News from February 2005

Hot Pot City

Occurred February 02, 2005 (Permalink)

Seth, an acquaintance of mine, dragged me out to a place called Hot Pot City in the south blocks of downtown Portland. 'twas a pretty darn good meal--lots of meat, lots of vegetables, and quite a novelty: flavored soup! I've had hot pot plenty of times with the family, but those times we simply hauled out the electric wok and heated a big vat of water/broth mix. Anyway, it seems that there _are_ good places for Asian food in this city. They're just difficult to find.

Hiking Around the City + Basketball

Occurred February 05, 2005 (Permalink)

Jason (offsite) flew to Portland on Friday night. We went to the Bagdad on 39th and Hawthorne and had a really late dinner. Lucky for us it was Friday night, hence we didn't seem too out of place. We stumbled back across the city over to my place and fell asleep some time after that.

After I struggled out of bed late Saturday morning, Jason and I hit up the MAX and went to walk around Washington Park to kill the afternoon. I picked the particular location because I'd never really spent a lot of time in Washington Park and wanted to see more of it. Since there are trails leading from the MAX out to the Japanese Gardens, the Rose Test Garden and downtown, it seemed like a pretty good pick. The Washington Park MAX station is buried 260 feet under a big hill, making it the deepest rail station in North America! You get into an elevator at track level and watch as it hoists you all the way up in a matter of seconds! From there, we followed the Wildwood Trail roughly northeasterly to the Vietnam War memorial. As you can see from (a5020012 - 17), the memorial is a really big spiral with marble edifices denoting the events of Oregon and, of course, the war dead.

Next we strode up to a ridge with Douglas Firs on it (a5020018). Regrettably, it was too foggy for us to be able to see the big mountains (Adams, Hood, Helens) in the distance, though I did find Pittock Mansion peeking out from the trees. Speaking of trees, we also found a Birch Bark Cherry tree (a5020028 - 31). The wood on this tree is just amazing--it feels as if there was a real tree underneath but it had been tightly wrapped in some translucent red plastic sheathing. From there, we followed the trail as it meandered down the hillside towards downtown. Along the way we saw a lot of foliage-enshrouded trees, a crazy jogging couple three times and even a couple of archers practicing in a field tucked away in the middle of nowhere.

We then came upon the Japanese Gardens from above. They appear to be a bit larger than the Chinese Gardens and they do seem to embody what I've come to think of in terms of Japanese gardens--immaculately trimmed exotic plants and carefully crafted streams everywhere. Unfortunately they wanted a somewhat hefty admission fee even though it was raining, so we continued down the hill to the Rose Test Garden. I wouldn't have thought that the Rose Garden would have any roses this time of year, but apparently it does anyway! That's what a mild winter does for us. Or maybe the plants are just hardy here. As the pictures demonstrate, however, there weren't many roses except for the itty bitty miniature roses. Stay tuned, as I'm sure Vernon or Rogene will have me back out here when the time is right.

The next stop on our Saturday journey was the Rose Garden (Arena) for a basketball game: the Sacramento Kings vs. the Portland Trailblazers. From our perch up at the Rose Test Garden, we followed the streets around and around until we reached Salmon street and saw the sign depicted in (a5020058). Corny but true. We jumped back on the MAX and had brownies and cocoa at the Pioneer Courthouse Square Starbucks. Yuppies are we. On a lark, we took the MAX blue line all the way out to Gresham to kill some more of our afternoon. Wow, Gresham is ghetto. Who'da thunk it? And to think that Gresham was worried about the MAX _attracting_ bums...

...we didn't stay in Gresham long. In fact, just long enough to get on the train that was departing the opposite platform. By that time the sun was down and it was really getting cold downtown, so we hopped into the Rose Garden Arena and took our seats. Seventy minutes to the start of the game, and we watched the Kings warming up while snacking on some chintzy hotdogs.

