News from October 2004

Backpacking, Part 0: REI Adventures

Occurred October 01, 2004 (Permalink)

Early in the week, my hiking partners-in-crime Lara and David announced that they wanted to go backpacking around Mt. Jefferson during the first weekend in October. At first I declined the invitation on the grounds that I lacked the time to pull everything together, as I've not been (car-)camping in years and have never backpacked before, and didn't bring any equipment from California. Luckily, my boss gave me Friday afternoon off, so I had enough time to change my plans, jump into the trip, drive to REI to get some gear, and pack things up.

Friday afternoon comes and I depart down I-5 to REI in Tualatin. I nearly got nailed by a piece of metal that comes flying at me at 60mph; suspiciously, there were several cars about 0.25miles down the road with flat tires. Anyway, I arrive at REI safely and start looking at sleeping bags, backpacks, water bottles, gloves, hats and pads. Decided that I'd try to go with the lightest gear possible and a pack that was cavernous to hold all the stuff that I'd need.

I settled upon a dark blue North Face mummy-style sleeping bag, a matching pack from Gregory (with a nifty water-bottle holder to boot!), a hard plastic Nalgene water bottle, a bright orange pad and black gloves and a black hat. According to David I looked like quite the professional, despite the fact that I know nothing! <grin>

Proceeding southwards, I went to Woodburn to see the London Fog outlet store and look at trench coats. When I got there, I saw a big sign in the middle of weeds: "COMING SOON IN 2004!" Wonderful. My trip thus shortened, I headed back to Beaverton and got some food supplies at Haagen. Strangely, I was in charge of sugary snacky foods. A good thing too, because I remembered to get marshmellows. That was a good call.

Backpacking, Part 1: Driving to the Whitewater Trail Head

Occurred October 02, 2004 (Permalink)

At 6:00 I woke up and packed my backpack. At 6:30 the fire alarms went off, trapping me outside in the freezing cold for an hour. Luckily for me, the group had not departed without me, so I threw as many things as I could remember into the car and hurriedly drove off towards our meeting point in SE. Amazingly, I only forgot my water bottle (borrowed one from Lara) and my eyeglass case (Eliza's tent had a pocket for it). When I finally made it to the rendezvous, there were four people waiting for me: Lara, David, Ana and Eliza--the peole I had met at Powell's a month ago. It looked like this was going to be a fun trip!

As is becoming customary, the five of us piled into David's old pickup truck and we drove off (actually, the _truck_ drove) in a southeasterly direction on SR213. We passed a whole lot of farms, the Oregon Gardens outside Molalla, and other things I wasn't awake for before we stopped in Silverton for brunch. Brunch was good: omelettes and coffee from an almost comically grouchy waitress who didn't seem to want to be there. To top it off, we got a parking ticket. :P

Several grumbles and meter-maid catcalls later, we set out on SR214 towards highway 22. We stopped in a gas station that gave us a fistful of scratch-and-win tickets, but the tickets were so thin that I could see the "Try Again!" written on all of them. The ladies didn't believe that I could see through them, so they scratched all eight of them while David and I zoomed down the highway, snickering to ourselves.

Forty miles later, I woke up as we were passing through Detroit. This town is a small middle-of-nowhere town that feeds the logging industry in the spring and the fall and rich boaters in the summer. Turns out that the Army Corps of Engineers built Detroit dam for no reason in the 1950s, thereby flooding the first Detroit and causing the second one to be built. Strange. More on this weird little town later.

It turns out that David is very familiar with the Santiam river area, as two of his water sampling stations are nearby. David, of course, is a hydrologist, so he goes out here frequently. He showed us one of his little roadside stations--literally it's a concrete shack that has a lot of measuring equipment in it--cloudiness, pH, etc. There's also a cable strung across the river with a car attached to it, so that he can venture out over the river and gather data about various parts of the river. Very cool.

We turned onto a gravel road (SR2243) and began the climb to the trailhead. After about two million rocks clinked off the truck's underside, we reached the trailhead. It was time to finalize the arrangement of our backpacks...and we were off!

Backpacking, Part 2: Up the Pacific Coast Trail

Occurred October 02, 2004 (Permalink)

These are the results of my attempts to feed my shutterbug addiction while hiking up to Jefferson Park on Saturday afternoon. We set out from the parking lot, hiked up several switchbacks to the Pacific Crest Trail and followed it all the way to Jefferson Park. Along the way, we saw quite a few mushrooms, much to the delight of everyone involved! (aa020005, 08, 13-15, and 60) The trail snaked higher and higher, affording us spectacular views of Mt. Jefferson and many other mountains of the Cascade Range. The air was a bit hazy, but I think we could see mountains for about 50-60 miles.

I snapped pictures of as many natural phenomena as I could. Unfortunately, backpacking can be a physically strenuous activity; when tired, my hands can shake a bit. Fortunately, the trail was not too steep and the abundant sunlight shortened exposure times to the point where they became a non-issue. In the above-linked album, there are pictures of rockslides (aa020024, 36, 55), trees (aa020025), strange reddish plants (aa020031), canyons with non-evergreens (aa020048), rock formations (aa020052), meadows (aa020054, 56), streams that we had to cross (aa020057-59) and the natural beauty of the Northwest. This place was gorgeous!

On our way up, we passed (and were passed by) many folks. There were two guys who had been scaling the ice up on Mt. Jefferson and had helmets; two couples taking a big and a small dog out for an extended walk, various hikers and possibly a ranger or two. For the most part, we didn't really stop all that often--we wanted to reach the camp by sundown and thus a continuous march up the trail seemed most appropriate. Admittedly, when carrying twenty pounds of gear up a mountain, one does not want to stop. Except to look at mushrooms, drink water and take pictures. This leg of our journey reminded me of the hikes that I used to go on in the Bay Area ... only more trees and bigger mountains.

Backpacking, Part 3: Base Camp

Occurred October 02, 2004 (Permalink)

We set up camp inside Jefferson Park. More specifically, we plunked down our tents amongst a grove of trees (actually, David set up his tent _inside_ the grove of trees) about 100 feet from the south edge of Scout Lake (aa030122-127), about halfway between a big rocky butte (aa020073) and the Mountain itself (aa020068).

From the vantage point of our tents, I was able to capture some phenomenal images of Mt. Jefferson as the sun went down in the evening and up in the morning the next day. Mt. Jefferson: before sunset (aa020065-70), sunset (aa020074-89), in the early morning (aa030115-126) and as we broke up camp (aa030129-131). The butte: before sunset (aa020071-72), at sunset (aa020079-80), and the next morning (aa030117-118).

Getting back to our story, we pitched our tents (aa020075-81) and settled into the task of preparing for the night. The five of us explored Scout Lake and filtered some lake water to replenish our dwindling supplies and to have some water to boil for cooking and drinking. Later, we went back to the lake and watched the sun set. I was foolish enough to go barefoot in the lake; the water was absolutely freezing! I should have known, we were less than a mile from glaciers. Once the sun was down, the temperature dropped rapidly and we decided that it was a good time to manufacture hot drinks. First up was coffee and booze, followed by hot cocoa and booze. Sensing a trend here?

Now that we were properly liquored up (and it was dark outside), we decided to cook the food. I brought rice and tortillas, Eliza brought lamb and Ana brought marinated beef. Lara boiled the rice, I dug around for the tortillas and some lemon sauce to lend flavor, and various people took turns grilling the meat. In the end, we had somewhat odd tasting meat-and-rice burritos. It was 20:30 at that point, and it was getting cold.

Ever since taking up digital photography, I've been wanting to take some photos at night to see how well my camera picks up light. The first set were taken at Woodley's Ranch; the second were taken from our base camp. Alas, I temporarily forgot what f-stop means, so I set the exposure time to 15s and F to 8.0. Those first pictures (aa020090-102) actually turned out decently, though the second set (aa020103-114) turned out even better. I ran around the meadows nearby our camp site, taking pictures of: the moon reflecting off a pond, the butte, and the Mountain. The pictures have quite obviously been post-processed--I turned up both brightness and contrast, though brightness was generally turned up more. The detail that I could get was stunning, considering how little light there was until the moon came out. Then there was plenty of moonlight. Anyway, take a look at the pictures. I can process them more if I hear complaints.

When I returned from several trips out to the meadow to take nighttime pictures, we turned in for the night. By this time I had on an undershirt, one of my warm acrylic shirts, a fleece vest and my rain slicker. I shoved my second change of clothing into the sleeping bag, zipped myself up and slept quite soundly (and warmly) all night.

Backpacking, Part 4: Climbing Jefferson

Occurred October 03, 2004 (Permalink)

The next morning, I woke up late (by that I mean 8:30) and had scrambled eggs for breakfast with the others. We decided to leave our stuff at the campsite, find the trail that we were on and hike up Jefferson. In actuality, we got lost, went back to camp, broke it up and headed down the valley to a stream. We left our packs by the stream and wandered off into a field that led to the mountain.

At last! We reached the mountain named Jefferson and began climbing. Along the way we found icicles on the ground (keep in mind that it was 11:15 at this point) (aa030132) in the shade of the mountain. It must have been a pretty cold Saturday night, though it did dew quite heavily. A little later on, I think Eliza muttered something about it being cold in her sleeping bag, so I guess ice seems appropriate.

Moving on, we began to climb the north foothills of the mountain. This was actually quite a tricky task, because the mountain was quite steep in places and there were a lot of rocks. By my estimates, the incline was at least 40 degrees. When we had risen about 450 feet above the valley floor, I took pictures aa030133-aa030135. The valley was at about 5600 feet; picture #135 was at 6050 feet. The next climbing phase was up a canyon that was surrounded on both sides by trees--in other words, an ice canyon that lacked ice. See picture aa030136 for what I'm talking about. Notice how there is very little of anything where the ice flows; this was to become a common trait of the canyons that we saw going up Jefferson. The canyons were also annoyingly steep (aa030137). I estimate the incline here to have been about 40 degrees as well.

