Sunday, April 30, 2006

SAD notes - Belle Arts Tarps update

After much begging and making a nuisance of myself, the Bellevue Belle Arts plastic tarps finally came down.

My relief knew no bounds. I had been losing my mind. I kept trying to follow up on WHEN the damned things were to be removed. No one knew. It became obvious that few people take Seasonal Affective Disorder seriously. The work on the windows was finished weeks prior and it was not just an inconvenience to have them left up. The thick white tarps were turning into a health problem for me: they were adding a deeper level into my SAD depression that I had not anticipated or planned for. I moved up here from sunny CA and AZ, after all.

I am surprised that in Seattle, of all places, SAD isn't given due respect. I figure, it's got to be worse here, and more understood here, than in, say, San Diego.

Although it's possible that anyone with SAD just doesn't stick around Seattle, either. Perhaps I am being foolishly optimistic about living here. I do have a plan to make this work, though. And summer is coming, the best time to be in the Pacific Northwest.

So when the tarps came down, I was deliriously happy. I drank in the view - although it's a north-facing courtyard view, I was so plainly happy to see actual sky.

It was even sunny for three or four days in a row, just for me.

I could have cried. Instead I handed Starbucks Double-Shot Lattes to all the construction workers hanging on the scaffolding. I felt like throwing money out the window, if I'd had any. I spent the next few days drunk on sunshine. Ridiculously, absurdly happy.

It's overcast this weekend, drizzling, and I am off my high. But at least I can see out the window.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Rate Your Bellevue Apartment

I actually enjoy apartment shopping. I spent a fantastic week last February checking out the different buildings in downtown Bellevue, meeting leasing agents, drinking free coffee and checking out potential living situations.

This has made life easier on Dan, who hates apartment shopping and thus, didn't have to go with me. Well, that's why it's great that people have differences. :)

Speaking of differences, here is a website where people can email their two cents on apartments they've lived in. For the most part, it seems Bellevue residents are unhappy with downtown living. Most of the reports are negative. it's possible that unhappy residents are doing the bulk of the posting. Either that, or downtown Bellevue complexes have yet to learn the value of excellent customer service.

To be fair, very few reports are current enough, datewise, to give a valuable picture of present management policies. So this website is not a decent baseline on which to determine a place to live.

If you are (or have been) a renter in Bellevue, or anywhere in Seattle or otherwise, you might want to enter a more up-to-date apartment review. I will be adding my own reviews right here, in my own blog.

Feel free to add your comments here as well. :-)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

989 Elements Move-in Delayed

I really did expect this, but our move-in date has been pushed back to May 13th. It seems 989 Elements' construction schedule has been running a bit behind.

An industry insider told me the 989 Elements building is going up with "scab work", which means non-union workers. I have no problem with that per se, but I disagree that planners should go with the lowest bid on any construction project. My thinking: You Get What You Pay For.

Look at the Belle Arts building, which is purportedly only five years old. The windows ended up being leaky, and the entire thing had to be scaffolded and tarped.

Would it not have been cheaper to put in better windows, or use more qualified labor and craftsmanship in the first place?

Back to our upcoming move: I never expected that May 6 was actually going to be our 989 Elements move-in date, and I won't bet that May 13 will happen, either. At least I won't hold my breath on it.

I'm just pleased Dan and I had the luck to have rented out Belle Arts sublet for an extra month, just in case. In other words, we are not out on the street, this merry month of May.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bellevue Wiki Entry and Drawing Seattle's Boundary

What is Bellevue? Where is it, what's the history? Is is really part of Seattle?

The esteemed Wikipedia is increasingly the best source for background on most things. There's have a decent and readable Bellevue Entry. The entry traces a perimter around Bellevue and its adjoining townships.

So...Is Bellevue really a part of Seattle? The Wiki doesn't address this point, not yet. But, IMO, yes. Seattleites sneeringly decry it The Eastside, but it's still integral to the Seattle Metro Region. Just like Fremont is a part of Seattle...and Greenlake...Renton...and Woodinville and Kirland and Redmond, et al.

Where do you draw the line, then? I'd say Tacoma is not in Seattle, to the South, and Everett, to the north, is not Seattle either.

To the West, include Bainbridge Island but not Bremerton. Going East, North Bend is just barely in the Seattle area, but Snoqualmie Pass is surely out of range.

Feel free to argue these arbitrary boundaries with me.

