All news that's ever been posted.

Web Site Announcement

Occurred January 01, 1999 (Permalink)

Yes, there were news items from before this. But they were deleted because I...didn't save them. Oh well.

Babelizer

Occurred January 08, 1999 (Permalink)

This is the strangest program to come from me in a long, long time. It takes a seed file, an input file and a magic number. Next, Babelizer reads the lines from the input file, and then randomly writes lines to an output file! Babelizer is based upon a similar program found in Foucault's Pendulum, but you can read about the program and download it here.

Gaussian-Elimination Matrix Solver

Occurred January 28, 1999 (Permalink)

The Gaussian Matrix Solver uses a modified version of Gauss's method to solve systems of linear equations. Really, it's not a very complex program (compared to JPeriod99 or WebServ), but it is a major time saver! If you ever wanted an easy way out of Chapter 8...

Scribble Pad

Occurred February 01, 1999 (Permalink)

Next up: Scribble Pad! My next program will be even more ambitious than my current efforts. Eventually (if lazy me ever gets around to doing this...) I will create a whiteboard / chat collaboration program that will let people run discussions over the internet using Java's RMI technology. Needless to say, this isn't even on the drawing board, and, given that I'm a second-semester junior, this program probably won't see the light of day for a while! So no, this isn't a product; it isn't even vaporware yet.

Hex Calculator

Occurred February 01, 1999 (Permalink)

A simple hexadecimal calculator (broken) . It does the usual stuff that any calculator does, plus it converts between hex, decimal and binary! It also has bitwise operators (shift, and, or, xor, etc). It also has a memory function. Built in Swiss-army knife, just as seen on TV. Ok, I'm kidding.

Seventeen

Occurred February 10, 1999 (Permalink)

I am seventeen. Hoo-ray.

JPeriod '99 Updates

Occurred February 11, 1999 (Permalink)

For those of you with 32-bit Windows, you can now use a native program to invoke JPeriod99--but only if you're running it as an application. I also added a big, funny-looking splash screen graphic and a progress bar to show you how far the program's loaded. Access the new Periodic Table here.

Proxy Server

Occurred February 18, 1999 (Permalink)

Over February break, I wrote a pseudo-proxy server in Java. It fetches pages from one server and sends them to a client. You can look at the program itself here. No demonstrations are running, because as it turns out, the proxy'd sites have become free... (and now, post-boom, they're not free anymore! (2003-11-30))

jSearch Enhancements

Occurred February 21, 1999 (Permalink)

This month, I added the Caltech Library and the Britannica dictionary to the list of search engines. I also rewrote jSearch so that it can be easily embedded in any page on the web while also remaining up-to-date. For a faster jSearch, go (link deleted).

Internet Utilities

Occurred March 16, 1999 (Permalink)

This is my latest release of Internet Utilities. It also happens to be the first release. Right now it will only do DNS lookup, send HTTP requests to servers (it also shows you the headers!) and scan IP addresses for web servers. Read here.

BackTalk

Occurred March 16, 1999 (Permalink)

My network has a firewall. Sure, it prevents attacks on computers inside the firewall, and I appreciate that. But, what if you want to send print jobs to run when you're away? You can't...from outside. However BackTalk does this. Install it on a computer (you'll need a task scheduler of some sort to automatically run this program) and it will read a job script over HTTP, and then execute commands you specify. Read about BackTalk Script Parser. The best part about this program is that it leaves the firewall intact! You must have access to an inside computer for it to work at all...you also must have a server somewhere to serve HTTP pages.

Web Server

Occurred April 01, 1999 (Permalink)

With this new version, we've packed all the secret stuff into a Virtual File System embedded within the server itself. No more port 49152 monkey business! I also implemented a thread cache, optimized the server to make it quite a bit faster. Maybe it's running (link deleted) or, better yet, (link deleted) to see the new kubiak.menloschool.org (an internal Menlo thing, you realize... ).

IPPrint and ADD

Occurred April 12, 1999 (Permalink)

After thibs' power supply blew out and kept us in the dark for a week, I have new utilities posted! ipprint sends files to a specified IP address and port-- useful for printing to any recent-model HP LaserJets. "add" is NOT a calculator --it is a miniature web server used to defeat advertisements on the Internet. Simply reroute the offending ad agencies' servers to 127.0.0.1 in the HOSTS file, start the server (in the background, I hope) and away go the ads! Read about Internet Printer or Advertisement Defeater.

File Listings!

Occurred May 16, 1999 (Permalink)

I added a cool new file listing script to my web site! Now you can get full directory information from the browser--try it here (broken) . (Apparently, this was considered newsworthy in 1999...)

Random Sentence Generation

Occurred May 20, 1999 (Permalink)

Check out my (ahem) adaptation of Woodley's Random Sentence Generator here.

Italy Trip

Occurred May 25, 1999 (Permalink)

Hey! I'm going to Italy this summer with the local Menlo classics teachers and a bunch of my friends! I'm really looking forward to this trip--we leave Monday, June 14th and come back Tuesday, July 6th. Factor in a day to recover from jet lag, and I'll be up and running sometime around Thursday, July 8th. There are 15 days, 10 hours, 24 minutes, 55 seconds until we leave!

Page Fixes

Occurred May 25, 1999 (Permalink)

New site enhancements! I have finally fixed the bugs that cause problems in Netscape 3.x! Furthermore, I modified this site so that you can access the menus without having to have layers (for Netscape 3.x users); instead of upgrading to Netscape 4.x, all you have to do is just click on a menu title and you get a page with the menu's content on it.

Finals are Over!

Occurred May 28, 1999 (Permalink)

YAY!!! FINALS ARE OVER!!!

Not My Graduation

Occurred June 04, 1999 (Permalink)

No more Spanish! At last final brain shutdown comes! Alas, the seniors are gone. The last of them graduated at 11:07 this morning, the fourth day of June of 1999. Now I step up to the bat, becoming a senior, and get to think about the road ahead, stress about college applications and other stuff. But wait! We have to choose our history and English classes again! Ugh. Oh, well. Farewell to seniors. Well, all is not lost yet--a few are going to Italy with me, and a bunch of us are going to the beach(?) next week.

Old Music on 78RPM Records

Occurred June 09, 1999 (Permalink)

I finally finished converting my old 78rpm LPs onto tape. Old scratchy things; here's a list of songs.

Silicon Valley Teens are Programming

Occurred July 18, 1999 (Permalink)

A month ago, Martha Mendoza, a reporter for the Associated Press, interviewed me about how my spending my summer working for a computer company, rather than loafing on the beach or flipping burgers at an In-N-Out. Read the article.

Prototype Web Site

Occurred August 17, 1999 (Permalink)

View my prototype web site here (link removed). I've fixed all the problems with resizing Netscape windows, improved Netscape 3 useability, and introduced CSS to take care of all the display parameters...although the HTML 3 presentation tags (FONT, B, I, etc.) remain. Also note the new jSearch. (The menu links don't work, for the most part, because I don't have the upload bandwidth to do a full publish (maybe 8/25/99?)

kubiak.menloschool.org

Occurred September 29, 1999 (Permalink)

Announcing the arrival of yet another Linux box on campus! Two, actually. The first one is LinuxPPC (offsite) running on a 7600/120 (that's a 604, for all those interested). With a paltry 48MB of RAM and ~600MB of free disk space, it's nothing compared to the other box...except that this computer doesn't get hard reset! <smirk> To get at this computer via AppleShare, open the Chooser and select "ThibsFloppy" in "High School Faculty". If you want shell access, connect to "172.20.9.226" (INSIDE Menlo, thank you very much) and log in as user "kubiak" password "kubiak". Please don't do anything strange to the box or security might actually get enforced (i.e. no more shell access for guests!) Yes, the box is inside the firewall. No SSH tunnels and no sending xterms please. If you want further instructions as to using this machine, AND you're inside Menlo, click here (link deleted). Otherwise, you can view the same (well, almost the same) page here (link deleted) on thibs.

manatee.menloschool.org

Occurred October 01, 1999 (Permalink)

Later...Woodley (offsite) assimilated an iMac in the Writing Center with LinuxPPC. It's a 333MHz iMac with 64MB of RAM and a 3.3GB hard disk. Woodley politely asks people to log in on the console as user "macos" (no password) to get to MacOS rather than pushing the power button. No SSH tunnels and no sending xterms please. The machine is at IP address 172.20.9.99, incidentally. That's INSIDE the firewall.

Bug Fixes, Future Plans

Occurred October 08, 1999 (Permalink)

The Internet Printer and the BackTalk Script Parser have been updated to reflect Menlo's recent printer changes. I've fixed a few bugs in JPeriod; development of the XML-ized reconfigurable version continues. Eventually, I hope to make it so that users can add more information to the atom database and then add custom property viewers to the program WITHOUT a recompilation of the program.

Web Site Improvements

Occurred October 08, 1999 (Permalink)

Fixed some bugs, stuff that accidentally didn't get updated, added a few links. Reconfigured Apache to send custom-formatted error pages (i.e. error pages with headers and footers) and also to give directory listings that are consistent with the site's overall look and feel. Menlo also updated its main web site today; give it a look (link deleted). Don't expect a whole lot of new content between now and...Thanksgiving; I am very busy with college apps.

Yes! We Have No Bananas!

Occurred October 12, 1999 (Permalink)

For all of you that remember that strange song that Kubiak was always ranting and raving about while we were reading The Great Gatsby, I posted the lyrics to (most) of the verses in that song, as well as a MIDI version and some history of the song and its vaudeville beginnings. Read about it here. I'm also going to Boston this weekend (and Matthew and Alice and Tyler and Lesley will be there too...)

Search Engines

Occurred January 01, 2000 (Permalink)

Made it so that you can bang the Enter key in the "Phrase" field and invoke the search. (1/14/2000) Added the Free Online Dictionary of Computing to jSearch! (1/14/2000) Added the Internet Movie Database (offsite) to jSearch! (1/1/19100 <smirk>)

Biotech Project Proposal

Occurred January 14, 2000 (Permalink)

This is a web presentation of my project proposal for my Biotech class. Next semester, I will be optimizing a PCR reaction to detect polymorphisms in the Milton gene of Drosophila. Hopefully, we'll be able to find a correlation between these genes (which control the operation and construction of the fly's eye) and human chromosomes. Read more.

The History of Waffles

Occurred January 16, 2000 (Permalink)

Some rabid Slashdot (offsite) reader posted this thing in response to a poll about waffles. Very, very strange. Very nerdy, too. Disks == waffles? I guess... Read more.

Midsummer Update

Occurred July 31, 2000 (Permalink)

Whoa...here it is, the last day of July...first batch of friends are leaving for college in 20 days. I'm not leaving until September 26th...but don't expect me to be on thibs a whole lot after that. UCSD has a notoriously slow ResNet (thank you, Napster/iMesh/scour!)

mod_ssl up to 2.6.5...OpenSSH up to 2.1.1p4...mods perl & random are gone...Poll 0.71...

A Java ntalk client is in the works and slowly getting developed on weekends. So far I can send request to the talk daemon and establish (very badly piped) communications...if the callee uses telnet. But this is a 0.0000001 quality nonrelease. Oh...wrote a simple PHP photo album for thibs.

Off to College

Occurred September 12, 2000 (Permalink)

Moo! I leave for college on Friday morning. Last bits of apache work: Zope 2.2.1, Squishdot 0.7.1, mod_ssl 2.6.6, OpenSSH 2.2.0p1.

Arrived at College

Occurred September 24, 2000 (Permalink)

I've arrived! I spent quite a bit of Welcome Week rearranging my entire schedule, alas, but now I'm virtually a sophomore! Anyway, I'm finally getting settled in, visited the beach, and am ever so slowly making new friends. I miss all the old ones! Anyway, those of you who are interested can examine my class schedule (offsite). [Note: This schedule has been updated to reflect WI02. --D]

Arrived at College

Occurred December 02, 2001 (Permalink)

No, you're not seeing double; it's just that this site has been dead for a year now. This is shameful, since I arrived at college last September as one might expect--but nothing's been updated to reflect this. A BogoMIPS calculator has been written.

At Last...A New Site!

Occurred December 18, 2001 (Permalink)

At long last, this site has undergone the facelift that it's been needing for quite some time. The menus, although quite cool, were a major maintenance liability, and they don't work in all browsers. Plus, they were JavaScript; hence search engines could not index this site. So now we have XHTML 1.1/CSS2 compliant pages that are generated on the fly by PHP.

Old Photos of Douglass Hall

Occurred December 19, 2001 (Permalink)

While rummaging through my hard disk on the computer at home today, I made quite a discovery--an archive of old photographs of Douglass Hall, taken some time in late 1997 before the renovation began. You can see these photos on the Douglass page of the photo album. Also read the last update.

JavaYZ Migrated to DD

Occurred December 29, 2001 (Permalink)

Well! At last, the Java YZ page has been merged into the Domicile. The old jyz.sourceforge.net site has been replaced with a redirector. Also, the interactive site map applet has been sucked over from the main thibs page and modified to display a map of all the pages in the Domicile.

Fifth Season of UCSDementia

Occurred February 09, 2002 (Permalink)

No More Teenager-dom

Occurred February 10, 2002 (Permalink)

Gosh, I'm no longer in the 'teenager' category...

First and Second Web Sites Posted!

Occurred February 17, 2002 (Permalink)

While combing through father's computer over Winter Vacation, I happened to chance upon an archive of my very first website. After stewing over it for a month, I have decided to post it for all to see. Not that there's a whole lot to see, and it's not very good. But keep in mind that it was 1996 and that I was in junior high then--do not look for heavy polishing. View this Exhibit.

I've also decided to place the old archive of the DDD site (this site's predecessor) in the Exhibits section, in case you miss the old menus and the old look. Actually, that site is not very different from this one, aside from some slight reordering and the facelift. View this Exhibit.

What's Cooking Updated

Occurred February 25, 2002 (Permalink)

I've modified the What's Cooking (page deleted) page to indicate what I'm really up to--it hasn't been a whole lot. It also might be cool to dabble in mathematical constructions and twelve-tone music...if I had the time.

Dementia VI

Occurred March 10, 2002 (Permalink)

Writing and production has begun for Dementia VI! It appears that some sort of nature documentary was already filmed at the tail end of season 5, although details about the other sketches are, well, sketchy. Also, based on rumors flying about, certain members of the Dementia crew are working on some sort of big project to be released at the end of the season. More details as they come in.

Virtual Train Sets

Occurred March 12, 2002 (Permalink)

The race is on! Woodley put out a train set for YZ-Windows, and now Darrick will have to follow suit! More details forthcoming...for now, look here for screenshots!

More Dementia V Clips

Occurred March 17, 2002 (Permalink)

<snort> Train sets...hah! Darrick has far too much to do--final exams, reading the Aeneid for no purpose other than self-amusement and curiosity (seriously, even though nobody seems to believe it). Mandelbaum's translation, for those of you who dabble in that sort of thing. Oh yeah, I also posted more clips from Dementia V.

Spring Quarter

Occurred April 01, 2002 (Permalink)

A new quarter is upon me! As usual, I've posted my daily schedule (offsite) for everybody to gawk at. It's unfortunate about CSE 141L-- evidently the department is not going to let me in off the waiting list, even after giving me the runaround several times. Morons. Oh well, I suppose I ought to ease up on the workload anyway.

Dementia VI Dead

Occurred April 11, 2002 (Permalink)

Now dead. Look for a Documentia by Clay.

New Photo Gallery

Occurred April 15, 2002 (Permalink)

Yo! I installed a new photo album management system to play with. Go look at it here.

Random Sentence Generator

Occurred April 22, 2002 (Permalink)

At long last, Darrick has finally posted the first generation random sentence generator on his web site! It's a silly thing; turn on Java for full effect, and then click here for some mind-blowing...words.

Disk Benchmarking Tool

Occurred June 20, 2002 (Permalink)

I've written a tool to measure disk throughput versus location on disk. Having gotten several friends to use it on their own machines, I've collected some sample graphs (broken) . Very interesting parabolic and linear patterns...hmm....

Moved to San Diego

Occurred August 30, 2002 (Permalink)

Moved down to San Diego, into Costa Verde. Whee, what fun, and a month before school starts, too! :-) RoadRunner fast (for now, anyway; let's hope it stays that way.)

On Deck

Occurred September 01, 2002 (Permalink)

CSE 120 (Operating Systems), CSE 141L (Microprocessor Design), CSE 131A (Compiler Construction, Part I), and CSE 111 (Object Oriented Design). This will be interesting. But at least I get four day weekends.

Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer

Occurred September 03, 2002 (Permalink)

As the summer begins to shimmer its last rays over the horizon, I find myself staying surprisingly busy, despite this being the summer of not much to do. At the moment, I am re-reading some old favorites (Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum (offsite)).

Moreover, I've been beefing up on some new things, such as file systems and, more interestingly, information retrieval systems. It'll be interesting to see what sort of strange ideas pour out of my head, and, more importantly, will I actually do anything with those ideas? Virtual train sets sounded cool, but alas were of somewhat dubious practical value, and thus they seem to have fallen by the wayside.

Also hosted the Summer's End party, where Sam showed us how to cook teriyaki salmon and we (sort of) celebrated roommate Clay's (offsite) birthday and Labor Day. Tanner visited, and all was fun! :-)

Measuring Disk Seek Times

Occurred September 06, 2002 (Permalink)

Announcing a seek-time analogue of bogodisk; I ingeniously named it bogoseek. See the program (broken) or see the graphs (broken) .

Fall 2002 Schedule Posted

Occurred September 22, 2002 (Permalink)

Enough said. Look here (offsite). Oh yeah: Sam created a multilingual (offsite) version of the Random Sentence Generator; now it supports English, Japanese, "romanji", and Hebrew.

So here's what I did tonight:

Occurred November 17, 2002 (Permalink)

Burned hand on stove. Swore a lot. Banged head against various silly memcpy bugs and other heap-corruption nonsense. Gosh I hate C++. Programming an operating system (Nachos) is hard work. It's fun, but draining. Hopefully I'll never have to do this again in my life. (Just watch, I'll probably end up at some company doing OS kernel work...)

Final Exams and a HOSE

Occurred December 13, 2002 (Permalink)

Now that that's over, I've finally gotten around to writing down at least a few ideas about a hierarchal metadata-rich object storage system for computers. Read more here.

New Quarter, New Year

Occurred January 05, 2003 (Permalink)

For this (WI03) quarter: CSE 127/131B/101, ECON 4. I'm also tutoring CSE 80. An actual schedule will be posted in a day or two, via the schedule link (offsite). This quarter will be interesting...

Spring at Last!

Occurred April 13, 2003 (Permalink)

Hooray. I survived winter quarter. Now for another quarter, and possibly even a job, too. We'll see about that. I'm happy. Also became of age a couple of months ago. Funny how I've grown up quite a lot in the space of three months. Lots of networking last quarter ;-). Also kinda amusing that technically, this is a blog, but I rarely feed it anything. Oh well--those who know me best probably don't need to read a blog anyways to know what I'm up to.

I'm in the graphics class this quarter, so maybe you'll see some screenshots of various renderings posted here.

I Work at Sun

Occurred May 05, 2003 (Permalink)

Started work at Sun Microsystems (offsite) today. I'm working in the Enterprise Server group, writing ...something... involving giant computers. Wooo!

Helicopter Flythru Done!

Occurred May 09, 2003 (Permalink)

More later. Juicy screenshots. Yummy!

Nothing Interesting to Write Here

Occurred July 15, 2003 (Permalink)

Bored. Does this web site make any impact if it gets updated and there's no-one to read it? Including the webmaster himself? I could complain about my life, but that would bore me, so I won't. Maybe I'll just go take a nap instead.

Site Slimming

Occurred August 26, 2003 (Permalink)

I've rearranged the site layout a bit. Gone is the new photo album. I never finished integrating it, and I never removed the old one, so it stays. UCSDementia is now officially off the air, so it's been moved to the exhibits page.

Italy '99 Trip Photos Posted!

Occurred August 26, 2003 (Permalink)

After years and years of procrastinating, I've finally gotten around to digitizing the photos that I took while touring Italy in 1999 with some friends from school. This online album, unfortunately, lacks the souveneirs that the paper version of the album contains and a few photos that should be kept away from public display. Anyway, enter the Italy album.

Last Year of School has Begun!

Occurred September 25, 2003 (Permalink)

My fourth and final year of UCSD has begun. Journal updates will probably become slow again. Suffice it to say, work, school, and investigatiosn of my post-graduation life have begun, and I have very litle time left over.

San Francisco Trip Photos Posted

Occurred October 03, 2003 (Permalink)

Last August, my faraway friends Adam and Christina flew out to California. They once went to elementary school with me, but they both moved away years ago, making this meeting quite a coincidence. We went around to San Francisco and spent the day roaming around the city and the Bay; take a look at Christina's Photos or Adam's Photos (offsite).

jGrid Officially Posted

Occurred October 06, 2003 (Permalink)

During last summer, I have been working on jGrid , which is a grid management package for the Java platform. It takes a set of jobs, in the form of Java command objects, distributes them for processing on a grid of Java2-enabled computers, and sends the results back to the original client. The result: instant massively parallel computing in java!

XML Conversion in Progress

Occurred October 07, 2003 (Permalink)

As you've probably noticed, this page looks drastically different from what you've been used to seeing. This is my XML/XSL experiment; what I'm trying to do is to write a web site entirely in XML and XSL. The original content is written in XML and transformed into these dandy (X)HTML pages that you see here. Furthermore, I've finally decided to drop support for the slop that is Netscape 4's rendering engine. XHTML tags have almost no presentation information; all the formatting details are in the CSS style sheets. Better yet, I've set up the stylesheets so that the window chrome goes away when you print the page. Cool, huh? Unfortunately, it will be quite some time until the entire site is converted over to this new format.

Life's Going Too Fast...

Occurred October 24, 2003 (Permalink)

Today I found out that I have to file for graduation before 28 November if I want to graduate in March. That's right, a month from now, for something that isn't even certain. That puts things into perspective for me...do I really want to rush everything through *now*? What if I suddenly decide to take another quarter for fun stuff? Maybe I should just do that anyway. My minor declaration needs to be filed _before_ I apply for graduation too. And the CS degree check won't come through for at least 4-5 more days. Ugh.

Mid-Term Update

Occurred November 08, 2003 (Permalink)

Went to see a pretty good play with Brian this evening. Also found out what chardonnay tastes like. In other news, my degree check came through without any surprises, so IF I manage to pass CSE166, then I'll be done with CS in December! Now, the big problem is that I have no idea if I can pass the class. In other news, I'm still looking for a research project for the rest of the school year and a real job after that.

Mandelbrot on a Grid

Occurred November 09, 2003 (Permalink)

jGrid is now up to v0.53! Premiering with this release is a distributed Mandelbrot set plotting program! Take a look at my poorly-colored image here. Like the other example programs, the Mandelbrot plotter splits the process of drawing the fractal into a bunch of smaller chunks (256x256, currently) and sends those jobs out for processing. When the jobs come back, the results are stitched together into the final image. See jGrid, the lightweight grid package that makes this all possible.

Social Planning Amid Continuing Site Work

Occurred November 20, 2003 (Permalink)

Everybody--I will be back home for Thanksgiving the evening of the Nov. 26 through the 30th. The 27th and 29th are already taken. Anybody want to go to Ti Couz or something? Also, I will be home for Christmas Dec 21 - Jan 3, except the evening of the 27th. Please feel free to suggest outings as desired. In other news, the Me section has been completely converted to the new format.

Darrick Succumbs to LiveJournal!

Occurred November 24, 2003 (Permalink)

As strange as it seems, I have obtained a free subscription to LiveJournal. This moment of weakness was fostered by the desire to slap comments onto Maddy (offsite) and Clay (offsite)'s journals as something other than Anonymous Coward. In any case, I now have one of my own, which is rather pointless since I've had one here since October '98. So now the question becomes--should I cross-post entries, or abandon one of them? (We all know I'll ultimately abandon both due to time constraints, but I can dream.) See journal (offsite).

Thanksgiving!

Occurred November 30, 2003 (Permalink)

Ah, Thanksgiving! The first glut of real food since Labor Day. The food was filling, although I probably shouldn't have played football with my cousins; now I'm sore all over. Downtown San Francisco is aglow with lights on all the buildings, and the air is cold enough to make it feel like it's really wintertime again. I'm looking forward to finishing my classes (two homeworks and four finals to go!) so I can jet back here, and do all the Christmasy things I always do around the holidays.

Almost Done!

Occurred December 09, 2003 (Permalink)

Two more days until I'm done with CS. Assuming I pass all my classes this quarter. Wow. Never thought I'd actually reach the end of college as I know it...all that's left for the next two quarters is (hopefully) some research classes and other fun random classes that I've been waiting to take for the past four years. And maybe I'll finally catch up on the (two-year-long) list of books that I've been meaning to read. Well...maybe not. In any case, I still have two more finals to finish...bye.

Finished with CS!

Occurred December 11, 2003 (Permalink)

I'M FREE!! I'VE FINISHED THE LAST OF MY CS FINALS! THERE ARE NO MORE MAJOR CLASSES TO TAKE! WOOO! I might mention that I have to _pass_ those classes, and in any case I still have a minor to finish. But I'm DONE! Muahahahahahaaa!

All Classes Passed

Occurred December 23, 2003 (Permalink)

Grades are out. I passed. I'm certifiably done. Hoo-ray! Now if only my mother wasn't dying.

Kudos

Occurred December 24, 2003 (Permalink)

There are some people I'd like to thank, and in no particular order--dad and grandma for keeping this household and mom together, Yvonne for keeping my mother together, the Wilkins for having their silly Christmas tree...the Trainas (and the other neighbors) for their support, Steph and Greg for spending a Saturday with me in San Francisco (or the other way 'round) keeping my mind off this awful situation, Woodley for helping me to change a tire (and providing an escape valve when I needed to get out a bit), Melissa for *carrying* a tire, Uncle Charles and Aunt Vicki for visiting today, Uncle Larry & family for visiting earlier, cousin Nicole for letting me know what's going on back home, and the folks of El Camino Hospital, Manor Care, and Odyssey Hospice for their support. I've probably omitted scores of other people; this is not deliberate; I'm just tired. These peoples' efforts will not be forgotten.

Mother's Dying :(

Occurred December 24, 2003 (Permalink)

Most of you who are close to me probably already know this, but I felt the need at last to post something on my public web site. Why, I don't know for sure, but it felt good to post something. Anyway, my mother has been fighting breast cancer since August of 1999. Despite a brief remission in 2001, the cancer recurred in 2002, and in mid-2003 we discovered that it had spread to other parts of her body. Unfortunately, one of those parts happened to be her liver. We tried chemotherapy, and for a while it worked...until her liver started to fail. It seems that she had both the fast and slow moving varieties of cancer, and the fast-growing kind took over in the liver. So that brings us to today--she's too weak for anything like a liver transplant, so that effectively rules out any treatment at all. With no liver (and no immune system, either), she will not last very much longer.

Merry Christmas

Occurred December 25, 2003 (Permalink)

Merry Christmas, everybody! I've converted the photo albums to use the new build infrastructure and put them up on the main web site. That means that I'm two sections away from being done with the site conversion! Perhaps I'll even get this whole job done in a short amount of time...and I love listening to the christmas morning music on ClassicFM (offsite).

Endgame.

Occurred December 26, 2003 (Permalink)

Mom passed away in her sleep last night.

O, fortuna!

Occurred January 01, 2004 (Permalink)

We buried my mother yesterday. Hopefully, 2004 will suck less.

Tau Beta Pi

Occurred January 21, 2004 (Permalink)

I have been selected for inclusion into the aforenamed organization (offsite). Hoo-ray!

How's Life?

Occurred January 22, 2004 (Permalink)

Ok, I think it's high time that I contributed another story. Following my mother's passing, I have made a few decisions about the remainder of my time at UCSD:

Why have I done such a thing, you ask? A lot of it has to do with reflections that I made during Winter Break--I did have an enormous amount of free time to think about such things. I spent the first two weeks of the year in a stupor; now it is time to get on with my own life as the acuteness of the pain fades. Thus, I must move forward.

There is something that stands out prominently in my mind. We were talking to the minister who was to preside over the funeral service. He asked us what had brought my mother some hope in the past few months. Dad replied that mom had been looking forward to retirement, for which she was due in just a few years. More than forty years of work, and she never got to relax for more than a few weeks at a time. She was fortunate to have worked in several places with quite a few people who she liked--there was an impressively long line of former co-workers who showed up to the funeral.

This has made me realize firstly that I need to devise structure for my life in which I can balance work with enough play time to keep me in high spirits. Secondly, I must not allow work to become a place that I find bothersome. (Luckily, I like working for Sun.) Third, I need to identify college friends who will likely be friends for life, and work on strengthening those relationships before school ends and we all go our separate ways.

SurfNet Design Specs

Occurred February 10, 2004 (Permalink)

I'm working on a network simulator for a senior project. Read more about it here.

Spring!

Occurred March 19, 2004 (Permalink)

Winter quarter is over at last. Tomorrow I embark for the Bay Area for the very last spring break that I'll ever have; this is the turning point wherein my range of options for the future will be determined. This break is already jam-packed, as my cousin is leaving for Florida on Wednesday. Plus I need to go see friends and family and various Sun people. No sleep for me!

Next quarter, I have one class, a senior project (SurfNet), work, and a lot of time to goof off. Yes, I designed next quarter to be that way... I also will need to make a decision about where to go after graduation. As much as I hate to leave my friends behind in San Diego, I'm 90% sure that I will be moving away after graduation. I _do_ have a lead on a job that might bring me back here on occasion, so all is not lost.

As for the quarter that just ended, I had three economics classes. I think two of them went moderately well, but I worry about the third. As long as I pass it, I'm ok. The professor knows me, so perhaps he'll be lenient. Also, some friends and I have been teaching ourselves how to cook dinner. We're at the point where we can have dinner nearly every week, though with only twelve weeks left to graduation (== fourteen weeks or so left), I don't know if the pace is going to pick up next quarter. I hope it does, though we'll see how the timing works out. After all, it is the last chance I may have to enjoy those two friends for a while.

Last Quarter at UCSD

Occurred March 29, 2004 (Permalink)

Once more unto the breach...today marks the beginning of Spring quarter. I have finished a major in Computer Science and a minor in Management Science. What's left? I still need to acquire a job, and finish SurfNet, which is now a senior project. Tentatively, I'm enrolled in Econ 172B (???) and CSE160 (Parallel Programming with MPI) and will be on campus Tuesday and Thursday. I have normal work days on Monday and Wednesday, and a half day on Friday. I think this quarter is going to be fun! It had better be...

BorkOS

Occurred March 30, 2004 (Permalink)

Announcing BorkOS! BorkOS is a joint effort by Darrick, Woodley, Steven, et. al. to write a general-purpose operating system for personal computers. At the moment, we only support a very narrow range of hardware configurations (Bondi Blue iMacs and possibly the B&W G3) but we are rapidly adding soft parts to the source tree (networking and a filesystem were added last week!)

Chinese Virility Drink

Occurred April 01, 2004 (Permalink)

So I was at Grandma's house over spring break, and as I usually do when I visit her, I go rummaging through her basement to see if I can find anything interesting. In her basement, I found four dark jugs with very intricate white patterns printed on the outside. They were quite bizarre patterns too--snakes, various detailed claws, and bird parts.

I thought to myself "Hey, I should move this under the light so I can get a better look at these prints!" Hence, I picked up the jar and tried to move it. It was _heavy_! It was around this time that I realized that I wasn't staring at an obsidian jar with white animal skeletons printed on it--I was looking at a transparent glass jar with animal skeletons *inside* it! Ack!

Later, I went upstairs to talk to grandma about these jars. She nodded and then remarked that those jars had been there since at least the early 1960s. In fact, she added, that those jars could be made into a very strong drink to help out with one's mind and one's physical strength. Puzzling--how could old dried bones in a jar do that? Perhaps it was meant to be boild as some sort of tea?

Unfortunately, I was wrong. There was a key ingredient that was supposed to have been in the jar. This ingredient gives this stuff its strength. What was it? LOTS AND LOTS of ALCOHOL. :D

Bad Day at Work

Occurred April 02, 2004 (Permalink)

The project that I was working on at work has been cancelled. Big layoffs are likely to be coming in a month or so. All the job requisitions have been frozen for now; I'm pretty certain that they would not even be able to offer me a permanent position for some time. Fortunately, I think my position is pretty well covered at the moment, but I need to consider what to do about this situation for a few more days.

Defection to IBM

Occurred April 12, 2004 (Permalink)

I have taken a position as a Linux kernel developer at the IBM Linux Technology Center in Beaverton, OR. Therefore, I shall be moving away from San Diego at the end of June, 2004.

Now What?

Occurred April 26, 2004 (Permalink)

As the world now knows, Sun is laying off 3,300 people, merging the three server divisions, and has cancelled the UltraSPARC V and all related projects. All this turmoil going on inside the high-end server division means that my chances of landing a job there are nil--not that anybody really wants to be around in the face of pending layoffs. But my co-workers might not be so bad off--most of them will get moved to the next project. I won't. Secondly, the layoffs mean that the people I was talking to inside the Solaris group can't make any offers. So that's a rather large part of why I took the IBM job. It's a good job in a less-expensive region. Who could ask for anything more?

(Well, it would be nice not to have to leave my friends behind...)

The reduction in workload has given me a lot more free time to work on SurfNet. I've finished the internals of the data-link layer simulator, and am wrapping up the final bits of a "RPC syscall" interface so that external programs can call into the simulator. A rough API spec can be found here (offsite). Soon I will begin designing the network layer; we will be implementing a subset of IP for simplicity's sake. I also hope to begin offering snapshots for download, on the (somewhat small) chance that people care to take a look. Enough hand-waving for now.

Thibs is Dead(?)

Occurred April 29, 2004 (Permalink)

Thibs, which used to host this site, has been pulled off the network for reasons that I don't care to talk about. Nasty Menlo political stuff. Anyway, this means that all mail sent to thibs will bounce, and (for now) this site has been migrated elsewhere. So perhaps thibs will come back soon, but I don't care--I think I'm going to cut my losses and run email/web content elsewhere.

One Year at Sun

Occurred April 30, 2004 (Permalink)

Today marks the end of my first year working at Sun. To celebrate this occasion, I also lead a seminar in which I compared and contrasted Linux to Solaris in terms of system use and administration. Amazing: The seminar is the crowning achievement of a year of work, and nowhere close to how I had expected to mark the event.

Done with School

Occurred May 04, 2004 (Permalink)

I went around to the Muir, CS, and Econ advising departments yesterday. I ran a degree check, showed it to the advisors at all three, and they all said that I'm clear to get a diploma. That means I'm done, and I (technically) don't even have to pass my classes to get it. Not that I'd do that...

Oregon, Part II

Occurred May 18, 2004 (Permalink)

Last weekend, I ventured up to Portland for a second time, to look for an apartment to rent. Imagine my surprise at finding that (a) it's about half the price up there, and (b) the people there are really friendly! Aside from the usual anxiety from leaving friends behind, I think I'm going to enjoy starting anew in a different place.

SurfNet Continues

Occurred May 20, 2004 (Permalink)

I am still going pedal-to-the-metal with SurfNet. I have to build a save/ restore function, and enough IP networking to get UDP sockets working by the end of the quarter. Wheee...I'm wondering if that's really going to happen.

I Don't Work For Sun

Occurred June 08, 2004 (Permalink)

As of today, I no longer work at Sun. I arranged to have my last day today, so that all the paperwork would be in before the layoffs hit. In other news, my apartment rental application in Oregon has been approved, so next year I'll be living in a nice two-bedroom apartment next to a creek in Beaverton. Finally, finals and SurfNet are due tomorrow. Eep!

I Don't Go to School

Occurred June 10, 2004 (Permalink)

As of _today_, I don't have any more academic commitments to meet at UCSD. My last econ final went...ok. The SurfNet final project presentation was Wednesday afternoon. The professors seemed to be quite satisfied with what I delivered. It will be interesting to see what happens next year when they use SurfNet as the project codebase!

Lasagna with Steph

Occurred June 17, 2004 (Permalink)

Today, I took Steph's easy (meat and cheese) lasagna recipe, added various vegetables to the mix, reduced the amount of ground beef, and baked it. That was some of the best lasagna I've ever had! All cheesy and meaty and the vegetables were cooked just right, so they were still tender and not mushy.

Domicile Moves Again

Occurred June 19, 2004 (Permalink)

So now Darrick's Domicile lives on another computer. I figured I should move it from the machine that it was living on to a more permanent location. Thanks to Woodley for hosting this machine for us as a replacement for thibs. Maybe thibs will come back; maybe it won't. (Who really cares at this point?) Anyway, I think everything should be working as it was back on thibs...though I still have a fair amount of stuff to upload. So perhaps some of the stuff under the Projects directory won't work. Heckle me if it's broke.

I Don't Have RoadRunner

Occurred June 22, 2004 (Permalink)

Another short update: RoadRunner is being turned off today. Therefore, I shall have only sporadic email access until some time around July 1st, when I get squared away in Oregon. I will check email once a day (or so) from campus, if I can. In any case, the worst news is that I'm about to lose my 124-day uptime on frog (the firewall). Sadly, moving requires loss of uptime. Drat. Well, Google can cache this entry and the record will live on forever.

I Don't Have Furniture

Occurred June 25, 2004 (Permalink)

Bright and early this morning, the movers arrived, packed up all my stuff (not the computer; I made sure to stuff it back in its original box with copious amounts of padding). By 11am they were done loading and took off. Now I don't have any furniture (except my roommates' ;)). This will probably be my final entry from San Diego.

127 Days Uptime

Occurred June 25, 2004 (Permalink)

The movers are coming to take my things to Oregon. THis means that my firewall machine will have to be taken offline. After 127 days of continous uptime, it is time to say farewell to Linux 2.6.3. When I get there, I'll have a shiny new 2.6.7 built for it!

It's Over: Farewell San Diego

Occurred June 28, 2004 (Permalink)

This morning, I shoved the last of my stuff into my suitcase, went to breakfast with Stephanie at the Broken Yolk Cafe in PB, said good-bye to her, and flew away to Portland, Oregon.

I AM IN OREGON

Occurred July 01, 2004 (Permalink)

I have arrived in the Silicon Forest! Linux hippies and open source rockers abound all over the place. I've picked up a fairly nice place next to a murky pond full of ducks; strangely enough, furniture stores lurk nearby. I shall be taking delivery of various new furnishings in the next two weeks. Perhaps my San Diego junk will arrive tomorrow. In any case, I shall fly back to the Bay Area soon. Oh: I need a cell phone.

Departure for Oregon (Again)

Occurred July 02, 2004 (Permalink)

I will be departing (with car!) back to Oregon on the 18th of July.

Furniture Delivery; Early Return to CA

Occurred July 02, 2004 (Permalink)

My San Diego stuff (computers, etc) arrived today. I _think_ most of it is intact. We'll see if the computers still work, though...in any case, I shall return to the Bay Area on Sunday evening, possibly in time for fireworks.

Digital Camera

Occurred July 16, 2004 (Permalink)

Just got an Olympus C765 in time to go on a quick road trip up to Oregon. Hopefully I'll have a bunch of photographs to post after that.

Arrived in Oregon

Occurred July 20, 2004 (Permalink)

Arrived safe and sound in Oregon. Road trip photos to be posted shortly.

July Photographs Posted

Occurred July 23, 2004 (Permalink)

I've uploaded and organized the photos that I took in July...here.

Wonder Woman: The Laptop

Occurred July 26, 2004 (Permalink)

Today was my first day on the job at the Linux Technology Center in Beaverton, Oregon. Upon arriving at work, I was given two empty computers and told that these would be my electronic companions...and that they needed software, as they were wiped clean prior to my arrival. Well, I thought, this shouldn't be too difficult; I've installed Linux on plenty of computers...let's see what they gave me.

One machine is an IBM NetVista P3-866. I hadn't realized that P3s came in that particular denomination. Oh well. The bigger problem was that the onboard video has wonderful lines going across it in X. So the solution: Find another video card. And now I get a screenful of garbage upon exiting X. In text mode, no less. The best part: a giant 21" CRT. Yay! Now if only the video card had enough RAM to drive it...:P

The second machine? A ThinkPad with a Wonder Woman sticker on it! This machine didn't give me nearly as much trouble...until FC1 ate the grub config. If all the company tools weren't on our custom FC1 CDs, I'd blow it away and install Debian. Oh well. Wonder woman shall simply have to make due with this indignity until I figure out how to host those tools elsewhere.

Steph is Here!

Occurred July 28, 2004 (Permalink)

Tonight we went to Andina (offsite) in the (upscale) Pearl district of downtown Portland, courtesy of Steph's uncle Gary. The food was good and tasty, and the drinks were exotic. End result: we were both sloshed. Good times had by all.

Wandering in a Field

Occurred July 29, 2004 (Permalink)

Steph and I went for a walk. We quickly discovered that Walker Road goes out in the country...and the sidewalk ends. This forced us to trample through a field and some high weeds to get back to sidewalkland. Fun, except for those who wear sandals. I think she went to see museums and gardens around Portland today. I had work. :P

Mt. Hood Hike

Occurred July 31, 2004 (Permalink)

This weekend, Steph and I drove up to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. This lodge is about 6,000 feet above sea level, at the treeline. We took off on the Timberline trail, which circled the timberline, and saw amazing things: snow, streams, trees, big bugs, and Swedes. There were a lot of short gnarled trees, and a few BIG PATCHES OF SNOW!

So we played around in the snow a bit. Tossed some snowballs around, and threw handfuls of snow at each other. It was fun! And really cold! I didn't bother to bring mittens (heck, I don't _have_ mittens!) and my hands froze. My camera captured Steph aiming a snowball at me. :P

Continuing down the trail, we encountered a big crevasse with a creek in it, and an even bigger crevasse with snow in it. We decided that we'd gone far enough, and turned back towards the parking lot. By the time we got back, it was nearly 6pm and we were quite exhausted. Oh well. We sat in the parking lot watching the sun set...only it didn't set, because it was the middle of summer and the sun doesn't go down until 8:30pm.

Eventually we figured it was a good idea to go home, so we piled back in the car and drove up 35 to the town of Hood River in the Columbia River Gorge. There, we found unnavigable streets and a cafe with ok food and some really really delightful cake! We shared a big slice of chocolate cake and loved every bite of it.

Later, we drove down the mountain and stomped around Multnomah Falls in the dark. Then we drove home. Photos are posted here.

Dinner at the Fields

Occurred August 01, 2004 (Permalink)

Mmm... dinner at Brian's grandparents' house. Cooked by their German friends the Ziglands(?). Pictures.

Oregon Sunset

Occurred August 03, 2004 (Permalink)

I took photos of the Oregon sunset.

Cannon Beach

Occurred August 07, 2004 (Permalink)

Since yesterday was the last full day that Steph and Brian were going to be in town, we decided to head out to the beach on Friday afternoon. We drove westward on 26, stopped at "Oregon's Largest Tree" and turned left onto south 101. We stopped in Cannon Beach, which had a bunch of touristy shops: restaurants and kite stores.

We went out to the beach and tried to head towards a really big rock out in the ocean. Unfortunately, the winds came up very strongly and we decided (after Steph threw a frisbee at me and it blew up and behind her 100 feet) to turn back. Then we decided to get a kite. We got ten feet out of the door and it started pouring on us. Yuck! We fled back to the car...until we realized that Steph and I were pretty much soaked.

We had dinner in soggy clothes. The food was passable, but not the best fish and chips I've ever had. Afterwards we hopped back into my car, cranked the heat all the way and sat there for a good 15 minutes. By then, the rain had stopped and it was still windy, so we took the kite out.

The kite flying was slow at first, as we struggled to figure out how to control the thing whilst in the air. I discovered that it was easier to steer the kite if we reined in about half the strings. After a few minutes of flying the kite, I slowly (re)learned the basics of kite control. We all took turns flying the kite--even Steph, who didn't want to at first.

The sun went down, so we drove home. They left this morning. Pictures here.

MiPL, Portland, Sunsets

Occurred August 14, 2004 (Permalink)

Last Tuesday, I went on a walking tour of northwest Portland with a group known as Meet in Portland (offsite). We went to see various buildings, and I took some pictures to go with it. The A810* photos are from that event.

Today, I went downtown again with someone I met through craigslist. We went to the Portland Farmers' Market (offsite) at Portland State University. We went to the Chinese gardens, only to have my camera battery die, so that's about where the pictures stop. We had dinner at a little Italian cafe downtown and rode the MAX out to the middle of nowhere because it was air conditioned. Later, I decided to make a run for it and snapped three photos of a gorgeous sunset. Those photos are prefixed with A814.

Last Thursday

Occurred August 26, 2004 (Permalink)

I finally built up the courage to visit the east side of Portland. Seems like it's a hopping place full of lovely old 1930s houses with porches and narrow driveways. There seem to be a lot of neat little cafes and bars and movie houses and clubs and art galleries and things out that way. Anyway, this is the story of my trip out there.

Today I went to the Kennedy School (MiPL event) to hear a jazz band. "Kennedy School" isn't actually a school anymore--it's a tavern/hotel/performance venue run by the McMenamin brothers, who started buying old buildings and turning them into places to socialize. They have the whole building decorated as if it was still a 1920s era school, complete with the all the trimmings and furnishings, and quite a lot of memorabilia and minor exhibits touting the building's history. A nifty place, and certainly not what I was expecting. The first time I heard "Kennedy School", I thought we were going to hear some high school jazz band.

Anyhow, the plan was to go there and listen to jazz music. That's not quite what happened--I ended up drinking beer and chatting with several women I met in the outdoor cafe. Most of the people who went to this event actually _live_ on the east side, so it's easy for them to get to places like this. I spent a good long time talking to various people, trying to get a taste of what the east side is like. I also ran into Christi, who I met on the MAX and who introduced me to MiPL.

Christi and I decided to check out Last Thursday (offsite). This event has its origins in First Thursday, where a bunch of people go roam around art galleries in NW Portland and drink themselves silly. Of course, the Pearl is expensive and all the artwork is too. Seeing this, the NE people decided to have a massive block party on the last Thursday of each month. So they do. Artists go there to sell their wares, people go there to have exotic food in cafes, and I wandered around looking at cool lamps.

So I think I like East Portland. Wish I had moved there. Will try to move there next year. It's a way to live really close to downtown, yet be far enough away so that I can get to know my neighbors and have a lot of fun.

Sailing the Willamette

Occurred August 28, 2004 (Permalink)

Brian's grandfather invited me to go sailing up the Willamette river today. Apparently a friend of his is visiting, and so they decided that the weather was good enough to warrant a sailing trip. So we went out to Multnomah Channel to a marina, where Grandpa Vernon keeps his 30-foot sailboat moored. Some photos.

We eased our way down the channel on motor power until we got into the wider river. After cutting the engines, we unfurled the sails and began tacking downstream towards the Columbia River. It's actually quite a lot of fun, once you get over the rockiness of the sailboat (and figure out the lingo that they use.) Pulling lines can be tricky though, as you don't really have time to head to the bow to untangle things. It's actually felt similar to the kite flying of a few weeks past--slowly I became acclimated to the art of handling wires.

Upon reaching the Columbia, we looked eastward for a spectacular sight of Mt. Hood. Like the sight of Mt. Rainier from downtown Seattle, Hood looked as if it was floating upon the clouds. Anyway, we continued our downstream tacking until we reached a big red ship from China. At that point, Grandpa Vernon announced that it was time to head back, so we came about and reached for the wind.

Going downstream, we saw quite a lot of interesting sights--jet skis, a big Mississippi paddle-boat that was really making good time, a granary with a big wheat cloud over it, and a lot of barges. By this time, we were on motor power, as it was time to start putting things away and wrapping up the sails. We docked the boat, covered it up, and I went home.

Volleyball at Laurelhurst Park

Occurred August 31, 2004 (Permalink)

Today I drove all the way out to Laurelhurst Park in Southeast after work just to play volleyball. Really, that's a silly justification, as SE is far away and I suck at volleyball. But what I got instead was yet another short trip out to unknown places; the Laurelhurst district is full of quaint old 1930s/1940s era houses, complete with porches, actual gables coming out of the rooftops, narrow driveways for rinky-dink cars and (presumably) hardwood floors. I spoke with Joe, who lives in the area, and he said that it is a nifty (and inexpensive) area to live in if you like old buildings.

[Update] Some people wanted to know how I was at volleyball. Better than I was in high school, and occasionally able to pull of a good spike or two. I could improve quite a bit with just a wee bit of practice and training. Maybe that's a good idea. Just need to flesh out these control problems and I'm good to play again.

First Thursday

Occurred September 02, 2004 (Permalink)

A week ago, you got a story about Last Thursday. Naturally, I had to go see First Thursday (offsite) in the Pearl district. This expedition was quite a bit different--the art galleries I saw were much more formal, they had glasses of wine for sale, and actual mounting pedestals for the artwork. There was a huge wall of glass flowers, a 10' piece of wood for $100k, some blurry-looking things, and all the usual stuff you'd expect.

I also found a furniture store connected to the art gallery. They're entirely run by volunteers, and I started talking to one of the ladies there about woodworking. Strange, as I'm only an armchair woodworker. :P Anyway, she showed me several pieces, including a computer cabinet made entirely of wood that had been pulled off of old ships and old buildings. I must say, it's a better way to recycle wood than to turn it into particleboard...

Next came the student exhibition at the Portland Northwest College of Art. Two pieces stand out in my mind--one was a man attached to a wireframe horse, tethered to a hook in the floor. He was walking around and around in a circle, with the rattling horse chassis dragging behind him. Very amusing... The other piece that piqued my fancy was a large rectangularly crystalline structure suspended from the ceiling. Various letters were glued to parts of the structure, though they did not seem to spell out any words. It was very confusing-looking, and interesting to stare at. Wish I had the kind of concentration and dedication to build a metallic crystal...

Afterwards, the group I was with retired to Ringers Pub for drinks and dinner; several people competed to build towers out of food menus. Much fun!

Sailing II

Occurred September 04, 2004 (Permalink)

Went sailing again. Not much wind until we went back to the marina. Boo. But--I forgot to note in last week's post that we saw a sea otter in the marina. He he he. Didn't think I'd see one there.

Lasagna Without Steph

Occurred September 05, 2004 (Permalink)

I made a giant lasagna! Thanks to Steph for the base recipie and myself for adding vegetables. I remembered the recipie that I used 3 months ago for Steph's Easy Lasagna, only this time I added steamed zucchini and carrots, powdered garlic, onions, Cartini(?) mushrooms, and ricotta cheese. Good, except for the part where I burned the cheese crispy.

Pittock Mansion

Occurred September 05, 2004 (Permalink)

Sunday, I met the MiPL group at Upper Macleay Park for a quick hike up to Pittock Mansion (offsite). For those who don't know, Henry Pittock was the local news magnate in Portland (the Oregonian, in fact) during the latter half of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th. In 1909, he decided (at the old age of 76!) that he needed to build himself a great mansion atop a hill overlooking Portland. These photos are the result.

Pittock Mansion is a great huge house built out of cinder blocks. From the pictures, you can see that there are wood panels covering the house's internals. Each room has a distinctly different style and quite a few lovely pieces. I was especially impressed with the intricate woodworking in the library and dining room, the fact that they _had_ a paneled elevator, the huge walk-in refridgerator (before WWI!) and the pipe contraptions upstairs that were called "showers". That and the hardwood floors. The observant reader by now has undoubtedly noticed my affinity for old buildings with hard wood floors.

Afterwards, we sat on the lawn eating lunch. Eventually I got bored and went down the hill and walked around the trails in Forest Park for the afternoon. Unfortunately I was out of flash and couldnt' take any photos. But I have plenty of photos of greenery and will undoubtedly take many more. In any case, I followed the trail so far I wound up in downtown! So I went home.

Photos Reorganized

Occurred September 05, 2004 (Permalink)

Author's note: The Portland photos have been broken out by where they were taken. Also, I recovered the photos I took of being downtown with Greg. And, there are more pictures of the Wall of Boxes.

Columbia River Gorge

Occurred September 06, 2004 (Permalink)

To continue my never-ending Labor Day weekend, I half-organized an outing to the Columbia River Gorge today. Back on Wednesday, I went to a presentation by a guy who wrote a book called "100 Classic Hikes in Oregon" and had drinks with some of the other people who went afterwards. We decided that it might be a fun idea to form a small hiking group and go somewhere. After a few days of trading emails, we settled on a Monday hike to see Horsetail Falls, Oneonta Gorge and Multnomah Falls along the Columbia River. See photos.

We met in the parking lot of the Gateway TC MAX station way out on the east side. Three people showed up--myself, Lara, and Dave. As it turns out, Dave is an ecologist/biologist who studies waterways--nearly perfect for what we had set out to do. We piled into Dave's pickup and headed eastward on I-84.

The first place we went was the Horsetail Falls trailhead. The falls are actually at river level right along the street, and the trail snakes behind the waterfall. It was a fairly steep hike at first, as we rapidly ascended the gorge face until we were well above the initial waterfall. There, we found yet another waterfall in front of a big crack in the rock. Dave said that this was caused by backsplash eons ago when the waterfall was aligned more vertically.

From there, we continued to ascend, and I took pictures of the Gorge area. Wonderful pictures. The next interesting geological feature that the trail brought us to was Oneonta Gorge. As it turns out, you can't really see the associated waterfall from anywhere except river level, and even then only if you wade up the (icy cold) stream a half mile. So we stood above the gorge and looked into the crack. I took more photos of the surrounding area.

From Oneonta Gorge, we took a sharp left and headed inland to Triple Falls. We spent a while watching the river (Dave was looking at water flies on rocks) and getting thirsty--so we headed further inland. I took some pictures of various fungi, mushrooms and spiky plants that we encountered along the trail. But, it didn't seem that there would be anything else interesting along the trail for quite a ways, so we headed back down to the highway and drove to Multnomah Falls.

For those who have seen the pictures from the expedition to Mt. Hood with Steph, it's pretty obvious that my photos of Multnomah Falls are terrible because we got there well after sundown. Not this time. We arrived smack in the middle of the afternoon, when the place was swarming with tourists. Despite them, I managed to get some good pictures of the falls. Steph: You might be interested in these photos.

But we weren't yet finished. Continuing westward on the Historic Columbia River Highway, we drove far up the mountain to a big observatory named Vista House. From there you could see miles up and down the Columbia Gorge and deep into Washington State. Unfortunately, it was a somewhat hazy day and so I couldn't see all the way to Mt. Hood or to downtown Portland. No matter; I captured the spectacular vistas on my camera.

By that time, we wanted some food and drink. Dave brought us to the Tippy Canoe, which seems to be a bit of a redneck bar out in Troutdale. Maybe it was just because there were a lot of bikers and bartenders out there for some reason. In any case, we had delicious burgers and some ice cold drinks. Very good. By this time we were tired, so we ate the food, listened to the overloud live music, and went home. What a day.

Meet any hot biker babes at the Tippy Canoe?

This is the first comment.

This is the second comment.

More of Southeast

Occurred September 11, 2004 (Permalink)

This weekend, I arose at the crack of dawn (namely 10:15) and picked up Jason at the airport. Months ago, he decided to come visit me in September so that we could run around Portland and watch the Everwood (offsite) 3rd season premiere. Anyway, both of us were in the mood for some good Saturday brunch food, so I took us back to SE Hawthorne. We parked and chowed down at the Bread and Ink. The food was delicious, and the egg noodles took care of me foodwise for the rest of the day. Jason professed amazement at some of the SE area high school buildings.

