Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sleepless in Seattle

Seattle skyline

Last Wednesday Arthur flew to Seattle for work and his boss (thank you Eli and Optibase, Ltd.) generously flew me in on Thursday evening for the weekend. We've never been to Seattle before and we didn't have Maor saying "I'm not going to any museums!" so it promised to be a nice getaway. [I'm not saying I don't miss Maor, just that it's nice to be able to decide what to do without listening to her whine, scream, complain... you get the picture.]

Friday morning we woke up early and drove to Everett, 25 miles North of Seattle and home to the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour. This is the actual Boeing factory where they build airplanes, specifically 747s, 767s, 777s, and their new 787 - Dreamliner, the first of which is slated to be "delivered" to ANA airlines, Japan, in Q4 of 2009. Boeing's 737s are built at the Renton, WA plant, and these two factories make Boeing Washington State's largest employer.

On the tour (no cameras allowed) they take you into the factory where the planes are built and it is extremely cool, even if you have two x chromosomes. I decided it's definitely cooler to work there than at Yahoo and you know how I feel about working about Yahoo (Although Boeing doesn't have Beantrees coffee they do have six Tully's coffee shops to keep their employees awake - which is always useful when you're building airplanes).

The factory at Everett is comprised of six hangars, and is huge - all of Disneyland AND 12 acres of covered parking would fit inside. The doors of hangars five and six are each the size of a football (that's American football) field! Workers can sign out bicycles to get around INSIDE the factory! Before there was an air recirculation system, the factory was its own weather system - including rain INSIDE the factory. The temperature at top of the factory reaches 100°F and they need to rotate the workers who operate the cranes that move the planes every couple of hours because of the heat.

In case you were thinking of picking up a souvenir at Boeing, the sticker price of a 747-400 is $225 million. All the planes Boeing makes are custom ordered and there are 600 customization options. The new model, the 747-800 has a sticker price of $283 million. There are 19 747-400's on order and after that production will stop and only the newer model will be manufactured. Each model number designates some sort of upgrade. The most expensive part of the plane is the engine and the second most expensive piece of equipment on the plane is the landing gear.

We saw various planes and parts of planes being made, attached, and tested. There were two 777s for Emirates Airlines in the finishing slots.

Boeing's latest and newest airplane is the 787 Dreamliner. It is smaller than a 747 (at the request of the airlines) and can have nine or ten seats across. It is made of composite materials which means it will be lighter, cheaper (sticker price: $148 million), and more efficient. The Dreamliner will be roomier, have bigger windows (and no more of those window shades - a more high tech system will be used), and because they are not worried about rust (due to the composite materials) there will be more humidity inside the cabin. Also, the cabin will be pressurized to 6000 feet instead of 8500 feet. All this is supposed to lead to a more comfortable flight experience for travelers (now if only we could take more than 3oz of liquid in a ziploc bag on the plane!). The wings will be much more flexible and this is supposed to reduce turbulence by 30%. Nine hundred of these planes have already been pre-ordered. There are six prototypes and the seventh will be the first one actually released in 2009. Two of the 787s are put through rigorous testing and are destroyed at the end of the process. One is tested by having landings and takeoffs simulated so they see how it manages under this stress. The other is subjected to general stress and the last thing they do is fold the wings in half upwards until they break! The 787s wings are so flexible that Boeing is not actually sure the wings can/will break!

Finally, we saw the three hangars where the planes are painted. Paint apparently adds 600-1200 pounds to the weight of the plane! The paint is applied electrostatically which means the plane is charged one way (I can't remember positive or negative) and the paint is charged the opposite way and this makes them stick to eachother. Please do not ask for a more in depth explanation - I'm an English major, not an engineer. Anyway, darker paints weigh more and that is why most planes are a light color and dark colors are used for the trim.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed the Boeing tour. And if I was this enthused you can just imagine how much Arthur liked it (though he's not as effusive as I am).

We then headed over to Albertsons to buy food for Shabbat before driving to the hotel. Our room wasn't ready yet so we left everything in the car and took a bus to the Underground Tour. underground-tour

This tour which is extremely popular gives you an irreverent look at Seattle's early history and is basically a hokey stand up routine heavy on the bathroom humor. But it was still fun.

We then headed back to the hotel since even in the west, Shabbat eventually arrives. Quiet night of reading before going to sleep.

