Monday, June 12, 2006

ear drums

Sometime circa 1998, when I worked in my company's Costco account office in Issaquah, Washington, I had a weird experience. In our long, narrow space, everytime I walked down the hallway by the photocopier/fax area in the middle of the office, I heard this high pitched tone beeping at even intervals. I inspected all of the equipment and questioned the admin sitting there if she could hear anything. She couldn't. I went back to my desk at the far end of the office and forgot about it.

That is, until I had to walk down the hallway and past this same spot again. This noise made me realize just how many times in a day I walked back and forth in the office. On the next day, when I discovered that a dark evening did nothing to abate the sound, I started searching the perimeter. Not wanting to be too intrusive, I inquired of each office's resident. Could they hear the noise? Might it be a cell phone or pager or watch with an alarm? In a briefcase or coat pocket?

Over the next couple days, after interviewing everyone (one by one, spaced out so as not to be obsessively pursuing the answer to the neglect of my job), I was at my wit's end. On Friday of that week, I realized that I had not looked in the office of my friend, John, who was one of our account managers and was traveling on business that week. I don't know why I didn't think of it because it was right across the narrow hallway from the area where I'd best heard the sound all week. When I went into the office, the noise got noticeably louder! I was finally onto something!

I casually looked around -- again looking for a forgotten watch with a relentless alarm -- and found nothing. Later that day, John called, and I interrogated him over the phone. He could think of no such device that would be making a noise, and invited me to go through any unlocked drawers or cabinets to see what I could find. He had a lot of product samples, so it was possible there was something there that he'd forgotten about.

I conducted my authorized search and still came up empty-handed. Resigned, I went home for the weekend not knowing the source of my week-long irritation. All my office-mates were confused: not a single one of them could hear it.

When John returned to the office on Monday, we paired up to do an in-depth search. We eventually ended up at a very small piece of plastic that was plugged into an outlet on his office wall. I had seen it and presumed it was a sample air freshener. Once up close, it was clear that this thing was beeping high pitched tones at even intervals. Upon this realization, John exclaimed that he knew what it was!

This device was a sonic insect repellent. It sent off high frequency beeps that -- theoretically -- only bugs and mice and other pests could hear. The beeps would make them crazy, and they would leave the building. Hmmm. I guess that meant that I wouldn't be buying that particular product, as it would have driven me crazy!

Now, fast forward seven years or so. A product was created by a Welsh security company that employed a high pitch tone to repel a different kind of "pest" -- teenagers! Used by shopkeepers to drive away the youth loitering in front of the stores, the device's tone could not be heard by most adults. I remember reading about this last year, and found it intriguing (especially in light of my own high frequency encounter). Then I forgot about it.

But a New York Times article today reports that the teenagers now have their revenge. The sound has now been turned into a ring tone. So they can have audial confirmation of a text message or incoming call on their cell phones while sitting in class. And although their friends will all know it, their teacher (in many instances) will be oblivious. This cracks me up.

This article is the most emailed article for the Times today, and I think I know why. It's not really because parents want to be well-informed as to what ruse their kids might be employing to deceive them. It's because the article includes a link where you can play the tone. The trick, of course, is that those of a certain age will not be able to hear it, even though there's visual confirmation that the sound file is playing.

Naturally, given my bug repellent experience, I had to try it out for myself. Not knowing what the frequency of the bug repellent, I'm at a slight disadvantage. And the fact that I was 32 years old at the time of that incident muddied the experiment further. So, the fact that I could not hear the ring tone merely confirmed that my ears are on par with other 40-year-olds. Ted couldn't hear it either. I'm tempted to play it and see if the cats react, but they're all sleeping so peacefully, I can't bring myself to do it.

To segue from that thought to a separate topic, our friends at Cute Overload are doing it again.
Check out some of their recent kitty coverage:

OK, here is where I'd be inserting pictures. But, although I was finally able to put my pictures into the "seattle, part i" entry tonight, Blogger is no longer allowing me the privilege. So, until that honor is returned to me, you'll simply have to following these three links.

Marmalade kitten on white blanket... wait, that's not a blanket!
Siamese wrestling cats
What kind of games does your cat play?

I have to go to bed. Between Blogger kinks and my crappy computer, it takes far too long to put together a pathetic little story like this one. At my current rate, I'll be on my next vacation to somewhere interesting (Europe? Montana? back to Hawaii?) before I finish the recap of this past vacation.

