I made my way through the U-District, along the Burke-Gilman trail, over to Montlake, caught the Kirkland bus, and was soon blissfully asleep at the hotel.


There's a Zoka in downtown Kirkland. I stopped off there for coffee before heading in to work each day.

Tuesday, during the day, I worked. Where by "worked", I mean I was in meetings all day.

In the evening, I wandered up to the office of the [redacted] project, which was a good place to hang out with some ex-Geoworks ex-Amazon folks, plus Z. W. who I hadn't seen since 2005 except online.

When Ron was done for the day, we headed over to a Korean restaurant, where we met up with Sua, Lauren, and Melody for some fun food and social.


Wednesday, I was supposed to be in meetings all day again. But I played hooky. I talked with some folks who work in the Kirkland office. It was good to see some folks in 3-D who I normally only "talk" to via email.

At lunch, I ducked out of the office and around the corner: I had lunch with Jeff and Jessica Wallace. We talked about puzzle hunts. We talked about life in the software industry. (Seeing as how Jessica quit her job as a software tester at MS a few weeks later, I guess she was thinking pretty hard about her life in the software industry around then...)


In case I wasn't quite decadent enough getting Zoka coffee each morning, on Thursday morning, I stopped off at the bakery across from the hotel, which Ron said had really good croissants. I had a really good croissant.

The work day was all meetings again. They were good meetings; useful for figuring out how our department would get stuff done.

For dinner, I tagged along with Ron, Sua, and the kids, this time at a restaurant inside the local Nordstrom's. Afterwards, we mall-walked a bit. We went to a Hallmark store, which surprised me by having some headlamps that I'd failed to find earlier at REI. It turns out that Hallmark has a better headlamp selection than REI if you're looking for Lego minifig headlamps (which are awesome).

Then I caught the tail end of a departmental team-building trivia game party. Alas, I don't know much trivia, so I mostly team-builded by congratulating my team-mates when they knew something.


I worked in Kirkland in the morning. In the afternoon, I caught a bus to Seattle and checked in to the place where I'd be staying the weekend: my old standby the University Motel (aka the University Hotel).

I hot-footed it over to work's Fremont office, but didn't get there until after 4, so I didn't get to talk with many people. I found Reza H., which was nice—but he was about to move to the SF Bay Area, so I couldn't say "Good thing I came up to Seattle to visit so that we could talk." I got to talk to Scott M. a little... but overall, I wish I'd gotten my act together to have gotten to the Seattle office earlier in the day.

I had a good dinner: Far East Mexican Grill had some darned good Asian-fusion-tacos. No, really.


2-Tone Platform

Saturday Morning, I headed over to Brasserie Margaux (a.k.a. the restaurant at the Warwick Hotel) for an average-food brunch with some above-average company. It was a gathering of ex-Geoworks/Blue Mug folks. Jon McClintock was there. Instead of doing hands-on computer security stuff, he was managing other folks doing hands-on computer security stuff. Matt Armstrong was there, talking about stuff on which I took illegible notes that made no sense a while later. Ah well. Davina was there, talking about the strange world of IT accounting. The kids Tori and Eli were there. Tori was talking about D&D and doing Sudoku puzzles. Eli was planning a party.

After the brunch, I had a little time, but not much. I headed down to the water. I found an observation point that had a checkerboard floor. If the 2-Tone Game had been set in Seattle, this would have been a perfect spot for a puzzle. From a nearby pedestrian overpass, I snapped a new photo for the 36 Views of the Pier 86 Grain Terminal Project.

Back in the U. District, I headed over to Trabant to drink some coffee and have a little conversation with Jeff Phillips and Donna Whitlock of puzzlehunt team Los Jefes. They did not let me know that they would soon be announcing the World Henchmen Organization game a few weeks later. I remember that one Seattle puzzlehunt couple told me: "There's rumors going around that some group might be running a Game up here soon." I don't remember which couple it was who said that—because I dismissively didn't believe it.

A strange idea came up during this conversation: A puzzle-hunt based on the Family Feud idea of giving popular answers. So it wouldn't be enough to come up with the Right Answer for a puzzle. Teams would need to figure out what the most popular answers were—presumably the right answer and a few red herrings.

There was also some talk about traveling for work: traveling to places like Mountain View CA and Dallas TX, finding "a little island of Microsoft" in those places.


Indoor Soccer

When I made it to Nancy, Cedric, and Paul's house in Greenlake, they had a couple of guests: a neighborhood kid and his mom, just then met by chance. It was good news that Paul had another potential playmate in the neighborhood. And they seemed to be getting along pretty well. It turned out that the mom was a co-worker of mine, Becky A. Eventually, we escorted these folks back to their house, which was just down the street.

Lunch was at Tangletown Brewpub, good as ever. We talked about parental health and happier topics.

Then there was a planned playdate with Louise and Gus, more neighborhood folks. This was a Microsoft family. As near as I could tell, all of Greenlake was populated with young parent employees of large software firms.

Then it was time for soccer.

A former military base down by Lake Washington was now a park. Former hangars were now indoor soccer pitches. Though it was damp out, Paul was able to run around inside playing soccer. These kids were pretty young, and it wasn't always easy to recognize their activity as being soccer qua soccer.


Mecha Flamingo

Monday was a travel day—time to go back to San Francisco. At the airport, there was a sort of Rube Goldberg statue that incorporate, among other things, a plastic lawn flamingo.

I flew over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. A while later, I flew over the Golden Gate Bridge. A while later, I was back home again.


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