We strolled westward on Hawthorne until I motioned leftward towards some houses. All around that region of southeast are a lot of old houses that are left over from the turn of the century. Some of them, of course, are in poor repair, but others look fabulous. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera, so I still lack photos of this amazing area. But wow! Wood frame houses with porches and gables and everything! Some of the sidewalk blocks had dates on them -- apparently that area of Portland was built in the early 1900s, because the sidewalks are 100 years old. The curbs even have rings on them to hitch horses.

These houses were rather small, so we crossed Hawthorne to take a look at some more houses. These houses were every bit as nice, though to me they seemed slightly larger. As one heads north, the houses become larger and newer, though newer == 1930s _here_. We made a very important observation that day: If you go 50 feet away from Hawthorne street, the neighborhood noise drops to zero. In a suburb! This part of SE, between about 20th and 40th avenues, is just amazing to someone who has lived (and still has to put up with) noisy neighbors.

In short: pleasant, calm, quiet neighborhood with quaint turn of the century homes on somewhat small lots. For prices that I might just be able to afford. Oh, and I got a wireless access point for my PowerBook afterward. And we had really yummy pizza at the Old Chicago down the street from my apartment.

Posting Comments

Occurred September 11, 2004 (Permalink)

I finally sat down and wrote out generic comment posting functionality that can be added to any part of any page on my entire website! So now people can give me feedback directly. Knock yourselves out; we'll see how well this works.

The comment feature is pretty sweet.

The comment thingy is cool. Yeah, that's all.

Of Trenchcoats, Powell's, Sunsets and Railroads

Occurred September 12, 2004 (Permalink)

Sunday, we headed out on an excursion to see the Lloyd Center, downtown, and a whole lot of other stuff. See all my pictures.

After a late start, we got on the MAX and took it all the way to Lloyd Center. For those who don't know, the Lloyd Center is a great big mall. By my standards, nothing too impressive. I did get to look at the trenchcoat selection at Meier and Frank. Maybe I'll get one ... maybe I won't. The cold and slight rain that falls upon us now is making a fairly strong argument in favor of this. Something funny happened while we were strolling about the mall:

Mom: I wanna stop in here a moment...

Kid: Mom, NOOOOO...

Mom: But I need underwear!

Kids: (tugging her away) Eww!

Yes folks, we were outside of Frederick's of Hollywood. Continuing our Sunday escapades, Jason and I hopped back on the MAX and took some pictures downtown. We saw the Portland Art Museum exposed, as well as various cool looking edifices on our way towards Powell's. Speaking of Powell's, I ended up buying The Da Vinci Code (we have Steph to blame for this), a book of maps and a big laminated wall map. The big map is now hanging on my dining room wall.

After steaks at Stanford's and a failed attempt to take a photo of a MAX car with an Everwood ad plastered on it, we drove back out to the same middle of nowhere place that I took Brian and Steph to see the sunset. Once _again_ I sort of missed the sunset, though this time I got really awesome photos of the silhouettes at sunset and the surrounding fields. Since Jason and I didn't really have to get back at any set time, we decided to see where the little country road would lead us. That was a bit of a bad idea, because we ended up on a gravel road for a bit ... but it also led us to four mouldering railroad coach cars.

From the pictures, the four cars look like they've been abandoned. Surprisingly, they haven't been--someone had painted "5/16/04" on all four of the cars' underbellies. So there must be _somebody_ (besides a couple of yuppie cityboys) who care about these cars. So there are the cars in my photo album. They're sort of decaying and obviously not well watched; they have also come quite a ways. Two appear to be from the Boston area, which is a good 3,400 miles from where we were. Oh well. I got some cool photos of the cars and their trucks. I am a nerd, what can I say.

Rearrangements

Occurred September 14, 2004 (Permalink)

A few new things around here: First, all recent (Spring 2004 and beyond) photo albums have the new comment code attached to them. Second, Jason and I put up a major amount of the wallhangings that I brought with me. The pagoda print is now in my bedroom. One of the Shanghai pictures hangs over the bookshelf in my dining room. The huge map of Oregon that I bought is now in the dining room. My big scroll hangs in the hallway. At last, this place is coming together!

Sailing III

Occurred September 18, 2004 (Permalink)

Well, Grandpa Vernon and I went sailing again today. Except today there was an Alaskan storm blowing through Portland, so it was cold and rainy. So we spent most of the time going up the Willamette with the motor on, till we reached what used to be shipyards during WWII. We motored around there too, looking at the remains of a mighty shipbuilding empire. After that, the rain went away and the winds came up, so we hoisted the mainsail and ran downriver back to Multnomah Channel. I motored up there a ways just to see what it looked like; finding nothing, we went back, moored the boat and left.

Mushroom Hunting at Ramona Falls

Occurred September 19, 2004 (Permalink)

Where do I begin today's wonderful story? Oh yes, with another photo album. This weekend's adventure takes us to the western side of Mt. Hood, along various forks of the Sandy River, up to Ramona Falls for some mushroom hunting escapades. Unfortunately, the resident mushroom expert could not attend, so perhaps she'll slip into a future journal entry.

At 9:30, Lara, David and I met at the Stumptown on 45th and Division in southeast. After ingesting some warm drinks, we piled into David's pickup and headed east to Mt. Hood. The plan was simple: Hike the Ramona Falls loop trail and try to find and identify as many mushrooms as we possibly could. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring mushroom guidebooks, so we snapped a lot of photos instead and now hope to identify them from the warmth of our homes. Names of the mushrooms will, of course, be added as they come in.

As we were heading towards the falls, David pointed out various features of the meandering Sandy River (apologies to him for whatever bits I get wrong). The photos I took show a fairly flat basin with a lot of former riverbed piled up with small stones and gravel. I think he said that the wideness of the river's path of destruction relative to the actual width of the river indicates that the path of the river changes frequently, but that it hadn't endured a tremendous flood recently.

Continuing along the trail, we found the first mushroom! A little tiny reddish orange thing. It turns out that there were more that were closer to the parking lot, but at that point we were too busy chatting to notice. Up the trail we went, following the river's crazy course, until David pointed out some really tiny mushrooms. See picture a9190032 for what I'm talking about. I'm quite impressed with the (auto)focus that the camera settled upon, and wowed by the clear foreground and the blurry background, which make the mushrooms easier to see. But enough about my camera.

Further up the trail, we saw more trees and a few more tiny mushrooms...and then we hit Ramona Falls. These falls, said David, are made from basalt formations. However--basalt is very very hard and not especially porous, so the water is forced to come over the top of the rock, instead of being able to wear its way through it, like what we saw with the falls at the Gorge. By this time, it was raining quite hard, so I only had enough time to snap a few pictures of the creek as it roared away from the falls. Later on, the rain stopped long enough for me to whip out the camera and record some more basalt deposits along the canyon that the creek runs through. The walls of the canyon were steep, and thus the creek looks like it doesn't shift all that much.

Downstream from the falls was a canopy of trees. This meant that the ground and the trees were damp, moist, dark, mossy ... and full of mushrooms! I saw a fair number of varieties of mushrooms--most of them were a blend of red, orange and yellow (see a9190050), though I saw a lot of brown ones (a9190094) too. There were a few that looked like pastries that I've eaten (a9190058), one that looked like it was from a fairy-tale (a9190061), corals (a9190070), clusters (a9190080), and "funny orange slimy things (a9190098). I don't know their names; this is new to me. I noticed a disturbing trend among some of the mushrooms that I saw--a lot of the mushrooms had been pulled out of the ground! We suspect that's the work of mushroom hunters; indeed, as we were pulling out of the parking lot, we saw some Asiatic people with buckets and knives.

Returning to the trail, we eventually left the company of the thick tree canopy and returned to the river. By this time, the rain and clouds had really come in thick; compare the river pictures at the end (a9190105-107) to the ones at the beginning. Actually, I like the fog effect quite a bit, except for the rain-getting-on-my-camera part. :P

Just outside the parking lot, I saw a boulder that had obviously been cleaved in half by water. I've seen things like this before, but the match between left and right half is spectacular. Amazing what a bit of moisture can do to big boulders.

As a side note: After I went home, I attempted to make beef with snow peas. Unfortunately, I forgot the peas and threw in all the vegetables that I had left. The strange but tasty result can be seen in the Food! section.

Berkeley

Occurred September 22, 2004 (Permalink)

I spent the second half of this week in San Jose, CA for some training classes. However, I had a vacation day to use, so I spent it travelling around the bay to see Greg (offsite). As usual, see the pictures and read the story. This time, the story is short.

After waking up far too early to catch a 10am flight out of Portland, I arrived in the Bay Area, got the rental car and drove to Menlo (offsite) for lunch. Needless to say, I took some pictures of the rather plain looking buildings that were put up last year; look here if you dare. Didn't see too many teachers, but I arrived at the end of lunch and didn't have a whole lot of time to spare.

Departing Menlo, I drove north to the Daly City BART station. While there, I took some pictures of the station and the train because both were nearly empty. Half an hour later, I literally ran into Steven outside the station on Shattuck Ave.; turns out he'd been talking to Greg while he waited. Greg showed me around Berkeley (not that I really needed all that much of a tour) and finally took me to visit the windowless concrete bunker that he'd spent too much of last year underneath. I declined to put such despairing photographs on the web, but I did snap some shots of things that had been printed with an inkjet printer somehow (see a9220019 and 20).

Coming from foggy Oregon, I suggested that we go enjoy the sun some. We hiked up Tightwad Hill, from which one is almost as high up as the Campanile, and has almost as good a view...but without needing to pay money. From that vantage point I took some hazy pictures of the Oakland waterfront, San Francisco, Memorial Stadium and the Cal Bears practicing inside said stadium.

Next, we walked back to Greg's car to see the funny looking vehicles that he says are routinely parked down the street from where he parks. Alas, it _is_ a really long way out there, but the cars were worth it (a9220034 and 35). Greg drove us to his grandfather's house (a9220043 - 45), which looks as if it was straight out of some fantasy story. I fully expected to see a gnome sitting atop the roof and hurling bananas at passers-by!

The plan after that was for me to meet Woodley down at Ti Couz in the Mission district of San Francisco, so I bade farewell to Greg and headed back to the BART system. While on BART, I took some more pictures of the golden sunset over the West Oakland docks, had dinner with Woodley, and went home.

Incidentally, the remaining photographs in that set (a9250055 - 67) were taken from my uncle and aunt's place in Emeryville.

Sushi

Occurred September 28, 2004 (Permalink)

Tonight, Ted (of MiPL fame) organized a sushi dinner at Yuki in NE. The sushi was quite tasty.

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

Overhaul Done!

Occurred November 03, 2004 (Permalink)

The overhaul that I started on this site last December is now done. All pages should be using the new page layout/build system and the navigation should work correctly. Email me any complaints, though I'm still working on the directory listing scripts. Also, the trees have turned and Beaverton is brightly colored in reds and yellows and oranges. Quite brilliant; haven't seen something like this since my Oct. 1999 trip to Boston.

Harvey's Comedy Club

Occurred November 04, 2004 (Permalink)

After work today I jumped on the MAX and went downtown to Harvey's Comedy Club (offsite) on NW 6th Avenue. There, I met a friend who'd won a fistful of tickets to some of the club's nightly performances. We went inside (it was cold outside!), ordered some food and drinks, and sat down to await the comedians. While we waited, we chattered about all sorts of stuff--work, the city, what we'd done to amuse ourselves, and fun things to do during the winter; the end result of the evening being that we now have a few suggestions for future outings! I'm pleased. Out of the corner of my eye, I observed the maitre'd spending an hour trying to cram all the patrons into the lounge, as the place was jam-packed! Harvey's must be the place to go on Thursdays...

Around eight or so, the first guy, WWF's "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, came on. He was a heavyweight pro wrestler in the 1980s (beats me; I was a little bratkid during that time.) He talked about his early experiences in Utah fighting a guy who weighed twice as much as he did, and a fight in Fresno against a Kodiak bear. 'Twas highly amusing to hear him talk about trying to subdue a hungry bear after the trainer smeared honey all over the fighter before the fight. I quite enjoyed this part of the act. Apparently Piper is scheduled to kick off some one-man show around the world in a week, or thereabouts.

Next came a guy from Tacoma who told a few jokes and lead in to the primary entertainment of the night: Andres Fernandes, a Latino comedian from New York. He told quite a few yarns about his wife, his kids, various stories from his upbringing, and quite a few comparisons to the differences between his wife and himself. Granted, this is a topic well trodden by many a comedian (and some hacks like myself), but it did have Bonnie and I chuckling quite a bit throughout the evening. We enjoyed ourselves, and cheaply too! Gotta love Portland, where even the people ranting and raving at the bus stops are coherent...

Dinner at Ana's

Occurred November 05, 2004 (Permalink)

This morning, when I woke up, I said to myself, "I'm going to take pictures of all the red and yellow trees that I can see on my way to work, and mail a letter to Steph." So that's what I did--got my camera, took tree pictures and visited the post office. The trees around here are very spectacular right now--I remember seeing the leaves turn red in the fall as a kid, missed that entirely during college, and am now elated to see it again. Unfortunately, it's colder here. But the sun was out, so I figured I'd do something relaxing before kernel hacking. This paragraph is irrelevant to the story below.

For the uninitiated, Ana is one of the people in my hiking group that went to Mt. Jefferson last month. I had not seen any of them since the backpacking trip, so I proposed that we all get together and cook dinner some day. Ana obtained a great slab of salmon last week and volunteered her place for our cooking efforts. Many thanks to her for hosting!

I was told to bring wine and salad ingredients; Eliza brought spaghetti squash, and between David and Lara, someone brought mashed potatoes, a lot more wine, bread and cheese, and some delectable stuffed mushrooms. There were a bunch of other friends of Lara and Ana--perhaps they brought other stuff too. The wine that I got was a 2001 Willamette Valley (vineyard) Pinot Noir; people generally seemed impressed with it. That's good, since I have no idea what's good around here. Or anywhere.

By the time I arrived at 19:05, the appetizers were out and the cooking was well under way. Because Dave and Ana had already put together two glass dishes' worth of salmon and Eliza's squash...appeared fully cooked...out of nowhere, I put my mad cooking skills to use and expertly chopped a carrot, poured some wine, and stood around talking to people. I think I was supposed to do a bit more of the cooking and such, but in truth, with that many people in the kitchen, dishes get cooked very rapidly, bottlenecked only by collisions.

With the food cooking, the rest of us got down to chatter. Unfortunately, by this time the wine had started to go to my head (ok, it was coursing through my arteries headed straight for my brain) and I vaguely remember talking about politics, the free software movement, and snowshoeing. I remember wandering through Ana's apartment looking at her collection of masks and books and the complete lack of a television set, and being impressed. Portland and the people in it amuse me--they're far more intriguing than a lot of the San Diegans, alas. Too bad San Diego has arguably better weather. But we have more green. In any case she has a cozy little place that's far better decorated than mine, even though I've been in my apartment much longer. She actually has _decorations_ on the wall.

Then it was time for dinner. Dinner consisted of a huge helping of salmon, the salad that got assembled behind my back when I wasn't looking, and mashed potatoes. Some how I remember square plate of food being split into four quadrants...but I don't recall what went into the fourth corner. Oh well. In any case, dinner was delicious and very well done. Quite a pleasure to be a part of the comraderie and group cooking effort. We sat around chattering until close to 1 when we all left. And no, this time we didn't have alcohol-spiked coffee.

Pesto Bowtie Pasta...with Beef

Occurred November 06, 2004 (Permalink)

Today was a lazy Saturday. The only thing of note that I did was fix the search function on this site and cook up a huge pot of food. I took a recipe for Bowtie Pasta with Pesto and Tomato and add some beef and cheese to the mix. Quite delicious, and yet another weird experiment on my part.

Astoria and Seaside

Occurred November 07, 2004 (Permalink)

Today's adventure takes us to the coastal towns of Astoria and Seaside. Bonnie, who I met through MiPL, had expressed an interest in going to Astoria to get some seafood; I remarked that I'd be interested in seeing that part of Oregon because I'd never been there, so we decided to try for Sunday.

Sunday rolls around and we head off towards the coast. Luckily, it seems that we picked a good day to go to the coast--air temperature is relatively warm, there are no sign of storm clouds yet it's not so warm that the beach bums are out. Anyway, we headed westward on 26 past miles of farmland, trees and river before turning north on 101 towards Astoria. Many more miles of trees followed, until we crossed a drawbridge into the city.

The city of Astoria appears to be a fairly simple port town at the mouth of the Columbia river. The main tourist attraction in town is a big column at the top of a nearby hill; aside from this, the town exists solely to be a small port for cruise ships and tankers. Why else would there be steakhouses with names like "Stephanie's Cabin"? Astoria seems to be the place where one would go for great seafood fresh off the ships, but not a whole lot else. Anyway, we drove through town, past the base of the 101 bridge over to Washington state, and up a hill to the column.

199 years ago, Lewis and Clark reached the Pacific Ocean by following the banks of the Columbia river. It should come as no surprise, then, that the tall obelisk on the hill overlooking the mouth of said river should be a tribute to the expedition. Standing about 175 feet tall, a promenade at the top offers spectacular views of the town below, the gorge, and the mighty Pacific. From there I took the pictures seen in ab070001 - 30; those photos are labelled with whatever they depict, or whichever direction I was facing. I went to the top and took pictures all the way around.

The next stop was the jettys on the mouth of the Columbia river; they are located slighty north of west from the Column. There's not a whole lot to see out here--just a lot of rocks and...the ocean! I had not smelt the sea salts since the trip to Cannon Beach in August; it was quite refreshing. The jetty is basically a big line of rocks that extends quite a ways out into the ocean. South of us was an isolated beach; according to Bonnie, one can actually drive vehicles out onto the beach in Oregon. Quite amazing. I also snapped some photos of the rock formations on the jettys before the bugs drove me away. (Pictures ab070031 - 41)

Having our fill of the ocean, we headed south on 101 back to Seaside for some seafood. Turns out that Bonnie had already bought some seafood yesterday, and astute readers will notice that I already have a big pot of food for leftovers. But--fish and chips are good, when done properly. So downtown we went; see pictures ab070042 - 48 for details. Ordinarily this town is crammed to the hilt with tourists and Oregonians; now that it's November and cold, most of them are gone. As the pictures show, this little town is full of old buildings and brand new ocean-side condos--your average little beach town. Probably not a bad place to go during the early summer before the masses show up.

By this time it was near 16:15 and we were hungry. We stopped in a place called Sam's Seaside Cafe (offsite) for some food. The cup of chowder that I ordered was a little salty but otherwise quite tasty and full of lots of strange tasting morsels of seafood. However, I was quite blown away by their fish and chips--freshly fried, piping hot, not too greasy, and not too much flour. Arguably, this dish was the best fish and chips that I've ever had! Usually the fish is cold or covered in oil or dough. Not this place--just meat and tartar sauce; this was definitely worth the trip.

The sun was beginning to set by the time we finished up, so we headed back to Portland after that, only to be stymied by a huge traffic jam that was stuck behind a huge accident on 26. That set us back by thirty minutes, but the company was good.

Anna in the Tropics

Occurred November 09, 2004 (Permalink)

Tuesday night, Portland Center Stage previewed their production of Anna in the Tropics, a tale about a lector in 1929 Miami who reads great literary works to Cuban cigar factory laborers, stirring up their emotions with the wily tales of romantic women. As the title hints gently, the book in question is Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. There seemed to be a desire within the play to make the characters' lives resemble those of Anna..., though a fair amount of the play focused on the role that the lectors played in coloring their workers' lives. Not a bad play, but it's not London. :P

The real spectacle came _after_ the play--in the rotunda of the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, there were free appetizers and salsa dancing! The couple who were demonstrating the dance were from Fernando's Bar a few blocks away. I should have asked one of the ladies I was with to have a go at the salsa lessons that they were giving for free, but I was far too engrossed in a delightful chocolate confection that had soft chocolate on the outside and banana bread inside.

Pictures of Autumn

Occurred November 11, 2004 (Permalink)

I added some pictures to the collection of tree change photos. Scroll to the bottom of the page.

Tales from the Vienna Ballroom

Occurred November 12, 2004 (Permalink)

Friday evening was awesome! The Oregon Symphony (offsite) is trying to attract yuppies to their concerts, so they threw a private party before and after Friday's waltz program. Naturally, I simply _had_ to go to this event! Not that I mind the waltz; why, it's the biggest dance craze to hit 1850s Europe!

Friday afternoon, I worked extra hard to get all my work done. The day had already been compressed by my DMV visit; it was further strained by my insistence upon being downtown to meet Bonnie by 17:30. That I did--amazingly, she was waiting for me outside the Schnitzer when I strolled up from the train stop. We stood out in the bitter cold for a good forty minutes to see if Paul would show up with the tickets...and finally decided that we'd grab a few sandwiches at a deli across the street while we waited. The sandwiches were decent though not particularly tasty, though I attribute that to frozen tastebuds. This city sure gets cold sometimes.

We could see the cocktail party starting to wind up across the street. With dinner consumed, we hopped through the crosswalk into the newly finished ArtBar in the lobby of the Portland Center for the Performing Arts building. There we met Paul who had our tickets, ate random bits of food from skewers, and wondered where we were supposed to get the alcoholic drinks. At 19:15 it occured to us that we ought to head into the Schnitzer...

For those who've never visited the Arlene Schnitzer concert hall downtown, a short history: Way back in 1927, the Fox theater opened on Broadway in Portland. As was the custom of the times, they built an enormous, ornately decorated edifice for the viewer's pleasure--gigantic Wurlitzer organ in the front, exquisite plaster carvings up and down the sides of the movie-house that even had gold plated leaves, several levels of seats, a splendid lobby with marble walls, and art-deco decorations all over the place. A few years later the theater was sold to Paramount, and after the 1950s it began to decay until the city condemned it and then fixed it up in the 1980s. As such, it is now one of Portland's premiere concert and show venues, despite the acoustics being (reportedly) subpar in parts. In any case, it's poised to impress, with the maze of hallways that go all over the building, and the enormous cantaloupe ceiling in the main hall.

...so we went in. Due to a planning snafu, Bonnie and I ended up on one side of an aisle and Paul ended up on the other...oh well. The line of sight to the stage was decent and the sound quality good. Quite fortunate, as the design of this particular concert demanded a seat with both. From the title of this article, one might guess that the evening program's theme was a trip through time--the conductor sought to enlighten the audience about the origins of the waltz; to do this, he and a lady in red would tell a story about the propagators of the waltz craze (mainly Lanner and the Strauss clan) and then play a waltz. As a special treat, six members of the Oregon Ballet troupe danced to the music.

To start off the evening, the symphony played Johann Strauss Jr.'s Furioso Polka (op. 260). After that, the conductor, Carlos Kalmar, began to speak; he introduced the waltz as a faster-paced offshoot of "German dances" that Mozart and others had tried to produce; he then played Mozart's Six German Dances (K. 600). Reportedly, Brahms, Schubert and Beethoven were regulars at performances of the waltz! Next, Kalmar spoke of the divergent paths of Joseph Lanner and Johann Strauss Sr. Quite obviously, Strauss was more successful at commercializing the waltz; in any case, I found Strauss's style to be a bit more flowing and perhaps better for dancing. Lanner's Schonbrunner Waltzes (op. 200), Strauss Jr.'s Artist's Quadrille (op. 201) and Strauss Sr.'s Lorelei-Rhine Sounds Waltzes (op. 154) accompanied this part of the conductor's lecture and finished off the first half. The ballet dancers alternated their styles--sometimes they would dance a straight waltz; other times they would lead off a round of such twirling and tossing and playfulness that I only wish I could try. :P They came out for the German dances and the Quadrille.

At the beginning of the second half of the evening, we witnessed the transition from one generation of Strausses to the next. After the death of Strauss Sr, Strauss Jr. found himself to be quite in demand. In fact, Johann Strauss Jr. was so busy conducting dance music that he put this haggard feeling into a piece called Perpetual Motion (op. 257). The piece literally didn't stop--the same phrases repeated themselves over and over and over, until the conductor became fed up and stopped with a laugh. Next came the Acceleration Waltz (op. 234), a piece that somehow maintained the same time scale yet messed with the tempo of the dance over and over again. The dance beat would get faster and faster...until all of the sudden it would hiccup and go back to a slow pace. That piece surely drove the dancers crazy when they first heard it!

The next stop on our tour of the waltz was Josef Strauss. Johann Jr. found the care and feeding of a full orchestra to be very very taxing on his health and his sanity, so he retired to a lake to recuperate and put his brother in charge of the Strauss empire. Josef, in fact, became a very popular and well-liked composer and conductor around Austria--so much that he and his brother even collaborated a few times! Most of the pieces by Josef that the symphony played weren't really waltzes; they were instead polkas, which were even faster than the waltzes we'd heard previously. In this segment, we heard Josef's Swallows of Austria Waltzes, the Pizzicato Polka, and a joint effort called the Chatterbox Fast Polka (op. 245). The dancers came out for the last piece.

At this juncture, the lector altered his attentions to focus on celebratory waltzes. As Kalmar himself said, "One could use trace fifty years of European history through the waltzes written by the Strauss family!" Certainly this was true--Strauss Jr.'s Egyptian March (op. 335) latched on to the world's growing fascination with ancient Egypt; Edvard Strauss' Clear Track Polka seems to be promenading about fast trains--something I can't say I disagree with. It goes without question that On the Beautiful Blue Danube (op. 314) came up in this part of this program--it nearly became the theme song of the Habsburg Empire, and is very well known even today. The dancers gave their final performance of the evening, with a particularly fancy display of dancing, with flourishes aplenty and grandiose figures everywhere. People who can really dance (as one would hope of ballet dancers) are quite spectacular!

Kalmar closed off the program with the observation that the waltz never quite goes out of style--it lurks behind the next corner, or in the shadows, waiting for a chance to spring out and surprise everybody. He was, of course, referring to the Radetzky March of Strauss Sr. With the evening concluded, we retired back across the street for some more cocktails and chit-chat.

As it turns out, Anna in the Tropics had its opening night on Friday as well--so there were two parties in the same building! One for the theatre patrons and one for the symphony patrons. Quite spectacular that they could cram both into the same lobby! The conductor came over to the symphony party, gave a quick speech about how long it had taken to organize a joint program involving both the orchestra and the ballet, and that this was actually the first time they had managed to do both. In any case, I had a blast, and ended up chatting with other MiPLers who had decided (independently) to go to the symphony the same night. (This was not an event.) What a Friday! Waltzes are a perfect way to unwind after a stressful morning. I'm glad I went.

I am an Oregonian!

Occurred November 12, 2004 (Permalink)

As of today I'm officially an Oregonian. Went to the DMV, got a new license and reregistered to vote. So it's official: I'm committed to staying in Oregon, at least for the next few years.

Habitat for Humanity

Occurred November 17, 2004 (Permalink)

Instead of going to work today, my work group and I went out to the Habitat for Humanity construction site in Aloha. H4H was attempting to finish up a couple of houses before Christmas, so our work wasn't particularly difficult--half the work was applying primer to doors, mouldings and baseboards, and the rest involved laying down wooden tracks for pouring concrete, compacting rock, hauling dirt, erecting decorative posts on the porches, installing shelving, and screwing plywood onto the porch rafters. I enjoyed myself, but wish that we could have done more actual building construction and less finishing work. But--since it is mid-November, having a roof would have been a huge bonus if it had rained that day.

Enigmatic Music

Occurred November 20, 2004 (Permalink)

After the scavenger hunt of Saturday afternoon, I retired to the local Rock Bottom with other MiPLers who apparently cared about the OSU-Oregon U. game. I, on the other hand, chatted with the people who had simply come along for the ride to socialize. After dinner I headed uptown to the symphony hall where I met Michael and Dana for the first serious MiPL event that I was hosting. Tonight's symphony program was entitled "Enigma Variations" and featured works from Janacek, Rachmaninoff and Elgar that took a particular theme and then tried to construct musical phrases that revolved around it.

The performance started off late due to a "problem with the second trombonist's children". The first piece was Janacek's Taras Bulba, a story about Cossacks, followed by Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and concluding with all fourteen of Elgar's Variations on an Original Theme. The performance was competently played, though the music lacked some of the conducting fire of the waltzes that I heard last week. But I may be biased, as I like waltzes a bit more than Elgar.

Once the performance was over, the three of us headed to the South Park that is, well, across the park from the concert hall. The South Park, incidentally, is the restaurant with the fish coming out of the corner. We had dessert and port, which is to say that I had some strange pear confection, Michael had creme brulee and Dana simply had a drink. I found port to be somewhat sweet and surprisingly strong...but then I know nothing of drinks.

Downtown Scavenger Hunt

Occurred November 20, 2004 (Permalink)

Saturday afternoon, I headed downtown for Susan's Photographical Scavenger Hunt. We numbered about forty, so we were broken up into groups of five and told to run around downtown looking for twenty-five items to photograph. Fortunately, the other members of my group were very enthusiastic (I was trying to de-thaw my face) and knew downtown much better than I did. My group consisted of Brian the photographer, Ines, Trish and Sherrie--people who have lived here far longer than I. Consequently, the four of them proceeded to take me on a grand merry tour of metropolitan Portland--we went northwest to Burnside St. in search of dress-up clothes (some store that will remain unnamed refused to let us do it), to an athletic club to take pictures of a pool, and hugged a couple taking wedding pictures.

From there we headed north into the Pearl to molest and annoy fruit and shoppers alike at Whole Foods, and east to the Portland Saturday Market to corner a hapless mailman and pose with silly hats. We dropped into a clothing store to get a Cowboys and Indians picture-- amusingly the proprietor remarked that he gets several scavenger hunt groups in there a month! From there, we went south to make a human "HI" outside the fire station and later pretended to be a rock band inside a guitar shop.

Next, we headed back towards Pioneer Courthouse Square. We stopped inside one of the indoor malls downtown to snap some shots of annoying pre-Thanksgiving Christmas displays; apparently the tattoo-kissing shot was taken there without me knowledge! At that point, Ines announced that we were getting close to the 4pm deadline, so we hurriedly snapped a picture of heart necklace (the chain of love, you see), accosted two police officers for pictures of the women kissing him, an amusing shot of the four of us trying to go the wrong way through a revolving door, and two blocks away we photographed ourselves trying to break into a locked church.

So yes, I've molested a woman and shredded on the keyboard. She was quite cold to me afterwards. And now my dream of being in a rock band is complete.

Arrival at Steph's

Occurred November 23, 2004 (Permalink)

Today I woke up at the crack of dawn to catch a bus to the airport, flew down to UCLA and by 1pm was chatting with Steph in her new work digs, the Counseling Assistance office in the basement of Murphy Hall at UCLA! Thus began the first day of my six day tour of Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego for Thanksgiving. Truth be told, LA is a major contrast from Portland--I was utterly shocked to find people driving 85mph up 405. Steph explained to me that in LA, 80 on the freeway is slow; driving slowly and passively means that one never reaches one's destination. And to think, she used to be a laid back driver...

After a quick lunch with Steph at a nearby cafe, I headed out to roam around the UCLA campus, as I had never seen it before, and she had to *gasp* do some work. The Powell library is an enormous brick building with a marvelous wood panel interior; I was immediately jealous. Geisel Library at UCSD is quite ugly by comparison. I wandered through various buildings (and even found the GSEIS building where Steph's classes are held) until 15:30, when I went back to Murphy to help Steph carry some materials across campus for a workshop she was holding in the freshman dorms. Regrettably, not a single person showed up to her seminar...but on the other hand we got to leave early and go play.

In a stunning display of coincidence, we met Christine, a friend of mine from UCSD, right outside of Murphy. Earlier I had made plans with her for the three of us to have dinner at her parents' house, but I had wondered how well the rendezvous was going to work. With this part done, we got on the bus and headed southeast. Thirty minutes and an inadvertent nap later, a groggy Darrick was pulled off the bus by two women and into Trader Joe's for supplies. After that, Christine showed us her parents' house--a well decorated and moderately large 1940s house in the Westwood (?) region of LA. (Careful readers may note that I've spent a considerable amount of time ogling old houses in SE Portland.)

Dinner was chicken and linguine in pesto sauce. Actually, Steph and I didn't do a whole lot, as Christine's dinner was quite simple to prepare and we seemed to be more in a mood to sit around and chat. And sit we did--we plopped down on the floor of the kitchen while I told them stories of the fun things that I've done in Portland and my future housing plans. Alas, the hour grew late and so Steph and I went back to her place. There we sat around talking for several hours, the net effect of which was to reassure me that our friendship remains intact, despite our mutual and idiotic efforts to screw things up. This made the entire trip quite worthwhile and set my mind at ease.

Santa Monica and Malibu

Occurred November 24, 2004 (Permalink)

On the second day, I awoke at the "early" hour of 8am because Christine took the day off work to show me around the area. I saw the Santa Monica pier and associated promenade on 3rd avenue, and an English goods supply store where I picked up some Wine Gums for Melissa. Next was In N Out Burger, the front door of a museum that was probably as strange as it looked, Around the World in Eighty Days, and finally a funky sculpture collection outside of the building where Christine had her afternoon classes that day. Since she had class, we said farewell and I headed back towards the south side of campus to do a little more sightseeing.

I had an hour or so to kill, so I took off in the direction of the engineering buildings and continued to wander around, taking in the sights and snapping photos on Steph's camera (I foolishly forgot mine and realized that mistake when I was travelling to the Portland airport on the MAX). At 15:30, I again went off in search of Steph in the hopes that her office would shut down early for the holiday. I wasn't disappointed, because we got some more time to play! :)

Steph was disappointed that I'd already managed to see most of the (admittedly few) things that she'd managed to visit in LA since September. Not wanting to let her feel too bad, I suggested that we go out car-exploring like we used to do last spring in San Diego. We struck out north on the Pacific Coast Highway towards Malibu and didn't stop till we got there. We made a brief stop at Pepperdine University, as they seemed to have a great view of the (now dark) Pacific Ocean. Steph wasn't terribly impressed by the boringness of the buildings on the campus, though they're better looking than some of the monstrosities lurking at UCSD. Better bland than freakishly ugly, I say...

Next we stopped off for some dinner in a cafe down the road from something called Coogie's (the name made Steph laugh). After some productive and lively banter, we decided to head back to LA because we were facing an early morning departure. Once we got back to Steph's, I put The Graduate in her DVD player, because she liked the Simon and Garfunkel music, and I had never seen the movie before. We sat on her roommate's sofa-turned-guest-bed; my trenchcoat is so large on her that she wrapped herself up in it for warmth as if the coat were a blanket.

Thanksgivings

Occurred November 25, 2004 (Permalink)

Thursday morning, Steph and I dragged ourselves out of bed, and into her car, which promptly drove us southwards to Fountain Valley, for a Thanksgiving lunch with her family at Mimi's Cafe. They're quite a big clan; the gathering reminded me of the old days when my mother's family had reunions. Without the strange yelling in Chinese. In any case, we all retired to Steph's parents' house after lunch, where some played foosball; Steph, Brian and I threw a frisbee around in the park that borders their property. Until she moved to LA, it would seem that Steph has a penchant for living near to parks. Of course, there are no parks in LA near the university...

Shortly thereafter Brian and I left and went hiking in the foothills above Laguna Hills. We conversed about all manners of topics, like fixing up old houses, what he planned to do about the future, etc. I think I might just enjoy fixing up an old house, as I'm certainly young enough to learn a lot about how one does it, and not so old that I have kids (or even a wife) to look after. I'm really looking forward to getting this started in 2005, once I have all the California-to-Oregon stuff finalized. Still need to take care of the car registration.

Getting back to the original topic, Brian and I had a quick dinner with his mother and sister that evening, followed by dessert at a friend of his mother's, whose deck was built in the shape of a ship's prow. Friday of Thanksgiving week was dinner with Brian's family--his sister and mother, Steph and her family, and me. We actually borrowed his grandparents' apartment in Leisure World for that, and had ourselves a marvelous turkey dinner. Jason appeared for dessert, and after the food was done, Jason and I headed down to San Diego while Steph, Brian and Colleen drove north to see Brian's father. Alas, this was where we parted ways.

Return to San Diego

Occurred November 27, 2004 (Permalink)

Friday night, Jason and I watched Everwood. Saturday, we got up kinda late and wandered off to UCSD. There's been an amazing amount of change on that campus since I moved away five months ago--the CS and CalIT^2 buildings are nearly done and quite glassy. There's a new shell of a building in the Medical School, and the Pepper Canyon lecture hall building is now open. The new lecture hall is quite...orangey. Looks like something out of the 1970s. Ugly. In any case, the seats in that lecture hall are really comfortable, and the AV equipment is nice and new. There are also several suites of offices on the upper floors. Not too bad of a building, in my opinion.

After we were done with that, we went down to Jason's office, where he showed me a rack cabinet on wheels. Since we were right next to Pacific Beach, we took a short (and cold) walk along the beach, grabbed some food at the PB Fatburger and went home to watch Eurotrip. Not an especially good movie.

Sunday morning, I treated my cousin Lauri out to dim sum at Emerald Restaurant. 'twas quite enlightening to find out just how one orders the little dim sum plates, and approximately how much the dishes cost. I think I did a decent job ordering, especially considering that I usually just point at the food. But I was a little bratty kid in the past, so I could get away with it.

After lunch, I went for a quick stroll in the little park that is next to Steph and Brian's old apartment. The grass was torn up in big non-geometric forms for re-seeding. Amazing how much can change in less than half a year. It was quite nostalgia-inducing to walk through the grass and remember how Steph and I used to walk through the park in the afternoons on our way to the beach or for dinner, or to play frisbee. It was in this park where Steph frantically ran from a swarm of bees that I couldn't see. Such memories!

After my stroll, Jason and I went to the beach. As is our wont, we drove out to the beach just south of the Las Penasquitos lagoon and hiked up the hill. There had been intense rain Saturday night, so the air was clear and we could literally see for miles and miles! To our huge dismay, neither of us had thought to bring our cameras with us, so I lack any interesting photographs. We clambered down the cliffs to the beach (_on_ the trails, I might add) and I stood on a big rock watching hang gliders and glider planes soaring noiselessly through the air.

The next leg of our journey was a long car ride to the Fry's in San Marcos. Jason had never been to a themed Fry's store; both Sacramento and San Diego stores are ugly retreads of the Incredible Universe chain. For those who have never been, the theme of the San Marcos Fry's appears to be Waterworld. The store are huge tanks with fish, corals and scuba diving gear. When we went in, it was light out and clear; an hour later it was still clear, but the desert that is San Marcos had dropped nearly twenty degrees! We decided that it was time for dinner.

Dinner was at Casa de Pico in San Diego's old town district. Unlike Portland's old town district, San Diego's is touristy but clean--no vagabonds lying in wait there! Jason and I loaded ourselves up on a huge quantity of food at the restaurant--I think that has to count as Thanksgiving Dinner No. 3. We went back to his place after that and watched The Ring and went to bed. Very early Monday morning, he drove me to the airport and I flew back to Portland. I took the MAX straight to work, and amazingly enough had the energy to go Scottish Country dancing in the evening. Thus ends the account of my fabulous trip to LA. Hope to see Steph and Brian soon.

Goose Hollow

Occurred November 30, 2004 (Permalink)

Tonight's MiPL adventure takes us to the Goose Hollow and Southwest Hills neighborhoods of downtown Portland. From the Goose Hollow MAX station, we trudged up what seemed like hundreds of steps until we were quite high above the city, in the neighborhood of SW 19th and Montgomery streets. Up there were some wonderful houses--big and old, and now with ornate Christmas dressings! Many people leave their blinds open in the evenings to allow passers-by to gaze inside at the decorations--ceilings with bars cris-crossing, maroon walls, fancy furniture, etc. Tom (the guide) did a thorough job of scouting out the area beforehand--he knew of all sorts of unlit trails, hidden staircases and exclusive-looking roads that I never would have found by myself.

There are quite a lot of different building styles in that area--along SW Mill there are a lot of blocky looking buildings that can't be more than 30 years old. Further along the path on SW Vista the houses become significantly older; I'd say that many of them are about the same age as the houses in SE Portland. These houses were obviously built for the affluent--many have multiple stories and columns holding up a veranda; one of them even had a detached greenhouse! This is indeed life in the lap of luxury, if one can afford it.

At the top of the hill, we had quite a splendid view of downtown. Had it not been foggy and drizzly, I am sure that I could have seen all the way to the Hawthorne district across the river. However, the grayness lended a sort of surreal painting quality to the view that I really appreciated. Office lights outlined the various skyscrapers in the city, cars roared by on highway 26 far below us, and I could faintly make out the lights of the Fremont (I-405) bridge in the distance.

After the walk, I and a few others were hungry. We retired to the Goose Hollow Inn acros the street from the MAX station from which we departed, and chatted for a while. The Inn has wonderful (but incredibly rich) reuben sandwiches, which I enjoyed while Lisa, Tom, Larry, Trevor(?) and I talked about MiPL events of the past week, where we think the group will be heading, why the group is so popular in the first place, and modes of interaction between men and women.

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.

New Year's Ball

Occurred January 01, 2005 (Permalink)

Friday afternoon, I hopped on Caltrain (offsite) on a speculative whim: that I would be well enough to go out with Woodley, Melissa and others for the first New Year's party that I'd been to since 2000. Lucky for me, the quiet train ride provided plenty of rest for the rest of the evening's revelry. Woodley got on at San Antonio, clad in a tuxedo hidden beneath a trenchcoat; his shirt studs read "2000", which was about the last time that he (and I) had been to (ironically, the same) a party: Casablanca at the Stanford Theater (offsite).

Melissa and Dima got on further down the line; we transferred from Caltrain to BART (offsite) at the new Millbrae stop and got to see the SFO extension. Anyhow, we went to 16th street in a futile attempt to get some crepes out of Ti Couz--horrors of horrors, it was CLOSED! I'll now have to find a creperia in Portland to satisfy my hunger. Thus deflated, and standing in the pouring rain, we went to first a Mediterranean food counter across the street and later a Mexican cafe further east on 16th. Luckily, I caught Steven standing outside Ti Couz, so we dragged him along for food.

Having eaten, we bade farewell to Dima and began our trek to the the Friday Night Waltz (offsite) at Berkeley's International House. Steven decided to go home, so it was just the three of us taking public transit to Cal. We got off the train and started the long, cold march up the hill to I-House. When we got there, lessons were underway to teach the basic waltz and some other figures to clueless visitors like myself.

21:00 and the dancing begins! Turns out that the program is posted on the door--for tonight, they're playing not just waltzes, but swing dances, fox trots, two-steps, and more. Unfortunately, I barely know the waltz and don't know the rest. Why doesn't anybody play the Charleston? I can dance THAT. Never mind that it went out of style 75 years ago. Whitton, Alexandra and a gaggle of girls show up, instantly solving my problem of working up the courage to ask someone to dance. Favorite quote of the evening: Alexandra: "I didn't know you waltzed!" Me: "I didn't either!"

So that's how the evening went. Of the fifteen or so dances, I think I went out on the floor some five or six times and attempted a clumsy imitation of good dancing. Part of the problem is that I'm clueless; part of the problem was that I couldn't balance myself because I was sick. Oh well. Woodley and Melissa managed to dance to nearly every dance that the orchestra played. Ironic that I had a hand in getting them to learn to dance, and yet it's me who doesn't dance. However, I had a good time despite my clumsiness.

Towards midnight, the band stopped playing, cups of Martinelli's were passed out, and everyone sang Auld Lang Syne. Alas, I didn't get a New Year's kiss. :( But I did get to dance with Melissa before Woodley observed that it we had a train to catch and had to leave. So we left at 00:20.

Let the drunken revelry begin! Downtown Berkeley was amazingly quiet, and we saw next to nothing as we glided down Bancroft Ave., singing various songs and generally making a fair racket for midnight. Down on the Emeryville pier I noted fireworks going off--quite amazing, because up to then it had been pouring nearly all night. We shuffled onto BART, catching the Red Line Special (they shut down the Millbrae-Richmond line after 19:30) back to the Peninsula.

About two-thirds of the way into the ride, a guy drags his girl onto the train. He's at least somewhat drunk, and she's rather unwilling. Maybe they're both drunk. Anyway, he pushes her up and down the car as we watch. Finally, Melissa decides to get up and sit down next to the girl. Woodley and I are wondering just what's going on, though we did follow Melissa to keep _her_ out of trouble. Much as we don't like to see a guy manhandling his girlfriend, neither of us want to start a physical altercation with the guy, and so this leaves the three of us and the two of them in a rather awkward situation. So the girl decides to take things into her own hands, and jumps off the train into the night at the next station. Woo! Hopefully he didn't seek retribution.

At 1:45, we're sitting in the cold at Millbrae waiting for Caltrain and discussing what just happened. Official stance: W and I would have intervened had the guy started beating that girl, but otherwise neither of us really wanted to go stirring people up. Not sure that sat well with Melissa, though. So of course I interjected that W and I could have taken him. :P Seriously, we could have, as he wasn't as big as either of us. If he didn't have any weapons.

Caltrain arrives. The conductor hops off and announces: "We have a bit of a mess. Get in the middle cars; you don't want to be in the first or last ones." Not a good sign, because these are the new Baby Bullet cars. On the way back down the Peninsula, our trio gets an earful of the Caltrain Baptism by Fire-- what the conductors have seen on the Giants specials, the strange miscreants who get on at night, the lame excuses people try to use to justify not having a ticket, and what the conductors did before Caltrain. One guy used to work at San Quentin! What a night. I got off the train and drove home.

Happy 2005!

Calendar

Occurred January 03, 2005 (Permalink)

Interested viewers can now see my social and work calendars (broken) .

Scottish Square Dancing

Occurred January 08, 2005 (Permalink)

Tonight was the monthly Scottish country dance at Tigard Grange. Unfortunately, the hall was double-booked with the Tigard Tri-Square, a square-dancing group. The organizers decided to split the dances half and half between square dances and Scots. As far as the Scottish dancing went, we danced the usual familiar routines--jigs, reels, chains, strathspeys, do-si-do's, and casts. Some day I shall post some more information about what exactly entails Scottish country dance, but for now I'll only say that it's line dancing various figures in (usually) 32 beat measures. I'm slowly getting better at it. Perhaps a demonstration in a few months.

Until this day, I had never seen square dancing. It was announced that square dancing descends from Scottish country dancing--indeed, the two dancing styles share more than a few steps. Two of the more adventurous square dancing couples joined us for one of the dances; a small amount of confusion later, and they were twirling down the floor like the rest of us. However, one thing really about square dancing really struck me--they dance in couples as couples without intermingling. Also, they know the figures quite well, but the caller is free to invent whatever sequence he wants to make *while* he's calling the dance. How chaotic!

Another note: There are fines if you screw up while dancing a square dance figure. If that was true for our group, I'd be broke. I think I might just stick to SCD for now.

Snow Shoe Strut

Occurred January 09, 2005 (Permalink)

In late December, Lara and I started talking about some kind of hiking/snowshoeing trip for the second weekend in January. After some false starts, cancellations, cancellations of cancellations, and a few rounds phone tag, Dave, Eliza, Lara and I piled into Eliza's car and headed up to Mirror Lake near Mt. Hood for an afternoon of snowshoeing. We'd originally wanted a longer trip, but the short trip was beneficial for those who have now seen snow all of twice in our lives.

Eliza drove east on 26 to G.I. Joe's in Gresham, where the other three of us rented snow shoes. Then, the car drove us up to the Mirror Lake trailhead and pulled off. Lots of nasty brown slushy snow here. The four of us got out, hurriedly strapped on the snow equipment before our hands froze, and set out on the hike. From that vantage point, I snapped a few shots of the half-frozen road and icicles hanging off the rocks on the other side of the road (a1090006, 63). The pictures in (a1090010 - 28) were all taken on our way up to Mirror Lake. This was not a particularly difficult trail--3.2 miles round trip with an elevation gain from 3400 to 4100 feet. The snow up on the mountains was quite fluffy and light--not heavy and not watery, so I took pictures of the snow-covered trees and shrubbery.

When we arrived at the lake, I stood on what I thought was the shore and took four adjoining photos of the lake; see (aanorama.jpg) for my crude stitching job. Mt. Hood would have been about where the third and rightmost picture joined. As I stood there taking photos, it began to snow! (a1090033 - 37) were my lame attempts to take pictures of snow while it was snowing. Dave suggested using the flash to capture the individual bits of falling snow, but I couldn't figure out how to force the flash on. Too many buttons. :P

Next was wandering on the lake. The surface of the lake looked pretty white and solid, so I decided to squirm out on the lake and hope I didn't fall into it. I tromped down an embankment and dug a hole. Dirt. I hopped out a few more feet and dug another hole. Rocks. I boldly strode out a bit further. Mostly solid ice and dirt underneath. Thus relieved, I went back to the now frozen beach and signalled the others that it was safe to come out. The three of them shuffled off the trail and into the snow we went, tromping around atop the shore and parts of the lake. At some point I dug another hole and announced that we were on ice, so we scampered off...and I promptly fell into a hole. Fortunately, the hole was because I stepped on a plant that had been covered by soft snow. If someone falls and there's no camera to record it, did it happen?

Dave got to lead next. We stomped around in a big field of snow for quite a while--only heard cracking ice once! At some point he fell into a snow drift and everyone laughed; Lara fell into another one and Dave took pictures. Quite a different experience to be hiking off the trail--on the trail, the snow has been stomped down and compacted by people's snoeshows; off the trail, no compression takes place, and so one can step on something that looks solid and go for a three-foot plunge. Exciting! And only mildly hazardous.

Eliza decided that she wasn't having any of this "falling into snow and getting laughed at" nonsense, so she wandered back towards the trail and bade us to follow. We went around the lake on the loop road and started our descent back to the cars. We all saw and photographed the same strangely shaped tree: (a1090038). Along the way, Dave began to slap trees to shower snow on Eliza; Eliza picked up a large stick and began knocking snow off the trees and onto whomever was behind her (a1090043 - 45), and I began throwing snowballs at people. Quite a feat for me, because at that point I'd thrown four snowballs in my life--all of which missed the intended target (Steph). However, the abundance of dry, warm, fluffy snow made it quite easy for me to regroup and form more wads. Having gloves that are lined with leather pads makes it really easy to make snowballs without freezing my hands. Kudos to the REI guy who found those gloves for me.

Thus far, I've figured out a strategy--scoop up a large quantity of snow, pack it in my hands, then breath on it to melt and re-freeze the outer layer. Next comes the windup, the pitch, and hopefully a hit! Karen, an East-coast acquaintence of mine, also said to aim only for the torso--no head shots and nothing below the belt. I can see why targeting the crotch would be bad, but legs should be fair game...

...and thus today's adventure ends. The snowing had stopped, so I hauled out the camera and took pictures of the snow-covered trees. I am quite amazed by the enhancements in contrast that the snow provides--unlike in the summertime, I was able to distinguish all sorts of interesting patters in the tree branches: gnarled branches, spiders, snowflakes and randomnidity (a1090046 - 50). I also stopped for the usual pretty overlooks: (a1090051 - 54, 57 - 61) and a self-photograph (a1090055 - 56). We pulled off our snowy clothes, crammed into the car and went back to Portland, where it wasn't snowing, contrary to the weather reports.

Dinner

Occurred January 14, 2005 (Permalink)

Wednesday night I had sushi at Bush Gardens on SW 9th and Morrison.

Friday night I made a pot of Caesar salad and took off eastward to Dave's apartment on the East side. 26 east had been awful at lunchtime, so I feared that it would take me forever to get the ~250 blocks I had to go. Not to fear; turns out that it was just a huge crowd of people trying to get out of town before the ice storm hit (more on this later). The freeway was deserted! As a result, I got there ridiculously quickly--35 minutes at the height of rush hour.

When I got to Dave's, I saw that he had nearly all the ingredients to make pork meatloaf--bacon strips, some strange looking sauce and ground pork. Smelled delicious, but he hadn't put the ingredients together to bake because he thought a clove of garlic was the entire bulb, not the individual cell, but at least had the good sense to ask Lara before putting it in. (Sorry, Dave ;)) The two of us chatted while waiting for the womenfolk to show up, at which time I went out for a dozen eggs and they started in on the meatloaf. I braved four blocks of freezing wind (the giant thermometer at SE 39th and Hawthorne said 0C when I drove by) to buy eggs off a Korean couple who couldn't believe that _anybody_ would be insane enough to venture out on foot.

Eliza and her boyfriend CJ showed up shortly thereafter with potatoes. Dinner wouldn't be ready for an hour, so we decided to play a drinking game--one rolls dice with card parts printed on them and tries to get at least three of a kind, two in the case of aces. Points are given for every roll over quota, and (obviously) the highest scorer wins. I won, Lara lost, so she ended up drinking a shot glass' worth of worm booze in a jam jar. :)

After that, we sat around chatting merrily until the food was ready. Dave's pig meatloaf was amazingly tasty, and probably shortened my life span by a day or two. But it was worth it! All that bacon....mm...<drool>

...getting back to the story, we showed Monty Python and the Holy Grail to Lara, who had never seen it before. Eliza brought the two-disc DVD set from their video store. We saw the extra features, namely the "Knights of the Round Table" done with Legos, and Terry Gilliam revisiting the castle and buying their own script! At about 1:45 we decided that we were bored, so we called off the DVD and went home. Well, they did. I stuck around and copied Dave's photos. Then I got in my car and drove towards the freeway...just in time to encounter the first of the freezing rain. A lot of solid icy looking blobs began to whack the front of my car and freeze to it! The ice storm had begun! I headed westward as quickly as I could and went home, swearing never to go driving in an ice storm again.

Carsicles

Occurred January 16, 2005 (Permalink)

As mentioned in the previous story, wind from the east mixing with Alaskan storms produce ice storms and freezing rain all over the city. Imagine it-- rain that falls to near the ground then freezes into icicles! It forms a thick hard sheath of ice that covers everything: the cars, the mailboxes, the gutters, the ground and the sidewalks. Now I know where black ice comes from. There are pictures of car popsicles posted!

Amazingly, the MAX was still running. I took it (slowly) to downtown, got out and wandered around. The city had turned from gray to white and the place was deserted. It was wonderful to walk around in the silent city, watching the snow and ice fall on the ground, and exhilarating to revel in the solitude. For about ten minutes. Then I got back on the MAX and went back to my toasty apartment. Snow days suck when you can't go see your friends.

Belly Dancers

Occurred January 19, 2005 (Permalink)

Wednesday I went to a belly dancing show at the Aladdin theater, and was fairly impressed with what I saw. The women at this particular show were quite attractive--they appeared to be in their late 20s or early 30s, and were very buff. I imagine one would have to be in pretty good shape to be capable of vibrating one's midriff in rapid fashion. In any case, these women demonstrated amazing flexibility during their performance: S-curves along many axes were quite common.

The costumes that the dancers wore were generally quite bright and colorful autumn colors: vibrant reds, luminous yellows and spectacular hues. Oftentimes the dress would match the images that were being projected onto a screen behind the dancer. The visual aspects of the show were very well integrated with the msuic as well--much of the music had a rapid, percussive quality that was reflected in the hotter colors that wound up on the screen, and the softer tunes were frequently accompanied with cooler hues.

