Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Margin Notes: Travel, Fountain, United, Flags

The International Fountain at the Seattle Center puts on impressive shows, though in this 27-December-2010 view it was far from its peak 120-foot height

TORONTO, ONTARIO - As a final follow-up on my recent visit to the Seattle Center, the most interesting scene at the Seattle, Washington tourist attraction is likely the International Fountain. This isn't the fountain I remember from my youth, but a 1995 installation by WET Design that shoots water up to 120 feet in the air in patterns coordinated with music. It may not be the Bellagio in Las Vegas (also a WET installation), but it's worth seeing if you're at the Center--and it even keeps performing in the rain.

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While rain may be the defining characteristic of the Puget Sound region, militant secularism is another. Thus, perhaps it is not surprising that I think I heard "Merry Christmas" or even "Happy Holidays" uttered less often in public that in any time in my lifetime. People were definitely shopping, celebrating, and giving to the Salvation Army, but they weren't greeting each other much when I was around.

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The holiday spirit did not seem to be missing at Customs and Immigration. Both entering the United States and returning to Canada were far more straight-forward than usual in the past few years--some of the basic questions weren't even asked, and the US agent was even polite for the first time in recent memory.

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A United 777 in the new paint scheme prepared to depart Denver, Colorado for Zurich, Switzerland on 22-December-2010

While I also have no complaints about United Airlines for the first time in recent memory (I still had frequent flier miles to use), I encountered a United plane in the post-Continental merger paint scheme for the first time. Frankly, I thought the 777, bound from Denver to Zurich, looked terrible. When the same paint scheme was used by Continental, at least the airline name was in a serif, sophisticated font. The sans serif, all-caps font used by United with the colors looks terrible to me.

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As a final transportation note that I keep neglecting to make on each trip to the Pacific Northwest, the city of Kirkland, Washington deserves credit for the pedestrian flags it places at crosswalks. A holder on each side of the street is filled with flags that pedestrians can use to signal that they want to cross the street and stop traffic. It seems to work quite well--though I still think that Toronto's directions to simply point at the other side of the street seems to accomplish the same thing without all the infrastructure used by Kirkland.

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