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At some point, after a seemingly endless rain and lack of sunlight it becomes impossible to get out of bed in the morning.  The pitch black mornings remind you that winter near the 48th parallel can kind of suck.  That pitter patter of rain on the window reminds you that temperate and rainforest are two words that should not be said in such close proximity.  I just think, my snooze button needs to be hooked to a time machine.

The furnace kicks on, bringing up the smell of coffee up from the kitchen.  A sense of urgency kicks in with a chirp from the phone, reminding you it’s time to go if you want to catch the early bus; I know that won’t happen now, but it means I really need to hurry to catch the next one.  Springing out of bed and through the shower I manage to get dressed before grabbing Jaani like a football and whoosh past the gate to race Nini toward the back door.  She tends to seek revenge when I make her wait to go outside.  I send them out, fill their dishes with food and water, and grab my coffee and a parfait; only to rush for the bus just in time to watch it drive by.  In the summer, the driver would no doubt stop for me, but alas, the sun is sort of… not a thing… on these mornings.

Time for plan ‘B’.  I hold my finger to my ear as I say “Broadcast: I missed the bus and need a ride… ETA 5 minutes.”  Assistant replies with a broadcast sent, and I picture the scene at home.  My wife cursing at me in Mandarin as several speakers around the house play the broadcast.  She rolls out of bed and prepares our daughter for a car ride.  Her challenge is to try and keep from waking her up completely, and of coarse praying she will fall back asleep in the car.

For an early adopter of nearly every automation technology, you would think I would have a remote starter for my car, but for whatever reason, that item never made the list.  The car is cold as it gets around these parts as as we guide a half asleep child with a cold into the icy chair… a little cry triggers a surge in blood pressure followed by relief as a few grunts indicate she is going to sleep.

I get a chance to sit with my coffee for a minute as we drive to the park and ride, and then back into the rain with me, as I queue up for the bus.  I look around for a minute, and marvel at how orderly the line is.  In the eastern suburbs, everyone lines up in an orderly fashion, leaving space in front;  when a bus pulls up, the people boarding that bus step forward, then move to the front of the line.  I never see this type of order in downtown Seattle, nor do you see it on the South end.  I always accredited it to the surplus of software engineers in these areas, as it seems like every other person works at Microsoft, Amazon, or Google; the crowd I always thought of as the culture of trust.  You know, when you are on any of those campuses, you can leave a laptop or other expensive equipment laying around, and it will stay exactly where you put it.  I think back about one time, there was a phone sitting on a bench at Microsoft campus for 2 days; at some point, someone plugged it into a charger, turned it on , and wrote a note with instructions on how to return the charger.  I was told by a barista that the person who retrieved it was so excited to find their phone, apparently they were worried because the “find my phone” feature told them the phone was last seen at their desk.  Yet, I digress… the bus lines… yea, those were orderly and polite… so crazy.

The next couple hours feel completely unproductive.  The hour-long bus ride gives me some time to finish my coffee.  I keep a french press at my desk, which is pretty much required on days like today; I grab some hot water from the break room and sit down at my desk.  Making coffee has become almost like a ritual for me these days.  I find I get a therapeutic satisfaction in adding the grounds and pushing the press down just enough to submerge the beans underwater.  Better yet, is my weekend ritual making espresso;  I will sometimes take 20 or 30 minutes to get my coffee just right… grinding the beans, loading the portafilter, pressing the grounds, steaming the milk, and finally pulling the shot… the longer I take, the better it seems to taste.  Similar is the process of making a Matcha Latte… yet again, I digress.

Another 20oz of coffee down, I take a walk around the office to get the blood flowing a little bit.  By this point, I have basically had coffee and laid out my plan for the day.  I settle in to my desk, put on my headphones, and try to pump out some work.  I’ll get in a thousand words across a dozen emails or so… record a few PTF scripts and maybe optimize one or two for release… have a quick review meeting, and send a screenshot or two off for review.  I look over and see some light coming in the window… it must be lunch time.

Sure enough, I walk out to a sunny beautiful afternoon.  This is the part of living here that keeps me here; the sunlight and bright blue skies that peek out at you.  After grabbing a shepherd’s pie from a pub around the block, I take a stroll through the old downtown and international district.

