May, 2012

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Memorial Day

It is the first of my long weekends here in the Pacific North West. As you saw in my last post it started off pretty epicly. Saturday was a day full of amazing experiences and I will never trade that day. Ever. The weather did not hold out all that well though with a return to the typical PNW style. Grey and Gloomy. Whoever said it rains here all the time was lying. It just looks like its going to rain (although it did rain on me this morning during my run but it was really light.

The weekend was good still. Yesterday and today have been pretty relaxed, not much done. But I learned a bit this morning about Memorial Day. So Memorial Day is a little bit like Anzac Day but different. Where as on Anzac Day we have parades and we have our Dawn services. They don’t seem to do it over here. Of course they still pay tribute to the fallen in battles (memorial day stems back to the Civil War days), however they are fiercly patriotic and will do plenty of things to pay tribute to those who have served or are currently serving.

It feels more like a day of private reflection and paying your respects on a more smaller, more personal way. Rather than big parades and big grand ceremonies, it seems to be more that you take your time to go pay your respects in person, in private for a few moments of quiet reflection.

It is also like any long weekend these days, full of sales. It obviously made the car purchase a little easier but just about everything seems to be on sale. Everything! One other little facet in other parts of the country, though not really fitting here, is it is meant to be the opening weekend of summer. Full of grilling on the BBQ, picnics and times spent outdoors. My kind of weekend… if only it was about 20 degrees hotter.

A Truly Epic Day

Today was always going to be a happy day for me, I got to fulfil a dream. What I didn’t count on when I got up this morning was just truly how epic this day was going to be.

Woke up this morning, and the weather was perfect, not to cold but brisk enough. The sky was perfection blue. Fantastic start to Memorial Day weekend. I will post more about memorial day on Monday but for the start of a long weekend, it could not be better.

Today the plan originally was as such. Time to buy a truck. I had an appointment with Lithia Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Renton. After seeing them last Saturday night, today was going to be pretty damn awesome. I had a fantastic deal on a truck worked out with them, but for an extra $1k I could get something a little bit better. I was booked in for a new test drive. But lets look back at the truck stuff from last week. I had looked at Ford & Chrysler last week in Renton and looked at some pretty basic trucks. They werent all that flashy but thats not me really. Then it was late, but they were open and about to close in like 45 mins or so, but I stopped in at Lithia, just for the hell of it.

Well I am glad I did! because they had a massive sale on, they were dumping on the discounts and to be honest I didn’t think I could get my dream truck till I got there. When you see an american truck you think, big, 4×4, dual cab. Able to tow a small tank. Well the Chevy and Ford ones I was looking at, were to be honest, basic and not 4×4. I was happy, but i wasn’t in dream country. Fast forward a week of tossing and turning over which Dodge to pick, getting insurance quotes. I was tossing up over two different models and I had to make a decision.

So back to this morning. After getting to Dodge, I was greated like a long lost brother, they were awesome. Was taken out for a test drive, looked after, spoken to like a normal human being and all my questions were answers. In the end.. What did I go with… well here she is!

Its a Dodge Ram 1500 ST Quad Cab. With the Hemi V8! The truck sounds awesome, looks amazing and has everything I have ever wanted. Hell the thing handles like a dream! I love it! A dream come true. I have always wanted a truck and now I truly have one.. well not just yet. You can’t drive out of the lot without insurance and due to the long weekend my insurance agent is away. Great. Which means I can’t pick it up till Tuesday after work. But who cares! Tuesday night I get to pick up the new love of my life!

Now your all thinking… why would today be truly epic if he just picked up a truck. Well that’s not what made it epic. Today’s epicness started a couple of days ago. At an #avgeek tweetup. We got to chatting about planes and all the warbirds and stuff after PFAD and talking about the old bombers flying about the B17s, B24s etc Now I have always wanted to fly in a War Bird. Didn’t matter what, I would take whatever I could of gotten. Now the flights are never cheap, unlike a regular helicopter joy flight a warbird would be close to $500 but I would pay it. But there is one aircraft I would do anything, pay anything for a ride in. A B17.

