Prime Now In Seattle

I was surprised it took this long for Amazon’s “Prime Now” service to arrive in the Seattle area. Back in March Prime Now debuted, and over the next couple of months expanded into several cities, including Austin, Dallas, and Baltimore, but not Amazon’s home city. Well, it is now available in Seattle (and a other locations by zip code) and I’m not sure what to make of it.

I haven’t used it yet. Apparently I need to download an app for my phone in order to take advantage of the service. I don’t know how I feel about this. Why should I need an app to have something delivered to my home? I’m at home, and if I need an item within an hour or two, chances are much greater that I would be more apt to use my computer.

Oh well.

So there is a mobile app to use, and currently there are quite a number or zip codes Prime Now will deliver to here in Seattle with more promised to be on the delivery route soon. Maybe I should type that as “soon” but I think you get the idea.

And yes, I downloaded the app. It downloaded as I typed out the last paragraph. And now I am going to browse it to see if there is anything that I can not live without, and subsequently wait two days for.

First you need to sign in to Amazon, then plug in your zip code. The app presents the user with several headings under which various items are to be found. For The Home, Off To College, Pet Central and Cold Beer are just some of the headings.

I did some comparison shopping, seeing if the prices are any different. From what I saw the prices were the same across the board in every department. Hrm. Maybe I will be using my phone to order a last minute ingredient while the baby is down for nap and I don’t want to wake him to go to the store.

[TAKEN FROM THE PRESS RELEASE]

Prime Now launched in select Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland zip codes today and is expanding rapidly to additional zip codes. Prime members can download the Prime Now app, available on iOS and Android devices, and be notified when the service is available in their area. In Seattle and surrounding areas, Prime Now delivers from8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Two-hour delivery is free and one-hour delivery is available for $7.99.

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Apartments I Have Known

This post is directly inspired by Dawn’s post on her blog.

I graduated high school in 1985 and went into the Army which housed me during my four year stint. Only once did I flirt with the idea of getting an apartment with a couple of friends to live off base, but it never got past the idea stage.

Getting out of the Army in July of 1989 I moved in with my high school best friend and his girlfriend in a house that was on the north edge of First Hill, just south of Capitol Hill. Alright, so it was a house and not an apartment, but you get the idea. This wasn’t the best neighborhood at the time. We could hear gunfire sometimes. The house was alright, and we lived across the street from the house where lived a man who would become the guitarist I would form a band with.

In December of 1989 I moved out to my first actual apartment, living completely on my own and by myself for the first time. It was a one bedroom apartment in an old brick building just off Broadway on Capitol Hill. At one point my best friend from the Army moved to Seattle and crashed on my couch while he searched for a job and apartment. At another point I had 3 roommates, which is probably a story that deserves its own blog post. This was a great place, and the building is now gone making way for the upcoming light rail station that should be coming any decade now.

Some time in 1991 I couldn’t afford to live on my own, those roommates all having long gone (thankfully). I moved into an apartment with the bass player in my band. It was a 2 bedroom affair just a few blocks up the hill from the previous place. It wasn’t a bad place, and I lived there about a year and a half before I couldn’t afford the rent.

Rock bottom. This next place was the worst place I ever lived. After two good apartments I wound up living in a rooming house in the University District. It was a generic house subdivided into 10 separate rooms and a shared kitchen. It was horrible and the less said about it the better. So many things went wrong in my life but I wound up meeting the woman who would be my wife while I lived here, so I can’t wish it away.

Back to Capitol Hill. We moved in together, though she would be in China for much of the time. This was a nice apartment just off Broadway on Capitol Hill, almost in view of my previous one bedroom apartment a couple of years earlier. I don’t remember exactly why we moved out of here – I think the rent went up to a ridiculous amount.

The last apartment I lived in was actually a townhouse that was just up the hill (and down the road from the two-bedroom apartment I shared with the bass player). It was a two bedroom place with a basement. While space was tight, there was enough room for us and we hosted our first Thanksgiving there, which went very poorly. The management of the townhouse complex was lacking, unfortunately. The electrical was still on fuses, if one fuse went out a whole row of like five townhouses would lose power. The final straw was when the owner wanted to sell the individual townhouses as condos for a price that was ludicrous even for the time (1998). So we bought the house we are living in now.