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About a mile later, I make it back to my desk, and work on lowering my heart rate and wipe off a thin layer of sweat that I built up taking in this month’s sunshine.  I settle in for a bit more work and a couple meetings before heading off the catch the bus home.  I don’t really worry about missing this bus.  It’s right next to the building and I have plenty of time to get there.  The sun is gone… night has returned with a fine mist.  The kind of mist that lasts for months in these parts, but I made it for the sun… that will keep me going for a few days at least.

Later,

SteveO

ensete

I have been hearing people talk a lot about public healthcare.  Many people question where the money will come from, and others just think it will cause long lines at the hospital.  However, I think the facts speak for themselves.  If you look to nearly any country in Europe, Canada, Japan, or Australia, then you will see that single-payer healthcare is more effective than our current insurance racket.  So, here are my thoughts on healthcare, and why I feel that way.

The Washington post claims that the healthcare system in the United States costs $2.9 Trillion a year.  The National Conference of State Legislatures indicates the average family pays around $4,300 a year on health insurance.   Finally, the World Bank (via Google) indicates that the United States has a population of about 318 Million people.  If we divide the $2.9 Trillion dollars evenly, that would mean each person would be responsible for just over $9,000 a year in order to cover the cost of healthcare.  However, this number is very deceiving.

We 949-751-3624 than European countries.  This is partially because we avoid going to a primary care physician because it is too expensive; so, we don’t catch the early signs of serious problems, and we have a more predominant trend to jump straight from being healthy to being very sick.  Because we wait until we are seriously sick to go to the doctor, we receive more expensive procedures like X-Rays and MRIs, because we go to hospitals rather than a primary care doctor who would produce the same results from a ultrasound.  We do pay our doctors and hospital staff more, but that trend does not carry over to primary care doctors, who often make less than hospital staff.  Finally, we charge more for procedures like MRIs and X-Rays, despite the fact that more use of the machines should yield a lower cost-per-customer.

When you combine all of these factors, a single payer healthcare system would likely decrease the cost of our healthcare system substantially.  This would be largely due to the fact that public healthcare system increase visits to primary care doctors; which has a direct result on the early detection of high cost healthcare services like Diabetes, Heart Disease, Stroke, Cancer, and most chronic conditions.  However, an increased government role would result in a standardized pricing scheme for services rendered, and in all public healthcare systems, this price is significantly lower than what people are charged in the US.

It’s hard to say exactly how much this would decrease the cost of services in the US, but when compared to a recent hospital visit my friend had, where the hospital claimed the 40 minute visit to the ER to receive 2 stitches cost over $3,000.  Included in that cost was a $300 bill for a single pill of over-the-counter aspirin, and a $1,000 bill to sit in a chair for 10 minutes while a nurse stitched the wound at a rate equivalent to over $2,000/hour.  Of coarse, the insurance company immediately claimed the hospital could only bill $600 for the visit, and then claimed that my friend only needed to pay a $24 co-pay.  However, this just emphasizes my point that health insurance is a racket (the act of offering of a dishonest service (a “racket”) to solve a problem that wouldn’t otherwise exist without the enterprise offering the service.)

Now, I understand that most hospital visits aren’t taken down by over 83% after insurance negotiations, but when I look at my dental bills over the past year (which were quite substantial), every single bill was taken down by a minimum of 50%.  In fact, after adding up the totals; insurance only allowed my dentist and two specialists to bill them for 42% of what they originally charged me.  Thus, I feel it is not outrageous to say the actual cost of healthcare in the United States would only be about $1.5 Trillion without insurance, and if we didn’t spend as much on high ticket items through frequent visits to primary care doctors, we may even be able to get that price down to $1 Trillion dollars after a few years (if we follow the same trends as the rest of the 1st world countries.)  This is a cost that could reasonably be covered by an average annual cost of $3,000 per family.  Meaning that in a couple years, we could actually be putting over $1,000 a year into the pockets of every family by increasing taxes by $3,000 per family (through a decrease in health insurance costs.)

