Date Archives March 2015

Spotted on the Roadside: The Dinosaur Doctor

Dr Max

While dashing to and fro taking photos for a friend’s ridiculously demanding photo scavenger hunt, I spotted this velociraptor and immediately pulled over. First of all, I wish my orthodontist had been dinosaur themed. Mine had more of a pain theme going on, between the palate expansion and the headgear and the three years of braces and the incorrectly made retainer which shifted my teeth so much overnight that I needed braces for another entire year and the multiple shitty remarks (while my parents were out of the room) about how sad it was to do all of this work on my teeth when it was really my jutting chin that was ruining my face. Because what every child needs to be told by their orthodontist is that they essentially look like a fat Beavis. Ahem, I seem to have gotten a bit off-track. Anyway, I can appreciate a dinosaur themed orthodontist, whether that means that the orthodontist is a dinosaur or that he treats dinosaurs or that he only uses the really old school kind of braces. I’ve also taken the liberty of shooping their statuary with an addition that I believe would make it truly next-level.

Dinosaur dental work

Think about it, Dr. Max!   Spotted on Main St in Monroe, WA.

Seven Hundred Dollars Down The Toilet or Why I’ll Never Buy Another Olympus Anything

olympus omd em10 broken

Last year, I decided to buy a new camera–I wanted something that was more flexible than my ladypocket size point & shoot, but not something so large that I felt like I was lugging around a toddler, so a mirrorless micro 4/3 camera felt like the ideal compromise. A professional photographer friend of a friend suggested the Olympus OMD EM10, so that’s what I bought.

The camera failed for the first time less than a month after purchase. At one point during our visit to Casa Bonita, I shut the camera off, and it wouldn’t turn back on. Even with a fresh battery, it remained unresponsive. It’s been a long day, I thought. I’ve taken a lot of photos, maybe it just needs a rest. Never mind that it’s a piece of electronic equipment and not an overtired toddler. Back at the hotel several hours later, it began operating again. When we got home, I called tech support, and they insinuated that I didn’t know the difference between a fresh battery and a dead one. If I had been smart, I would have insisted on a replacement right then, but I didn’t.

The camera continued to have issues. I could practically guarantee that when I went out of town, at some point, my camera would fail and it would be some time before I could turn it back on. The refractory period (if you will) grew longer with each failure. The longest one, on my trip to San Diego, put it out of commission for over a day. Each failure was so frustrating: I love having photos of things I’ve done and seen, and without it, I can maybe use my phone, maybe. I didn’t want to have to buy another camera along with all of its various accessories just to haul around in case my primary camera decided it was done for the day–between the both of them, I may as well have invested in a full size SLR.

I researched the issue online and it seemed like I was the only person with that problem . I called Olympus customer service again and they said I could send it in at my expense and see if their technicians could diagnose the problem, but not without again strongly indicating that it’s possible that I don’t know the difference between a charged battery and a dead one.

I finally decided that I couldn’t wait any longer and that it wasn’t some form of user error and sent the camera to their repair center on January 5th. They had it for two weeks before they sent me an email stating that they couldn’t find the problem and that they wanted to know if the issue I was having was the “only bad thing” otherwise they were going to send it back. I told them that under no circumstances were they to send it back without resolving this issue and again explained the situations under which the error was most likely to occur. They called me and said they couldn’t find the problem. I called them back and again explained in detail the problem I’d been having and how it could likely be replicated. I tweeted at Olympus on January 23rd, hoping someone there would have the power to exchange my camera since the repair techs were unable to replicate my issue. They replied three days later and told me to call customer service. By that point, I had already emailed the repair agency again, asking them to do an exchange because I absolutely did not want to see the same issue pop up again after it had been in the repair shop for a month. They did not reply. On February 2nd, I checked the status of my repair and saw that my camera had been shipped back. I emailed customer service again and asked if this meant they were able to replicate the issue and fix it, or if they’d sent me a replacement as I’d requested. I received two emails in return: one from the tech stating that the camera was repaired and on its way, and one from Olympus customer service in general stating that it’s not their policy to just replace cameras. I received my camera back from Olympus and the repair notes indicated that they were not able to replicate the issue, but replaced the mainboard, which I guess is their “catchall” repair method.

