News from December 2004

The Old Lompoc Pub and Brewery

Occurred December 01, 2004 (Permalink)

Tonight I went to a tavern and had some food and drink with coworkers. Intriguing. Raleigh and NW 23rd, if you're curious.

Neahkahnie Mountain

Occurred December 05, 2004 (Permalink)

Apparently, people in Oregon still go hiking, even when it's December--cold, wet and (to this _Northern_ Californian) mildly unpleasant. But now I live one state to the north, so I shall follow their customs, no matter how odd. Today my still-unnamed hiking group decided to climb Neahkahnie Mountain out by the coast. This mountain literally borders U.S. 101 just north of Manzanita, which is about 60% of the distance north from Tillamook to Seaside.

This mountain, as it turns out, has quite a bit of history. Local legend has it that the Clatsop Indians saw a pirate ship pull into the nearby bay, drop anchor, bury a treasure chest, kill a man to protect the booty, and sail away. Furthermore, this sort of thing seems to have happened at least twice! As you can imagine, treasure hunters come here all the time to dig holes, thus earning the mountain a nickname of "The Mountain of a Thousand Holes". Several interesting artifacts (such as brass chest handles) have been found, but nothing else of note. We certainly didn't find anything, other than mushrooms and rocks.

We struck out from Beaverton at almost 11, following Rte. 26 westward, south on winding 53 to Nehalem, and then north on 101 to a dirt road. After bumping up the road to the trailhead, we strode up a few switchbacks to a ledge. From the ledge we could see southwards along the coast towards Tillamook. Wonderful pictures and panoramas of this trek are available as usual. In any case, we could only see south, because the view northward was blocked by many many trees. As we got higher and higher on the switchbacks, the view became progressively better. (Pictures ac050020 - 38).

At one point, the trail began to slope down from the summit, so David, Lara and Anna called Eliza and myself back to an outcropping of rocks leading further up the mountain. It looked steep and dangerous, but intrepid explorers that we are, we scaled the rocks and got to the top. It turned out that there was another trail leading up to the summit; it was a bit less dangerous. Far be it from me to take the safe route... :P

The view from the top was spectacular! I could see mountain ranges to the southeast, (ac050039 and 42), fields and farms (ac050043 and 49) and spectacular vistas of the Pacific Ocean (ac050038, 41, 43, 46 and 47). Had I brought my camera south last week, I could have posted a comparison between the beach in San Diego (sunny, cool, calm) and in Oregon (gray, rainy, cold). Why did I move here again? Oh yeah: joblessness sucks.

We ate lunch at the top. Several of us noticed ominous amorphous blobs of fog moving ashore towards us (ac050044). This turned out to be rain that later froze into a hailstorm. Right in the middle of my hot cocoa. Ugh. Within a few minutes, the precipitation ceased and we made our way down the mountain. Along the way I had the opportunity to photograph several gnarled trees (ac050052 - 61) and foggy forests (ac050065 - 73). When we had walked within a quarter of a mile of the highway, the trees went away, revealing some colorful bluffs that trailed off into the ocean. (ac050074 - 83). I was very taken by the presence of _anything_ red out in this kind of moisture. See ac050081 for the full effect.

The trail dumped us out on U.S. 101 about a mile north of where we'd turned off of it earlier. During the trek southwards, I lagged behind the group to snap more shots of the ocean. (ac050084 - 94). The beach up in this area is not user-friendly--the highway is built up on cliffs overlooking the water, and hence the beaches (if any) are full of rocks instead of sand. Sort of reminds me of the coastline between Pacifica and San Francisco, though the earlier pictures prove that there *are* sandy beaches in Oregon. In any case, the sun was beginning to set (it was 16:00) and I captured this effect quite nicely on my camera as pictures ac050088 and 91. In San Diego, one used to be able to watch rays from the sun protruding down to open ocean during sunset; ac050089 was the best replication of this phenomenon that I was able to manage this Sunday.

After that, we hiked back to the car and drove home. There was a spiky tree along the way that became the basis for ac050096. On the drive home, I promptly fell asleep and slept like a baby all the way back to Beaverton. I had beef and cheese burritos for dinner, watched TV, and wrote this journal entry.

Oregon Plates

Occurred December 07, 2004 (Permalink)

Today I got off my lazy butt and registered my car in Oregon. This involved getting the car checked at the DEQ (smog check) center. For those of you unfamiliar with smog checks, you have to go warm up your car before testing it. Since the testing center is wayyy out on the edge of Hillsboro, I decided to go driving around in the farmlands to get the car warmed up. The Portland metropolitan land use agency drew a big circle around the city that limits how far the urban sprawl can spread, hence suburbia ends five minutes west of me on Rte. 26.