Then last night, I was checking twitter before bed and I saw a tweet from the Museum of Flight. There was a B17 visiting for Memorial Day weekend. They were out here for Joy Flights. I was like SAY WHAT NOW! This was about 11pm at night, so couldnt call them to find out what was going on. I hit up there website, saw the price, momentarily thought no way, then snapped my head back into it. First thing this morning I would get myself on a flight. I sent them off an email last night hoping for a reply. I got one early this morning. It said “Call this number, if there is space, you can book it with the onsite team”

Around 830am I figured it was early enough. I called, and I hoped. I was prepared to take whatever time, cost or whatever I had to do, to get on that plane. I mean seriously, this was a dream come true. A B-17 offering joy flights in my new home town. I didn’t care about the cost, I didn’t know if I would ever get such an opportunity. Well I was told there was space at 115pm today. I figured I could do it, it would mean leaving right there and then, so I scoffed down the last of my coffee, grabbed a bottle of water and hit the road. I got to dodge early, tied up all the truck stuff and got my cheque from the bank and headed to Boeing Field.

I got to the Field around 12 about 15 mins before I was due to check in. I could not believe how good a day it was, the sky was perfect blue, not a cloud near the field and it was warming up (temp hit 78F when I was on my way home). I was in heaven. There was shiny aircraft everywhere. I checked in and signed all my forms and got chatting with the other guys who were on the flight. I was about the youngest on the flight by not to much but average age was well into their 60s. When the aircraft came in for the flight before mine. My heart stopped.

I had never before seen a real B17 in flight. It was as though I was in a dream. Looking at this marvelous, shining, metal aircraft as its 4 propellor driven engines powered it into the field. I was in love. Could this day get any better, I buy my first truck, ever. A dream come true just there, then a bucket list item ticked off, a dream just waiting to happen.

We watched it take off and that made it all the more harder to focus because it was our turn next. It was at this point we got our safety briefing. No “please refer to the safety card” or any such nonsense. Just down to earth, this is your seat belt, its different to anything else you would of used. Don’t sit here, don’t touch this or that, anything else, stand up whatever you want. Enjoy the flight. They asked for two volunteers, I didn’t get in first, I got in 2nd. After the 30 or so minute flight they came back. I was excited like a little school girl. I couldn’t wait. I was snapping away like crazy, a few videos here and there (and that is RARE for me). When it came time to board, my god!

What we were told then was that the first volunteer had to board first, he was heading directly to the cockpit for his flight. O M G.. DAMMIT! The 2nd volunteer, he would need to wait till right at the end to go to the cockpit, because well, he was going to be there for LANDING!!!!!! I said could it get any better… I think it just did! As we approached the pretty thing, the name of the aircraft really fit. Aluminium Overcast. A shiny, silver, metal object that was gleaming right in front of my eyes! I was happy as larry.

We boarded through the rear crew entry, just aft of the waist gun stations. I took my seat directly opposite the Port (left) 50 calibre gun and we waited to go. There was a bit of an oversight with the amount of people onboard as it had seemed they oversold the flight (no one was bumped though apart from a staff member getting a freebie ride). With buckles done, engines started we set off. The noise was amazing. Like music to my ears.

The takeoff was gentle, barely even noticed we were in the air. About 15 seconds after take off, we had a bit of a course correction and you REALLY felt the rudder movement. It was a floaty thing, you wouldnt think that such a bit of an aircraft would react that way. But it did. It was this surreal, undescribable feeling. I can’t say just how amazing it was. The sights were amazing as we did laps over Renton, Lake Washington and Southern Seattle. We obviously couldn’t stray into the SeaTac flight paths but you could see the most amazing sights.

Above the Radio Operators booth is a top hatch that can be removed. It was. At one point I had my head out in the open. Taking the most amazing photos in the Slip Stream and loving every second of it. Once everyone else had their turn up front, up I went. I managed to get a good deal of time in the nose. The glass nose of the B17 holds the famous Norden Bomb Sight (doesnt work in this version) but the nose has the best view in the house. The view from that seat, looking through the glass bubble down over Lake Washington was worth the $475 alone. I don’t care about the price that sight is burned into my brain.