When we had reached the top of the canyon (at least from the point of view of #136), I took pictures #138 and #140. I don't recall how high we were, but I estimate that we must have been somewhere around 6400 feet at that point. We decided that we'd had enough of that canyon, so we crossed through the trees on the right and went into one that had ice in it! (aa030139). Being a natural byproduct of modern refrigerators, we of course had to stop to poke at the ice and photograph ourselves. #142-146 reflect the view from the bottom edge of the shelf. As the pictures show, this ice shelf has melted in the middle, giving it a double-pontoon boat feel. At this juncture, Eliza, David, Lara and Ana decided to take a rest, but I wanted to continue up the mountain. A risky idea indeed, but I was too full of testosterone to notice. They stayed on a ledge by this ice pack (about 6400 feet) to await my return.

Thus I continued to ascend the mountain. As one climbs Jefferson, the grade becomes increasingly severe, the air becomes thinner, and the trek becomes much more difficult. But there are certain advantages to scaling steep mountains: in particular, the panoramas become spectacular very rapidly. This was certainly the case today. The first place I went was to the top of the first ice pack that we saw (aa030148). From there I could see that another ice shelf lurked nearby--only this one had flowers near it (aa030149). It was also in the shade, which mean that it remained very cold and not especially slippery. Just for fun, I clambered up the ice shelf, sat, and slid down the ice shelf, giving myself a cold wet butt in the process. A goofy but fun detour, if I say so myself. These pictures are #148-158 in the album. Oh, and I had to go down on all fours to scale this part of the mountain. I felt like a lizard.

Then, I saw it: A rock that looked like a dog and another rock that looked like a muzzle! At first I thought the thin air was making me stupid, but I continue to have that opinion even now at sea level as I examine the pictures. See aa030153 for this strange formation.

Now it was time to chase the timber line. I was noticing that I was going shorter and shorter distances between breaks, as I was slowly getting tired and quickly running out of thick air. At 6900, 6950 and 7000 feet I stopped to take pictures of about where I was on the mountain and the huge valley that sits to the north of Jefferson. The views from these points were spectacular -- I was within 100 feet of the timber line, 200-300 feet from the start of the glacier, and I could see other mountain ranges for hundreds of miles. I sat up there for a good long time snapping as many pictures as I could. Up there, the air was rarefied and I felt incredibly relaxed and content. I mean, how often do you find yourself sitting on a boulder at 7000 feet looking over Oregon as far as the eye can see? This was a terrific sensation.

But eventually I heard the calls from the other four people: They wanted to go down the mountain. We had started climbing around 11:45 and it was now 13:45. Time to go home. We walked, clambered and slid our way down the mountain till we got back to the packs.

Backpacking, Part 5: Descent

Occurred October 03, 2004 (Permalink)

We five explorers sat on the brink of a creek, drinking water, eating snacks, chatting and carrying on, for quite a while. I was quite tired and not really in the mood to strap on the heavy packs and return to the trail head until I had rested. I attempted to eat tuna fish out of a bag without any utensils, to comic effect. David and Ana filtered some water, and I relaxed. Sadly, our time in that meadow was limited, as we realized that it was 15:15 and that it would take us several hours to get back to Portland. Thus it was time to begin the voyage home.

This time, we marched more or less straight down the trail without stopping for much anything. Twice we stopped to take pictures of where we had been on the Mountain. Several times we stopped to look at mushrooms. I think Eliza even stopped to grab a few for later cooking. But for the most part, we simply came off the mountain. When we got to the parking lot, I burned up my last three exposures on pictures of the other people in the group and the trailhead itself. 184 photos in 2 days. I have never taken that many per day before. (Note that only 171 appear in my albums because I delete blurry pictures unless they are unique or cool looking.)

Once in the parking lot, the packs were dumped in the back of David's pickup, much to our shoulders' relief. We managed to snag a second parking ticket, though the forest service is only interested in getting you to pay $5 for the day -- apparently there is no other penalty. In any case, we piled back into the truck and drove off in search of protein-rich food. We found such food in a Detroit logger restaurant that David knows. That place was amazing! There was an annoying Frank N. Stein robot that swung his arms and played the same Chuck Berry song every time someone walked by. The service was bad, they brought us the wrong orders and the hostess rang up our bill as $1,998. Being exhausted made this all hilarious. Though the burger was decent.

Outside the restaurant, David told us about helicopter logging. Building logging roads is expensive and annoying, so instead the company sends in lumberjacks and helicopters. The lumberjacks saw the trunk of the tree, and the helicopter grabs the tree and hauls it off to a lumber truck waiting in the mountains somewhere. Seems like an elaborate system, and we all had to laugh. Until David swore that he'd drive us into the middle of nowhere to prove that he wasn't just telling a tall tale. We decided to believe him.

From there, we simply drove back to Portland. Outside of Molalla there were some v-shaped valleys with thick fog strips. Apparently the crops form the cloud band and the valley holds the band in place. Very strange to drive through. We arrived in Portland at 21:00, tired but happy. I drove Eliza, Ana and myself home, and collapsed. Actually, I stayed awake long enough to download the photos, process them, and put them on the web site.

This was a terrific trip. I can't wait to do it again. Actually, I _can_ wait, at least until my muscles stop being sore. Makes me glad I moved to the northwest.

Orange Chicken Stir Fry

Occurred October 08, 2004 (Permalink)

Friday afternoon, my friend Jason suggested that we try to cook some sort of dinner dish together. Note that he lives in San Diego, so the plan was to make the same dish separately and compare notes about how it turned out. The dish was a simple one, involving a sauce made of orange peel, soy sauce, garlic, flour and sugar. The chicken was sauteed, mixed with the sauce and poured on a bunch of bean sprouts. I didn't have bean sprouts (Jason didn't have orange marmalade), so substitutions were made. The dish turned out to be very fragrant and quite tasty; alas, I only made one serving so I can't eat it as leftovers for the rest of the week. But now I have a yummy addition to my repertoire.

Scottish Country Dancing

Occurred October 09, 2004 (Permalink)

For the past few Monday nights, I've been attending Scottish country dancing lessons at the Tigard Grange in Tigard. Tonight's activity was the first real dance that I attended, and wow, was it fun! We sailed through several dances that I've done in class, and I even got drafted for a few intermediate dances, even though I've never actually attempted any of them. I struggled with 'em for a bit, but eventually figured it out. Last August, the Fields introduced me to this form of dance at an cream social that they hosted; years ago, when Brian's grandparents had moved to Oregon, they joined this group of dancers and made a lot of friends. Most of them had been invited to this social. I met one of the instructors, Don Gertz, and he invited me to the next round of lessons, which started in mid-September.

Hence, I went to my first lesson on September 20th. Not knowing what to expect, I simply showed up hoping not to make too big of a fool of myself, and was quite impressed to discover that these dances are much easier than I'd thought. Scottish country dancing is a lot like square dancing--the dances have prescribed movements that follow in somewhat logical patterns and are performed in a line with as few as two and as many as four couples. Oftentimes the music helps out, as there is usually a very strong beat that keeps the time. All said, these dances are not too mechanically intricate, though I need to improve my footwork.

I really like this form of dancing over other types (waltz, salsa, swing) that I've attempted to learn in the past. While the basic waltz itself is pretty easy to figure out, as the man I'm required to plan out every move on the dance floor and then find a way to communicate this desire to my partner. Usually that part does not flow very well, due to my inexperience. With SCD, the steps of the dance are explained before the music starts, so everybody knows their part. The team comraderie is fantastic--everybody helps out to keep the dancers on their feet and to recover when mistakes are made.

At the moment, I only know of a few dances, though I'm told that I'm progressing well. I feel like I'm picking it up quickly, though I've watched the intermediate class and I know that there's plenty else to learn. Oh well. It never hurts to have ways to improve oneself! I just wish that there were more people my age, who went to this. I'm still trying to figure out where the 20-25 people hang out in this city.

SE Portland: East Hawthorne and Mt. Tabor

Occurred October 09, 2004 (Permalink)

Today's adventure takes us back to southeast Portland, specifically to the neighborhoods around SE Hawthorne Avenue, between SE 20th and 60th Avenues. The occasion? Brunch with a bunch of MiPLers, at a mostly vegetarian place called "Jam" on 22nd and Hawthorne. I ordered a Nor'wester omelette, with smoked salmon, peppers, hash browns and other delicious bits of food. It was fantastic to sit in that little cafe while eating and watching other people getting rained upon outside.

After the group broke up, I decided to drive around the area and spy on more Victorian houses in the area. Starting at 23rd Ave., I drove first south, then east, then north, then east, scanning houses all the way. As expected, I encountered a lot of wood-frame houses--but unlike the ones that I've seen in the past, these houses were a bit larger. Two-story buildings, multi-family units, and other combinations thereof. I suspect that this neighborhood is home to a lot of multi-family dwellings and small single-family edifices. In any case, I soon found myself at Mt. Tabor.

For those not in the know, Mt. Tabor is a big hill that seems rather oddly placed smack in the middle of Southeast Portland. It rises out of the ground around where you'd think Hawthorne and 63rd Ave. ought to be. However, there is something quite intriguing about this mountain--there are very few houses on it. There is, however, a big park at the summit and two reservoirs on the western face of the bulge. Anyhow, I drove around the hill in the rain until I reached the reservoirs. They don't seem to be very impressive at street level--their only visible presence is a garrison that looks like it's straight out of a medieval castle. They were about half full of water, and filling. (Obviously, since it was raining...) I decided that the sight of water was giving my brain bad suggestions, so I quickly drove home.

Dim Sum, Art and MAXing it to Hillsboro

Occurred October 10, 2004 (Permalink)

This sunday, I rode the MAX downtown to have dim sum at Fong Chong at NW 4th Ave and Everett St. The portions were generous, and the food was tasty enough, but I still long for the wonderful Chinese restaurants in San Francisco's Chinatown. SF restaurants have a much larger variety of strange little dishes--squid, more seafood, more pastries, etc. However, this _is_ Portland, not the Bay Area, and hence the Chinese isn't as good. The dishes were decently tasty and colorful, and I thought it was a yummy treat. Personally I wish the place had more variety. There was a lot of pork on the menu--not my cup of tea, and disastrous for Kyra, the girl who sat next to me, as she doesn't eat pork at all! Tom, who arranged the event, said that he's going to try a different place next month.

Outside of the restaurant, there were an equal number of interesting things to see. For example, there was a woman yelling at the bench that she was standing on. And let's not forget the Man Who Forgot His Pants. These characters, and more, were loitering outside the restaurant, blithely ignored by the people walking down the street and the patrons eating inside. Sad that these miscreats are left to fend for themselves on the street. Worse could have happened to them, though--before WWII, they'd have been dragged into bars, drugged, and shanghai'd. But more about that on the 21st when I tour the Portland Underground.