As for the game itself: There was a team of acrobats and a dance troupe. The women in both games were somewhat sexily dressed, and there was quite an eyeful for the audience. Those who came for the basketball were also quite impressed, as the Trailblazers continually outpaced the Kings for a 114-108 victory. Oh, and there were bloody Verizon ads all over the place. Yuck. We got back on the MAX, slipped into some seats hidden from the rest of the unobservant riders and rented some DVDs.

Exploring SE and Longview

Occurred February 06, 2005 (Permalink)

Sunday started in a similar vein: Jason got up ridiculously early and I got up rather late. After a long and slow brunch, we decided to go back to SE and see if we could find any open houses to look at. Unfortunately, it was Super Bowl weekend *and* SE Portland: we found a bunch of bungalows that had _just_ been sold and a five bedroom $405k house that, while nicely decorated upstairs and well remodeled and updated, had a downstairs that didn't even come close to matching. I'm now suffering from a case of sticker shock, though even in SE there really arent't many small houses above 300. There are pricey big ones. In any case, the house that I saw had a lot of interesting features--old style windows complete with distortions in the glass, actual wooden trim on the door and window frames. Anyway, something to think about. Oh, and Jason got a picture of an IBM typewriter store. (a5030119)

By that time it was late and it was beginning to rain. Jason suggested that we could head north and go see Washington state. I agreed, because sitting around at home sounded awfully boring. I drove out to 84, turned left at 205 and off we went into Clark county. (a5030124 - 127) The stories are quite true-- southwestern Washington really isn't built up at all. The freeway sort of meanders through the country, with the occasional bridge here and there to go back into Vancouver. But one doesn't really encounter any serious signs of civilization until 205 dumps into 5 and 5 reaches the next time. I kept going north on 5, exit after exit, because I wanted to see if there would be any change along the freeway. There wasn't.

Interstate 5, of course is a north-south freeway. Just west of the I5 crossing over the Columbia, a strange things happens: the Columbia hits the Portland hills and turns northward. I-5 emerges some twenty miles downriver and the two parallel each other for quite some way. Eventually, we reached Longview, WA on the interstate. The only reason why this town is significant is (1) because Dan Baker (offsite) hails from the town and (2) this is where the Columbia heads west out to meet the Pacific. I was tired of driving deeper and deeper into Washington (a pathetic joke at this point because we'd left Portland forty miles ago yet Oregon was still half a bloody mile away!) and I wanted to see Dan's hometown.

Longview, WA is a horridly unnavigable city. (a503130 - 140) I did not find the sign that told me how to get across the river back to Oregon. I could not even figure out how the city was laid out, other than to guess that the city's streets radiated out from a big brick structure in the center of the city, making concentric circles. Unlike Portland, the streets are _not_ on a grid and not really named with any sort of underlying usability ideas in mind; as a result we got quite lost. Eventually I gave up, put on my paper bag, and dove back onto south 5 towards Portland.

That in and of itself was quite a treat: Washington's speed limit on 5 is 60. I could go 68mph! So we did, all the way back to Portland, and Jason snapped a blurry picture of Oregon's nuclear power plant along the way. (a5030141) After that we went home and watched more movies. What a lazy Sunday!

Ice, Snow and No Cave

Occurred February 07, 2005 (Permalink)

Jason and I later had a brilliant idea: Let's explore an ice cave! Apparently the interaction between (hard) lava and (soft) basalt over the years left quite a few empty holes in the ground up near Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens. St. Helens is still mostly closed after the volcanic activity last September, which ruled out a visit to Ape Cave...but not Ice Cave. For the unfamiliar, Ice Cave is just past the end of WA141, which is a road that goes north-south from the Columbia just opposite Hood River up to Trout Lake, and then curves westward out to some ancient lava flows.

It turns out that Jason seems to like taking car pictures of what he sees along the way during any road trip. This means that there are pictures of the journey east from Beaverton to Washington and more! There's not really a whole lot to tell about this part of the day trip--we basically just went eastward! Jason tried to get a picture of the Everwood advertisements on the MAX cars (a5040155 - 158) but we failed miserably in that effort. We even stopped at Gateway TC @ 99th to get batteries and pictures, but apparently missed the train. This ate thirty minutes off our plans and we left in disgust.

The rest of the way to Hood River was spent with Jason photographying all kinds of interesting looking bits--Lookout Point (a5040166), the snow-capped trees on the south side of the Columbia Gorge (a5040176-7) and a bunch of stunning photos of the Washington countryside (a5040172-5). After two hours of travel, we were finally ready to head into Washington! (a5040186) We crossed the bridge, nailed some road debris, and began the trek into the state. As we went further and further northward (and upward) I noticed that the snow piles along the sides of WA141 were getting higher and higher. They'd obviously been plowed, but this was perhaps the first sign of what was to come...

...real ice and snow! Pictures (a5040187 - 191) show the pictures that we took of the snow-capped trees and the snow all over the ground. This was my inaugural driving trip into icy/snowy roads. At 20mph, fortunately, there isn't a whole lot of danger of skidding off the road. Unfortunately, disaster struck: We got lost at an intersection and couldn't tell which way we were supposed to go. (a5040192) Hence we stopped. A good thing too, as we later found out at the Mt. Adams ranger station that WA141 was closed a short distance down one of the roads that we had thought about trying. In any case, we stopped and decided to take some pictures of the intersection, the trees, the snow, big blobs of fluffy white snow, and damaged road reflectors (a5040192 - 212). The place where we stopped, as you can see, was quite beautiful--the sun had come out, the skies were clear, and we could play in some obviously fresh white blobs of snow that were still falling off the trees! A white wonderland indeed. We made big snow blobs, threw the blobs at each other and the car, and generally wandered around among a lot of cold dampness. Our attempts to build a snowman were fruitless, though: our hands froze!

Freezing hands and diminishing sunlight convinced us that it was time to head back. I had a idea--Steph and I had really enjoyed some chocolate cake that we had in a cafe in Hood River on our way back from Mt. Hood, and I wanted to have some more! Jason took over driving at this point and I started taking pictures...of a snowy roads (a5040213 - 216), a field of stumps (a5040217 - 222), the Mt. Adams ranger station (a5040226 - 7) and a really awesome sunset at the end of that set. The combination of fog, a snowy meadow along the side of WA141 and a single streak of golden sunlight made for an irresistible combination! Glad I got those two (a5040227 - 8)!

Finally, we have the set of photos from the trek home. As we headed further south, the cloud cover went away, enabling me to take some silhouettes of fields and sunrays: (a5040229 - 231). The one I'm most proud of is (a5040231), just because I managed to catch the flare of sun as it was disappearing behind a hill and blotted out nearly all the details of the trees and the meadow in the foreground. We crossed the river, walked into the 6th St. Bistro (a5040234) and ordered the dessert. Like most Gorge towns, Hood River sits between a big cliff (Oregon) and the Columbia River; therefore, the bistro is on a steeply sloped street, which allowed me to climb up the hill a ways and grab some pictures of where we had just been in Washington (a5040236 - 242) and Hood River itself (a5040239 - 241). Feeling satisfied and vaguely tired, we struck out on 84W and headed home.

Luckily, I didn't have to drive, so I got to sit in the passenger seat and take pictures on Jason's camera! The entire set (a5040243 - 251) were all taken while zooming westward on 84 at about 70mph. I particularly like the foreground motion blur in (a5040243) and how one of the two telephone poles is sharp yet the other is not. Unfortunately, the end of sunlight meant that the camera slowed down, thus producing blurry pictures the rest of the way home. Once we hit downtown Portland, this enabled me to take some impressively (I say "artistically") blurry and wavy photographs while travelling down the freeway (a5040253 - 266). The shot of the Fremont (405) bridge in (a5040262) has this enticing quality-- note how the car on the left is nothing but a series of blurry bouncy lines, yet most everything else in the picture seems to have come out passably. That bridge is pretty smooth, which enabled me to take advantage of the slow shutter speed at high velocity to get the weird triple-vision effects. (a5040265) is a rendering of downtown Portland as a series of lighted ampersands. That picture has an almost surreal quality in its craptacularity--the lights are caused by buildings, yet their squiggliness lends them an almost human quality.