One of the more spectaular dancers in the group was a young woman named Sonia. She appeared to possess a rather exquisite skill in undulating to the music as well as using her props to full visual effect. For one dance, she brought out two gauzy light-red scarves and proceeded to twirl them in a fashion reminiscent of Chinese twirlers--circular motions up, around, down and back in a bowtie across the chest. At one point in the performance, she managed to set down one scarf, dance with just the other scarf, and then deftly pick up the dropped one without as much as a skip in her rhythm. Amazing for a tall woman!

The dance troupe also featured a percussionist with a simple hand-drum. He would tap out a rhythm on the drum and the dancer would emulate the sound with her body--sometimes a simple tap, other times a whole-body movement. Once in a while a particuar rattle on the drum would be followed by intense stomach vibrations on the part of the dancer. There were a few ensemble routines where most of the dance company would come out on stage and do some line dancing. But for the most part, I felt that the individual dances did a far better job of showing off each performer's personal talents--some were better at wiggling their body; others had perfected the art of the belly vibratto.

The audience surprised me as well--there were a lot of women! Apparently, there are more than a few local belly dancing groups that are based in Portland, and three entire companies had turned out this evening to see the group. There was a formal dancing group, a tribal belly dance group (the tribal movement, oddly enough, was started by one of the night's performers) and an "other" group, who didn't seem to fit neatly into either of those two categories. I'd have expected a lot more men, but the attendeees were largely female. All in all, a good time.

IEEE Wireless Seminar at OGI and Ultra10 Disassembly

Occurred January 20, 2005 (Permalink)

At the very beginning of the day (around midnight after I got back from Belly Dancing) I pulled out my old Ultra10 and decided to fix all the hardware problems once and for all. The machine had a weird problem where it would crash Solaris with complaints about E$ checksum failures. Originally I thought that my machine might be a victim of the UltraSparc-II E$ problem, but this is a IIi and thus not part of the official hit list. The CPU is 120x3 = 360MHz; a 120MHz FSB is quite fast for a vintage 1998 machine. Anyhow, when I discovered this problem two years ago, I swapped in a 90x4 = 360MHz CPU from an Ultra5. This arrangement mostly worked, except if the case was open, in which case the machine refused to boot. Unhappy with that, I tore apart the machine in a last-ditch attempt to get it running again. Turns out it was the RAM. I swapped a bunch of funny DIMMs for the four 50ns DIMMs in the Ultra5 and the system has been fine since then. Knock on wood.

That evening, I attended an IEEE seminar about the allocation of the radio spectrum given by Dr. Paul Kolodzy at OGI. He spoke of the the fact that while we may be running out of radio frequencies, most of those frequencies aren't in use 100% of the time, thus opening the window to what amounts to radio packet switching--the wireless devices themselves will take themselves off the air while not in use, thus allowing other devices to share the same frequency, thus increasing the band's usage patterns. Through this innovation, he argued, we can spread wireless technologies everywhere without encountering massive contention problems. Quite an interesting talk about a geeky subject. I wonder what sort of devices the future holds.

Also went to the MiPL mingler afterwards.

Party at Dave's House

Occurred January 22, 2005 (Permalink)

Dave, one member of my hiking troupe, moved into a new apartment today. His roommates planned a largish party and told him to invite us over, so over I went to the east side, to see a friend and also to have my first look at the insides of an old Portland house. The party was pretty much a standard run-of-the-mill party: a big boom box, someone grilling chicken on the porch, people wandering around and chatting everywhere, DVDs playing in the background and a keg in the basement. Lara and Rick showed up, though the four of us were vastly outnumbered by the hoards of friends of Dave's roommates. They all seemed to know each other (and seemed to maintain a bit of a clique for the evening), though I did introduce myself to a least a half-dozen of the guests. But mostly the four of us sat around having our own weird little discussion about logic. Perhaps people are a bit less outgoing than I'd originally thought. The few that I talked to urged me to move away from Beaverton!

I believe the house was built some time in the mid 1940s to the early 1950s. The decorations on the windows and the doors and between rooms, for example, aren't especially fancy, though they do feature better styling than what one sees in houses from the 1960s onward. It was quite plain that the place has been remodeled several times--not all the floor joists in the basement go all the way in certain parts, which leads me to think that the staircase has been moved at some point in the past. Looking at the exterior, though, I don't think there were any major additions to the house.

So as I mentioned, the house has been remodeled. The kitchen looks as if it's from the 60s or the 70s, the wiring conduit is new (no knob-and-tube here!) and the outlets, though sparse at one per room, do have three prongs in them. There were also tons of pipes and miscellaneous wiring jackets scattered all over the place in the basement, which is further proof that at least _some_ of the houses in SE Portland have been brought up through the ages to support a few modern features. This will all get factored into the process of relocating out of this annoying apartment when its lease expires. But for now, I like the area and most of the people well enough to consider the 30s-50s in the Laurelhurst/Sunnyside districts. Let's hope I can afford to live there.

Portland Art Museum, Powell's, Crystal Ballroom

Occurred January 23, 2005 (Permalink)

Despite leaving the party at Dave's house pretty late in the night (~2:30), I kicked myself out of bed midday Sunday and went downtown to a tour of the Portland Art Museum that was being put on by a friend of mine. There were two main exhibits at the museum that I saw on the tour--one of Childe Hassam, an American impressionist painter who painted dozens of landscapes of the wild west, including Oregon. His style differs from the French impressionists mainly because he tended to paint scenes of nature that were totally lacking in people, and his style was distinctly masculine (he painted while hunting, fishing or shooting his gun in the Oregon desert) because of his sneaking in the occasional moderately-hard line into what should otherwise be a fairly soft-looking painting. Many of the canvasses that the museum had on display were evocative recreations of rolling plains of flowers with high clouds in the sky and mountains in the far distance--the plains in the picture reminded me of the fields I walked through as a boy, and the distant blue mountains dredged up memories of roaring through the Central Valley on Interstate 5, gazing at the Sierras which were a good 70 miles away. Ah, to be in (some parts of) California (with the people I love) again!

The art gallery's main exhibit, however, was an enormous display of artwork produced by native Oregonian Indian tribes. There were many different kinds of art on display--slender cylindrical figurines, identification posts that became driftwood in the Columbia River, woven baskets for carrying food, liquids, kids, and other goods, handbags with and without beads, soup ladles, bowls, and tapestries. The tour guide (an emigree from Wales) pointed out that her favorite piece was one of the larger cylindrical statues, and I noticed more than a few protruding pipe-like pieces that might explain her fondness...

...however, she was quite able to describe the various features and identifying aspects of the pieces she was showing us. Indian art before European contact was quite distinct--they were big on the triple-motif of the human (themselves), the animal (food) and the bird. The bowls were equally cool, not in the least because several of them were obviously for decoration only-- they leaned on their sides, and it seemed impossible that they could remain at such an angle and still contain liquid. As the Indian tribes intermixed with other tribes and Europeans, it soon became apparent that the artisans were mixing their own styles with the new ones that they were experiencing. Beads, for example, which simply didn't exist in Oregon until the late 1800s, suddenly became an integral part of the Indian handbags! As contact increased, the copying of cultures became even more apparently, particularly by the end of the exhibit--there stood a bag with a TV celebrity lounging on a chair!

Downstairs there was a gallery of etchings of bulbous looking nudes. No idea who the artist was, though it was the last day of th exhibit. Ironic, because I showed up for the last day of the _previous_ exhibit down there...

Next on the agenda was dinner while I waited for a book reading to start at Powell's. I went to a Greek restaurant at SW Washington and 3rd and had a rather unimpressive beef-and-noodle stroganoff. But the point was to eat, read the Willamette Weekly and a pictorial history of Portland and waste time, so I guess I can't complain too strenuously. The featured author at the World of Books was Simon Singh, apparently an Indian guy who has a PhD in Physics yet writes books that try to explain various scientific theories to the general public. The book he was reading from, Big Bang: The Origins of the Universe dealt with the history and the attempts to validate the truth (or at least the plausibility of) the Big Bang theory. He had some wonderful audio/visual displays to feed to the rapt readers, including a demonstration of the powers of suggestion--he played part of Stairway to Heaven backwards, first by itself and then again with words, the object of which was to hear phrases about Satan. This, he said, was the biggest danger of scientific data collection and the reason why all the theories that deal with prehistory are so hard to demonstrate--there's been billions of years of entropy.

Following Powell's, I wandered off to the 91st Birthday Part at the Crystal Ballroom downtown. The Crystal Ballroom is a dance house that sits above McMenamin's Ringlers pub on W Burnside just east of 405. I only stayed for this one awesome jazz band--they had a vocalist, a guitar, a man on a tenor sax, drums, keyboard and a trumpet. The music was quite flowing and easy to dance to, and the kick of the whole thing is that this band apparently refuses to sign with big promoters, preferring instead to spread by local gigs and word of mouth. I did my own weird little wiggle dance to four of the songs, until I decided that I was going deaf, so I ran off and took the MAX home.

Korean Dinner

Occurred January 25, 2005 (Permalink)

Tuesday night's adventure was dinner at a Korean restaurant in downtown Beaverton with the MiPL crew. I had a bit of a time finding the place, as it turns out that there are two different Korean restaurants right next to each other on SW 1st street! Astoundingly, that entire little area is home to a bunch of Asian restaurants--Tera Thai, two Korean places, a bar, and several other buildings with vaguely Korean writing on them.

We had quite a bit of mixed food--the menu wasn't strictly Korean, because the proprietor is Chinese, and thus mixed dishes from both cultures on the menu. Wonderful that the other people found the food exotic, though I didn't think it was particularly new. Then again, growing up near San Francisco, it's quite easy to find all sorts of weird things that can become food in the street-side marketplaces of SF and Oakland. This is something that Portland does NOT have. Regrettable.

The dishes were...mackerel, squid with vegetables, snail salad, jellyfish, some kind of vegetable doused in vinegar, hot lettuce, and a couple of other dishes that I can't remember anymore. I vaguely remember that there were two lively conversations going--one about MiPL itself and one at my table about where everyone had gone in their lives. Seems that Seth, the host, had served in the Navy in Japan, and most of the rest of the men (myself included) had gone all over the world at some point. Alas, I was (and still am) rather exhausted from being out nearly every night last week.

Cinema Paradiso

Occurred January 28, 2005 (Permalink)

Friday night's activity was going over to a MiPLer's house to see Cinema Paradiso, a movie that was mourning the death of the old-style movie house. The story follows the (flashback) story of a man who has come home to mourn the passing of an old friend who ran the movie house in the town in which he grew up. The movie itself was quite quirky, with many moments of understated mirth and humor--at one point, the protagonist is trying to teach his friend that 5 x 5 = 25 by showing him a picture of "25"--Christmas. Unfortunately, his friend memorizes it as 5 x 5 = Christmas! In any case, the cinematography of the movie was quite beautiful--there were several wide shots of the inside of the theatre, the square outside, and the village idiot. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.

Wine and Poetry

Occurred January 29, 2005 (Permalink)

Saturday was quite relaxing--after struggling to get out of bed before 1pm, I cruised up 185th to a Bubble Tea (Boba) house to meet some friends. I'm delighted that I can get that sugary milk tea with the tapioca balls in the bottom! Mr. Sam Alter (offsite) introduced me to Boba Tea way back when I was an undergrad at UCSD.

Later that evening, I ventured off to North Portland to attend a MiPL poetry reading. There we were, a room of 15 of us sitting around sharing poems while drinking wine. People seemed most impressed by my book of unusual Chinese poetry and Adrian's poetry, most of which he's written while performing social work and the like. Cassy brought a bunch of rather sarcastic ones written by a British poet. A few of us went to play pool in a smoky place called Sam's Billiards at NE 41st and Sandy. I sucked.

Carson Hot Springs

Occurred January 30, 2005 (Permalink)

Far to the east of Portland there exists a place called Carson Hot Springs. It's on the Washington side of Columbia Gorge, just past the Cascade Locks and before Hood River. For $12 you get all the time you want in a hot bath, a nice warm wrap on a bed, and pretty much the run of the place. This is what I did this Sunday afternoon.

We met at the starbucks on NE 28th and Burnside, piled into two cars and headed out to the Gorge. Along the way I saw plenty of wonderful sights along the river, like the Bonneville dam, the old Cascade locks, trout ladders, funny gas stations with self-serve, and (unfortunately) clear-cut ex-forests. One half hour down the freeway, and there we were--a big mud pit in the ground and two shiny new buildings with cabins in them. Apparently some Korean guy bought the place and is now sinking tons of money into refurbishing the place to add quite a lot of modern conveniences. Seth

So you go into the bath house and the first thing you see is this guy who looks like either an aging hippie or a 1970s baseball player thirty years later. In any case, you strip off your clothes, set them next to one of the beds, and wander into a room full of bathtubs. Pick a tub, and turn on the hot water; shortly thereafter the tub fills with wonderfully warm (and sulfur-rich) water. I soaked in the warm water for quite a while before deciding that my muscles were having too good of a time--a perfect opportunity to find out what "hydrotherapy" feels like.

WOW! Hydrotherapy, in this case, was jumping out of the warm water and into a tub full of 40F water. Shockingly cold and quite numbifying. I'm told that if one eases into the tub very slowly, one can spend quite a lot of time in the ultracold water without feeling it. I, on the other hand, lacked the patience, jumped in, and felt my extremities going numb after a whole thirty seconds. That prompted me to get out, stumble back over to my warm tub and dethaw for several more minutes. Repeat the hot-cold cycle several times, until it gets too humid for my taste. Thus it was time for the wrap.

The wrap is exactly what it sounds like--you hop out of the tub and lie on a bed. The attendant comes around with some hot moist towels and wraps you in them like a catacomb. Literally. Gazing around the room, it looked like some spiderous creature had come and spun a huge web around each of the men! Anyway, this is the easy and relaxing part--one just lies there letting the warm moisture soak into the skin and hopefully all the toxins and other crud leach into the sheets. Some stayed awake; I snoozed, though it was awfully hard to do that because "warm and naked underneath three layers of towels" isn't a normal sleep situation for me.

Some time later, I emerged from the wrap, showered, and sat around in the lounge waiting for my cohorts to emerge from their various hiding places. As you might've guessed, this whole trip was a MiPL event, organized by a photographer/ student named Seth. There were a few gentlemen around and a few ladies; after they all came out, the (other) west-siders went home and I headed off with the east-siders. We stopped in Stevenson, WA for dinner at a Mexican place; the portions were a tad small but the flavor wasn't bad at all. After that I went home.

San Diego: Beach

Occurred January 31, 2005 (Permalink)

Enjoy this picture of sunset on the beach outside Scripps Institute at UCSD. Sunset

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 dance...at 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 (X.org 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.

Domicile Pictures ... now at UCLA?

Occurred March 02, 2005 (Permalink)

One of my pictures (P7310029) in the Mt. Hood Hike pictures made it onto Steph's page (offsite) at UCLA. Hooray, some outside endorsement of my photography methods! :P Also saw The Incredibles yesterday with Bonnie.

Greek Dinner and Dancing at Greek Cuisina

Occurred March 04, 2005 (Permalink)

After work I hopped on the train and went downtown. The trip was fraught with strangeness--first a bum who was being interrogated by the TriMet police but wouldn't give them the same name twice; eventually they got irritated and hauled him off the train in Beaverton. Later, the train operator yelled at a guy who tried to drag a huge metal plate onto the train; I wondered if that metal plate was serving as the man's bed. He got off the train and cursed the operator, all the while looking like a buffoon.

That said, I arrived slightly late for Jennifer's Greek dinner night. I'd actually been to this particular restaurant several times before; the food at Greek Cuisina (the one at SW 4th and Washington) was good enough to make me come back, apparently. We ordered appetizers: the standard pita bread with olive oil, fried calamari, and cheese flambe that tasted really good! Reminds me of the fried mozzarella sticks that the Rathskellar used to serve in the Muir quad at school. Probably just as (un)healthy.

That night I had a craving for seafood, so I ordered the Fisherman's Platter. This is a fairly sizable bowl of spicy red rice, flounder, fried oysters, clams, scallops, prawns and mussels. It was quite tasty and unfortunately I'd filled up on appetizers and couldn't even finish half the entree! However, it was tasty seafood that I'd probably have again. Though now I have a craving for baked salmon steaks.

Midway through dinner, a middle-aged Greek gentleman comes out on stage and begins to strum a mandolin-looking instrument. He plays, oddly enough, several distinctly American tunes in a Greek fashion, adding the occasional vibratto. To my ear, that sounded a tad bit off. Eventually a young woman comes out and they begin to make what sounds like actual Greek music, and I relax. Some of the pieces they played were distinctly Greek songs that I'd heard before on a radio, but certainly not live on a mandolin. She coddles various people onto the dance floors from the tables, and the silly lot of us start into some serious groove shaking until the hostess stops us and shows us a 1-2-3-kick-kick step. Then we go around the dining room trying to maintain that while running all over the place. A drinking contest starts up; our glorious group leader wins the night.

Finally, the dish breaking. According to the Greek gentleman, members of their culture break dishes on the floor at parties and dinners to celebrate the richness and diversity of life. In the back corner of the room there's a bachelorette party in progress, and the hosts take special pains to embarass as many of their troup as humanly possible. A sizable number of their party, our gathering, and a couple celebrating an anniversary decide to wander up and destroy some American plateware! Quite a mess of dish shards, as those plates are actually quite thick and not pre-scored. Next, several of the men from the MiPL group are paired with the ladies from the bachelorette party and everyone dances around the room, me included. Apparently at least a few of the womenfolk in this group think I have actual dancing skills. Outside of Scottish dancing, I find that ... surprising, to say the least.

Some of us tried to get into the March Forth CD release party across the river but were scared off by a gigantic line. Shucks.

Portland Urban Iditarod 2005

Occurred March 05, 2005 (Permalink)

Today was the fourth annual running of the Portland Urban Iditarod (offsite). Unlike the rough-and-tough version run by our hard-core neighbors in Alaska, this one involves tethering four humans to a decorated shopping cart and as much shaving cream, beer, and silly string as possible. Sort of similar to the yearly running of the Muir 40 at UCSD, but this one doesn't involve disgusting bags of rotten food. Guess I'm not in college any more...

Some time around 11am I landed at the Eastbank Esplanade and headed over to a large group of people that were gathering in a street with brighly colored decorations. Of the twelve or so groups that were there, an astounding four were from MiPL! Captain Ed and his entourage brought a giant tiki house (a3050065), another bunch showed up in togas (a3050066), a third went with a "Tux and Tails" theme (a3050071) and the fourth group were French maids. Didn't get a shot of Stu in fishnet stockings, though. Nicely decked out in costumes they were, with shopping carts loaded to the gills with decorations and ammo for what came next.

While yours truly wandered around an empty lot taking pictures of the big ugly freeway snaking its way through the east bank of the river, the carts lined up along SE Madison, waiting for the starter whistle (a3050068, 74, 75). A few minutes after 11:30 the whistle blew and they were off! (a3050073 - 78) Up the hill they roared, with this photographer charging after them at walking speed. I very nearly caught up with them too, as I snaked my way through the area, stalked a tall grey building with fascinating art deco styling at the top, and ultimately decided to join the "Cheers and Beers" group because they had automobiles. Not gonna race a bunch of crazy drunks running through the city with shopping carts. The first stop was at The Grand, about three quarters of a mile from the starting line.

Through the city we raced, hoping to head them off at the the third stop at the Rogue Brew Pub and Eatery in the Pearl district (a3050083-84). The second stop, which was to be at Old Town Pizza, apparently was a rather short one because no sooner had we sat down at the Rogue than they came bursting in the door, covered with water, various creams and a heap of sweat. They had quite an impact on the Rogue--one moment it was a quiet and peaceful Saturday lunch, the next it was crammed full of sweaty people in strange costumes swilling whatever beverages were set out in front of them. With a loud whoop, they all took off.

Fourth on the list of stops was the Yamhill Pub. I didn't see what happened there, but I did see the aftermath--a strange sort of semi-circle of shaving cream spread and stamped all around the entrance and a big "GO MIPL" sign adorning the entrance several hours later. We lazy folks went directly from the third to the fifth stop at Capt. Ankeny's Pub. There I encountered Seth, who proposed that he grab some beer and a camera and ride along with the racers while offering them bottles and snapping shots. Unfortunate that he didn't get to make good on that suggestion.

The last leg of the race was a straight shot down Tom McCall waterfront to the Hawthorne Bridge. Set against a backdrop of cars roaring by overhead, I watched as the various groups engaged in one final battle of balloon tossing, shaving cream spraying, bread chucking goodness. Quite a brawl and quite a mess they created, but I was amused to watch that large a crowd of people going at each other with such vigor!

Oh, and I forgot who won the race. :P A MiPL team placed second, though! After the group disbanded, I explored the Multnomah County Library and took a look at several maps of the East Side. Turns out that the East Bank Fault runs smack through the middle of the Hawthorne district, though the earthquake studies that I saw didn't seem to indicate that the East Bank was capable of causing too much damage. Weird.

Mastercard Ad in the UK

Occurred March 06, 2005 (Permalink)

Small car to sing in: Several thousand pounds.

Big stereo system for small car: A thousand pounds.

Thinking that nobody can hear you when you sing in the car: priceless.

Climbing Zig Zag Mountain

Occurred March 06, 2005 (Permalink)

8:30am: Chip (a visiting engineer from IBM Raleigh) calls, wondering where I am. He must be eager, since I told him I'd get him from his hotel at 9. 9:28am: Chip and I arrive at Dave's house. Dave is so amazed that I beat Eliza to his house _and_ showed up early for once that he forgets himself and makes us late. The four of us grab Lara and we set out eastward on Powell Blvd in the general direction of Mt. Hood. After a stop for donuts, coffee and energy drinks, we strike out on a nasty bumpy paved Road 207 which is supposed to take us to the loop trail around East Zig Zag Mountain. Update: I posted Chip's Photos. Update: I stitched together a panorama taken from the summit of Zig Zag Mountain. Update: More of Chip's photos (of West Zig Zag) are posted with the rest of his photos.

We popped out of Dave's reliable old clunker truck and began up the trail (a3060001 - 5). The plan for today was to trek along an 8 mile loop around East Zig Zag Mountain. We initially encountered small patches of snow on the ground but figured that since Chip had reported little snow on West Zig Zag the day before, we wouldn't encounter much more snow than that. Wow, were we ever wrong about that! Unlike its brother to the west, East Zig Zag faces Mt. Hood, which means that the windflow is cold enough to freeze the snow so that it has a semi-thick ice layer on top. Great for making fast-freeze snowballs, which I'll discuss later.

On the way up, we passed an "X" made by trees (a3060005), which reminded me of the climax of the Disney production of "Around the World in 80 Days" that was done in Southern California in the 1960s. The parking lot was at about 3,300 feet altitude, and we climbed straight up to 4,500 feet through a series of switchbacks that led through densely populated forests. I have plenty of tree pictures, so I didn't bother to take anything until we reached the snow (a3060006-7). From there, we stomped around in the snow for some time, all the while hoping that we were still at least somewhat close to the official loop trail. All we had to go on was a set of boot prints in the snow, and a vague hope that the person who preceded us had good sense not to walk off a cliff or something.

The regular reader of my postings undoubtedly now expects from my tone that something dreadful is about to happen. It did: Three forks in the boot prints. One lead to a suspicious yellow spot. The second seemed to go straight up the mountain, and the third went westward. We chose the prints that went straight up and seemed to be aimed towards the summit of the mountain. Virtually all of the pictures in the set (a3060008 - 26) were taken on this part of the hike, when we were struggling to climb up a steep mountain covered with fresh snow of a fairly uncertain depth. Along the way, I managed to snap quite a few pictures of the mountains of the Cascade range--Hood, Jefferson, Adams, Rainier and St. Helens.

The next batch of photos (a3060027 - 28) were almost exclusively taken at the lower top of East Zig Zag. From the trail, the path up to the top is pretty much a straight plane rising up at a sixty degree angle. This made travel quite steep and very precarious--I had problems scaling this part of the mountain and on the descent we spent much time slipping and sliding downwards, trying not to succumb to the same fate as Sonny Bono. Anyhow, I digress--there are actually two peaks on this particular mountain. The shorter of the two is also the easternmost, and it faces Mt. Hood and has a lot of trees all over the place. I estimate this particular summit to be at approximately 5,000 feet, though the GPS-enabled in our group (Dave? Chip?) may disagree. The view of Mt. Hood and the valley to the north of the Zig Zag range were quite easy to see and photograph from this angle, but we noticed that there was also a path leading up to another local maximum, and away from the trees that prevented me from getting too many quality photographs.

Dave and I struck out to attain the higher of the two peaks, on the grounds that it made us more manly to say that we actually got all the way to the top. My estimate is that this summit peaked at about 5,050 feet. Fortunately, upon arriving at the top, we discovered a far better justification: the top of this mountain was a big meadow, which showed to us a fabulous panorama covering nearly 270 degrees of rotation from southwest around Mt. Hood to northwest. (a3060029 - 52) were taken from this higher elevation; the raw images of the panorama are (a3060029 - 35). From the top I could also see Cast Lake, which appeared to be covered with a giant blob of snow. I'm not sure if the snow is sitting atop an ice shelf, but the snowy lake looked awfully strange surrounded by a forest of snow-less trees! (a3060040, 41, 45, 49 and 50). I managed to take some high-magnification shots of the various mountains on the Washington horizon; Adams and St. Helens in particular ruled the day.

As I mentioned previously, we roared up a steep snow covered mountain and were now forced to slide down it without killing ourselves. I'm pleased to report that all five of us were completely successful in that effort, and I even have pictures of the miniature avalanches caused by the snow that fell off our boots: (a3060054 - 55). The snow was sufficiently congealed by ice that we weren't concered about starting a major slide. Considering that we left a swath of destruction in our wake (a3060056 - 58), that was a good thing. Furthermore, the easy-freeze snow meant a second thing: I could make good snowballs really quickly! The ice would refreeze in my bare hands, which meant that I could exchange fire quickly and without losing large amounts of heat. This time, I tossed several snowballs around as practice, took aim at Eliza, fired, and ... watched the snowball drop neatly into the back pocket of her backpack! She grunted annoyedly, so I concentrated fire on Dave.

We came off the mountain quite rapidly, piled into Dave's truck, and went home. Apparently three of them (Dave, Lara and Eliza) went to Trivia Night; I took Chip home, wimped out on them three, and wrote this article and posted pictures extra quickly as penance.

Million Dollar Baby

Occurred March 11, 2005 (Permalink)

Saw Million Dollar Baby with a friend tonight. I found it to be a very, very sad movie--watching Hilary Swank's character overcome all expectations, only to be felled as a consequence of a moment's distraction and then to decompose the way she did...really that was very depressing. Neither my friend nor I said much on the drive home from the theater. Never thought that I could experience such sorrow for a movie character...

Scottish Country Dance Workshop and Ball

Occurred March 12, 2005 (Permalink)

Saturday was the annual workshop and ball of the Portland chapter of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society! Apparently, this is quite large of an event-- the workshop attracted dancers from Bend (OR), various places in Idaho, and even one lady from Vancouver, BC. Registration began at 9:30 in the morning, after which the group split up into beginners like myself and the more advanced people. I spent the day on a rather tiring regimen of improving my technique, footwork, steps, and phrasing of various figures. Just recently I've gotten a handle on performing the pas de basque (offsite) step in place; at this workshop, I begun to figure out how to do this while hopping about on the floor. Eventually I might even be graceful at it. :P

Scottish dancing is quite a workout! Good dancers make it look easy; beginners know that it requires quite a lot of concentration and, more importantly, the ability to move sprightly and accelerate quickly, and the support of the other couples in the dance set. Going through a dance several times oftentimes requires several minutes of jumping about and anticipation of movements; a few hours of this sort of exercise proved to be surprisingly draining. Fortunately, the classes ended at 16:00, giving me a few hours to roam about the neighborhood, buy a floppy felt shamrock hat, and just relax. I went out to a Chinese restaurant at NE 58th and Sandy with a gaggle of ladies from the Bend, OR group.

Seven-thirty came about, and a large crowd began to assemble. They looked quite snappy in their tuxedo tops, kilts, and stockings; I looked a tad bit underdressed in a kilt and a polo shirt. Should have remembered to bring something a bit formal, but I was lame and forgot. Portland being Portland, however, that didn't matter. To top it all, I donned the decidedly Irish hat that I'd bought earlier in the day! Actually, the hat was a pretty good starting point for conversation, as it turned out. I had no problems getting someone to dance with me, and easily managed to get out on the floor for every single beginner dance and even a few of the advanced ones!

So the ball ends, and everyone retires to the house of one of the dancers in the group for an after-party. She (and her husband) live in this big lovely old house in the northeast quarter of Portland. Hors d'oeuvers are served, drinks are passed around, and everyone settles in to chatter and talk into the wee hours of the morning. Everyone except me, that is--I'm so exhausted that I fall into a half-asleep state and stay that way for several hours. Somewhere around 2am I collect enough energy to drive myself home safely, and call it a night. Wow, I had a blast!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Occurred March 17, 2005 (Permalink)

Quickies: Went out to a pub on the East side and spent the evening drinking and chatting with the Portland Linux group...Rode the MAX out to the 42nd Ave. stop during rush hour for the first time...wore the big floppy shamrock hat to work and pretended to be a leprechaun...the hunt for a new place to live this summer is on...friendship priorities are shifting. Sorry to anyone whom that last bit offends.

Pork Chops

Occurred March 18, 2005 (Permalink)

The Friday Night Supper Club met at Lucy's Table (offsite) in NW Portland tonight. I had pork chops, which, while tasty (and pricy), didn't quite have enough flavor to match mom's pork chops. However, their version of the pork chops were juicier. I met my boss while riding home on the MAX. Spooky.

Weekend Trip: Beach Cleanup

Occurred March 19, 2005 (Permalink)

Saturday was Oregon's Spring Beach Cleanup day--apparently this has been an Oregonian tradition since 1984. Seth and others organized a weekend-long trip out to Pacific City (offsite) (a beach town) for us to help out and then play on the newly cleaned beach afterwards. Unfortunately, I continue my 3 visit losing streak weatherwise, as the entire weekend was cold, rainy and windy. Fortunately, the high winds contributed a lot to the fun that we had later.

So we meet at 8:55am at Sunset TC in the pouring rain and start driving west to the coast. The weather's quite bad and I eventually fall so far behind that I lose the group. This wasn't a big problem, as I knew that the plan was to go to Tillamook, and drive south on 101 to Pacific City. Easy enough, I think--I came up this way from San Francisco last summer. Unfortunately, the road to Pacific City is very hard to find--it's literally a turnout with a road sign! For miles and miles I continue to drive over hills, across bad pavement, parallel to largish bodies of water and in the middle of seemingly nothing, until all of the sudden a big pelican turns up on the side of the road; everyone else is waiting in the parking lot.

Once out of the car, Seth points to the biggest hill in the area and says "Ok, our task is to clean that hill." Great. We struggle up the steep sides of the hill, only to be met with a big Oregon Parks sign: "This area is potentially unstable. Your life depends on your good judgement!" They sure don't mince words in this state. Nor do they seem to care about preventing idiots from eliminating themselves.

So the wind continues to knock us around for the better part of an hour until we reach the end of what we can safely manage, and decide to go inside. Our haul: a belt, two socks, several beer cans, and miscellaneous plastic crap. Jill stomps off with a second trash bag, thinking that she has to impress us... while we sit inside a restaurant having drinks and watching her.

Over lunch, the slug-a-beds show up. They found themselves to be fundamentally incompatible with a 8:30am start time and thus showed up late. Their arrival spurs some serious discussion--one woman had carpooled with us, not realizing that the entire lot of us were planning to stay the night in Pacific City, and she hadn't. Oops. We decided to make some phone calls and retire to our hotel rooms before heading out for some playtime.

Weekend Trip: Extreme Hiking

Occurred March 19, 2005 (Permalink)

While cleaning the beach, Seth and I had noticed a sea cave out in the ocean. Exploration seemed like a good way to pass the afternoon, so we got some wetsuits and spent a good twenty minutes driving back and forth from the hotel to the beach to retrieve forgotten items. I'm sure we looked pretty stupid to drive up to the beach, put on wet suits, get back in the car and then drive off. Incidentally, when the rain let up for five minutes, I took some pictures of what I saw.

At 3pm, the tide was at its lowest point. Unfortunately, the winds started to pick up at this point--when we were cleaning the beach, there was a strong breeze at perhaps 20mph; now, the winds were blowing at a cool 50mph with gusts up towards the 60mph range. This made access to the sea cave look difficult and dangerous, so instead of going down to it, we went up the hill.

What a hill it was! From the parking lot, the hill appeared to be perhaps 250 feet high, and mostly made of sand and sandstone. There was a dinky forest on the top, and probably a fantastic view from above. Seth, Bonnie and I set out towards a ledge that was perhaps a fourth of the way up the hill. When we got there, the winds were blowing so strongly that we leaned back towards the wind and it held us up! That is some seriously strong wind! There was also a fence around the ledge to prevent people from blowing into the ocean below; every so often a strong blast of wind came up from the beach and blasted us into the fence. You could literally lean back and feel yourself flying through the air...until *bam* you hit the fence. This is one of the most incredible things that I've ever experienced; the wind noise was about on par with the server lab at work.

Tiring of this, we sauntered up the hill, only to get sandblasted by waves of eroded sand that the wind was whipping up and around the hill. This caused us to seek some shelter in the forest at the top, in the hopes of at least avoiding the sand. The forest had some severely wind-deformed horizontal trees and the usual outcroppings of shrubbery and grass that you find at the beach. The three of us scrambled up to the ridge of the hill...only to find a very sharp drop-off into a gigantic pit! Seth said that it reminded him of the sand pit in Return of the Jedi; I could see several layers of exposed sandstone and the remains of whatever had fallen in and failed to escape. Inside the crater was the most amazing sight--a structurally intact dead tree! One could see the entire mass of wood fiber, from the tip top down the cone, the massive trunk that had to be at least a foot or two in diameter, and most of the root system. Wow!

I don't know how this pit got there. There is evidence that the area has the occasional geological event--big cracks in the stones, rocks that jut up out of the sea to form deep but narrow canyons, and of course the big pit that didn't seem to have any reason to be there. I really don't know why that particular segment of the beach seemed so volatile; I don't believe that this area is prone to seismic or volcanic activity.

There we were, stuck at the top of the hill and not wanting to endure the sand storm any longer. By this time I'd gotten enough sand in my eye to make me want off the hill _now_. We debated several options, but realized that since the wind was blowing northward, the best option was simply to jump straight off the hill. And so we tried...only to get blown back onto the hill at a slightly higher elevation. At this point, Seth rolled down the mountain, leaving Bonnie and I to shuffle down the hill. Once we'd done this, I flushed the sand out of my eyes (I can see now why some of the women of the Middle East choose to wear full body shawls). We went back to the hotel to clean ourselves up... though it's now Monday and I still have sand falling out my ears.

Weekend Trip: Tillamook and Cheese

Occurred March 20, 2005 (Permalink)

Sunday got off to a highly rainy start, so we sat around being lazy, had a slow late breakfast, and then decided to toss our plans to go hiking and went to explore cheese factories in Tillamook instead. The first place we went to was the Tillamook Cheese Factory, just off 101. They have a self-guided tour of the cheese manufacturing plant, though the only part that's visible to visitors are the enormous cheese boilers and the packaging/sorting/routing machines in the next room.

The cheese manufacturing room is pretty boring to watch. There are eight steel cylinders that heat the milky ingredients to form the cheese. After quite a few hours of cooking, the liquid cheese flows into rectangular molds that are cooled, sliced, and sent off for packaging. The cooking section looks almost like the boiler room of an ocean liner, except a whole lot cleaner.

After the cheese blocks are cast and cut, they are sent via conveyor belt to the next room, where workers separate the cut pieces and put them on another belt system in a sequential fashion. Machines then wrap each cheese bar in plastic and then send the blocks up to a conveyor belt system. Needless to say, there are workers at nearly every step of the line, inspecting the cheese for weight, shape or color problems.

Watching the cheese blocks whizzing around at high speeds on the beltway system reminded me of subway trains roaring around under a huge metropolis. I wonder if there are ever any professional conventions of both cheese factory workers and subway control operators? In any case, the wrapped cheese then goes into a third room, where (I presume) they get put in boxes and shipped out to area supermarkets.

The next stop on our trip was the Blue Heron ... something-or-other. This place was a bit more than just the run-of-the-mill cheese factory--they sold frommage, jellies, wine, bitchy signs, spreads, and beverages. Sort of like they were trying to be the average French everything store. The frommage was pretty tasty, so I bought some of it and some really spicy jam for breakfast. The jam has the same kick to it as a tomato jam that my mother made years ago. Oh, and the Blue Heron had a petting zoo.

Clay and Maddy Come to Visit

Occurred March 23, 2005 (Permalink)

Clay and Maddy flew to Portland this afternoon for six days of relaxing vacation in the Pacific northwest. The trip nearly didn't happen because Clay had caught pneumonia the week before, which certainly would have been awful, especially in light of what happened the last time that they tried to drive up here. Anyway, Clay went to the doctor and was feeling better (but still a bit anemic)...so off to Portland they went! I roamed all over the inside of Portland airport looking for them...only to find them outside, waiting for me!

I took them on a quick driving tour of Portland, showing them the Hawthorne district, NW downtown, and then drove up Germantown to 185th. We drove back to my apartment and then went to Old Chicago for pizza. Clay was pretty drained by then, so we went home and I gave them a few pointers about how to get around town on TriMet. Apparently the next day they went walking around the city and browsed through Powell's while I sat around...and worked.

OMSI and Kennedy School

Occurred March 25, 2005 (Permalink)

In anticipation of Clay and Maddy's visit, I decided to take both Friday and Monday off so that I could double the amount of time that I got to spend with them. However, Clay was still feeling the effects of his illness, so these four days off turned into opportunities to wake up ridiculously late, sit idle in the living room while waiting for them vacationing slugabeds :) to wake up, and generally not have to think about work.

By the time we got going this afternoon, it was already early afternoon. We decided that there was just barely enough time to ride the train downtown, take the bus to OMSI, then go to McMenamin's Kennedy School for a bit to eat and drink, and then go home. That's pretty much what we did-- got stuck in traffic on 26 heading to Sunset TC, went to OMSI, ate lunch instead of paying full fare two hours before closing, went to a somewhat dissatisfying and short planetarium show, and snuck into one of the OMSI exhibit rooms after the ticket-takers had gone home for the day. The fun room reminds me of the Children's Discovery Museum on Woz Way in downtown San Jose.

Following that, we hopped on the bus and rode all the way to the northern end of NE Portland so that I could show them what Kennedy School looked like. Back in August I had visited this particular McMenamin's pub/hotel as a prelude to going to Last Thursday with Christi; for those too lazy to dig out the original post, Kennedy School was an elementary school in NE Portland until the late 1960s; since it had been built about forty years earlier, stepping into this pub is a bit like stepping into the past. As is typical of McMenamin's, the place had a pub restaurant and a movie theater (more about this in the Sunday entry)...and also hotel rooms for the inebriated, the lazy, and the out-of-towners.

We ordered pizza and beer at the movie theater bar and then wafted through the restaurant until we ended up parked next to a big brick fireplace out in a courtyard in the middle of the Kennedy School complex. The three of us sat there for hours just catching up, chatting, spreading rumors, and generally having a merry time. Between the three of us we downed two pitchers of Hammerhead and a third pitcher of IPA. Maddy and Clay were greatly enthused by the atmosphere at the Kennedy School--so much that they started talking about a potential move. Crazy...

Eventually, however, it was time to pack up and leave. We took the bus in the wrong way eastward out to the NE 82nd MAX stop and then took the train all the way home. Quite a fun but exhausting experience!

Pub Crawl: NW and SE

Occurred March 26, 2005 (Permalink)

Saturday, we decided that Clay was in good enough shape to take him all over the town. First, we hit the Japanese Gardens in Forest Park, wandering around amid tiny, well-manicured trees, zen gardens full of raked sand, waterfalls, streams, and the like. For the most part, the garden is what I'd expect out of a Japanese garden, except that it's built into the hillside that makes up Forest Park. That trait in particular adds to the aura of the garden, as you're effectively walled in with a mountain of green to one side. If it wasn't for the view of downtown Portland poking through the trees, it'd be as if one had been transported to a remote place somewhere in the middle of Japan.

Next on our trip was NW Portland. Maddy had read about it in her travel guide, so I obliged by driving them there. Though it was raining even harder now, we crashed into a chocolate/coffee shop and had our fill of sweets. The shop was crammed full of attractive young women, I noticed. I'll never believe that they don't like chocolate again. Clay received a free plate from one of the women behind the counter; at first we supposed it was because she thought Clay was hot, though later we inquired and were told that they were simply trying to clear out (last year's) Easter inventory.

There is a music store called Music Millenium on NW 23rd in Portland. (There's another one off Burnside on the east side). We ducked in there for a good hour or two to sample and buy CDs. Being Clay and Maddy, they picked up a good deal of music--strange bands like Squirrel Nut Zippers, African mambos, French cafe music, Bach's B Minor Mass, and Holst's The Planets. I didn't do so well--I got HMS Pinafore and DVDs of Nosferatu and Intolerance. Still haven't had a chance to really watch them, though I did screen Nosferatu for Clay and Maddy...they were fascinated. Particularly when I found an easter egg on the DVD and switched on the organ soundtrack.

We then went on a pub crawl to the following places: The Lucky Lab, McMenamin's Barley Mill Pub, the Blue Monk, and Kell's Irish Pub downtown. They drank quite a bit and made off with Guiness glasses; I wished I could drink (we'd taken MAX on Friday specifically so that I could have a few at Kennedy School) but played designated driver instead. Surprisingly, I reaffirmed that going from pub to pub is still quite enjoyable, even if one doesn't consume any alcoholic beverages. For one thing, one gets to watch one's friends become silly.

Angel's Rest, the Bagdad and Lemony Snicket

Occurred March 27, 2005 (Permalink)

Being Portland, the bad weather loves to come out on the weekends. This means that the theme of the city is that one goes hiking in good or bad weather-- regardless of the weather! In keeping with this trait, Clay, Maddy and I drove out to Angel's Rest to go hiking for the day. Though there are pictures, the camera didn't do a particularly good job capturing images this day, as the CCD lacks the sophistication to capture all the gradations of the fog as the gorge walls headed back towards Portland. As far as hikes go, this was a decently challenging one because (1) we'd been out until the wee hours of the morning going to pubs and (2) it's hard to climb to Angel's Rest. The rocks were still there about 85% of the way up the trail, though in the daytime it is far easier to pick them out! Anyhow, I showed Maddy and Clay the gorge; they were suitably impressed by the view and Washington state being across the river.

Following that, we drove back into town and settled on the Hawthorne district. We snuck into the Bagdad theater at SE 37th and Hawthorne ("Hey...you guys care to buy a ticket?" "No, we're just looking." "Ok then.") and had a look around in the dark. This night they were playing snappy 1950s Sinatra songs before the movie, though we weren't really interested in what they had playing. For those who haven't seen the inside of the Bagdad...it's a huge concrete structure with Arabian themes painted on the inside. The place was evocative of the Stanford Theatre (offsite) in Palo Alto, though the Bagdad lacks a huge Wurlitzer organ and it didn't appear to have a real stage--just a projection screen in the front. In its middle age, the theatre was partitioned into multiple screens, though they'd restored it to be one huge room again, like the Grand Lake in Oakland (California).

Once we'd had our fill of the Hawthorne, we headed back in to try to make it to Trivia Night with Eliza and Lara. Unfortunately, Maddy refused to go in due to the wave of cigarette smoke wafting out the door. She sings opera, so I suppose a huge allergic reaction would _not_ be a good thing for her. Dejected, we tried calling the movie-theater equipped McMenamins in town and found out that Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events was showing at the Kennedy School. So we went there and enjoyed beer and a movie on a couch.

Pambiche, Scottish Dancing and Dessert

Occurred March 28, 2005 (Permalink)

This day started off the most slowly of all. While Maddy talked on the phone with her violinist aunt, Clay and I continued to look at the random LiveJournal pictures. All of the sudden it was 16:45 and time for dinner, so we hopped in my car and drove off to a place called Pambiche (offsite) for some Cuban food. Maddy found the restaurant in her Fyodor's city guide, so we decided that it must be worth checking out. I ordered some sort of snapper dish, which came out with a ton of sauce. Clay got what amounts to a beef pot pie, and I don't remember what Maddy got. As 19:30 drew nearer, however, we had to pack it in and run off to...

Scottish country dancing lessons! The three of us drove out to the customary location at Tigard Grange, and for the next hour they partook of the jigs, reels, and straspheys that I've been practicing for the last seven months. This night happened to be "variations on reels of three", so they unfortunately did not get to see some of the faster jigs or the elegant dances that our group does particularly well. Oh well; perhaps some time they'll catch a ball weekend.

After the class was over, we headed back to NW 23rd Ave for some dessert. I can't remember the place where we went, but it was somewhere around 23rd and Irving. The chefs there served us some wonderfully sweet desserts that were laden with richness and chocolate! I, as customary, had something involving chocolate and raspberry sauce; I think Maddy had something creamy, and if my memory serves me, Clay ordered something chocolatey (and big) too. After that, we had to stroll around the NW blocks admiring the ($500k) houses to work off all that food. We saw quite a lot of cute big houses and several brick apartment buildings (mincemeat in an earthquake) before we finally got back in the car and went home.

The next day, I took Maddy and Clay to the airport and we said good-bye. Thus ends the tale of our week of fun in Portland.

April Fool's Day

Occurred April 01, 2005 (Permalink)

Today: I was relieved of Lab Coordinator duties at work. Yay! I typed "C:\WINDOWS\> " on Hanna's terminal and let her wonder how it came to be that DOS was installed on the machine. Hee hee!

Steph and I Fly to Oakland

Occurred April 07, 2005 (Permalink)

The second half of spring break began today, when I picked up bags, dove out of work, went to airport mid-afternoon and flew south to Oakland to meet Steph. She was attending a conference of academic advisors in Emeryville on Friday and Saturday, and we intended to spend the rest of the weekend goofing off in the East Bay and San Francisco. Greg picked us up from the airport and drove us to grandma's house, whereupon grandma treated the four of us to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. There are, of course, trip pictures; specific sections are linked from stories as is customary.

Mexicali Rose and Chabot Observatory

Occurred April 08, 2005 (Permalink)

Grandma's car was parked at Fruitvale BART. Steph was in Emeryville. For those not in the know, this meant that I had to drive north on I-880 and I-80 in the middle of Friday rush hour. I can now say that I am master of the multiple lane-change challenge, having gotten myself across five lanes of 15mph traffic on I-80 in a quarter of a mile! So I grab Steph from outside of her conference, and we headed off to the Mexicali Rose, a restaurant that I'd gone past many many times, yet never ate in. We got a booth and ordered what turned out to be enormous plates of food! The dishes were pretty much standard fare for Mexican combo-plates and quite good, though not as good as a night out at Casa de Pico in San Diego.

After dinner, I drove Steph up in to the hills so that she could see what the Bay Area looked like from up high in the middle of the night. We went eastward along Redwood Road deeper and deeper into the hills until I finally got fed up and drove back out. We turned onto Skyline, saw a really lovely skyline, and then I went up to Chabot Observatory. There wasn't anything going on up there that night (i twas extremely foggy) , so we just parked and chatted about life and the way things were heading. I confess that I enjoyed the chance to have a direct conversation with Steph, for the first time in months. Anyhow, I then took Skyline all the way back to Grandma's, and we went to bed.

Old Friends: Ti Couz and Ghirardelli

Occurred April 08, 2005 (Permalink)

Friday morning I woke up at the crack of dawn, drove a somewhat nervous Steph to her conference, and then went back to grandma's for a bit more sleep. That didn't quite work, so I called Steven and Woodley and told them to meet me at Ti Couz at 13:00 for crepes. This almost worked, except that Woodley didn't get out of class until 13:00, so Steven and I had crepes and told W to meet us at Ghirardelli Square for chocolate at 14:30. I had two crepes: ham/cheese, and sausage/mushroom. Very tasty! And my usual Cable Car at Ghirardelli. The Sharper Image then appeared out of nowhere and proceeded to suck the three of us in for over an hour. We found a really cool magnetic construction toy that we used to construct models of chemical lattice structures and then odd looking buildings. Steven announced that he had to get home urgently, so we split up and I went off to grab Steph...

A Packed Saturday in the East Bay

Occurred April 09, 2005 (Permalink)

Saturday progressed much differently from Friday. I again dropped Steph off at her conference in the morning...only this time I opted against going home and instead went to Borders to peruse books. I got Steph a picture book to remember San Francisco, and myself a book about body language and Linux Device Drivers, third edition. After exiting the bookstore, I tried out shopping in the adjoining mall and felt completely awkward. Queer Eye needs to help me out. Though I did get to see and touch a 30" display at the Apple Store in Emeryville.

Luckily, I found out at the last minute that Steph's conference only went until noon on Saturday, which meant that we had the entire half-day for exploration! First I took her to my Uncle's condo and played a game of chicken with my memory: I recalled that he lives on the 20th floor, but I was off by one on the number. Good thing I chickened out and asked the bellman to look up my uncle's address. My uncle whisked us off to Chez Panisse, where we ordered ourselves a load of tasty treats. As is customary, I had a bottle of grape juice--very sweet and very good!

We bade my uncle goodbye and headed off on our own into the Oakland hills. I had two goals in mind: the first was to show off the vistas of San Francisco to Steph so that she could get some pictures; the second was to try to find the old Broadway tunnel (offsite) high in the hills above SR24. The first few pictures (a4090072 - 87) of that album were taken from various points along Old Tunnel Road in Oakland. Unfortunately, we completely failed to find the entrance to the old tunnel, so I went to Tunnel Road on the other side of the hill. We found a nice trailhead for hiking, but the road was fenced off by an ominous looking sign. Either we were totally incompetent at searching or the state transportation department doesn't want us to find this tunnel. Thus defeated, we followed the trails and wound up with pictures (a4090088 - 98).

Next we had dinner with my family at King Wah in downtown Oakland. Food there was good as usual, though it's a rarity that they fail to impress me. Next we retired back to grandma's house, whereupon Greg joined us for dessert. Steph and I went to bed after everybody left.

The West Side of San Francisco

Occurred April 10, 2005 (Permalink)

On Sunday morning, Steph and I grabbed Greg and we drove off towards the west half of San Francisco. Back when Steph visited in December 2003, we had made sure to do all the touristy things--Union Square, the Ferry Building and Embarcadero buildings, Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39, Ghirardelli, etc. We also witnessed the Big San Francisco Blackout of the year and took in Handel's Messiah despite the bad weather and eerie lack of electricity in large parts of the city. But that was 2003.

This time, I set out with vastly different ambitions. Steph had asked to see bridges because she hadn't seen much of any the last time she was in SF, and thus I got the idea in my head that we should tour the _west_ half of town. We started off by parking Greg's car at the Daly City BART station on the grounds that he was ultimately heading south and Steph and I were heading back to Grandma's. From there, we headed north towards Golden Gate Park, and parked at Stow Lake. For the uninitiated, Stow Lake is a big murky lake in the middle of the Park; it has a tree-covered island-hill in the middle, and one can rent paddle-boats to take out on the lake. We went halfway around the lake, only to discover... the paddle boating was out of service due to "low water levels". Strange--I thought that most of California had been blasted by a classic Northwestern winter. Certainly it should be _Portland_, not SF that would have low water levels in the lakes. Oh well. The three of us settled for crossing a bridge to the hill and I snapped tons of pictures of turtles, the SF skyline, St. Ignatius Church, and more. We also stumbled across a big inflatable ball room in the Park, so I took some pictures of San Franciscans enjoying their Sunday afternoon.

We went to Bill's Place for lunch after that. My mother used to take me there when I was younger; back then, the food and service were better. I hadn't been there since August of 2003, and I think the original owner must have sold the place to new management some years ago. It looks the same, but it feels somehow off. Maybe this is just a sign that I've gotten to the phase of my life where the old things no longer fit and the only thing to do is to leave them behind in the search for new experiences.

The next place we went was the Golden Gate Bridge. We walked across the bridge and I showed her some spectacular views of the Berkeley Hills, San Francisco, Alcatraz, and out to sea in the direction of the Farallon Islands. At no time did I have a camera; please ask Steph for her pictures. Hopefully she'll get them developed some day. My LA trip pictures are in there somewhere.

By this time, it was nearly 17:30, and my instincts (read: sun sensors) told me that it would be an inordinately good idea to move things along some. We were driving southwesterly along Lincoln Drive past a lot of really expensive houses when the thought occurred to me that Steph might like to see the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Or maybe that it would be a high-up place to try to see the sunset. The result is this set of pictures that were taken from the parking lot. (The Legion itself was closed for the day.) There's actually not a whole lot that can be photographed outside the Legion, as there are large pine(?) trees surrounding the parking lot which pretty much blot out the good city panoramas. However, I _did_ get some good sunset pictures (a4100118, 19, 21). For once in my life a silhouette picture came out the way I intended it to come out.

Finally, we get to the good stuff! Fearing that the sun would set before I got more than three good pictures, we headed even further westward to the customary make-out/sunset-watching place: the parking lot above Sutro Baths. Back in the first half of the twentieth century, Sutro Baths functioned as a public swimming pool and bath house in the Pacific Coast part of San Francisco. It was fed entirely by seawater and had featured three gigantic pools, one of which was heated. The old place was quite close to Playland At the Beach, an olden-day imitation of Coney Island and a predecessor of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Anyhow, both Playland and Sutro are gone, the former plowed under by condo developers in the 1980s and the latter burned to the ground in 1967.

Anyhow, I digress. See the fabulous pictures that I took! We actually had a fair amount of time to kill, so I took rather a lot of stylized photos of Greg and Steph. a4100129 was a late picture--ten seconds earlier, a small bird had been trying unsuccessfully to land on the larger bird for a free ride in the high winds! I also got a lot of good pictures of the sun as it was setting into the Pacific for the night. At first I thought the sun was going to get trapped by the intermittent high-level clouds, but they must not have gone too far out to sea, because the golden rays became stronger and more intense as the glowing orb came closer and closer to the ocean's surface. Finally, the sun set for the night and all that was left was an even facade of goldenlight across the sky. Quite spectacular. I need to get some more pictures of the Oregonian sunset some time. Perhaps from Mt. Tabor.

Finally, we crashed at an Italian restaurant on Geary somewhere west of Park Presidio for dinner. I seem to recall having calzones and pizza, Steph feeding a juke box, and us being silly with each other. When that was through, we bade good-bye to Greg and headed home.

We Go for a Walk and then Go Home

Occurred April 11, 2005 (Permalink)

On the final morning of my vacation, Grandma offered to treat us to lunch at a place in Alameda. I was waiting to decorate my hash browns when I realized that the bottle of ketchup at the table was no ordinary bottle--it had a quote from a celebrity on the side! This one read "Fixes burgers at warp speed" and was signed by William Shatner, so I took a couple of pictures (a4110004 - 5).

Grandma suggested that Steph and I kill the remaining hours by going for a walk around the neighborhood. I took Steph on a meandering route through the hills to a casting pond that my grandparents used to take me to when I was a little kid. Sadly, the experience didn't compare to what I remember--ten years ago, the ponds weren't full of silt and the stream full of disgusting looking water. (a4110007 - 12)

To counterbalance the disgustingness of the park, I took pictures of various flowers that were blooming along the streets that lead back to grandma's house. I got quite a few pictures of grandma's purple-flowered ice plants (a4110001, 2, 23-25, 41-42), a funny looking plant (a4110037), several street signs (a4110026, 40) and a lot of roses. We'll see how Portland looks in a month or so when (theoretically) the temperature rises enough so that the roses and flowers will start blooming all over the city. Perhaps I'll be sneezing so frequently that I won't notice them.

