Sunday, 2 September 2012

On Seattle area attractions, day two

John's in-laws, Tom and Jeannie live a large and somewhat excentric house in Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle. The house was built by a Conservative Jew (as in he followed the conservative variety of Judaism, not he was a political conservative and a Jew). Most notably, this meant that it had a "double kitchen" to keep milk and meat separate. This means two fridges, two stoves, two dishwashers, etc. Around the time the man was to move in, he became more religious (that is to say devout) to the point that he would no longer drive on the Sabbeth to his "temple" or synagogue, which was on Mercer Island, which is a good hike away. Consequently, he sold the house before he moved in.

(Author's note: Jeannie had used the word "temple" to refer to the synagogue. I was wondering about this word usage. When I looked up "synagogue" in Wikipedia, I was interested to see that this usage is not uncommon among Conservative Jews. Hence it being used in this context.)

The man who bought it made further changes to the structure before moving to California, prior to moving in. He in turn sold it to Tom and Jeannie who then moved in with their offspring, thus becoming the first actual occupants of the house.

Among the features of the dwelling is what amounts to a guest wing, complete with bathroom, video gaming den and kitchen facilities in the form of a microwave and fridge. This area alone is at least as large as my flat. Jeannie has a large number of sisters and her house serves the gathering place for family celebrations. The figure of 23 people being able sleep there was mentionned.

Anyway, I slept in after my first night and got my bearings a little better.

Caitlin's sisters, Molly and Miranda were there, though they were about to return to their respective university towns and one from there was going to "The Gambia". This involved her trying on a number of outfits from India lent by a friend of Jeannie's in order to meet Gambia's Moslem dress code. Some of the outfits were quite beautiful.

We were watched over by Loki, a border collie/Australian shepherd mix which either Molly or Miranda had chosen from a dog shelter. He had been abused by his former owners and was, in Jeannie's terminology, a "pancake dog" when he was adopted. This meant that he was so scared of humans that he would flatten himself completely against the floor. Through love and affection, he was now a very nice if somewhat reserved dog who kept us free from attacks by coyotes or dingos. ;-)

Jeannie drove me over to Tom's workplace at Microsoft's building 99. He works in the hardware R&D department of Microsoft and has been told that if his department's projects succeed more than 60% of the time, then they haven't been pushing far enough. As I understand it, his department is supposed to develop hardware-type technologies for Microsoft. These technologies will then be put into actual products by another department. This means that he gets to "play" in an electronics workshop with all kinds of neat stuff, including 3-D printers. I know that if I were working there, I would run-off a few widgets for my bike in my "spare" time.

I was also struck by how much his job was match for my cousin John as he is something of an electronics tinkerer. I don't know Caitlin that well, but Tom was certainly a fit for John. I voiced this comment to Jeannie and was told that Caitlin does indeed ressemble Tom in the techie respect.

Tom showed me some doohickies that the department had invented. They had demonstrated them to the "brass". The brass had been sufficiently impressed that they wanted to try them out. The demand was such that the department had to build more prototypes! This made me think of an anecdote relating to the Etch-a-sketch. Apparently, the inventors knew they had a hit on their hands when during a flight from A to B, the executives of the company were bickering as to who would get to play with the toy next.

At one point during the visit, I apologized to Tom for the way I was dressed. He said my outfit of khaki cargo pants and a workshirt was pretty much the Microsoft uniform. I agreed but pointed out that I was carrying an iPhone!

After lunch, I was picked up by Reiner, Tom's neighbour. He is a professor emeritus in aeronautics. After helping him and his wife move a couple of metal firepits, he took me to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field. This was a slightly surreal experience. I am an aviation geek, even though I don't enjoy flying. I can identify a huge variety of aircraft at glance. On other hand, at one point, Reiner pointed at a Sikorsky S-62 helicopter in the museum and said: "I worked on the tail boom of that helicopter when I was an intern at Sikorsky. I got to meet the old man Sikorsky while I was there."

Yet, he couldn't identify a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt in the WWII section. It felt very strange. He commented that the plane he liked the most was the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. I observed that the WWII ace Johnnie Johnson had described it as a superb aircraft, "but not to go to war in!" I also mentionned how Canadian pilots referred to it as the "lawndart" on account of it tendency to crash! I hope he wasn't offended.

Towards the end of the visit, he ran out of steam. He left me to go across the road to see some outside exhibits whilst he investigated a B-17. I got to go inside an old Air Force One and a Concorde. I was struck by what seemed to be ten-foot long section immediately aft of the cockpit that looked like it was filled with avionics. I wondered if this was the case, then surely the application of Moore's law would mean than the reduced weight and space of more modern computers could have meant that British Airways and Air France should have increased the size of the passenger cabin by installing newer computers during the Concorde's hiatus following the crash in the year 2000. I also got to look at the first 737 and 747's up close as well as get a close look at tail of a 727 and see it's Cooper vane.

I walked back to the B-17 Reiner was inspecting. He made the observation that when he was young, such aircraft were trying to kill him. By this he meant that as a child, he had been at the wrong end of Allied bombing raids. He was born in Germany and had come to the United States when his father was offered a job working for the Lycoming aircraft engine company. Reiner's father was involved in the design of the T53 turboshaft engine, which powered the early Bell Huey helicopters. Reiner arrived in the United States on January 29, 1954 on the S.S. United States. I mention this as he asked me to look up a bit of trivia relating the S.S. United States. Unfortunately, partly owing to the relatively generic name of the ship, I haven't had any success so far.

It was a fun day.

No comments: