Once again, the Holiday season is all but done with at this point, and the long slog of Winter lies in wait. As it always is, Christmas and the associated festivities that go with it were nice, although they were tempered somewhat by the passing of my Opa about a week and a half before Christmas, and the funeral that went along with it. On one hand, the passing of a loved one (especially one as respected as my Grandfather and the patriarch of the Vanderhoeven family) is a sad occasion, but on the other hand it did also provide a chance to gather together the family (including some of its farther flung members) and showed just how close the family really is even when separated by distance. Since I don’t feel particularly qualified to eulogize my Grandfather properly I think I will just link to this post that I wrote nearly three years ago talking about one of the legacies he left our family in the form of his life story in a book, and to the obituary published in the Deseret News. I can only hope that I will be able to accomplish half as much in my own lifetime as he did in his.
Anyway, adding to the unusual circumstances that have attended this year’s Holiday season is the fact that I have also been in the process of starting a new job, one which puts me much closer to Seattle’s Downtown core than I was over at Amazon. I am now working on a contract at Airbiquity on a project that involves allowing the use of various data services on automotive navigation systems through a smartphone data connection. I’ve noted that there are a number of different companies, both in the Seattle metro area and elsewhere, who seem to be working on this type of thing, so I suspect you’ll be hearing a lot more about this type of technology soon. As a result of this new job, I am now working in a building on Western Avenue in Downtown Seattle, just about a block off the waterfront (and, to be more precise,. roughly across from the Ivar’s.) If you’re familiar with Downtown Seattle, you’ll know that this is also at the bottom of the hill that most of the Downtown core sits on.
And when you work down at the bottom of the hill, you quickly begin to learn that to get just about anywhere that isn’t right on the waterfront from there, you’ve got to go uphill. And believe me, there’s no shortage of uphill in Downtown Seattle. The two large and rather steep stairways you see in the photo above (located at the end of Union street, right next to the Pike Place Market and a few blocks from my new office) are just a couple of the many opportunities that Downtown Seattle offers for gratuitous quantities of vertical elevation gain. And that big climb only gets you up to First Avenue, (Western Avenue is at the top of the shorter first set of stairs) with plenty more where that came from. With as steep as some of the slopes are in Downtown Seattle, even the downhill portions of the walk from the bus stop to the office can be tricky. The closest stop to my office for the 212 bus that I normally ride to work is at Fourth Avenue between Spring and Seneca streets. This walk ends up being a bit less than 1/3 of a mile, but a quick estimate based on checking relative altitudes in Google Earth shows that there’s roughly a 150-foot difference in elevation between Western Avenue and 4th Avenue at Spring Street. That’s taller than the building I’m working in (which is roughly 13 stories tall when the condos at the top of the building are accounted for.) Fortunately to catch a bus out of Seattle at the end of the day I only need to go up to Second Avenue, which is “only” about 70 feet of climbing. I prefer to think of it less as a walk to the bus stop and more as an intense five-minute Cardio session. Either that or I just go to the other stop that’s a bit farther out but doesn’t require quite as much climbing.
Of course, if you know where to look, you can usually manage to find some ways to save yourself some climbing, such as this escalator in the Norton Building going from First to Second Avenue between Columbia and Marion. The hills actually do start to get significantly less steep as you move southward in Downtown (well, Southeast, given the angle of the streets) but as you can see here, you’re still dealing with a pretty decent amount of climbing anyway. It’s one of those things that just becomes a fact of life if you live in Downtown Seattle. Eventually, you start getting to the point where when you go to get lunch or to run some sort of errand you start to think of it less in terms of distance than in terms of how much vertical elevation gain is involved in getting there.
Nonetheless, working in Downtown Seattle, especially on the waterfront, does come with its perks as well, among them the scenery. Back when I was working over at Motricity it was not uncommon to be treated to some spectacular sunsets from the big conference room in our ninth floor offices during the Winter, and the new office has already provided a couple of nice ones as well during the few weeks I’ve been there. In addition to this, we also have the ferries to watch as they come in and out of Colman Dock. The Seattle Waterfront and all its tourist-trappy goodness (or whatever it is they call the stuff these days) also happens to be just next door should we ever feel a sudden urge to go visit Sylvester the Mummy at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop while working on some test cases, and the Pike Place Market is only a few blocks farther than that.
All in all, I’m pretty sure I can think of plenty of worse places to work than this one. And I think I’ve been at a few of them too. If nothing else, at least I should be able to get some exercise out of the deal, right?