By that time, the pollen and the air pollution had conspired to give both of us a rather nasty case of allergies. Truthfully, I deem any amount of allergies to be nasty, but perhaps that's just me. Anyway, we walked back to grandma's house and I spent a few hours taking random pictures of Steph and objects in grandma's living room. I don't have much to say about this album other than that I finally captured the glass mouse on camera. There are also a lot of pictures of Stephanie.

Sadly, this marked the end of our long weekend together, as we piled into grandma's car and went to the airport after that. I nearly got cheated out of a _third_ goodbye because I forgot to take my laptop out of my bag. Stupid how you forget a computer and they take forever to re-examine everything you have and pat you down...but bring sharp wire cutters? They confiscate them and send you on your merry way. Sometimes I think that the only extra security gained by the TSA is in bureaucracy compliance. Until recently, one could bring fire-starting devices, yet nail files were forbidden! Anyway, after being released from airport security, I flew down the concourse to Steph's gate and gave her an actual, proper farewell.

Tibetan Dinner

Occurred April 15, 2005 (Permalink)

I went to a Tibetan restaurant tonight. The food wasn't especially different from Chinese. Aside from the yak food, I'm not sure I was particularly impressed. But the yak was tender and tasty; I'll give them that much.

Weekend in Bend

Occurred April 16, 2005 (Permalink)

On Thursday, Eliza let it slip that she and three of her friends were going to Bend to spend the weekend in a house that they had rented, and that any of us who wanted could go along. Since I was relatively free that weekend, I said that I'd love to see what Bend was and where it is. According to the big map that is pinned to the dining room wall, Bend is one of a triangle of cities smack in the middle of Oregon, and more importantly it's on the other side of the Cascades on the western edge of the Oregon desert. It seemed like the sort of thing that would be well worth the time.

Bright and early on Saturday morning, I meet Eliza and her three friends Cheryl, Dory and Jonquil at an industrial warehouse-turned eatery called the J&M cafe in the industrial section of SE Portland. They have a rather strange way of serving coffee--there are three tall hat racks with mugs hanging off; one simply walks up, takes a mug, and fills it with the coffee of one's choice. They appeared to serve a fairly standard breakfast menu, and I think I had an omelette. I've probably had tastier egg foods elsewhere, but this place certainly had a curious atmosphere. And a neglected karaoke machine.

Around 9am, we decided to strike out for Bend. Luckily, I wasn't driving, because I really had no clue how to get to far out places. We sped south on I-5 towards and then through Salem, turned eastward on OR22, and began the long trek over the Cascade range. The land west of those mountains is pretty much the same as in Portland: green farmland. Soon we began to climb into the mountains and became surrounded by trees. Most of the forest in this area did not appear to have been clear-cut, fortunately. It is good that Oregon at least try to stay green...though a fair amount of the state depends on the welfare of the logging business. <sigh>

As the mountains fell away, a rustic California-esque landscape replaced it. There were wide open arid fields, cattle farms, strange sculptures by the side of the road, and funny looking irrigation systems to water the expansive fields. The ground featured more brown hues and dry brush than I'd seen since the last time I drove through the Central Valley in August 2003. Soon we got to Bend, which is a strange amalgamation of Southern California style ranch house tracts and big box stores, and middle-of-nowhere redneckness. The five of us turned southwards to our ultimate destination: Sunriver.

Sunriver is a resort town about 20 miles south of Bend on SR197. We had hoped that it would be really close to the mountains, which would enable us to get in some quick but challenging hikes on the mountain before the weekend ended. Were we ever wrong! It is true that it was a town created solely for the benefit of those who lived there, but that's all it was! Lots of cabins. We noticed a mid-sized shopping center at the edge of Sunriver, and proceeded to check out the house that Cheryl had rented for the rest of us. (Obviously we all went Dutch for those two days, but Cheryl was the master planner on this trip.

The house itelf was nothing to sneeze at. It was for sale at the whopping asking price of 360k(!), though the house itself seemed to be in relatively good shape, system-wise. Anyway, the five of us mostly played Trivial Pursuit all afternoon--apparently the ladies were in more of a mood to sit around and relax instead of going hiking. Not that I mind spending a leisurely weekend hanging out with four girls...

As the hour grew later and the sun went down, we abandoned the Trivial Pursuit game (read: we sucked and nobody could win) and turned our attention to warming up the hottub and grilling dinner. I seem to recall that we ended up having steaks, salad, and a fair amount of wine for dinner. Thus red-faced, we dove into the hot tub outside, defying the 45 degree weather outside. We stayed in the tub for quite a long time too, enjoying more drinks, chattering about places we've been, and musing about places where we could go hiking or camping this summer. Perhaps there is a camping/backpacking trip in store for next month. We'll see; I'm rather busy right now.

Shortly before midnight, I proposed a crazy idea to Cheryl and Eliza--let's get out of the tub, put on some warmer clothes, and go tromping around the woods in the dark. To my wild amazement, she _and_ Eliza agreed to my crazy plan, and off we went. It turned out that there was a frat initiation party in progress down the street, and the three of us decided to crash it, despite the fact that none of us looked to be anywhere close to fraternity/sorority people. There was a totally smashed guy stumbling around outside looking for something to kiss; he came towards me and I redirected him towards a nearby sapling. Inside, the girls went for the refridgerator...and some guy walks up to us. Him: "You're not with <inaudible> frat, are you?" The girls: "Uh...no." Him: "Well, this is an invitation-only initiate party, and I'll have to ask you to leave." Us: "Err...ok." Yes, that's right--I took two girls to a frat party and got kicked out! And I'm not even in college any more! Hah!

The following morning, it snowed. This to us seemed to be perfect weather for hiking, so we took off on OR242 into the mountains. As we blew by a sign clearly stating "Road closed in 9 miles", I asked if we shouldn't just find some other road, and Eliza snorted "Aaaah, it's open anyway!" Well, she was dead wrong--closed means closed. Dave later remarked that had he been along with us, he probably could have unlocked the road gate for us. Anyway, we detoured to Detroit Lake and attempted to find the remains of the former city of Detroit that has been submerged since the early 1950s. The water level was, alas, too high. But we still wandered along the lake; the ladies pointed out a particular grove of trees on the other side of the lake that was favored with the only swath of clear sunlight in the entire sky that day. Regrettably, I didn't bring my camera; it was a really weird sight to see.

By that time, it was getting rather late on Sunday afternoon, so we drove back to Portland and I went home. I had fun, and it's phenomenally inexpensive to go to the resort towns around Bend when it's not winter or summer. Woo!

Portland Bridge Walk

Occurred April 21, 2005 (Permalink)

Tom of Meet in Portland fame organized a lengthly trip aross all the close-in bridges across the Willamette and up and down both sides of Tom McCall waterfront and the Eastbank Esplanade. Weather and history better than the first MiPL bridge walk. I didn't know that the Broadway Bridge is reddish because it was designed by Joseph Strauss (chief architect of the Golden Gate) and painted to be the same color as the Golden Gate.)

Lyrids Meteor Shower

Occurred April 22, 2005 (Permalink)

...which blew, because it was cloudy and the full moon washed out the sky. Time to find somewhere else to go where there are no clouds. California!

After Earth Day

Occurred April 23, 2005 (Permalink)

I called Lara this afternoon, wondering if there was anything going on across the river. She replied that indeed there was plenty of stuff to do, so I drove on over. I borrowed her husband's (offsite) bike and we biked over to an Earth Day celebration in progress at Sunnyside Park (near 33rd and Belmont). It was the first time that I'd ridden a bike in several years; fortunately, I wasn't so clumsy as to faceplant on the sidewalk. Though I was tempted to several times. We went on a crazy meandering twisty path through SE, avoiding the major boulevards and cris-crossing a whole lot of unfamiliar streets tucked away in places you'd never find in a car.

So there we were, at the Earth Day celebration. Earth indeed. As is typical of Portland weather this year, it's only been raining on the weekends. The weekdays are bright and sunny...until Friday, when the clouds come back and the rains start. This made the grassy field where the festival was held quite muddy--it got all over the grass, the booths, shoes, pavement, and girls' dresses. There were quite a few muddy 90s-hippies hanging around, listening to the music and having a good time. As expected, I didn't really fit into this crowd, as I lacked the mud and water stained floral print clothing, corderoy pants and beanie that sort of epitomizes the Portland Hippie. Frankly, I'm a lot closer to the Portland Geek--dark framed glasses, single-color shirt, etc. All I lack are jeans, some non-preppy red shoes, and longish hair. Not into those three.

While I've been taking in the scene and reflecting on my clothes, Lara's been looking for her friend and failing miserably. We head off to some Cuban joint called Salvador Molly's (offsite), where happy hour had just started, and one is encouraged to throw discarded peanut shells on the floor. We crunch our way in, order some fruity drinks and chicken soup, and proceed to chatter about random stuff. Lara's friend shows up and tells us there's a really cool act to see, so we pay and go back to the festival.

The rain is making me wet. There is a troup performing some sort of faux martial art-like dance inside Sunnyside School's gym, and so the three of us duck inside for a moment. A troupe of people are acting out a dance-like procedure, wherein one person fakes an attack against the other person. The bodies do not make contact, but from a distance it sure looks like they're really fighting each other. Very cool.

Dave calls. An old Jersey friend of his came in from Seattle; they have tickets to a bar-crawl service called the "Bar Fly Bus" (Barf-ly Bus?); could we give them a ride to a pub called "My Father's Place" on SE Grand? Before 6? It's now 5:50, so Lara and I run back to the bikes and hightail it back to her place at frighteningly high speeds. "Stop signs? Those are suggestions!" she insists. No wonder I've nearly hit so many bicyclists in SE. They're all clinically insane. Or invincible. Turns out that Dave meant 6:30, not 6, so we stop to have a drink with him, and call Eliza, who's just getting off work. The plan is to go see fire dancers at the Earth Day festival at 8:30 then go grilling at Eliza's. As one might guess, things go horribly askew from here. Oh well, I've been conditioning myself to be less type-A and not care so much. Eliza comes along for this next bit, by the way.

Well, not quite. We _do_ meet Ana and her beau Justin back at the muddy festival. There are girls in skimpy outfits and topless guys putting on the performance; if you don't care about either of those, they're also twirling big sticks with flaming pitch stuck on the ends. It made quite a hypnotizing spectacle, just standing there watching these brilliant orbs zooming around in crazy circles, dropping flaming bits onto the pavement, being shoved down dancers' throats, etc. One girl even made a headdress out of these sticks and proceeded to parade around with a big flaming helmet. Reminded me of that guy in the 1960's who set his hair on fire and then performed "Fire". But not so dangerous. I was quite impressed by the twirling fire, though I'm easily entertained when tired, slightly intoxicated and standing in the dark with friends.

While Justin and Ana went off to Gustav's for dinner, Lara, Eliza and I head off to find bars and possibly Dave. They found a brand new organic-only pub in close-in SE. Don't remember the name of it, but it had a surfboard for a logo. The bartender was friendly and going to nursing school at Portland Community College (PCC), so Lara had something to talk about. I surveyed the place and contributed random stories from my newly-ended college experience. After we were done there we split up and went home.

Grilling at Eliza's and Trivia Night

Occurred April 24, 2005 (Permalink)

Tonight, my hiking friends and I had another potluck dinner, this time at Eliza's place out by the river. I brought salmon for grilling; Ana, Justin and Lara brought marinaded tofu, and Eliza supplied vegetables for grilling as well as baby artichokes. Afterwards, the five of us headed off to the Basement Pub on SE 12th, where for the very first time I actually managed to make their Sunday trivia night. We didn't place, though we did get ~19 points. Maybe I'll go again, but it was rather smokey in there.

More Stories Posted at Last!

Occurred April 28, 2005 (Permalink)

I finally finished writing the journal entries about Steph's visit to Emeryville and most everything else that has transpired over the last month. Hoo-ray, I'm finally caught up!

Enjoy these sunset pictures that I took in San Francisco. Sunset from the Legion of Honor
Sunset from Sutro Baths

Eagle Creek

Occurred May 01, 2005 (Permalink)

Early one Sunday morning, I met my friend Bonnie and her friend Jennifer for coffee at the Starbucks on SE 39th and Sandy. There was a gathering for "World Laughter Day" across the street, oddly enough. We headed east on I-84 towards the Columbia River Gorge for a quick morning hike at Eagle Creek. Eagle Creek is somewhere east of Multnomah Falls, stretching north from ... somewhere west of Mt. Hood ... to the Columbia Gorge. The particular trail that we were on goes quite far back--a sign marker indicated that the trail went at least 14 miles inland. We were only in the mood for an easy Sunday hike, so we followed the creek as far as Punchbowl Falls and turned around. Along the way, we saw a snail, a garden snake, a sappy tree (I tasted the sap; it was at first minty, then sweet, and finally bitter), and a slug. The pictures looked like the usual mountainous scenery, though there were parts of this trail where we were pretty far up, and we could see down the small gorge that the creek had cut over quite a long period of time. There's not a whole lot to say about this hike; the pictures are much more interesting. Though the "World Laughter Day" people were gone by the time we came back. Oh, and we had fried crepes in the shape of fish for lunch at No Fish! Go Fish! at SE 40th and Hawthorne.

Moving

Occurred May 06, 2005 (Permalink)

No, I did not move. My friend Seth (the Extreme Hiking in Wetsuits guy) lived in a basement in NE Portland and started renting an apartment just off Corbett near I-5. I cruised over to his place after work on Friday, and discovered several of Seth's friends and random MiPLers moving his stuff into a huge Budget truck. Seth used to live underneath an Old Portlander just a few blocks north of Burnside in the 20s. His roommates were a tad odd--one of them grows snails, but unfortunately I didn't see much of the rest of the place. Living in a basement is not the most thrilling experience, I surmise, since the place has very little natural lighting, and nothing close to what the upper floors got. The house itself appears to be a rental property--big, but perhaps a tad lacking in a few safety features, like electrical cable that's actually nailed to something. And stairs that are flat. :P

Once we'd stuffed all of Seth's loot into the back of the truck, we departed for his new place in SW overlooking the Willamette (and I-5). It's literally next to the interstate--one can stand on his balcony and throw things at the cars speeding by below. Fortunately, the apartment has double-paned windows all around, and it's marvelously quiet in there. We set his stuff down in a huge mess all over the floor; the other MiPLers departed, leaving Seth, myself, and two of Seth's classmates from PSU. The four of us headed downtown and I had a really good burrito at "Cha Cha Cha" at SW 6th and College. Let the evening festivities begin!

We headed in a funny squiggle all over PSU--Seth took me into the annals of Smith Hall (PSU Student Center) and showed me the booth for KPSU, the radio station where he used to spin records. We went to the downtown Safeway and picked up some supplies and drinks to bring back to Seth's apartment. On the way back to my car, we saw that there were fireworks going on at Tom McCall waterfront, so we had to stop and look at that for some time. That done, we took off back to his pad, and sat around chatting drunkenly while Seth set up his turntable and sound system. For the next several hours we had some rather strange conversations while Seth spun the discs. Finally, on the verge of collapse I took a longish nap, piled into my car, and drove home. Not bad for a hastily planned Friday night. :)

OHSU

Occurred May 11, 2005 (Permalink)

Went on a walking tour of OHSU today. We met at SW Corbett and Curry (right in Seth's hood) and went up the hill. For those who have never been there, OHSU was started in the 1860s and moved into the hills in the 1920s. Apparently a railroad had bought the land for use as a rail yard, not realizing that the land was a big hill! Stupid. The railroad sold the land to OHSU for a dollar, and now OHSU sits high in the hills south of downtown. Nearly all of the university and related hospital are built into the side of a canyon that courses down the hillside; the buildings have many many stories and there are amazingly long bridges interconnecting the various parts of the hospital.

As one might expect, the view from OHSU is quite good--one can see most of SE Portland from the windows of the hospital and the long bridge that goes to the VA Hospital. A few of the skyscrapers and bridges across the Willamette are also visible, but the view is obscured by new construction. The university, of course, is expanding further down the hill by building a second campus on the banks of the Willamette River. Planned are new buildings, shops, condos, a huge parking lot, and a gondola to go up the hill to the old campus. I'm not so sure I want to be in that during a big earthquake, but the idea is probably one of the more immediately feasible ones.

On a side note, I met someone who went to UCSD! That's the first person from my alma mater that I've met in Portland.

Seth Spins Discs; I Visit a Lesbian Bar

Occurred May 12, 2005 (Permalink)

Seth was spinning records at Holocene (a bar at SE 10th and Morrison) tonight for happy hour. A bunch of MiPL people and I went out there to listen to him play; the bar has some really good chicken sandwiches. Apparently there's a splinter group (not Soiree) that is trying to attract younger audiences to the Schnitzer downtown for symphony concerts. One of the MiPLers is involved in this effort; perhaps this will lead to more visits to the symphony once their season starts up in August.

Happy hour ended around 9, so Seth left and the rest of us drifted up the road to a bar/restaurant called Crush at 14th and Morrison. The woman among us remarked, "I think this is a gay bar..." but we men ignored her and went in... to discover that it was indeed a lesbian bar. Crazy.

Sailing

Occurred May 14, 2005 (Permalink)

Today denotes the resumption of sailing trips with Vernon Field. Hoo-ray!

The Wagon Chute at Laurel Hill

Occurred May 15, 2005 (Permalink)

Today's trek takes us east of the city on OR26 to a place called Laurel Hill. It's about 51 miles away from downtown, east of the curves overlooking an enormous ice-carved canyon, and along the old Mt. Hood Loop highway. In the 1800s, wagon trains used to come through here, only to discover a steep drop awaiting them; more about this later. Lara, Ana and David went along with me on today's misadventure.

We parked Lara's truck at the trailhead, only to discover that while the wagon chute was indeed past the trailhead, the actual trail was accessible only via the other side of the highway! Since I was in charge today, I dutifully gave the ladies lessons on how to run across a freeway--look for cars and run like hell. Safely reaching the other side, the four of us went up the trail to the ruins of the Old Mt. Hood Loop highway. Built in 1925, this road predates OR26 and ran from Hood River south of Hood to Portland to complement the Columbia River Highway. Today it's a badly decayed road with boulders placed in the middle and trees growing through the asphalt. As you can see from (a5150001), the roadway is sinking below an underpass arch. Lara questioned whether or not I had a clue as to where we could find Lower Zigzag Falls, so with hand outstretched I decried, "The falls shall be thataway!" and off we went.

The highway twisted back upon itself at the bottom of a canyon that had a creek running through it. In this canyon Dave pointed out the volcanic ash on one side and the layers upon layers of exposed lava floe on the other side. This served as a good reminder that we are in volcano country; indeed, as (a5150034) points out, Mt. Hood is very close. Lara attempted to climb up some ways; I decided to take pictures (a5150004-11). Continuing along my dictated path for one half mile, we reached the falls! They are depicted in (a5150012-19). The water was moving fairly rapidly down the rocks, though at that point the trail ended and we had to turn back to see the rest of the trail.

The rest of the trail, alas, was not as spectacular as the falls. Running roughly westward, I had thought that it would reveal gorgeous views of the glacier-smoothed canyon that OR26 runs along for a ways, but aside from one glimpse, we saw trees the entire way. There was a huge deep hole in the ground (a5150021) along the trail that didn't seem to have any express reason for being there. Anyway, pictures (a5150023-32) depict the forest and a random "Dogs Woof" shirt from Gap that some gal had left behind. I wonder why she did that--was she too warm, or had she been making out with some guy underneath the trees and forget?

Across the highway, the wagon chute beckoned. It turns out that the Old Mt. Hood loop road wound its way through this side of 26 as well; we followed it until the downed trees made passage impossible. At this point, a trail showed us up Laurel Hill along a series of switchbacks to the top of the wagon chute. In the old days, wagons following the Oregon trail would travel south of Mt. Hood along this road until the reached this spot. Now cursing their navigational instructions, the settlers would be forced to construct a system of winches, brakes and friction devices out of trees and rope. One of the historical markers (a5150041) shows a wagon with a tree for a brake. Sheesh! I stopped for pictures at the top of the chute: (a5150036-40).

We always have bad ideas. Today's was to descend the wagon chute like the settlers of old; I took numerous photos from various points in the decline; see (a5150042-51). There are a lot of rocks and the angle of descent was very close to sixty degrees. It was our fortune that we only had to go back to the Old Mt. Hood highway; the settlers would have had to drop all the way to the valley floor some 700 feet below where OR26 is today. We were, I think, at an elevation of ~3200 feet today.

After the hike, I met Eliza and her friends for trivia at the Basement pub. Didn't do very well at trivia this week, though Cheryl gave me a few ideas for some summer hikes. She mentioned some island a few miles south of Portland where the only way to get to it is to skip along a bunch of boulders in the river. That's going to be interesting...

Architectural Tour of Downtown

Occurred May 18, 2005 (Permalink)

Darren and Tom (of MiPL) hosted a two-hour tour of various buildings around downtown and their architectural significance. Apparently there are a lot of buildings with terra-cotta facades in the City of Roses.

Camping Trip: Elkhorn Ridge

Occurred May 21, 2005 (Permalink)

Dave, Lara and I went on our second camping trip together this weekend. This time, we ventured southeasterly towards Opal Lake in the vicinity of Mt. Jefferson to a place called Elkhorn Ridge. This trail turned out to be quite the arduous trek--it was about eight miles from the trailhead to the campsite, and involved climbing up and over three separate mountains. Quite a good way to condition myself for the attempt on Mt. Defiance on 2005-05-29.

We piled into Lara's truck and began cruisng down OR213 towards Silverton. Once there, we ran smack into the town's first wine festival...which meant that all the roads through town were closed! Eventually we found a detour, had breakfast in a roadside diner, and continued southward until we hit OR22 going east towards Detroit. Then, we turned off of it on some random forest road that went into the trees. Ten miles of that and five miles of bumpy, rocky road later, we saw Elkhorn Lake (a5210001 - 09), though we didn't stay long because there were sleeping campers nearby.

The trailhead was found to be just a tad further up the road from there, so we disemarked from the car, strapped on the backpacks, and headed up into the first mountain. There wasn't anything particularly impressive about this mountain; just a lot of switchbacks and the occasional good view. Lucky for us, the weather was cool but bright, which is good for those of us who don't deal well with heat. Pictures (a5210010 - 20) are some examples of the views that I got on Saturday morning--one could see mountain for miles on the south side, and the valley and opposing ridge of Opal Creek to the north.

Mountain the Second passed very similarly to the first. However, Dave pointed out that the wild unkemptness of the trail suggested that the trail crews had not yet been sent out to clear the debris from the area. There were a lot of downed trees across the path, streams that had washed away most common traces of a trail, and not a whole lot to go on except for the occasional bright orange ribbon tied to a tree branch. This, Dave explained, was the result of probably the Forest Service marking the trail to remind themselves of where it goes. Pictures (a5210021 - 28) were shot from this mountain.

By this time we were nearly halfway, so we stopped next to a big lake for lunch. There were a few tufts of snow nearby, a plethora of convenient boulders to sit upon, and even a friendly poisonous newt to watch us eat our lunches. The big goal for after lunch was to get to a place called Phantom Bridge to see ... well, a phantom bridge. However, there were a few disappointments along the way: A discouraging sign (a5210046) pointing out that both forks off our trail went nowhere, gnarled roots (a5210052) and some pretty views of trees.

Finally, we arrived! The Phantom Bridge is a big stone bridge overlooking a 500 foot drop into the forest below (a5210056 - 80). We climbed up onto the approaches to the bridge, photographed the wilderness beyond, and then went below the bridge to see how it managed to stay up. Probably water fissures that broke off the lower rocks, leaving a bridge behind. It was starting to get a bit late, so we clambered down the side of this third mountain towards a logging road below.

After the phantom bridge, our hike was mostly downhill into the valley that stretched below us. At one point, the trail fanned out into a clearing; a big 'X' (a5210086) pointed out the correct way to go. We reached a local maximum where the X was, and there were tiny little plants growing there! (a5210088, 89). I was getting tired, so after that I mostly stuck to walking downhill, until I reached a place where the ground turned into red gravel. (a5210092 - 95). The trail then plummeted into the valley, where it dead- ended into a gravel service road. The three of us followed the service through the valley for a ways until we decided that there was nowhere good to camp (some misguided twit told us that the lake was all flooded even though we later found out it wasn't) and so we pitched our tent up on a nearby hill. Picture (a5210098) was taken looking at Phantom Bridge from the valley.

That's where the trouble started. Once the sun went down, the wind began to blow in the fog. We discovered that the gas canister we brought didn't fit the burner, so the meat was unusable. It got dark really quickly, and we couldn't get a fire started with lighters. Then it began to pour and kept it up all night. We crammed into Dave's big tent which was somewhat dry and slept the whole night in crooked positions. No night photos were possible.

Weather the next day was far better. Much sunnier and a tad bit warmer, so I became adventurous enough to take some pictures for some panoramas. (a5210100 - 107) are a wraparound panorama from the campground, and (a5210125 - 28) were taken from the local maximum that we'd passed on Saturday afternoon. Alas, the only way out of this area was on the trail that we took in, so we headed back out on it at mid-morning. We did see some interesting sights on the way back up to the Phantom Brdge--yellow fungi on a log (a5220115 - 17), the place where we'd camped (from Phantom Bridge) (a5220129), the results of logging to the south of us (a5220133 - 35) and some awesome views that stretched for several miles.

Most of Sunday's hike consisted of marching, though I did pick up a few photos of things that I missed on the first day--waterfalls (a5220140 - 42), foliage (a5220144 - 48), Mt. Jefferson (a5220149 - 50), and a whole lot of mountain ranges to the south (pretty much every picture after that). While we were travelling north on OR213, I snapped some pictures of fluffy cloud formations that stretched for miles over the Oregon countryside (a5220164 - 67). Arriving back at Dave's place, we stumbled back to our cars and went home.

Three Days of Beer

Occurred May 26, 2005 (Permalink)

New record: Three consecutive days of going to pubs after work. Summer is indeed on its way in.

Hot Pot City Again

Occurred May 28, 2005 (Permalink)

Out of the blue, I got a call from Seth this morning. He was meeting some of his friends at Hot Pot City; did I want to come along? Well...sure. It's not often that I get to have hotpot. So I got up, moseyed on down to the local barbershop to get my hair cut (it'd look hot if I ever bothered to comb it) and went downtown to meet them for lunch. While we were eating, a tree trimming crew pulled up right in front of the restaurant and began paring the trees. We thought it was routine maintenance until we saw a big curtain of sawdust followed by a loud THUD as a big old piece of tree hit the ground just feet from the window. The gardeners kept going at larger and larger pieces of wood until finally a seriously large piece of wood came hurtling off the tree ... straight into their ladder, knocking it over. After we stopped laughing at them, they picked up their tools, got back in their truck and drove away.

Mt. Defiance

Occurred May 29, 2005 (Permalink)

I conquered Mt. Defiance over the Memorial Day weekend! Last week, one of the MiPL Jennifers asked around the site if anybody was interested in doing a medium to advanced hike up Mt. Defiance. This would be the last free weekend for hiking until the end of June, so I said yes. Jen, Jean and I met in Beaverton at the crack of dawn (7am) and headed eastward to get two more people (Cindy and Kevin) at Gateway TC before heading out to the Gorge.

Upon arriving, we discovered that nobody had actually brought any maps of the Mt. Defiance area. We walked east on the Old Columbia River highway, discovered nothing, went back to the picnic area, argued about where the trailhead might be, and sat on the curb until we attracted the attention of a hairy man named Vic. Vic was planning to hike Defiance that day too, and showed us a map of approximately where to go. The five of us wanted to try the steep trail up Starvation Ridge, but Vic was intending to use the less strenuous Mt. Defiance trail. We thanked him and parted ways, amazed that fellow hikers were so friendly!

The first part of Starvation Ridge is incredibly difficult to process. It's very steep, winds whipping down the Gorge threaten to knock you off the trail and down into the abyss below, the trail is very steep, and of all outrages, there are power lines that cross the path! However, the few places where we did manage to stop offered phenomenal views up and down the Gorge! Pictures (a5290001 - 12) were taken from a butte overlooking the Columbia River; (a5290001 - 03) look westward along the railroad track, (07 - 08) depict the scene to the east, and (09) shows Dog Mountain straight across the river in Washington. These twelve shots were all taken from approximately the same location; sadly, the trail then ventured southwards into the trees, building upwards towards a ridge.

At the top of the ridge (a5290013 - 18) there are very few trees. The place has been logged pretty thoroughly, though a sparse gathering of trees remain. It was fortunate that there are a lot of stumps where one can sit down to eat (which is what we did), though I wonder if some sort of disease swept through this area, necessitating the use of loggers to thin out the hoard, and the sparsely populated forest is all that's left? From here the trail heads westward roughly parallel to a utility road for nearly a mile until they part ways; the trail goes to Warren Lake and the road goes south towards Mt. Defiance itself.

Warren Lake is a tree-enshrouded lake at an altitude of perhaps 3,000 feet. The trail wanders up to the shoreline on north and east sides of the lake; to the south are a lot of rocks and boulders that lead up to the actual mountain. By this time, the two that we'd picked up at Gateway had long since split, leaving us to circumnavigate the lake, debate about where we were and where to go, where the trail was, etc. Finally, I decided that the rocks looked stable enough for a rock scramble, and up I went. I love rock scrambles. I swing everything around onto my back and use my arms and legs to seek out stable rocks that can support my weight. Up I go like a gecko, rapidly gaining altitude while not burning out too many muscles. People think it looks difficult, yet in practice it's really not all that difficult. Anyhow, pictures (a5290021 - 27) were taken from the top of the scramble, from where I had marvelous views of some pretty girls and some breathtaking vistas of the Gorge in the far distance. By this time there we had met two couples, a family with a grown daughter and dogs, and of course Vic, all heading in the same upward direction.

Having scrambled up the rocks, the three of us locked on to the trail that continues up to the summit of Mt. Defiance and continued the ascent. Coming up, I happened to notice something that Dave pointed out the previous weekend--on many trails, the Forest Service/Trail Crews/whatever will tie bright orange ribbons to trees along the way to mark approximately where the trail runs. The Defiance trail had two sorts of markers--the trees were spray-painted green in blotches (blended in well with the pine needles) and the familiar orange ribbons were tied to the branches. We ran into three young women who were backpacking their way up and down Defiance; we asked them if we could see their map, and I happened to mention the orange ribbons. One of the ladies quipped "Wow, I'm glad somebody is paying attention!" Err...right. About half an hour later, we met Cindy and Kevin on their way down from the summit; we exchanged strawberries and bade them farewell. We also met Vic on his way down. The man is _fast_.

At last, we made it to the top! I took a picture of the mountain's USGS badge (a5290028 - 29). Unfortunately, the fog spoiled the view from the top (a5290030), and the only photographable items were rocks, trees, and radio towers (a5290031 - 33). There was a gravel road leading up to the towers, and tell-tale beer bottles lying around, suggesting the presence of idiots. We also took the customary photos to prove that we were there, then started back down the mountain towards dinner.

When we last met Vic, he said that it was approximately an hour's journey down from where he was back to I-84. However, what he didn't tell us was that the Mt. Defiance trail, though less strenuous than the Starvation Ridge trail, consisted of miles and miles of switchbacks to make the 4,500 foot descent back to the river! I started by walking, got tired of my slow pace, and began to run down the path. Probably foolish, but hey, I've fallen down hills before and I'm not dead yet. After a solid _hour_ of running around in the trees having no idea where I was, I caught a glimpse of the freeway about 1,200, 900, 600, 400 and 200 feet below. It was quite agonizing to discover repeatedly that I still had quite a ways to go! However, I did get the chance to photograph a huge rockslide (a5290040 - 43), a funny rock formation (44), some wonderful eastern Gorge vistas (45 - 52), various flora that I saw along the way (54 - 62, 69 - 71), the western Gorge (63 - 65, 72 - 79), and lots of wildflowers that were growing along the trail! (60, 61, 66 - 68, 80, 82, 85). Even after we reached the highway, the natural sights kept on going: there are quite a few waterfalls within fifty feet of the highway that one would never notice in a car (a5290090 - 103). I wrapped up the photo set with a few shots of the interstate and the various places where I'd stopped for pictures in the morning. We clambered into my car and drove off to dinner.

Dinner was at a brewpub in Hood River. The burger was decent, but the chocolate cake was SINFUL. Even better than the 6th Ave. Bistro/Cafe. Service was a tad slow because it appeared to be locals' night, but after a long hard day I was too tired to care much, so long as I had a place to sit. We were not about to drive all the way back to Portland for food. I ordered an entire meal, from appetizer through the entree and clear into dinner; the (very) confused waitress asked if I meant to have it all at once. Silly! I was kind and left a larger-than-usual tip, hopped back to my car and sock-pedalled/cruise-control-drove home. Sixteen hours after departing, we'd come home and the day was over.

Site Improvements

Occurred May 30, 2005 (Permalink)

I have spent the last day of the Memorial Day weekend fixing various problems with this web site and adding new features! The biggest change of note is the addition of the photo gallery slideshow; have a look at the slideshow's very first use. Several other minor style flaws have been fixed up, and lastly, the listed picture sizes in the galleries are now correct.

New Digs

Occurred May 31, 2005 (Permalink)

I'm moving into a old Portlander way out on the east side of the city. Soon I will be within biking distance of most of my friends, walking distance of a big hilly park with lots of trees, a short bike trip/drive to pubs, restaurants and both the Hawthorne and Belmont shopping districts, and a mile from the MAX for the weekday commute. A new era has commenced!

No Furniture Party

Occurred June 03, 2005 (Permalink)

Threw a No Furniture party at the house tonight. Basically, I bought chips, salsa and drinks; the hiking friends brought booze, cookies and other sweets, and some of the neighbors brought wine. I gave them all tours of the place, showed them all the greenhouse (plenty of envy, and I bet they'll be over here with plants next winter! :)) and we had a scavenger hunt to find the switch that controls the light over the back porch. Unfortunately, we didn't find it, so we all gave up and sat on the rug in the dining room and chatted until the wee hours of the morning.

The Man-Baby Washing Machine Strap

Occurred June 07, 2005 (Permalink)

Since the previous owners of this house decided to take their washer and dryer with them, I was faced with two choices: steal the crappy machines from my apartment or procure a set of my own. The two in my apartment are noisy as heck and smell of mold, so I hobbled on down to the local Sears and went around looking for big appliances. I found a couple, in the form of a Maytag frontloading washer and dryer. We'll see if they're as good or as bad as the online forums say they are. The honest review sites seemed to be fairly impressed with them, the user forums range from "worst piece of Q#)%!%! ever!" to "good machine". What's a guy to believe?

At about 15:30 this afternoon, a huge Enterprise rent-a-truck pulls up in front of my house. Two men get out, ask to be shown where the appliances should go, and get back in their truck. A minute later, they pull out a two-man straitjacket, wrap it around the washing machine, and proceed to haul the thing out of the truck as if it they were carrying it in a hammock! Scurrying over to the stairway to the basement, they pause as if unsure about something. Sure enough, the washer and the dryer are going to be a really tight fit. Luckily, the old owners had the need to remove the stairway handrail when they took out their old stuff, so the workmen were able to get the machines down the stairs with millimeters to spare! Half an hour later, I'm the proud owner of a washer and a dryer. They're quiet, unlike the old rattletraps in my apartment, and they don't smell of mold. Hooray, clean clothes here I come!

I'm still amazed that they showed up with a two man straitjacket. It reminded me of the Simpsons episode where Rainier Wolfcastle carries Homer Simpson home in a baby harness. Hah!

Just Like Old Times

Occurred June 10, 2005 (Permalink)

Once again, it is June. The month of warm, sunny weather, graduations, end-of-the-school-year parties, the beginning of relaxation and recreation, and friends going their separate ways. 347 days ago, I did just that, packing everything up, wishing a fond farewell to everyone I knew, and running off to Portland to start a new phase of life. I am still amazed at how much has changed, how many (weird and strange) things I've experienced since that move, and how much I miss some of the hobbies (music making, hiking, etc.) that I'd given up to pursue the core of my CS degree junior year. Indeed, the last two years have been a wonderful opportunity to reclaim some of my old self, while building out a new personality. Heck, I've reacquired some of the old traits: a journal, and a lot of photography. (Though this time, I have the tools and the means to share those publicly.)

Sometimes, however, onward progress is not always what we want; inevitably something has (regrettably) fallen by the wayside, and all we'd like to do is slow things down for a day, or an afternoon, to remember what it was like. This afternoon I found myself walking down Torrey Pines Beach with Steph, chatting and goofing off just like we used to do on Friday afternoons last year, when she got off work at 14:00 and I (like the lazy-arsed senior that I was) didn't really bother to do anything productive after noon. I'd meet her outside her office, we'd take the City Shuttle back to her place, don our beach paraphernalia, jump in her car and take off for the beach. Sometimes we'd toss a frisbee; other times we'd lounge around in the sand and talk, and once in a while I could goad her into going into the ocean. San Diego really does have the best beaches on the West Coast; sure, one can drive on the beach in Oregon, but the sand is gravelly and every time I go, it rains!

Err...right. Had this actually been last year, we'd have wrapped up the afternoon by retiring to her place, making one of her random recipies, and then sharing it with Brian when he was done with filming or school or whatever he was up to. This day, however, none of us had a working kitchen (or sufficient time), so we simply went to Leucadia and had pizza and salad with Brian's family.

Later that night, I went out on a food and nostalgia spree with graduating CE major Derrick Usher (offsite). The first place that we hit up was El Cotixan, the popular 24x7 Mexican restaurant where UCSD and SDSU students alike go for food at 3:30 in the morning. After that, we drove to UCSD to take pictures of various things--the empty Orientation map (img_0585), broken sprinklers, graffiti and labs in the Applied Physics and Math (AP&M) building (img_0590 - 614), the infamous upside-down Geisel Library that can't hold the weight of its own books (img_0616 - 19, 643 - 645, 659), library walk (img_0622 - 25), Career Services where I spent far too much time waiting for Steph after work last year (img_0627), and Derrick chasing a bunch of rabbits around the lawns surrounding the library (img_0646 - 54). After that, we went home because we were both very beat.

Graduation

Occurred June 11, 2005 (Permalink)

Congratulations to Brian for his wonderous achievement: graduating with a degree in MechE! At 7:30, a petulant Steph picked me up outside of Jason's apartment and whisked the two of us and her mother off to RIMAC field at UCSD for Muir's 2005 commencement ceremony. As is customary, Muir's graduation begins with a troupe of bagpipers promenading up the center aisle to the stage and continuing to play while the colorfully robed faculty and the black-robed undergraduates march smartly up to the front of the outdoor auditorium.

Following the opening remarks by Chancellor Fox, Brian went up to the podium and delivered the lead-off speech in front of the audience of 8,000 people. He began it with a toast to the end of classes, graduation, various UCSD fixtures, and the sound guy. What followed was quintessentially Brian, with his somewhat jaded sense of humor and ability to make the crowds cheer. It was quite a humorous and dignified crown to set upon five years of stirring up trouble at UCSD.

From there, graduation proceeded along pretty familiar lines--student speeches about hardships (crack, time) overcome in the process of earning a degree, various awards to overachievers, the French guy from the English Lit. department giving his yearly rambling, irrelevant, and totally pointless speech about the person for whom the award is named and not the recipient, and Patty Mahaffey's stern words about the non-clapping non-mortarboard-throwing policy. Then came the long part--850 graduates (10 of whom I knew) walking across the stage, ordered first by reverse-major and then alphabetically, and trying not to fall over themselves when Patty trips over their deliberately goofy names (Isra "Singing in the Shower Diva" Yaghoubi, indeed).

Following that, the graduates left, I ran around in the huge mob of people while Brian posed for pictures, and eventually we all retired back to Brian's sister's apartment for some delectable steaks, chicken, potato salad, and sweets. Some time later, Daniel Watts, the college student who ran for the governor's seat against Arnold Schwarzenegger, shows up with Robin, both of whom Brian knows from the Guardian (offsite).

Julian

Occurred June 12, 2005 (Permalink)

One thing that I had always wanted to do when I lived in San Diego was visit the outlying areas of east San Diego county--Anza Borrego state park, Lake Cuyamaca, Julian, El Cajon, etc. Sadly, after the Great San Diego Fire of October 2003, the area was heavily fire-damanged and thus nobody was all that enthusiastic about driving me way out there to see blackened trees. Luckily, all that changed this balmy Sunday afternoon--Brian was out talking to a welder about a roll bar, Steph had gone, Derrick was graduating and Jason was bored and in the mood for pie.

The two of us piled into his car for a road trip to Julian. We drove up I-15 to Escondido, cut over to CA78 and began the easterly trek towards the remote town of Julian. Pictures (a6120001 - 38) are from this leg of the trip. The town of Julian sits at 4,200 feet above sea level, and thus the entire first half of the trip is spent going uphill through the mountains on the highway. Along the way, I saw quite a few scenes that are very typical of California: drying out brush and hills (a6120003), sunflowers (a6120004), rock covered hills (a6120017), expensive gasoline (a6120024), absurdly straight roads (a6120030), and farms (a6120021).

Finally, we reached Julian (offsite)! The downtown area of Julian is incredibly small, consisting of a few roads orbiting Main St. Pictures (a6120039 - 47) were taken up and down this main drag of the bunches of boutique stores and apple-themes restaurants. Apparently apples are a major product of this farming town, and it shows. The two of us stopped in Mom's Pies; I must say that the lady (and her two daughters) who runs the bakery makes some pretty good pies. It's a bit unfortunate that nearly all of their pie repertoire involves apples, but not a particularly big surprise out there. Anyhow, we had pie and ice cream, and bought three full pies to gorge ourselves on later. (I towed mine all the way to Portland and it sits in my fridge uneaten.)

While in Julian, we witnessed the usual old West shenaniganry--a collection of performers in Old West costume were re-enacting some sort of rowdy gold-digging fight on the streets of the town, firing off blanks and generally making a loud ruckus for the benefit of tourists like myself. I, of course, was naturally drawn to an open lot of wild flowers (a6120048): blue and white (a6120050, 51), pink and lavender (a6120052), and red (a6120053). I'm particularly proud of the fact that I got the camera to focus upon a particular bunch of flowers while leaving the background blurry; the flowers are now part of my desktop background at work.

Jason and I set out southward on the other road out of town, CA79 to see Anza-Borrego state park. Unfortunately, the area south of Julian happened to burn pretty badly eighteen months ago, and so far only the underbrush have managed to come back. Images (a6120054 - 66) were taken en route to Lake Cuyamaca; that part of the state is a quasi-desert area that would make for some fabulous hiking; Clay and Maddy went out here two summers ago and said that they really enjoyed the time that they spent out here. I wonder if eastern Oregon looks like that.

Lake Cuyamaca is a big recreation lake with an island smack in the middle of the water. Though the areas surrounding this lake range from dry grass to very charred, I doubt that the island had much of a problem when fire raced through the area. In any case, I got out of the car to take another panorama, though I'm afraid that I didn't do a very good job of it (lake; a6120069 - 72). I also took pictures of more burnt trees and mountains (a6120078 - 86), rocky hills (a6120094), and assorted countryside scenery...

...until we got a lot closer to I-8. From there, I saw some really cool land formations: rocks creeping diagonally down to a road (a612102), the hills of East County (a6120106), Indian casino areas (a6120113), and more mountainous areas. I fell asleep on the way back, so there aren't any other pictures. Jason and I went to the Fish Market in Del Mar for dinner, as is our custom.

Wandering Around UCSD

Occurred June 12, 2005 (Permalink)

Late that evening, after Brian and Robin came back from dinner, the two of them picked me up and we went for a quick walk around UCSD. In (a6120117), I found it amusing that there are actual California statutes regarding "Public Restroom Not Available" signs outside the Rathskellar... err, El Mercado. From there, the three of us headed eastward towards the Warren Mall and the new CS building (a6120119). The thing is quite spectacular-- not only does it glow funny colors in the dark, the south entrance (to the Warren Advising office, no less) looks like some sort of prototype warp engine. Brian pointed out that the vices and virtues listed in huge neon letters atop the Powell structural engineering building rotated in opposite directions, which I had never known before!

I took some blurry pictures of Geisel Library (a6120121, 22), a gigantic stone teddy bear (a6120123) outside the new CS building, and generally spent a whole ton of time observing the CS department's new home, which has only been promised since 2003. I remember when that whole area was a big open field; now it's been plowed under by thousands of contractor pickups and buildings; a nerd habitat is all that remains. Through all this time, Robin and Brian had been wandering around in the background while I flitted about the CS building like an overheated fanboy, snapping nighttime pictures of its strange styling and flamboyant colors. Ugly Soviet bloc building this ain't.

"Snail!" squealed Robin. She saw a snail crawling its way across a concrete sidewalk; instead of mashing it, she proceed to annoy and frustrate it by picking it up, placing it in various places all over the lawn and finally giving up and chucking it in the mulch. I grabbed one more picture of "Engineering Building, Unit 1". Everybody knows that in the late 1980s, a spaceship crash-landed on the Warren mall; the UC Regents, upon seeing what had happened, immediatley established ownership over the entire structure, and thus EBU-I was opened to the general public.

We breezed through the Price Center, past the big fountain and the career services center (weekday home to a certain Steph) and into the old student center. There, Brian showed me the shell for the new Thai restaurant and the so-called "lesbian center" (the homosexual center and women's center will be adjacent). By this time, everyone was quite exhausted and Brian had to go to Bodfish to work on his Bug, so everyone departed.

La Jolla Colony Park

Occurred June 13, 2005 (Permalink)

In the good old days of yesteryear, Brian and Steph lived at about the 9 o'clock spot in a circular block next to I-5 in La Jolla. Through the middle of this circle sits a heavily manicured "passive use" La Jolla Colony park--people are allowed to show up impromptu with recreational implements, but not for organized events. I hope that my interpretation of that regulation is correct; I can't imagine going to a park and not interacting with it...

Anyway, the gist of what I'm getting at is this: I waddled off to the park after Robin dropped me in front of Jason's apartment, and decided to try my hand at nighttime photography (a6130135 - 158). For some reason last year, someone had the idea to install a semicircular concrete pad in the middle of the park at the east end of the flat lawn area; from this vantage point I set up my camera and began to take pictures. First I tried to use the camera's automatic settings; finding these not to be up to snuff, I tried again with manual control, setting the F stop to 2.8 and experimenting with shutter speeds. A fifteen second shutter produced woefully overexposed pictures (a6130140), so I quickened it to five (a6130142); perfect!

As I circumnavigated the central park in the dark, a thought crossed my mind-- I'd never done a 360-degree panorama, much less a nighttime one. (ljc_park) is the result--I set my camera down on a fencepost and proceeded to snap photos in a circle with the same settings as before. The sprinklers and the sodium lamps in the park created some rather striking halo effects, though as the photo shows, the west side of the park is a great flat grassy area. I slid up to the northwest corner of the park and snapped a few more photos; (a6130157) represents the best of my efforts to capture the glow of the lights reflecting off the water spray from the sprinklers as well as the halos of the lights.

The next day, Jason and I went for a midmorning stroll and captured (a6130001 - 11). I figured that the interested reader who's never seen this park before might be interested to see it in the daytime. Jason also wanted to point out the purple flowered trees (a6130012 - 14). Shortly thereafter, I bade him good-bye and flew back to Portland. Going home on the MAX, I captured a stunning blue and gold sunset (a6130012).

Earthquake!

Occurred June 14, 2005 (Permalink)

I'm sure that none of you care, but there was a 7.4 earthquake off the coast of Eureka. A tsunami alert (later reduced to a tsunami warning) was put out for the entire Oregon coast. As usual for this state, nothing happened.

Lazy Darrick Finishes Stitching his Panoramas

Occurred June 15, 2005 (Permalink)

I wrote a bunch of journal entries about this past weekend and stitched together all unfinished panoramas: La Jolla Colony Park (see below), Lake Cuyamaca (see the entry about Julian) and Dog Mountain (see the Mt. Defiance entry). Woo me. So yes, I do actually stitch those things together.

Grandma's Eightieth Birthday / Father's Day

Occurred June 18, 2005 (Permalink)

This weekend I went home for grandma's 80th birthday and Father's Day. Sadly, I botched Father's Day this year--as I was rushing through the drugstore just before leaving for the Bay Area, I roared towards the Father's Day section of the store, grabbed a card that had a funny car picture on it, stuffed it in my bag, and headed out. Sunday morning, I opened up the card...just in time to see "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" staring me in the face. ARRGH.

I am a doof.

Greg and Becca

Occurred June 19, 2005 (Permalink)

I met Lindy Girl at Fenton's ice cream parlor in downtown Piedmont today. Rewind: I met Greg at his grandparents' house in Berkeley at about 1pm. He brought a pizza, I brought my camera. We drove to a theater house in Lafayette where his girlfriend (Lindy Girl) was to perform in a play later that afternoon. Once we get there, Greg whips out a box from a pizza joint named Zachary's Pizza; the pizza itself had these odd concentric rings of red and green (tomato and pesto?) and a lot of cheese. The pizza's been out for only a few minutes when a woman walks up and remarks, "It's the same damn thing you were eating last time!" I have no idea why a random woman would approach us and comment about pizza, until I realize that it's Lindy Girl's mother.

The play is called Let's Go to the Movies Redux (offsite); it's a story about a playwright who gets shoe-horned into writing a musical for a small community theater that has movie songs in it and proceeds to flail about miserably (first act) before coughing up a completely terrible musical (second act) to win over the nerdy stage manager. Amusing play, and of course the second act is a riot because the "show" that the guy writes in the first act is so (deliberately) unrehearsed and terrible.

After the play is over, Lindy Girl comes out. Her real name is Becca, but for some reason Lindy Girl sounds more intriguing to her, so shall I use the name. Greg drove the three of us to Fenton's in downtown Piedmont for some ice cream. Apparently the place had been totally rebuilt since the fire in 2001; now the place is replete with 1940s ice cream parlor decor--patterened ceiling, translucent lighting, checkered tile floor, marble tables, etc. Certainly it's much more attractive than the old Fenton's was. Anyway, we had five scoops of ice cream between the three of us. Suffering from a major sugar high, we drove off....

...to Lindy Girl's mother's house in Alameda. There, they're serving very slightly alcoholic bread, watch some of her brother's amateur high school fims (think the bad parts of UCSDementia). We stay there for a while, making idle chatter until Lindy Girl breaks in and tells us that if we want to make Batman Begins, we needed to start goiong _then and theere_. They live on this amazing property towards the southeast end of Alameda island--though there are two craftsman houses visible from the street, this isn't her place. Their place is a bunch of buildings on a largish lot at the end of an alleyway. Very exotic! :)

We saw Batman Begins, noted afterward that Steph called both of us looking for a good time, and went our separate ways.

You quoted her wrong! It was Becca's mom, and she said "Its the same damn thing you were eating last time!"

Fixed.

Apricots

Occurred June 20, 2005 (Permalink)

Quickie: Went to Menlo, chatted with Mrs. Jeffers for a bit, met Woodley/Steven, missed Thibodeaux, ate pastrami on baguette at Cafe Borrone as usual, forgot to get glasses adjusted, went to Woodley's, played with tablets, picked almost ripe apricots and ate them. Then flew home, wrote these entries and posted some random pictures of friends' trip to Mt. Hood. I was not there on that hike.

Moved

Occurred June 25, 2005 (Permalink)

I have completely moved out of the apartment and into the house. Farewell, Beaverton. The ivy removal is going according to plan; phase 1 (removal of ivy that's dangerously close to the house) is complete. Phase 2 (removal of overgrown ivy) is in progress. Monday afternoon I'm meeting with a contractor to go over his estimate for work to be done on the house. I am now an east sider for good. Yay!

You forgot one thing that happened: "Transferred to Boston..." ;-)

Yes, that's right. I also told the leasing office that I was being transferred to Boston...

I think I speak for everyone when I say, "We want pictures of the new place!" So, yeah, let me know when you get all unpacked enough to take 'em.

Bigger Than Jesus

Occurred June 26, 2005 (Permalink)

I went to the one and only performance of Rick Emerson (offsite)'s Bigger Than Jesus (offsite). The show consisted of Lara's husband Rick performing a one-man show about his first fifteen years as a rock fan. I found out quite a bit about his past, why he likes music so much, where he's gone and what his shows were like. A pity that he's off the air in Portland right now; I think I might actually have liked to listen to Star Trek geeks and the usual bunch of oddball characters in this city carousing the airwaves in the middle of the day. The rock stuff... I'm not such a big fan of anymore; as I was saying to Lara at the Barley Mill after the show, the next CD I get will probably be Ella Fitzgerald. Really, this shouldn't be so hard; Music Millenium is 40 blocks west of me on Burnside. Anyhow, it was quite interesting to see the reasons behind his development as a rock and roll fan--why he was driven to it, where it took him, etc. Probably not such a big revelation for the rest of the audience, which mostly consisted of his loyal listeners. But heck, it's been a while since I saw such an enthusiastic crowd.

Burglary

Occurred June 27, 2005 (Permalink)

This morning, I went to my apartment to collect the mail. Much as I hate the blasted place, I do feel compelled to pay the bills on time. Anyway... I slip the key into the lock, open the door, and... there are footprints on the carpet. What's more, there are paw prints all over the counters, and telltale pine needles on the floor. Slowly I back out the door... the porch is free of all pine needles. This is turning surreal; as the skies turn iridescent blue and the trees turn red, I black out.

Oh crap. Someone broke into my apartment over the weekend! First time in my life that someone entered my residence without asking, without my permission, and without my approval. What a violation! On the bright side, they spent their time to pick the lock, open the door, only to discover...nothing. All my stuff was gone on Friday, of course, which means that whoever or whatever it is was too late. Ha! Score one for me! The local move-in/out thieves were too darn slow. Suckers!

Later that afternoon I telephoned the leasing office to inquire about what I should do. Dan-the-leasing-man says: "Oh. Yeah. Your neighbor called the maintenance office over the weekend to get her cat out of your apartment. Didn't they leave a note? No? Perhaps they thought the apartment was already vacant. I'll speak to them about this. But yeah, their cat must have slipped in on your way out."

Bloody cats! I just knew that thing would find its way in at some point, and I'd have to shoo it out. Darn neighbors don't keep their cat reined in. The thing got locked in, jumped up on the kitchen counter, left dirty paw prints all over it, freaked out, tore up the metal blinds, cut itself up to heck, and left bloody paw prints all over the wall, the shelf, and the carpet. In another light I might have cooed "Aww... poor kitty!" but this is annoying. Now I got to clean the place again. Oh well, the frozen food had to be evacuated anyway.

Moral of the story: Don't let your cats get into other people's houses.

One Year of Oregon

Occurred June 27, 2005 (Permalink)

Today, I visited the Multnomah County elections office, the DMV, and the post office to change my addresses. Coincidentally, I noticed that this is the first day of my second year living in Portland, Oregon. All I can say is "wow" at how much stuff has happened in the last year (heck, the last three months) that I never would have otherwise expected. Even better--the second year will be lived in a fabulous place that's oh-so-close to the things that I like. I should stop gushing before you all stop reading.

MAX to Work

Occurred June 30, 2005 (Permalink)

Eighty minutes to and from work every day. I seriously need to get a bike.