Next stop on the afternoon's activities was exploration. First, we investigated a big yellow building that sits near by the railroad tracks. It looks like it's some sort of granary or something, but it's stylish enough to be a (tallish) movie theater. Unfortunately, it was for sale, so I have no idea what used to be used for. Some sort of industrial application, I guess. In any case, we (Eric, Lisa and myself) soon left and headed off in search of art galleries. We found one, that features only the works of prison inmates. Some of the work was interesting with bright colors, and some of it was quite disturbing. I noticed that there were a lot of nude women with overly large breasts. And a lot of daemons. Hmm. The curator explained to us that she was partnering with a guy who was currently in prison, that the entire operation was done by her and her family, and that the entire venture had cost nearly 100k. She seemed a little sad, but seemed convinced that it was still a good use of her money.

Departing there, we went to an internet cafe. They had a bunch of arcade games and a PC whose parts were glued to the side of a monitor. Literally, the hard disk, motherboard, power supply and PCI cards were sitting there exposed to the world. Amazing that thing even worked. When we tired of that, we went our separate ways--I rode the MAX westward to see the end of the line in Hillsboro. Boring.

Sounds like you had a lot of fun. take care, i'll call you sometime to catch up with whats been going on.

I wanted to hear more about the pantsless man! Regular crazy people aren't that interesting to a Cal student.

Pantsless man was just that--a homeless guy walking around with no pants on. Mostly he was just loitering around waiting for a bus. The driver wouldn't let him on, so he walked away.

Wine Flights

Occurred October 12, 2004 (Permalink)

Tuesday night after work I cruised across town to a little restaurant called Noble Rot in the Laurelhurst neighborhood of southeast Portland. Noble Rot is on SE Ankeny between SE 26th and 27th avenues; when I got there, the first thing that struck me was the bright red interiors of the place. The hostess showed me to the MiPL table and people slowly started to trickle in.

The main attraction of the evening were "wine flights". Unlike most restaurants' wine lists, the wines at Noble Rot are separated by some sort of theme into a collection of triples; these are the flights. One of the flights was named after the engineer in France who started to make (apparently tasty) wines for fun; another featured Spanish wine, and I tried one that consisted of red wines from South Africa. The reds were all pretty fragrant, and the first two had textures that I liked. The third reminded me of red beans. But what do I know; I'm no wine expert. :P

Noble Rot also has food items. I ordered "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes". Turns out, it's those four parts of a pig, cooked together into a porky brick, served with some salad. Completely not what I was expecting. Apparently they also have some things like macaroni and cheese, but I got the sense that most people have supper earlier and then head over to Noble Rot to sample the wines. That might explain why our reservation was for 20:30. Oh well. It was an interesting experience, and I even walked around the area in the dark. Sort of creepy, but it didn't seem especially risky. Good to know that there are parts of southeast that aren't well lit.

King Lear

Occurred October 13, 2004 (Permalink)

A few weeks ago, Ted decided that he wanted to organize an outing to the Portland Center Stage's production of King Lear (offsite). This particular production is a slightly modernized version of Shakespeare's play--while the sets and costumes have been updated to reflect current-day fashions, the characters remain faithful to the "original" text. The play was decently done, though I caught a few of the actors stammering over their lines. Parts of the play were rather horrific, though in general the players seemed to perform in a believable manner.

The producer wrote in the program that the question of the United States' role as the only superpower in the world pushed him to put on King Lear, though truthfully I felt that the story is more of an examination of a silly old king who can't distinguish between a well-packaged facade and simple truth, and pays the price for it. Though it is intriguing that the daughters are motivated by both their own greed and their desire to put away their aging and senile father. Ever notice how our leaders are always old?

In other news, I was riding the MAX home as usual and a cute brunette girl asked me how to get to Sunset TC from the street. I told her, and what followed was a brief but fun little chat with a random gal. She had moved down here from Seattle recently, and was finding her way around Portland. I probably should have told her about MiPL or something, so that I could find out more about her, but she got off the train before I had the chance. Oh well. I really need to ride that train regularly so that I can have recurring encounters with people. Maybe next year. But, at least it's a good sign that I'm not totally repulsive. :)

Timberline Lunch

Occurred October 15, 2004 (Permalink)

Pat, my boss, decided that we should spend our group's "fun" money on some sort of off-site event where we could effectively have the day off to enjoy ourselves. For this spectacular gala, we piled into cars and drove to Timberline Lodge (offsite). We had ourselves a wonderful luncheon in the Cascade Dining Room--as it turns out, the burgers they serve there come in HUGE portions. The fourteen of us (12 engineeers, Pat and our admin) sat around, chatted about random stuff going on, tech toys, and most importantly: didn't do any work!

After stuffing ourselves, we attempted an ill-fated hike up Mt. Hood. The goal was to reach the actual tree line, which should not have been all that difficult, since that's only about 100 feet of altitude above the lodge itself. Unfortunately, we were quite full and there was a cold, driving wind. We turned back, decided it was late, and drove back home. But, I enjoyed myself. And took some photos.