23 and No Different

Occurred February 10, 2005 (Permalink)

One full day of being 23...and it doesn't feel any different from 22. Though, Steph called. That lifted my spirits substantially. :)

ATTN: The Gentleman in Black and Gold and ... the Other Guy

Occurred February 11, 2005 (Permalink)

The next time you want to step in front of a moving MAX train, here are three things you need:

--heard while riding MAX last weekend.

(The men in question got off at the next stop.)

Gillette Lake and Bonneville Dam: Nature, Interrupted

Occurred February 12, 2005 (Permalink)

After a week of intense planning, Lara, Eliza, Dave, Ana and I piled into Dave's (t)rusty pickup and headed off into the Gorge for some hiking. A great day we picked too, because it was rainy in Portland and even rainier in the Gorge! No, no sour grapes there. :P Anyhow, Eliza said that there was a loop trail in Washington that started near Bonneville Power Station and looped up through the mountains to a place called Gillette Lake. Not named after the shaving products company.

Eastward we roared on 84. Past the huge malls in Troutdale. Past the giant Multnomah Falls. Past Bonneville Dam. Past the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia. Past...drat, we missed the exit. We went over the Bridge of the Gods (the same bridge that I crossed on the way to Carson two weeks ago) and turned leftwards towards Bonneville Dam. We parked, suited up, and noticed that there was a fresh layer of mud all over the ground, waiting just for us! The hike was a fairly ugly one--the region had obviously been clear-cut several times and in different places. A few decent fog-enshrouded vistas of the Gorge, but they weren't that good in the rain. We even came upon a logging road that ran on a ridge, before our trail plummeted down to a green lake at the edge of the clear cut logging. There were even power lines for ambience.

So...humanity notwithstanding, the lake itself wasn't too bad. The water had a deep green hue, dead logs all about, and evidence that beavers had taken up residence nearby the creek that feeds into the lake and started to build beaver dams. Dave even found a beaver biscuit--a blob of wood that had been gnawed into a roughly circular shape. I wandered around a bit trying to get pictures, but realized that, aside from being a big lake, there weren't any trails to get _around_ the lake. We went home.

I wandered around NE Portland just taking in the views of downtown and observing the neighborhoods. Lots of lovely Tudor English houses in the Beaumont district. Then I went home, cleaned up, and went downtown for a "Sod Valentine's" pub crawl. I couldn't find the first bar, so I browsed Powell's for books that I'd read before. Went to the second bar and started chatting with a woman who moved here from North Carolina last summer. Actually discovered that I could one point there were six of them in a circle around me. Woo!

Organ Concert

Occurred February 13, 2005 (Permalink)

Les Garrett, of Lewis and Clark College, gave an organ concert at the First Presbyterian Church (offsite) of Portland this afternoon. I braved some pretty bad weather to get there--despite the sunny 45 degree weather, it was hailing in downtown Portland! The short ninety-minute concert featured several pieces by German and French composers of the early 1700s as well as some church-oriented works by Bach. Wrapping up the concert was Bach's Passacaglia (BWV 582). The church has a mighty pipe organ with nearly 3,515 tubes and some ~50 different voices. Amazingly, the entire system is controlled manually by pushrod--there was a big stack of rods rising to the upper organ chamber; this stack reminded me of the parallel yarns on a loom.

The solution to today's existential funk was to go buy some new Rockports and have linguine bolognese at a small Mediterranean place I know of downtown.

silly thing posts comments when you press enter even with nothing in the box. anyhow, bach's passacalia is an amazing piece. i'd love to hear that live some day. also, did you know they use it in "The Godfather"?

It posts when you press Enter? Strange...doesn't do that here (Firefox/Linux) ...will look into that. And yes I did know that the Passacaglia is in The Godfather because I watch too many movies.

Dinner Party

Occurred February 18, 2005 (Permalink)

Tonight, I hosted a dinner party at my pad for my hiking friends. Eliza said that since the following Monday was President's Day, she'd take the day off and show us how to make some Mexican dishes. I decided that I'd be nice and let everyone convene at my place (provided that they didn't mind coming way out to Beaverton) and so the plans were set. Eliza set off to cook and the rest of us went to our jobs.

