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Back to Work

This is my first entry in over a year, so some of you were probably wondering if Id ever update my website again while others were probably hoping I wouldn't! 


Believe it or not, some folks were wondering if I was still alive.  I laughed at an e-mail I got last month.  An Ohio reader named Jim wrote in worried about my health, since I hadnt updated my website in so long.  Thanks for your concern about my well-being, Jimbo, and yes, Im alive and kicking.


So why havent I updated my website in over a year?  One reason is that I watch the lowly Seattle Mariners baseball team play (and lose) each night, which wastes a lot of my time.  Watching the Seattle Mariners play baseball is sort of like seeing a car accident as you slowly drive by:  you know it might be gruesome but you feel compelled to look out of morbid curiosity.  Also, now that I'm back at work, I don't want to bore you with the banalities of my banal everyday life.  So as Yoda might say, spare you I did and thankful you are.



Here are the dwarves from "Snow White" singing Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho  (it's off to work we go).


Another reason I haven't written in a while is that Ive been pretty busy with my new job these last several months.  In December 2004, I moved from Bellingham, Washington to Seattle and went back to work (gasp!) after a three-and-a-half year hiatus.  It feels good to be back in the office and, believe it or not, I actually enjoy putting in long hours again. 


Ever since I went back to work, though, I haven't had much time to update my website because I often work six or seven days a week.  But Ive set aside this entire weekend to post an update.  So read on you must.

A Brief Recap

For those of you who have recently stumbled onto my website or have (wisely) decided not to wade through all 423 pages of it, Ill briefly bring you up to speed:


Back in 2001, I was living in Portland, Oregon and working as a transportation planner and mapping specialist for Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), a large engineering consulting firm.  I was in a comfortable rut but wanted to shake things up, so I left my steady job on my 10-year anniversary and took what was supposed to be an 18-month break to travel.  I planned to return to Portland after my little break and resume my work at PB.


To document my solo travels, I started up this website, which I originally called DelsTrip.  But then I realized that in all lower-case letters, delstrip looked like DelStrip, so to assure my readers (especially the female kind) that I had no intention of stripping, I changed it to DelsJourney.  "Whew," I can hear you readers saying (especially the female kind).


The main goals of my trip were to:

  • Discover my roots by visiting places around the U.S. where my ancestors had lived,

  • Visit Australia and New Zealand, two countries I had always wanted to see,

  • Hopefully inspire others to break out of their own comfortable ruts, and

  • Not to strip, if I could avoid it.

For reasons discussed elsewhere, including and especially the passing of my 79-year old father in late 2002, my 18-month break from reality turned into three plus years.  But now Im gainfully employed once again and am working at a new and interesting job in Seattle while digging myself into another comfortable rut.

The Future of DelsJourney

Now that Ive technically "finished" my trip and have gone back to work, Ive been debating about what to do with my DelsJourney website.  It costs me about $20 a month in hosting fees to keep my website posted (plus, of course, the time and effort spent in creating updates).  Should I keep updating it?  Should I leave it leave it as is but not post any more updates?  Or heck, should I take it down entirely? 


Above:  Updating my website in Brisbane, Australia in April 2002.  This was how I spent seemingly half of my time in Australia posting updates.  I spent the other half traveling so I'd have something to write about.

My original plan back in 2001 when I started DelsJourney.com was to create a basic website where I'd post occasional brief stories and updates, along with a few photos, to keep my friends apprised of my whereabouts as I traveled around America and the world.  I'd just keep it simple. 


Here's what I say in retrospect about that plan:  Yeah Right!  Like so many projects I take on, the website task expanded greatly during the course of my trip and started taking on a life of its own.  Indeed, there were many times during my travels (e.g., Syracuse, New York in August 2001 or Port Douglas, Australia in March 2002) when I had so much to write about that I spent entire weeks just hunkering down with my laptop while creating webpages that described my recent travels.  I wasn't actually doing any traveling, mind you which was the whole point of my trip initially. 