Sunday Jazz Brunch

Occurred October 17, 2004 (Permalink)

It seems that I've made a recent habit of visiting something over on the East side of Portland every weekend. With that in mind, this week's adventure takes us to The Blue Monk (offsite) on Belmont St. for brunch. Although this was a MiPL event, I very nearly missed the group because most of them were people who I hadn't quite met before, and couldn't have recognized. Fortunately, there were two regulars hidden in the gaggle, and they pulled _me_ in.

I believe that what might be called "Winter" has hit Portland. Friday's trip to Timberline was warm and sunny; by Sunday, it turned rather cold and rainy. This provided ample justification for running inside a few minutes before noon, to investigate the blueness of the Blue Monk and find out what passed for a jazz troupe in this city. Unfortunately, we expected a cool ensemble; instead, we got a single African guy plucking away Sinatra tunes on an electric guitar. :P

When it came time to order food, I unfortunately lacked presence of mind and ordered an (egg) fritatta with gorgonzola cheese and smoked ham. The fritatta fell flat into an omelette, but that wasn't the biggest surprise--gorgonzola tastes like whiteboard cleaner. At least to me. When mixed with egg and ham. That's a good way to wake oneself up--smelly cheese. You readers should try this new strategy of mine some time and report back.

As I mentioned earlier, this MiPL event was attended largely by people who I didn't recognize as regulars; this state of affairs afforded me the ability to meet with the unfamiliar and the just-moved. Jeneen, who sat next to me at the table, seemed to be quite active around the area, given how she was able to hold forth about where she had been camping and hiking and rock climbing, etc. At one point during brunch she mused about a curious looking building across the street that had magnificently colored stained glass pieces hanging in the windows. I thought that it must be some sort of glassworks shop, but later it turned out to be...a pizza parlor!

Stacey, the lady sitting across the table from me, moved here from northern California with her husband very recently and works the afternoon/evening shift as a veterinarian. We talked at length about assorted things--where were good places to go around town, things that we'd seen on television and around the world, what it was like actually living in Portland, how to ride the MAX, MiPL stories and pretty much wherever else the conversation meandered. As the group was breaking up, someone mentioned that the Willamette Weekly (offsite) had published its yearly restaurant guide--instantly, Stacey and I decided that we needed to strike out and find copies for ourselves. We searched high and low for several blocks along Belmont St., but never found one. After I walked Stacey to her car, I became bedazzled by a signpost that had the Fibonacci numbers posted on it...and a plastic vending machine stuffed full of Willamette Weeklies! Score!

In conclusion: Sunday I got my fill of attractive women, jazz, brunch and math. Can't beat that.

Portland Underground

Occurred October 21, 2004 (Permalink)

Beneath the prim Victorian culture of late 19th-century Portland ran a truly horrid mechanism for Shanghaiing unsuspecting saloon drunkards and unwise women: the Portland Underground (offsite). After work on this gray Thursday, I went downtown and met Michael Jones of the Cascade Geographical Society for a tour of the network of tunnels that run underneath a huge section of the old North End of downtown Portland. Unfortunately, the lighting was very poor and I didn't feel it prudent to blind everyone with flash photography.

Back in the old days, roads in Portland weren't paved, and transporting goods from the waterfront to businesses in the winter was quite difficult. Hence the city commenced the construction of a series of underground tunnels between the basements of various buildings in the city, so that goods could be moved around without mud problems. As was the custom for the day, Chinese laborers were imported to do all the dirty work, and were followed by professional brick layers and stone cutters. Much of their work survives to this day.

Portland's Shanghaiing trade got its start in these underground tunnels--trap doors were installed in saloons, secret passageways put in at the end of alleyways, random doors hiding staircases into the underground were put into buildings, etc. A common trick in the drinking joints and the dance halls of the day was to get men to drink heavily until they were unable to defend themselves, push them onto the trap door, and down they went under the building. Getting men into this state wasn't hard; a few establishments even installed troughs so that the men could relieve themselves while drinking! Women weren't spared the Shanghaiing fate: they were captured and sold just like the men.

After being unceremoniously dumped underground, the men were thrown into holding cells to await their new (and probably awful) life. The cells that they used were about half the size of a closet, lined with bricks, and the bars over the windows were tapered so that one could not push fingers through them. There was absolutely no light, so victims had no idea where they were or how to get out. The underground had wooden walls everywhere, so those who managed to escape had to run barefoot (the Shanghaiiers would take your shoes) over broken glass through a maze to get out. Few escaped, and most were just stuck there until sold. Women were put into strong wooden cells until their spirit was broken (48 hours, Michael said) and then they would be sold.

When a sea captain needed an able-bodied crew, he simply sailed into port, threw off all the Shanghai victims that he'd bought on the previous voyage, and went into town to contact the local Shanghaiiers. They would drug some of their captured and drag them through the tunnels down to the waterfront and onto the ship. The ship would set sail, and the unfortunate victims came to several hours later, in the middle of the Pacific. There they'd be treated like slaves and were tossed off the ship when it was convenient. Forced hands were treated lower than the low--at least the officers were smart enough not to get trapped! In any case, it would be several years until a man might be able to work his way back to Portland. Some were never seen again.