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Boy Scout Camp 2015 – Camp Parsons

Last month Ciárán had his Cub Scout Day Camp, but it wasn’t an overnight affair. Last week it was August’s turn. Only this time it would be drastically different as he had moved on from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. This wasn’t a 5 day camp from 9 to 3, but would go from Sunday to Saturday, and be an overnight affair – and without the cabins we enjoyed at Camp Sheppard.

I took the Millennium Falcon to camp on Sunday, packed with more Boy Scouts than you should ever pack in a closed vehicle. After relying on the teenager in the front passenger seat to relay directions from the map and missing three different turn-offs, we arrived not far behind the rest of the Boy Scout troop.  Camp Parsons is on the Hood Canal, just over an hour’s drive (depending on traffic) from the ferry. It’s well out of the way and offers a number of great opportunities for Boy Scouts to advance, earn merit badges or simply have some fun.

parsons 2015 01 Monday morning saw the beginning of the advancement program where August participated in various skills and bits of knowledge that are needed for advancement. Some of these are raising and lowering the flag (as you can see here) or learning how to find North at night and by that, direction. While he was participating in these morning courses for advancement, he wouldn’t be doing as many merit badges as most of the others in his troop. He was fine with that though, as these pieces for advancement are going to pay off in the long run.

He did get a couple of merit badges though. His first was Fingerprinting, which was a troop activity. I missed getting to watch that because I was busy meeting up with another dad blogger. Phil Corless, a.k.a. Idaho Dad is another Boy Scout parent who has been blogging a lot longer than I have. His son’s Boy Scout troop just happened to be attending Camp Parsons the same we my son’s troop was there.

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One of the major features of Camp Parsons is the fact it is on the Hood Canal, part of the Puget Sound. This means a lot of water activities. One of those activities is a pier jump. The pier is approximately 12 feet above the water, depending on the tide, and the steps leading up to the jump platform add another 4 or 5 feet. August is a decent time to do this because the water has warmed up a bit. However, this is still the Puget Sound.

Being vegetarian I know it can be difficult getting appropriate food. Thankfully the dining hall at Camp Parsons was accommodating to our dietary needs. Not only was the food good but there was plenty of it. This was one of the things August was worried about, and thankfully it wasn’t an issue.

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parsons 2015 04One of the merit badges August worked on was Communications. It took an hour each day of camp and then there are a couple of other requirements he needs to do at home to earn it. It is a good badge to work on as it will be eventually required for him to earn Eagle Scout, which August wants to do. Here is August and his tent-mate who also took the merit badge class working on their homework of creating a presentation to convince the counselor to try their Swidish Fish candy.

A couple of days in the middle of the week I had to return home to watch the kids while Laura prepared her classroom for the next week’s incoming Kindergarteners. I made it back just in time to see just how much rain was being dumped on the camp. Thankfully August’s spirits weren’t dampened.

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We made our way over to the Craft Lodge to work on the Art merit badge, which he earned. It was too bad the camp cancelled the Hullabaloo, a fun competition for the scouts that was scheduled for Friday afternoon, but the threat of lightning was enough to cancel the water activities which in turn meant a great deal of the Hullabaloo was gone. Still, it afforded the opportunity for boys to catch up on some of the other requirements for other merit badges they were working on, or in the case of August start one and then complete it.

One of the things we also did on Friday was to check out the Camp Parsons museum. There are a number of great displays there, starting off with some native people’s artifacts.

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There are a number of great displays showcasing the history of Boy Scouts as well as Camp Parsons and the building is well worth a visit. One shelf is dedicated to old Boy Scout books, including handbooks and novels featuring Boy Scouts. Think Hardy Boys, but with Boy Scouts.

parsons 2015 09Finally it was time to leave on Saturday. We all gathered for the closing ceremonies and said our goodbyes to Camp Parsons. August had a wonderful time and wants to return. The camp will soon celebrate its 100th year of continuous operation and that is a celebration both August and I would like to be a part of.

 

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Music Monday: Frozen (Part 2)

Last week at Boy Scout camp I missed the staff’s production of Frozen while I was back home for a couple of days. August apparently loved it, as it was a very lose adaptation that freely borrowed from other movies and storytelling elements. Kind of a half-parody/half-homage to the film. I heard all about it when I got back to camp on Friday.

frozen soundtrackAs I drove nine (very stinky) Boy Scouts home from camp on Saturday a couple of them started to sing “Let It Go” – rather poorly. The older Boy Scout sitting beside me in the passenger seat slumped down in resignation after trying to get them to stop. I suggested a method of getting them to stop and he agreed to let me try.