Portland Blues Festival

Occurred July 01, 2005 (Permalink)

Apparently, every summer there's been a blues festival on the waterfront in Portland. This year, Dave said that he wanted to see Buddy Guy's performance on Friday night, so Lara and I figured that we could meet there and hang out for a while. I hadn't seen Dave in quite a while (probably since the No Furniture party at the beginning of June), so we decided that we'd meet for pizza beforehand and bike downtown.

Unbeknownst to me, Lara, Ana and Dave went hiking on Thursday, so Lara dropped out of our Friday plans. Thus, I went to Dave's, borrowed one of his roommates' bikes, and we went off for pizza at the Oasis Cafe at 37th and Hawthorne. They have broccoli slices--how strange! Yet good. After that, we cycled on a crazy path of roads up to the Esplanade, across the Hawthorne bridge and into the thicket of people known as Tom McCall waterfront. This was the site of this year's blues festival.

Apparently Portland is one of those places that's fairly bike friendly. The Portland Biker's Association was running a free bike parking corral, so we dropped the bicycles there and went on into the festival. The deal was supposed to be that five bucks and two cans of food got you in; by that late in the day the volunteer food collectors were so worn out that they sort of grunted at us, took the cans, and forgot to collect the money. Score! I bet I could have been mean and brought dog food and they'd never have noticed.

Dave and I carve out a chunk of grass and plunk ourselves down upon it. Buddy Guy isn't scheduled to come out until 21:00 and it's still only 20:15. We sit, chat about random stuff, and listen to the other bands playing sets on the other stages. Pretty good, we think. At some point I get up, announce that I'm going to make a run for it to get some beer/lemonade/water, and shuffle my way up to the refreshment vendors. Why is it that Americans in large crowds always do this really strange shuffling? Why take 60% of a normal footstep? Just walk! Beer is expensive and latency-laden, so I end up with Snapple and water instead.

21:00. The band cranks up, and Buddy Guy comes out to play his blues. As odd as this sounds, he didn't seem to be terribly energetic while playing the blues. Granted, the form of music came about by a bunch of people who had terrible lives and needed a way to expurgate their negative feelings in a better manner than the Series 3000 Mechanoid, but still--his vocals were a bit hard to hear at times and as a whole the performance wasn't terrifically stimulating. He didn't have to pull out some swinging dance music, but still... without good complainy lyrics, blues suck.

Midway through the concert, Cheryl shows up out of the blue! That was totally unexpected, since I hadn't heard anything from her in nearly a week. Unfortunately, a concert is a concert, so I didn't really get much of a chance to interact with her. I was hoping that she'd join Dave and I for a nightcap, but apparently she bade us good night (which I misheard as something much different) and promptly disappeared into the night. Oh well.

Following that, Dave and I fished our bikes out of the corral and headed south into a twisty maze of darkened roads and railroad tracks until we were heading east on Clinton St. We two gentlemen ended up at Night Life for a drink or two before heading home. First time I'd had any beer since the allergy-induced alcohol ban three weeks ago, as I wasn't suffering any severe symptoms.

MAX; Buying a Bike; CDs; Washing Machines

Occurred July 02, 2005 (Permalink)

I have for you threefour brief glimpses of todaythe past few days:

0: Thursday, I was riding the MAX home from work. The train stopped in Pioneer Courthouse Square for a longish period of time. Just as the other people on the train were beginning to give each other the "What's going on?" look of bewilderment, I glanced out of the window. A goth guy, resplendent in chrome-plated metallic jewelry, dark shirt, black pants and shaved head, cocked his head towards the train car, jumped up from the brick upon which he was sitting, formed the squat of a linebacker...and charged the side of the train. He bounced off the car with a loud "thump" and collapsed to the ground, writhing in agony, while his friends pointed and laughed. Dumbass.

1: Today I went bicycle shopping. I have a serious need to cut down on my commute time; a bike would be a useful tool in doing that. Furthermore, it has been suggested (by Lara) that my social life will be seriously stunted if I have to be the idiot who can only go by car. This has been mildly corroborated by Cheryl. Sadly, while I did find a bike that rode quite well, the people at CityBike insisted that I come back next weekend after they have the chance to build me a bike that (supposedly) fits someone of my tall stature. I also went to the Community Bike Collective on NE Alberta. Found something that was a decent bike for $50 less, but it was in somewhat worse shape. Do bikes really cost $400? I found a place up on Alberta that serves good fish and chips. Somewhere around NE 25th.

2: Instead of buying a bike, I went to Music Millenium (SE 32nd and Burnside) and bought a 4-pack of Ella Fitzgerald. I am such a music whore. Oh well. Not that I can find much fault with Ella.... Though I did just get two Sinatra CDs yesterday. Now I have seven new CDs of music: Sinatra/Basie at the Sands, Sinatra/Basie on their own, George Shearing, and four of Ella.

3: Apparently, if I forget to turn the water on, the washing machine figures this out and refuses to start. After making this decision, it sits there smirking with "nF" on the panel. I can't tell if "nF" means "non Functional" or "No, <censored>!"

Fourth of July

Occurred July 04, 2005 (Permalink)

Lara, Rick and I bicycled to Lloyd Center to see War of the Worlds today. To the uninitiated: this means that I went careening around the streets of SE Portland, from 39th and Powell all the way to NE 11th and Holladay. We took some strange bike path northward through the 30s up to Stark, west to 28th, north on 28th to Multnomah, and finally west to the movie theater. This was quite eye-opening, as I'd never have thought it _that_ simple to get from one part of town to another. As an idiot car driver, I'd probably have gone straight up 39th to I-84 and west to the mall lot, completely ignoring the ease with which one can worm through town. Clearly, I need to spend more time studying the area bordered by 20th, 35th, Burnside and Belmont. Not to mention the blocks between 60th, 72nd, Burnside and Glisan. Perhaps just all of SE.

Despite my notion that Tom Cruise has gone off the deep end, he did a decent job of acting in WotW. The film follows the 1938 Mercury Theater adaptation of H. G. Wells' play pretty closely and, amazingly, it's still a pretty thrilling and scary movie. There are a few bits that don't make quite enough sense, but I haven't figured out if it's simply because I'm clueless. It is, however, refreshing to see that the movie makers also adhered to the design of the Martian machines in the original play. All in all a creepy movie. Why oh why did anyone ever green-light Independence Day?

Following that, the three of us tried to find an open restaurant to feed us some grub before heading back downtown. Quite a few places were, understandably, closed; luckily, the little Mexican shop at SE 38th and Hawthorne was prominently demonstrating its American capitalist underpinnings: they were open! I had a "Surfo Turfo Burrito" which includes pretty much every kind of meat that they put into their food, rice, and beans in a tortilla. Fortunately, this place *also* serves horchata, thus enabling me to eat very well. I quite enjoyed the place, and indeed even went back there on Thursday for more! El Cotixan still has them beat, but I can't order out to San Diego, now can I? Rick talked about the virtues of Firefox (no need to preach to the choir :)) and all the plugins he'd found for it.

Shortly after my gorging session was over, we got back on the bikes and rode down to the Esplanade. We watched the huge fireworks gala in Lake Oswego from a bench south of OMSI, and all the while Lara teased Rick about his inability to predict the grand finale of the fireworks. At last, the Portland fireworks began, and we rushed off towards the pyrotechnics barge. Turns out that parking oneself 200 feet from the barge is a pretty darn good way to experience them. Certainly they're bigger and far more dramatic than they would have been from Mt. Tabor as Dave, Eliza and I did for the Rose Festival. This year's fireworks spread was most impressive. As I recall, last year I saw Santa Clara County's fireworks from above. That was an... interesting experience, to see the dull flame of the rocket coming towards you, followed by the traditional cloudburst that sort of explodes upwards at you like some sort of antiaircraft weapons fire.

Afterwards, we and several dozen other bicyclists careened through the streets of SE Portland like a bunch of mad folks in a race; we stopped to see several neighborhood displays of illegal fireworks and made sure to avoid the police whenever we caught sight of them. Quite a lot of fun to go roaring around in dark on a bike... <grin>

Ruckel Ridge

Occurred July 09, 2005 (Permalink)

Today, Cheryl got to pick the weekend hike. She chose Ruckel Ridge, a hike that I'd rejected for a backpacking trip some months ago on the grounds that it would likely be too heinous to be done with 30lbs of crud strapped to our backs. This trail, found in the Columbia River gorge, follows a series of ridges up the side of the gorge and way far back into the Cascade ranges. It calls for a 3,700' elevation gain in approximately four miles, and is pretty darn relentless and steep all the way.

Ruckel Ridge, unfortunately, does not lend itself well to much description. For the most part it's a technical trek, as most of the trail remains well hidden deep within trees, and the speed with which it heads southward eliminates most good chances of seeing vistas. Geographically, it is literally one exit east of the Bonneville dam; the only good view that we had all day was about 1,500' up on the side of the ridge, looking back towards the river and the fish ladders.

I do, however, have a few things to say about the technical aspects of the hike, as I dislike the use of this journal for complaints. About halfway up the ridge, the path became extremely narrow and treacherous. As usual, I got stuck at the head of the group and engaged my death-defying monkey-climbing skills to get myself over the rocks without falling off. To my right there was a twenty foot drop; to the left, a fifty foot drop into some spiky-looking trees; and between the two a rock ledge about ten inches wide. What fun!

There wasn't much time to stop to enjoy the outdoors--those in better health than myself (I had suffered from a cold all week) roared up the hill at awesome speed, leaving Lara and myself to huff our way up slowly. We reached the intersection of the Ruckel Ridge and Ruckel Creek trails, stopped for a bit of a breather and food break, and proceeded down the hill on the latter trail. On the way back I spotted a fish hatchery and stopped for a minute to take a few pictures. Relaxed at some place with the initials "HH" next to Pix Patisserie.

Springwater Corridor

Occurred July 15, 2005 (Permalink)

For the first time ever, I rode my bike to work, and even on the train. That's not a big accomplishment, snce I didn't buy the bike until Thursday. After work on Friday, however, I had a few hours before the sun would go down and I decided that I might as well spend it exploring the bike paths in Portland. Getting off the MAX in downtown, I rode out to OMSI and decided to follow the newly finished Springwater Willamette Corridor as far as it went. The river portion of the corridor follows some train tracks upriver from Portland past Ross Island, the Oak Park amusement park, under Sellwood Bridge and finally into Sellwood itself. The distance from OMSI to Sellwood, interestingly enough, is only about four miles. Having driven out that way some months ago, I'd thought that it was much much farther.

Unfortunately, West Sellwood is where the Springwater Corridor appears to end. From there, one must pedal up a slightly steep hill onto the streets of the town itself. Sellwood has the mark and feel of a town that grew up with the much larger Portland to the north--though much of the architectural style on the houses and buildings resemble that of the town's larger neighbor to the north, there is a distinctly more rural (read: redneckish) feeling in Sellwood. Just walking around and poking my head in a bar or two, I got a whiff of the familiar almost nationalistic vibe of "Sellwood is Sellwood, and Sellwood isn't Portland". There are also a great deal more trees along the streets. Were this town a bit closer to downtown (and thus work), I might have considered living here. As a side note, I also ran into Video Lair, Eliza's video store.

Heading due east on Tacoma Ave, I crossed over a railroad bridge, wandered in some thick trees for a while, and finally spotted the East-West Springwater Corridor! This part of the corridor was built in a steep narrow canyon that once played host to the railroad that went from Portland to Boring; when the rails went defunct a number of years ago, the city paved the tracks under and turned the area into an arena for bikers and joggers. Apparently it starts in the west at the railroad tracks (about SE 29th Ave) and heads eastward through East Portland, I-205, Gresham, and finally on to Boring. The signposts indicated that one could easily ride 40 miles just going from one end to the other.

However, there was a minor problem--there's no way into the canyon! Some day, the hope is to connect the two Springwater Corridors into one gigantic fifty mile loop trail; until then, the westernmost entrance is either 45th Ave or sneaking in via the railroad tracks. In any case, the sun was starting to set; having no working front light, I decided that it would be an excellent idea to hop back on the bike and pedal hard towards Portland. I roared up SE 52nd Ave all the way to Belmont before jumping off the official bike routes and curving a crazy path back to my garage. Not a moment too soon either, as five minutes later it was too dark to see without illumination.

Scottish Highland Games

Occurred July 16, 2005 (Permalink)

On the third Saturday in July, a whole lot of Scottish people gather at Mt. Hood Community College for Portland's rendition of the Scottish Highland Games. The games, which originated as a tournament through which the King of Scots might find the strongest and ablest men to be his bodyguard, has morphed into a trinity of aims: competitions, a celebration of Scottish culture, and a way to sell most anything Scottish. And, surprisingly, even British goods.

So why was I there, you ask? Why, Scottish country dancing, of course! I showed up (late) to the morning dancing demonstration, decked out in a new kilt and my funny yellow polo shirt, and added the hose and sock-tassles later. There were four couples (including myself) who volunteered to dance the Cranberry Tart and Deal Among the Tailors. For the price of forty minutes' of dancing, I had free range to run about and explore the games all day!

Obviously, there was quite a bit more going on than just us dancing. The Daughters of the British Empire had a tent going with tea, biscuits and crumpets; various Scottish supply stores were presenting their wares; the piper from the Saturday Market wandered around playing for anybody who would listen; there were dance competitions going on all around, and various tents put up by the various Scottish clans for long-lost family members to wander by, meet distant strains of the family, and drift away.

Further out on the main field, there were (bag)pipe bands from various parts of the Northwest--local high schools, Simon Fraser Univ., other miscellaneous bands of pipers, etc. Standing out there during practice hours was amazing--it was if there were roving bagpipers coming at me from all directions, playing different tunes, and all at once! At any given time I could pick out four or five different melodies. I've never been in a situation like that, where I was totally enveloped in music, with tunes coming at me from all directions.

Meanwhile, there were athletic events going on all around the site. In one event, there are these strong men who are given a big heavy ball. The object of the competition is throw the ball as far up as humanly possible and run far away before the ball comes crashing back to the earth. They also go for lob distance. There's also a cabor toss, wherein each man is given a large tree trunk; each contestant picks up the cabor, runs with it for about thirty feet, and heaves one end up as far as he can possibly throw it. The object of this contest, then, is to flip the cabor along the Z axis. If the cabor even flips over, the contestant is judged on how close the cabor lands to the 12 o'clock position. The guy that won only managed to get it to land at the 9 o'clock position, though the most spectacular toss of the afternoon went to the guy who actually split the cabor in two! After it broke, he ran over to the small fragment, grabbed it, and threw it, flipping it several times to raucous laughter.

As one might imagine, there was a "Mass Bands" gathering at the very end of the Games. All the pipe bands that had attended the Games gathered on the field at 17:30 and proceeded to formulate an enormous 335-piece ensemble band. They collectively played one piece (whose name escapes me) while marching back and forth across the field, complete with four men completely decked out in official regalia. It was quite a spectacle to see, and a great way to end the day.

Actually, that wasn't the end. As I was walking to the parking lot after the Games were over, a car pulls up next to me and a guy sticks his head out: "Is this the way to the Games?" "Uh...yes, but they're over." "Forever?!" "Uh... no, just until next year." "Oh."

Innertubing the Clackamas River

Occurred July 17, 2005 (Permalink)

Bought a truck inner tube at Les Schwab and floated down the Clackamas River from Barton to (somewhere else) on it. Lots of root beer, lots of sunburn. Ick. Lots of fun while I was floating, however. There were rapids, water-cops handing out $94 tickets to rafters that didn't have the proper safety gear, hot and cold sections, etc. Unfortunately, the searing sunburns on my legs are still not gone, two weeks later as I write this. Dumbass. Oh well. I put on some pants and spent much of the time going to MiPL events and cycling after that.

Brew Festival

Occurred July 30, 2005 (Permalink)

Every year, several dozen brewers from around the country (though mostly the Northwest) gather in Portland on the last full weekend in July for the Brew Fest. Hanna thought it would be great fun to head down to the waterfront as a sort of birthday celebration, so I met her and a few others she knows for an afternoon of strolling around the park, drinking, eating and telling stories. There were seventy-two brewers in total this year; I got myself tokens for six 4oz samples and went imbibing beer from lightest to darkest. Turns out that my suspicions are indeed true--dark inky stouts still knock me over. It really is a pain not to have any appreciable alcohol tolerances; though it makes me a cheap drinking buddy, it does make the process of familiarizing myself with the local beers and wines much more difficult than it need be. In any case, we wandered around the festival for hours, but had a darn good time.

Going home, something interesting happened on the MAX. A man sitting a few rows behind me began singing a song. I'd never heard of the song before, so I half tuned him out, assuming that he was simply another drunken reveler. Until he got to the words "...will you marry me?" and came to a dead halt. This seemed like a strange way to end a song, so I cocked my head to have a look at this guy and realized that a very shocked young woman was sitting in the seat next to him. Apparently this was a marriage proposal! She screamed "Yes!" and the two of them ran off the train into the dusk at the next exit.

Innertubing, Again

Occurred July 31, 2005 (Permalink)

I like to engage in much foolishness. This is no more evident than in the fact that I went innertubing again, despite the horrid sunburn that I acquired during the last innertubing trip. For this trip, we drove even further upriver to some state park and floated down the river to Barton. I decided that I distinctly did not want to injure myself as badly as I'd done the first time, so I avoided bear-wrestling, falling in the river, and covered myself up with more articles of clothing. Ironic, though, that with the huge brown tan that I now have, I probably wouldn't have burned at all! This particular float had many more rapids, several areas where the water simply wasn't deep enough even for inner tubes, no cops, and required a fair amount of intelligence to navigate. All in all I think this one went far more smoothly than the first. Now on to Timberline!

Timberline Trail, Day 0

Occurred August 05, 2005 (Permalink)

Early Friday morning, I was jolted out of bed by the sound of my alarm going off. It was 6:15; everyone would be congregating at my house in 45 minutes! We were planning to get an early start towards Mt. Hood, have a protein breakfast at Calamity Jane's off US26, and try to start our day as early as humanly possible. We wanted to make the most of our first day on the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood, as there were forty miles to cover, and we only had five days to get it done. I was waiting for the usual suspects: Dave, Lara, Lara's friend Michell from Utah, Eliza, Justin and Ana. Actually, Justin and Ana were being "self-sufficient" by bringing their own stuff and told us to meet them at breakfast. The rest of us decided to pool and share equipment--I brought a lot of food as usual; the rest carried various pieces of tents and pots in addition to whatever else we wanted.

Some time around 8:15, Lara's truck and my car pulled out of my driveway headed eastward. We foolishly chose to follow Burnside all the way to Gresham instead of taking I-84, which gave me the chance to reflect on the morning... and notice that I'd forgotten my camera. After a few phone calls I decided that it was in everybody's best interest to go back for it (via the freeway), which was quite a superb idea, since I'd left my hiking boots in my living room! Calamity Jane's was closed, it turned out, so those in Lara's truck searched for a breakfast place while Eliza and I tore down the road in my car trying to make up for some lost time. Eventually, they discovered the Alpine Inn and deemed it sufficient for protein food.

We arrived at Timberline Lodge some time around ten o'clock and began slathering sunscreen all over ourselves; it was not a smell that I would be missing at all for the next four days. We strapped all of our loot into our packs and trudged out onto the gravelly Pacific Crest Trail/Timberline Trail, heading westward. I should note at this point that the views between the Lodge and Zigzag Canyon were substantively unchanged from my day trip with Steph last summer; please refer to last year's Hood pictures until the next picture link. The actual Timberline Trail pictures start around (P7310022).

There was, regrettably, very little snow along the trail. The only place where we found low-altitude (~6,000 feet) snow was on the northeast side of Mt. Hood; everywhere else was as dry as a bone! That meant that we'd be unable to engage in snowball fights (P7310029) to cool ourselves off. We passed the Timberline ski lifts (P7310027); those would prove to be quite a welcome sight on our way back on Monday! Proceeding westward, we passed quite a few trees, meadows, and wildflowers before reaching Little Zigzag Canyon (P7310032 - 38). It turned out that I was the only one among the seven of us who'd actually ever seen this part of the trail; since they'd heard all sort of horror stories about Zigzag Canyon being huge, they kept asking with each successively larger canyon if we'd gotten there.

At last, we reached a familiar-looking dropoff point: Zigzag Canyon (P7310058). This year, there was no ice at all, which turns out was quite a good thing, as it was an indication that the creek flows would be lower than they usually are, which would make our trek less dangerous. Last year, Steph and I made it out to the ridge overlooking Zigzag Canyon before turning back; today, the seven of us began the rather rapid descent into Zigzag Canyon. This is also where the new photos begin; hereafter all pictures are found among the Day 0 Pictures.

(a8050164) is the view looking southwesterly down Zigzag Canyon. Note the increased greenery and the rather pathetic creek; had this been a year with normal snowfall, the rocky areas would likely be underwater. Instead, we sat on the big boulders, collecting water, cooling various body parts, and taking a quick rest, waiting for everyone in the group to catch up. That set the pace for the rest of the trip--the quick among us would take off down the trail and stop at the next major trail intersection or stream to wait for the others to catch up.

The rest of the day was an adventure in zigzagging up and down all sorts of switchbacks. I managed to capture a still shot of a dragonfly that stopped on a rock for a split second (a8050180) and pictures of a whole lot of canyons and trees (a8050181 - 88). The rocky bed of Zigzag Creek (a8050176 - 77) was notable mostly in that it was exemplary of the river and creek crossings that we were going to face repeatedly in the next few days. At about the seven o'clock position on the mountain, the PCT/Timberline Trail forks; to the right, there is a trail heading off into a series of meadows and pictureseque vistas collectively known as Paradise Park, while the PCT/Timberline Trail provides a shorter and straighter bypass for those interested only in speed.

Being the first day, we were not all that tired and figured that the side trip to Paradise Park ought to be worth the effort. So, up we went (a8050188 - 198) to the Park! We made a pretty long stop (a8050189 - 90) in a meadow full of bugs and blue wildflowers among various trees (a8050191 - 194). Further on in the park, I noticed a rather strange rock formation that had cracked enough to allow trees to grow out of it (a8050195) and got a few good shots of hillsides (a8050197) and a clump of trees (a8050198) before we rejoined the PCT/Timberline Trail to head down towards Ramona Falls, which was the place we wanted to reach before dark.

Unfortunately, at this point I became rather confused as to where exactly we were on the trail. We had started among the rocks and gravel at Timberline Lodge (~6,000 feet) and had been descending pretty much all day; by the end of the Paradise Park excursion, we'd dropped to about 5,300 feet, and the remainder of the trail to Ramona Falls was a fairly quick decline to 3,200 feet. The trail runs through a big thicket of trees, rendering it rather difficult to figure out precisely where one is; all of the sudden, we came upon a canyon that was descending to the right. That perplexed me greatly, as one would expect the canyons to descend to the left while making a clockwise traversal of Mt. Hood. In any case, the pictures (a8050210 - 18) are of this "backwards" sloping canyon; what I think might have happened was that we passed through the top of the canyon and had been switchbacking down the western side of it for long enough to make me forget that the canyon was even there.

The trail continued its long plunge towards the Sandy River. By this time, I had become rather thirsty and, seeing water, I naturally flew down the trail, trying to find a good place to filter myself some more water. Lo and behold, both trail and clear water creek were on a race to see which could lose more altitude; the trail did not actually reach the creekbed until it dumped into the Sandy River (a8050219 - 24). By this point I think we had gone somewhere around nine miles; I sat there in the river junction for quite some time pumping water for people before the others showed up and began to ponder the question of how to get ourselves across the river.

Being fairly late in the afternoon, much of the day's snowpack meltings were now coursing down the river towards town. Unfortunately, this means that the creek and rivers are trickier to cross in the late afternoon than they would be in, say, the morning. I tried to find a convenient place to rock-top downriver; Lara and Ana tried to find a similar place upriver. Justin tried to convince several boulders and trees to become a bridge; Dave simply walked across a log, balancing himself with a longish stick that he'd picked up along the trail. At varying points, the rest of us decided that the stick seemed the least dangerous, so Dave helped us to cross (a8050225 - 26). Great picture of Dave helping Lara cross!

At last, we reached Ramona Falls and decided to set up camp (a8050227). Having covered nearly 10.9 miles, we were quite tired and decided to get dinner cooked as soon as possible. It was perhaps 19:30 when we stopped for the night, which gave us nearly forty-five minutes of daylight to finish whatever cooking tasks we had; when all was said and done, we had pasta with tomato sauce, bread, and cheese. Spicy jack cheese went well with the bread (and nearly everything else that I ate it with) for two days until my supply gave out :() The bugs began to attack (they were relentless until the middle of the third day) and so we all decided to go to sleep. But not before Lara asked about the title that was on the main page of this site--"The World's Best Cottage Cheese". For those of you wondering, it's a reference to something that Jason (offsite) said when I was in San Diego in June.

Timberline Trail, Day 1

Occurred August 06, 2005 (Permalink)

Today's story picks up at Ramona Falls, where we had set up camp the previous night. We were approximately five hundred feet from Ramona Falls, which afforded us access to the falls in the early morning. The last time that we had been here was last September to look for mushrooms; it was a slightly soggy experience, since it had begun to drizzle by the time we got to Ramona Falls. Luckily, this time it was early August, and so it was dry the entire time. I captured pictures (a8060228 - 38) before we ate breakfast, broke camp, and headed off on the second day's trek.

Climbing out of Ramona Falls, (a8060239) the Pacific Crest Trail branches leftward away from the Timberline Trail as the latter begins a rather lengthy northwestern jog out and around some hill on the climb up to the Muddy River crossing. Regrettably, this jog adds several miles to the trek in the wrong direction, but to hikers laden down with thirty pound packs, a less steep trail isn't quite so bad. This day was Saturday; it was around this point that we began to encounter other groups of people on the trails. It turns out that there are several other (almost) road-accessible points on the Timberline Trail: Ramona Falls, Cloud Cap, and Bald Mountain; this makes the west side of the mountain idyllic for hikers wanting short weekend trips and day hikes. In our travels, we encountered a young man who was hiking from Timberline Lodge all the way to the Columbia Gorge, a couple of young women doing a four-day trip in the opposite direction, and a group of joggers who were attempting to run the whole trail in twelve hours(!) Certainly not the sort of thing that I'd like to do. However, we did encounter a few couples that had a different strategy--bring lighter packs and go fast. Since we were shuffling down the road with heavier packs, I started to wonder if that might not be a bad idea.

Returning to our story, we saw some wild berries (a8060240) and whole lot of trees. Like the latter half of yesterday's hike, pretty much all of today's walking was done through forests. I have enough tree pictures to last a lifetime; those who keep count of pictures will undoubtedly notice that the number of pictures taken per day varied with the elevation. :) Anyway, the trail reached the end of the first jog and began to head upwards and back towards the Muddy River.

The Muddy River is at about the ten o'clock position around Mt. Hood. It (and the Sandy River) derive their names from the high rock flour content of the glacier water as it rushes down the mountain. This gives the water the look of heavily diluted chocolate milk and makes it rather undesirable for filtering, as the suspended minerals block the filter mesh quite easily. The first riverbed we came across (a8060251) was devoid of water but had a great number of boulders in it. According to Dave, the heavy snow of 1996, followed by warm weather, caused enough snow to melt as to create a huge flood that tore its way down the valley, toppling trees and shoving boulders along all over the valley. From the river we could see Bald Mountain (a8060257), views of Mt. Hood's west face (a8060260) and a pretty waterfall (a8060263) high on the mountain. I mused to several people in the group, "Doesn't this look perfect enough to be a movie set?" We crossed the south fork of the Muddy River then stopped (a8060261) between the two forks of the river for a pow-wow, enabling me to shoot more pictures of the area (a8060262 - 68).

Now it was time to cross a third river (a8060265-7 and 69); to pull off this maneuver, we had to enlist the use of a horizontal log and Dave's stick to get across. The seven of us scrambled up the bank of that river (a8060271) and stopped for lunch. Regrettably, this is where bad things started to happen--Michelle chose not to pursue the Trail any further, and Lara had to drop out to get her friend back to Portland. Thus we became five, as the two of them returned to Ramona Falls and (presumably) hitchhiked back to Lara's truck at Timberline Lodge the next day. The remainder of our group sat around for a rather lengthy lunch, and I took pictures of where we'd just come from (a8060273) and took a picture of Dave with his pack (a8060275) to prove that he'd been there.

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful--a straight march along a second jog out to Bald Mountain through the trees until I reached a vista point. From there, I was able to photograph most of the Muddy River Valley (a8060276 - 88), including the river crossings where we'd left Michelle and Lara behind (a8060282), the usual views of Mt. Hood (a8060278, 81, 85) and westward back at Portland (a8060287 - 88). Eventually the trail intersected with the Bald Mountain trail (a8060289 - 90); there was very little to photograph from this point until the next vista point at about 5,900 feet.

Further up the mountain, we came to a lookout below McNeil Point. By that point we were rather exhausted (and I had a nosebleed), so we stopped there for a pretty long time too. I repeated most of the shots that I'd gotten earlier, including a close-up of the summit (a8060297), the valley where we'd lunched (a8060296), and the usual valley shots. We had hoped to make it all the way to about the twenty-mile mark to camp that night, but the extra long lunch (and my physical infirmity) meant that we stopped a lot closer to the eighteen mile mark, just below McNeil Point (a8060295). Justin scouted the area around the McNeil Point spur trail and found us a lovely little circle of trees (a8060301) right atop the spur trail that afforded us a fire pit, ample shelter, a stream (a8060302), and some excellent photo-taking opportunities!

Dinner that night consisted of minestrone soup and leftover pasta from the night before. Michelle and Lara's departure made the food situation a tad awkward, because they unloaded all but a day's worth of food upon the three of us (Eliza, Dave and myself) since Ana and Justin were maintaining their self-sufficiency. We had planned to feed the five of us for four days, and now we had way more food than we'd actually need. This meant that the minestrone soup and pasta lasted well into the final day of the trip. In any case, I ventured around the campsite around sunset, hoping to get some good shots, and i was roundly rewarded!

I squeezed off a few decent silhouettes of the sun setting between the trees (a8060305 - 06). At this point, I was standing out in the middle of a rather cold creek, swinging back and forth, trying to capture the sunset in progress. Pictures (a8060308 - 12) captured the view up and downstream at dusk when the sun was still shining a golden color; later, when the sun was orange, I went back for shots (a8060316 - 24). Finally, I went risking CCD damage by taking a picture straight into the huge glowing orb as it finally sank below the horizon (a8060325 - 27). Had that small tree not gotten in the way, it would have been a particularly spectacular uninterrupted shot just like the sunsets that I used to watch in La Jolla ages ago. After that, it was bedtime...

...for everyone else. It was a clear night and we were far from any other light sources, so I figured that it was a good opportunity for some night photography! Those who have seen the pictures from Mt. Jefferson know that night pictures are one of the cooler things ways in which I like to stretch my photography skills, as I tend to get lazy and use the automatic features of the camera during the day. In this album, all the photos required post-processing in Gimp before I could post them; these images have "-01" between the picture serial number and the ".jpg" extension. In any case, I shot straight upwards in (a8060328-01 and 329-01) to capture a rather unremarkable series of stars; (a8060331-01, 332-01 and 334-01) were my attempts to get the Big Dipper; lacking a tripod, I had to lean against a large boulder and hold the camera steady for fifteen seconds for some blurry pictures. Next big trip, I'll find a way to bring a tripod (Steven/Woodley?). Finally, I noticed that due to the new moon, I could see the yellow city lights reflecting all the way from Portland; since I'd never tried night photography that close to a city, I thought that worth capturing; (a8060338-01 - 342-01) were the results from that effort. I think the last one of that set is the most spectacular, as one can plainly see the yellowness invading behind the trees. Keep in mind, however, that the brightness has been turned up quite a lot on these pictures.

Timberline Trail, Day 2

Occurred August 07, 2005 (Permalink)

Ahh, daybreak! We awoke to the bright cool morning camped beneath McNeil Point, enjoyed our spartan breakfasts (granola bars forever!) and broke camp. We set out expecting a moderately difficult hike today--we were at mile marker 18 and wanted to get to the Cloud Cap area (mile 28) by the end of the day to make camp; this involved passing through a lot of below-glacier country (think: creeks and rivers), a less-than-temporary river bypass (i.e. glacier country) and a fair amount of high-altitude hiking. The reward? Great vistas.

Ladd Glacier was the first below-glacier area that we passed through. Truthfully, this album starts a bit prematurely; (a8070343 and 344) are pictures of what I think are McNeil Point and the northwest face of Mt. Hood, respectively, from our campsite. Once we got moving, we took a wrong turn and saw McGee creek and meadow twice (a8070345) and started turning sharply to the right so that we were travelling roughly easterly along the northern edge of Mt. Hood.

What a sight! (a8070347) is a perfect example of the vistas that we saw for the rest of the trip of foreground trees giving way to a backdrop of rows and rows of mountains. From the north side of Mt. Hood, one can see the peaks of the various Cascade peaks in Washington state such as Mt. Adams (a8070348), Mt. Rainier (a8070349) and everyone's favorite, Mt. St. Helens (a8070351). Regrettably, the names of most of the meadows and streams that we crossed escape me, since they weren't marked on the trail and the USGS map that we had only pointed out larger streams of water such as creeks and rivers. In any case, I stopped at a convenient lookout point to shoot pictures (a8070352 - 56), which eventually became the enormous 180-degree panorama found in (some_meadow). Amusingly enough, it seems that the panorama neatly captured all four of the others in our party: Justin and Ana on the left and Dave and Eliza in the far right.

All of the sudden, there it was: the first of many streams that we'd be crossing today (a8070357). Nearly all of today's watercrossings were quite pleasant and tame: at most a few inches deep, lots of flat rocks with which a clever hiker could get across without getting anything wet, and lots of greenery and flowers all around to lighten the dread. There's not much to say about them, other than the fact that I've never seen so many streams in my life (a8070359 - 63, 68 - 69, 71 - 78). For the most part, they're not terribly distinct or worth writing about.

However, the Ladd Glacier area did produce a few other good shots: as I mentioned earlier, there were a lot of wildflowers! There were some funny flowers that were flaming red and spiky (a8070365), some more conventionally shaped pink ones (a8070366), and some really odd weed-like yellow and blue prickly plants (a8070379) in the area. We also saw a climber's shelter (a8070370). They appear to have been built fairly recently, featuring walls made of stone with a fairly standard cement-like mortar, and some sort of mud roof. Dave said that having them isn't such a big deal nowadays with modern communications devices, but in the old days, having these shelters periodically was literally a life-saver, as one could trudge into one from the snow and stay warm long enough to devise a way off the mountain. I stopped again a short time after that to shoot pictures (a807080 - 84) so that I could have a wide shot of the three big peaks (Helens, Rainier, Adams), the nearby forests of Mt. Hood in the foreground, and the Hood River farming community sandwiched in between.

At some arbitrary point, we left the Ladd Glacier area and ended up below Coe Glacier. Geographically, the most significant difference was in the face that Mt. Hood showed us (a8070386, 399 - 401, 406)--now we were looking squarely at the northern face of the mountain and the "Hump" that one can see from downtown Portland. The clouds cooperated with my camera most graciously today; as one can see from the (elk_cove) panorama, the clouds' radial streaks across the sky from the mountain made the experience all the more exhilarating. I'm particularly proud of (a8070399 - 400) not only because of the richness of the colors of the rocks on Mt. Hood itself, but also the fact that the clouds seemed to be arcing out of the top of the mountain like a gigantic puffy lightning bolt across the sky!

Around lunch time, Justin pointed out a funny looking plant (a8070403 - 05). One part of the stem has a small pointed red flower, and the other part has a rather strange looking green hairball. I'm not really sure what purpose the hairball serves, other than giving the plant an odd aura. I suppose it's possible that the leaf structure of this ... thing is on the same level as a pine tree, but the plants themselves were too short not to be buried under the snow every winter. Perhaps the needle-y parts are supposed to protect something underneath?

The creek by which we ate lunch (a8070407) had a big rusty tree (a8070408) next to it. Having seen nothing but grey and green for 2.5 days (a8070412), the red dead tree was quite a color relief to us; there it was, providing a dashing contrast to everything around it. Quite the rebel, that tree. There was also a bony dead tree (a8070410), but leafless dead trees aren't interesting. To the distant east, we also got the first glimpse of the Oregon desert (a8070424). Apparently Oregon is actually a rather dry and desert-like state; although most people in Portland think of Oregon as a wet place of trees, that description really only goes as far east as The Dalles; barren, beautiful brown lies beyond.

It should not come as a huge shock to readers that Coe Creek was by far the largest and strongest of the creeks that fed off Coe Glacier. This creek was perhaps one of the trickiest crossings that we had to do this afternoon--not only was it wide, voluminous and raging angrily against the rocks, but the only "viable" crossing near the trail (a8070413) was just plain ridiculous. While the others pumped water, first I and later Dave went scampering upcreek to find the group an easy was across. Well, we eventually found a couple of stable-looking logs (a8070422) that I paused on long enough for a portrait. Later, I went back for pictures of how the water had blasted the volcanic rock into many smaller slivers and fragments that barely held themselves together (a8070427) while the water itself certainly didn't seem to have a problem with being blasted nearly a foot above the waterline (a8070426). We were about at milepost twenty-five.

East of Coe Creek, the trail starts to turn southward to complete the circle. One of the first truly northeastern views is (a8070432); one can see the tip of the farming community on the left of the picture, and the beginnings of desert in the distance on the right. As we were leaving the Coe glacier area, we saw the narrow creek depicted in (a8070433 - 34). Note all the dwarf trees by the side of the creek; we were at approximately 6,000 feet.

Eliot Creek was the third major glacial area that we were to pass below this day. Eliot Creek itself gained some notoriety several years ago when a large flood came roaring down the canyon and tore out enough of the Timberline Trail and creek crossing that the trail's maintainers created a long, steep and unpleasant bypass. But enough about that for now; (a8070435) is a close-up that I shot of Mt. Rainier, and we saw the first creek with ice in it in photos (a8070436 - 44). (a8070442) was the first time that we had come within five hundred feet of actual snow pack; it wouldn't be the last time. That ice sits opposite a large waterfall (a8070440) that proceeds down the mountain (a8070438) to the northeast (a8070437). A couple of creek crossings later (a8070448 - 56), we reached the Eliot Creek bypass.

Some time around 1999, there had been a huge flood that came crashing down the Eliot Creek valley, tearing out whatever vegetation was there, rearranging huge boulders, and turning the old Timberline Trail crossing into a hazardous mess. The "temporary" reroute takes one straight up one of the climber's ridges that people use when aiming themselves at the summit; (a8070457) shows just how steep these climbing trails are. Literally, the trail takes right turn and gains probably about three or four hundred feet in less than half a mile. Since we're pretty close to the timberline at this point, the upward view is one of rocks and desolation (a8070459) and not much to look at. Mt. Hood itself becomes a pointy summit amid a whole lot of rocks (a8070462), which is quite a different view from what we're used to seeing on the western side; the rocks here set the mood for the remainder of the trip: great vistas, greenery nearby, and a whole lot of rocks.

After the huge ascent, the bypass forks away from the climber's trail and dips down into the Eliot Creek canyon. We saw first Mt. Adams peeking out from beyond the rubble pile (a8070463) and then the new bridge crossing: a wooden bridge bolted to two big rocks (a8070464). As far as water crossings go, this was (except for the high elevation gain) one of the better of the trip, if only because the bridge, rickety as it looks, was quite stable. Anyhow, we scrambled up the other side of the canyon towards the Cloud Cap Inn and discovered that a second climber's trail going up the ridge was the intended method of descent back to the Timberline Trail. Notice the "temporary sign" in (a8070468) and the amount of wet rot that the post has taken in the past six years. When we rejoined the trail, a signpost (a8070471) greeted us. I did not get a shot of the trail bypass map, because some bastard stole the one on the eastern side of the bypass. We continued along the trail until we found a rather gravelly stream-equipped valley to perch in for the night.

Twenty-eight miles in, and the sun was going down again. Justin and I took off among the rocks up a nearby bluff to capture more sunset pictures Our base camp was at about 6,400 feet; by my estimate, the particular place that we picked was somewhere around 200 feet above that. The view from that point was positively spectacular! One could see just about anything to the northeast of the northwest-southeast tangent line: the western sky was lit up with brilliant orange, yellow and blue patterns (a8070474) while the eastern desert was tinted a heavy pink color (a8070477). For the first time in my life, I tried to take some silhouettes and actually got awesome results without having to tweak the results (a8070473 - 75)! For the most part, I simply stood way up there admiring the sunset and taking pictures of the surrounding view; the (sunset) panorama that I stitched together demonstrates the huge range of sky views that I had this evening. I also decided to take a few close-up pictures of the same three peaks that I'd been seeing all day: St. Helens (a8070485), Rainier (a8070492 - 93) and Mt. Adams (a8070495 - 96) and some new ones: the darkening desert (a8070504). For the curious, I was standing on the eastern ridge of the Eliot Creek canyon; from above, it looks like (a8070507). As the sky grew darker, I took more and more pictures, finally stopping when I realized that I could see the moon (a8070515 - 16) setting in the western sky again.

At that point, I signed "HI" with my flashlight (much to Dave and Justin's amusement) and began my descent back to camp for dinner: minestrone soup and pasta. The encampment that we'd picked would have been an excellent place for taking pictures of the stars, but as the astute reader noticed in the sunset pictures, there were wispy cloud formations all over the place; at sundown they make for rather good scenes; at night, they blocked out most of the stars. Add general exhaustion to that, and I turned in for an early night. Funny how when we went to Mt. Jefferson we were easily able to stay up past midnight, but on Hood we regularly went to sleep around ten.

Timberline Trail, Day 3

Occurred August 08, 2005 (Permalink)

Day No. 4 finds us slumbering in a gravelly canyon at the 28.3 mile point. That means that before the day ends, we hope to hike the remaining twelve miles all the way back to Timberline Lodge. This involves climbing up Lamberson Spur, down Gnarl Ridge, through a whole lot of forest, across several nasty rivers, underneath the ski lifts that are southeast of Mt. Hood, through a final canyon, and then a huge climb all the way back to the Lodge and my car. "Surely we can do that! All we have to do is wake up early enough!" shouted the group.

Err... yeah. Thus we broke camp for the last time and began the slow trek up the Spur to the point of the highest altitude on the entire trail. Camp had been built at 6,400 feet; the top of the Spur was 7,300 feet and at most 2 miles up the trail. The morning's trek was quite notable for the consistency of that upon which we walked--up to this point the trails were largely compacted dirt. Now, they were gravel trails graded roughly horizontal by thousands of feet. As the slightly white line in the center of (a8080517) indicates, the path was at times difficult to find. I captured some pictures of the gnarled trees and dwarf-bushes that grow at this altitude (a8080518), but in truth not a whole lot can grow up at these altitudes.

After switchbacking upwards for quite some time, we came across the first major topological significance: the intersection of the Timberline Trail with the Tilly Jane/Cooper Spur Trail. This was a rough demarcation of the twenty-ninth mile marker and our ascension to 6,600 feet. We met an elderly couple coming up the Tilly Jane trail; apparently, they were intent upon hiking to the top the trail (~8,500 feet) and going straight back down. Sort of an odd thing to do, since the gentleman confessed that he was actually quite afraid of heights. Perhaps vertigo has more to do with evidence of height that you can see nearby. In any case, they took a group photograph (a8080524) with the northeastern face of Mt. Hood in the background. Several other landmarks were easily locatable from this intersection: depicted in (a8080521) are the farms to the south of Hood River and northeast of Hood and (a8080525) is yet another climber's shelter that we found on the mountain. (a8080522 and 26) are both pictures of the faces of Mt. Hood--check out the detail on the ice that one can see in the daytime!

By this time, the trail had curved around some more and we were heading in a southward direction on the east side of Mt. Hood. The canyons ran in long black ruts down the side of the mountain, as (a8080528 - 27, oregon_desert) and many other pictures point out. Way up high, the lack of trees opens up the mountain for some fabulous photography: (a8080531) looks out southeasterly towards Bend and the Three Sisters area and (a8080530) is of the desert to the East. Furthermore, the rocks that we were seeing that morning were quite fascinating--nearly all of them are volcanic rock, and most of them are pitted at a high frequency that roughly matches the gravel on the ground. Picture (a8080532) shows the rock itself, while (a8080533) gives one an idea of just how steep the climb was in that area. We actually didn't end up climbing on any of those rocks because we passed just under a rather impressive-looking hump on the east side of the mountain.

Hidden in the afternoon shadows of this hump was snow (a8080535)! As I mentioned the first day, I had expected that there could be snow still lying across various parts of the trail despite the relatively warm, dry winter that we just had. Thus far, we hadn't seen anything, yet all of the sudden Nature pulled a new trick out of her hat and *bam* there was ice that we had to cross (a8080537 - 38). This late in the year, the snow was coated with a thin layer of rock dirt and had a strange brown tinge to the outside. The relevant eastern (a8080539 - 40) and western (a8080541) views remained; I thought it a bit prudent to capture the last image of Mt. Adams as it slowly fell behind us (a8080543).

To anybody who hikes out and around Lamberson Spur I have a warning: be prepared for a major let-down. This (a8080547) is it: a big pile of rocks with NO MARKINGS at 7,300 feet. While it's infinitely cool to say that now I've hiked to that altitude twice without dropping dead, the second time was probably more anticlimactic than the first. I didn't even realize that I'd reached the top until a quarter of a mile later, when I noticed that the trail had begun a long descent. Though the local maxmimum itelf is quite boring, just beyond that place by a quarter of a mile is a big meadow (a8080549 - 57) maybe fifty feet off (and up from) the main trail. At this point one can see Mt. Jefferson quite plainly (a8080550) and the Sisters; the meadow itself is a fairly uninteresting amalgamation of grasses, weeds and trees. I must confess, however, that to a somewhat weary hiker, it made a rather pleasant stop. The (lamberson_meadow) panorama, I think, captures this area quite nicely. After this point, the Timberline Trail begins a long descent from Lamberson Spur on the way down Gnarl Ridge; the steep rock faces (a8080558 - 59) are positively amazing!

On the way to Gnarl Ridge, we encountered a patch of lavender blue wildflowers (a8080560 - 63), which proved a marvelous relief from the green and grey that we had been looking at all morning. There was a large rock (a8080567) that had been cleaved in half at some point in the past. I'm unsure if that huge gap developed because of freezing water that had seeped inside a crack or if the rock had simply been sheared apart by movements of ice floes. Either way, a cool demonstration of the power of Nature.

Gnarl Ridge itself is best explained by the (gnarl_ridge) panorama. The ridge (and the trail) run along the northern edge of the huge canyon created by Newton Creek. Not surprisingly, then, the huge patch of ice seen in the panorama is Newton Glacier, but the requisite crossing will be treated later. The area atop the ridge is very dry and is very prone to being sandblasted by westbound air blowing in from Eastern Oregon. Consequently, any land that's not immediately adjacent to any sort of water source quickly dries up and blows away, leaving the land desolate and gray, pockmarked with occasional bits of greenery like the sort shown in (a8080587). The gnarled hunks of wood up on the ridge was also quite impressive; Justin pointed out a chunk (a8080588) that resembled a rhinoceros!

From above, Newton Creek looks like it's pretty darn small (a8080573 - 74). Naturally, this perception is magnified by the huge elevation drop between the ridge on the top and the creek below; if you peer quite closely at the photos, note that any foliage that can be distinctly identified is tiny! The view of the Cascade range to the east and south was quite spectacular (a8080575), though nothing makes one feel small like peering down and out the canyon and realizing that those rock formations, though they seem quite small, are in fact about a thousand feet high (a8080577 - 85). Ah, the tricks the camera plays! I also noted a pretty cool cloud formation (a8080586) because this particular canyon was good for that sort of thing.

After this point, the trail curves away from the edge of the ridge and begins a rather steep descent down and around the side to meet Newton Creek around 5,400 feet. This part of the trail was pretty much uneventful and boring, as it took us through heavily wooded areas like the ones we'd seen on the other side of Mt. Hood. When we arrived at Newton Creek, I took a picture straight up the canyon (a8080591) at the places where we had been, the enormous boulders (a8080594, 95) on the riverbank, and the rock face promenading out from the side of the canyon (a8080596 - 98) as if they were armaments on a castle. The last picture in this set, (a8080600), captures the key elements of the crossing: clouds, boulders and trees.

Unfortunately, Newton Creek was without a doubt the most difficult crossing of the entire trip. There were no convenient rocks to bounce across, no stumps, logs or other debris to use as a bridge, and the river was running too swiftly and deeply to walk across unassisted. I sealed my camera in a plastic bag early on, hence (a8080601) is the only picture that I got of the actual creek. Dave and Justin attempted to hew a fallen tree trunk into a makeshift bridge, but we couldn't find any good anchor points for it; eventually, we resorted to stripping off our boots and wading across in flipflops with a rope and Dave's stick for balance. Dave was fortunate to find fairly big rocks to step on in the river and only went in knee-deep; I overestimated the rock count and fell in up to my waist. This meant that I spent the rest of the day wearing shorts, fearing bugs and hauling pants around like Jar-Jar Binks' ears. I was none too pleased, and we ate lunch as soon as everybody else had made the crossing. We filtered water in rock-flour heavy water, which clogged the water filter and annoyed most everyone.

We were approximately at the 32-mile mark. According to the topographical map, the next six miles were supposed to be fairly flat. Compared to what we'd just hiked, it was, but there were quite a few small creek valleys to get through along the way. The first of these was a clean creek about twenty feet from Newton Creek. The second was a pretty green valley with lots of trees and underbrush that made it a bit more welcoming (a8080603) and provided us with a good view of Mt. Hood's southeastern face (a8080604). The next was another gray gravelly valley with lots of rocks in it (a8080605 - 07); Dave went pretty far up the creek on a reconaissance mission to find us a good place to cross. The third evened the green/gray score and gave us a series of very pretty waterfalls to look at while we strode across some logs (a8080608 - 13).

Directly southeast of Mt. Hood there's a huge ski resort with many lifts going up the mountain. I had thought that Timberline Lodge took the cake with lifts going both 3,000 feet down the mountain back to Government Camp and 2,000 up the mountain to the funny lodge at 8,000 feet where climbers set out. This one compensated for size with sheer quantity--there were lifts everywhere (a8080614, 18). Those two pictures aside, I chose to focus on the plant life in the area; since it was all ski land, there were large swaths of treeless grooves cut into the side of the mountain. During the winter these chasms turn to snowy ski paths; in August, however, they were meadows full of strange cotton-like plants (a8080615, 16), occasional trees (a8080623) and purple flowers (a8080624). There were a few good vistas from this part of the mountain too: SE Mt. Hood (a8080617), Mt. Jefferson to the south (a8080621), and outwards towards Bend (a8080622). For some reason, the miles seemed to fly past at a surprisingly rapid pace between the 33 and 38 miles markers. Our desire to get home (or at least get to a nice protein-rich dinner) after four days of camping food might have had something to do with that!

Going clockwise on the trail, White River is the last major crossing that one makes on the way back to Timberline Lodge. This is the time for hikers to be assembling the last wind of the day, for the river canyon is plenty deep and wide, and the river forks like mad in certain parts. Images (a8080625 - 27) were taken about halfway down the descent when I could finally get a good angle on the river valley. Once at the bottom of the valley the view becomes a bit more humane: the tiny trees that get washed out with winter floods seem a bit more numerous (a8080629) and taller (a8080630) than they did way up there, and the cliff overlooking the area doesn't seem quite so high (a8080631 - 32).

Surprise! The tree lined area is subsumed by the usual collection of water polished boulders and gravel about fifty feet into the canyon. The trail snakes back and forth through the rocks all over the place, undoubtedly the after effects of a wishy-washy river that changes course early and often! The scene in (a8080634 - 35) is particularly indicative of this phenomenon; it's as if the mountain somehow knew to throw this bit in as a final "Ha ha! Here's a reminder that you're climbing around a mountain!" reminder. Dave takes the lead at this point, and the rest of us follow him, carroming between orange flags and rock piles as if we're participants in some twisted life-sized pinball machine.

Within due time, we arrive the river. Or at least we think we have--we can't see any obvious water flows, but we sure can hear it! It turns out that this river is especially good at turning tricks at us. From what we can tell, on this day there were three forks of the river with actual water in them and a couple more that were (and would hopefully remain) dry. Beneath our feet is a rather dusty aggregate of rocks of all sizes--rock flour, sand, gravel, rocks, and of course a motley assortment of white rocks. The looseness of this area means only one thing--each fork of the river is hidden at the bottom of a six foot depression... and we have to get through all of them. The high count of airborne dust particles convinces me to wrap up my camera, so there are pretty much no pictures.

Gingerly, we climb down the first embankment and take a look at the river. One fortunate thing about having three forks is that with each fork we have on average one-third of the amount of river with which to contend. While this does enable a crossing via rock-topping, there's also about a foot of level space between the embankment and the river itself. Hoisting ourselves up a nearly vertical six foot wall is quite a tricky effort, because there aren't very many good footholds and the ground is marginally more stable than Jell-o. I picked a very bad place to climb up after the second fork: the first rock collapsed under my weight, leaving me to cling on to a rock at the top and reposition my feet. My arms aren't terrifically buff, and the second rock I chose as a foothold also began to slide downward. I decided to make a go for it and jumped, barely making it far enough onto the plateau to land on my elbows (ow!) and waist, and drag the rest of me over the top. We repeated this exercise two more times until we finally reached greenery again (a8080637) and began the climb back to Timberline Lodge. Eliza collected blueberries in a cup since they were readily available, while the rest of us trudged upwards through the gravel. 39 miles!

Around the time the sun began to set, I got back into the mood for taking pictures again. The trail dead-ends into the Pacific Crest Trail right after climbing out of the canyon; fortunately for us that means that the trail became wider, flatter, and (aside from horse crap) a better maintained surface to walk upon. Tonight's sunset didn't have quite the range of red, orange and yellow's of yesterday's, but the golden sunlight illuminating the nearby mountains was quite beautiful. (a8080638) is the view looking southeast at the rest of the Cascade range towards the intersection of US26 and OR35. (a8080639) was taken straight southward at Mt. Jefferson, and (a8080640) was shot looking directly eastward. (a8080642) and (a8080643) are the views of Mt. Hood and the meadow that we were crossing through, respectively. In the fading light, I captured a pretty good vista of the White River canyon that we had just crossed (a8080644). The trail emerged from the patch of trees just to the left of the big slide area to the right of the center of the picture, crossed the river diagonally going upriver, then jerked back upwards through the trees on the opposite side of the bank.

As the sun continued to set, I turned back into the idiot photographer-tourist that I am and annoyed everyone else by my constant stopping for: Mt. Jefferson when the sky turned red and blue (a8080646), a silhouette of Timberline Lodge (a8080647), a generic southwest view of bumps along the horizon (a8080648), close-ups of the red light reflecting off Mt. Hood (a8080650 - 51), the upper part of the White River canyon (a8080652), and a parting shot of Mt. Jefferson. By this time the lighting was poor enough to confuse the autofocus in the camera, so I put it away until the very end of the trek. We thought that sighting Timberline Lodge was synonymous with the end of the trail, and were we ever wrong!