One month later, my camera failed again with the exact same issue.

It’s not enough to say that I was angry. Furious doesn’t even cover it. At that moment, I was filled with a white hot nuclear rage that could have quite possibly ended the Earth as we know it. Because now, the camera was out of warranty, which meant that I could pay $200 a crack for the privilege of sending the camera BACK to the repair center only to have them not bother to fix it again and send it back to me. I found the thought of this unbearable and I emailed Customer Care and asked for them to do one of two things for me: exchange my camera for a new, working unit, or find a way to refund me for the kit, for the macro lens, for the entire shebang, so I could go and patronize a different company. I tweeted at Olympus incessantly. I thought that through one of these two avenues, I could get a resolution to this issue. The camera failed on Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t receive a response to my email on Thursday or Friday. When I didn’t receive a response to any of my tweets by Sunday (the account was actively tweeting and retweeting the entire period, so it’s not that they weren’t online or checking their mentions), I resolved to call customer service again on Monday morning.

As of Monday morning, my camera was still dead. Either the refractory period had grown to span days or it was simply dead, period–I don’t know. When I called customer service, I asked to be immediately transferred to someone who had the authority to replace my camera. This did not happen and I had to again explain the problem I had and again be told that I probably didn’t know the difference between a fresh battery and a dead one. The CS rep asked if I wanted to send the camera in for repair, and I would like to emphasize that while I remained polite because I know what it’s like to be on the other end of that kind of exchange and also because I’m a decent human being and not a goddamned monster, I told her that the only way I would be shipping the unit in would be for an exchange because I did not want to repeat this cycle. Eventually, I was transferred to a supervisor, and she said that she would be willing to ship me a refurbished unit. I asked why they wouldn’t ship me a new one, and she said that unless the replacement was happening within the first thirty days, they only exchange for refurbished units. Bear in mind that my first failure did occur before the thirty day mark and that their repair center had the camera for nearly thirty days as well, which means that even if my camera had failed on day one, it would have never made it through the repair center fast enough to be replaced with a new unit. I voiced that I was concerned that I’d receive a unit like mine, that was “certified working” from the repair center but still fundamentally broken, and was told that all refurbished units are warrantied for a period of six months. Supposing that a formerly broken camera would be better than the dead one I’d babied for the last year, I agreed to make the exchange.

When my refurb camera arrived, the box rattled in such a way as to indicate that the camera was essentially floating loose inside. This isn’t with a “kid on Christmas morning” sort of shake, but merely with the motion of picking it up and carrying it up the stairs. This meant that it had rattled in its box much more violently all the way from New York to Washington state, getting thrown on trucks and planes, because you know and I know that large carriers don’t have the time to gently pick up and nestle each box in place. When I opened it up, it was a box packed into a larger box (with absolutely no packing material between them). Inside the smaller box (but still much too large for its contents) was the camera and its accessories, the camera encased in one thin layer of bubble wrap, with no other packing materials. Compare this to how a new one is packaged with absolutely no room to rattle and shake, and you’ll understand why this poor packing job doesn’t inspire confidence in the refurb camera or the company as a whole. Hell, UPS made me use six inches of packing material on each side to ship my broken camera to the repair center–and this is the replacement? Also included in the package was a copy of their refurbished unit warranty, which specifies that it only covers 90 days, or half the time I was told by the customer service manager, which at this point feels like an extra dose of “go fuck yourself”.