I purchased the Frozen soundtrack through Amazon. This meant an MP3 of the soundtrack is available “in the cloud” for whenever I want to listen to it. At a red light I made a couple of swipes and the opening strains of “Frozen Heart” came out of the speakers. It took a little while but the boys stopped singing “Let It Go” by the second verse.

During “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” somebody from the back asked if I had the Frozen soundtrack. I replied that indeed I do and enjoyed the movie quite a bit. The only complain was for “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” where one boy said he hated that song but a couple of others asked him why and he couldn’t give a definitive answer and there was a collective shrug among the group.

By the time we pulled into the parking lot we had listened to most of the vocal numbers, including my favorite.

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Phamily Foto Phriday 8-14-15

Another busy week with a lot going on. We start off while still on vacation in Winthrop. Only our van’s battery died because we accidentally left the cooler plugged in. Whoops. We waited and waited and waited for AAA to come give us a jump start.

8-14-15-1And waited and waited. We had planned to go on a 6 mile hike but our morning was shot so we wound up going on a smaller hike along the river outside of town instead. It was rather informative, educational and fun (if easy to walk).

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Then we went to the smkoejumper base. This was essentially the last thing we did while on vacation and it was fantastic. Highly recommended.

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No, we didn’t get to actually go up in the plane, but that is the very plane the smokejumpers do go up in.

Saturday we got home and frantically unpacked, packed for Boy Scout camp, then we took Déla to her surprise birthday concert.

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Sunday I headed out with August to Boy Scamp camp where he would spend a week in the woods learning a lot of skills and working towards advancement. And having a lot of fun. Here he is working on learning the flag ceremony.

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Here he iss jumping off a pier about 15 feet down into the Hood Canal.

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I had to come home for a couple of day while Laura set up her classroom. One day I turned around and Tevye was sitting quietly “reading” a book.

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The Dinotrux Are Coming

dinotrux promo 1Netflix sent along a box of goodies and a screener of the first episode of “Dinotrux” in order for me to write about the upcoming series. That’s my disclosure, and this isn’t a review, so much as a preview of the series, and I’m sure the “powers that be” are not going to be happy with how I am introducing this whole thing because I’m taking a very long time to actually get to talking about the show. Does this portend poorly for the series? No. Read on.

I had not heard of Dinotrux before getting an email announcing a new animated series would be debuting August 14 exclusively on Netflix. Apparently it is based on a series of children’s books. I haven’t had the chance to check out any of the books yet, so my frame of reference is only what I got to see with this first episode. I don’t know if this is “true” to the source material or freely adapted holding only to the concept.

That concept, however, is certainly something designed to capture the imagination of young viewers. Actually, I’m surprised something like this hasn’t been done before. Yes, there were Dinobots on “Transformers” but that isn’t quite the same thing. Here we have construction (mostly) vehicles mixed with prehistoric animals.

Essentially Ty Rux is the dominant player in the valley until the local volcano decides to erupt and evict the inhabitants. We are introduced to the concept of what a Dinotrux is, and how they survive (eating ore found within certain rocks). While they don’t interact there are no natural predators and prey relationships going on here. This means the traditional carnivorously inspired Dinotrux won’t be going after the traditionally herbivore inspired Dinotrux. This should minimize some of the shock value for the younger viewers.

dinotrux 01While looking for a new place to dwell Ty runs into Revvit, a Reptool (inspired by a reptile) who takes on the role of pulling the thorn out of the lion’s paw. The two become allies, if not friends, and a new residence for Ty is discovered. Of course there is conflict and some resolution. There is a bit of a cooperation type theme going on here as well.

Dreamworks Animation is behind the series and while not as detailed as the recently released on Neflix series “Dragons: Race To The Edge” it sill looks good. The target audience (early elementary and younger) won’t mind. There aren’t any “stars” doing the voice acting, but a couple of familiar names are there if you watch a lot of animated series. So think of “Dinotrux” as secondary offering from the studio – though that isn’t meant to imply it is in any way poorly made. Keep in mind, also, I only saw the first episode.

