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Started: 2008-12-05 07:59:31

Submitted: 2008-12-08 18:43:25

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On Thanksgiving morning, I woke up early and ran ten kilometers. Traffic was much lighter than it was the previous morning; apparently everyone else was sleeping in on their holiday. Kiesa and I headed to DIA and had some trouble finding parking; signs indicated that the normal Pikes Peak shuttle parking lot was closed and that the overflow Mount Elbert lot was also closed. We looped around the airport, following other lost vehicles, and ended up trying to park in the economy lot at the terminal. That was also full, but the parking attendant told us to park in the garage at the terminal and gave us a piece of paper to tell the parking cashier to charge us the $9/day economy rate rather than the $18/day garage rate. (Normally I would have opted in favor of the $5/day shuttle parking, but it was much easier to get to the terminal from the garage parking.)

We flew an Alaska Airlines 737 to Seattle. Kiesa wanted an aisle seat, so I ended up with a middle seat and was barely able to catch a few fleeting glimpses of Mount Rainier, shrouded in cloud except for sub-peak Little Tahoma, out of the window. In the approach path for SeaTac, I spotted Boeing Field and the Museum of Flight's field of airplanes.

We had forty-five minutes to make our connecting flight to Walla Walla, which was just long enough to grab a muffin at Starbucks on our way to the regional terminal off Concourse C. We boarded the Q400 waiting for us, the biggest prop plane I've flown on. (I've flown on smaller regional jets; this plane seated 70.) Being Thanksgiving afternoon, the plane was nearly empty.

Landing in Walla Walla was interesting; we put down landing gear while still above the clouds, and finally emerged below the clouds a thousand feet above the ground over rolling grain fields. We sat opposite the engine nacelle on the high-wing plane, giving me a great view of the landing gear and the moment the plane touched down.

Dad met us at the airport and drove us to my parents' new house outside College Place. We arrived just in time for Thanksgiving dinner with my nuclear family and significant others.

After eating, I convinced everyone to watch the extended version of my "what I did this summer" slide show. The first version included the ultrasound image of an embryonic Calvin on the last slide. This version started where that one left off, showing my late-summer adventures from August onward.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Dad recruited Willy and I to help him exchange the washing machine for another one in the garage. This turned into an extensive project; we needed to grab a dolly from the Chan Shun Pavilion, which took us to the civil engineering lab on the first floor. I never actually visited the lab as a student, but I had looked into the windows and seen the pit in which structures could be built and students could attach jacks to place stress on the structures.

With the dolly in our possession, we returned to my parents' house and pulled the old washing machine into the garage. Dad decided he needed some washers to secure the connections to the water mains. This involved a visit to College Place's newer-than-my-undergraduate-career Home Depot. With the washers, we lugged the new, front-loading washing machine into the house and Dad was able to attach it to the water mains once again.

I had some downtime Friday afternoon as Mom, Bethany, and Gem ran errands and went shopping for Bethany's wedding in just one month. I amused myself by cropping photos and catching up on the latest happenings on the Internet.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Bethany, Willy, and I talked each other into going to second service at the College University Church. (Everyone's getting delusions of grandeur these days.) It was the first time I had been to church this year, so I wanted to make it count. We walked to church in the late morning mist. I enjoyed the pipe organ music and talking to professors I knew from my undergraduate days. (It's nice to be able to see people I know while visiting my parents.)

After dinner, we walked around College Place to visit Willy's apartment in the Halmark complex and Dad's office in the Chan Shun Pavilion. I got Dad to let me into the fishbowl and I remembered key moments from my time in the fishbowl, eight years past -- studying operating systems with Kiesa, taking a terrible take-home test for physical electronics, and Computer Science Club Gamefest.