Good. Night. Harrumph.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

bye-bye to the bon-bon life

I go back to work tomorrow. It's been 23 days since I last worked. I wonder, will I remember what I'm supposed to do?

Meanwhile, in the remaining hours, I could blog. I tested the pictures, and it seems to be working again. Alas, my motivation has waned. I'll play a round or two of Bejeweled, make some dinner, and see if the evening is more conducive to me fulfilling my storytelling promise.

P.S. I did not during my vacation, nor have I ever to the best of my knowledge, consumed bon-bons.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

blogging, gyrating, procrastinating

Blogger's still having woes. So, I'm using that as an excuse to delay continuation of my vacation stories (although it's certainly valid that I still can't upload pictures). Meanwhile, check out the Evolution of Dance. Apparently, this has been all the rage on the internet the last couple weeks, but I'm just now finding it. Although I find the whole thing very amusing (and am astonished at this man's energy), my favorite is the Brady clip. You'll definitely need sound for this one.

Going to try and go to sleep now. Despite an apparent midnight bedtime last night, I couldn't sleep and so stayed up until 2:15am watching movies (bits and pieces, and most of Hitch). Speaking of which, we decided on MI:III today. It was pretty good in an action movie kind of way. Certainly better than MI:2.

Interesting observation. Although it can be partly attributed to the first weekend for Cars (and the theater we went to had Cars on three screens), I wonder if the Tom Cruise flap is the reason behind a mere eight people attending today's 4:05pm showing. Hmmm. Good night.

Friday, June 09, 2006

seattle, part i

Evidence of my post-travel vacation is indicated by a tendency toward general lollygagging. The most constructive tasks I've accomplished since returning on Sunday are as follows:

  • Writing a to-do list (such ambition and optimism!)
  • Talking with my husband (a lot; not on the to-do list at all)
  • Making dinner (twice; also not on the list)
  • Showering (more than twice; nope, not listed either)
  • Emailing my siblings
  • Catching up with a friend on the phone (200 minutes)
  • Hanging up coats (it took three days before I moved them from the railing to the coat rack)
  • Folding laundry (Ted did the hard part of actually washing and drying it)
  • Uploading pictures from digital camera to computer (wouldn't have taken long except for my looking at every one of the 300+ photos I took on vacation)
  • Uploading pictures from computer to Costco (each picture 2MB... took a long time)
  • Sending online order for prints to Costco (at 1:30am... because it took so long to upload the pictures in the first place)
  • Shopping at Costco (to pick up prints... and groceries)
  • Filling the car with gas ($3.149 per gallon)
  • Putting away groceries
  • Starting to organize vacation gifts (on the list!)
  • Watching a movie about quantum physics (this required more work than anticipated)
  • Actually doing laundry (it's been so long since I started this entry that more laundry accumulated)
One may question how constructive some of these tasks really were. That same person might also wonder why more pressing tasks (especially those on the aforementioned to-do list) have not been completed.

What can I say? I'm on vacation.

So, to get started on the travel recap, this entry is about our brief first stop in Seattle, from whence the cruise originated. This is the first time I've been back since my friend, Anna's wedding in September 2002. Ted has not been there since moving away in January 2000.

We arrived in Seattle on Wednesday, May 24th around 12:00 noon. We procured a stretch limo to get us to the hotel because it was less expensive than getting all four of us and our eleven bags onto a shuttle. We walked to the Steel Pig for lunch, wandered around the Seattle Center vicinity, relaxed a bit, and headed over to Lake Union for dinner at Chandler's Crabhouse (where, although the whole dinner was amazing, the Northwest Seafood Chowder -- with crab, shrimp, clams, and smoked salmon -- was amazingly amazing).

Thursday morning, we enjoyed the complimentary hotel breakfast (which was actually quite good), and headed off to Pike Place Market. We walked a bit through the park by Cutter's, showing to our friends, Sam & Donna, points of interest in Elliott Bay and taking a few pictures like this one of a ferry (that's West Seattle in the background).

* * * IMPORTANT NOTE * * *

You may notice that I nonchalantly referenced a photograph in the previous sentence, but oddly there doesn't appear to be a picture. Blogger continues to disallow me the ability to upload pictures, and frankly I don't want to wait to post all this fascinating vacation information. You'll just have to come back for the slide show later. Future photo references will merely contain an unobtrusive placemarker, instead of a Blogger rant such as this.