It turns out that the trail cannot go straight to Timberline Lodge because of the huge canyon created by the last little creek. This canyon can be seen from the parking lot at the lodge, but it's not obvious that one has to climb some distance above the lodge, arc around the top of the canyon, and only then does one drop back down to the Lodge. The trail is lined with maddeningly squishy gravel all the way, and towards the end I developed a very strong urge to call out "Are we there yet?" every time I saw a marker post. But hey, it was very late in the day, we'd gone 11.5 miles, and I was tired. I shot pictures of first the moon (a8080655), the very last creek that we crossed (a8080657) and a sign identifying us as being on the Timberline/PCT trail (a8080658).

Then the inevitable happened--we reached the lodge! The trek was over! We strolled into the lodge, looking strangely appropriate for the lodge and inappropriate next to the dapper retired folks strolling around the lodge looking for dinner. A few of us took biobreaks, but then we went back outside, cheered a bit, and went back to the cars to disassemble our packs. We'd started with a grandiose plan for a huge celebratory dinner after coming off the trail, but at 22:00 on a non-football Monday, there's not much to have in Portland. Our celebration consisted of junk food and cookies from a 7-11.

5K Challenge

Occurred August 12, 2005 (Permalink)

Upon arriving at work today, I was immediately accosted by my boss, Pat: "Are you running the 5K?" Me: "What 5K?". We proceeded to spend the next several minutes debating whether or not I should or even could run a 5K. Seriously, I was dressed in slacks, a dress shirt, and my reasonably comfortable shoes, but that was a far cry from Pat, who was clad in a t-shirt, running shoes, and jogging shorts. In any case, Pat and I continue our friendly little banter until Alexis comes over...

"Are you running? Nah, you don't look like you could do it."

The gauntlet has been thrown down! After a statement like that, how could I possibly decline without losing face? No matter what, I was trapped into running a 5K in the wrong clothes and without much more of a warmup aside from shuffling off to work on my bicycle. So I go out to the starting line and AJ gives me a mildly disbelieving stare and asks "You're really running the 5K?". After I assure him that it's only because of the ladies' challenges, he goes into the pre-race talk, lines us up, and off we go!

I had never seen the entirety of the running track around the Nike campus. In actuality, it's only about 3.5K; the remaining distance was added by running the long way around the old Sequent campus to Nike's. That first part through Sequent was pretty harsh--running on cement is quite stiff on the joints! I positioned myself ahead of Alexis and Pat, trotting quite nicely along Hien, an engineer from another group. Unfortunately, the monster that is insufficient lung capacity soon reared its ugly head--about 2 kilometers into the run, I began to run out of steam! The Nike track is not at all flat--though it is paved with soft wood chips, it has to go over several roads, and the climb made me rather tired. I began a rather frustrating habit of jogging up to one of these bridges, slowing to a walk, and just as Alexis and Pat came within earshot, I would take off jogging again.

To those behind me, this was one of the more irritating aspects of my running performance--they'd almost catch up, and then I'd run away again. This pattern kept up for the remainder of the race back to the IBM parking lot, with a bit of a problem--the recharges were starting to take longer than the discharges! Worse yet, the route had been marked with black electrical tape... which is invisible on the black asphalt of the parking lot. By this time Pat had fallen quite far behind, but Alexis was still chasing me, and using my confusion to her full advantage.

Well, the inevitable happened: Alexis saw her chance, decided to make a beeline for the finish line, and passed me. What else could I do? I couldn't very well maintain a lead over a challenger for 80% of a race only to conk out on the home stretch! "Damn my lungs!" I sputtered as I roared up to full speed and charged after her. 200 feet and I was still behind. 100 and I was getting pretty close. 50 feet and we're neck and neck. Finally it comes down to the last ten feet. I decide that it's time for the can of whoop-ass and push myself even faster, and beat Alexis by mere inches. Woo, I survived a 5K in office clothing and beat everyone who challenged me!

The Portland Bridge Pedal

Occurred August 14, 2005 (Permalink)

Sunday, 6:15AM: I get up, shove some cookies down my gullet, grab my bicycle and go roaring off to catch the 6:30 MAX towards downtown. Why? This day was the annual Portland Bridge Pedal! I chose the hardest of the three courses-- thirty-eight miles and ten bridges. Hey, if I can hike the Timberline Trail and run a 5K in the same week, I can surely add mad cycling to the list! The registration line downtown was enormous and the crowd numbered more than twenty thousand! I left my camera at home, but Eliza has posted a photolog (offsite) of her ride (the abridged version of my ride).

Those of us going on the long trek (10 bridges) lined up beneath Morrison Bridge, awaiting the start of the race. At 7:15, we set off in small groups, crossing the bridges Morrison, Sellwood, Hawthorne, Ross Island, Marquam, Burnside, Broadway, Fremont, St. John's and finally the Steel Bridge. The most difficult part of the ride was getting all the way out to the St. John's bridge and then having to pedal all the way up the steep bridge approach! Aside from that, the crowds were a bit too big, leading to huge traffic jams on the Springwater Corridor and the Marquam and Hawthorne bridges.

Cheryl and Jonquil went on the same 38-mile ride as I did, and even started out at approximately the same time as I. Unfortunately, I never saw them and only caught up to them much later in the day when we all congregated at the Virginia Cafe after the ride. Lara, her friend Benita, Eliza and CJ went on a shorter ride that started quite a bit later than I, so I ran into Lara shortly after crossing the St. John's bridge. Apparently a few of my coworkers were there too, though they started out even later and I never saw them. Anyhow, now I can claim that I've done the full bridge pedal, so now I never have to do it again. Seriously, except for the freeway bridges, one can ride a bicycle across the other eight at any time.

Beavers Baseball and Goings-On at a Sushi Bar

Occurred August 19, 2005 (Permalink)

For the first time ever, I went to a Beavers baseball game! Hanna told me that she was meeting some people she knew at PGE park, so I asked if she minded if I went along. She said that was fine, so I rode my bicycle out to the ballpark and got a ticket: $12 for the nice seats. Little did I know that this group included a large quantity of gay men! Amusingly, most of them were not terribly familiar with the game of baseball, so I ended up explaining most of the game to them while it was ongoing. First time I've gone to a game and been the baseball geek.

After the game, the menfolk wanted to go someplace for drinks and a bite to eat. At this juncture, the ladies took their leave and the rest of us went into a sushi bar for some grub. Actually, the group of men made quite interesting company--they were pretty well educated and could talk at length about various subjects. The gent I was sitting next to is a professor of philosophy in Toronto, and we chatted for quite a long time. However, sitting at a table with a group of obviously gay men, I wondered how long it would be before the young women at the bar would start to notice me and wonder. Sure enough, as I cruised around the place, several of them came up and slurred a 'hello'. Mildly amusing, but it's surprisingly difficult to maintain a conversation with someone who's drunk.

Later, when we got up to leave, I put my bike helmet on and a dark-haired woman in a red dress with white flowers on it came over, leading approximately to the following exchange (cleaned up with the slur-filter): "Wow, you have a bike helmet! I work at the Alberta bike co-op, and I have a helmet just like yours!" "Uh... cool! Do yo--" "Can I take a swin--" and with that, she puts her hands on my helmet, hikes up her legs and pivots around me like one of those executive paperweights that my grandfather has. After a few rounds of gyrating, she slid off and ran out of the joint, leaving me confused and bewildered to what had just happened.

Cool.

Last Thursday, Repeated

Occurred August 25, 2005 (Permalink)

I went to the monthly Last Thursday street party on Alberta tonight. The last time that I'd been was in August 2004; since then, a great number of ethnic restaurants have opened: French, British (fish and chips), Mexican, Japanese, thus transforming the block into a really cool place to go. True, there still is the ugly burned out building at NE 21st and Alberta, but the place was really jumping that night! Partly I think it was the warm summer evening, but in truth it seemed as if there was just a lot more going on this time around! There were so many people there that I had to walk a block away to recover from the sensory overload; while on that jog, a neighborhood woman spotted me and called "Where are all these cars coming from?" Seriously, I thought I had the wrong block until I stumbled into the same light shop that I went to last year and set myself straight.

Tapas

Occurred August 26, 2005 (Permalink)

This month's installment of the MiPL Friday Night Supper Club takes us to Patanegra, a Spanish tapas restaurant way up at the north end of NW 23rd Place. The food sounded creative and interesting, but I thought that the meat in the smaller dishes tasted a tad bit burnt at times. However, both the meat and seafood paella dishes were excellent. Those two were definitely the best food that we had that evening. I also had a glass of sangria just to find out what it tastes like--it's really sweet wine the color of blood.

Road Trip: Getting to the Desert

Occurred September 04, 2005 (Permalink)

After some serious discussion with my neighbors across the street, I decided on a whim to drive out to Eastern Oregon to see what was there. Last month, I'd seen a vast brownness from the east side of Mt. Hood and felt an itch to go see what it looked like from the non-7,000 foot view. I began to take a look at where I might go out in the wilderness (totally arbitrary trips still aren't my cup of tea) and had a thought: Jason could come with me on my hastily planned trip! Time was on my side, since it was the Labor Day weekend and neither of us had to be back to our jobs until Tuesday.

Saturday afternoon, Jason shows up in Portland, ready to go. I show him my new house, and on the neighbors' recommendation we try out The Italian Joint on SE 32nd and Hawthorne. Good food! I show him Powell's on Hawthorne, he buys some comic books, and we go back to my place to mess around in preparation for the big trip on Sunday.

Late Sunday morning, we departed east on I-84 into the Columbia Gorge. First up is Gresham, a city known for being a bit sketchy (anyone who has ridden the MAX all the way to the end has seen the bars on the windows of the houses there); today, however, we saw some interesting high cloud formations (a9040026 - 30). Troutdale is the next city east from there; it's home to a bunch of outlet stores (a9040031). From here, we were basically out in the wilderness of the Gorge: 65mph speed limits, no cities (a9040032), two lanes of traffic in each direction (a9040038), and weird trucks that you'd never see elsewhere (a9040037). We passed Multnomah Falls (a9040036) and continued along the freeway to Hood River (a9040040 - 43).

Just east of Hood River, I decided to turn off I-84 and see where the Historic Columbia River Highway (US-30) would take us. Back before the feds built the interstate, the only way out of town along the Columbia was a narrow, twisted highway that bounced up and down along the Gorge walls. There were many dark tunnels and even nowadays the drive is a bit dangerous. In any case, there is a spectacular vista point (Crown Point) east of Multnomah Falls along the HCRH; I was hoping that we'd find another one of those out here. Note that as soon as we're out of Hood River, the scenery changes (a9040046) from green to yellow. It is at this point that the trees yield to dried out grass. It was very much like being back home outside of California. (a9040047 - 53)

We reached Rowena Crest, which is a circular lookout point high atop the cliffs along US-30 that's similar to Crown Point... but the views up and down the river are even more spectacular! (a9040054) is the view to the East; many of these pictures are sufficiently good that I might just print, frame and hang them in my house! Jason really went crazy with the photography here, snapping up tons of pictures of the wonderful eastern scenery. I met a mother from La Grande who was on her way home from a convention in Portland; surprisingly, we both remarked that neither of us had ever seen quite so stunning a view. I set up the camera for a panorama going east (rowena_crest_1) and another one looking westward downriver (rowena_crest 2). From our stopping point high up along the Gorge, we saw some really spectacular sights (a9040061 - 73). Imagine having such a rest stop along I-84.

The road away from Rowena Crest and out to The Dalles was fairly uneventful (a9040077 - 81). Jason likes pictures of signs for his own amusement, so there are pictures of speed limits (a9040077), rockslides (a9040078), bicyclists (a9040083) and porn (a9040084). Since it was about noontime, we stopped for a quick burger lunch before striking out even further eastward on I-84. First we saw a dam and lumber stacks along the freeway (a9040085 - 88) before heading back into the brown-yellow hillsides of the Gorge (a9040089 - 96). The goal was to reach US-97 and then turn southward to explore more of eastern and central Oregon.

Road Trip: Ghost Towns, Desert and Fossils

Occurred September 04, 2005 (Permalink)

US-97 is the highway that heads south from the Columbia River through the cities of central Oregon: Bend, Redmond and Madras. We didn't go quite that far, electing instead to go south to Shaniko, which was promoted as a "fully functional ghost town". But, more about that later. The northernmost portion of US-97 is a fairly relaxed ascent into the plateau that comprises the Oregon high desert. The entire set of pictures (a9040097 - 105) was taken along this stretch of about sixty miles; note the smaller, tumbleweed-like plants and the rock formations that, while similar to those on the west side of Mt. Hood, are not covered with moss. Once on the plain, the land becomes flatter and even more desolate; except for the occasional barn or silo, there's really nothing but rolling hills that don't seem to be in use.

Shaniko (offsite) experienced its heyday between 1900 and 1911, when there apparently was a railroad station in this town. We stopped for pictures since we both needed to stretch and figured this would be a good place to grab some shots of old buildings. There are only twenty-five people left in this town, most of whose lives seem to revolve around the hotel (a9040129), the ice cream parlor, touristy stuff (a9040120) and the upkeep of the various museums. We saw a bunch of fake building facades (a9040107) which are supposed to impress tourists...except that they're totally fake (a9040111)!

After discovering this farce of a barbershop, the sheriff of Shaniko pulled up in his horse (a9040108). For a half-second I wondered if he actually had a cruiser to use, but then it occurred to me that there really wasn't much point since it was just as easy to walk all the way across town. In ten minutes. The city hall fire department were equally impressive (a9040109); the last big tower that I'd seen up to that point is the rebuilt San Jose light tower when I was a little kid. The best part, however, was a sign posted at the base of the fire tower: (a9040115). Continuing through town, we saw a bunch of decrepit old stuff: the undertaker's (a9040117), a nasty typewriter (a9040119), and a huge collection of rusty old vehicles (a9040120 - 28). Before leaving, Jason and I stepped into the ice cream parlor, took some pictures of the main street of the town (a9040130) and got back in the car and headed off down the road. Interesting that Shaniko was known in its heyday for trains, yet now the biggest attraction is an old car museum. Much changes in 100 years, it seems.

From Shaniko, US-97 heads westward, while OR-218 heads southwards in the general direction of one of the John Day fossil beds. We started out going south on the latter along a marvelously straight road (a9040131). The scenery was pretty much the same as it had been--gently rolling hills, short trees, and evidence of poor irrigation. About ten miles out of Shaniko, the road began to dip (a9040132 - 35) down from the high desert into a flatter valley (a9040136 - 40). Apparently, the rolling hills and short, choppy hills that we'd seen all along were evidence of ancient mountain ranges, dating back to the days before the Cascade range existed and central Oregon was a tropical paradise with over 100" of rain every year! The final pictures from this set are us driving through and out of the township of Antelope, OR. Not much to see there.

The John Day Fossil Beds are three national parks smack in the middle of Oregon. Each marks the site of ancient lahar flows which roared through the area, burying animals, brush, trees, and anything else that happened to be in the way. The intense pressure of that much mud preserved the image of whatever was buried in the muck, leaving imprints of leaves and tree trunks in solid rock (a9040149, 55, 58, 62, 70)! The cliffs in the area were constructed from layer upon layer of mudflows over a period of many thousands of years. Close examination of the rock face (a9040150) reveals each layer, with a new color and slightly different texture. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, a few million years ago this part of Oregon was warm, wet and much different, geographically.

The curious thing about this bed, as Jason pointed out, was the sharp contrast of the rock on both sides of the highway--to the north is a rock face every bit as sharp and treacherous (a9040151) as the cliffs overlooking the beach in La Jolla. To the south, however (a9040152 - 53) are rolling hills with soft curves! We sat around speculating about what might have caused this, until I noticed a lizard that I simply had to photograph (a9040159 - 60)! Further back in this rock bed there is a trail that we followed up to the base of the rock face; from there, we saw an air column embedded in the rock (a9040168, 77 - 8), a natural rock bridge (a9040157, 69) and various other nooks and crags.

Road Trip: East Towards Idaho

Occurred September 04, 2005 (Permalink)

Our original trip plans involved us driving from John Day southeasterly towards US-26, returning to I-84 via US-395, and going home in a single day. That is nowhere near what actually happened. First of all, we had to go east on OR-218; by this time, the sun was starting to set and it even was getting foggy out here! At one point I arbitrarily decided that it would be a funny idea to drive on the wrong side of the road, so I did (a9040182)! The entire drive to US26, we were heading roughly downhill, which was a good thing because I was starting to get low on gasoline and wasn't sure if I'd make it to an open gas station. There were flat-top buttes along the way (a9040184); Jason captured some phenomenal grey silhouettes at sunset (a9040185).

All of the sudden, we ran into this "Congestion" sign (a9040186). Strange, we thought--there shouldn't be any traffic jams way out in the middle of nowhere. It turns out that this is the 1/4 mile warning that OR-207 is about to fork off and head south to US-26. By this time, we were getting tired of going only 40mph and were hoping to get to some 55mph goodness not found on state roads. So, not really knowing just where 207 would take us, we decided to take it to Mitchell, OR. Jason continued to snap pictures while I drove; we saw more cool looking bluffs (a9040189), partially sunlit scenes (a9040190), and some wonderful cloud swirls (a9040194 - 98) until we started to see a cone mountain ahead of us. Curious, we drove closer and closer (a9040198 - 202) so that Jason could capture the shape and texture of it. I have a strong suspicion that this cone is what remains of what must have been a large volcano eons ago.

Finally, we reached US-26 and once again turned eastward to chase the nighttime (a9040204). Jason noticed the red rust stripes along the side of the road that reminded him of the scenes along I-84 last February; he continued snapping pictures of the sunset (a9040205 - 17) until it became too dark to take proper car photos. Running out of gas and food, we sped eastward towards the next town, Dayville, OR. Luckily, we found an open gas station and a friendly old lady who told us that we could find some food in Mt. Vernon, OR. I finally had drained the tank of the crap gas that had been making the engine ping for the last 150 miles and loaded up on premium.

Food was to be found at a redneck bar along US-26 across from a motel full of rough-looking bikers. Cruising in at 20:30 in a foreign car, it was plainly obvious that we were city slickers (as opposed to Red necks), so we slipped into the bar and sat down warily. To our right were a bunch of people minding their own business; to the left was a couple that were getting drunker and more belligerent by the moment. Jason and I ordered some burgers and sat down to watch the entertainment: the two drunks. Over in the next room, the real proprietor of the establishment was playing a loud game of one-upmanship with another local while shooting pool; his unfortunate stand-in was a woman who seemed nervous around the drunks.

The drunks: a husband and his wife. He, obviously astonished that anybody could possibly stand taller than five feet off the ground, wandered over to me and tried to make himself as tall as I, oblivious to the fact that (a) he was several inches shorter and (b) he wasn't sober enough to stand up straight if somebody hung him up with a pole. "Whoa! You're so tall!" he kept rambling, first at my shoulder and later in the general direction of a bottle of rum. He would loudly announce some crazy conquest of his while she shook her head, snorting that all of it was hogwash and bull. They would egg each other on, drink, and the tales kept getting taller and taller. Surely this competition had to go somewhere...

Finally, the wife had enough and challenged her husband to a drinking contest. Mind you, both were visibly drunk and having problems remaining in their seats. The bartender was too meek to throw them out (it was likely that simply cutting them off would not suffice), so the wife began barking orders for some sort of flaming drink. They asked for shot glasses and three types of heavy liquor, including some 151 (which they didn't have). The next step was to fill a mug with beer about halfway (the wife told the bartender to help her cheat by giving the guy more beer), set the alcohol in the shot glass on fire (which didn't happen because the 101 wasn't potent) and drink. Try as they might, they couldn't ignite the hard alcohol (insufficient content); finally, the wife became impatient, dropped the whole mess into the beer and shouted "CHUG!" Down went the beer, rum, liquor and vodka. Amazingly, they finished together, collapsing against each other. We paid our bill and left a big tip.

The two of us got back in the car and looked at the map: 160 miles to the Idaho border. I'd never been to Idaho before, so we made a split-second decision: make a run for it to Idaho! It was well after 21:00 and quite dark by this time, so I simply drove eastward, hoping that I wouldn't fall asleep. About eighty miles out of Mt. Vernon, we stopped again in the vicinity of Brogan Hill for the requisite night photos. Aside from the trees on both sides of the highway, this was a great place to stop, since there was absolutely no city lights anywhere, and one could really use night vision to full advantage. I'm no astronomer and had nary a clue about which stars formed which constellations, but I did get some good unpolluted star pictures! There was pretty much no moon that night, which means that (a9040220 - 27) are really clear. Just standing there at the side of the highway, we saw the Milky Way galaxy and a few shooting stars! Nighttime temperatures were in the mid-40s, so we drove another forty miles and I took the pictures (a9040228 - 30) in the middle of a valley somewhere. By then it was nearly midnight, I was exhausted, and we crept into Ontario, OR to crash for the night at a Super 8.

Road Trip: Boise, Idaho

Occurred September 05, 2005 (Permalink)

Jason and I rolled out of bed rather late on Monday morning and continued on our way towards Boise, Idaho. Since I'd heard that the freeway speed limits in Oregon's neighbor were almost uniformly 75mph, I decreed that I simply had to drive to Boise so that I could drive around at high speeds. Jason, therefore, took pictures of the signage leading out of Ontario (a9050232 - 34) as we left Oregon behind and entered into Idaho (a9050236 - 37). The state looked quite fantastic--rolling hills of yellow, dry grass and what appeared to be small ranches and farms as far as the eye can see. The area had a feel that was vaguely unfamiliar: though the landscape resembled that of California in the summertime, the small farms along the way were very unusual. (a9050238 - 44) were taken along I-84 heading eastward.

When we arrived in Boise, I was surprised by several things. First, I'd had no idea that the southwestern corner of the state was actually quite dry and desert-like. Since childhood, I'd sort of expected the whole state to be full of trees like Western Oregon. Napoleon Dynamite should have prepared me for the aridness of the place. Secondly, it was a surprisingly small town for a state capitol. You could see the capitol building from the freeway (a9050249)! Granted, the only capitols I've ever seen are Virginia's, California's and Massachusetts', but I somehow expect them to be big affairs. I think this makes me a city slicker. :P Anyway, the two of us drove to a parking lot outside the capital building and had a look around. Keep in mind that this was Labor Day, so the downtown areas were quite dead.

As I recall, (a9050252) was a big parking garage with a neat river carved into the brick face. As we approached the capitol building (a9050253), I observed that while that building was built in a style resembling the Georgian/Federalist styles of the 19th century, pretty much all of the surrounding buildings, City Hall included (a9050276), were of a more modern and (usually) ugly variety. I have to admit, however, that the reflectiveness of (a9050260) was rather stunning. Portland has a few of these mirror-like black rectangular boxes downtown in addition to a city hall dwarfed by larger, more boring buildings. Jason decided that he liked flowers better, and went to town taking pictures of the annuals(?) planted outside the capitol: (a9050254 - 59, 64 - 74). We also saw a tribute to Civil War soldiers (a9050261), various flag creations (a9050262 - 3, 73 - 4) and some lone pine trees (a9050271 - 2).

Wandering through the streets of downtown Boise, we noticed a few more strange things. First of all, Wells Fargo has a huge presence in Boise, with buildings covering several city blocks. The one that was obviously a parking garage had a drive-up ATM inside (a9050278) but no street ATM, and a rather curiously worded sign (a9050279). We also saw an empty lot larger than my house (a9050282) and some huge street signs (a9050275, 283). As it was getting to be lunch time, we decided to get back in the car and head out to the countryside in search of lunch. Along the way, I saw one of the last vestiges of the old downtown--a 1920s factory building (a9050286) and the zeroth exit on I-184 (a9050292).

Road Trip: The Idaho Countryside

Occurred September 05, 2005 (Permalink)

From Boise, we took ID-55 northward out of the city towards the Sawtooth Mountains to see the backroads of the state before heading back to Portland. Boise, like nearly all American cities with any hope of survival, has a bunch of the dreaded suburbs growing up all around the city proper, and this is what Eagle, ID is all about. Wide roads for SUVs (a9050293 - 98), Albertson's with gas stations (a9050296) and surprisingly heavy traffic, given that downtown was plainly dead. From there, we headed up into the mountains (a9050299 - 311) that continued the yellow and brown coloring scheme. One steep mountain pass later, we found ourselves pulling into Horseshoe Bend, Idaho.

Horseshoe Bend has an amusing little geographical feature that only becomes apparently from an aerial view (offsite): the Payette River bends around the town like a horse shoe! We turned left on ID-52 and followed the Payette River downstream to Black Canyon Dam (a9050313 - 326). At one point on the drive, a police cruiser pulled out in front of us and began to drive down the road at exactly the speed limit. This was obviously frustrating to the guy behind us, who came flying down the 55mph road at about 65, saw the cruiser, and knew that there was simply no use in passing, even if we'd let him. As soon as the cop turned off, he flew down the road, engine roaring all the way. The reservoir hiding behind the dam was a stunningly blue break from the mountain colors that we'd been seeing for the last 200 miles.

We stopped for lunch at a Mexican place in Emmett, Idaho (a9050327). The food was fairly good (Mexican farm workers settle at least as far north as Idaho, apparently) as there were real Mexicans sitting inside having lunch! Unfortunately, it seems that the proprietor of this dining establishment had had problems with people passing bad checks in the past--the corkboard next to the cash register had nearly three dozen of them pinned up! Public humiliation is alive and well, it seems.

From Emmett, we headed westward on ID-52 to US30 and went back to I-84 westbound. Along the way, we noticed that, unlike the vast expanses of ranches, farms and nothingness in Eastern Oregon, the farms in this state seemed to be a menagerie of ma-and-pa farms and ranches loosely coupled together in a community. (a9050328 - 58). We also saw a freakishly green house (a9050345); why anybody would want to brand their dwelling in such as way escapes me. Perhaps they need to direct airplanes at night. Or scare away the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy crew. Either way, it was a pretty amusing sight to take in. Going west on 84 (a9050356), I had the opportunity to snap a shot of the 75mph speed limit signs (a9050351)--something that we'll never see in Oregon.

Road Trip: Northeastern Oregon

Occurred September 05, 2005 (Permalink)

Heading west on I-84, I took pictures of the sign at the Oregon border (a9050359), a piece of art commemorating the Oregon Trail pioneers (a9050360), and a whole lot of nothingness for about one-hundred fifty miles. The best way to take in this album is simply to look at the album, as there really isn't much to comment on. The Snake River (a9050377) runs along the Idaho/Oregon border and the Union Pacific rail lines run alongside I-84. Baker City, La Grande and Pendleton were pretty much the only cities of note along the freeway; outside of Baker City, we noticed a cop lurking low in the median among the weeds, followed by a pair of cops (a9050405) parked Smokey and the Bandit style about a quarter-mile later. Can you say speed trap?

In the scene depicted by (a9050414), I was struck by the sharp verticalness of the light posts in the chain-up area. Keep in mind that we'd been watching rolling hills and undulating road for nearly two hours at that point, and the staccato of the lights along the sky provided a much needed break. Otherwise, we saw some really nice puffy clouds (a9050416 - 28), more of Oregon's famous state-the-obvious signs (a9050429) and some wonderful pictures of the desert sky as we headed over the last pass before descending into the Gorge (a9050436 - 47). As we were about to find out, the pass was aptly named Deadman Pass.

You know that a slope is going to be steep when they give you not two (a9050439) but three (a9050443) warning signs. They were quite right about this one; from the vista point at the top of Deadman Pass (a9050448 - 62), you can see that the road goes wayyy down into the valley, and on a clear day the view stretches for close to one hundred miles. It was really quite a treat to see the rectangular patches of farm and the desert through which we'd driven the day before just stretching out forever and ever...

...right into the flatlands before the Gorge. This part of the trip stretches between Pendleton and Boardman, OR. There really wasn't much of anything out here other than a lot of power pylons (a9050476) and a ridiculously huge tree farm (a9050468, 69, 72). Here is a map of the area (offsite) for those interested in checking out where we drove.

After that, we found ourselves driving westward on the stretch of I-84 between Boardman and Hood River, OR. The sun was already beginning to set, and we'd just barely reached the Gorge. The highway heads northwesterly to meet the Columbia, which itself curves southwesterly from Washington state (a9050478). The town of Arlington, OR (a9050480), which itself is larger than I thought it would be, lent its granary on the river to a relatively pretty sunset picture. The rock cuts that the highway department had to make to route the freeway are also pretty interesting: layers of brownish volcanic rock interspersed with a layer of white rocks (a9050481, 85). I'm not quite sure what processes produce this effect, but it sure is cool to see it while roaring by at 65mph. A similar thing seems to have happened in (a9050507 - 08). Also, the dam in The Dalles was revisited in (a9050504 - 05).

As frequent visitors to this website should already know, one of the great attributes of living in Portland is the fact that in spite of the city being large enough to keep a young man like myself occupied, the air here is not so smoggy as to obscure the otherwise fabulous sunsets! The scene recorded in (a9050502) is of the setting sun just after it passed behind some clouds; I love the way the shrub in the foreground becomes silhouetted while the clouds themselves take on the same luminosity and texture as a Chinese lantern that one might find at Pier One. A few minutes farther down the road, I took (a9050509), which captured the sun's rays in a picture otherwise quite similar to the first.

While the sun set in the western Gorge, it became plainly obvious that we were once again losing daylight rather rapidly. The entire set from (a9050518 - 35) showcases what a real Oregonian sunset looks like, from the deep dark clouds with bright highlights (a9050535) to golden sky with black mountains (a9050517 - 18, 28 - 29) to bright red and pink dusting of the hills (a9050523). In any case, we were racing the sun to arrive at our last stop before Portland: the ice cave, which we had tried to reach way back in February.

Road Trip: Ice Cave II

Occurred September 05, 2005 (Permalink)

Jason insisted that we try to reach the ice cave that we'd tried to get to back in February. Like last time, the cave is accessible by driving out to Hood River, crossing the bridge (a9050536 - 38) into Washington, driving a mile west on WA-14 (a9050539) and then turning north on WA-141 (a9050541 - 44). The best part? I had the wonderful opportunity to capture the icy slopes of Mt. Adams right as the sun was going down (a9050545 - 46, 48)! This time, however, the trip was much easier, as we didn't have to drive at an absurdly low speed to avoid plowing into a snow bank. We quickly reached the intersection of Forest Road 011 and the road into Gifford Pinchot NF at the end of WA-141 and stopped for pictures (a9050551 - 60).

So we reached the ice cave. It was no more than a half-mile further into the forest than where we stopped last time, only in September there weren't snow drifts several feet in height in the way. There were, of course, informational signs (a9050562 - 63) explaining that there's quite a bit more to explore in the area--lava beds, natural bridges, a prairie, and various hiking trails. Jason and I ventured inside the cave very briefly, snapping pictures of the rocks inside (a9050564 - 73) and the signs outside (a9050574 - 76). We didn't really explore the cave all that deeply, because we lacked the proper safety equipment and, being an ice cave, it was darn cold! Mostly we walked around among the rocks long enough to determine that it was indeed a cave and that, had we climbing gear and hard hats, there's more to see in that cave. This means that a third trip is on the way.

Following that, we ducked out of the cave, drove back to Hood River for dinner, and went home. It was well after dark by the time we got back to civilization so there aren't any pictures at all. Thus ends the epic tale of the Labor Day 2005 road trip!

Steven and Woodley Visit

Occurred September 10, 2005 (Permalink)

Woodley stopped in overnight on his way to see his girlfriend in Bellingham, WA. Steven showed up the Friday after that; we hit the (SE) town, went up to take pictures up on Mt. Tabor, and found an out-of-place looking pasta shop at SE 34th and Hawthorne. Woodley came back the day after _that_, and we drove around and did a quick 7mi hike past Wahkeena Falls to Devil's Rest. We had dinner at Kennedy School and then went home, after which I slipped out to a party at the neighbor's. Woodley and Steven left for home the day after that. I'm not sure what I think of driving here for a weekend getaway, though. Seems to be a lot of overhead.

Chinese Dinner at Legin

Occurred September 17, 2005 (Permalink)

One of my neighbors, Ann, and I went out to dinner at Legin, a local Chinese restaurant at SE 82nd and Division. It seems that I've found the local high-end banquet place. The duck soup was supreme--Peking duck, soupified. We had a six-course dinner which was quite comparable to the better restaurants in San Francisco: squab with lettuce, sticky rice, clams, chow mein, duck soup and Chinese broccoli. That was enough to send both of us home with several days' worth of food. We went to Rimsky-Korsakoffee at SE 12th and Alder for dessert afterwards.

DJ Variance at Pala

Occurred September 22, 2005 (Permalink)

Seth (of Extreme Hiking in Wetsuits fame) announced that he was DJing at Pala tonight, so I went there after the MiPL mingler (I've not been participating due to ongoing house stuff) and relaxed to his strangely relaxing style of slow, undulating music. Were I more synesthetic, I'd say that I could see swirling blue colors. Also met a few of his OHSU friends and a guy and his sister. I danced with her for a while and went home. She was cute and (aside from being a bit tipsy) interesting to talk with.

Road Trip Story Finished

Occurred September 29, 2005 (Permalink)

Also new pictures:

UCSD CS Building Opening

Occurred September 30, 2005 (Permalink)

The new CS building at UCSD finally opened, so I went down to San Diego to have a look around and stay with Jason. New labs, new offices for the department, and Linux machines for the students. Derrick Usher had a camera that night and photographed the event. Highlights of the opening included an open bar, artichoke dip, Mexican food, sushi, boxes of Chinese, and a chocolate fountain. I also managed to see Derrick, Brian and Robin in the space of a single day.

Jason, Derrick and I went wandering through the abandoned parts of the Applied Physics and Math (AP&M) building. Apparently the professors have been stuck on thick Ethernet (i.e. coax) all this time! Some even had 1960s era telephone jacks in their offices. The old labs where we spent four years of our lives were totally empty and abandoned at that point, with only suspicious dents in the floor to mark where there once had been computers and smelly undergrads. We'll see what they come up with next for those floors.

After dropping Derrick at the train station, Jason and I met up with Robin (offsite) for dinner at Capriccio's, an Italian restaurant in Mira Mesa that she likes. She had her Sinatra music on her iPod, and we drove out to the restaurant singing along with them, dropped into some amusing chatter over dinner, and then went back to her place just in time for Brian to arrive! I'd foolishly forgotten to notify him that I'd be visiting for a day, so once Robin tipped him off that I'd be in town, he got in his Herbie and roared down I-5 to San Diego. Jason went home to pack for Yosemite, and the three of us who were left went for a ride in Brian's Herbie. We ended up acting like a bunch of bored college students at a Denny's out by I-15 before finally crashing back homeward.

To Merced!

Occurred October 01, 2005 (Permalink)

Early Saturday morning, Jason and I got in a plane and flew up to Sacramento. We went to his parents' house, relieved them of their camping gear, and several sets of wheels. We then toured around his old stomping grounds for a bit before swinging south on CA-99 towards Merced with the intent of camping in Yosemite for two days and getting to see Steph's new digs. Unfortunately, due to slowness on our part, we didn't get to Merced until shortly after six. That gave us enough time to get lost enough to notice that the town had distinct sections: old grid on one side of a river, and curvy new nonsense on the other side.

Once there, we drove to Steph's apartment, unloaded our stuff in her living room, and scouted about for a place to have dinner with her. She suggested a Chinese restaurant in the old part of town, so the three of us went there. The restaurant is located a block or two off the main drag of the town in a fairly old-looking building. The food was pleasant, though I've had better noodles (in San Francisco :P). Steph took us on a quick walking tour of downtown Merced: an old movie theater in the process of being renovated, various small shops, coffee houses, a few historical landmarks, and more than a few old looking buildings. I was quite impressed by the cozy feel of the downtown area: not only did it only cover a few square blocks, but it felt quite odd to think that one could reasonably cover the entire area on foot! I liked it a lot, though I wonder what sort of effect the (coming) onslaught of new students is going to do.

After dinner, the three of us piled into Jason's car and drove out to the hilly countryside to the east. Steph showed us a lighted blob in the middle of farmland; this, she proclaimed, was the entirety of UC Merced. Next, we drove out to Lake Yosemite, only to be shooed out by a park ranger, and decided to head straight out of town on G Street into the foothills. After some time, I said that it was dark enough to engage in some stargazing! I must say that the area is quite good for looking at space--with few sources of light, it's even easier to see the stars than it is in outer Hillsboro (Oregon). Jason brought a tripod, so I was able to capture long-exposures with relative ease. Among the more interesting photographs: a long exposure while a car sped past the camera (aa010009) and the view back to Merced (aa010005).

A quick word about the pictures from this trip: Any photo ending in 'a.jpg' was taken on Jason's camera; all others were taken on mine.

Ascent to Yosemite

Occurred October 02, 2005 (Permalink)

The next day (Sunday), we were lazy and got up late enough to have a wonderful Sunday brunch at McDonalds. The plan for the day was to drive to Yosemite, set up some semblance of camp and go biking around the valley with Steph. Regrettably, we didn't depart from Merced until about 13:00, and it turned out that the road from Merced to Yosemite (CA-140) was a lot longer and curvier than I remembered it being. The road was fraught with peril, though Steph and I got up there just fine. Jason, however, was starting to feel funny in his car o' loot, so we stopped just inside the park.

The first rest stop in miles, coincidentally, is just inside the park, and that is where we shall begin the biking in Yosemite album. There is a pullout off the road and a bathroom consisting of a stone edifice containing a toilet and a big pit underneath the toilets. This gave Jason and I the chance to hop out of the cars, relieve our pent up road anxiety, and take some pictures of the surrounding ridges (aa020011a - 15) and of our cars (aa020013a, 16). A little further into the park, Jason got some awesome shots of Half Dome enshrouded in clouds (aa020017a - 18a) and the North Dome (aa020019a).

After checking into our campsite at Upper Pines, the three of us unloaded the car, set up enough of a camp to make it easy to come back and crash in the evening, and got the bikes ready. Yosemite Valley is covered with paved bike trails, which makes getting around the park quite easy. We three rode around the eastern edge of the valley before heading back westward towards the less secluded parts of the area. Along the way, we stopped in a meadow to take a nearly 360 degree panorama of the valley (aa020022a - 30a). Eventually, I will stitch together the panoramas from this trip, but that will take a while.

Further down the bike paths, Jason encountered a brightly lit canopy of tree parts. The different overlapping shades of green had attracted his attention a few months earlier at Rock Creek Park near Georgetown; Yosemite's trees captured his attention in a similar manner (aa020031a - 33a). We continued our westward trek to the base of Yosemite falls, only to discover that it was not flowing and there was nary a trickle of water to be seen coming out of it (aa020034a), only waterstains (aa020036a). By then I was getting a bit sleepy, so we stopped to rest and photograph ourselves to prove that we had been there. On the way out, Jason pondered how a squirrel could race vertically up a tree and took (aa020044a) to study the effect. I snapped a few more pictures of the scenery and snuck in one of Steph and Jason in profile.

Sadly, that was pretty much all the sightseeing that we got to do that afternoon. Though there was at least a few more hours of daylight left, Steph announced that she wanted to get going home early to avoid driving down the curves at night. We rode over to Yosemite Lodge, only to receive the shock of a lifetime--not only has Delaware North taken over the management of the park, but now the eateries really suck! I ended up eating a plate of pasta rolled in pesto. No, not pesto pasta, but pasta rolled in pesto sauce! The only alternative was a spendy restaurant. Stupid concessionaires. Old Town San Diego is going to suck. (Heck, it already does since they threw out everything worth seeing there...)

It turns out that the Yosemite deer come out to feed around 18:00 each evening. Jason had the camera after dinner, and he came up with a few snapshots of the animals eating (aa020050a - 54a). I was some ways down the road, stuck between two families of deer and not really knowing how to get out of it. I figured that if I simply watched them, they'd eventually go back to eating and wander away at some point. They did, at which point Steph and Jason rode up and asked if I'd seen the deer. I merely pointed at their retreating behinds.

The sun had set and it was getting very cold very quickly. Jason built a fire, I set up more of camp, and the three of us enjoyed the sudden warmth until Steph decided to go home (well after dark, no less). I took out the tripod and took a few pictures... but I'll save the discussion thereof for later. Eventually I started to feel rather cold and decided to hit the sack.

Morning Serenity

Occurred October 03, 2005 (Permalink)

Late the next morning, I groggily crawled out of a nice warm sleeping bag into some shockingly cold morning air! It was nearly 8:30am, and Jason grumpily explained that he'd been up long enough to get yelled at by a park ranger for trying to light a morning fire. Apparently, campfires are only allowed between 17:00 and 22:00. Thus cold, we hastily got up, grilled ourselves a quick hot breakfast (sausage and cheese wrapped in tortillas) and got ready. Since it was still quite cold, we decided that the time was ripe for a morning drive around the valley with the heater on full blast.

The first place we came to was the meadow in which I had captured a panorama the previous afternoon. Since the lighting was way better in the morning, I decided that it would be interesting to take another panorama from essentially the same spot (aa030056a - 62a). From this spot, there were some great vistas of many of the main geological features of the park: Yosemite Falls (aa030066a), North Dome (aa030067a), and lots of trees (aa030068a). Regrettably, the sun was near enough Half Dome that I didn't even try for a picture. Apparently, the meadow that we were standing in (aa030069a) was one of the park's campgrounds before a 1997 flood that washed everything out.

Continuing on our westward trek, we drove from Upper Pines out to another meadow in the vicinity of Yosemite Lodge. Jason and I decided to grab shots of the lone yellow tree among a whole forest of evergreens; this sight proved so strange that I saw fit to photograph it myself! (aa030089a, aa030071a). Like so many of the other flatlands at the bottom of the Yosemite Valley, this spot revealed spectacular views up and down the valley, including Sentinel Rock (aa030075a, 79a), dead milkweed and other plants (aa030077a). Jason and I were still sharing a camera at that point, so many of the pictures from (aa030078a - aa030090a) are the same as before. Before leaving, however, Jason zoomed way in the flowering cotton of a couple of milkweed plants (aa030091a - 92a).

A short distance down the road, we found a rest stop with a good view of El Capitan (aa030093a). It was still fairly cool outside, so Jason and I decided that it would be a good day to strike out for Hetch Hetchy reservoir on the other side of the park. Meanwhile, there were some nifty views to be had while we were stopped for a rest: gnarled, weathered rock points (aa030094a), a daytime silhouette of a tree (aa030097a) and a few more shots of El Capitan (aa030099a).

To get to Hetch Hetchy Valley from Yosemite, one goes westward out of the latter valley, turns northward on a road that skirts the western edge of the park, follows CA-120 in a northwesterly direction, and finally turns onto the one and only road that goes to the reservoir. (aa030100a - 125) were taken along the first expanse of Big Oak Flat Road that climbs out of the Yosemite valley twoards a place aptly named Foresta.

Foresta Out to Hetch Hetchy

Occurred October 03, 2005 (Permalink)

As I might've mentioned earlier, to get to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir from Yosemite, one heads westward out of the valley onto the road that goes to CA-120. Around the first bend on this road is Foresta, a place (probably) named for what it once used to be: trees. Many years ago, however, a huge fire must have come ripping through this area, for there were numerous blackened leafless trunks all over the place. At the same time, however, there were many smaller trees and shrubs growing on the ground, suggesting that the the fire was not any time recent. Most likely, they simply let the fire burn until it burned itself out and left what we see in the pictures (aa030126a - 27a).

We stopped at the trailhead to Tamarack Flat, just above Crane Creek for some pictures of the trees (aa030128a) and the rocks (aa030129a). The area was rather intriguing visually, for the lack of trees gave it a certain eerie quality--everything below shrub-line was green and lush, yet everything above it was certifiably dead. In any case, the remnants of the dead trees (aa030137) were quite spectacular bony things to look at, and the panoramic view was awesome (aa030138a - 57a)! I particularly liked the y-shape of (aa030159a). For some reason, the most intriguing tree forms are always in the strangest and remote places...

Behind the trees were outcroppings of granite rocks (aa030161 - 64) and a recently toppled tree. I'd gotten accustomed to seeing the same sort of volcanic ash that's all over the Portland area, and granite was a welcome break from that. It seems odd to me that granite would seem so unusual, but I suppose I've been in Oregon for quite a while now. Near the granite was a big 180-year old pine tree that had been cut into several pieces (aa030165 - 74), perhaps by the same thunderstorms that had torn through the area two weeks previously and touched off numerous fires around the park? Before leaving, I captured one of the signs explaining the geological processes underway in the area (aa030175).

From there, we basically headed right up CA-120 towards the western edge of the park. Amusingly, the path to Hetch Hetchy took us out of the park and we had to re-enter! The road back into the park, Evergreen Road, branches off CA-120 just over the border. We noticed that there were a lot of shot-out road signs (aa030176), but that the treelines following the road were quite wonderful out here (aa030177 - 78). Not quite like Oregon where they log up to 15 feet away from the highways.

Cows (aa030179)! Since the road cut through private land, we went through a cattle ranch which had cows lazily grazing away next to the road (aa030180 - 2). The road also went over the property of a guy who had sprayed "SPEED 20MPH" on the asphalt. Finally, we started to head back to the signs of civilization: bridges (aa030183), signage (aa030184 - 5) and a day camp. Apparently, the city of San Francisco has a summer camp for children way out here (aa030186)-- Camp Mather. The place had been closed up, so we simply drove through it, laughed at the sign (aa030187) and pressed on back into the park. The pretty young ranger in the park looked somewhat cramped in her booth, and Jason and I wondered how many people she got to see in a day. Probably no more than fifty. After a few more miles of twists and turns, we arrived at the intended destination--Hetch Hetchy Reservoir!

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Occurred October 03, 2005 (Permalink)

We made it to O'Shaughnessy Dam! In the early 1910s, the city of San Francisco deemed that they needed a reservoir high in the mountains to supply them with drinking water. After much cantankerous debate about whether or not to build in Hetch Hetchy or Yosemite Valley, the Tuolumne River was cut off, flooding Hetch Hetchy Valley into what we have today (pa030198 - 201a). For the price of admission into the park, one can drive up to the dam, walk around on the top (pa030355), and hike the trails around the reservoir for some awesome views!

Jason parked and, after a quick lunch, we went exploring. It seems that the downspout of the dam is aimed at a rock formation (pa030205a - 06a, 239a, 255, 366a). Above the dam, there's also a spillway (pa030208, 200) for excess water to run off. Smack in the middle of the dam are brass plates identifying when, who, and why the various sections of dam were built (pa030218a - 22), and a rectangular structure with a water depth gauge tacked to the side (pa030216a). Oddly enough, there was also a USGS marker on the north end of the dam (pa030356).

On the other side of the dam sat the trailheads for the trails that wandered around the reservoir--the only good way to see Hetch Hetchy without climbing Smith Peak or needing to engage in strenuous exercise. Oddly enough, one actually needs a parking permit (pa030194) to stop in the area; ours was No. 25. We wondered if the pretty but bored-looking young woman working the entrance saw more than fifty people per day in such a remote location. In any case, this album is perhaps the most massive of all the albums from this trip; to cut a long story short, we walked across the dam and took pictures of the area above (pa030196 - 228) and below (pa03212, pa03232a - 33a), through a tunnel (pa030242a, 46a, 54a, 57 - 61) and out the other side. We then circumnavigated the reservoir for nearly a mile, stopping frequently to photograph the beautiful granite rock formations further east (pa030272a), intriguing displays of the cliffs cut into the rocks by whatever glaciers moved through here eons ago (pa030273a), and westward back at the dam (pa030295). Truthfully, the pictures evoke the vastness and solitude of the area far more adroitly than I could in words.

There are, however, a few pictures that I'm particularly fond of. (pa030320) captures the deep blue hue of the algae-free water, the cloud miles behind the mountains, and the local tree life almost as well as my own eyes. Jason snapped a rather good picture of myself photographing that scene (pa030300a). The clouds hiding behind the granite protrusion beneath Smith Peak reminds me of the Anaheim Angels' team logo (pa030284). Jason happened upon a few tufts of clouds floating over the cliffs on the north side of the valley (pa030273a). (pa030304a) shows the damn in the late afternoon, and (pa030358) is a wonderful reminder of the effects that man-made structures have on an otherwise remote and natural setting. As we drove away, I couldn't help but feel a strong sense of contentment, having spent the afternoon doing nothing but observing nature being ... natural. No hustle, no fuss, no people (other than Jason). It was very, very relaxing.

Also, don't forget to take a look at the individual frames of the panoramas that we took from various points around the reservoir.

Back to the Valley

Occurred October 03, 2005 (Permalink)

Since it was starting to get dark (at 16:00!), Jason and I decided that it would be a really good idea to drive back to Yosemite. Lucky for us, that means that we hit CA-120 entrance to the valley smack in the middle of the sunset, yielding awesome photos! (aa030369) was taken looking eastward from Big Oak Flat Road and (aa030373) was taken looking south. There were plenty of gorgeous vistas, though it was a tad disappointing that there were few places to stop, and they were the same ones we'd stopped at in the morning. I did, however, capture pictures of some rocks (aa030377), cloudscapes (aa030378) and a forest (aa030380).

Once back in the valley (aa030381), we stopped outside Curry Village to take some more pictures to compare the morning with the evening. For some reason, the light meter in my camera didn't seem to be doing a terribly good job here, as the sky was not nearly as bright blue as the camera would have us believe. The evening sky afforded me some wonderful backdrops against the Eastern sky, however--observe the lavender hues around Sentinel Dome (aa030395) and Half Dome (aa030396). I also practiced the art of capturing silhouettes (aa030397, 398, 401 - 03, 09) and experimented with the shutter/aperture settings on the camera (aa0303405 - 408). It should be noted that, despite the blur of the six-second exposure, none of the vehicles in question were moving faster than thirty miles per hour.

After another luxurious dinner, we headed back to camp and I fed my nighttime photography habit. Our campground was in the middle of a clearing, but still surrounded by trees; this inhibited my ability to see the stars. As a result, the star pictures suck, but there are a few good ones, like the ones of a conveniently placed stop sign (aa020414a, aa020420a), the bathroom (aa030424) and a bus (aa030425) driving by.

Packing Out

Occurred October 04, 2005 (Permalink)

Tuesday morning, as we packed up to leave, a dark blue raven flew by our campsite! We'd wisely packed up all our food beforehand, so the bird ignored us and hopped over to the neighbors' campsite. They'd left bits of food and crumbs lying all over the place, thus the opportunistic scavenger ate it all up. I bet the rangers hate it when this happens, but I got some good pictures nonetheless.

Shortly thereafter, we finished cramming all our junk into the car, checked out of the campground, and went westward towards Glacier Point. Jason wanted a picture of the Ahwahnee Hotel shield (aa040444 - 45), but after that we drove straight up out of the valley along Wawona Road. We stopped at Tunnel View for some truly fabulous pictures of the Yosemite Valley (aa040446 - 50)--it's truly spectacular how the granite walls tower over the trees and make them seem to be quite tiny! It was at this point that I was finally able to capture a most splended picture of El Capitan (aa040448), and behind us, the view up the south rock face (aa040451 - 52). Further along the road, we turned off yet again for a view of a granite bulge (aa040456, 57) and some pine cones (aa040460). Fearing that Jason was going to deck me for taking too many pictures again, I shut off the camera and decided to hang on for the ride up to Glacier Point.

Like any road that climbs several thousand feet out of a valley (we counted about 3,200 from the campsite up to the Point), CA-41 is quite a twisty, steep drive. We figured that since Glacier Point Road closes in the wintertime, we were probably in for quite a bit of green-faced driving. Surprisingly, this turned out to be untrue: after we turned eastward on Glacier Point road, the road curved for a few more miles until it was atop a ridge; the drive was fairly smooth after that. It followed the ridge through a narrow channel of trees past the Badger Pass ski resort, the Bridalveil Creek trailhead and plenty of spectacular views all the way to Glacier Point.

Glacier Point

Occurred October 04, 2005 (Permalink)

Glacier Point is an outcropping of rocks sitting high atop the southern wall of Yosemite Valley right where the Merced river turns westward to head out of the park. The signs posted (aa040461a, 62a, 69) in the area indicate that we were at an altitude of 7,200 feet. From this point, which actually stretches one quarter of a mile inland from the cliff, one can see nearly everything in the eastern half of the park (aa040478 - 482)--an angle of view spanning nearly 270 degrees! There wasn't much activity to be had here; we simply ran around snapping pictures of practically everything in sight.

Half Dome, it seems, is quite a bit more disc-shaped than I'd ever thought (aa040463a, 64a, 531 - 2, 509, 510a, 474, 513, 518, 528); though it looks perfectly circular from the valley floor, the backside of it is surprisingly flat. The three large waterfalls are also visible: Vernal (aa040471a), Nevada (aa040465a) and Yosemite (aa040496a, 505, 517). Looking eastward, one can see all the way up Yosemite Valley into Tenaya Canyon (aa040476, 520, 489), southeasterly at the Sierras (aa040487, 88), downwards at the valley (aa040497a, 508, 498a, 500a, 512a, 514a) and southeast at ... whatever's out there (aa040534, 536, 537). The domes to the northeast of the valley are plainly visible on a level trajectory, too (486a, 519, 490, 529).

As for the point itself, it looks like this: (aa040501a, 503a, 504a, 511, 516a, 522). A series of precariously positioned edges, this rock seems to be stable enough that several people have climbed out to the edge in the days before liability insurance. In the past, the Point was a major tourist attraction, hosting a full-service hotel, skiing and hiking. The environmental damage wrought by these activities, however, lead the park service to decline to rebuild much more than a gift shop after the hotel burned down decades ago. Though the 10,000 foot summits of the Sierra Nevadas at the end of the park may seem thoroughly impressive, a plaque put up by the park service informed us that at one point there was so much ice on the ground that Half Dome was buried under nearly 1,000 feet of ice! Four thousand, five hundred feet of ice!

I noticed a curious thing, too--there were a lot of youngish looking people wandering around the place, speaking in foreign tongues. One of the languages that I caught was German; evidently, their school systems are on a much different schedule. However, it was getting to be lunchtime, and we were hungry. In addition, we had to be back in Merced by 16:30 to meet Steph. On our way out, I took pictures of the road (aa040538 - 43) and the haze (aa040544 - 46).

To Merced via Wawona

Occurred October 04, 2005 (Permalink)

I do not recommend taking the southern road out of Yosemite. We saw a curly-queue sign warning about 25mph speed limits (aa040555) soon after turning of Glacier Point Road... and a bunch more just like it. This is never a good sign when driving down a road with a car packed to the gills with camping, biking and other equipment. There was an information sign about the horrors of smog (aa040548), and we noticed a large number of piles of dead foliage by the side of the road (aa040549, 53, 54). The road curved, and curved, and curved, and by the time we made it to a gas station in Wawona, we were both ready to get out of the car and de-scramble our brains.

So we stopped at Wawona, which is a resort / golf course at the very southern edge of Yosemite park. First, we got gas (it was very strange to have to get out to pump our own), and then proceeded to the golf shop at the hotel for some sandwiches. I must say, the sandwiches were pretty good for pre-packaged ones. After lunch, Jason and I proceeded into the restrooms... to be greeted by a beautifully restored turn-of-the century bathroom! They had the waist-high carved panelling, the black and white tiled floor, and the ornate fixtures that I most assuredly wish that I had in my bathroom! Now green with jealousy, I hopped back in the car and we resumed our course southward on the gas station attendant's advice that CA-41/49/140 were of "highway speeds" and not nearly as curvy.