It was a bit tough getting in and out of the nose, its very cramped and small but well worth the visit as you are even more forward than the pilot is! Amazing feeling. If I had of been on a bomb run over Europe, I could of triggered the bombs to release from that very seat. I came back up from the nose and after more watching the pilots at work and several more photos. It was time to come into land. We pretty much were standing almost to the very touch down point and the landing was SUPER smooth. Once the rear wheel (the B17 is a tail dragger) had touched the ground, we were told it was safe to get up again. This meant we could get some amazing photos during the long long taxi back to the parking bay.

This was a truly epic flight, once we parked up I got more photos (even a new Turkish 737 taking off behind the B17) and got some lovely artistic style photos. While I was purchasing a few momentos (an engraved 50Cal bullet and a B17 spark plug) there was an older Gentleman in full USAAF (United States Army Air Forces) uniform. He had been a crew member on a B17 during the war and he did 30 combat missions and was shot down on a mission to Poland. Unbelievable. Truly magical to meet such a man.

The day had just been truly and utterly epic. I could not believe how amazing that flight had been, how much of a kid I had turned into. I had not leaked the info about the flight to many people, so this is the first time a lot of my friends are finding out about it. Sorry guys… I wanted to keep it a suprise so I could enjoy every second of it. Apparently we had gotten the longest flight by far that day and to be truly honest, I dont think I will ever take a flight that could live up to those 40 or so minutes. Not even a First Class A380 flight for 14 hours could top it. It may be close… but it won’t ever be the same as my ride on the Aluminium Overcast.

Expat Life
Aluminium Overcast

Backwards & Forwards

How can a country like the USA be so forwards in some areas, yet so backwards at the same time. It just consumes my brain and makes me think I am so stupid. I will give you some examples…

Food – Back home in Australia, we have not quite caught onto the whole Calorie control thing. There isnt much choice when it comes to Low Fat/Diet options and it can be a struggle at times. Yet over here, there is so many options for this. 100 Calorie packs everywhere, Diet drinks galore. This is the forward thinking over here, yet you go out and you head to a restaurant and it goes backwards so quickly. There are not many light options fast food wise, and some how a simple salad comes in with a very HEFTY calorie count.

Banking – A country that is open to numerous options for banks including ATM’s that will scan cheques and release the funds instantly, still relies on cheques. I mean seriously, I don’t think I have ever written a cheque, let alone ever even thought about using it. Using bill pay online actually gets the bank to send a cheque for you. Direct deposits just do not exist! Chip & Pin is a whole other story! It is so confusing!

Phones, Internet, TV – Mobile phones are prevalant here, there are dozens and dozens of options for Throwaway providers, yet Smartphones are very very uncommon for most of this. They offer unlimited packages for calls or messages, but data is a whole other story. IF you have a smart phone, prepare to bend over and take it. It is crazy! Same with Internet. Usually bundled with Cable TV, and that means lots and lots of channels, no download limits however your going to pay through the nose for that priveledge… but unlimited downloads… o yes!

These are just a few examples of how much my head spins at times, I have had to try and rethink so many ways to do things, say things etc. Day to day I struggle with the difference between a “Surname” and a “Last Name”. Driving on the other side of the road isn’t a big deal, unless I am super tired like Sunday morning where I was on the wrong side of the road entirely (thankfully the intersection was deserted). Don’t even get me started on figuring out the Temperature (anything below 70 == COLD!)

Either way, I am still loving life over here, I don’t regret a single action I have taken to come over here!

Combination Day – 2 of my Loves

So you all know I am an Avgeek. I freely admit it these days. I don’t care what others think, its who I am. Since the whole weight loss started, I enjoy running. How can I combine these 2 loves… what do I do??

how about that! That my friends is Paine Field in Everett Washington. The home of Boeing’s big boy factory. Where they make the wide bodies. The 747-8, 777, 787 and 767. This morning I ran 5K on their runway (well next to it anyway). I had an amazing morning, the run went really well, made 2 mins under the time I was aiming for. I had told myself under 30 mins was what I needed to do, under 29 will be happier, under 28 minutes and I get a double treat this week. (Pancakes after the run, Teriyaki for dinner).