Until you really think it through, it doesn’t sound right, but put the numbers together.  I have heard plenty of outrageous stories about absurd healthcare costs that where magically slashed by 60-90% by insurance companies negotiating back-room deals for their customers.  How much would these services actually cost if there were never a negotiation?  How much would it cost if the government had a healthcare oversight authority, that would create a basic set of rules to justify healthcare costs for various services.  After all, this is simple accounting.  If you pay $100 for a machine that 1,000 people use during it’s expected service life, it should only cost $0.1 for each person to use the machine; plus an adjustment for maintenance, the rate of the operator, and finally a small fee for the hospital to expand or replace the machine in the future.  Simply remove the for-profit portion, which is often a very significant portion of the cost.

Why I chose Bernie Sanders

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After caucusing today, I got really riled up about why I chose Bernie. (121 people in my precinct, 93 for Bernie, 23 for Clinton – well over 1,000 for my district showed up!) Part of it was because I chose to get involved when it came time to give arguments supporting him after the Clinton candidates spoke, and the thoughts are bouncing around in my head now, so I feel like I need to get them out! So, here I go… A vote for Bernie is a vote for:

  • Eliminating the health insurance racket, not reforming it.
  • Eliminating the overpriced private school system we refer to as Universities and Colleges, in favor of updating our public school system to include a college education.  Increasing access to grants and student loans has resulted in over a Trillion dollars of outstanding debt, and the 37th education system in the world in terms of quality.
  • Eliminating tax loopholes, that allow large corporations like the NFL, Microsoft, Walmart, and Apple to shift profits to overseas tax havens, costing the American public Billions in taxes each year (I.E. $40 Billion from Microsoft and nearly $100 Billion from Apple every year!)  Plus we all know the NFL should not be considered a non-profit tax-exempt organization.
  • A vote to repeal citizens united, which Hilary has utilized in every campaign she has run in the past 6 years (thus, no way in hell she would change that.)  I suppose rootstrikers.
  • A vote for trying to confront Islamic extremists by disproving their argument (and primary recruiting tool) that the western world doesn’t care about them.
  • The only hope for achieving peace in the middle east is to treat each of the countries involved as equal partners in a mutual resolution to conflict. (I.E. Remain neutral and not side with Israel and Saudi Arabia exclusively in opposition to Iran).
  • We need to adjust our tax laws to remove tax caps for high income households; especially in terms of the 15% investment income tax, which almost exclusively applies to people with annual income above a million dollars.
  • We need to ask the question of where the money to pay for war is coming from.  This money is obtained by punishing the teachers and schools in this country with insufficient funding.  It is obtained by punishing the citizens of this country by not maintaining our existing infrastructure.  It is obtained by devaluing public transportation, and denying people a mass transit alternative.
  • We need to recognize that we only have one planet, and if we break it we might not be able to fix it.  Global warming is real, and regardless of how it is happening, we need to take every action possible to slow or reverse it’s effects.  We need to reduce subsidies for oil, coal, and nuclear power production, and increase subsidies for solar, wind, and geothermal power production.  There is no reason we shouldn’t have a 100% green power grid by 2020.
  • We need to promote a more sustainable materials economy.  Our buildings, electronics, and other consumer goods need to be designed to be broken down into raw components that can be used for the next generation of consumer goods.  This type of technological ecosystem will reduce the burden of disposing of waste, and reduce the demand for destructively mining new raw materials.
  • Electric vehicles are one of our best bets to reduce CO2 emissions.  Even though the current electric grid would produce a similar or greater emission per mile than gasoline cars; centralizing the source of emissions increases the feasibility of eliminating CO2 emissions from transportation.

 

decennially

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 So, I have felt a little warn down recently.  It’s not that anything is really wrong.  I am just a little bored at times, and I have this challenge that has been really bugging me.  It should be easy, but for some reason I can’t remember how to get started.  I keep trying to create these solutions in Visual Studio 2015, and I’m not sure if the software is just radically different, or if the Community Edition just doesn’t have some feature I’m used to using.

The challenge is to create a  web service similar to tinyUrl or Bitly… and it should be a really simple thing.  I’ve done it on my home computer, but now I’m trying not to just hack together a piece of junk that ignores every best practice in the book, and I’m trying to make it work for Azure.  So, I’m spending so much time trying to get a feel for Azure deployment scripts and organizing the service architectures (front end, business logic, and data tiers), that I keep forgetting the whole point I’m working on this project, which it to test all this stuff.