This sort of thing happens to me a lot, by the way, partly because of my semi-obsessive tendencies.  They even have a name for it in the business world:  "Scope Creep."


After I went back to work recently, I started pondering the future of my website like I say.  I thought about all of the time and effort I had spent over these past several years posting stories and figured that maybe, years from now, people who don't know me might enjoy reading about my travels "back in the day."  So after mulling it over, I decided that not only will I keep my website up, I'll continue to update it once in a while but only when there's something interesting to share.  Yes, I can hear the cries of anguish and torment out there from people who wanted me to take it down, and I'm truly sorry.  But since I now get four weeks of vacation each year, I'll be able to take frequent trips to distant shores and that should give me lots more fodder for interesting or at least semi-interesting travel stories.


So, while I won't be updating my DelsJourney website as frequently as I have in the past (sometimes during my travels as often as three times a week), I will keep posting stories here once in a while to keep you informed of my doings, and hopefully for many years to come.  Lucky you, huh?



Above left:  Some shots at my dad's house in Bellingham in 2004:  Here I'm painting the picnic table for the 17th time.  I may be incompetent but I'm also persistent.

Above right:  Celebrating Thanksgiving with my sister Doti (right) and friends in 2004.  I made seven dishes that day.  I also prepared some of the food (har, har).



Above left:  Doing an impression of Darth Vader while installing insulation in the basement.

Above right:  Lila is my sister's cat, but she's best friends with whomever fed her last.  15-year old Lila is curious, insecure, and very lovable.



Left:  After chain-sawing massive spruce trees while working as a ranger in Colorado in the 1980s, I've been reduced to cutting down a small Christmas tree each year with a tiny bow saw.

The Job Hunt

In the spring of 2004, I was living at my dads house in Bellingham and was getting antsy to return to work after taking three years off to travel and do other things.  Well, O.K., I was also getting tired of hauling tons of dirt in a wheelbarrow while landscaping the yard, as well as painting my sisters picnic table 17 times (due to blistering issues please dont ask).  I also looked at my rapidly-dwindling bank account.  Sure nuff, it was time to go back to work.


I was hoping to return to my job with PB in Portland, but there wasnt much work in that office so they couldnt hire me back.  I wasnt worried about finding another good job though, because I had acquired a lot of different technical skills over the years due primarily to my short attention span and inability to focus on any one task.  Given my wide-ranging skills and impressive resume I figured that the job offers would just start rolling in.  In fact, you couldve called me Captain Fearless because I laughed in the face of unemployment and impending homelessness.


Above:  Applying for yet another online job, at my dad's house in Bellingham last summer.  Lila feigned disinterest, of course.

Or maybe Captain Foolish, because my job search turned out to be much tougher than I figured.  That was partly due, Im sure, to the wobbly economy here in the Northwest, still reeling over the dot-com bust.  Without going into details, lets just say that I learned several things during my six-month-and-often-frustrating job hunt, such as:

  • In many ways, looking for a job is like dating, and a job interview is like a first date.  Maybe thats one reason I dont interview very well.  That and my Donald Duck tie.

  • As my dad always told me, its a lot easier to get a job if you already have a job.  How true.

  • Dont rely solely on Internet job postings, because 1). lots of people apply for them and 2). many positions are bogus.  The best way to land a good job is the old-fashioned way, through phone calls and personal contacts.

  • Unfortunately, there are a lot of companies who wont call you back after an interview to let you know whats going on.  Whatever happened to manners?

By November I was getting pretty discouraged with the whole Job Hunt situation.  But then I got a call from my old boss from PB-Portland, whos now in PBs Seattle office.  He heard that I was looking for a position and, knowing my abilities, asked if Id like to do some contract work in Seattle for a few months. 


I drove down to Seattle the next day to talk to him about it, figuring that Id work there for maybe a month or two before moving back to Portland.  As it turned out, though, everyone in the Seattle office that I talked to wanted my help, whether it was in transportation planning, web design, mapping, computer graphics, IT, or technical writing.  Gee, maybe my short attention span was finally paying off!  To my utter amazement, I walked out of the office a few hours later with a permanent job offer.