The land out there is quite spectacular--the fields have been idled for the winter, so the only thing that you can see for miles are oak trees and the occasional building. From way up on a hill in North Plains, I could see the random forest that sits next to Jackson School Road, cloud formations of varying shades of gray (it's winter; it's raining) fields stretching all the way to downtown Hillsboro way off in the distance, and the rolling hills that turn into the Cascade ranges further west.

Oregon's smog standards (probably) aren't as tight as California's, so my car passed; next stop was the Hillsboro DMV. No glory for the DMV in Oregon--Beaverton's office is a squat moss-covered shack with a tree in front of the "DMV" sign; Hillsboro's office is in a strip mall next to WinCo food mart. Here's a picture (offsite). Note the pikes in front of the windows to prevent angry Oregonians from ramming the DMV. I guess that's better than the NE Portland office, which looks like it used to be a McDonald's. Would you like fries with that license?

So $140 later, I'm the proud owner of two aluminum Oregon license plates. The stickers are on the bottom of the plates here...and the sticker cutouts on my UCSD license plate frame are on the top to fit California plates. Damn. So the "Proud to be UCSD" license plate frame was installed upside down. People are going to think that the University of California is producing morons. But at least I don't have to renew my registration until December 2006.

First Ever Pub Crawl

Occurred December 11, 2004 (Permalink)

Saturday night, I picked up Bonnie and we headed over to the East side to join the MiPL pub crawl currently in progress. Strangely enough, I've never actually been out bar hopping--I was always too busy or too poor to do things like that back in La Jolla. Anyway, the first place we hit was the Lucky Labrador on SE Hawthorne between 9th and 10th avenues. There we met Stu, the tall British guy who was responsible for organizing the event. The Lucky Lab is a really big wood-paneled place that's set up to look like the inside of a big barn or tavern--sort of like Imbrie House out in Hillsboro but not quite. The BLT sandwhich that I had was pretty good for a brewery sandwich, though really-- fat always tastes good! There were probably a good thirty of us sitting there eating and drinking until 21:30 when it was time to go to the next place.

The next place was the Barley Mill Pub--the original McMenamins--on 17th and Hawthorne. This place was much much smaller and cozier than the Lab, and was decorated in a similar fashion to the other McMenamins sites. However, this particular establishment had a distinctly different feel than the other places--this felt a lot more like it was just a bar--the other ones that I've been to (Kennedy School, Imbrie House, Edgefield, Lloyd Center, the Baghdad, Forest Grove and Ringlers) are bigger and feel like they're full size restaurants. Probably that's because most of them have some sort of other attachments, like hotel rooms, or movie houses, and the like. Anyway, enough ranting about how many McMenamins I've seen.

So the long and short of pub crawls--people show up, drink, eat and chatter the night away. I'd previously been jaded enough to think that these events were only about the alcohol consumption and stayed away--but this actually seemed quite tame and fun! Never have I considered the social aspects of these alcohol events; perhaps I'll be tempted to go to a few more in the future. Though I do have to confess--since I was driving that night, I laid off the drinks pretty early so I'd be ok to drive home. Actually that fits quite well with my tastes--I can still go out and enjoy myself. Certainly it doesn't hurt that the women get a little, erm, friendly when they're tipsy. (Sorry, ladies...)

Just to make it crystal clear: I drove home sober. I absolutely refuse to drive under the influence.

Mt. Tabor

Occurred December 14, 2004 (Permalink)

Tonight, Tom hosted an evening walk around and up Mt. Tabor on the East side. Mt. Tabor, as I failed to mention in the October 9th journal entry, is a dormant volcano protruding from the flatlands that make up the East side. We took off from SE 69th and Burnside, headed up several staircases, through quite a lot of squishy mud (it rained today) and through several thickets of trees until we reached the base of the mountain. From there, we meandered along bike paths until we reached the first reservoir and could gaze upon the city. Unfortunately, I left my camera at home, fearing rain.

And gaze we did! Although it had been pouring this afternoon, the clouds went away in time for the evening commute, and the view of downtown from just midway up Tabor was spectacular! We could see the glow of the lights from the skyscrapers downtown, the neon Montgomery Park sign, the outline of the giant office buildings and the department stores around Pioneer Courthouse Square. Truly, the sight was mindblowingly pretty.

But not as good as what we saw when we got to the top. The entire western skyline was in view--Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), the buildings downtown, the radio towers in Forest Park, the I-5 bridge arcing high above the city, 60 blocks of the southeast side of the city stretching out to the Willamette and the piers on the water. Had I thought to bring binoculars, we might have even seen the Christmas Ships sailing up the Willamette this evening.