Our course was as follows: CA-41 southwards out of the park for many miles, then westerly as the road curved out to meet CA-49. Turn northwards in some random town (Oakhurst, I'm told) just west of Bass Lake, then north on CA-41 (aa040556) to Mariposa. One sharp turn to the left later, and we were heading west on CA-140 back to Merced (aa040557 - 65). This was truly what I was itching to see one more time: the California countryside. Yellow, dry grass, semi-rusty farming equipment, domestic pickup trucks, and nothingness for miles and miles! The itch had begun in early August when I looked out from the side of Mt. Hood and saw the yellow and brown land of Eastern Oregon, been partially quenched a month later when Jason and I went to Boise, and totally satiated here and now! Huzzah!

UC Merced

Occurred October 04, 2005 (Permalink)

The next stop: UC Merced. This campus, the newest of the UC system, had literally begun operations a month before, on Labor Day! Since Steph was now working as an academic advisor at the school, it seemed only natural that we should go over there and have a look around. I called her on our way back and had the following exchange: "Which building should we meet you at?" "What do you mean, which building? There's only one!" Since we were still thirty miles out of Merced at that point, we had time for a few more hijinks: racing an Amtrak train (aa040566 - 68) and photographing UC Merced's parking receipts (aa040569 - 70). Apparently we bought ours from the very first parking meter! (I wonder if there's a #0000000?)

Turns out, Steph was right on the money: the only finished building on campus is the Chancellor's Compound/Library building (aa040576). There are a bunch of flatter apartments for continuing students... but no freshman dorms. The frosh can live a life of luxury in on-campus apartments that don't have kitchens; as is the norm for the UC system, one must go to the cafeteria (aa040574) or face starvation. Steph met us in the parking lot; the three of us rode the campus shuttle down the campus road, past the student dwellings, and up to the academic buildings. Steph pointed out the the Science and Engineering building (aa040575, 77) which was heavily under construction, and expressed a hope that it will be done before spring semester. We then got to see her office (aa040578 - 80), the library (aa040581 - 86), and the arid, dusty, empty lands all around the school. Apparently this site was a golf course in a former lifetime, which explains the random fountain (aa040573) in the middle of a pond. For certain, it's quite exciting to witness the birth of a brand new university (aa040583, 90, 91); later, I told Steph that this was a fabulous place to learn what many other counselors will never experience for themselves: everything that goes into building a university from scratch!

After showing us the wonderfully plush suede chairs, the noise cancellation device outside the Chancellor's office (aa040592 - 93) and the carpet outside the building (aa040594 - 95), it was getting close to time to go. I snapped a few more pictures of the campus as the sun began to set; I'm particularly impressed with how well picture (aa040598) came out.

Crashing once again at Steph's place for the night, Jason and I cleaned ourselves up a bit and headed out to dinner. This night, she picked a Mexican restaurant in the nearby town of Atwater; I was rather amused that when we walked in, someone had left the TV on the Oxygen network (offsite); within a minute of our arrival, one of the staff deftly flicked it to some sporting match. Since we were the only ones in the place, we giggled about that, told all sorts of weird tales, and generally had ourselves a wonderful time. That night I listened to the trains roaring through the town in the middle of the night and thought about how relaxing it is to hear the occasional train whistle in the distance.

In the morning, we packed up and went our separate ways: Steph to meet Brian in Las Vegas, and the two of us back to Sacramento. Jason and I sorted our stuff and that afternoon I flew back to Portland.

Jason Visits

Occurred October 22, 2005 (Permalink)

On October 22nd, Jason flew up to Portland for a weekend to see a Blazers/Kings preseason game and to hang out with me. He arrived early Saturday afternoon; because I was a stingy bastard who took the MAX to the airport, we had a few minutes to kill photographing the interiors of the trains (aa220001 - 07). Since I was still sick of photography after the Yosemite trip, Jason took all the pictures... which included this cool mirage of a woman and child trapped in a cage at the airport (aa220008). After grabbing my car, we went down to Hawthorne for a quick lunch at the pizza shop at SE 37th and Hawthorne; after that, we went to Hanna's place for her housewarming party. She has a newly renovated condo right off Hawthorne in the 20s; it seems to be quite a nice place! We marvelled at her new appliances for a while and then went downtown.

Downtown, we met Alexis and her husband James for a quick dinner before the game. For lack of any better ideas, we ended up at Jax (no surly waitress this time!) before catching the MAX to the Rose Garden Arena. Since Jason, Alexis and James are rabid Kings fans, they were allowed to hoot, cheer and make catcalls at the players (aa220012 - 34). The (expected) outcome: Kings win by a wide margin, and the three of them go away happy. I'm no basketball fan, so I didn't particularly care. Most of the Portland fans around us seemed intent upon taunting the Blazers, if that demonstrates anything. Springfield Isotopes suck.

After the game, Alexis and James took off (early morning quading on the coast) and Jason and I went down to Rimsky-Korsakoffee for some after-dinner sweets. The desserts were good and the girls pretty, just like last time. :) I think we went home and slept after that. Though, I did have a more thorough look around the Rimsky-Korsakofee site this time--the building was once a grand old 1890s mansion, though the cafe conversion process seems to have killed off a rather large quantity of open space. In any case, the bathrooms there are terrible. I also showed Jason the abandoned Washington High across the street.

The next day, we struck it out for the coast. We went to Grand Central Bakery on SE 22nd and Hawthorne for quite a delicious brunch; after that, we packed the kite in the trunk and went off to the coast for some flying (aa230035 - 41)! We passed through Seaside and headed up to Astoria, where we crossed the US-101 bridge (aa230046 - 48) into Washington and went up to Cape Disappointment (aa230051). Truly a disappointing site, the Cape consists of a building covered with scaffolding and a lighthouse that we couldn't get into. Good thing that we forgot (aa230052) to pay for the parking (aa230053). Oops.

Jason did see some interesting sights, however: slugs (aa230054, 59 - 60); a particularly pretty picture of the lighthouse (aa230058) and a seascape (aa230055). He fed his sign picture fetish (aa230061, 62) and back to Astoria we went (aa230063). I tried in vain to find Fort Clatsop, where Bonnie and I had gone just a year before, so that I could fly the kite, but alas, the fates were against us: Fort Clatsop burned down two weeks previously and the signs for it had all been removed. Thus disappointed, we drove back to Portland by way of US-30 through Longview, WA, and ended up following the same route that we had taken back in February. Jason turned green with envy when he saw what we were paying at the pump (aa230068), so I quickly diverted his attention away by ducking into a Chinese restaurant (Wong's King at SE 87th and Division) and ordering dinner. That was pretty much the end of his weekend, since he was due to fly out at 6:20 Monday morning.

Equinox

Occurred October 28, 2005 (Permalink)

This month's Friday Night Supper Club was held at Equinox (offsite) in NoPo. The driver of the bus that I took to get there deliberately drove off with some poor guy's bicycle! What a jerk. Anyway, about the restaurant: I had some extraordinarily tasty flank steak and the most sinful chocolate cream! Yum...

Day of the Dead Party

Occurred November 06, 2005 (Permalink)

Today, I threw a Day of the Dead party at my house. I invited all the neighbors and various East Side friends and treated them all to the most delicious spread of dim sum from Legin restaurant. Roast chicken, squab cups, shrimp, beef, chicken, chicken chow fun, rice noodles--we had it all! Ann and Pete brought over a vast quantity of wine, and a merry time was had by all. Can't wait for the Thanksgiving party!

500 Days in Oregon

Occurred November 10, 2005 (Permalink)

Woohoo! Today is my five hundredth day living in Oregon!

Doesn't Oregon rule? I'm jealous...

YES! Too bad it's too cold for hiking and too dry for snow shoeing...just you wait for January, and I can go hog-wild in the snow.

Bluehour

Occurred November 18, 2005 (Permalink)

This month's Friday Night Supper Club was at Bluehour in the Pearl district. Quite a blessing for it to be right off the 20-Burnside, though I missed the last one going home and ended up riding the MAX and walking up the hill. Discovered that east of NE 69th is where one really gets blasted by the winds from the Gorge.

Thanksgiving Party

Occurred November 26, 2005 (Permalink)

Ooof. The third dinner is now over; I had Dave, Lara, Rick, Ana, Justin, Eliza, CJ and Cheryl over for Thanksgiving dinner tonight. We had mashed potatoes, yams, liquor-and-apple roasted turkey, salad ... and a lot of wine. I can't remember the rest. Oh, and there were a lot of pies: pecan as baked by Lara and Rick, apple from Eliza, and pumpkin by me. I also made corn bread.

Badger Badger Badger in Portland

Occurred November 29, 2005 (Permalink)

Jeff Waugh of the Ubuntu Linux (offsite) project gave a talk for the PLUG at Portland State tonight. Hot on the heels of the release of the October '05 "Breezy Badger" Ubuntu release, Jeff spent six weeks travelling the world to tell people about where GNOME has gone, to showcase various cool features that will (some day) end up in GNOME, and to extoll the virtues of all thing Ubuntu.

Mr. Waugh's talk began with the age-old explanation of the dumbing-down that has been going on in GNOME since the 1.4 days--the usual straw-man dialog box overburdened with options, most of whch the user will never touch. Contrast that pokey mess with a modern GNOME app, where all options that can be taken care of with the mandate "Do the right thing(tm)." suffices. Way cool, though I think that some things (metacity mouse button assignments and screen-edge snapping) ought to be at the least tuned and/or turned into gconf preferences. The next part of the GNOME presentation dealt with new features that they hope will end up in a proper release some time in the future--Beagle's search capabilities (way cool, but a bit of a memory hog), various applications of GStreamer: a videoconferencing system that was quite cool, and various AV timing improvements, and a bunch of other things that I don't remember. If anyone wants to see the presentation, look up "Running with Scissors"; it was presented at OSCON in Portland last summer.

Next came the Ubuntu presentation. Waugh covered the fact that Breezy Badger had just been released (and the PLUG people stated that there were thousands of CD packs, courtesy of shipit.ubuntu.com); he also talked a bit about some of the community that has sprung up around Ubuntu (including the way cool but outdated Ubuntu Guide (offsite)) and the enormous amount of awards and commendations from people who use it. As a heavy Ubuntu user myself, I heartily attest to the fact that Ubuntu really does "just work" as promised! It's great on my laptops--no more messing with pbbuttons or acpid; everything functions right off the CD. I do wish that they had an "expert" install that would pull in the dev tools too, but oh well. Towards the end (Waugh was running *way* late), he touched on some of the upcoming goals for Dapper Drake, which will be out in April '06.

At this point, we were getting kicked out of the room. Suddenly, Mark Shuttleworth (offsite) popped out of nowhere, and he and Waugh did a badger dance in the front of the room! Mark, for those who don't know who he is, made billions from selling off Thawte (offsite), a security certificate authority, in the late 90s. In 2002, he paid megabucks to be one of very few civilians to have the priviledge of going into space; apparently the only thing to do after that is to start a Linux distribution and give it to anyone who wants it, free of restrictions and free of charge. Very cool! Amusingly enough, he was in town to meet with Dan Frye (of the IBM LTC) and just happened to see a notice that Waugh was in town too.

After the meeting was over, I introduced myself to Mr. Shuttleworth. We chatted for a long time in the halls of PSU about Ubuntu--mostly me gushing about how well it was put together, how it was fabulous that everything would simply work without a lot of effort, and how I've managed to convince at least a few friends to adopt it. I brought up the subject of the Dapper release, and the conversation flowed into the desire to get Ubuntu working for servers and how that was great because the Mainline Testing Rig (only coworkers will know what that is) runs on Ubuntu. I followed the rest of the group out to the Lucky Lab pub on SE Hawthorne, and spent the evening talking to the rest of the Ubunteros who were part of Shuttleworth's posse. I met a guy (Eric?) who showed off his Nokia 770, which is a small handheld device that apparently runs on gtk+ on Linux. I think he won the geek toy competition for that night. :)

What a night. I got to meet some of my heroes, and they even gave me business cards. These are the days that I love what I do.

The Oregon Garden

Occurred December 07, 2005 (Permalink)

Today, I ended up travelling southward with Ann to the Oregon Garden and Gordon House in Silverton. The Oregon Garden, started in 2002, is a combination of natural plant garden and wetlands; the garden derives its water from nearby Silverton. Attched to the site is the Gordon House, the only structure in the entire state that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

I started off in the pond section of the garden; there were a lot of dead plants (ac070006), a frog statue (ac070008) amidst wetlands (ac070007), and various Dr. Seuss trees (ac070011) in the conifer section. The evergreens (ac070014) provided a welcome contrast to the barren, cold and hibernating plants that were everywhere else (ac070015). In the rear part of the garden there's a Christmas tree farm (ac070016 - 22) with many varieties of firs, pines, and other short stubbly trees laid out in rows.

Continuing around the garden, there was a statue erected to honor Bobbie the Wonder Dog: In 1923, a Silverton family was visiting Indiana when their dog ran away! Three months later, two of the family's kids were walking around in downtown Silverton when they saw... their dog! She had travelled 2,500 miles all the way back to Oregon, and eighty years later a plaque (ac070025) was put in the garden. There was also a monkey tree (ac070027).

Returning to the non-twiggy plants, I got a close-up of the Dr. Seuss trees (ac070028), a yucca (ac070029), plants with all sorts of colors (ac070031), and my favorite tree this time of year, the blue spruce (ac070034)! There was also a rather odd-looking shrub with a very short trunk and many stubbly fingers reaching up into the actual needles (ac070044 - 46). By this time, the sun was beginning to set, and I captured some wonderful pictures of the sunset behind the clouds (ac070050 - 52). I was going to have to move quickly if I was to finish touring the gardens and the house before my hands got too cold to take pictures!

On my way out of the garden, I noticed a weeping blue atlas cedar (ac070059), a spruce sprouting from behind some sort of willow(?) (ac070060). I went back to the pond system (ac070063 - 66) and, ascending a bank above the pools, took some more pictures of the sunset (ac070067, 68). On the way back to my car (which was in the Gordon House's parking lot), I found a pond of lilypads (ac070069 - 71, 74) before ending up back at the Gordon House.

The Gordon House (ac070076 - 86), designed in the late 1950s by Frank Lloyd Wright in the Usonian style, once sat overlooking the Willamette river. It's no longer there, as new property owners wanted it torn down or moved. Hence, it was picked up and moved in bits and pieces over fifteen miles to the Garden (ac070076). The house features concrete slab and cinder block construction, large windows everywhere to let in light, and load bearing window grilles (ac070091). Wright also included many built-in accessories in the living room (ac070090) (the couch cushions pull away to reveal storage cabinets) and the bedrooms (ac070098) (heaters, pull-away windows and a laundry chute). The kitchen appliances were quite stylish, though they were quite conspicuously fifties (ac070092 - 94). Apparently Wright invented the ugliness called carports too (ac070100).

Afterwards, I drove home via 99E and passed through a good many towns (and scary curves) before ending up at Ann's favorite Lebanese restaurant at SE 80th and Washington. I had some lamb chops, and wow was the food there good. It really impresses me how there's just so much to explore in this state! I bet that I could spend twenty years surveying and still not see half of the greater Portland area.

The Heathman

Occurred December 16, 2005 (Permalink)

Went here tonight as a part of this month's Friday Night Supper Club. The chanterelle mushroom salad was heavenly, and the chocolate gourmandise was the richest confection that I've had in quite a long time. Ooh, and I got me some gloves and scarves. I also repaired a failing button and the long smashed buckle on my trenchcoat, and went to LiveWire on Wednesday.

SNOW!

Occurred December 18, 2005 (Permalink)

It snowed all afternoon in Portland. I went out at varying intervals to take pictures, play around, and throw snowballs at various objects (mostly my house). Out here on the other side of Mt. Tabor, we appear to have gotten at least an inch or two of snowfall by the evening; now, the rains are picking up, and the temperature is rising. Sadly, it'll all probably be gone by tomorrow. Unless it all freezes into ice.

ICE!

Occurred December 19, 2005 (Permalink)

Following on the heels of yesterday's story, today I woke up to discover that everything was iced over. So I went out and photographed that, too.

Cafe Borrone

Occurred December 22, 2005 (Permalink)

Jason stopped in on his way up to Sacramento and we went to Cafe Borrone's in Menlo Park. For those who didn't know me in high school, Borrone's is about three blocks from my high school, and they serve a truly delectable hot pastrami sandwich! Every time I go home, I have to go see them just for that treat. Nothing like it in San Diego, nothing like it in Portland. I suppose there's probably some deli in New York that has better, but I'm not going to go 3,500 miles for a sandwich. Anyway, the pastrami they use is very tender, the baguette hard on the outside but soft inside, and they always seem to serve the cheese at just the right meltedness. As is my wintertime habit, I ordered a tall glass of apple cider to wash it down. Heavenly.

Christmas in the City

Occurred December 25, 2005 (Permalink)

As is our newfound family tradition, we travel to my aunt's in Santa Rosa for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since Santa Rosa is north and west of where we pick up grandma (in Oakland), this usually means that I find myself travelling south on the Eastshore (I-80) through Emeryville on the way back, and gazing at the reflections of San Francisco across the water. Christmas Day this year was unusually dry, which meant that I could see straight across the water at the individual rows of lights in downtown, and the lights running up and down the sides of the waterfront buildings and Embarcaderos 1-5. It was so beautiful to see the lit outlines of the skyscrapers and the Bay Bridge running off to the left to Oakland, yet the element that really touched me was the glowing blue light atop the Transamerica Pyramid(?). It just sat there, perfectly centered above the tall yellow waffles of buildings, glowing and flickering quite brightly like a star. I sat staring, mesmerized by the sight, and was moved. Nothing like seeing your favorite city from afar, ablaze with lights.

Crepes

Occurred December 29, 2005 (Permalink)

Do not try to eat two Ti Couz crepes for dinner in one sitting. Woodley, Steven and I went on Wednesday; I made the mistake of ordering two for dinner, filling my belly and forcing me to forego the chocolate dessert crepe until the following day when I went back with Robin. Yep, that's right, Robin (offsite) drove down to visit me for a few days, and we went crusing around downtown SF for the day. Fun times!

Party

Occurred December 30, 2005 (Permalink)

I dragged Robin to the yearly party at Woodley's house. She danced, convinced me to join her, and one of Greg's dancing friends asked me to dance with her. In a first, I circulated around with Robin, who was naturally curious to mix with a few more of Woodley's parents' friends, and got to work my way around the house meeting people. Knuth was there as usual, as is the gigantic black cat poster, which was now imposed over the front entryway. Lots of fun this year, and I even branched out from the nerds. :)

New Year's with a Pretty Lady

Occurred January 01, 2006 (Permalink)

Editor's note: Robin, my date to the ball, posted her version (offsite) of events.

What a way to end the year --I took Robin to a ball for New Year's. Actually, it was the same Friday Night Waltz ball that I went to last year, but this time I had a sharply dressed woman with whom to dance! We started the afternoon at Kepler's (offsite) in Menlo Park, had Chinese take-out at Su Hong's (offsite), and then I took Robin home to change into her outfit. What an outfit it was (a1010223)! She'd bought a sleek black dress with a white bow, black lace, and shoes that were a perfect match! She kept getting compliments from random women around the room all evening. I wore all of my best Portland gear--blue rain hat (which I later lost and replaced just this evening), trench coat, blazer, slacks and white shirt, maroon bow tie, and dark red scarf. With my newfound moustache and goatee, I must say that I look quite good (ac310219). Woodley's sister thought so too, about the hair.

Like last year, the program consisted of various waltzes, polkas, tangos, and swing dances. Woodley and Greg took Robin out on the floor for several of the dances that I don't know, and she and I went out for the ones that I do know. Sadly, I didn't remember the Congress of Vienna well enough to do it again this year (and indeed only faked it with an acquiescing woman last year). It was a bit awkward to dance with so many people around; indeed, I felt a bit like a bull in a china shop. However, it would seem that I've improved my traffic directing abilities; I think the weekly Scottish dancing has effected vast improvements in my ability to get around the floor. Towards the end, Robin and I got tired of trying to remember all the various steps in the dances, and decided to make something up. I don't know where she got her moves, but I combined the hands-over-knees step from the Charleston, figures from various Scottish country dances, and a literal one-step (arms crossed, hopping on one foot) to make a dance that was uniquely my own. I can't swing, but I sure can Charleston! :)

What a crowd of people were there, too! Robin found a guy whose posture and profile looked just like Andrew Jackson's (aa1010221 - 22) vs (this (offsite)), and she spent a full ten minutes following the poor guy around the parlor before cornering him for a picture. The gentleman, who spoke with a foreign accent, said that he'd been mistaken as a doppelganger for many others such as Placido Domingo, but never Andrew Jackson. Of course, now that Woodley and Greg both go dancing frequently in the Bay Area, it was no surprise that many of the people who Robin and I had seen at the previous night's party were also seen here.

At midnight, the crowd assembles to count down midnight. As they did last year, the Martinelli's is poured into plastic champagne glasses... just as Robin spots a man surreptitiously opening a bottle of legitimate hooch in the corner to celebrate. Ten... nine... eight... and they count down 23:58 on my watch. Sadly, I don't get a kiss this year either. But, this year, Woodley drove, so instead of ditching five minutes after the ball fall, we instead went to a small after-party at Au Coquelet, a cafe in downtown Berkeley, and played Look Out for Drunks on the Nimitz as we drove south. Robin and I got back at 3:05 in the morning, just fifteen minutes earlier than I had last year. What a fantastic way to bring in the New Year! What's more, I get to have a second New Year (Chinese) on the twenty-ninth! I hope Robin will come back for next year's party and ball.

Clay and Maddy's

Occurred January 02, 2006 (Permalink)

Wow, Clay and Maddy moved into a really sweet flat in San Francisco just in time for the new year. They're right off N-Judah on 9th Ave, with plenty of shops, small restaurants, and pubs nearby. Golden Gate Park is a five block jaunt away, parking's not that bad, and they have a great view of Twin Peaks. I visited them (the four photos that I took are in the New Year's album, sorry) on the last day before I had to go back to Portland, and I must say that locationwise they hit the jackpot! They also unveiled a totally dried orange (a1030234) among their belongings.

There's nothing like roaring down the WIDE Bay Area freeways at 65mph late at night, seeing four empty lanes of pavement whooshing by, and watching the fog pour over the mountains. Oh how I do miss the Bay Area some times.

FNSC @ Epicure

Occurred January 20, 2006 (Permalink)

This month's Friday Night Supper Club was at Epicure (offsite). Service was ... dorky, but the duck was very moist and the sauce quite tasty. The duck skin was almost right (I prefer fried skin, SF Peking Duck style) and the chocolate cake was extremely rich. I can't seem to remember what the appetizer was. The red wine was strong, which might have had something to do with that. Can't wait for frog legs and roasted boar at Fenouil next month!

Lasagna

Occurred January 21, 2006 (Permalink)

Latest lasagna: Now with spinach and mushrooms! Next time: Southwest flavor, with beans and corn kernels.

Dim Sum

Occurred January 22, 2006 (Permalink)

Had a dim sum brunch with Ann & Pete again at Legin. Good as always. I've bitten my tongue; it's time to stop with the food updates.

Fistful of Linux Updates

Occurred January 25, 2006 (Permalink)

So I've been working on an open-source driver for Adaptec HostRAID drivers since last December. Currently, there's a binary "a320raid" driver that you can get from Adaptec, but as Greg K-H continually points out, binary drivers are a pain. So much of a pain, in fact, that IBM _and_ Adaptec are supporting my efforts. The solution comes in the form of dmraid(8), a configuration program for the device-mapper module in the kernel. dmraid knows how to read various vendors' fakeraid metadata formats; for now, I'm adding support for the old Adaptec HostRAID format (not DDF, though that will come later). I'm also looking into any necessary grub modifications, and getting these changes into distros. It turns out that Fedora Core 5 (offsite) and Ubuntu 6.04 (offsite) will support dmraid right out of the box. Hopefully I can get patches into at least one of them in time. :)

Last year, I was also put in charge of maintaining my group's hardware test suite ("pounder2"). It's a collection of shell scripts and C programs that can be configured to run programs in arbitrary orders and sequences; we use it to run load tests on the machines to stress out the kernels. Following my introduction to Mark Shuttleworth and the Ubuntu people last November, I began to talk to their kernel developers, who've shown significant interest in learning how our testing infrastructure works. Now, they even want to package pounder in 6.04! The onus is on me to get the necessary approvals in place, and quickly.

I'm also proposing a paper for the Ottawa Linux Symposium (offsite) this July. More on this later.

Tea at the Chinese Garden

Occurred February 05, 2006 (Permalink)

At some point either this weekend or last, I went down to the Portland Classical Chinese Garden for the New Year's celebrations ongoing there. I saw a dragon dance in the rain, a plant sale (no orange trees!), and had tea in the tea house... all with my neighbor Ann. Apparently she knows the woman who runs the teahouse too.

Adaptec HostRAID

Occurred February 09, 2006 (Permalink)

Today, I did something that _nobody else_ in the world has ever done: Booted a system off an Adaptec HostRAID array with dmraid. No binary modules. At all. Just pure Open Source software. I'm sure you readers have no clue what I'm talking about and probably don't care anyway.

Well hell! Tell us how!!!

Fedora Core 6/Mandriva 4 have it working out of the box. Alternately, you can install dmraid and modify the system's initrd to run "dmraid -ay" and include the dmraid binary in the initrd if you prefer some other distro. You may also have to modify grub's device map a bit too.

Twenty Four

Occurred February 10, 2006 (Permalink)

For my birthday, Jason got me a red Swingline. Great. Now my co-workers will think that I'm || close from becoming unhinged and burning the place down. In other news, I had a huge dinner party at my house on Friday night. I made two lasagnas, other people brought chips and cheese (Becky(?)), soup (Dave?), bread and German chocolate cake (thanks, Alexis!) I got in the booze early and don't remember the rest. ;) I recall having a good time, however. Saturday, I spent the afternoon stripping paint off the door mouldings in the kitchen. Very nice looking wood underneath all those layers of paint. I think it's hemlock wood. It's sort of oddly delightful to watch a huge chunk of paint melt away...

Salmon salmon salmon...

Occurred February 12, 2006 (Permalink)

Today's hike took me 40 miles out of town into the Columbia Gorge. I hiked up from Cascade Locks through empty forests to a small waterfall that was carving a "V" shape out of the face of a cliff and had lunch there. Very quiet and pleasant--precisely what I needed to get away from the world for a few hours. A surprisingly easy hike; it looks like there aren't very many people who have attempted this path. Decades ago, the town of Cascade Locks installed some (now very decrepit) diversion gates; it seems that they once got their water from here. 5.4 miles to go from town up here and back. I enjoyed this hike very very much, and now I'm high on life. :)

Since it was only two in the afternoon, I got back in the car and went to the fish hatchery at Bonneville Dam. They have several rectangular pools of small sturgeon and rainbow trout just swimming around and around. Those small young fish can move through the water really quickly! In the back, there were ponds full of ducks, trout, and some really huge sturgeon! It was interesting to observe these large fish in "action" (really, all they did was to swim around and around the pond in circles while the other fish struggled to get out of the way...); unlike most fish, these sturgeon appear to have scales and thick skin armor. I was blown away to read that those fish can become up to nine feet long; one could stand such a fish in the living room of my house and have it crash into the ceiling.

After that, I visited the hydroelectric generators at Bonneville and took a look at the fish ladder they have there. The generators themselves are quite impressive, with huge turbines and even larger coils. The 75rpm speed doesn't surprise me, but the fact that ~90% of the fish that get sucked in survive despite being knocked about amazes me. The fish ladder on the Oregon side is dry, as there aren't many fish (Bonneville dam has two fish ladders) swimming upriver in the wintertime, so I got to see the intricate system of baffles, walls, and gates that they use to persuade the fish to swim into the ladder to be counted. Apparently the best time to go out there is in September, when there are huge numbers of fish trying to make their way upstream from the ocean before the winter sets in. Horny fish do some amazing things. No salmon, alas.

Happy Oregon Statehood Day!

Occurred February 14, 2006 (Permalink)

(Actually this happened 147 years ago...)

I'm Presenting at OLS 2006!

Occurred February 15, 2006 (Permalink)

A few weeks ago, Alexis and I were approached about submitting a proposal to the OLS2006 (Ottawa Linux Symposium) paper review board. We decided (with significant amounts of hinting from others at IBM) that people might be interested to hear about all the stuff that we're doing at IBM to help third party hardware vendors get their drivers into the mainline kernel... or failing that, support via other open source software packages. The committee accepted our proposal, and now I (hopefully we) are going to Ottawa in July! Below is our proposal for the 0.5 of you who actually care.

There is nothing like the excitement of taking a brand new computer and blowing away the pre-installed OS to replace it with your favorite flavor of Linux. Oh, it feels great, until you realize that the Ethernet card driver doesn't work and the SCSI controller driver still hasn't even made it into mainline! The happy rush is replaced with the frustration of a night of arguing with balky drivers; as the Jolt cans pile up, you wonder how large sites manage to deploy Linux, and if the other Un*xes have these driver problems.

Fortunately, efforts are underway to try to ease that pain. Several issues have come up repeatedly during community discussions about the vendor driver support problem, including: keeping up with developments in mainline, troubleshooting broken drivers, legal issues, and integration problems.

This paper will explore the IBM LTC's efforts to bridge the gaps between vendors and the Linux community to ensure that the drivers are written, tested and submitted to mainline; helping vendors to resolve driver problems; and creating open source alternatives when that is impossible. Moreover, the paper will discuss four projects to improve third party drivers: 1) adding Adaptec HostRAID support to dmraid and grub (and pushing those changes into distros), 2) enhancing the performance of the Adaptec AACRAID driver, 3) integrating the Adaptec aic94xx SAS driver with the SAS transport layer, and 4) fixing bugs and adding new features to the pcnet32 network driver.

That's nifty. Don't forget to make sure you have a nice current passport. Sounds like a blast!

Disk Benchmarking Tools Updated

Occurred February 18, 2006 (Permalink)

After many many years of neglect, I've finally updated the disk benchmark utilities for (hopefully) more accurate data gathering. The new utilities are built via autoconf, and I reworked the tools so that the inner loops are tighter, the clock gathering code is more precise, and eliminated many options that never seemed to get used. In addition, I've also automated the creation of a Makefile that will makes adding new records much much easier than it used to be in the past. The new graphs are in the same places as the old ones; I have transfer speed and latency data. Enjoy!

600 Days in Oregon

Occurred February 18, 2006 (Permalink)

Snow Shoeing Around Mt. Hood

Occurred February 19, 2006 (Permalink)

Dave, Sarah, Eliza, CJ and I went snow-shoeing in the mountains above a place called White River just south of Mt. Hood. We were originally planning to head up Lolo Pass Road, but Dave missed the turn and we ended up on highway 35 instead. Eliza said that she and Cheryl had gone on a loop around White River in early January, so we decided to do that instead. So, we wandered around in the cold slushy snow, which had the consistency of the world's biggest 7-11 icee. Afterwards, we ate huge delicious burgers at Calamity Jane's off 26.

Corrupting the Youth

Occurred February 24, 2006 (Permalink)

Instead of going to the office today, Alexis and I were guest lecturers at Benson Polytechnic High School (offsite) in the Central East Side. As part of the National Engineers Month lectures, the two of us spent the day talking to high school kids about how to get into an engineering school, what it's like to study engineering, and how our lives have been as yuppies straight out of college. In putting together our slide show, Alexis and I discovered that we've had pretty much the opposite schooling experiences: she left high school to ride horses; I became the uber hacker of Menlo. I had computing experience since the late 1980s, she didn't even touch one until her first year of college. So, it was very helpful to go to a class and be able to explain to the students that dropping out and avoiding college is a terrible idea, while at the same time connecting with the kids who have been nerds forever. Though, I have to say that the school is a "magnet school" for the technically oriented, thus making our job at least somewhat easier.

I also got to show off some new features of Ubuntu Dapper, such as Xgl, compiz and beagle. I think the kids were impressed with the 3D graphics, though a few didn't really care about the search tool (not as glamourous, is it?) For the most part we were successful at holding the students' attention, though I'm not as confident of our hold on the freshman drafting class. For certain, the kids with advanced projects (OpenGL games, heavy machinery control systems, etc) sure enjoyed showing off their projects. I thought it was going to be hard to go into a high school, but the interaction was fabulous.

I have to say, Benson's program is really impressive! They have such a great program; I say it far outstrips a lot of the things that Menlo did! They have several labs full of computer parts, an automotive repair shop, a room full of airplane engines, and what looks like an introductory course in robotics. There are rooms full of freshmen draftsmen, and the seniors have IntelliStations loaded with Ubuntu. We evangelized Ubuntu Linux a bit, and left some links for where they could find more information. Though I have to say, they already know quite a bit. Just not the flashy features I showed them. :)

On a final note: one slide in the presentation was entitled "What is a Software Engineer?" I snuck a picture of Dwayne Dibley onto the slide; in the very last class, one nerdy girl exclaimed "Oh my god! Red Dwarf!" The crowning achievement of my efforts: a relevant yet obscurely humorous reference to a show that I like. (For those of you wondering: Dwayne Dibley is an alias for the Cat on Red Dwarf; he and his friends "escape" police by dressing as big toothed dorks and claiming to be computer programmers! And she was the only one who got it! I talked to her after class; she can't decide if she wants to go into animation art or game design. I gave her a few pointers, though one thing keeps bothering me: what will happen to these kids? I'd be curious to know...

Fenouil

Occurred February 24, 2006 (Permalink)

The Friday Night Supper Club went to Fenouil (offsite) for our February gathering. The red wine (a Grenache) was very French, which is to say that it was quite salty. I started the evening with a yummy spread of bread with a white brie, figs, and honey and followed it with a wild boar steak with potatoes. The boar was maybe a bit dry, and could have (oddly enough) used a bit more butter, though the rest was pretty good. I finished the evening with chocolate bon-bons. Exhausted, I bade my fellow diners good-bye (they were off to a birthday party) and went home. Early bedtime on a Friday night? I think this means that I'm turning into an old man.

Movie House

Occurred February 25, 2006 (Permalink)

Come Saturday, I realized that I still had the projector from yesterday's fun at Benson High. What did this mean? That I could easily hook it up to the PC in the movie theater, beam it at the wall, and have a 95" television screen. That I did, and spent most of the day watching movies in the basement. I'm quite impressed with the clarity of the picture, even when the pixels (the projector was 1024x768) were at least a square millimeter in area. The image was bright and pretty quick to refresh, and totally fine for the somewhat small space in my basement. In the evening, I turned on the Olympics; it was a whole new experience to watch nearly life-sized olympians on the wall. Eventually I suppose I should see if I can get even brighter paint, but since the Wilcox's favorite paint color was white, I doubt I need to improve on that. Anyhow, quite a delectable diversion despite being the lack of anybody else to share it with.

Barlow Pass

Occurred February 26, 2006 (Permalink)

This weekend, the hikers and I went off in search of Zigzag Mountain. Sadly, the mountain was closed... so we headed further up into the area around Barlow Pass instead. On the way up, Eliza sold us on going there by telling us of a pickup truck that was stuck in a big snowy field... which convinced Dave that we simply had to go there!

So off we went: Dave, Sarah, Eliza, Lara and myself. We had meant to take the PCT south and take the Twin Lakes loop (a2260275) but we blew right past the trail entrance and meandered down Barlow Road instead. That might've been a good thing, since we found the wide open field (aa2260276 - 82) and stopped there to eat all of Sarah's chocolate cookies. A flock of hungry birds flew up and began dive-bombing us to get the occasional peck of food. Sociable creatures they were, daring to come within several inches of us to grab food offerings off our hands; somebody (Lara?) remarked that it was just like the Hitchcock movie The Birds.

Our quick lunch over, we continued down the Barlow Road, encountering a brand new sign buried in snow (a2260283 - 85). Past there, we kept going for at least a good mile away from Barlow Butte and the mountain, throwing snowballs and generally carrying on like brats. Eventually, however, the dread of going uphill all the way to the parking lot overcame our youthfulness, and we decided that we weren't on the loop and that we ought to head back to the parking lot. Since it wasn't a loop, the pictures (a2260286 - 96) are are more or less from the same route that we'd taken down the hill; however, this time I got some cool pictures of my tracks (a2260288) and a five foot tall gap in the snow (a02260292 - 94). I photographed some stumps (a2260296) for good measure too.

Lara hadn't ever been to Calamity Jane's, so we went back there for burgers afterward. The guacamole burger is good, but messy as heck. No more wrangler burgers for me; this time I managed to finish the plate.

The Academy Theater

Occurred March 04, 2006 (Permalink)

The Academy Theater (offsite) is a brightly painted Streamline Moderne theater that opened on SE Stark in 1948. Open until 1974, it was a printing business(!) until earlier this year. Unknown to me until a few weeks ago, the people who were renovating the place are turning it back into a movie theater--one with $3 second-run movies, beer and pizza from Flying Pie Pizza (offsite) next door.

I was wandering down Stark Street this evening when I noticed a man working on the ticket window outside the Academy. He identified himself as the proprietor and invited me to go on inside and take a look around. There are three theaters inside, he explained, ranging in size from 74 to 125 seats. I had a look inside; those theaters are indeed quite cozy, just like the Laurelhurst. They have standard stadium seats like what one finds at most modern day AMC or Century houses, though I didn't see tables for the booze and the pizza. I did take note of the huge speakers behind the screen and hung in various corners of the rooms, however. The ceilings are black, the walls maroon, the floor bluish, and the mouldings might've been hemlock or fir. Not too surprising, given that Mr. Plywood is down the street.

The lobby is downright odd. The whole thing is decked out in turquoise paint, there's a huge cylindrical opening above the main lobby that reminds me of the inside of a lopsided top hat, and there's an enormous black refridgerator too. The bathroom was all white and black tile and has enormous urinals that go all the way to the floor! The proprietor explained that, except for the new seats, he was trying to go for a realistic 1940s theater feel, which explains the undulating, flowing lines of the lobby and the blue and gold color scheme on the marquee of the building. Apparently the liquor license and the neon won't be installed until the end of March, alas.

Upstairs is a play area with brightly colored floor tiles of red, yellow, green and blue. At first I reasoned that the purpose of that was to keep the projectionists from going mad, but apparently the real reason is that they are having some sort of day-care arrangement up there. That seems a bit fishy to me, but sure... moving along, I snuck into the the area on the second floor surrounding the big top hat stovepipe above the lobby. The building is indeed made out of concrete, though the exterior seemed to be heavily stuccoed.

And finally, we get to the projection booth. Seems that they went for more or less standard-issue film projectors and DTS analog sound. Nothing too fancy, though you know I'm waiting for a second-run digital theater to pop up in town. In any case, let's wish them luck; they seem to be putting a nice place together in my part of town. The grand opening is next Saturday at 18:00!

After my travels around the theater were over, I went to the Bipartisan and spent an hour eating pie, drinking, and listening to a jam group that was played all sorts of jigs and reels. Now if only I'd had somebody to dance with... all in all, it's fantastic to see new businesses going in on Stark so close to my house!

Cross-Country Skiing at Trillium Lake

Occurred March 05, 2006 (Permalink)

Lara and I tried out cross-country skiing at Trillium Lake near Hood. Fun!

Happiness is...

Occurred March 09, 2006 (Permalink)

A surprise snowstorm in the middle of the night that you notice by accident and enjoy in solitude. Now with pics!

Scottish Country Dance Ball

Occurred March 11, 2006 (Permalink)

Today was the annual ball and workshop of the Portland chapter of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. Like last year, both events were held at the Masonic Friendship Center at NE 56th and Sandy Blvd; this year, I signed up for the advanced class. The morning half of the class was taught by Maureen Lyon from British Columbia; the afternoon was taught by Sarah Harriman of Austin, TX. I learned quite a few new dances, and (I think) I've actually finally figured out how to pas de basque. Maybe.

Between the dance and the ball, I went to the grand opening of the Academy Theater (the same one discussed last week). My brilliant charm persuaded the girl taking tickets at the door to let me in for free to look around; for half an hour, I enjoyed the Melodic Mamas, a four-woman country music troupe. They played quite a few instruments--a bass, banjo, guitar, mandolin, accordian, and a strange accordian-like hexagonal instrument. Along the way out, I met the wife of the man who owns the building; they and the other neighbors were quite pleased that the building is once again a theater. I wonder, though, how long they'll tolerate the obviously wrong "Since 1967" neon sign on the marquee.

Departing from the grand opening, I went to the ball, decked out in kilt and sporran. I didn't dance as well at the ball as I'd wished to dance, but in the end I had fun. For certain, it's fun to dance and chatter with the ladies who drive here from Bend; it's fabulous to have enough people to make several sets. I also got pictures of Gloria's Wee Jig, though they're a bit blurry.

Doggie Birthday Party

Occurred March 12, 2006 (Permalink)

I went to a doggie birthday party at the Bruemmers'. Wow, Great Danes get big.

Toilet Surgery

Occurred March 18, 2006 (Permalink)

I performed my first toilet surgery today; I replaced the flaky screechy piece of junk inlet valve with a nice new one from Fluidmaster. The toilet fills a little bit faster but it's MUCH quieter! Woo!

Snow Shoeing At Mt. Adams

Occurred March 19, 2006 (Permalink)

Today, Lara, Eliza, Dave and I set out to go snow shoeing somewhere around Mt. Adams. Somebody picked out the Eagle Loop trail, but the four of us quickly decided to go off-trail and head towards a big lake. Unfortunately, the lake turned out to be a huge clear-cut lot that had been covered with snow; had we gone in the summertime, this area would have been hideously ugly (c.f. the pictures of the Gillette Lake Hike). Since we had only our eyes and a GPS to track our travels, I cannot give a precise tale of where we went, other than to say that we went roughly southwest down to the first clearcut, southwards through the area, then east up a ridge for lunch. Then we went back roughly along the same route, had dinner at the 6th Street Bistro, and went home.

Quickies

Occurred March 27, 2006 (Permalink)

In a flash: Mazamas basic climbing school started, Chelle visited for Spring Break and we went hiking, the OLS paper is undergoing revisions, and now I'm sick.

Spring Sunset Pictures

Occurred March 28, 2006 (Permalink)

Enjoy!

Flowers!!!!

Occurred April 18, 2006 (Permalink)

Flowers are blooming all over the place!

Quickies

Occurred April 23, 2006 (Permalink)

Still no time to write journal entries. In a rush: My tulips opened up in the past few days' heat. I went to Mt. Hood for a class on snow techniques; there should have been a hike the day after but we had to turn back due to really high sustained winds. After disbanding, I decided to go north to the Gorge and visited Rowena Crest and the Mosier Twin Tunnels. A nice excursion to take on the way home.

Climbing School

Occurred April 30, 2006 (Permalink)

Pictures from my Mazamas basic climbing class are now here courtesy of Joe FitzPatrick. And yes, that's why there has been no activity here for the last six weeks.

Horsethief Butte Rock Climbing Pictures

Occurred May 03, 2006 (Permalink)

Now posted here courtesy of Joe FitzPatrick.

Panoramas

Occurred May 07, 2006 (Permalink)

Thanks to the Auto Stitch (offsite) program recommended to me by Joe FitzPatrick, I now have a (stinking Windows) program that does a decently good job of coalescing individual shots into a mostly coherent panorama. Last Sunday I went up on the roof and took pictures from the roof; I've also assembled the photos from Yosemite in 2005. Also see newly redone panoramas from the first trip to Rowena Crest.

Nuclear Power Plant

Occurred May 14, 2006 (Permalink)

Pictures of and around the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, to be imploded next Sunday morning.

Usage GrapH Program

Occurred May 20, 2006 (Permalink)

My Linux usage graph program finally has a web page!

Nuclear Power Plant Implodes!

Occurred May 21, 2006 (Permalink)

		06:59:41
06:59:41

At the ripe hour of 4:00 in the morning, Adam from work, a couple of his friends and I piled into my car and we drove north back to the viewing place across the river from the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant that we'd scoped out last weekend to watch the implosion of the cooling tower. To my amazement, I could see the first rays of sunlight escaping past the clouds at 5:05am heading north on interstate 5. When we got to WA-99, there were already quite a few people parked and wandering around the road, trying to get a good viewing platform. We headed up into the hills, mildly worried about the clouds; our fears were unfounded, however, when we discovered our designated place mostly quiet and with ample parking.

We staked our claim--a 3'x3' square on which to place a tripod with camera and iSight, and park our laptops. The plan was to snap pictures with three cameras as fast as possible while recording the entire scene with the iSight at 30fps. I proceeded to waste nearly an hour fighting with the laptops to get ffmpeg to encode from a video4l device, only to conclude that we will simply have to test ext3's ability to create 30 files per second in a directory. With all the equipment finally in place at 6:50, we waited anxiously...


		07:00:00
07:00:00

...and suddenly there was a loud bang! Something had been set off, but not the tower's explosives. Nearby there was a radio that had been tuned to the same frequency as the work crews; all of the sudden we hear them begin the sixty second countdown. With a bright flash, the implosion began at about 6:59:58. There appeared to be two large rings of explosives around the hyperbolic frame of the tower; as a large cloud of concrete dust engulfed the structure from the ground up, the tower lurched slightly southward and began its descent. Ten seconds after the flash, the red ring at the tower slipped beneath the cloud and it was all gone.


		07:02:30
07:02:30

Well, not quite. A very loud BOOM followed fifteen seconds after that. We packed up our equipment and headed north to Longview in search of a logger breakfast to celebrate. Finding absolutely nothing there, we went to the Hot Cake House in Portland for a huge breakfast. The best movie that I've found so far is the one posted on OregonLive (offsite), though I will endeavour to post both Adam and my movie files. And yes, this is my first real photo blog post.

700 Days in Oregon!

Occurred May 29, 2006 (Permalink)

'nuff said.

Home for Memorial Day

Occurred May 31, 2006 (Permalink)

So I went home for Memorial Day weekend. I met Woodley's "new" girlfriend Elizabeth at last, did the usual family things, suffered from allergies, and hung out with Woodley and Steven a fair amount. It turns out that Mrs. Jeffers is retiring next year, and plans to travel the world and enjoy retired life. Fabulous! My family had the usual gathering, dinner, and computer fixing. All in all, a great time. Such a pity that I had to leave that whole life behind to start a totally new one in Portland, but such is life, I suppose.

Starlight Parade

Occurred June 03, 2006 (Permalink)

This evening was the Starlight Parade (offsite), the second day of the yearly Rose Festival. The festival starts with fireworks on the first Friday night in June (I went downtown for this too), and has float parades on both Saturdays. So today, I dragged Alexis and James downtown to the carnival, where Alexis went wild at the sight of all the kiddie rides. The three of us met Chandi for dinner at Alexis Restaurant (offsite), where we dined on some wonderful Greek food. I had a salmon steak, and the sauce was fabulous. The proprietor told us that the Rose Festival was the slowest night of the year; despite this, he still had a pretty full lower-floor dining room. I am going to put that restaurant down in my book of flavorful and decently priced restaurants to go to in the future.

The four of us went back to the rides just long enough for Alexis to persuade me to go on a high-speed swing contraption. After that, we shuffled on over to Fourth Avenue to grab some standing room to watch the parade. What a parade it was! There were three pipe bands, high school marching bands, muscle cars (all Mustangs), and many many floats. Alexis mentioned that there were 138 entries in this year's parade, and indeed they kept coming for over two hours! Many of the well known Portland-area organizations were there--Calamity Jane's, the Shriners, the various hospitals, and a bunch of radio stations were among the ones that I can actually still remember while writing this article a few days later. Mostly I remember being on sensory overload the entire time, thinking "Wow, I've never been to a big-city parade in person!"

After the parade, we crashed into Captain Ankeny's Well for a nightcap. I surprised everybody by ordering a burger; we all had various alcoholic drinks and babbled semi-drunkenly for a good long time, until we realized that the trains were going to stop running and that we all had to go home. I made sure that the three of them made it onto westbound MAX trains and then grabbed the next Blue that I could get and danced all the way up the hill in the rain.

Hipsters

Occurred June 03, 2006 (Permalink)

The hipsters that live in an adjacent house had a "Vintage Sale" today. This meant that they were trying to unload their 1970s-era furniture that they probably don't want to lug when they move out this weekend.

I went over for a look, but went home when I saw the big green sign:

"NO HAGGLING"

Needless to say, 80% of their stuff was still there at the end of the day.

East Zigzag Mountain, Again

Occurred June 04, 2006 (Permalink)

Eliza, Lara, her work-friend Trevor, and I went hiking this weekend. We returned to East Zigzag Mountain, since Eliza wanted to have a look around the area when the top of the mountain would not be covered with snow like last time. Unfortunately, it was rainy and foggy most of the time, which means that it was a good thing that I left my camera on the dining room table. Actually, the pictures from last time were pretty good; we simply had no idea where the trails really were supposed to go. As is customary, we had burgers at Calamity Jane's afterwards.

Hunting an Ice Cave, Gifford Pinchot NF

Occurred June 11, 2006 (Permalink)

		Stalagmite, Near Upper Pit
Stalagmite, Near Upper Pit

Last night I was talking to Chelle about exploring the ice cave up in Gifford Pinchot National Forest up in Washington--it's great that once she moves here in August, I'll finally have an accomplice for my dangerous travails. This morning, however, it dawned on me that I ought to go see it _now_ because it was devoid of ice last September and full of it the February before that; surely that meant that I'd have a good chance of finding ice in there in June. At the very least, I could spend the time scoping out the Mt. Adams area for good camping ideas for everyone _else_ for the rest of the summer.

Retracing last September's path, I wound up staring at a rather familiar hole in the ground. Since the top of the cave was perhaps fifteen feet under the surface, I correctly predicted that there might be alternate entrances to this cave and indeed, there are at least four of them! As the map (a6110732) shows, there is quite a bit of cavern to explore, as I was unable to visit a full two thirds of the cave due to time and slippery ice constraints. While inside the cave, however, I was able to get some astonishingly good pictures of ice stalagmites and stalactites. These pictures come in two versions: one with the flash on (where the ice appears to be quite boringly white against a rocky backdrop) and without the flash (and a fast shutter speed), wherein the ice formations have an eerie glow to them.


		Stalagmites in the Pool of Ice
Stalagmites in the Pool of Ice

The astute reader will notice that the pictures of the main entrance are in the middle of the set. Why, you ask? Despite the main entrance being a mere fifteen feet away from where I parked both times, I totally overlooked it! It's quite tempting to go straight to the big hole in the ground that is only thirty or so feet beyond the area map. However, there is a staircase leading down to a very spectacular ice pool (a6110685 - 725). I was unable to go anywhere near the ice pool because the area sloped downwards further into the cave and everything was covered with a sheet of ice. If one got into there, it would not be easy to escape! In any case, there were tons of silo shaped humps of ice rising from the floor.


		Crawly Plant
Crawly Plant

I came out of the cave and decided to check out the surrounding area a bit more thoroughly. The picture above is a stringy looking shrub that I found coming out of the ground. Beyond the ice cave is a place called Peterson Prarie with natural bridges. I left this area unexplored as a carrot to come back. That and the road was so bad I wasn't willing to risk my car's underside. I followed forest road 24 onto 60 and suffered a dusty gravel road all the way to Goose Lake.


		North Goose Lake
North Goose Lake

Goose Lake is an odd lake--there are several creeks that dump water into it, yet there is no visible outlet for the lake! It turns out that a very long time ago, a volcanic eruption left enough lava around that a dam was created; this soon resulted in the Goose Lake that we see today. There is a tube inside the lava deposite, which is how the lake drains. The camp host, a burly guy in his mid-50s with a southern-esque accent, pointed out these geological features of the lake and warned me not to go out on the lava beds because magnetic compasses are fooled by the ferrite in the rock, and also because there are crevasse-like formations that are difficult to detect. The ranger at the park office also warned of rattlesnakes, but she's a whole different paragraph.


		Southward (?)
Southward (?)

After I'd spent a while strolling around the lake, I decided to continue my journey to see if the lava beds took me high enough to get a good view. On my way, I was flagged down by a guy sitting on a rock; he warned me that the road was out due to snow four miles ahead. I assured him that I only intended to go a few miles, take some pictures, and turn around. This is where the weirdness starts. Sure enough, four miles up the road I see a place where snow had totally covered the road ... and a big Cadillac stuck in the snow in the middle of the road. It seemed a little strange that this should be the case, so I walked over and saw a woman calmly sitting in the front seat as if she was not hopelessly stuck in the mud. Her boyfriend had wandered off in search of help half an hour previously, she said.


		End of the Road
End of the Road

I offered my help; she asked if I intended to tow her out with my car. I told her that it would be much less risky and time consuming first to try to rock her car out of the ice. In a McGyver-like flash of inspiration, I built a makeshift plank road out of downed tree branches, and shoved them underneath the Caddy's drive wheels. I told her to put on the gas SLOWLY while I tried to push her engine compartment out of the snow with my hands. Apparently this crazy scheme actually worked, as she backed out and thanked me. I told her that I'd follow her down the mountain back to Goose Lake; oddly enough, when we got back to the guy sitting on the rock, he jumped down from the rock and got in the Caddy! Odd that he did not say anything at all about his girlfriend being stuck in a car four miles away.


		Sunset, Garage
Sunset, Garage

I drove on to the Mt. Adams ranger station and asked the ranger about what there was to do in the area. She said that there were in fact dozens of lava tubes all over the park, but that Ice Cave and Ape Cave were the only ones that they ever tell to the general public because the others are dangerous to the untrained. This means, of course, that I shall have to refresh myself in the ways of spelunking and join a caving club. She also warned that the ferrite in the lava beds screws up magnetic compasses, and that there were rattlesnakes and no water sources in the entire region. Sounds like a no-man's land.

By then, the station was nearly closed, so I went back to Portland, being able to boast of being a knight in shining armor for a damsel in distress.

A Butterfly Incident

Occurred June 17, 2006 (Permalink)

Saturday afternoon, I was on my way to a barbeque at an acquaintance's farm in the hills overlooking Banks, OR when I spied a butterfly trapped in the southwestern corner of my garage. The butterfly was mostly yellow and black, with bits of brown and blue mixed in for good measure; how it got into the garage I have no idea. It had been several days since I'd opened the garage doors for anything, so either it had flown in quite a long time before that, or maybe it had crawled in as a caterpillar? In any case, it was flapping around like mad trying to escape back to the real world. Though I tried to shoo the butterfly out the (now open) back door, he wouldn't have any of it, and continued to flit around the door into the glass window. Thus, I got quite a few pictures of it before I finally had to push it out the door into the backyard. After that it flew away. I wonder if it has been eaten by now.

Hike, Dance and Drive

Occurred June 25, 2006 (Permalink)

		Log in Lower Twin Lake
Log in Lower Twin Lake

The second annual Scottish Country Hike-and-Dance weekend was this weekend. With Portland temperatures expected to exceed 90F, I figured that it would be a good time to head east and gain altitude, so I departed for Hood at 8 in the morning. Circling around Mt. Hood, past Government Camp and the turnoff for Timberline Lodge, around ten I pulled into a huge snow-park near Frog Lake and met the other dancers. We headed north along the Pacific Crest Trail towards Lower Twin Lake, a mild hike that involved 700 feet of elevation gain over 2.6 miles ... and a lot of mosquitoes. And yes, the moratorium on pictures of trees is still in effect. Armed with DEET and sunscreen, we ventured towards the lake and I had a surprisingly pleasant lunch atop a stump.