So I’m still angry. The ridiculous part is that it would have taken so little effort on Olympus’ behalf to make me happy. Replacing the camera when they couldn’t find the issue would have thrilled me above and beyond. It could have made me a loyal customer for life. I’d be talking up and down about how great they are that they acknowledged my problem and made the effort to make things right. Instead, they chose to treat me with suspicion, like I was a liar who was somehow trying to game the system. I cannot for the life of me figure out what I would have stood to gain by sending them a working camera and insisting it was broken, losing the use of it for a month, and getting a bunch of wear and tear on it in the process while they tried to replicate the issue, all in the hopes that they would err on the side of customer service and send me a different working camera. An extended warranty period? Because what the hell else would be the benefit of that? As of today, Olympus never responded to my email about the camera still being broken, or my series of tweets. Acknowledging my problem would have been another solid thing to do, even if it was just to say “I’m sorry, we can’t handle that problem through Twitter but if you call us, we’ll get it sorted.” Demonstrating that you’re ignoring me by continuing to tweet really only served to make me angrier. Hell, even ten more cents worth of packing materials would have made me more confident in the company and the quality of the camera they shipped to me. As it stands, last February I bought a brand new camera for $700, which failed within 30 days, and only after much antagonizing did they agree to exchange it for a camera that someone else broke once upon a time, which arrived rattling in its box like a marble in a jug. I hope this camera works. I hope that it works for a long time. But if it doesn’t, Olympus gave me zero reasons to ever, ever buy something else from them.


*Update:  I just finished charging the battery to test the refurb camera, and the camera doesn’t work. It turns on, but refuses to focus. This is unbelievable.

*Update 2: The Reckoning: After pushing back on Customer Service repeatedly (they insisted that they could only send me a refurb camera but that they didn’t even have any to send so I’d have to send this one in for repairs) they are finally going to make things right with a new camera. I sincerely, sincerely hope that this one does not break in-transit. Otherwise prepare for Update 3: Mellzah ends the Earth.

Blood & Guts & Punch & Pie: St Splatrick’s Day

leprechaun lucky clovers

It blows my mind a little to think that I’ve been throwing parties on nearly every Friday the 13th for the last five years. For the most recent iteration, I invited people over to partake in corned beef, fauxtatoes, Irish cupcakes with three kinds of alcohol, and most importantly, the cult classic movie Leprechaun. Leprechaun, at its surface, is your typical “monster stalks and kills” movie, but it’s also so much more. It’s the story of a “monster” who was robbed of his property, wrongfully imprisoned for years, and his eventual release and his attempts to reacquire that which is his. It’s the story of a “monster” who can’t help but stop to clean a dirty shoe when he sees it, because he knows the importance of grooming and presentation. A “monster” who enjoys riding around in an array of tiny vehicles. I’m going to come right out and say it: the leprechaun is an antihero who got a bad edit.


Out of everyone in the story, the leprechaun’s intentions and goals are by far the clearest and most relatable. Don’t believe me? Your other options are: 1. A guy who went to Ireland to bury his mother and decided to go gold-hunting instead, shipping his treasures back in her urn, presumably having dumped her ashes somewhere along the way to make room 2. The woman who sees her husband holding a handful of gold coins and telling the story of how he got them, and deciding he’s just some goofball drunken liar despite the physical proof right in front of her 3. A man and a woman who appear to be in a winter-spring marriage situation except the old guy is taking his young wife to a filthy abandoned house in the country instead of, I don’t know, literally anywhere else, and the young wife is insufferably obnoxious with roving eyes and then later you find out they’re father and daughter which is even more strange because what are they even doing? 4. A paint crew dude with a sweet mullet and no personality save for making eyes at the daughter 5. A paint crew guy who appears to spend as much time eating paint as he does actually painting 6. The paint crew’s precocious little scamp kid sidekick who works with them? Or something? And they don’t mind when he hits them with slingshot debris and openly flouts labor laws? I don’t even know.

Actually, now that I look at that list of horrible people, I think I’m going to upgrade the leprechaun to full hero status. These people robbed him, trapped him in a crate, cut off his hand, poked out his eye, shot him repeatedly including in the face,  and he still polished their shoes and gave them so many chances to make things right. Sure, he does some light murdering, and a bit of mangling, but on the whole it’s mostly justifiable. lep-92

Man, I hope Warwick Davis has a stunt double.

Spotted on the Roadside: No, no, no Bigfoot here, Sergeant.