The fact that Bellevue has its own skyscrapers just adds to the coolness and character of this burgeoning Seattle town.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bellevue Blogs - Gregg's BlogCycle

Looking around for other friendly, neighborhood Bellevue blogs and found well-regarded Bellevue wrench Greggs Cycles started a blog of their own. There's some good stuff in there but it's not updated enough. At this point, looks to be a monthly.

Still, check out the useful Your Bike Doesn't Have to Hurt You. This is great info for bike enthusiasts who wonder why their necks, wrists, palms and butt bones hurt so much.

I like how they've divided up the pain into 1. Physical, 2. Good Pain and 3. Mechanical Pain. Mechanical Pain - the easiest pain to manage - is further subdivided into 1. Fit, 2. Form, and 3. Prior Injury. Obviously Fit and Form are the simplest to fix within in the Mechanical Pain uber-category. And these are the areas a competant local shop, like Gregg's, comes in most handy for a visit. :)

This kind of useful-to-anyone article is a superb example of how a locals-oriented blog can really help people. I do like their other information, but a lot of it is for gear geeks who appreciate the newest Shimano rear specific 140mm disc rotors. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

I also enjoyed the So, You Want To Race blog - great, again, for those casual cyclists who find they are stronger and faster than they thought they could be, and are curious to test their limits. Several "starter races" are recommended, with registration links. Nice job, Greggs' guys.

More on Greggs:
Check out the History of Greggs Cycles, on their website. The Greggs Cycles website itself is a bit dodgy; could stand a fresh redesign. Easy nav, but clunky on the eyes.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bellevue Public Spaces - Crossroads Mall

If you appreciate public spaces, as I do, this interesting New Statesman article ties the Bellevue Crossroads Mall with such upscale public arenas enjoyed in Rome, Lyons and Barcelona. The Crossroads Mall, doubling as gathering place, extended communal livingroom, Mexican-style Zocolo? Well, in a word, yes.

My husband literally lived at Crossroads when he first moved here. At least, he used the mall as living space, business office and dining room.

He slept in his car nearby, rolled out of bed and grabbed a cuppa at Starbucks. He'd join the newstand crowd and read the papers, then take his laptop to the mall's own Public Library outlet for the free WIFI. He'd work work work, then stroll the food court and eat.

It's a surprisingly good place to grab some chow. Growing up in the 80's I know all about mallish food courts. As the clever teen movie, "Mean Girls" observes, food courts are like watering holes in the Serengi, where young animals come to display and strut their courtship rituals.

This food court is actually worth your dime, your time. The ethnically-oriented fooderies are locally-owned and the result is real food, not plastic-tasting microwave reheats. I approve. Nice, multi-generational and tolerant ambience.

I also personally recommend the Thai food cashew-chicken with salad and the huge Italian cheese calzones.

Back to Dan: after food-foraging, he could join the chess players on either the small tables or the giant floor set, or do a bit of shopping for basic supplies, and then settle in for more computer work. In the evenings, he'd either read in the bookstore or stroll into the movie theater. Free, live shows often entertained appreciative local crowds in the central mall area. What's NOT to like?

My cynical self initially derided the place as just another enclosed, aging mall. Cripes, it's only one level high - how could it compete with Downtown Bellevue's ritzy shopping experience? But a newly emerging, more hopeful and tender self agrees this "mall" is really just a heck of a nice place to hang out with other humans. Other humans also responding to the primal urge to "hang around". To congregate. Mingle. To even relax a bit.

The author of the New Stateman article admits he'd rather be in Barcelona, frankly, or even at Seattle's own Pike Place Market. But, he adds, "so would many people who live in Crossroads. But the fact is they live in Bellevue, and it's a great thing that they have a mall where they can run errands, meet their neighbours and have some fun."

More on the Crossroads Bellevue Mall at their Website.

Friday, April 14, 2006

SAD and Belle Arts - life under tarps

I am starting to settle in to Bellevue a bit. The husband has already noticed I feel better. I need to get a light box to deal with this SAD business, and a dawn simulator (or maybe a dawn-simulating blanket)- it's just so damned dark under this tarped Belle Arts apartment building.

You know how disorienting a windowless cruise ship cabin is? It's like that here, but for a MONTH already. Very dark, and there's nothing I can do about it. Our real one bedroom apartment at 989 Elements won't be ready for business until some time in May (they are saying May 6th; maybe earlier, we'll see).

