Intro to User Experience

I’ve been improving my user experience of life manifested.

And I’m trying to explain this un-languaged experience in words that other humans can understand.

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Hiking Winchester Mountain & Twin Lakes

I have been debating whether or not to post this trip summary because I’d rather keep this location as much a secret as possible. But, alas, here I am, adding to the internet search results for the majestically scenic Winchester Mountain, atop which lies Winchester Lookout, and at its base, Twin Lakes. For merely the cost of a daily or annual Northwest Forest Pass, hikers can enjoy one of the most idyllic campgrounds I’ve ever been to, or stay a night in a restored fire lookout and wake up to stunning views of the North Cascades. Plus, enjoy the myriad hiking trails that originate from trailheads along the forest road.

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House Projects

As most people know, I’m currently living with my father while I save up and figure out a job and a future and etc. I used to live in the world’s cutest house in the world’s loveliest town and I’ve been reminiscing lately. I dug up these pictures of furniture projects and my old bedroom (plus a few other rooms); they make me miss all my cool thrift and antique store finds (presently packed away in boxes) – but this longing also motivates me to get myself together and work hard towards moving out on my own again!



Living room:


Our library upstairs:

And my favorite roommate:

Video Practice with the Canon 5D

I’ve been saving up to buy a new DSLR camera because I really would like one with HD video. In the meantime, I’ve been borrowing a Canon 5D Mark II from my school and filming random places I go.

Firstly, and most importantly, there is a beautiful little place called Woodstock Farm on Chuckanut Drive, right before that first 90 degree left turn. I can’t really pinpoint it any better than that. I had driven by it many a time and there was construction going on so I couldn’t stop and figure out what it was. When I finally did, I discovered a BREATHTAKINGLY GORGEOUS country estate built in the early 1900s by Cyrus Gates, who would later become known for establishing many of the parks around Bellingham. Though all the buildings are closed to the public, you can still walk the trails and through the fields and on the newly built boardwalk to a scenic overlook. And, as there are only two parking spaces (the city suggests you follow the Interurban Trail or walk from the North Chuckanut Mt. trailhead), there are very few people there so you basically get this whole place to yourself! Anyway, I’ve signed up to volunteer here with general upkeep of the property and so far, it’s been really great (though it’s getting a little too cold).

Here’s a 360 degree view from the middle of one of the “pastures” (more footage of Woodstock Farm is at the end of my 5D Weekend video at the end of this post). NOTE: All of these videos best viewed in hi-def fullscreen, as it is a 1080p outdoor/landscape video:

Secondly, I try to drive on every single road at least once. When I have to sit and look at topo maps all day for class, I’m really just looking up new roads so I can find out where they go (hopefully somewhere scenic). Also on Chuckanut Drive, there is a road called Hiline Road (which has been closed for the months of September and October, but is now open!). Hiline becomes gravel and then becomes Cleator Road and takes you basically straight up hill with only two switchbacks to the top of Chuckanut Mountain. Surprisingly, as there is no signage anywhere, there’s a parking lot with picnic tables and bathrooms! And access to the Chuckanut Ridge Trail. Unfortunately, it was freezing and there was a thin layer of snow but it’s definitely a place to come back to in the spring, perfect for a picnic and a hike.

It was kinda dark/wintery/overexposed/foggy so the visuals aren’t so good but here again is a 360 degree view at the top of Chuckanut Mountain (or rather the parking lot):

And finally, a couple weeks/months ago I filmed my weekend in order to learn all the controls on the 5D and the basic features of Final Cut Pro X. My dad and sister came up to Bellingham and we went to Teddy Bear Cove (also on Chuckanut Drive!) and Woodstock Farm. The next day was just hanging out with friends, trying to make them do cool things for the camera, generally failing.

A Hike to Skyline Divide

Skyline Divide: a really popular trail right off the Mt. Baker Highway (and when I say “right off” I mean the road to it is right off the highway, the road then continues 12 miles up the hillside). It’s a pretty short hike but very steep! There is also still some snow you have to cross. But you really get “bang for your buck” as the views are STUPENDOUS!

Lunch spot!

Haunted Places in Bham: Wardner’s Castle

I did some research on Wardner’s Castle because *drum roll* I’m part of an amateur ghost hunting crew (through KVIK).

I’m really not that confident that there are ghosts. In Bellingham, especially. I just really want to be scared by something and after my high school years where all I watched was Ghost Hunters this is sort of a living out a childhood dream kinda thing.

However, Wardner’s Castle is legit.

This guy, named James Wardner, made tons of money mining silver in Idaho, moved to Bellingham, and built himself a gigantic mansion.

He also bought Eliza Island (one of the San Juans) and told everyone he was planning to use it for the “Black Cat Consolidated Co.” His business plan: find stray black cats (free), raise them on the island, then skin them and sell their fur as “seal fur” for a lucrative profit. To sustain the population, he’d feed the dead cats to the live cats, with maybe some salmon on the side. (This probably didn’t actually happen but) The whole country freaked out and there were articles about him from coast to coast talking about what an awful person he was. Anyway, that’s why there is now a “black cat” (ou Le Chat Noir) restaurant in Fairhaven. And, according to local legend, a healthy supply of stray black cats in the area.

Story #2: So there was a couple who lived in the house during the 1980s. They commissioned this local artist named Laura to paint a mural on all of the third floor. Meaning every wall. Every single one.

That’s the artist with her creation. The painting showcased all the “spirits” who haunted the house or had some connection to it. She thoughtfully included black cats everywhere and ghost ships and Eliza Island. And a disembodied hand that represented the artists’ dead father who drowned in Bellingham Bay while she was painting it. She also painted herself into the mural, right at the top of the stairs (where she’s sitting in the picture), inviting everyone to come see the mural. She dies in a car accident a few days after finishing her painting.