Thank you for your time and attention.
* * *

We wandered over to the Market and proceeded to spend approximately six hours there. A very easy thing to do, considering the vast number of merchants there. I've been to the Market more times than I can count. In the nine years I lived in Seattle, I not only took every visitor there (great souvenirs, views, and touristy experiences), I regularly went on my own (great veggies, fruit, and flowers, all fresh and at amazing prices). It felt very much like home to me, but it was fun to see Sam and Donna taking it all in for the first time.

*** PHOTO PLACEHOLDER #2 - Sam & Donna at Pike Place Market piggy bank ***

*** PHOTO PLACEHOLDER #3 - Pike Place Fish Co., a.k.a. "Flying Fish" ***

We each found a different place to get lunch and rejoined in a central location to partake of it. We wandered Post Alley for a while. After spending ample money and wearing out ample shoe leather (who are we kidding, they were all rubber soles), we made our way back to the hotel to tally the goods and find room in the suitcases. We walked to the closest Pagliacci's to pick up pizza for dinner that we brought back to the hotel and ate in the common area, before retiring for the evening.

That's one of the nice things about vacation: you can do things like retire for the evening.

Friday morning, we were hoping to walk to Seattle Center, hop the Monorail to Westlake Center for a tad more shopping, and then take the Monorail back to go through Experience Music Project before boarding the shuttle van to head for Pier 66. However, our plans were modified by two factors. First, the Monorail is currently not running. Oops! Second, the plan was pretty ambitious considering the time contraints.

So instead, we cabbed to Westlake Center. While chatting with the nice folks at Made in Washington, we learned that there were two stores a couple blocks away that carry a good deal of Seahawks merchandise. Sam headed in that direction while I introduced Donna to one of my favorite stores of all times, Fireworks. I exercised extreme restraint and only spent $90. I have said for years that this will be the first store I visit when I win the lottery. I could easily have spent $10,000 there (and that's no exaggeration).

I also stopped at Rochester to pick up three ties for Ted who, despite months of preparation for the cruise's formal nights, neglected to actually pack his ties (he did pack his new suit). And we went to Bartell's to get motion sickness wristbands and Bonine. I didn't believe that Ted or I would need them, but better to have them and not need them than to need them and pay cruise ship gift shop prices to get them.

Sam came back to Westlake a happy camper with bags full of Seahawks booty. We made our way back to the hotel, quickly reorganized, and hopped the shuttle to get to the ship. It was relatively painless to get through baggage, security, check-in, etc., and before we knew it, the ship was "setting sail."

*** PHOTO PLACEHOLDER #4 - Seattle skyline from deck 14 of the M/V Mercury ***

And thus ends the first Seattle leg of the trip. Will I have time to recap all the Alaska stops and the second Seattle stop over the weekend? I don't know. But eventually, I'll get it all here. I was bad about posting information on my other big trips (Brisbane in late 2004, Honolulu in early 2005). I must get better about such things.

Plans for the weekend (which Ted reminds me is now just an ordinary weekend, not part of vacation) include going to see a movie. Our current options are A Prairie Home Companion, An Inconvenient Truth, Cars, or Mission Impossible 3. I think if we see all four of them, we'll be fairly well-rounded. Other plans for the weekend? Organizing the stuff we bought on vacation (the Christmas storage boxes are ready!). I actually started that today. And relaxing. OK, maybe I can blog the rest this weekend. Depends on how cooperative Blogger is.

For the first time in two weeks, I'm going to bed before 2:00am Eastern time. That gives me three nights to get into the habit of waking up in time to actually, you know, get to work on time. 'night.

blogger obstacles

I've been trying for a couple days to post my vacation stories and pictures here, but keep experiencing technical difficulties. At one point, I thought I'd lost about two hours worth of writing and linking, but was thankfully able to recover it (even though I was not able to post it due to some undecipherable Blogger error).

Now, I'm trying to add pictures, and once again, Blogger is not cooperating. So, this pathetic little post is a wholly inadequate way to communicate that I haven't completely fallen down on the job of blogging my trip. Hopefully, everything will be back and functional by this weekend, as it is the official end of my vacation.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

a pause

I've been on vacation. Wait, let me revise that statement. I am on vacation. We traveled a bit. In order (without repeating anything), we traveled by...

The places we went along the way were...

I have pictures and stories, both of which I'll attempt to post during this, the last week of my 3-week vacation. First, I have some errands to run. I'll be back later.