On the other side of the summit were two benches and a clearing of the trees. Stephan, a native Portlander in the group, explained that he and his father had installed those benches nearly a decade ago in memory of his mother and grandfather. The bench dedicated to his mother was perched south of east on the summit of Mt. Tabor; allegedly one can see all the way to Mt. Hood on a sunny day. I'll have to investigate this claim next summer.

The descent from the summit took us down a different path, past some beautiful houses and a lot of Christmas lights and decorations. Much as I'd like to live here, I'd bet it's a bit too much for my tastes. Really, it's cool that there are alleyways and walking paths winding through the foothills of Mt. Tabor, and that the residents don't seem to mind people walking past their properties at night.

Rock Climbing

Occurred December 17, 2004 (Permalink)

Today we had a young lady in to interview for a position on our team. I didn't take part in the interviews, though I did chat with her in the hallway for a brief period of time. Anyhow, the point is that Pat, my boss, invited me out to dinner and rock climbing with a gang of the people from the office. Oddly enough, it later it turned out that the interviewee was coming along with us!

After work had calmed down for the day, we hopped on the MAX and went to Old Town Pizza (in Old Town, obviously) for dinner. The food was okay, though I think OTP is one of those places that one goes to for the atmosphere, the large pitchers of beer, and the rather obvious outlines of trapdoors in the floor. AJ and Dave joined us for dinner, and we sat around telling the young lady we'd interviewed about what there was to do in Oregon and Portland. Apparently she and her husband like to go ride ATVs in sand dunes and ride horses. Lucky for them that the farmland starts about 10 minutes west of work on the freeway.

Next, we crammed into AJ's car and he gave us a lift to the Rock Gym at 11th and East Burnside. This building had fake rock walls that were about thirty feet high, and covered with various protrusions for hands and feet--all in all, they didn't make it particularly difficult to climb the wall, unless one wanted to take the color-coded paths up the wall. I managed to scale the wall three times--once on a steep slope and twice on a totally vertical wall. The experience was, strangely enough, like an inductive proof--I'd establish a base rock to launch from, and it was a simple matter of finding another hand or toe hold that would continue the proposition (myself) without failing (falling off). But in this case, I had protective harnesses to prevent total collapse. The interviewee seemed to thoroughly enjoy herself, even though it was her first time.

Next stop was dessert. Pat's husband tried to locate a dessert parlor for us, but the one he wanted was closed, so we ended up with big fudgy brownies at Rock Bottom instead. More chitchat about snowshoeing and hiking in the mountains--looks like I have some fun ahead of me in the springtime! By that time it was getting late, so we went home.

Christmas Ships

Occurred December 21, 2004 (Permalink)

Every year, there is a parade of Christmas Ships (offsite) that sails up and down the Willamette and Columbia rivers in Portland. They are a bunch of powerboats that erect colorful lighted signs on their boats for all to enjoy. This was the fiftieth year that they had run this parade, so I figured that I ought to go see them. Unfortunately, I foolishly waited until the last day of the parade, when they went *upriver* from where I could see them. Alas, I got there ten minutes after the 19:00 launch, and all I saw were seven tiny blobs of light floating up the river. Blast!

I had a couple of hours to kill before they would come back. I drifted all over southwest downtown for a while--saw the mall, the camera shop, Pazzo's, the giant Christmas Tree at Pioneer Courthouse Square--until I got hungry and retired to the Macaroni Grill for dinner. Had a delightfully tasty bowl of angel hair pasta with basil and chicken, though I generally hate dining alone in restaurants.

At 20:40 I headed out of the restaurant back to the docks and waited. And waited. After thirty-five minutes in the cold, the ships came back and I started snapping photographs of each of the ships. My blurry handiwork does a poor job of showing it, but there was a fire truck, a ship with two blue whales, a transparent floating church, Santa paddling a canoe, an American Flag, a lighthouse, a christmas tree, a paddleboat, and more that I can't distinguish from my bad photos. Unfortunately, my hands shake in forty degree weather and the shutter is slow, so this album is one of the worst in my collection. But, it was a unique experience that I hadn't seen before.

Home for Christmas

Occurred December 22, 2004 (Permalink)

I'm home again. First time since late September, because I broke with tradition and went to see Steph, Brian, and Jason in Southern California for Thanksgiving. So winter is upon us--time for more BorkOS work, trips all over the bay, Ghirardelli's, and of course the holiday PARTIES! I can't wait, I'm quaking in my boots like a little kid.