At least I picked up some pretty curtains to hide the ugly tarping. It's a rich chocolate brown, crushed silky material, from Bed, Bath and Beyond, at the Crossroads Mall.

I also bought a ton of lights and keep them all on. Even the bathroom light. "Do we have to have so many lights on?", Dan asks.

Well, in a word, yes. Seattle is gloomy enough without having to live in a cave.

The curtains and excess of lights keep me from feeling re-pissed-off every time I see our one window to the world, all covered up. The entire Belle Arts midrise sweats under this white, white blankness. It's just a waiting they take the tarp off first, do I lose my mind, or just limp along wondering which comes first?

SAD in Seattle - Fabric Lights

I am not sure if having fabric automatically light up in response to environmental changes will help me with my battle against Seasonal Affective Disorder. In the interest of science and my own well-being, I'm willing to try it.

An innovative European company developed a technique, which, according to Wired Magazine, features "light display[s] of floral designs whose patterns and movement are animated by changes in barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, precipitation, and wind speed". Sounds like a study in Chaos/Complexity iteration for the home environment!

Heading to the company's own website, I thought of those glowing stars I used to stick on my bedroom ceiling. The lighted swirls look like photo-reactive phosphorus cells simply embedded in textiles, but what do I know? Rachel Wingfield and Mathias Gmachl of Loop.pH present their gracefully looped techniques as new art forms; you can see their admittedly lovely designs in person at Amsterdam's agressively innovative, think-tankoid Droog Design Gallery.

Loop.pH's stated aim is, "to provide a more intuitive understanding of our natural environment, from day-night cycles to power consumption."

Can this help sufferers of SAD? Maybe. They can arrange for blankets, pillows and curtains to emit gradually stronger rays of blue light, like a unique sort of dawn-simulator. The bedding is created with SAD-sufferers in mind, concludes in their interview with London co-developer Rachel Wingfield.

Loop.pH's "Light Sleeper" is very pretty, albeit surprisingly icy in tone. I suspect I'd wake wondering why the heck I slept in an ice cave, but it would probably help combat the effects of SAD, after all.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

More on Cottonelle Toilet Paper

I wish this product had some recycled paper content in it, but according to the Cottonelle Ripples Website FAQ, it's made entirely of virgin wood fibers. Maybe we can ask Cottonelle nicely to reconsider this. I did try to email them about it, but found that the link was broken.

Oh, well. You do get 12 Puppy Points with the purchase. Anyone ever use Puppy Points? Buy a puppy towel? Wouldn't it be better to put the money towards the Humane Society or something more socially responsible?

Poking around their website a bit more I see there is a chance to do some good for the world via buying from Cottonelle. You have to sign up for their Save For College program, but at least it's something, a 5%-towards-education-thing.

Why am I going on about Cottonelle toilet paper? Their triple ply "Ripples" paper rolls work out better in my small Bellevue studio than any other paper I've found. Tell me if you've found something else that's good, especially if it has any recycled paper content.

Studio Apartment Living - buying toilet paper

Living in a studio apartment - our sublet here at Belle Arts is all of 414 square feet - we have to economize on storage. One little thing I've discovered is that Cottonelle Triple layer toilet paper is a great compromise between storing lots of toilet paper, and having to run out to the store.

My old routine was to buy large, economy amounts of TP when they go on sale. You know, those packs of 20, 40, and even 80 rolls at Costco or something. I just don't have the room for that any more.

So my next plan was buying those tightly packed Scott Tissue single-ply rolls and only buying a few extras to store. Those suckers last forever, but my husband doesn't like wiping his rear with what he calls scratchy paper. He likes the quilted stuff.

So enter Cottonelle triple layer. It cost me $6.99 at the Factoria Mall Target store.

It's thick, which Dan likes, and dense enough to last and last (which I like). It's not quilted; it's "rippled". Okay, so same thing, really. They call it their longest-lasting roll. I have to remember to use less of it, since three layers is far more absorbant than I am used to from my old scratchy-butt Scott single ply.

My 8 pack is, thus far, lasting as long as a typical 24 pack. I'm quite pleased with my cleverness.

The upshot - less waste (less paper needed per use), less toilet paper rolls to find reuses for, cheaper price than a 24 pack for the same amount of rear-time, and - HUGELY important - takes up less space in my tiny Bellevue studio.

Is this a responsible product? I can say they are trying, but could stand to do better as a company. Here are my expanded thoughts about Cottonelle.

