I’ve spent the last week up in Seattle for a conference. It’s not my first time in the Pacific Northwest (I’ve been to Portland once or thrice) but it is my first time in the Emerald City.

Overall, I’ve had a good time, but there’s been some…bumps…along the way.

First Impressions

Things got off to a rocky start.

A young woman demanded I gave up my seat on the commuter rail in from the airport, not by asking, but by standing in the aisle, glaring at me, and then saying “Well?!”

Later, when I tried to get in an elevator that was about half full, the guy blocking the doorway just stared at me, and refused to let me by, even after I asked him if I could get in.

And I’ll not mention the number of cars that tried to run me over as I was crossing the street (at a crosswalk, with the light green).

This was all the first day. People I met later on (at the conference, when eating out, etc) were cool and friendly, but that first impression…lingers.


I’m not sure what I was expecting Seattle buildings to look like, but I definitely wasn’t expecting this thing, which looks like it’s going to fall over any second now:

Or this, which looks like someone framed out half a building and decided “eh, it’s good enough”:

I mean, I like ’em, they’ve got a cool sci-fi vibe to them. But damned if I can explain ’em.


Ye gods, Seattle is hilly. San Francisco, eat your heart out.

You can see why I never had any trouble meeting my Apple Watch’s Move demands each day.


I’ve discovered December is the wrong time to visit Seattle.

Not when I throw open the curtains in my hotel room, hoping for some morning sun, to find this:

I think I’ve seen the sun once all week. Suddenly I understand how grunge music came from this place.


I can forgive everything, though, for the Museum of Pop Culture.

Housed in another building that looks like it just dropped in from a sci-fi movie lot, this place is amazing. I spent three hours there on Wednesday night, and it still wasn’t enough.

How could it be, when they’ve got original models used in filming Aliens:

And Gimli’s helmet:

And Shuri’s gloves:

They even did up the hall where the Doctor Strange props and costumes are exhibited in mirrors and glass, so it looks like you’ve stepped into the mirror dimension:



I definitely want to come back. There’s a technical bookstore I want to browse, a bunch of machines at the Living Computers museum I want to play with, and too many breweries I want to patronize.

But I’ll wait for the late spring, maybe summer, when I can actually, you know, see things.

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

An odd mix of spot-on observations and disturbing cruelty. Bryson nails the incomprehensibility of the Glasgow accent to American ears in one place, then in another compares an overweight family eating dinner to a group of slow-witted bovines.

It’s refreshing to hear a travel writer be frank about the parts of the country they don’t like, and after living in the UK for two decades Bryson seems to have plenty to complain about. He also doesn’t flinch from talking about his own rudeness, relaying scenes where he browbeat a hotel owner, or insulted a woman’s intelligence because her dog got too close to him. Perhaps to a different audience, in a different time (the book was published in 1995) it comes across as bracing honesty, or even funny, but to me it just made him seem like a bit of a jerk.

Still, his writing voice is strong and pleasant, even when he’s not, and I went through the book quickly. I did manage to learn a few things:

  • Blackpool’s beach isn’t a beach. In a stroke of ketchup-is-a-vegetable genius, Thatcher got around EU beach cleanliness regulations by decreeing that Britain’s resort beaches weren’t beaches at all!
  • As recently as the 70s Liverpool was the second busiest port in the UK, and it used to be the 3rd wealthiest town in Britain.
  • Glasgow won European City of Culture in 1990