I can see how it would be useful to test the service by making it from scratch, and I get some value just from completing that part; however, my passion is breaking and testing this stuff.  I feel like the software industry is going in a bad direction.  Crossing the streams between dev and test, and I think this project has really brought me in tune with developer’s bias.

The idea of developer’s bias is the idea that as a developer, you have confidence that your creation was done right.  As such, you feel that accepting fault in your work is a personal failure.  This is where separation of dev and test is most important.

Testing bias is a concept that states the closer the connection you have to the product, the more likely you are to think the product was built well.  For this reason, it is common to outsource testing to make sure no bias exists.  Agile practitioners often preach the theory that developers can be testers, but in practice, this approach usually fails.  As always, there are exceptions to the rules (like the Mongols,) but this model does not work for most teams.  I have seen it fail for nearly every development team I have witnessed implement it.  Every team from Microsoft to small Indy developers.  The testing bias has always seemed to be the fatal flaw that ruins the theories of agile development.  Just my observations…

Later,
SteveO

Funny thing about importing from blogger…

So, I just imported my blog content from blogger… and there are no pictures… 🙁

I will have to figure out what the deal with that is, but in the mean time, I at least have most of my content moved forward.

Welcome to my home!

I mean this literally, in that you have connected to my home.  At least the a computer that I have setup for this wordpress server that I play around with.

 

kthnxbie

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South Lake Union Neighborhood seen from Lake Union

 

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South Lake Union Park

On the North side of downtown Seattle is a neighborhood called South Lake Union.  It is, as the name suggests, South of Lake Union.  On the shore of the lake you will find the MOHAI (Museum of History & Industry) as well as the center for wooden boats.  (Also home to the Jeff Bezos learning center – extra points if you know why he is relevant).  At the other side of the neighborhood is Denny Way, and my new employer The Seattle Times.

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MOHAI

 

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Center for wooden boats
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Space Needle from Seattle Times
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Amazon construction

In the middle is the place where everything you buy comes from… At least the world headquarters.  That is, the main campus of Amazon’s would headquarters.  It’s a wonderful mix of brick and mortar retail shops… with the online giant that’s putting them out of business sitting right on top.

Riding S.L.U.T. to Amazon
Part of Amazon Campus

A land of contradictions… it’s named after a place synonymous with nature, but in a place where anything older than me is decimated and covered in concrete.  Retail stores in the capitol of online shopping.  Its a hip little space with bars, stores, restaurants, and even a Microsoft office mixed in there.

I get coffee here in the morning

Along the ground snaking through the forest of construction cranes is Westlake Ave… and the S.L.U.T. (South Lake Union Trolley) – a trolley that apparently uses the honor system to collect fares.  The person riding with me tells me he has been taking it every day without paying, and watching a few other people board I relief that nobody really pays.  I had to laugh a little at that.  I watch the S.L.U.T. pass me every morning as I walk to work, and if I really wanted, it would reduce a 12 mile walk into a small city block.

 

I rode the S.L.U.T. back from Lake Union to the south end of the line.  Which is the heart of the shopping district.  Westlake Center, where the bus tunnel, most surface buses out of the city, the S.L.U.T., and the monorail all meet.  From this point, its a short walk to the Pike Market, the Elliot Bay waterfront, and the convention center, and all kinds of stores.

Monorail
The Bus Tunnel
Park at Westlake Center

My purpose for visiting Westlake is usually because I’m either entering or leaving the city.  In this case, I came for the bus tunnel… a weird pseudo-subway where buses and trains meet in the same tunnel.  Here, the light rail can take you to the airport, and based on what looks like an honor-system fare situation, I bet most people ride for free.  The ebb and flow of people gathering in the station, then boarding and heading off on the light rail is neat to watch.  A train comes about every five or ten minutes, and because my bus was running about 20 minutes behind, I got to watch a few groups of people gather and board.

My broken bus… Where my bus broke down… Local Artwork…

Of coarse, today was not my most lucky day riding the transit lines.  My bus broke down just before getting on the Interstate to head back to Renton.  They said the check engine light came on, and it’s against the rules for them to get on the highway with the light on…

Anyway, the bus parked for about 30 minutes until a new bus could arrive, then I boarded on and went home.