Shabbat morning after breakfast we walked over to the Olympic Sculpture Park which is on the waterfront overlooking Puget Sound. We then sat by the water and watched many interesting looking people heading into Myrtle Edwards Park while a few Jesus freaks screamed about redemption and saving your souls. It was very entertaining to watch and eventually I asked a woman handing out brochures about vegetarianism and veganism what was going on in the park. Hempfest, whose objective is to "educate the public on the myriad of potential benefits offered by the Cannabis plant" was going on Saturday and Sunday. Well, that explained both the preachers and the heavily decorated people heading into the park. I don't think I've ever seen so much tye-dye, piercings, goth, and dreadlocks in one place before.

After lunch, I left Arthur napping and took a half hour walk to the central branch of the Seattle Public Library. seattle public library Yes, I know, I'm a geek but in my defense let me just say that this library has won architectural awards and I've read about it on my various library blogs and I wanted to see it and I'm going to stop apologizing now.

If you live in the U.S. and you haven't visited your local public library lately, I'd like to give you some reasons why you should.

1. You've already paid for it. If you're a law-abiding tax paying citizen your hard earned money is being used to fund public libraries. Wouldn't you like to see where your money is going and what it's being used for?

2. The list price of a new book like Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn is $23.00 on Amazon or Barnes and Noble (though they are both selling it for less - $12.64 and $16.09 respectively). Yes, it's true that you probably won't be the first to read it if you borrow it from the library since there's probably a waiting list, but think about how many cappuccinos (or your choice of poison) you could buy with the money you save.

3. You can also borrow movie dvds, tv series (both old and new), audiobooks, audio cds, computer programs, and magazines from the library.

4. Most libraries participate in interlibrary loan so if your library system doesn't have the book you want they can borrow it for you from a library in another city or state.

5. Libraries have subscriptions to electronic databases on a myriad of subjects that you can access with your library card. If you're not sure what an electronic database is, see #12 below.

6. Many libraries let you download audio, audiobooks and even videos with your library card.

7. Most libraries sell books through their friends of the library association so if you really want to own your books you can buy them for under $2.00 (thanks for reminding me Baila).

8. Libraries host events including author book readings, storytime for children, crafts classes, lectures on a variety of subjects including art and business, computer classes, and even Wii for kids in the summer.

9. When the summer is over, libraries offer homework help for students.

10. Many libraries are being renovated and they are architecturally appealing buildings incorporating art displays and whimsical features - and they offer free tours to highlight these features.

11. Libraries offer internet access to one and all. All you need is a library card.

12. Librarians are knowledgeable, helpful, and according to the NY Times, even cool! Let them show you how to find reliable information online or just recommend a great book to read.

Walked back to the hotel, finished my book, had a brief nap, and when Shabbat was over we walked over to the Space Needle. This symbol of the 1962 World's Fair is 520 feet tall and offers a panoramic view of Seattle and its surroundings. Arthur wasn't thrilled about going up (can you say fear of heights) and in truth neither was I but how can you be in Seattle and not go to the Space Needle? It really wasn't that bad - the elevator ride up takes about 10 seconds and I think it's better in the dark. It is a beautiful view and if you don't look directly down it's fine. We then returned to the hotel to watch Michael Phelps win his eighth gold medal of the 2008 Olympics and beat Mark Spitz's record.

Sunday morning we visited the Experience Music Project|Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. The Experience Music Project has exhibits on guitars, Jimi Hendrix (raised in Seattle by his grandparents he's considered a native son), a sound lab to try your hand at playing piano, drums, guitar, bass, and an oral history exhibit including 100 interviews with personalities from the music or pop culture world. The Science Fiction Museum showcases the history of science fiction and included memorabilia from Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and ET.

We had lunch at the Bamboo Garden, a kosher chinese vegetarian (almost vegan) restaurant. I managed to find something that I would eat which is no small feat for me (Judy - stop laughing!).

We messed up a bit with our time management and didn't really have enough time to do something else so we went to the airport to try and get on an earlier flight. In the end of course there was only one seat available so we hung out and waited for our flight. Our flight was running about half an hour late and then when we finally started taxiing to the runway they tell us that the #2 engine wouldn't fire up so we had to go back to the gate. At first they were going to switch planes but in the end they managed to fix the problem (the starter) and we were off two hours late. Despite seeing them put planes together at Boeing I was not thrilled about traveling on a just fixed plane. Or as I said to Arthur who couldn't understand why I was uptight, "haven't you ever taken your car to the mechanic and he says he fixed the problem but two hours later the engine light goes on again?" Luckily we made it home okay, picked up our car in the long term lot in SFO, and made it home by about 12:30. Arthur had just enough time to unpack, repack, and have a quick nap before a cab came to pick him up for his flight to Virginia Monday morning.