Women were treated no better. They would also be dragged onto ships, unconscious. In the next port the ship came to, captain sold the woman to a house of prostitution in a faraway city, and there she remained for the rest of her life, to be taken by various men and likely abused by the mistress. Any children she produced would be taken from her and put into orphanages. There are stories of ghosts down in the underground who are looking for lost children.

We saw only a small portion of the underground tunnels. They were very dark, hot and stuffy. One could hear the restaurants upstairs through the floor boards, though the patrons certainly wouldn't hear someone screaming down there. Some of the businesses in that district actually use the underground to store supplies; other parts have collapsed or have been blocked off since Shanghaiing ended during WWII. The city itself has tried to destroy the system in the hopes of being able to bury the past. Michael told us that the underground system stretches over most of downtown, going under all of "Old Town" and stretching westward to NW 23rd. An amazing accomplishment; hopefully they will open more of the tunnels in the coming years.

Once out of the tunnels, we enjoyed the cool clean evening air and were glad that Portland is no longer the Shanghaiing capital of the world--just the City of Roses. But it is intriguing that the city has such a checkered past and a huge underground tunnel system to go with it.

Wine Tasting Party

Occurred October 23, 2004 (Permalink)

Tonight was my first wine tasting party, arranged by Susan as a MiPL event. We were all asked to bring either a wine to sample, a dessert or an appetizer; I ended up bringing Stoned Wheat Thins as a joke. Anyway, there were four stations set up at Susan's house, with approximately four-five wines at each table. When I arrived, Susan presented me with a pen and a table on a piece of paper; the object was to sample each wine, write a few comments and rank the wine.

Because I have a somewhat low alcohol tolerance, I decided that the best way to go through this wine tasting party was to wait until people stopped arriving and then barrel through the entire spread of wines. Actually, this turned out to be a decent strategy, as I could contrast each of the wines. Unfortunately, lining them up and blowing them down deadens the palette...

In any case, I actually did get through 18 of the 21 wines before I couldn't take any more. The wines were all red wines, some from local vineyards, some from California, and one or two from Australia. Some of them were rather fruity, a few of them were on the bitter side, and one or two of them really had a spicy kick to them. I actually liked one of the spicy reds; I think it was a 2001(?) Benoit Valley Pinot Noir. Unfortunately, I was a little intoxicated when I got to that one, so I'm not entirely sure.

By that time I knew I was too tipsy to drive, so I stuck around and socialized with people. I think I had conversations about trenchcoats, Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, wine, movies, politics, houses, buying a house in Portland, places to hike, and more that I can't remember. So I'll talk about Susan's house instead. Susan lives in what looks like a retro two-story Victorian building. The San Francisco elements are obviously there--narrow, long building, bay window in front, multiple stories, small garage buried underneath the front parlor, etc. The insides are painted bright colors (kitchen red, parlor yellow, bathroom lavender, etc), with a mix of hardwood and carpet, and trim all over the house. You can tell that the woodworking is new, though...but all in all a cute dwelling.

I didn't start driving home until shortly after 1:00. It was freezing cold and extremely foggy in Beaverton. I didn't dare drive over 30 for fear of running off the road or into someone. Of course, I got passed by a cop going 50. :P

Dinner Record Smashed; I Get a Diploma

Occurred October 23, 2004 (Permalink)

I sat down for dinner at 2:05. In the morning. After nineteen weeks, I finally got my UCSD diploma. About time.

Man, that's too late for dinner...

They must have found your diploma at the bottom of a pile on someone's desk, or something. I think everyone else I know got theirs 6-12 weeks ago, and the only reason mine took so long was because of a paperwork mishap. Weird? Yes...

Stupid underfunding...

Museum Hunting

Occurred October 24, 2004 (Permalink)

When I woke up from Saturday's wine tasting party, I had lunch with the Fields and we went downtown to look at the art museum downtown. While wandering through the streets I managed to snap these pictures of a whole lot of strange stuff. Apparently there's a clown with a brightly painted van who goes around playing Beatles songs and laughing at everything. If you laugh back he honks. Sometimes. There's also the fish lodged in the side of a building to look at. Portland is a weird city.

If that wasn't strange enough, we headed off to look at the exhibits in the art museum. The centerpiece focused on Christo and Jeanne-Claude and their 1985 wrapping of the Pont Neuf (offsite) in Paris. Quite amazing to see that those two covered an entire bridge in brightly colored yellow fabric and secured it with rope. The exhibit mostly dealt with the project itself--planning the wrap, getting approval from Paris, building the scaffolding, wrapping the bridge and finally wrapping the wrap. Quite interesting to think that I don't remember the 1980s. At all.

However, the main reason we went was to see the photographs of Edward Weston. Weston drove all over the western United States in the first half of the 20th century, snapping pictures of pretty much anything he saw--the strong lines of machinery in Philadelphia, the undulating hills of California, cauliflower, assorted nudes, Kodachrome images of the west in the 1950s and soft-focus portraits from when he first started in the 1910s. Apparently Ansel Adams admired this guy's work, and I can see why--the pictures he took while driving all over the place in the 1930s are just amazing!