Geek Like Me

Well, it's official. I have a high nerd rating. I know that, although I prefer to call myself a geek according to Dan's Rules of Geekdom. My husband had an 86%, but he is better at math. I'm the artist one in the family. And while I did vote for the Vulcan Ears on the girl, I do suspect she is actually wearing Elvish tips. What, you say? Take your own darn test.

Anyway, here is my score and your chance to see how you rank:

I am nerdier than 83% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bellevue Insider - Life of a MicroSoft Geek

Dan Florio is posting all kinds of life secrets on professional geek work in the high-tech galaxy called Seattle's Eastside.

Here's his blog, titled PolyGeek, and that link goes to his interesting Life of a Geek section. It documents his rise from living in his car while temping as a Capitol Hill Flash Developer, to being hired by the "Evil Empire" (as they call Microsoft here). He's now an X-Box Flash Prototyper. Sounds cool? I think it is. For a gamer it's a dream. And loving his job keeps him - my husband - more agreeable to live with.

If you know anything about Flash design and development, I can somewhat biasedly but also deservedly say, this is a guy to watch.

More on Dan Florio?

Washington Square Updates, Multi-Use and Frank Lloyd Wright

Curious about the new multi-use condominiums going up at Washington Square? Here is a useful tidbit from a local real estate blog:

New Bellevue Condo Complex Previewed [Asset Realty Group, Feb 24 2006]

I love multi-use planning and rezoning initiatives. I don't want to use my car and I like walking everywhere when I need something. According to this blog's resources, Washington Square will have five 20-story multi-use residential highrises.

Well, that explains the huge pit in the ground and the giganto-cranes scoring the skyline.

There will be, according to the blog's sources, "a collection of neighborhood-oriented retail shops and restaurants, a upscale “European-style'’ Zupan’s Market grocery store, an amenities center that includes community meeting rooms and a fitness center, pedestrian walkways, landscaped terrace gardens, underground parking...", yadda yadda yadda. Sounds great to me.

As a Frank Lloyd Wright/Arcosanti devotee, I believe a city should have concentrated use - go high! Go deep! Go long! :-) Pack it in; do it with clean lines and attention to detail, lots of texture and plants and art and fountains. Then leave the greenspaces green, and gradually dispense with the presence of PEOPLE and let wilderness reign. Amen.

Seattle's Educated Population Influx

The Seattle Times just published this interesting article about the impact of educated people moving into the Seattle/Bellevue/Puget Sound metro:

Seattle ranks as nation's best-educated big city

The article states, "Educated Americans are gravitating to the country's big cities, chasing jobs and culture and driving up home prices." It's perfectly true. The cost of living here is exceptionally high. Not as bad as NYC, Aspen or San Fran, but more than LA, DC, Boulder or Atlanta, for example.

I do feel you get what you pay for, here: the Seattle and Bellevue Downtowns are beautiful. There are open spaces and manicured parks everywhere. Incredible access to hiking. Fine dining, waterfront walks, lively museums, free jazz music, cafes/bookstores/wine bars/great food...the whole drill that makes city living so alluring. Bellevue is especially exciting since its growing up as a walkable city. [No, I don't work for the city. I just love it here.]

More info. The US Census page for Bellevue reports the percentage of people with at least a Bachelor's degree or higher is 54%.

I completely buy this. It's like a sense of coming home to find so many like-minded folks in this one area. Such a relief after spending the last decade and a half mostly in Arizona (no offense to that beautiful state, but it DID, as a whole, vote for Bush...).

To sum, as my husband says, "You'd have to be some kind of stupid NOT to move here. :-)"

Friday, April 07, 2006

Urban Living - the Sounds of Nature

There's a little bit of sensory deprivation between the brain and nature when you live in an urban environment. If you have a window that looks out into another bulding, or a wall, or like me you are trapped under plastic tarps and scaffolding (some kind of window renovation here at Belle Arts Apartments), then you need a bit of artificial nature to soothe the soul.

That's my excuse for spending extra money, anyway.

Start with the sounds of nature. You can buy consumer items to re-create nature's little moods and play them after work or all night long.

I went to the Bed, Bath and Beyond at Crossroads Mall. Bought a Homeomedics Nature Alarm Clock - $29.99. It plays the radio, sure, but also gives me choices of Thunder, Summer Night, Rainforest, Rain and Ocean. There's also a button for Waterfall, but everyone who has heard it agrees it's really just White Noise. Which is fine if you like that. I enjoy all the other choices tremendously. Summer Night reminds me of my childhood in Upstate New York.

