Interview with Lee Damon

Hailing from the University of Washington with over 25 years of system administration experience under his belt, Lee Damon might be best known at LISA for his work coordinating the lightning talks. But as a longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, he also has a wealth of knowledge about the area that anyone visiting from out of town would benefit from. He talked with Matt Simmons to share some of these tips with us.

Everyone has heard that Seattle is consistently rainy and overcast. How true is that, and what kind of temperature swings can we expect to see during the middle of November?

The current forecast is for a drier and warmer than normal winter. We will most likely get our usual drizzle but lately we've also been getting stronger storms that are more evocative of other parts of the US.

I won't say that using an umbrella marks you as a tourist because I know some locals who use them, but in general they're more of a bother than they're worth (unless it's one of those unusual heavy rains). Umbrella users tend to get glowered at because the spokes are at eye level and they take up a lot of space on crowded sidewalks. Hats and rain coats/jackets are the generally preferred cover.

It's not really weather but there will be a distinct lack of light here during the conference, and not just because of the constant clouds. We're one of the Northernmost cities in the continental US, and because it will be November, it will probably be dark by the time the conference sessions are over each day. This may explain why caffeine is so popular here.

The LISA14 hotel is Seattle Sheraton downtown. What kinds of things are there to do within walking distance?

That depends on how you define "walking distance." Seattle is a very hilly town. You can walk uphill (east) into Capital Hill for some of the more active nightlife (Belltown and Queen Anne are also good nightlife spots but they're less of a walkable distance).

Downtown (downhill, west of the hotel) is mostly alive during the day. There’s lots of shopping in both boutique and major chain stores. Westlake Park is a fun place for people watching (and from there you can catch the monorail to the Seattle Center, home of the Space Needle).

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Pike Place Market (note: not Pike's Place. It is named for the street it is on, Pike Place.) It is located downhill, west of the hotel, almost all of the way to the waterfront. Not only is it a popular tourist destination, but locals like to shop there too. My favorite spice merchant (World Spice Market) is located near there. Two of the best gelato places (Botega and Procopio's) are there. And the mini-doughnut-shop-of-doom is also there.

Are there any must-tour things in the Seattle area for before or after the conference?

I will be lazy and refer you to this page for most of the in-city things :) Pay special attention to the ferry ride option. It can be a fantastic way to see the area fairly inexpensively.

Farther afield, there are options like the Olympic National Forest (on the peninsula) or going up into the mountains (east of Seattle, usually accessed via car on I-90) for full-day adventures. I can also recommend catching the Amtrak Cascades up to Vancouver BC (bring your passport!) or down to Portland. You can make a day trip of it but it's a very long day. I recommend doing a weekend or other 2-day version if you want to do that.

For the aviation enthusiasts, there are sea planes that you can hire for tours of Seattle or flights to Victoria or Vancouver BC (again, bring your passport or passport card if you're going to Canada). Don't forget the Flight museum at Boeing Field.

I'm told there's another new computer museum somewhere in South Seattle. I haven't had a chance to check it out though.

Any advice for getting to the hotel from the airport or train station?

  • LINK Light Rail: From the airport catch Link Light Rail ($2.50 or so, depending on time - make sure you pay before you get on the train!) to Westlake Station. Then walk about 3 blocks (uphill) to the hotel. The ride on LINK should take about 35 minutes.
  • Amtrak: From the train station ask for directions to "the ID tunnel station" and catch whatever is going north towards Westlake (not to the airport!). If you catch LINK make sure you've pre-paid. Buses will take cash. You're just going a few stops to Westlake then walk a few blocks uphill. You can also just walk from the train station to the hotel. I'd estimate it's about a 25 minute walk with some uphill to deal with. Not something I'd recommend with luggage.
  • Car Service/Taxi: If you don't want to take the bus or LINK you can take Uber/lyft/cab. From the airport it's around $30 (may be more now, I haven't checked recently). From the train station it shouldn't be very much, since it's not a long ride.

Space needle: Worth it?

If you want to Be A Tourist or if you want to eat in the expensive restaurant at the top it probably is.

Any tips on great places to eat at the airport waiting to go home?

We actually have real restaurants at the airport in addition to the usual suspects.

Anthony's is good for breakfast or fish lunches/dinners. It's where I usually go when I have time to kill. It's in the main area with the huge glass wall that lets you watch airport operations in all their glory. There's also an Ivar's in the same area (local clam shack chain). While you're there looking out the huge glass wall, check out the Dilatante Chocolate stand.

With all that information, you should now be all set for your upcoming trip to Seattle! Be sure to check out these lists of recommended restaurants, and for those of you like myself who love a good beer, take a look through Ian Dotson’s list of breweries, brewpubs, and beer bars. Cheers to LISA14!