Elsewhere in the museum, there was a gallery of 19th century French cartoons and caricaturse. Unfortunately, I don't speak a word of French anymore, so I can only say that the figures were sometimes hilarious, usually rotund, and wacky. Very well done, though--a lot of attention was paid to the details of rendering the characters despite the somewhat crude materials of the time.

Howling at the Eclipse

Occurred October 27, 2004 (Permalink)

Tonight there was a lunar eclipse in North America! Some friends of mine in the Bay Area say that the eclipse was already well under way before they could see it...not so for us Portlanders! Score! After work, a bunch of MiPLers met at the Gateway TC over on the east side, piled into cars, and drove out to exit 28 on highway 84 to scale up the cliff to Angel's Rest point. Angel's Rest offers beautiful vistas of the gorge, and on a clear enough night one can see all the way back to downtown Portland. Of course, we were going to do this in the moon-less dark...

When we arrived at the trailhead, the sun had mostly set and the moon's image was already partially encumbered by the earth. We had to climb 1800 feet from the gorge floor all the way to the top of the point; the trail up the hill was fairly steep, muddy, and full of switchbacks. Along the way, we encountered rockslides that made the nighttime ascent all the more confusing. We passed over (and on top of) several streams on the way up--proof that the rainy season has indeed begun! Parts of this trail were a bit tricky because of the rocks and the mud, but it wasn't particularly difficult physically.

An hour or so after we embarked on this mad climb, we reached the top of Angel's Rest and begun to enjoy the views of the gorge. Unfortunately, the eclipse blocked out all of the (full) moonlight, which meant that the gorge was lit up almost entirely by automobile headlamps and diffuse light from the city and elsewhere. The moon, however, was a spectacular rust-red disc glowing in the sky. One of our bundle pointed out familiar constellations, the north star, and the rest of our galaxy. I also pointed out that downtown was glowing like the sun; we were so far out that the city was the only visible thing. There was a small amount of reflection from the rest of the stars in the sky on the Columbia river. Had I brought my camera, I might have gotten some spectacular shots. Oh well.

The hour was late and the fog was rolling through the gorge: time to go! I scurried down the hill, chattering with a few ladies about various randomnidity: places we've been, things we've done, what there is to do in town, etc. After the hike was over we headed off to the Edgefield McMenamin's for some food and went home. On a personal note, I met two girls who were newcomers to MiPL...who were actually my age! A first!

Saddle Mountain

Occurred October 30, 2004 (Permalink)

Bright and early Saturday morning, I strapped on the plastic clothing and walked off to Target to join the Adventurous Young Mazamas (offsite) for a hike to Saddle Mountain. For those who don't know, the Mazamas (apparently) are one of the more serious hiking groups in the Portland area; climbing a glaciated peak (like Mt. Hood) is one of the requirements for membership. Saddle Mountain is a saddle-shaped double-mountain near the Pacific.

Anyway, the group slowly assembled itself in the Target parking lot down the street from my apartment. Turns out that one in our group was a former Sun engineer who happened to be working on the same project as I was. Funny that we never met... Moving along, there were about eight of us who showed up. We packed into cars and headed out to the coast, despite the appearance of heavy rain. Oregonians seemingly ignore inclement weather.

Because the weather was so poor, I had to find a way to waterproof everything. I bought plastic pant coverings from REI a few days earlier; they kept the water off my pants beautifully. I also had my North Face jacket, which luckily still fits around my laptop backpack and has a hood. Unfortunately, my walking shoes weren't waterproof...which wasn't a problem until I stomped into a stream.

Fully prepared, we set off up the mountain. It was actually a fairly steep hike. Not too muddy, but there were places where the trail turned into a stream, rockslides covered the trail completely, and even a few places where the only way up was to pull oneself up by a rope while skidding over rocks! Also, it was extremely foggy and damp the entire way, which is why I have very few pictures.

About a third of the way to the top, we stopped on a big promontory (aa300026) to take some water. I took the opportunity to snap some photos (aa300026-32) of the valley far below and a truly amazing sight--fog blowing out of the valley in such a way that it looked like the trees were smoking! Extraordinary.

We rose way way up one of the sides of the saddle, then plunged into the middle of it. From that vantage point, we should have been able to see the cars in the parking lot at the trailhead, but there was too much fog to see it. We continued the ascent till we reached the top of the other point on the saddle, where we encountered a big metal railing and a picnic bench (a300034). There, I got some hazy photos of the coastline (aa300033-36) in between giant bursts of fog. Meanwhile, everyone else had lunch, and I barely managed to scarf down some trail mix and cookies before it was time to go.

On the way down, some of the fog burned off, so I was able to capture scenes that had been fogged in before. Specifically, I stopped at three places in the bottom of the saddle and snapped pictures of the valley (aa300037-42). That mountain is fantastic! Too bad I didn't go when the weather was better. From the trailhead, the view was like that of (aa300043). Amazing to think that we did this in such a short amount of time--we left at 8:45 and were back by 14:30. And that includes the two hours of car driving.

Site Improvements

Occurred October 31, 2004 (Permalink)

Updated all pages in the Projects section to fit the new site layout and added three photo albums: one is mentioned in the story below, Timberline Lunch and Museum Hunting. See the Boring picture too. I dressed up as Spongebob Squarepants for Halloween--yellow shirt, red tie and brown pants. No pictures of that. :P

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