Lara, Eliza and Dave showed up around 20:00 with several containers of beer, pre-marinaded chicken, guacamole, raw rice, something that looked to be some sort of casserole with cheese on top, vegetables, and various seasonings. The beer was passed out quite quickly; Lara, David and Eliza set to work preparing food while I ran around trying to find a laptop and speakers to establish some atmosphere.

In the end, I didn't end up doing a whole lot because, quite simply, four people do not fit in my kitchen. The rest of them, therefore, baked the casserole, ate chips and guac, made some salsa out of the tomatoes, cooked some rice, and generally made a mess in my kitchen. :) I stood by in what amounts to an advisory role, alas. I suppose I should propose some dishes of my own, since I don't seem to have much luck getting involved in the actualy food preparation.

Anyhow, we sat down to a rather late dinner. The thing that looked like casserole had mysteriously turned into chicken enchiladas, the rice had an accomplished flavor to it, and by then I was feeling rather tipsy. We sat around my big dining room table and talked into the night until Lara announced that she had to get up early to start her new job the next day. Thus adjourned, I took three days to get around to cleaning.

Hotel Rwanda and Harvey's with Bonnie

Occurred February 19, 2005 (Permalink)

After our anticlimactic trip to Old Baldy on Saturday, Bonnie and I decided to go home and see a movie. After a bit of relaxation, we went to see Hotel Rwanda (offsite), a story about a Hutu hotel manager who decides to save a group of Tutsi people when Rwanda erupts in racial bloodshed. Quite a good movie, a bit gory at times, and amazing that he would take on such a quantity of personal risk to save a large group of people who he doesn't know. Though it's not so surprising that he wants to save his Tutsi family too... it's not quite as selfless (or as well done) as, say, Schindler's List, but it was a compelling display of courage and moral conviction nonetheless.

Three days later, we went to Harvey's Comedy Club downtown for some evening entertainment. This time, the performing comedian was Chris Alpine, who portrayed himself as a stereotypical Portland "glasses geek" and made several ludicrous observations about the world around him, taunted people out in the audience and flirted with the women. Quite hilarious, actually! He and the two guys that Harvey's sent out to warm up the crowd were, I daresay, funnier than the people that were on the time we went to Harvey's.

Old Baldy Mountain: Denied!

Occurred February 19, 2005 (Permalink)

This winter has been phenomenally sunny and warm--a normal San Diego summer, if you ask me! Ironically, San Diego has had enough rain to qualify as an typical Oregonian winter. Looks like we're buying water from California this summer. Anyway, my friend Bonnie and I figured that since it had been warm for several contiguous days, it would be a good idea to get outside and take advantage of the warm weather by going to the mountains. No snow, right?

So we strike out on the freeway. No snow in Portland. None along OR-224 for the first thirty miles out of town; all we see along the way are rolling hills, farmlands, rivers, trees and little podunk towns. We pass through Estacada; still no sign of inclement weather. For another eight miles we drive through area after area of clear cut logging with signs prominently proclaiming "Proudly replanted in 1990!" A little while later the road begins to slope distinctively uphill, until...

...BAM we hit a bank of snow sitting there in the middle of the road! I continue up the road some ways until I start sliding on the ice and we decide that since the Old Baldy Mountain trailhead is nine miles away that we should just go home. Old Baldy is now on the list of things to see in the summertime. FIE.

Portland Linux Hackers

Occurred February 23, 2005 (Permalink)

Went out to a pub on an invitation from Hanna (a coworker). Turns out that it was the monthly gathering of interested Linux hackers from the Portland area. So I met Keith Packard ( guy) and saw Greg K-H (drivers guy) again. There were several people from Intel's networking group there too. I recall hearing Hanna say that this was a function of the Portland LUG, but I'll have to check that next week.