My 5 year old is eager to watch more episodes. My 8 year old said he would watch the series and my (just about to turn 10) daughter was ambivalent. As for myself I found the episode entertaining enough but I am not the target demographic. When the full season debuts on August 14th I’m sure my 5 year old will begin watching it in earnest and I will not have any objection to it.

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Music Monday: Taylor Swift (Part 2 – Live)

Saturday we came home from vacation and began unpacking. Part of reason we came back was to get ready for myself and August to leave for Boy Scout camp the next morning, but the primary reason for arriving home at the time we did was to take Déla to her birthday surprise.

taylor swift live 2015 01When it was announced tickets would be on sale I talked about it with Laura, and we agreed it would be a great concert for Déla to attend, and it would also fit the bill as her “big” birthday present. And we kept it a secret. We were driving to the concert and she still had no idea what was going on. Actually, we were in line and she still didn’t realized what was going on.

I show her the tickets and I wish I had gotten video of her face. “Wow. Just… wow.”

We tried to get a shirt at the merchandise booth but the line was do long we were in danger of missing some of the main attraction. She said maybe we could come back during the game to see if the line would be shorter. She still didn’t quite understand that it was a full concert and not just an appearance during or after a game.

It wasn’t until we sat down in our seats did she realize what she would be in for.

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I have mentioned before I like Taylor Swift. And I still do. Actually, I think I might like her even more after having seen her in concert. Several times she would talk about being honest to yourself, being a friend and not saying things behind people’s back – and you could tell this wasn’t about addressing things said about her in the media, but about how to be the kind of young woman people aspire to be. She was using her position to positively influence girls and young women to be the kind of person they (should) want to be.

Oh, and the music.

taylor swift live 2015 04Not one country tinged song was to be heard. Yes, many of her previous hits were performed, but none of them had any twang to them. Any lap steel, fiddle or banjo had been stripped away and the new arrangements worked. “Love Story”, “We Are Never Getting Back Together” and “Mean” worked fantastically in their new arrangements. This is a point I had previously mentioned during discussions of music in general: Many really good songs can transcend genre, all it takes is a tweak in arrangement and instrumentation. Taylor Swift proved that with this concert.

taylor swift live 2015 03Everybody was given wristbands upon entry, and instead of some elaborate stage production the audience became part of the light show. At times half the wristbands would light up one color and the other half light up another. At times they would all be one color, or some would flicker then others would creating a twinkling stadium and it really seemed to engage the audience and draw them in more.

A very good time was had. While waiting for her to begin I looked on my phone at Taylor Swift’s website and it appeared all the merchandise in the booth was available online. It wouldn’t be the same as buying it at the concert, but at least she would get the tour shirt she wanted.

taylor swift live 2015 05Taylor Swift took the stage at 8:45 and performed until about 11:15. It took a while to catch a cab, and Déla fell asleep on the way home. She was thrilled to have attended her first “grown up” concert, especially one by her favorite singer.

As for myself? I would certainly see Taylor Swift again, but for me I don’t know if I ever could see her without my daughter. The two of us were singing along to the songs and having a great time.

Together.

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Phamily Foto Phriday 8-7-15

We are currently out of town on vacation. I’ll be posting something about both our summer vacations later on, but here are some of the hilghlights from this week. And yes, a couple off these were posted to Facebook, so they may be familiar to a couple of you.

First off we have my birthday last Friday. I took (most of) the kids to see Inside Out. We were the first ones to arrive in the theater.

8-7-15-1Sunday we drove out to Winthrop. On the way we stopped off at North Cascades National Park. We didn’t get to see much, but it did serve as a bit of a teaser for the rest of the week.

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Tevye was strapped to my back as I took the picture above.

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We arrived in Winthrop and started our vacation in earnest.
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Which of course meant mini-golf. What else would you do in the mountains?

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I took some of the kids on a guided horse back ride as well.

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Ice cream was had almost every day.

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We took a bit of a road trip to visit the Grand Coulee Dam.

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On one of the many hikes we went on the birds got a little aggressive with our snacks.

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The Shafer Museum is easily one of the best things in Winthrop.

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And here is Xavier defending his ice cream cone from a bear.