PGP Keys

Occurred December 24, 2004 (Permalink)

I made some PGP keys for myself today, and am now using them to sign all outgoing e-mail. Why do this, you ask? The unauthenticated nature of internet mail delivery has often bothered me--there is nothing built into the protocols that provides for any verification that a message was actually sent by the supposed author. Spammers, kiddiez and the like can slap pretty much anything onto a message. With PGP, I can now sign my messages, so the recipients *know* that a message came from me. Or that it did _not_ come from me. Thunderbird, Mozilla, Netscape 7 and Outlook all have plugins that will verify PGP signatures, so setup should not be too big of a hassle; see Google (or me) for details. See my public key (offsite). I should also note that with PGP, I can encrypt entire emails.

Turducken

Occurred December 25, 2004 (Permalink)

This Christmas was the debut of "Turducken" at the Wong family Christmas dinner. Instead of having one big bony bird, turducken is the fusion of turkey, duck and chicken! The butcher takes the three birds, debones them, and lays them flat. Next, the flat duck is placed in the turkey, and the chicken inside the duck. Finally, the whole thing is rolled into a dense cakelike blob that's held together with a string mesh. End result: An unusually dense slab of meat. It takes several hours to cook the thing (three at 325F?) but the end result is three times the variety of meat. And only *twice* the leftovers!

Baylands Park

Occurred December 28, 2004 (Permalink)

Jason drove from Sacramento to my dad's house in Sunnyvale to spend a few days in the Bay Area. He arrived shortly after noon, and we went hiking with Woodley in the fog and the cold at Baylands Park. The trail is not difficult at all--merely a flat 6.7 mile loop out into the Bay, around a trash dump, past the Palo Alto airport and then back to the parking lot along the freeway. Most of the area is wetlands and former salt ponds that are being turned back into marshes. Along the way there were ducks (ac280035), a great white bird (ac280036), a lot of saturated mud (ac280038), and an egret (ac280046). So much for the natural beauty of the place.

There were also plenty of man-made things out there: in the middle of flatlands is, of all things, two big hills. These were constructed out of garbage and now serve as ... a source of visual oddities. The first of these is a pole farm (ac280053 - 54). It appears that the poles are roughly aligned with the runway at the airport, though in truth it really just looks strange. Nearby are a series of chevrons stuck in the ground (ac280056). I took a look at a USGS overhead map (offsite) of the area; the chevrons, at least, point to where the runway is. Unfortunately, the people who designed the trash mountains refrained from doing anything cool with the garbage piles--instead of undulating hills, we could have had...pyramids, or a square wave, or a big column! Plenty of unnatural shapes for the unnatural hill! We also passed the big recycling center that was next to the mountain of trash (ac280059 - 65).

The third and final destination was the visitor's center. It was closed, but the duck pond nearby was open. Jason took pictures of some ducks and then the wonderful cloud formations in the western sky. Tuesday had a fantastic sunset. The three of us met Steven, Dima and Greg at the Elephant Bar at the Fremont Hub afterwards; while driving around on the freeways, Jason took the strange looking nighttime photos. I kept them for surreality's sake.

Apple and Foothills

Occurred December 29, 2004 (Permalink)

Thursday, Jason and I woke up and drove off to Apple Computer. Funny how my friends all want to see Apple HQ...but it's just an office building; the cool things are the products! Anyway, today was a stunningly beautiful sunny day in the Bay Area, so I took pictures of interesting cloud formations all the way to Apple. Unfortunately, the sun was quite bright (unlike in Beaverton) so some of the pictures are a tad overexposed. A quick southeast jaunt in the car and down Sunnyvale-Saratoga Blvd. and we were at Apple's world headquarters at Infinite Loop. Clever naming aside, the place was deserted because it's the dead week between two holidays. I took some more cloud photos before we drove off to have lunch.

Lunch was two combo bowls of noodles, chicken and shrimp at TK Noodle House next to Target. Amazingly enough, we saw an Apple employee with badge standing in the line for food--proof that engineers _do_ work holidays after all! Or maybe she was in finance. In any case, we left to go take some pretty pictures up in the hills above Woodley's house.

We roared up the freeway towards Los Altos Hills, because Altamont Rd. offers some spectacular views of the South Bay. The two of us went quite deep into the hills and stopped for some photos from the hills. Jason stopped near a big house that has an enormous ravine and horses grazing in it; I managed to capture the scene (and the horses galloping away to see another horse). Next, we continued down the road to the place where the road overlooks a deep drop off into a valley; from there, I got some spectacular pictures of the Mountain View and Santa Clara areas. Moffett field, which we had tried to capture at Baylands Park the day before, was much much clearer today, and hence the pictures are recognizable. We were quite fortunate that the sun decided to come out today so that we could get some good shots. Unfortunately, Jason had to leave, so we drove home and he took off for Sacramento.

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