Corrupting the Youth

Occurred February 24, 2005 (Permalink)

It's a good thing that corrupting the youth is no longer a crime punishable by death. As part of National Engineers Week (offsite), Hanna and I went to a middle school in Beaverton to make a presentation to two math classes about what it's like to take up engineering as a profession. The objective of this program, ostensibly, is to get kids excited about math and science at a young age so that they avoid the trap of becoming bureaucrats or, worse, quacks and sue-happy lawyers.

Hanna and I were not without help in preparing the presentation materials for the day. Since we were doing this through IBM, the company supplied us with a canned presentation and activity--the first half of the class would be a twenty-minute lecture about what engineers do, what they tend to be good at (hint: math, science or logic) and how to become an engineer. The activity for the rest of the time was a demonstration of systematic data collection and strategization practices with a simple game of tic tac toe.

Let me expound on the activity a little more: We were to have the kids pit two tic tac toe algorithms against the random selection method. Strategy "A", of course, is quite a strong algorithm--go for a win, go for a block, or take the center, the corners and finally the sides. The "B" algorithem, then, mutates "A" until it becomes a totally bizarre amalgamation of rules. Obviously, "A" should wipe the floor, "B" wins some of the time, and random should never win. However, this being real life, the kids proved me wrong and got totally wacky results. This fueled a discussion of data quality and why we need statistics to bullsh*t extract a meaning from data.

As those familiar with myself might have guessed, I spent a good portion of my lecture time editorializing and telling goofy stories to make the kids laugh. Hanna and I had two classes to run, so we split off the classes. First I did the lecture, then she did the activity and the lecture for the next class, and I wrapped up the second class with the tic-tac-toe game. I think she was a bit more interactive than I was, though the kids in the class to which I lectured were pretty good at questioning my tall tales.

Junior high school girls are vicious! At the beginning of the second class there was this moderately large guy standing around in the room. A gang of seven or so girls congregated near him. Every so often, one would run up, kick the guy in the pants, and run away before he could take a meaningful swing at any one of them. It was rather amusing to watch, as I wondered just what he did to deserve it. Unless they were just mean girls. But I wouldn't think that small girls would take a crack at a bigger boy just for meanness' sake...

Mean Girls is a good movie.

Is it really a good movie, or is the 'eye candy' just good, so to speak? I'm curious as to whether it's worth watching. :-)

880GB of SATA

Occurred February 25, 2005 (Permalink)

Following the acquisition of three 200GB SATA drives, I now have an insane 880GB of storage space in my tower at home. I should be able to host a ridiculous amount of data on my machine shortly--I wonder how good subversion would be as a revision control/backup tool? It's designed for revision control, but it doesn't sound like it'd be too difficult to (ab)use it for making backups onto auxiliary disk drives.

Oh, and I was up until 04:30 just trying to figure out which arrangement of PCI cards and BIOS settings would let me boot the system successfully. For future note: video, sata1, nic, sound, sata2, pata2. No IOAPIC. Else badness happens.

Could you host my brain? I keep losing it. maybe if it was on some nice server, all I'd have to do is remember the URL for it..

Sure, but I don't have good upload speeds. And, do you really want an added 40ms latency for each brain cache miss?

Bastard, you have more space than me now. And I've had to recently downsize. If I can't fill 760GB, I wish you luck in filling 880.

Oh, I have much more than that. 880 + 160 + 60 + 38 + 80 + 20 + 80 = 1318GB. Woo, I have 1.3TB of space in my apartment. Good god.

Well if you want to be technical that way... I have 200 + 200 + 180 + 180 + 160 + 80 + 80 + 40 = 1120GB over 2 machines, which would average 560G per machine... I just can't get all of those damn drives into my machines, since one's a laptop and the other is my tower that can't hold very many drives. As it is, my computers average a total capacity (installed) of 390GB... you?

Shut up.

Sunday Brunch

Occurred February 27, 2005 (Permalink)

Quickie: Went to the Blue Monk for another brunch Sunday. Chatted with people for a few hours. Walked to Hawthorne and wandered through neighborhood and into shops. Bought more sci-fi and technical books at Powell's. Sat reading them in Sunnyside Park. Enjoyed self immensely. Then went home: ugh.

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