FAST FORWARD: The couple sells the house to a guy who makes it into a bed and breakfast (Castle Gate House B&B). He thinks the mural a little too creepy and not so appropriate for a B&B (rightly so) and covers all of the third floor in a new layer of drywall and a normal solid color on all the walls. Soon after completion, “paranormal activity” begins to occur and the guy gets freaked out. He asks for advice and is told that Laura the artist is angry that no one can appreciate her artwork anymore. He decides, he really truly decides, that the BEST, the most NORMAL idea would be to uncover the part of the mural that shows her face. Just her face. Not even her whole face.

WTF. This is now the image that awaits you at the top of the third floor stairs. I can’t wait to do a ghost hunt here (cross your fingers).

I Donate Plasma

If you are a college student, and would like to make extra money while “saving a life,” you should consider donating plasma.

I’ve now donated five times. It’s really easy and I’ve made approximately $170.

This is plasma. And here’s a quick summary from Wikipedia: Plasma is the yellow liquid in which blood cells are suspended and it makes up about 55% of your blood. It is 90% water and also contains proteins, clotting factors, etc. Plasma is used to manufacture medicines to treat immune system disorders.

The process is very simple. Basically, whenever I feel like it, I head over to my local Bio Life Plasma Center. The first time you go you have to go through a medical screening to make sure you are healthy. This takes an extra hour. A normal donation will take 45 to 90 minutes. I have super small veins and therefore must pump blood really slowly so it takes me an extra long time. But this probably won’t happen to you. Anyway, on a normal donation, you scan your fingerprint, answer a couple questions (Have you taken illegal drugs using a needle in the past week… Have you gotten a tattoo in the last 6 months… etc) and then a “nurse” (I don’t know what to call them) checks to make sure you’re ok to donate. This means checking your blood pressure and pricking your finger to test your blood’s protein and iron levels. Then you proceed to the donation area (which is a giant room with about 60 half-bed half-chair contraptions). You choose a chair based on your donation arm of choice and a “nurse” will come over to help you.

(People don’t actually look like that or this would be a frightening experience. I blurred the faces.) Basically a needle is inserted in your vein (I look away and distract myself during this part because the idea of needles makes me sick although the actual process doesn’t really hurt) and then blood is pumped out, spun around and the plasma is separated, and then pumped back into your arm. This happens about 6 times. Pretend I look like this:

I hate the thought and appearance of needles. But for the sake of blog expression, this is what the plasma donating setup looks like.

Then you’re done! And you get an injection of saline to replenish your bodily fluids which makes you feel super cold and tingly. You check out and receive money on your “plasma debit card.” Hooray!

Oyster Dome Hike!

Being a huge fan of scenic vistas, I decided that I absolutely must do the famed Oyster Dome hike.

But I did it the sneaky way (cutting 2 miles off the total RT distance). There’s a road to the Samish Overlook, just off the freeway at exit 240 – Alger. Head west on Lake Samish Road, then take a left onto Barrel Springs Road. There is a gravel road with a small “Blanchard Mountain Trails” sign, or some arrangement of those words, and you follow this road (avoiding potholes) and the signs pointing towards the Samish Overlook for about ~8 miles? This is just a guess, I could be totally wrong. The point is, you will arrive and you will know that you are there.

The overlook is SO COOL! Apparently it’s a common place for hang gliding/paragliding. AND BOY DO I WANT TO TRY THAT!!! I don’t want to ruin the Oyster Dome hike but… it’s honestly the same view from the overlook as it is at the top. But it is quite enjoyable to hike I suppose and you are higher in elevation so technically you do see more… ANYWAY:

Chuckanut Drive!

The trail leaves the overlook parking lot, meeting up with the Chuckanut Drive trail after about 0.5 m. It is an option to park on Chuckanut and start the hike from there but it’s an extra mile of walking straight uphill, so don’t. The trail continues through the woods. It’s pretty well-marked except when you get to the last fork (hint: go left at the unmarked fork). Only one part of the hike is a real hardcore non-stop super climb, but the rest is fairly gradual. There are many stream crossings and mud though. But the parts that are uphill are usually just a conglomerate of rocks and roots that you must figure out how to maneuver up. Far harder on the way down than the way up. This hike took me 1.25 hours. I would rate the hike “moderately easy” though I’m not sure what I would rate as hard. My scale is flawed. If it is possible for me to do it, I consider it in the range of easy to moderate.

The beginning.

One of many.

The top!

There is a rocky outcrop at the top and it appears as though it is a common spot for rock climbers as there was rock climbing equipment everywhere. At the top (like at the Samish Overlook…) there is a commanding view of the Skagit Valley, the San Juan Islands, and the Olympic Mountains. Seeing farmland from above is really cool, like a giant patchwork of vegetable matter. LOVE IT. You can also smell the shellfish farms (the TAYLOR Shellfish Farms…) which is really bizarre when you are so far up a mountain and in the deep forest.

Talus pile; there is an optional side trail to this. Apparently there are caves. And bats. I didn’t go.

It took me 45 minutes to get back to the parking lot. Lovely day. By the way, I didn’t see a single other person until I was about halfway down on the return trip. That’s what I like about early morning hiking; you get a whole entire mountain to yourself. But really these photos are sort of making me depressed. They in no way capture the amazing view that is the Samish Overlook/Oyster Dome. You’ll have to just go there yourself.

Sorta figured out how to do panorama photos.
Although this is not ideal.