Early in the evening, we celebrated fall birthdays. (Kiesa and I were slow in getting birthday gifts for my family, so we got them all together just before Thanksgiving. Shopping for gifts on Pearl Street on Monday felt like I was shopping for Christmas, with everyone's gifts together.) Bethany and Josh wanted to see the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, and they convinced Willy and I to join them. Mom and Dad decided to come along, despite my misgivings on whether my mother would enjoy a James Bond movie. We headed to Walla Walla's only movie theater, which still takes only cash despite being firmly in the twenty-first century (though they do have a yuppie food stamp dispenser in the lobby for those who didn't think they'd need cash in a plastic society). I enjoyed the movie, with its elaborate staging (including an opera staged on Bodensea in Austria), but the action cinematography seemed a bit too close-up and frantic, making it hard to follow who was hitting whom much of the time. I didn't enjoy the movie quite as much as Casino Royale; I'm not convinced that James Bond works as a grittier, Jason Bourne-esque action hero.

Back at my parents' house, Josh wanted to play his Netflixed copy of Nixon, so I pulled out my mother's new DVD player (my father's birthday gift to her, replacing the old one that recently died) and found a flyer reminding me of the day television will die, otherwise known as the digital tv conversion in three months. (My parents are vaguely aware of this but haven't yet taken action to make sure they can still watch television after late February. Willy took the flyer and posted it on the fridge in a desperate attempt to remind them.) With the DVD player installed, we proceeded to watch the first half of the movie until we gave up sometime around midnight.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

After breakfast, we finished watching Nixon. It wasn't really clear how much Anthony Hopkins resembled Richard Nixon, but he seemed to get the mannerisms right: Crossed arms and a scowl that lit up into a broad grin when he entered a room. Bethany and Josh departed for Seattle (after missing most of the second half of the movie) and I grabbed a snack before heading over to Swinyar and Heather's house for some Sunday afternoon gaming. They live two blocks from my parents; Kiesa and I enjoyed the walk through the mid-afternoon mist and gloom to their house.

We toured their baby's room, marveled over the transport system stroller and carseat, and started playing The Pillars of the Earth when the power went out. This cathedral-building game was apparently based on a novel and included a quote from the author expressing his fascination that such a novel-based game was at all possible. The game's mechanics fascinated me; the resolution at the end of each turn all takes place simultaneously but there are never any conflicts.

Before we started playing, the power went out, so Heather pulled out extra candles to illuminate the game. The power returned halfway through the game, before it started to think about getting dark. After the game, we switched to Puerto Rico, which I enjoyed for its game mechanics and strategy, not simply because I won. (I will confess that winning didn't hurt my enjoyment of the game.) We finished in time to head back to my parents' house for supper and one last evening of vacation.

My parents' house felt empty with most of the Thanksgiving guests gone back to their regular lives.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Flying back home on Monday was exciting. Our flight was scheduled to leave Walla Walla at 11:20, but just before we were planning on leaving my parents' house I checked our flight and saw that the flight was delayed ninety minutes due to fog. Kiesa and I watched my Netflixed copy of this year's remake of Get Smart. It was an amusing anecdote to Saturday night's James Bond movie. Our flight was delayed again, giving us enough time to finish the movie, eat lunch, and head to the airport. Checking into Walla Walla was fascinating; it was the smallest airport I've ever flown out of (Pasco being the next smallest airport), so we had to wait to get the attention of the check-in assistant and then the TSA representative who took our checked luggage away to be searched, and then the sole TSA security screener. When we checked in, the Alaska Airlines representative reminded us of our tight connection in Seattle (which we had been worrying about all afternoon) and told us the last flight to Denver was already full.

The flight out of Walla Walla was full. I caught a better view of Mount Rainier as we crossed Washington State, then watched downtown Seattle and tried (but failed) to locate the Seattle Public Library. As we landed, I anxiously checked the time to see how long we would have to make our connecting flight. We disembarked through regional terminal at gate C2 and studied the monitors to figure out where our flight to Denver was leaving. It departed from the end of Concourse D, so we hurried down the concourse in search of Concourse D and our gate. I spotted a clock giving the time as 15:18 PST, giving us seventeen minutes before our flight was scheduled to depart. I wanted to grab a snack in Seattle but we didn't have time. We reached our gate and found our seats with time to spare.

On the flight to Denver, I finished reading Majesterum, the science fiction book club book for next Monday, which I found interesting and probably worthy of discussion. We bought US$5 in-flight snacks featuring little bits and pieces of various snacks that were slightly better than going hungry until we reached Denver.

We landed in Denver and returned home without further incident, in sharp contrast to our mad dash across SeaTac.