In the end my time (as you can see above) was dead on 28 mins! Hello double treat! I had the best time as well during the run. I tried to not get distracted to much. At one point since the runway was still open, as I was running along, 6 aircraft came in for a formation landing. All lined up in a Line Abreast Formation, they flew over me, a fitting tribute if I ever do say. Then as they passed me and went behind me they broke their formation perfectly for a peal off and break for landing. Damn them!!

It was a fantastic finish as well, finishing the race alongside a parked Air Austral 777-200LR and trying NOT to get that distracted was tough, but a fantastic reward!! After the race I scrambled back to the hotel for a shower and breakfast and check out before heading back over to where I was, and then I could catch up with some fellow Avgeeks for a morning of being a local Avgeek. Fantastic morning and saw my first ever 747-8 takeoff (Cargolux 747-8F and i have a PERFECT) photo to!

After having to run off from Paine I hit the road, in hunt of my truck. I have to return the rental on Friday. Which means I need to get my butt in gear to get sorted. So I drove a lot today, back and forth between lots of different dealerships, even all the way to the middle of no where, thinking they would have lots of different new trucks but they were all used.

But now I have a very good idea on what I want, hell I may even have the truck picked out as well. Its been an eventful day. Totally beat and for the first time in 2.5 years i missed lunch, but only cause I was so busy!! Pretty sure the Teriyaki makes up for that loss though. More on Toshi’s maybe next time!

Lots more photos added:

Expat Life

Reality…

Well reality sure has set in today. Today is the first real time I have thought to myself, “What did I get myself into?”

Pretty much today was a madhouse at work and it was one of those days when you get frustrated for no real reason (well I have lots of reasons but nothing that is life threatening etc, nothing that I can control) and you get all down. Now normally back home, I would have some form of support network. My friends, my family. But over here, I am a little bit on my own.

This is good usually, but on days like today, I just need a good hug, some kind words and just to be there for you. So it kind of adds to the lonelyness a bit. I don’t want to hassle my new co workers to much and I can’t really chat to anyone at home all to often due to the time differences. So things can be a little tough. I need to get my US support network up and running and there is always one place I can go to at any time of the day for something nice to say. May sound silly but there is always someone around on twitter for me to have a quick message or two from.

I guess having access to twitter means that I have friends all over the world who are just as kind and as caring as my friends back home and over here. Even though they aren’t physically able to give me a hug right now or anything like that, I know they mean it and they want to help.

News from over here though is that things are progressing. I am adjusting, I have kind of found one area that I am liking. At the moment I am staying in Renton with a co worker, she has offered to let me stay here with her and her husband for a week or so (although due to last minute plans may need to adjust that by a day or so). I like Renton. More on that soon though. Maybe tomorrow night, if the weather is good. Till then I will find my solice in a tub of diet jelly…. Lemon flavour i think tonight!

Book Review: Medium Raw

I had intended to finish this book on my flight from LA up to Seattle, that didn’t happen as I lapsed in an out of conciousness after being awake for what felt like forever:

Medium Raw

The book is Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain. Yep that is right my last and the latest of Bourdain’s books. If you read my last review you will see me talk about Bourdain so I won’t say to much about that.

What I will say is that this book is more akin to Kitchen Confidential. This is the book I had hoped he would write. It is more about how his life has changed, his musings on food, travel, people, eating etc

There is some fantastic ranting and raving in this book, so many funny moments, he targets a few different things compared to Kitchen Confidential. Either way this was a thoroughly enjoyed this book. I could not recommend it more! I was so happy to be reading this book. It showed exactly how much he had changed between writing Kitchen Confidential and now.

Definately a good read! Especially if your a foodie, a wanna be foodie or just love cooking shows!

Trying to Understand an Obsession

I managed to make it through my first week at work, and did it with ease. I am settling in well. The desk is almost set up, but something just feels not right, I will work that out in the next few weeks I am sure.

One thing that has puzzled me since I got here to Seattle and I noticed it a little bit back in October as well (never on the last two times before that for some reason) is that Seattle is obsessed with Teriyaki. Now don’t expect me to turn this into a blog that goes out to find the best Teriyaki. To be honest, I don’t really LOVE teriyaki. Its good, I do enjoy it, but I don’t think I live Seattle style.