Just outside of Index, WA, there’s a drive-through coffee stand (excuse me, Espresso Chalet) marking the spot where part of the 1987 movie Harry and the Hendersons was filmed. I can absolutely see why someone would choose to film there–it’s got a killer view of Mount Index and it feels like you’re way out in the middle of nowhere even though you’re not all that far from sights like the reptile zoo and BBQ bus  (and, you know,  regular civilization stuff). On site, they have a fourteen foot tall Bigfoot waving in passing motorists, and if you stop, you’ll find three others: two tiny and one a short walk down the hill cuddling a raccoon. Along with your latte, you can also buy some genyouuuine Bigfoot hair, which is definitely from a real live Bigfoot and not clipped off of some human’s pubic area or pulled from a shower drain or combed off a dog or something. I myself invested in a Sasquatch field guide which is laden with facts, including how to identify Sasquatch poo, which will be useful on all of those days when I’m out there seriously analyzing poo. Which I guess is something I could do if I wasn’t so interested in doing absolutely anything else other than microanalyzing poo. Still, it has more going for it than the demon field guide. Spotted on Highway 2 near mile marker 36 just past Index-Galena Road in Index, WA.


Nom or Vom: Nilbog Milk

numoo green milk

“Here’s some Nilbog milk. Special milk. High in vitamin content. Here, it’s free. Of course it’s free. We love tourists here in Nilbog. Try some, boy. And have some of your friends drink some also.”

So what do you say, friends? Care to drink some vitamin rich mint vanilla green milk in your latte, on your cereal, or as a tall, refreshing accompaniment to dinner?

Pros: Everybody’s talking about the benefits of green smoothies so this is a way for you to join in without any (shudder) vegetables getting involved, you can make your own shamrock shakes instead of being bound by the St. Patrick’s Day only tyranny of the McDonalds corp, serves double-duty as a breath freshener, the preferred beverage of  the leprechaun council, could make your Lucky Charms more magically delicious

Cons: Green milk looks like it was curdled out of the diseased udder of a zombie cow, may have been squeezed from actual endangered leprechauns, will almost certainly cause you to be eaten by a Nilbog goblin



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Hello, Yellow: The La Conner Daffodil Festival

I took a few more pictures with my old-timey lens and I still don’t know if I like it. Maybe I need to get better at photography in general before I start farting around with toys.

Put a fat bird on it, spruce it up, make it pretty!

My most recent bee-bothering

I’ve been to the tulip festival in Mount Vernon a few times, and while I was aware that earlier in the season there were also fields of irises and daffodils, I hadn’t actually made the trek to go see them until this year. I think that’s the case with a lot of people, as La Conner has recently dubbed the period before the tulips as the official daffodil festival in the effort to extend the flower tourism season. If you plant them, they will come…unless they don’t know about it.

As it turns out, Roozengaarde (the place where you can actually go and buy tulips during the tulip festival) plants more acres of daffodils than tulips–100 acres more! And as a bonus, before the tulips have bloomed, you can easily park in their lot and walk through their gardens for free. Admission is normally $5 so it’s not like you’re saving a ton of money, but it is a handy place to walk through if you want to take some selfies in front of a field of daffodils with Mount Baker in the distance. The effect of so many yellow flowers is undeniably cheery (try to deny it! I dare you!). It’s like spring up and slapped you in the eyeballs in the nicest way possible.

If you want to experience the daffodil festival, they’re holding some events through the month of March, including The Dandy Daffodil Tweed Bike Ride & Picnic which sounds delightful. Plus it’s late enough in the month that you’ll be bicycling around tulips as well!


Spotted on the Roadside: A Rocket to Saturn

As is only right and proper for “the center of the universe”, there’s a rocket smack in the middle of the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. Built from military surplus and originally displayed next to a surplus store in Belltown, the rocket launched to Fremont when its former location was scheduled for demolition in 1991. For the next three years, the rocket lay dormant in a back lot. There was a failed attempt to erect it in 1993, and it wasn’t until 1994 that it was finally reassembled in its current location. The rocket is branded with Fremont’s crest and motto (“De Libertas Quirkas” or “Freedom to be Peculiar”) and for a time, one was able to feed a coin into it and “launch” the rocket with a burst of steam from the bottom. That function is no longer operational and it appears there are no plans to restore it. At one time, there were plans to turn the rocket into a local FM radio station, but they have either been put on hold or abandoned entirely.