So, if you ever wondered about Amazon’s campus, or what the area is like… maybe this will give you an idea.

Later,

SteveO

lepidopterologist

I think the quote from GLaDOS is appropriate for any return after a long time.  The Portal villain certainly reminds me of my favorite things of the video game.  After all, it’s all for science.

That’s  not what I came to babel about this time.  To be honest, I was starting to wonder if I would ever return to this blog, or if it had faded into the ether of my distant past.  I find myself writing more in a book these days than on the Interwebs, but I don’t know why.  Perhaps I don’t always want to share my thoughts with the world first.  I guess I could do that, but digital permanence and all.

I recently have had a few things change.  I went through one of the hardest break ups I’ve ever experienced, and a couple days later I lost my job.  I didn’t care about the job though;  it seems that SDETs are in high demand around these parts, and I have no shortage of options.

I recently started thinking about moving to Portland.  I love Seattle, and it would be hard for me to move on from here, but a breakup followed by loosing my contract, and finally a call from some recruiter who might offer you a way better job than you had… it all seems to feel like it was meant to be.  Funny enough, just the breakup made me think of leaving town to get a fresh start.

Anyway, maybe that’s a thing… maybe I’m just babbling again… whatever it is, I might have some changes around the corner, but in the mean time, I have more time on my hands.  Maybe I’ll just start blogging again for a while?   time will tell.

Later,

     SteveO

No picture today…

I don’t have a picture (because I’m still waiting for my camera) however, maybe I can describe it for you…

Anyway, I have been waking up just before the sun rises to the point it would be visible if the clouds weren’t hanging around.  In fact, the clouds are right on top of me most mornings, and even below me as I walk my lap around the river.  Along Riverside Drive, across the bridge at Wells, backtrack through Jones Park, and cross the river again at Bronson.  It’s a short walk, maybe a quarter mile at best, but it is just enough to help wake me up and make sure Jaani can do his morning business.

I fill up Jaani’s dish with food, and then I dump out, rinse, and refill his water dish with nice cool water from my filtered pitcher in the fridge.  This time of day, my phone keeps my rhythm for me… Cock-a-doodle-doo marks the time to wake up.  I need to get up for my morning eat and clean… Beep-beep, Beep-beep and it’s time to take the dog for his walk.  Usually I get the early 1900’s phone noise before making it back to the apartment, which means I need to check his food and water.  Honk honk means the bus is about 15 minutes out.  However, the bus alarm isn’t just based on a specific time.  Sometimes it comes earlier than I expect… This alarm is from an App on my phone (other than the default clock app).  It updates the bus schedule in real time. I can pick up my phone and see how many minutes I have until the bus gets there.  It is handy.  (One Bus Away is the name of the app FYI.)

My phone is my master of scheduling.  Something that makes me very nervous to tinker with now that I use it for more than just fun and games.  A feeling that makes me a little nervous about the idea of getting the latest and greatest new gadget on release day; however, I suspect it still won’t stop me.

So, this marks the time when I start heading toward the bus.  I need to allow about 10 minutes to walk to the bus stop in order to get there in time.  Sometimes I can wait a couple minutes because I time the lights just right, but usually the bus is pulling up just after I arrive at the terminal.  I usually manage to get a seat toward the back, but today I actually had to sit near the front (in the sideways seats that are reserved for elderly and handicap people (usually that just means I need to sit sideways and can’t lean my head back.

Although I wouldn’t lean back if I could.  I break out my tablet, plug in my headphones, and watch a video lecture.  I have about 30 minutes to watch lectures before I arrive at Overlake Transit Center.  I am excited about this bus ride in the summer.  The view of Mt Rainier from 520 East while leaving Bellevue is an excellent way to start your day off.  The fog is usually below the horizon.  The sun is behind the Cascade range to the East… Rainier to the South.  The left side of the mountain glows, the glacier on top can even blind you on a sunny morning when the sun hits it just right.  The right side of the mountain is dark and takes on a blue tint from the shade.  Sometimes the mountain wears a white fedora, almost as if it was lifting it’s hat to say good morning.  For this, and only this, reason I almost always sit on the right side of the bus in the morning.

Once I arrive at Overlake, I am just across the street from the Studios West Campus. Well, across 520, which is a six lane road with two additional exit lanes on each side… So the bridge is like a small city block.  Then I cut between Studio A and the Commons… across to the far side of the campus, where I get to Studio C.  Once in the building, I take the stairs to the fourth floor and get my coffee before heading into the lab.

Things are a little different in the lab.  The teams have become adjusted to the new space.  Every part and tool has found it’s home.  It’s time for new developments; this is the story in the tech industry.  Stay competitive… be adaptable… do what the lab needs you to do.  This sometimes forces me to step slightly outside my Test Engineer role, but doubling as a part time Network Engineer… Software Architect… or miscellaneous grunt is something that just needs to be done from time to time.  You just read a few articles about what you are trying to get done… find someone who can give you practical advice… get-r-done!

I came back at a time where several teams need a little help.  All the new products that were put out this past year have created some interesting challenges, and new tests need to be run… test results from the summer need to be analyzed to make sure we learn from our failures and successes.  My boss likes it when I can point out things we could have done better, and how to ensure it really gets done better next time.  Even though that sometimes means making a plan for something we will never do again.  That’s just the nature of being on the bleeding edge.  If one and three ideas pans out, we are making progress;  However, if one and six pan out… well, it’s epic… whether win or fail.

By the end of the day I’m usually beat.  Half the time I can hardly make it through more than five or six minutes of lecture before I need to close my eyes and lean back.  I open my eyes to find I’m back at the Renton Transit Center… I walk home… get Jaani… walk him for a mile or two… then get dinner and relax for another couple hours.

I spend from 07:30 to 18:30 away from the house.  Which makes me feel really bad for Jaani.  All alone for 11 hours a day… although, I need to go to work.  Plus, I try to make it up to him on the weekends by not leaving him alone at all.

Anyway… That’s the story with my work life right now.  It’s not bad.  I get a sense of fulfillment form my work… a sense of greater being than just fending for myself in the wilderness… a sense of belonging somewhere that only comes from working with a great team of people.

So, that’s all for now.  It’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Later,

     SteveO

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So, I have been neglecting my blog again… I guess I have been up to a lot of stuff.

Jaani has been enjoying 3 walks a day in his own private 1.5 acre dog park… sometimes when the neighbors are around, I’ll put him on a leash because I don’t think they would like it if he went running up to them…

I have been spending a lot of time entertaining my nieces and nephews.  They are all at the point where they want lots and lots of attention, so it’s a good thing I’m here to give it to them.

I went to the renaissance festival where I enjoyed a turkey leg, a pickle, lots of beer, and a show at the smoker.  Then we went to a near by bar for more beer and pizza.  It was good to see my cousin the Amazing Flec perform his fire show at the smoker, although it was weird that there is no smoking in the smoker… at least not sense they passed that non-smoking law…

Next, I went around visiting old friends from high school… just dropping in and getting a beer at the local bars, but this past weekend, we went out for a Yooperland Adventure of sorts.  (Jaani stayed with my parents…)

We went to Craig Lake which is just north of Michigamme, Michigan (which is in Michigan’s upper peninsula SW of Marquette.)  The way to the lake is to drive into Michigamme, where you will find a small one lane dirt road (craig lake rd)… take that road about 6 or 7 miles in (following the signs to craig lake)… then you will find a small parking lot… from there, you will have to carry your boat about 1/2 a mile down a dirt road to the water.  From there, we traveled across the water for about 1.5 miles by boat (1 canoe, 1 kayak, 1 row boat)…

While there, we polished off about 168 beers, 5 fifths of liquor, and a half gallon of 5 o’clock vodka… we didn’t bring much booze back with us… it was a good time.

Speaking of drinking… it seems that after spending a few weeks in Michigan, I find that I have greatly increased my capacity for alcohol.  Funny how that works…

Anyway, now, I think I will spend the weekend going to East Lansing, Royal Oak, and possibly Duck Lake for another relaxing vacation.

Maybe I’ll write more later, but that’s all for now.

Later,

SteveO