We also have a nice big, slim profile fan that oscillates. There's a setting for breeze, which is odd, since the sounds that emits is really more like Wind Storm Blowing Outside in the Fields. I like it anyway - there's a cozy feeling to it, plus you get the sensation of an actual breeze (it IS a fan, after all).

Couple the Breeze sound with the clock's rain and you have a the opportunity for a real cozy evening. I would even go so far as to buy a Negative Ion Machine to create that clean, rainstorm feeling. Then turn off the Breeze and the rain and play Summer Night with it' cricket noises and drift to sleep. Ahhhh.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Urban Living - Mini vs Full-size Washer and Dryer

One thing I've discovered from living in the city is that many apartments make great use of small spaces. I always had a full-size washer and dryer. Now, while temporarily in this studio apartment sublet, we have a stacking washer and dryer. And I LOVE it.

It's so much more appropriate to an urban lifestyle. For one, we don't have the room for a lot of clothes, so I have to do more frequent, smaller washes. This is both water and energy wasting in a large washer/dryer set. And if I decide to wait until I have enough clothes for a full load, then I don't have enough clothes left in my wardrobe to wear!

Also along these lines, I don't have the room for a full-size laundry basket anywhere - it simply takes up too much space. I can handle storing a mini-basket for my mini-loads. I just use a 2.5 gallon Readi-Tote from Rite Aid (it was $2.99).

Lastly, and very nicely, is that the dryer is on top of the washer. I never realized how convenient that would be. I don't have to hurt my back bending over, and it's actually far, far easier to actually get the wet stuff into the dryer without dropping anything.

Anyway, it was amazing to realize I prefer a smaller, stacking W/D to the full-size set. I don't have children nor huge laundry loads, and this is the perfect set of conservation-friendly appliances for my husband and myself.

Now I need a mini-dishwasher to wash our four forks every few days... :)

Here is a link to a related topic thread on my Living Simply website at BellaOnline: Have Fun Doing your Laundry.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Clothes for Living in the Rain

I've had to change my attire since moving to Washington. After all, I've spent my entire adult life in Arizona and California. So I am used to open toed shoes and sunglasses and lots of hats and those long yoga pants.

Here in Bellevue, I need closed toed shoes, which I hate. I feel like they trap my feet. And I had to Goodwill-ize all my long yoga pants, since they drag on the ground. That was fine in dry San Diego and arid Arizona. Here the pant bottoms just get muddy, and the capillary action draws the moisture right up my pant leg. Ick.

Back at the Bellevue Goodwill, I found some decent closed toed shoes that I don't hate. And my cargo pants stop at a decent length above my shoes.

It's all about learning to adapt. I still carry my sunglasses around everywhere (really don't need them here, not until summer, I bet). My sun hat lives in my car, ready for imprompu hikes and walks. And now there's an umbrella living in the car - a new creature for me. I keep forgetting to actually USE it.

Don't let anyone tell you it doesn't rain here. Honestly, a good, hard rain is rare. But it does seem to mist and drizzle for weeks on end.

Even so, it's incredibly beautiful here. Once I completely adapt to the Pacific Northwest, I think I won't want to be anywhere else.

Bellevue and the Flowering Trees of Spring

It seems that the last two weeks in March are the peak fruit tree flowering time. Looking around today, the blooms are sadly falling and tiny, pretty green leaves are replacing those once-uproarious bursts of color. The princess pinks of cherry tree and the fluffy clouds of dogwoods.

The yellow forsythias are waaay over - those seemed to start in early February, peaking in early March. I don't see any more crocuses but the daffoldils are bravely standing tall in road medians. All decidious trees are veiled in barest green. I guess spring is really coming to Downtown Bellevue.

Bellevue Stop Lights

Bellevue has the longest stop lights in the world. Or at at least in the US; I can't account for the world. These are lights that you can actually take the time to read something at. Or apply makeup. Or use a pad and pen to make lists and check things off - great for those errand-running days.

Note I am not saying to actually DO these things - you really should pay attention to traffic when you are behind the wheel. Plus, I've noticed that if I do start reading, sometimes I don't notice when the light turns green and I hold everyone else up - an unforgivable sin.

So if I SHOULDN'T be reading, then these lights give me the chance to practice Zen Driving. Slowing down the racing pace of my thoughts. Sometimes it actually works. :-)

I'll try to make a note of which lights seem to take the longest and add those posts here.