So instead of moving back to Portland like I had originally planned, I moved to Seattle.  Well, I actually moved to Redmond, which is about 20 miles east of Seattle.  You may have heard of Redmond because its the home of Microsoft and there are lots of high-tech computer geeks running around here with pocket protectors and expensive BMWs (truly the revenge of the nerds).  Even more impressive though, Redmond is the home of actor James Doohan, who portrayed Scotty in the 1960s TV series, Star Trek.  Im sorry to say, though, that Scotty passed away in Redmond a few weeks ago, beaming up to the mother ship for the last time.




Left:  Moving out of my dad's house in Bellingham in December 2004. 




Above left:  And moving into my apartment in Redmond.  This is the 20th city I've lived in.  Good thing I like change.

Above right:  My apartment that day with boxes stacked five-high.  But how do I get to the bathroom?

My Daily Routine

Above:  I work in the the Wells Fargo Building (left) in downtown Seattle.  My office is up there 24 floors.

Bloggers can get into trouble by writing about their jobs, like posting office gossip on their very public websites.  Because of that, Ive been grappling with what to do about my sometimes-opinionated website now that I'm back at work.  I've decided that, as much as possible, Im going to keep my work and my website separate:  Im not going to write much about my job and I won't talk much about my website at work.  But Ill tell you the basics about my new position if youre interested.


My daily routine is pretty much the same.  Each morning after dragging myself out of bed, I walk across the street and catch the 7:45 a.m. bus into downtown Seattle, where I work in the 54-story Wells Fargo Building.  I work with a subsidiary of Parsons Brinckerhoff called PB-Farradyne, which specializes in Intelligent Transportation Systems, or conveying traffic information to the public so they can make better decisions as they travel.  Examples include electronic signs over freeways that display traffic conditions ahead and websites that show traffic information.


Ive been working on two main projects lately:  developing a website for the Florida Department of Transportation and replacing an important-but-aging arterial called the Alaskan Way Viaduct in downtown Seattle, one of the largest construction projects in Washington history.  Theyre both good projects and Ive been learning a lot.  In addition, the folks in the office are fun to work with and I have a nice view of downtown Seattle from my office, which is up on the twenty-fourth floor.


Every evening after work, I catch the 6:15 p.m. bus back to my apartment in Redmond, make dinner, and watch the Seattle Mariners lose.  On most weekends, I go into the office to learn some new skills, then I ride the bus home, make dinner, and watch the Seattle Mariners lose.  So other than the Mariners, things are going well and its good to be back at work.




Left:  Each morning I hop on bus 545 and head into downtown Seattle. 

Got coffee?



Above left:  Approaching Seattle on the bus.  By this time I'm listening to my MP3 player and reading the Seattle Times comics (the most important part of any newspaper).

Above right:  View of the Puget Sound and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains off in the distance.  This is from our Conference Room on the twenty-fourth floor.



Above left:  Here's my cube with a bookshelf stuffed with yellow "Bibles" (The Photoshop Bible, JavaScript Bible, etc.). Yep, I'm a real Bible-thumper.

Above right:  The million-dollar view from my office.  Interstate 5 and the snow-capped Cascade Mountains are in the distance.  The red-roofed building is a historic church which, unfortunately, is scheduled for demolition.  Seattle could learn a lot about historic preservation from cities back east like Boston.



Left:  Volleyball is my favorite sport:  I like to play it, watch it, coach it and photograph it. 

Since moving to Seattle, I've become a University of Washington volleyball fan. 

Here they are (in white) at the 2004 NCAA tournament in Seattle.




Above left:  Head coach Jim McLaughlin, the 2004 National Coach of the Year and a real class act.

Above right:  The UW Huskies (and the perpetually perky mascot, Harry Husky) after another win.  They advanced to the NCAA Final Four where they lost to Stanford, ending the season at 28-3.  We'll get 'em next year!



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