I have had it a few times over here now, at 3 different places now. The first one was at Rikki Rikki, its always good there. But not as cheap. Then I found a place at Issaquah at the Fred Meyers out there and it was pretty good to, and cheap! But I was so puzzled everywhere I looked it was Teriyaki here, there, everywhere. They have a few different chain type places but it is mainly little mom and pop joints.

So I looked into it. Why is a city obsessed with Teriyaki. Apparently stems back to Japanese immigrants modifying a Yakitori sauce to the american tastes. Either way, Seattle’s dish is now Teriyaki. It is usually pretty cheap, served with rice (white or brown) and a kind of like coleslaw salad thing as well. Pretty good value for around the average of $6-7 and probably better for you than maccas etc

So I was thinking… if Seattle loves Teriyaki so much, where is the best place to eat it??? So I did what I usually do when I need resaurant recommendations here. I tweeted @SeattleMaven. She works for Seattle Tourism and is prolific on Twitter and her recommendations have NOT failed me… EVER! She wasn’t sure so she put it out to twitter. Responses came back.. Teriyaki & Wok on Capitol Hill was the answer. So I figured… why the hell not review it! Well Kinda..

So today I decided to head up to Capitol Hill for my weekly treat, It was gonna be Chicken Teriyaki and then a short drive over to Bluebird Microcreamery (but thats a whole other story). Being Capitol Hill it was either going to be somewhere dumpish or somewhere slick and modern looking. Capitol Hill is kind of like the Valley back home. Hipster central, but also a lot of places that have not seen the best of times. What I found though was more of like a Drive through looking place.

From Expat Life

Walked in, fairly empty (but it was Saturday around 2:30pm as I was having a late lunch). Menu was HUGE!! lots of Different options but I stuck to the simple “Teriyaki Chicken Bowl” rather than the expected plate and also ordered a Side of Vegies (I love my vegies). Service was quick and I didn’t wait long at all.

From Expat Life
From Expat Life

The Chicken Came out first before the Vegies (no picture of the vegies sorry). The chicken looked good and a decent serving for $6.29 (plus tax). It also came with a Squeeze bottle of Sauce as well for anyone wanting extra (ahhh what the hell! I gotta try the sauce for the review right?) Lots of Chicken and plenty of Brown rice (that makes it healthier right?). It was about the right temperature to my liking as well but the rice wasn’t as sticky as I prefer for something like this.

From Expat Life

The sauce was pretty good. Very thin compared to what we would get back home, however I think thats more the style over here. A little bit sweet like Teriyaki should be but not overly so. If it had of been thicker I don’t think i would of needed to add extra. It was a little bit lighter so maybe that goes with the thin sauce?

From Expat Life

To be honest, It was good. For a good, cheap, honest, filling meal that is slightly more healthy than your normal Deep Fried fast food (I am sure there is a boat load of sugar in that sauce) its a good option. Teriyaki & Wok was damn good if your up in the Area. One of the better Teriyaki’s I have had (not that I have had many here in Seattle yet) but if I was hungry, in the area and up for something tasty.. I would go back…

I would give it a 4.5 out of 5 on Mal’s scale of Seattle Teriyaki (yep making it up), the best time to go though it seem’s would be during lunch Monday to Friday as they have quite a number of Bowls for cheap.. Wonder what Teriyaki Tofu tastes like.

From Expat Life

Would I drive 20 mins across town to get it… maybe.. Choosing it as a treat.. yeah it was a good option when followed by this ;)

From Expat Life

A Week has passed

Well it has been 7 days as a resident over here and things are going well. I am settling into work pretty easily (been only a few days) and I am slowly fitting in (hell it’s only been 3 days so far at work these things take time).

But the thing that has been the most fun I would say for a foodie like me (well for the kind of person like me that is) is adjusting to all the new foods. You may think “what the hell is he talking about” Well you have to remember the way things are in aus is totally different to over here. To give an example, I was trying to buy a loaf of bread. Now back home there are heaps to choose from in a good healthy grain/rye bread and some really yum brands (like Helga’s, Lawsons). These kinds of breads just don’t exist. Sure there are wholewheat or some basic grains but just not the same kind :( What I did find though was a Russian Dark Rye, this made me happy :D I loves me some dark rye!