He'll be back on Thursday and then Maor comes home on Monday. I cannot believe that the summer is over. Next week Maor and I will both be hitting the school books and I'll be back to carpooling.

A few final observations about Seattle:

1. Everyone says that the weather there is rainy (or as the tour guide at Boeing said: "we have two seasons, winter and August") but it was quite nice for us. If it weren't for the supposed rain I could definitely see living in Seattle.

2. I have never seen so many homeless or strange looking people as in Seattle (and I live an hour south of San Francisco!). Men in kilts, rainbow hued hair, piercings, etc. - yes I see this all the time in San Jose (and at Yahoo) but not in these quantities.

3. As befitting the birthplace of Starbucks, Seattle seems to have tons of coffee chains. Starbucks, Tully's, Seattle's Best Coffee - the city's residents and visitors are in no danger of ever being caffeine deprived.

Finally, you can see a map of the places we visited in Seattle.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Summer days drifting away...

Yes, I've been incredibly lazy about blogging. The truth is, nothing all that exciting is going on. Lazy summer days which are going by all too quickly. I suddenly realized that my new semester starts in 3 weeks (yikes) so I ordered my books for school. Once again I'll be taking 3 classes and stressing out about it so I can finish my degree before returning to Israel.

The biggest news is that Maor is off in Israel for a month. In July she mostly vegged out, did some math classes, and took swimming lessons at the Y. July 25th I flew down to Los Angeles with her and checked her in as an unaccompanied minor so she can spend August on Zufim. El Al was more of a balagan than I remember and of course some Israeli guy behind me complained/yelled at me because I "let" someone go ahead of me at check in. At the gate they motioned to us to come over and while waiting to show her passport and boarding pass I said to Maor, "prepare yourself emotionally."

"Why," she asked.

"Because I'm going to give you a kiss"

"No you're not," she protested.

So as I tried to kiss her and she pulled away the El Al security guy said to her in Hebrew, "nu, give her a kiss already." So she grudgingly let me kiss her and off she went.

The truth is I wasn't nervous about sending her alone. My parents shipped me off to Israel alone when I was 11 1/2 and I didn't know any of my relatives in Israel.

And she is having a great time so far. She's being well taken care of (thank you everybody) and she even remembered to call all the relatives right away. I hope she's also doing her math work so if you're in Israel and you see Maor, please ask/nag her about doing her math sheets so Mrs. Levy doesn't call me the first week of school!

The first week Maor was away so was Arthur which meant for 4 glorious days I had total autonomy over the remote control. It was a very exciting experience.

My job is still amazing! I've been at Yahoo for three months and I love it! Since I'm good at judging sites I've been chosen with about 15 others to become spotcheckers. That means that we will be doing less judging of sites and we will be checking the judgments that others make. Supposedly we will be hated by our peers (at least some of them) which is always fun. Today we got the final word that we passed the spotchecking training. And one of the project managers came to talk to me. He said that they want me on the spotchecking team but there's some concern that I'm abrasive. Me! Abrasive! Can you believe that? I think I know who ratted me out and it annoys me. Abrasive! You think the combination of being a born and bred New Yorker followed by living in Israel for 18 years has something to do with it? Me, abrasive! I am deeply wounded. I assured him that I can do nice when I need to. Ugh. Touchy-feely Californians. For the record, I may be cynical, obnoxious at times, outspoken, but I am NOT abrasive!

Since Arthur has been traveling so much (or for some other unknown reason) Arthur's boss offered to fly me for a weekend with Arthur. We were going to do it last weekend but Arthur couldn't change his ticket so we will be spending Shabbat Nachamu in Seattle, someplace we haven't been. And since Maor will not be with us, we can go to whatever museums or tourist traps we want without listening to her complain and whine. Hopefully, I will have pictures to post when we get back.

I posted my pictures from Yosemite on Facebook, my favorite new time waster.

That's really it for now. I am hoping that my addiction to the coffee at Yahoo doesn't it make it harder to fast on Sunday though I am quite worried about it.

"All who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will merit the celebration of her rebirth..."

כל המתאבל על חורבנה של ירושלים זוכה ורואה בבנינה