Twenty years later, across the street, a developer with roots in Fremont installed a giant fiberglass Saturn on top of his commercial building for the cost of about $25,000. That is some damn expensive whimsy! It’s not just decorative, however–Saturn has solar panels installed on its rings which feed into the building’s electrical grid and allow the planet to glow brightly as another integral element of Fremont’s weird galaxy.

Spotted on Evanston Ave, Seattle, WA.

Snow Day

This winter has been super mild in the PNW.  The only snow we got was one light dusting and even that was gone after a day–heck, it had started melting by the time I bundled up and went outside. (Sorry to rub it in, east coasters!) Spring is on the horizon. The breezes are blowing warmer, the days growing ever so slightly longer, and the frogs living across the street sing me to sleep every night with their lusty croaks. My mind is occupied with thoughts of things that grow. Still, I couldn’t resist one more look back at winter and thumbing my nose at the season.

The Deep Discount Bin: A Field Guide to Demons

a basic demonSummoned by reciting Katy Perry lyrics into the mirror at midnight.

Every once in a while, I will troll the clearance section of Half Price Books and bring something home that’s dirt cheap and looks amusing. While there recently, I found yet another book that I couldn’t possibly leave in the store*: A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits by Carol K Mack and Dinah Mack. You know, another sort of useful, everyday item to have around the house.

Here’s the bad news for you at-home exorcists, demonologists, and aspiring Ghost Adventures cast members: in the guide to identifying basic demons, the book essentially says that anything and everything can be a demon.

Demons, using only their energy, can appear as smoke, as temptresses, animals, grains of sand, flickering lights, blades of grass, or neighbors**.

Now, I would buy that there’s the occasional neighbor out there who is actually a demon in disguise. Demonic possession makes a lot more sense than any other reason I can think of as to why  a former neighbor mowed his entire lawn with a weed whacker over the course of two days in thirty-second spurts. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Either that guy was a demon bent on driving me crazy or he was trying to wipe out his demonic grass infestation. Grains of sand, though? Ain’t no one got time for that. If I accidentally build a demon-inhabited sandcastle, I’m just going to call it Demon Manor and be done with it.  For an identification guide, it’s not very useful. Same deal with fairies:

There is no certainty about their essential form, but the consensus is they are transparent.

Man, whatever would you do without this truly helpful guide?

After the basic introductions to demons and fairies, the book is broken into sections of all of the places that demons can be found: water, mountains, forests, deserts, the home, and the mind. In each section is a smattering of creatures, their history, and how they can be defeated. Once you reach the section about demons of the psyche, however, things start to fall apart as the authors reach further and further for things to include. The Id. Jung’s Shadow. Mr. Hyde. Granted, you are just as likely to run into Mr. Hyde in your bedroom as a tengu or a djinn, but it seems misplaced to include a fictional portrayal of a real mental disorder as a demon you can fight, especially in light of the fact that the mentally ill have long been accused of demonic possession and treated brutally (or even killed) during exorcisms.

I bought this book for a couple of different reasons. I’m deeply into mythology, and I like having books on hand as reference materials for art and for pleasure reading. I wasn’t sure when I bought it if it was going to be a detached compendium of folklore, a painfully earnest guide to demon hunting, or some lighthearted farce. The problem with this book is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be, either. The authors refer to the guide as an essential resource leading one to believe they are in earnest, but then they undermine it with half-assed graspings at things that could only be tangentially related to the subject matter. It’s missing too much to be comprehensive (the authors explain this as making the guide “highly selective”) but at the same time they include things that have no relation to folklore, a “demon” that they blatantly made up, and three different entries on Satan. The result is that it’s hard to use the book as a mythological resource as it’s not clear what is in the actual storytelling history and what they’ve manufactured from whole cloth. Add in the “this is how you disarm and dispell demons” ridiculousness especially as pertains to real mental illness and deep psychological trauma, and the book becomes a hot mess. It would be much more interesting and useful if it was fully a “we believe this is real” field guide or fully a mythological resource, but the half-mocking tone doesn’t serve it either way.

I guess they can’t all be mega-discount winners. Maybe this time the clearance section of Half Price Books trolled me.


*Incidentally, this may lead to my hoarder style undoing, crushed by mountains of my own schadenfreude.

**It’s also possible that this blog post is a demon.