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Yes You Can

As I type this we are on vacation. I should be relaxing, but I had this idea I wanted to put down before I forgot. Newer parents might be afraid to take their young children on a vacation but it can be done.

Our first order of business is where to stay. And that’s important – stay. Toddlers are not necessarily the best at long road trips. Yes, it can take a long day’s drive to get to your destination, but then the trick is to pick a destination you can get to and then stay put.

A few years ago we took a trip to the Olympic Peninsula. We stayed a few days in a motel room as a base of operations and then took smaller “day trips” out and about the area. This worked relatively well, as Xavier was just a couple of months old and Ciárán was 3 years old. An infant is relatively easy to travel with, and 3 years old is sort of at the “bottom” age of being able to travel well.

Earlier this summer we went to Oregon for a week and we are currently in Winthrop, in the middle of the state. Both places are a decent drive away from Seattle, but both are easily managed in less than a full day’s drive. And the key as I mentioned before is finding a place to stay. And stay we do.

We rent a vacation home because it is cheaper than the two or three motel rooms we would need to rent for each person to have a bed, then there is the fact we are able to cook our own meals and save a bit of money. The real advantage, however, is having a base of operations that allows the kids to spread out and not be stuck in a hotel room, and still put the toddler down for a nap.

Yes, nap.

Our 15 month old takes 2 naps a day. While we are on vacation we plan on him having one solid nap, either in the morning or the afternoon. Sometimes we will do an activity that takes us out in the morning and we will then plan an activity where one of us stays in the house with our toddler in the afternoon as he naps. Then again, sometimes he will just sleep where he is regardless of the schedule.

At times when planning our activities we take into account the nap schedule. We can take a lengthy road trip from where we are staying and Tevye will fall asleep in the car. And we are home in time for dinner and regular bed time as well.

Renting a vacation home for a week is more cost effective and enables a more relaxed vacation for our family than if we got a hotel room or two for just a couple of days. That’s how we are able to do it. And we will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

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Music Monday: Echo & The Bunnymen

echo bunnymen ocean rain1984’s Ocean Rain was one of the first “alternative” albums that I purchased. This was back in 1986 when I was really discovering music that wasn’t on mainstream radio. The album set a sonic atmosphere that I loved and I began exploring other releases from the band. One could describe much of the band’s sound as “moody” – a bit dark, but not oppressively so. Songs can be punctuated by strings or simply have a stark arrangement of guitar, bass and drum.

“The Yo Yo Man”

While I enjoy the previous albums, and the stuff that has come since, Ocean Rain remains my favorite album by Echo & The Bunnymen. However, I must admit to not having heard all of their recent albums. By the time 1987’s self-titled album came out I would consider myself a fan of Echo & The Bunnymen and picked up the album almost immediately upon release. On vinyl, which is only important for reasons I’ll get to in a moment.

“Do It Clean”

I missed out on seeing the band live with their original lineup. The tour in support of the Echo & The Bunnymen album happened without my being aware of any nearby dates (though I was fairly busy being the Army at the time). Then singer Ian McCulloch left the band, the drummer left then died, the band broke up, that was the end of it. Or so I thought.

Echo & The Bunnymen reformed, recorded and released new material, then bassist Les Pattinson quit the band. It was in 2004 that I finally got to see the band, though singer Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant were the only original members left. If I remember correctly, the touring band was five or six members. It was difficult to tell because Ian McCulloch kept complaining about the stage lighting and essentially had the band playing in the dark. While the sound was good, I think the experience soured me on ever wanting to see the band in concert again.

“Make Me Shine”

Here it is, 2015 and I’m getting ready for a vacation with the family. We need some music for the road and since my MP3 player is dead (R.I.P. Zune) I was using my phone. It doesn’t hold as much, but it has enough space to contain enough albums for a couple of days worth of driving.

echo bunnymen self titledSince we have Amazon Prime I was browsing Prime Music to see if there were any albums we might be interested in listening to that I didn’t have on CD and ripped to MP3. The 1987 self-titled Echo & The Bunnymen was available. Since users can download and play Prime Music albums on their mobile devices, I took advantage of this perk and set up this album to listen to on the road.

It has been years, if not nearly a couple of decades since I listened to the self-titled album, and I had kind of forgotten how good it is. While it isn’t, in my opinion, as good as Ocean Rain, it is still a very good album and highly enjoyable.

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