The thing that has had a bit of an impact though is the snacks. I usually eat 2 or 3 snacks a day in the 400KJ (100 Calorie) range. Back home this was really tough to manage as just about all the snacks were well over this and it was tough to find anything that was even remotely tasty, so it was always the same things over and over. Boring.

Not over here. they have what is called 100 Calorie packs. In just about every good yummy treat you could think of. Hell I went a little bit crazy. Managed to get some crazy Yoplait yoghurts with flavours like Key Lime Pie, Boston Cream Pie or Strawberry Shortcake. 10 packs for $6 DEAL! Then after I bought it I remembered I was house sitting so have to eat them all BEFORE I leave. woops! Then there are the museli bars. Back home there is like 1 brand (Uncle Tobys Crunchy) that I can eat. Not over here, there are thousands. I picked up some Peanut Butter & Chocolate Museli bars with 100 Calorie bars. These are great with a coffee ;)

Don’t even get me started on the choices for treats, god damn this is going to be tough! But I am up for the challenge, this week the treat is going to be some fantastic ice cream, and a blog post about something that I didn’t really know about before I came to Seattle last time.

First Few Days…

Ok So I am here, I am alive. You may all now breath easily. It has been a pretty full on few days. The flight over was extremely full. But thankfully I had exit row, and a middle seat free. So yes I wasn’t in Business or Premium Econ, but I had space, I had relative comfort (apart from the freezing cold) so I can not complain!

The flight on Alaskan was pretty damn good, can NOT complain about a flight that was pretty much the same as any back home for a short 2 hour domestic hop. I flicked in and out of conciousness for most of the flight. I had been trying to finish off my 2nd book and had I been awake I may have been able to. But not now (expect a Review up tonight).

At the moment I am house sitting in Kirkland, Washington. Right on Lake Washington. The view from this place is amazing!!! In the first afternoon I managed to knock off all my essential paperwork (Social Security, Bank, Phone) in a matter of hours thanks to arriving around mid day. I then topped off my journey with a dinner at Rikki Rikki, a japanese place that Kirk and Anna (the bosses at my new work) got me hooked on last time and a couple of scoops of ice cream on the walk back to the apartment.

Yesterday I had been planning on doing a bit of shopping but that got put to the wayside when I got a last minute tweet from a friend from Twitter who was going to be in town. I dropped everything and went in to see her (and managed to forget her present in the mean time). Damn! But otherwise I have just been organising stuff, getting things sorted on this end, today I am off to do some of that shopping for stuff that I need to get to make my life a bit easier.

Some comments, yesterday it rained. Yes I need to get used to it, Just wish it would rain AFTER I go for a run, or at least it can rain lightly like yesterday when its not so cold! It was roughly 45F for most of yesterday which is NOT a good temperature in my opinion.

Anyway time for breakfast, and then its off to pick up my rental car that I have for a couple of weeks.

Book Review: No Reservations

Something to get the travel lover going:

C360_2012-05-04-21-18-57

The book is No Reservations by Anthony Bourdain. More of a coffee table book than a guide book or a novel, this is something that I enjoyed even if not what I thought it would be.

Managed to read this I’m just over 2 hours on my flight to LA, this was a fantastic way to just get deep into two things I love. Food and Travel. For those that know who Bourdain is, he is an ex chef and host of the hit show No Reservations. A no holds barred, tell it like it is kind of person/show that is one of my favourites to watch.

This book looks at the places he has visited in the show, is full of photos taken by the crew in off times or during familiar stories from the show. A fantastic insight to the person who loves to travel, to eat or just enjoys the show.

So many of the photos or short stories they went with it made me think, I so want to visit there, I wish I had gone there or even, I am going to visit that place sometime in the future.

What more can a lover of travel want. A book filled with what is purely like porn to the food or travel bug among us, something that whets the appetite for either of these things, that entices us to do these things, to travel, to eat, to experience.

Loved it! Just wish it was longer!