		Upper Twin Lake
Upper Twin Lake

After lunch, some of us ventured to Upper Twin Lake where we stood around telling jokes until a swarm of Boy Scouts came along and made enough noise that we left. I took a few ganders at a rope swing that somebody had precariously rigged in a tree. Quite fun, except that there was nowhere to park my butt and so my entire weight was suspended by my hands. Painful. By that time, it was mid-afternoon and starting to heat up, so we went back to the cars and proceeded westward along US-26 to the same road that Mazama Lodge is on... only this time I turned off the road and went to Tyee Lodge, which is apparently the lodge of the Trails Club of Oregon (offsite). Like Mazama Lodge, this one is made of wood, has a basement full of random climbing equipment, and has some of the same accoutrements. I'd say that Mazama Lodge is a bit nicer, but the entrance requirements are accordingly higher.


		Tyee Lodge, Site of the Dance
Tyee Lodge, Site of the Dance

A few of us started a non-interlocking monster puzzle while the rest got to work making dinner. Much heckling was observed to be going back and forth between Chandi and myself, most of which had to do with my contention that it was perfectly ok to use the puzzle box cover to determine where various pieces went in the puzzle. After a fabulous dinner of baked salmon, potatoes and some really ripe corn, we danced a few sets, including a rather interesting mixer dance wherein one of the steps is "grab your partner's hips and spin"! As a special bonus, Robin and Brian, who play the guitar and the fiddle, respectively, came along and presented us with live music. I waltzed with a pie in the kitchen at the end of the night because all the ladies were taken by the time I put my brain in gear. After that, some of us pushed some more of the puzzle pieces into place, and I pitched my tent in the living room (fewer mosquitoes, you see) and went to bed.

Come 7:45 the next morning, I awoke to the sounds of the breakfast-makers buzzing around in the kitchen. Breakfast itself was french toast with sausage, bacon and fruit salad--yummy! We danced some more, I burned some trash (for the first time), and went downstairs to play an increasingly bizarre four-way game of ping-pong with Brian, Chandi and the MacKenzie's daughter. Around noon time the rest of the group finished the puzzle, so we broke up camp, cleaned up the lodge, and took our leave.


		West Towards the Cascades
West Towards the Cascades

I turned eastward on US-26, intending to make a short road trip out to the yellow-and-brown pseudo-desert areas of Oregon. From Government Camp, I followed the road south and then east on OR-216 out of the mountains. Quite a dramatic change on this side--all of the sudden the pine trees end, only to be replaced by yellow grass that undoubtedly has been baking in hot sun for several weeks now. Upon reaching The Dalles-California Highway (US-197), I headed north towards the Gorge and towards burgers. US-197 shoots straight north through miles and miles of empty fields and then heads into a ridge of rather short hills. Here the scenery changes once again to a lot of crumbly brown rocks with occasional disbursements of yellow grass; the decline towards The Dalles is only interrupted by ... another lush green valley.


		Lush Green Valley, US-197
Lush Green Valley, US-197

At two in the afternoon I pulled into the Burgerville in The Dalles. A nearby electronic sign decreed that the temperature had reached 100F. This particular Burgerville was advertising Walla Walla onions, so I of course had to try them; they are the sweetest onions that I'd ever had, even after grilling. I went back to 197 and went north until I reached a most amusing sign--"Extreme Meth Makeover" (p6250810). I drove eastward on WA-14 past Horsethief Butte to a town called Wishram; there was a lookout point (wishram) from which I took a panoramic picture of the Gorge. The white cap in the right third of the picture is, of course, Mt. Hood. The lookout point also had some informational signs about a Native American fish catchery that is now under water due to The Dalles dam.

A short way down the road, I saw a sign for a historic steam locomotive. The locomotive was a 1923 4-6-4 Baldwin that had been chugging up and down the Spokane area for decades before being brought to rest 250 miles away in the Columbia Gorge. It certainly was odd seeing a monument to big steam engines next to an Amtrak station in the middle of nowhere. The next stop on my driving adventure was the Wishram art museum, which seems to be some sort of turn-of-the-century Italianate (?) mansion (a6250824) overlooking the river. They had a dubious-looking Benson Bubbler (a6250825) but some good views of the Gorge.


		Wishram Art Museum
Wishram Art Museum

By now it was past three and I figured that I ought to get back in my car, drive towards Portland, and enjoy the air conditioning. I crossed back to Oregon on US-97, and now I can claim that with one exception, I've crossed every car-accessible bridge that goes across the Columbia to Oregon: US-101 at Astoria, SR-433 to Rainier, I-5/I-205 to Portland, Bridge of the Gods, OR-35 in Hood River, US-197 in The Dalles, and US-97 in Maryhill. Perhaps I'll get to cross I-82 in Umatilla some day. The route back home: I-84 to US-197, US-197 north to WA-14, WA-14 west to Bingen, across the bridge to Hood River, then I-84 all the way home. Got back around 17:30.

Two Years in Oregon!

Occurred June 28, 2006 (Permalink)

July Fourth

Occurred July 04, 2006 (Permalink)

Hm... for the fourth, I went on a bike ride to Sellwood with Hanna, rode about the city looking for open houses afterwards, went to trivia with Lara and Eliza, played darts at Eliza's until the wee hours of the morning, and went to a barbeque way out in the mountains. As usual, I went to watch the fireworks afterwards, and noticed (a) that there were a lot of fireworks going off in all directions and (b) there were a lot of drunken idiots nearly setting themselves or the park on fire. Sigh.

Powell Butte

Occurred July 08, 2006 (Permalink)

Bright and early Saturday morning, I woke up, hauled the bike out of the garage for the first time since Thursday, and pedalled off in the direction of Eliza's house in Sellwood. That was a surprisingly long 6.9 mile ride, though pretty much a straight shot southwards on 45th/43rd/42nd/41st from NE Davis to SE Bybee. To my great surprise, most of the southward shot made a good workout, as the route is primarily *uphill*. The reward, of course, is that Bybee is very sharply downhill from 39th all the way to Reed College, some 15 blocks away. Following my newly found bike paths through Sellwood, I navigated my way over to the lookout from SE 13th Ave over to Eliza's.

After a good half hour of cooling off, we had assembled most of a crew to head out on a biking adventure: Cheryl, myself, Eliza, Lara and Rick (offsite). (Dave, as his unfortunate wont, ate it on the way over and didn't show up until later in this story.) The five of us wormed our way out of Sellwood and onto the east-west Springwater Corridor (offsite) at SE 45th Ave. From there, we pedalled eastward along this former railroad via past unripe blackberries, cattails, strange tasting purple flowers and other cotton-y shrubs past SE 82nd, past I-205, past the 130s all the way to Powell Butte. (~8mi)

Powell Butte (offsite) is a flat top plateau in outer Southeast Portland. There are myriad foot and bike trails up to the top, though the top is curiously devoid of dense forest for mostly good views towards St. Helens up north. We had lunch at the top before heading back down and observing the houses encroaching upon the western boundaries of the park.

Heading back, it was very hot. In fact, a temperature gauge that we saw at SE Foster said that it was 89F. Eliza stopped us several times to gather plants for a dinner salad, and Lara suggested that we stop at New Seasons' free ice cream tasting. Quite a good suggestion in the short term, (ice cream in an air-conditioned store!) but my mouth was hot and sugary for hours after that! Cheryl and I went northward along the Willamette River towards town (~4mi); she went off on her own, but I wimped out and took the MAX back to 60th and rode the remaining mile up the hill. Total mileage: ~29.5.

Several naps later, I realized that everybody was coming over for dinner. Jumping on the internet, I grabbed a delectable-sounding recipe (offsite) for chicken and bowtie pasta. As is customary, I made a few modifications to the recipe (most notably substituting sun-dried tomatoes for the oven-dried ones) and hurriedly prepared the dish. Also as is customary, everyone showed up some time after 7, yet I wasn't done cooking yet. I'm always late these days. But, as Steph's shirt says, "always late but worth the wait"-- the pasta was very tasty and the marinade effective. Dave and Sarah brought some wonderful cakes and salad; Eliza brought some sort of spicy vegetable stew that was quite good. A good conversation was had by all, and unlike the last party, I didn't fall asleep!

Nostrana

Occurred July 12, 2006 (Permalink)

Tonight I took Ann to Nostrana (offsite), an Italian restaurant on SE 14th and Morrison. She and Pete had been here before and recommended it as a really good restaurant; hence Ann wanted to go back there. Having been named as the Oregonian's 2006 Restaurant of the Year, there was a rather shocking hourlong wait to get a table on a Wednesday night--certainly something that rarely seems to happen in Portland! (Better over-busy than deserted, said Ann)

The restaurant started us with a somewhat small loaf of bread that had been pre-oiled in the kitchen. Fortunately, the fullness of the restaurant appears to be a result of high popularity and not just a slow kitchen, as they took our orders and brought the food fairly quickly once we were seated. I started the evenign with a really tasty vegetable soup of some sort. I seem to recall it had a buttery yellow sauce and some greens--peas would be wrong, but that's the closest I'll ever come to remembering. Next was a steak with beets that was really quite flavorful and juicy; the beets provided a tangy contrast to the meat. I wrapped up the meal with a chocolate budino, which while very rich wasn't terribly interesting. I daresay I may be losing my taste for chocolate.

T40 Disassembly

Occurred July 13, 2006 (Permalink)

I dismantled my laptop tonight.

Highland Games

Occurred July 15, 2006 (Permalink)

This being the third Saturday in July, the Portland Highland Games (offsite) were held out in Gresham. Like last year, I danced twice with the class demonstration team, and this year I was paired with Chandi, one of the other youngsters in the class. This year's games were very similar to last year's--the same booths and events were held, and pretty much in the same locations as last year. This time, however, it was less hot and I was suffering from less sensory overload, which meant that I got to see more of the games.

First, the dancing: I forgot that the time had been changed to 9:30, so my 9:20 arrival meant that I arrived literally just in time for the first dance. Fortunately, my brain had the time to start up on the drive over, so I was less bewildered than the time I showed up 5 minutes late to a math midterm. :) The first set went well--no palpable screw-ups, etc. The second set, at 14:30, was a bit awry because the fiddlers took longer and the sound guy was slow, and something weird happened to the music during the second dance. Oh well. More than a few people said that Chandi and I looked good dancing together. I've also been invited to join the real demonstration team next year!

Continuing my habit of assembling my Scottish dress in between dancing sets at the games, this year I bought a black Balmoral hat, which I'm told looks very snappy on me. I actually haven't managed to see myself with it in a mirror yet. Though the prices of everything are a bit elevated at the Games, it provided me with a good opportunity to survey the various clothing vendors' products in a rapid fashion and find the one with the best price. I know, very Chinese of me. At the moment, I have a balmoral, a kilt, a belt, hose, ghillies and flashes. Still no jacket, sporran or tie, though the red bowtie never fails to impress.

For the opening ceremonies, the MacKenzie clan adopted me to march in the parade. I'm pretty sure that I was the only non-Scot in the clan march. Later, I found out that the clan tents were far away on a different field and went over to have a look; most clans appear to have some sort of society, which puts up a tent and invites people from near and far branches of the clan to show up and socialize. I wonder what the Chinese do for things like this?

The only athletic event that I saw this year was the caber toss. One guy did a really good job with the throw and scored a 12:15, where 12:00 is considered to be perfection.

Five months ago, I mentioned in "Corrupting the Youth" that one girl at Benson High understood my Dwayne Dibley joke. This afternoon, I was standing by the SCD booth (still in Scottish regalia) when I feel a poke on my shoulder. It's the same blond girl, who's really pumped that (a) she spotted an Asian Scot in a giant crowd of nearly all Caucasians and (b) it turned out to be the same guy who was nerdy enough to know about Red Dwarf. I say, I've gotten to the point where I can go to nearly anything that's even vaguely popular around town and run into someone unexpectedly. Sort of like how it used to be with grandma and Chinatown.

To cap the day, Chandi and I went to the celidh afterwards and hung out together until 20:00. She was tired and went home; I went to Eliza's for a barbeque.

152gal of Ivy...

Occurred July 16, 2006 (Permalink)

...are now sitting on the curb in trash bags.

Catalyzing Open Driver Development

Occurred July 19, 2006 (Permalink)

		Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams

Presentation went fairly well today; despite my anticipations of low turnout, there were a surprising number of people who showed up and asked interesting questions. Luckily, there were enough kernel developers with an interest in driver issues in the audience to answer questions too. :) Paper and slides for those of you who weren't there. Neither Alexis nor I got murdered. :)

L'Argoät

Occurred July 20, 2006 (Permalink)

		Westward at Gatineau During Sunset
Westward at Gatineau During Sunset

So here we are in Ottawa for the 2006 OLS (offsite) conference. After several nights of hanging out in pubs and York St. outdoor cafes for dinner, Alexis and I decided to get away from the rampant after-conference drinking that goes on with some regularity. We headed across the river into Gatineau, which is of course in Québec towards a French crêperia named L'Argoät. The menu was all in French, though the waiter was more than willing to tell us English-speakers what everything meant, so I abandoned my effort to recall junior-high French when his descriptions became too delicious.

If I recall correctly, Alexis had two crêpes: one with a big egg in side and a second with chocolate and banana flambé. I had one with seafood (mussels, clams and prawns), a second with apples, and later decided to get the one that Alexis had as a third. I daresay that I enjoyed it better than Ti Couz, though flying all the way to Ottawa is a tad expensive. In any case, we downed the crêpes with cider, wine, and port. I'm very glad that we ditched the OLSers for a night and had a quiet evening in a cozy restaurant where we wouldn't have to think about Linux at all.

The Amazing Race

Occurred July 23, 2006 (Permalink)

Begin: 13:05 GMT, 23 July 2006. PDT = GMT - 7 hours.


		Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill

Ahh, what a beautiful morning in Ottawa! The yearly Linux Symposium had been a rousing success, and the closing of which had been celebrated with vigorous cheer. Our heroes Darrick and Alexis awoke, checked out of our hotels, and started home. The task seems simple: Get from downtown Ottawa to the airport, fly to Chicago, fly to Portland, pick up baggage, and drive home. The first challenge was to find a way to the airport. Luckily, a marketing guy turned up in the lobby and they got themselves a ride to the airport in his rental car. Time: 13:55 GMT.

Upon reaching the airport, it was observed by our pair there were many bedraggled nerds stumbling through the airport as well. The flight from Ottawa to Chicago went without a hitch, and our pair queued up at gate B7 in O'Hare for the continuation to Portland. The plane landed bumpily, much to the chagrin of Alexis, at about 17:50 GMT.

However, disaster struck as soon as Darrick went to the little boys' room for a refresher: "We're sorry, but this flight has no pilots. We are trying to fly them out from New Orleans." Ten minutes later, the flight and many others just like it had been cancelled... and everybody had walked away from the gate, leaving Darrick confused. Yes, the mighty United Airlines had become untied. Time: 19:05 GMT.

The next challenge facing our contestants was the customer service desk. Tired and hungry, our intrepid travelers were tipped off that the trick to getting out of this mess was to call a number and have our flight plans changed. Luckily, Darrick's cell phone worked, Alexis dialed the number and two possibilities were offered: Standby on an AA flight that would arrive at 03:15 GMT the next day, or bounce to Portland via Las Vegas, which would arrive at 09:00 GMT. Well, our heroes chose to reserve the longer flight and try to make the earlier one. Time now: 21:50 GMT.

Unfortunately, neither Darrick nor Alexis realized the sheer size of Chicago O'Hare airport. The Ottawa flight dropped them off in terminal C, the service desk was in B, and the American flight was to go out of H. This involved going from terminal 1 to 3 by traversing the entire length of 2! Arriving at gate H13, the two travellers were told to wait, as the San Diego flight had not left yet, but the Portland flight check-in was next. Fair enough. Time: 22:45 GMT.

Time: 23:15 GMT. The Portland flight is replaced by a New Orleans flight. A flight attendant manning the gate assures us the Portland flight is still going out of H13. Dinner consists of bagels and chocolate milk, a far cry from the creperia in Gatineau that the duo had enjoyed several nights before.

23:50 GMT: Neither of our travelers make it on the plane. Dejected, they leave for the Vegas flight in E concourse. On the way, they notice a medical clinic and a giant interactive TV panel. A telephoned weather report indicates 108F in Las Vegas. When Darrick and Alexis arrived at the (sole) America West gate, their staff, bewildered by their roughed up and probably smelly appearance, tried to tell them that they were on standby:

"STANDBY?! WE HAVE RESERVATIONS FOR THIS FLIGHT!"

roared Alexis. They were given assigned boarding passes. The flight boards ten minutes late, at 01:00 GMT on 24 July. Even at this late hour, there was a noticeable contingent of formerly United and now desperate travelers hungrily eyeing the gate like a sailor anticipating shore leave. By this time, one of our travelers was itching to get home and the other was loony from exhaustion and defeatat the hands of the airlines and singing city-themed songs. There's only so much a man (or woman) can take of "Viva Las Vegas!" Darrick starts to wonder if he should shut up. But he lacks the mental capacity to do anything about it, and the only expression on her face is "We're going westward; I don't care." Meanwhile, a traveler to Oakland regaled her with tales of MD5 and filesystems. And we thought Darrick was boring...

One thing that we forgot to note in the previous paragraph is that, having last minute bookings, Alexis and Darrick were seated quite far apart on the Vegas flight. Indeed, Darrick was stuck in the second to last row of the A320. Luckily, this was not to be a problem...


		Las Vegas
Las Vegas

Time: 06:05 GMT. The plane set down in Vegas, and Darrick lost Alexis in the exit crowd. Already sleep deprived (four hours' sleep in the past thirty-eight at this point), he was suffering from sensory overload and stumbled around Las Vegas airport like a drunken idiot. Funny, since that had been _last_ night's activity. Not really knowing where to go, he headed towards the bright lights of the in-terminal casino and crashes into gate B11, which just happens to be the correct gate for the flight. Needless to say, Darrick's vision had begun to fail at this point and he nearly missed encountering Alexis, who was sitting right next to the gate counter. The plane, another A320, was 40 minutes late from Baltimore. Their takeoff time was 07:30 GMT, and they land at approximately 09:32 GMT, safe and sound in Portland.


		Portland
Portland

At last, the pair reached their destination city, Portland. Now the question is, where had the suitcases gone? Nobody in the intermediate cities had been able to tell our two heroes where their checked luggage might be, so the fearless duo took it on faith that even if they did not make a direct flight, the bags had either followed them, found a faster way home, or would be on the way. If only Alexis could be checked, the answer to this question would be known. Unfortunately, America West has the only open luggage office; the gravelly-voiced lady files a claim for the two of them and says "It'll probably be on the first United flight in the morning."

Finally, it was time to drive home. The two searched the Portland airport's long term lot for the valiant litle Civic that they had left their oh so long ago, and drove out. Current time: 10:05 GMT. Suffice it to say, they are not coming in to work today, as it was 10:23 GMT when Darrick walked in the front door of his house, and 11:05 GMT when Alexis reached hers.

End: 11:05 GMT, 24 July 2006. Twenty-two hours of travel.

Kilt

Occurred July 31, 2006 (Permalink)

		Full Kilt Regalia, July 2006
Full Kilt Regalia, July 2006

What you've all wanted: Pictures of my kilt.

OLS 2006 Presentation/BOF/Tutorial Notes

Occurred August 10, 2006 (Permalink)

Posted here.

Pictures from Glacier and Yellowstone

Occurred September 01, 2006 (Permalink)

Jason and I went on a road trip to Glacier NP and Yellowstone NP in Montana last month. I've uploaded the photos, though I've not had the chance to add captions or write a story.

Clay and Maddy Got Hitched!

Occurred September 23, 2006 (Permalink)

After four years of being married without a license, Clay and Maddy tied the knot this Saturday. Pictures! Friday night they kicked off the festivities with a pizza party at Seabright State Beach. Having driven down the coast from Half Moon Bay that afternoon, I was happy to spend another evening with Maddy, Clay, and family--this means goofing off around a fire pit listening and participating in the singing of songs from several different musical genres. I particularly enjoyed getting to see Jeff & Libby, who I hadn't seen since summer 2004.

The next day, I pulled out my ace in the hole, stylewise: full formal Scottish dress. I am not Scottish in the slightest; I merely dance with Scots. This meant everything--kilt, hose, sporran, belt, shirt, coat, and my usual bowtie. After dim sum with the (grand)parent, I drove down to Santa Cruz--what a scary drive! Tight curves, narrow lanes and a 50mph speed limit. Anyway, I arrived about 30 minutes before the ceremony was due to begin.

What tartan do you wear?

Washington State.

I Got a Cat

Occurred November 19, 2006 (Permalink)
Cat
Cat

I adopted a cat from the Humane Society today. A cat with short black hair and green and blue eyes. Pics later; I'm exhausted. But probably not as amped up as the cat himself. Apparently he was picked up 6 weeks ago at 82nd & Johnson Creek Blvd. I've never had a cat before; this most certainly will be an interesting experience....

Mozart's Dice Game

Occurred December 07, 2006 (Permalink)

At last I wrote about the dice game that I wrote to kick off the second generation of Randomly Generated Music.

Hovercraft

Occurred December 28, 2006 (Permalink)
Hovercraft Flight (12MB)
Hovercraft Flight (12MB)

Woodley and Steven got the idea that it would be a fun idea to build a simple hovercraft over the holidays. So, two days after Christmas, we met at Steven's house, bought three rectangular pieces of 1.5-ply plywood, a big sheet of 6-mil plastic sheeting, some duct tape and a lot of staples. Some time later, we had connected the three pieces like so: |= , rounded off the front piece, and cut a hole in the front. We then huffed goop fumes for quite a while as we sought to bond the plastic to the plywood with goop, staples, and duct tape. The next day we spent stapling various parts of the underside together to create a mostly level set of air pontoons around the outer edge of the craft, cut a plethora of vent holes in the bottom, connected the blower from a shop vac, and tried it out with the results that one can see above. Note: Actual construction was tricker than this. We checked that everything was secure, put Woodley atop the hovercraft, and he went for the test flight as Steven slowly pushed him down the driveway into the street. Steven reported that he wasn't pushing very hard yet the whole craft was moving quite easily down the slope. Update: If the OGG movie doesn't open, you might want to try out VLC (offsite).

San Francisco New Year

Occurred January 01, 2007 (Permalink)

I rang in the new year with Maddy & Clay this year! I showed up at their apartment around 19:30 and joined a game in progress. The gamepiece was a plastic disc with electronics in it; it would display a word and one person in the group had to describe the phrase while everyone else tried to infer what the word was. There were six of us playing--Maddy and her sister Christa, their respective husband/boyfriend, Laura, and myself. Around 22:45 we finally went all the way around the group before the timer expired; with that, we headed off towards the Haight-Ashbury to ring in the new year! There were no buses or trains to be had (Go SFMUNI!) so we walked all the way there, crashing into a dive bar three minutes to midnight. After exchanging kisses with various and watching street performers for a while, we caught a bus, went to Market St., and proceeded into the mission district to rendezvous with Maddy's friends.

San Francisco blocks are much longer than Portland blocks, to the point that it was quite a long trek from 12th and Mission all the way to 20th and Mission. Some of us went into a bar while Clay quietly bid us adieu; those remaining continued to drink and be merry. When the bar closed at 2:00, our party spilled down the street and into the apartment of some guy named Bo.

Much later, on Monday, we got up and watched the sun set over the ocean from the beach. What a couple of days!

Portland Scottish Country Dance Ball

Occurred March 10, 2007 (Permalink)
The Waggle o' the Kilt
The Waggle o' the Kilt

Another year, another ball! Same general idea as the one I went to last year--dance, have a lot of fun, and improve my dance skill, and indeed I did! Rebecca, the teacher in the morning, made put the advanced class through quite a lot of step practice, giving me time to work my way through the act of turning with both hands while doing the Pas de Basque. This will certainly come in handy the next time I dance Lagach Anne... which will possibly be the 21st of March. The teachers brought a couple of dances to the ball, and we proceeded to make ourselves quite sore and tired practicing them.

Come 19:30, it was once again time for the Grand March and Ball! Since last year's ball, I've had the chance to upgrade my kilt outfit a great deal; now I have a sporran, drummer's hat and a kilt shirt, in addition to the shoes, stockings, and kilt. This year, armed with an even better knowledge of dancing technique, I kept up almost all night, and did pretty well. The pictures turned out better than last year's did, partly due to a better camera and also because Michael McCool donated a pretty big bunch. This year I also practiced waltzing leading up to the ball, and asked Chandi out on the floor for the final dance.

Afterparty
Afterparty

I stumbled to the afterparty too. Sat around, _very_ tired by that point, listening to people talk about their trips to Scotland, pending legislation, and the unfortunate incident that the Kelleys' truck had with some soft mud. Oh, and if you ever get a chance to try Mrs. Baxter's meatballs--they are really gooooood! :)

Busy

Occurred March 11, 2007 (Permalink)

Quickies: Last month, I went to the Linux File System & Storage Workshop, attended the funeral of my maternal grandmother, had a hellacious time getting to and back from an IBM Academy conference in Toronto, had a fun time sightseeing and talking in Toronto, and finally came home. Also, today was another Doggie Birthday Party at the Bruemmers'.

I'm in the Rose Festival

Occurred March 20, 2007 (Permalink)

Apparently the Portland SCD demonstration team will be performing at the 100th annual Portland Rose Festival on June 2nd at about 11:00! So yes, you can all come see me dance if you're in town then.

1,000 Days in Oregon!

Occurred March 25, 2007 (Permalink)

Balboa Park, San Diego, Renaissance Fair

Occurred April 20, 2007 (Permalink)

		Spreckels Organ, Balboa Park
Spreckels Organ, Balboa Park

Time for a vacation! I jumped in a plane and flew down to San Diego to visit various friends and get away from the Portland grey. First on my list of people to visit was Christine, who had invited me down south to attend a ball. Since I had an extra day to hang out, we went exploring around Balboa Park. Being a nerd, I of course went for the automotive museum. They had an impressive collection of weird vehicles, including a Tucker (img_0133) (with the cyclops headlight that followed the steering wheel), a Delorean (img_0134), and a 1947 car that had been modified to run for long periods of time (img_0135). Specifically, there was a trailer with extra supplies. In addition to a 250-gallon gas tank, there were reservoirs of coolant and oil that were continually recirculated into and out of the engine. The bottom of the car had retractable rollers that could be used to keep the car moving while changing tires. The back seat of the car had been outfitted with a clothes washer, an iron, a small oven, and even a drinking fountain! The front seat had an enormous control panel with a wireless telephone. End result: the owner made an ~8,900 mile trip without having to turn the engine off or stop!

After that, I was museum'd out. We went to Fry's, had dinner at a curry house with my cousin Lauri, and returned to Balboa Park to give me a crash course in the polka, the waltz and the schottische. Alas, I forgot to bring dancing shoes that evening, making the dancing experience clumsy and annoying, so we ended up trying to translate various SCD figures into something that could be polka'd ... underneath an arch in Balboa Park, attracting the attention of various vagabond-ish characters claiming to be dance teachers.

Saturday, we went to a Renaissance Fair in Escondido. Having never gone to such an event before, I thought it was rather intriguing to watch the mock battles, wander around to the various tents, see the belly-dancing stage, and nose around in the various shops. I finally found a sporran chain of a proper length (apparently there are no skinny Scottish people in Portland?!), which made me happy. Apparently the food vendors will serve large chunks of turkey, which means that one can sit on a bench gnawing on a huge drumstick (without the need for bothersome things like utensils) watching amateur actors bumbling their way through Shakespeare. Hmm...

A Viennese Ball

Occurred April 21, 2007 (Permalink)

		Me, Kilt
Me, Kilt

		Christine
Christine

The SDYAS Viennese Ball was held at the Balboa Park Club. Billed as the largest ballroom in Southern California, the building itself was once the New Mexico building of the 1915 Pan-Pacific fair. Now, it's a big room with space for a lot of tables and a lot of dancing. The ball kicked off at 19:30 with an impressively long and elaborate Grand March that went on for a good fifteen minutes and outlasted several repetitions of the Radetzky March. Following that were a series of waltzes and polkas. It was fairly clear that the orchestra was bent on going fast, and I think I managed to get into about a third of the dances. I tried out the Bohemian National Polka for the first time since 2005 or thereabouts, and discovered that I remembered enough of it not to be too much of an uncoordinated doof. As for the polka, let's just say that it's ... fast. Having spent three years learning Scottish Country Dance (and around seven unlearning most ballroom), it was a tad weird getting used to three-beat measures instead of SCD's two or four. Despite having rather a lot of dances on the program, they got through them all so quickly that it was over just as I was starting to get back into the flow of dancing! Oh well, there's always the one in Vancouver next month. Christine and I finished the evening with a trip to Extraordinary Desserts since it was darn close. Yay! :)

Old Town and the Beach

Occurred April 22, 2007 (Permalink)

Sunday, I bade farewell to Christine and met up with Libby and Jeff for brunch at a German restaurant out in La Mesa. Libby had friends from Illinois staying in Coronado, so for the first time in my life I went out to Coronado island. Libby had to go to a choral rehearsal, which left Jeff and I to wander around for a few hours. First we tried to find the rocks on Coronado beach that spell out "CORONADO" from the air (missed them by a few hundred feet, alas!) then went to Mission Bay Park to fly a kite. Upon failing to encounter the kite in the car, we started messing with a hydraulic rocket, as found in a recent issue of Strong Bad Email. Worked just about as well for us as it did for him.

Old Town was near where Libby's rehearsal was (it's the big church that can be seen on I-8 just west of I-805), so we stopped there. I caught sight of one of the new San Diego Trolley cars and ventured inside one for a look. These cars will become the new TriMet Type 4 cars in late 2008; aside from the futuristic look (meh), the cars feature the same bike capacity as the older type 2/3 cars (boo) though they have considerably more seating capacity considering that they're only seven feet longer. Old Town looked more or less the same, though the old cadre of restaurants were forced out in 2005. After that, it was time to get Libby, so we went back to their place and watched Black Adder.

Anza Borrego Desert and the Salton Sea

Occurred April 23, 2007 (Permalink)

		Anza-Borrego Desert
Anza-Borrego Desert

I set aside Monday for a mini-road trip with Jason. Since I had come from the grey gloom of Portland only to encounter much of the same in San Diego, we decided that going east into the desert would be a relief for both of us. With that, we headed out towards the Anza Borrego desert, with optional side trip to the Salton Sea and a not-so-optional side trip to Julian for pies.

We left La Jolla around 9:45 and went north on 15 through Poway to CA-67, east on CA-78, north on CA-79 and east on S-22 to the visitors' center of Anza Borrego state park (img_0144). It was "abnormally hot" (82F) so we didn't try for any strenuous hiking or anything like that, instead sticking to the paths and taking pictures of odd plants (img_3316-9). The ground was a mix of brown, red and yellow colors, which was quite a contrast to the deep reds and yellows of the Oregon high desert. I also noticed that there were quite a few plants that might be described as 'exoskeletal' -- there would be a hard braided cylindrical sheath representing branches, and soft squishy stuff inside. In nearly all cases there would be the usual spines to keep animals away.


		North on CA-86 Parallel to the Salton Sea
North on CA-86 Parallel to the Salton Sea

Due to a navigational error, we went south on CA-86 towards El Centro instead of north to Salton City. This was a fortuitous thing, for we were able to secure a map of the area, pass a palm tree farm (img_0153), take pictures of the wonderfully sinking roads (img_0156) and buy a 1L bottle of Sprite on our way back to the right place.

The Salton Sea is a huge inland body of water in Imperial County that was created in 1905 by a massive overflow of an irrigation canal draining the Colorado River. This flood created a freshwater lake that has been getting saltier in the 102 years since then. The only inlet is agricultural runoff that's full of pesticides, and there's no way to drain it to the ocean. As a result, the Salton Sea is several times saltier than the Pacific, full of pollutants, and is now pretty much an animal death trap. Upon arriving, we discovered, in addition to the smell of saltwater, a faint stench of dead fish. (img_0157-81, 3324-50)


		Dead Stuff Piled Up
Dead Stuff Piled Up

And dead fish there were! On the small isthmus where we parked there were dozens of desiccated fish. Birds flew overhead in the heat but declined to stop. And there weren't many signs of civilization within miles. There was a solitary trailer ... and big piles of dead sea animal shells and dead fish. Yuck. From far away the sea looked blue and appetizing; up close, it was red and brown. A nasty, smelly place lingering with the scent of death.


		Salton City
Salton City

From there, we went into Salton City. Like its watery namesake, the city is nearly dead. Back in the 1950s some enterprising suckers^Wfolks from San Diego thought they could plan out a city of seaside tract houses and summer resorts for rich San Diegans. What they didn't realize is that the sea gets saltier every year, and there's no way to save the area. One day it will revert back to Colorado Desert, and the sea will be gone. Thus, they abandoned the city after paving the roads, running telephone poles, and installing utility service. The one indicator that you're getting close to Salton City that you see while driving up CA-86 is a suspicious thicket of telephone poles off the main highway. We drove up and down some of these inner roads, photographed the metropolitan graveyard, and left. (img_0182-92, img_3351-69)

At this point it was about time to head back to San Diego. We headed up into the hills on S-22, stopping at the eastern entrance to Anza Borrego park for a few more pictures (img0194-end). We stopped in Julian for pies, Encinitas for sushi, and then went back to La Jolla.

Panoramas of the Desert Now Posted

Occurred April 28, 2007 (Permalink)

I have figured out how to generate panoramas with hugin and autopano-sift. A good thing too, since autostitch no longer runs, and the huge pictures that my camera takes were overflowing its paltry 32-bit memory addressing capabilities. See (163-172.jpg, 197-205.jpg and 214-216.jpg) in the gallery.

Farewell to Chandi McCracken

Occurred June 02, 2007 (Permalink)

A thirty-two bar strathspey for three couples, with pictures! Written by Darrick Wong for the 100th Annual Portland Rose Festival and premiered June 2nd, 2007.

This dance is written to mark the occasion of Chandi McCracken finishing school in Portland, Oregon and moving back to Minnesota. A quick explanation of the symbolism of the dance: The first 8 bars have the dancers making figure 8s on the dance floor. Eight is considered a lucky number in Chinese culture because it sounds like the word "prosper"; though Chandi is not Chinese, the author of this dance is, and writes the number 8 just like the track that first couple makes in this figure! The second figure has the first couple dancing beneath arches made by the other two couples in the dance, alluding to the many bridges in Portland along the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. La Barratte was selected for the third figure because Chandi likes it, and he final figure of the dance is colloquially named "hello-goodbye setting", the meaning of which should be fairly self-evident.

Movie Clip of Farewell to Chandi McCracken

Occurred June 13, 2007 (Permalink)

Now posted as a movie thanks to Mrs. Shaylor!

Climbing Mt. St. Helens

Occurred July 04, 2007 (Permalink)

		Looking Northeast from the Summit at Rainier and Adams
Looking Northeast from the Summit at Rainier and Adams

Months ago, Cheryl and Eliza bought climbing passes for Mt. St. Helens on the fourth of July, and told the rest of us that they were planning a little climbing party. Several more people followed suit, and the result was a six-person climbing party for the fourth! After a month's worth of training hikes in the Gorge (Dog Mountain, Ruckel Ridge, Devil's Rest, and not Mt. Defiance) and some crash courses in map reading, compass use, and GPS operation, we were more or less ready to go! The weather report said that the day we picked was a good one, and the climb reports from the previous weekend indicated that there would be no serious problems posed by the mountain, aside from the mountain itself.

We packed ourselves up into cars on the third and headed up to the mountain after work. As usual, I underpacked food (left the sausage at Eliza's) and overpacked equipment (climbing harness, fleece, shell, etc), but we got to the Climber's Bivouac (3800') around 8pm. Dave and Sarah had taken off out of Portland a bit earlier than we had, giving them ample time to stake out a campground and pitch a tent. The other four of us put up our stuff and sat around the campfire chatting and making noise until the late hour of 10pm. Then it was off to bed in anticipation of the long day ahead.


		South towards Portland
South towards Portland

Now, we don't do alpine starts. Local legend has it that we set out around seven in the morning, hiking briskly through the trees up to the timberline on St. Helens (4800'). Immediately, we encountered an ice field and giant boulder ridges as far as the eye could see. The Ptmarmigan Trail was marked with blue diamonds attached to wooden posts; by this time, Dave and Sarah had fallen seriously far behind, and so the other four of us (Cheryl, Eliza, CJ and I) took the somewhat dangerous action of setting out by ourselves.... We scrambled up the huge boulder field to an altitude of maybe 6200'. This was one of my favorite parts, as climbing up rocks is a lot like rock climbing, but substantially less steep. I also like the fact that I can engage mountain goat mode and get up fairly efficiently. There were some pockets of scree that annoyed me from time to time, but it wasn't too bad. The snow fields, incidentally, were perfectly hikeable, but I didn't pack any crampons and ascending in the slushy snow didn't seem like it would be enjoyable.


		Summit of Mt. St. Helens
Summit of Mt. St. Helens

The boulder field began to thin out around 6800' and turn into gravel. Not too terrible, I thought, since gravel can support boots decently well. At 7000' the trail markers stop, though at that point it's really easy to see where the route is about to take you. However, it seemed prudent to stop for a few minutes to acclimate to the altitude, so we sat on a boulder to catch our breath, drink some water (I bought a camelback for the trip) and take in the scenery. What a fabulous view! One awesome thing that I noticed: When we'd first climbed above the timberline, we could see across the valley to the south of St. Helens and not much else. As we got higher and higher that morning, the plains sloped downward (from my perspective) at a sharper and sharper angle until I could see the run of the land laid out in a cool 3D perspective! Sort of like what Google Earth will show you, but in real life! While we could see the nearby peaks of Adams, Hood and Jefferson, it was still too hazy to see Portland. Funny, since I could probably have seen the mountain from my house. A ranger passed by on her way down the mountain and warned us to prepare for wind at the top.

The four of us trodded on. I was, however, noticing that the period between rest stops was shortening and it was getting more difficult to keep my legs going. A climber in another party remarked "It's like I have a forest fire in my legs!"--an excellent choice of words. Gradually the gravel became finer and finer, until at about 7600' it turns entirely to sandy scree stuff. This is nasty, because it's just like walking uphill at the beach--two steps forward and you've slipped a foot through no fault of your own. Luckily, the summit was very very close, so we kept going. The people who'd reached the top before us were getting larger and larger...


		Cornice
Cornice

...until we ran into a large mound of sand. This was the final battle of the first half of the climb, and we charged up it with a renewed sense of energy and adrenaline. Huzzah! We'd summited Mt. St. Helens. I pressed Eliza and Cheryl to get to the actual top, at 8365', so we did. We looked out over the cornice into the crater at the steaming dome that the volcano has been building up since 1980 (and particularly since 2004). Quite a fantastic view! Two weeks earlier I'd been standing at the Johnson observatory across the northern valley from the volcano, thinking it was cool from 2-3 miles away; now I was less than a mile from a hotbed of volcanic activity; it was awesome. Not quite as interactive as, say, the lava I'd seen oozing out of Mt. Etna 8 years prior, but still quite cool. The 2004 fin was surprisingly small looking compared to the giant cap it sits upon. I set up the camera and began snapping photos from the top to celebrate.


		View of the Top While Glissading
View of the Top While Glissading

After relaxing at the top for nearly an hour, we decided to descend. Since I'd brought my ice axe and some plastic pants, I decided to glissade down the snow field and save the strain on my knees. What can I say about the experience to convey the feeling that I felt, other than "WOW!" There's nothing like zooming down a snow field at seemingly insane speeds, with only the axe and the friction of your clothing and boots to stop you! I took a few minutes to strap on all the rest of my protective gear while the other three got a head start; soon I'd zoomed past both them going down as well as Dave and Sarah on their way up. In maybe about 5 minutes I'd dropped 2000' down the mountain.

That's where the trouble began. I should have glissaded as far to the left as possible, in order to stay in sight of my three travelling companions and also to make sure that I was going the right way. Regrettably, I missed a turn and by the time I figured that out and stopped myself, I was three canyons over. Fortunately, I did have a topographic map and a compass, so it was quite easy to determine where I was and where I had to be. I scrambled over three ridges of rocks and scree and ran into Cheryl and Eliza on their way down. Total time saved: 0. Total fun had: 1,000,000,000....

We got back to camp around 16:30 and made it back to Portland a quarter after 18:00. Other people may have watched fireworks; I was perfectly content to see the neighborhood's illegal fireworks just so long as I didn't have to move and could go to bed early to rest. This expedition was awesome!

Exploring the Ice Cave

Occurred July 07, 2007 (Permalink)

Jeff and I went spelunking in the Ice Cave on Saturday. He'd wanted to climb Adams, but the rapidly melting snow on the mountain nixed the idea for him. Lucky for me, as it freed him up to go spelunking in the Ice Cave north of Hood River! The ice formations in it were particularly successful this year, as it was early July yet there were quite a few pillars of ice reaching from ceiling to floor--something I hadn't seen in my past visits. Regrettably, neither of us brought working cameras, so we have no pictures, but it looks about as cool as the photo set that I took last time.

However, we decided to check out the whole thing this time, no matter what it took. Most of the cave is very easy to get to, as it's a lava tube and therefore buried quite shallowly and having several pits that opened up to the aboveground world. I find it totally rad that there's a cave into which cold air sinks during the winter, thus allowing one to go down into there in August to look at blocks of ice! Most of the ice seemed to have grooves in the exterior surface, or cracks, or some sort of imperfection, which meant that the few crystals of ice that we found were extra special!

We also tried to get into the mysterious third chamber at the back of the cave. I'd never gone in there, as the cave aperture is quite small, and I'd never had anyone who knew how to spelunk come along with me to the Ice Cave. In any case, the two of us twisted, turned, and wormed our way through the gaping maw of the rock and into the inner chambers. These are quite large rooms--I could stand up in them---though up here in the upper part of the cave there was nearly no water to form ice crystals like in the other parts. So we twisted our way through the crack and into the third and westernmost chamber, and sat there for a while enjoying our quiet existence. I'm not quite sure where the lava tube came from, but I think it was probably an old conduit for draining lava from St. Helens. While we were in there, some teenagers came along outside and, finding no obvious way in, yelled "Hey, there's nothing here, let's go, it's boring." Suckers!

Various Updates (and Dog Mountain)

Occurred July 16, 2007 (Permalink)

		Summit of Dog Mountain
Summit of Dog Mountain

Way back in April, I hiked up Dog Mountain as training hike to get myself up Mt. St. Helens. I took a bunch of photographs of the Gorge (and even went back 3 weeks later with my friends) but hadn't gotten around to posting pictures until now, due to the high panorama content. Regrettably I've still not gotten the vignetting problems under control yet, probably because the new camera is more sensitive to conditions and I haven't really bothered to learn about light/aperture/exposure settings yet. One of these days... probably before Jason and I go to the Steens Mountains in September.

submarine got upgraded a few days ago, and this lead to the complete and utter breakage of the build scripts for this web site. Since the last redesign in 2003, a bunch of ant scripts (Java and XML, oh my!) have been gluing the pages together ... slowly. Well, the newer versions of ant sealed off the semi-secret knobs I was twisting to make the page compilation work and so I couldn't build pages. Plus, the old ant set up did not allow for concurrent processing of files _and_ the ongoing retrofit of slideshow mode into the old albums had come to a standstill. Enter make! xsltproc has gotten much better since 2003, to the point that I can actually use it now. So I converted everything into a recursive Makefile--the sort that builds a gigantic OBJ list in the main Makefile and can thus scale up to ridiculously high levels of concurrency if given the chance. Also, my goal to reduce the per-directory Makefiles to be as small as possible gave me the free benefit that all galleries now have slideshow mode instead of dumping you into the raw image. Downside: builds take longer even after ditching Java. Also, I changed the "Oregon" gallery to "Pacific Northwest" because I've been dumping pictures from Washington State in there.

BBQ at Kristen's

Occurred July 28, 2007 (Permalink)

Kristen invited a bunch of Linux hackers over to her farm for a barbeque this weekend. Since I had just bought a new lens for my XTi (28-135mm with image stabilizer, same as Jason's) I figured this would be a great opportunity to try out the new lens on the animals apt to be wandering around her farm. Last year she had a few chickens; since then, she had acquired geese, turkeys and ducks. The geese mostly just wandered around, but come dusk I saw an amazing thing--the turkeys gathered around a garbage can next to an apple tree. One by one, the turkeys would jump first on to the garbage can and then into the tree. Apparently turkeys like to sleep in trees. Only one fell out. The party went late, so I borrowed a tripod and took a few poorly focused pictures of the night sky and light pollution.

Stub Stewart State Park

Occurred July 29, 2007 (Permalink)

Jonathon and I decided to check out Stub Stewart State Park, which is the newest park in Oregon. Funded by proceeds from the Oregon lottery, this new park has cabins, ample campgrounds, trails and hitching places for horses, and mountain biking paths. The thing known as "Linear Park", aka 20' of land that used to be a railroad and is now a paved bike path, also cuts through the middle of this park. Unfortunately, the park is not terribly large and is a rather skinny one at that, so there's not much exciting for hikers types. But, it wouldn't be a bad place for the horse-bound.

Waldo Lake

Occurred August 04, 2007 (Permalink)

Originally, my hiker friends and I had planned to take an extended backpacking trip through the Wallowa mountains this weekend. That fell apart when people couldn't get vacation time, so we went to Waldo Lake in the south of Oregon to car camp instead. Waldo Lake is about 75 miles southeast of Eugene way up in the mountains around 6,400 feet. The lake, being that high up, is fed by a spring and has just one outflow, which means that it is ultraoligotropic-- very few creatures living in the water. I arrived with Eliza just before sundown on Friday after dining at the local redneck burger joint and had just enough time to throw down a tent before I couldn't see anymore. Saturday, Dave pulled out the canoe and kayaks that he'd brought down and we took turns paddling around the lake. Because there's nothing growing in the water, it is extremely blue and clear--one can see at least 100 feet down! When night came a few of us went out with a star chart to have a look at the skies and spy constellations.

Google Maps Mashups

Occurred August 20, 2007 (Permalink)

Since I'm supposed to be a Web 2.0 "expert" (Pah!) at work, I decided to try my hand at creating my own Google Maps mashup with this site. Preliminary results are now available--any page where you see a "Map This!" button in the navigation bar has been tagged with map coordinates that will show up as markers in a GMap. For now, the only markers available point to the photo albums, though I'd like to do a similar thing for the blog. Also note that not a whole lot has been tagged at this point. See for yourself! (offsite)

Exploring Lava Tubes Around Bend

Occurred August 26, 2007 (Permalink)
Sinkhole Entrance
Sinkhole Entrance

Jeff, Jonathon and I piled into my car with a bunch of climbing gear and went southeast out of Portland towards Bend. The idea: scout out and explore a bunch of caves that I'd read about in a book at the Multnomah county library! Because of the Newberry volcano's various eruptions, there are some 15,000 lava tubes in Deschutes county alone; that seemed to make it likely that we'd find some hole in the ground to climb through. After a late start on Saturday, we got to Bend around 20:00, ate a quick dinner, then set out on the oddly named China Hat Road into the wild unknown. Given that the sun had already set, it was indeed very much unknown!

After rolling around on dirt roads for quite some time, we finally settled on a road that was marked "CLOSED". There was a short dirt road and a bunch of boulders blocking the road; a brief and blind search through the sand later, Jonathon had the brilliant idea to keep following the road to see if it led to a cave. Sure enough, it did!

There is a grate covering the entrance to Wind Cave, but there was a very narrow section where one of the slats had been taken out--enough space to slide a thin person though! Whether this meant the cave was open (or merely broken) wasn't clear, but in we went anyway. Aside from the heavy concentrations of broken beer bottles near the entrance, the cave had some cool features--enormous caverns, a healthy concentration of bats, and a skylight a few hundred yards in that let us peer upwards at the nighttime sky. However, that was the most interesting part of the cave--until the end, it was pretty much an unending line of rocks to scramble over. It's interesting for the first twenty minutes and monotonous for the remaining two hours.

End of Wind Cave
End of Wind Cave

At the end was some rather intriguing stuff--someone had painted a large skull onto a rock, and there was a blue glow stick wedged up on the top of the rock wall. We took some pictures, scrambled out of the cave, and talked to some of the locals who'd come out with a pickup truck and were drinking out in the desert, who told us where there were more tubes. Because it was 2:00, we drove a ways away and set up camp under a tree.

(Later) Sunday morning, the three of us set out to explore some of the other caves in the area. We found Arnold Ice Cave, but (as the name implies) it has completely filled with ice! There were a few other sinkholes that lead to some impressive cracks in the ground (some with trees in them) and amphitheater-like areas, but we didn't find caves. At that point we decided to get back on the road and head south to the Lava River Cave.

Lava River Cave
Lava River Cave

The Lava River Cave is just like all the other lava tubes in the area, only this one has the distinct advantage of having staircases as well as a floor that is relatively free of big rocks. It starts a few hundred feet east of US-97 and heads westward into the hills. Quite a lot of sand has leeched in through the cracks in the ceiling over the centuries, leaving the floor flat. At some point in the past a lava flow went over the original lava tube, resulting in what the signs call a "tube in a tube"--one can stand at the bottom and look up at the collapsed ceiling of one tube straight into another above it.

Playing with Lights
Playing with Lights

Further on in the cave is a giant sandy trench. In the 1930s a couple of guys tried to dig some of the sand out of the cave, but the sheer volume of sand and the 5,000 foot length of the cave made _removing_ the sand difficult. As the cave ceiling dove to meet the sand, I crawled another 1,000 feet to the end and took some blurry photos; to feed our artistic tendencies we pulled Jonathon's LED bike lights out and danced around the cave taking long exposures. Since the cave is almost totally dark, the bike lights made quite an impression! After that we drove back to Portland via Detroit Lake, which turned out to be a good time to do it, because a big fire would start a few days later.

Around the State in Seven Days

Occurred September 02, 2007 (Permalink)

Jason flew in today from Sacramento to begin our road trip for 2007. Unlike last year's trip, this time we decided that we could get a bit more rugged--more camping, fewer reservations made in advance, and in general a less definite sense of planning than before. Granted, we'd already done that in 2005 with the spur-of-the-moment trip to Boise, but this time we wanted to take a week.

So with Jason in town, we rented a(nother) Chevy TrailBlazer, loaded up with supplies at my house and at REI and Haagen in Hillsboro, and took off down OR-217 to I-5. From Tigard we went directly south on 5 to Eugene and went eastward on OR-58 past Waldo Lake out to US-97. By this time the sun had set, so we cruised south on 97 to OR-138, arriving at Crater Lake at about 21:30. A park ranger told us that we could basically just find a site in a campground and pay in the morning, so we stopped on the rim and pulled out the cameras.

What a view we had! Though it was pitch black on a quarter moon, we could still still see down into the lake. I pulled out the 50mm f/1.4 lens that I'd bought a few weeks earlier and began taking pictures of the stars. The milky way was plainly visible with the naked eye, as well as quite a lot of major constellations. Unfortunately, I didn't realize this at the time but a 1.4 aperture and a 30 second exposure let in quite a LOT of light--enough to make the stars look rather much like blurry blobs. I didn't realize this until we downloaded the pictures onto Jason's laptop, though the subsequent night photos have the aperture shrunk down to 1.8 (or even 2.2). The red headlamp was instrumental in allowing me to see the camera while not bathing it in light, not to mention setting up camp in the dark.

Crater Lake

Occurred September 03, 2007 (Permalink)
Wizard Island
Wizard Island

Monday morning was slow going. The guy at the registration booth hadn't a clue what he was doing, hence the check in procedure took a whopping 65 minutes! In 1930, scribbling in the ledger book and chucking the quarter into the change box would have taken at most five. Anyway, we set off clockwise around the rim of Crater Lake, taking pictures all the way. Jason generously let me borrow his polarizer, so we'll see how the richness of the photos compare to what I've taken before.

Sheer Rock Face
Sheer Rock Face

According to the park rangers, Crater Lake is not named for the giant cone in which the lake sits--it's named for the 300' cone that pokes up above the lake surface. About 7,000 years ago, there was a huge volcano on the spot named Mt. Mazama. It was nearly 14,000 feet tall until the magma chamber collapsed, causing the tip of the mountain to cave in and form a giant caldera at 6,000'. Centuries of rainwater filled the caldera, forming the lifeless lake that is there today.

Editor's side note: The photos are split into seven albums: west, north, and east parts of the rim; and the fumaroles, Vidae Falls, Castle Crest Wildflower Trail, and the sunset pictures.

Another Mt. Scott!
Another Mt. Scott!

There are some amusing geological features atop the Crater Lake rim--an old lava vent on the side of the mountain was more or less preserved when the tip fell in. The vent is now right on the cliff face of the lake, which means that even from far away it's easy to tell the major difference in rock composition between the plugged vent and the surrounding ash. Unfortunately, we missed the last boat tour of the lake, so the best we managed were a few extreme telephoto shots with our 28-135 lenses. In any case, we continued around the lake, slowly realizing that our bodies hadn't yet adjusted to the higher altitudes. Even a quick jaunt of a hike proved to be taxing, and we didn't even bother with the 8,100' Mt. Scott. Despite the signage saying so, we also did not manage to see the Old Man, a tree that's been floating around the lake since at least 1929.

Fumarole
Fumarole

One of the side trips away from the mountain took us about 7 miles off of the rim drive and down into a stream canyon. At the time of the last eruption this area had just been a stream going off the mountain nearby some lava vents, but a few thousand years' erosion took away all the sand and left the hollowed out tubes through which the lava had vented! The road stops next to a big canyon; looking over the canyon there are a series of tall, narrow rocky structures poking up from the floor. Half a mile southeast from there was the eastern entrance to Crater Lake National Park; the first time I'd ever traversed a national park entrance on foot!

Vidae Falls
Vidae Falls

Continuing around the crater rim, we stopped at the one and only set of water works that we were to see the entire trip. Along the side of the road was the Vidae waterfall, and a short distance further down the road was a short hiking trail around a meadow. After that, we went up to the Crater Lake Lodge on the rim and had a quick look around. There was a mildly patronizing ranger giving a tour; when he asked "How many of you didn't drive up here?" in a syrupy voice, I was quite tempted to raise my hand and tell him that I'd flown in on a helicopter.

The Newberry Volcano System

Occurred September 04, 2007 (Permalink)
OR-138 East
OR-138 East

Lying in my tent in the next morning, my slumberous reverie was pockmarked by a curious plunk-plunk sound. Since most of my dreams are rather bizarre (and sometimes in TechniColor) I chalked it up to being merely a strange dream. Unfortunately, as the cartoonish aspects faded out, the plunking noises got stronger. "What an odd hallucination" I thought, until I woke up fully and realized that my tent was being rained upon! As Jason and I got progressively soggier, we made a fast breakfast, crammed all sorts of muddy stuff into the car, and made a quick getaway as the rains continued. Next stop: Bend.

Paulina Lake
Paulina Lake

We didn't get to Bend that directly. About twenty miles south of Bend is Newberry volcano. Unlike most of the Cascade volcanoes that form a nearly straight line going northwards through the northwestern United States, this volcano is a shield volcano off on its own. There are two lakes sitting in the middle of a caldera; these are known as Paulina Lake and East Lake, as well as a mountain, called Paulina Peak. The lake is a pretty typical recreational one, with docks and fish swimming around. Because this was the day after Labor Day, the established campground at East Lake looked like it had been freshly deserted.

Paulina Peak
Paulina Peak

Jason wanted to try out the 4WD, so we jumped on the dirt road and went up to the top of Paulina Peak. For fifteen minutes we had awesome views of the volcano below until the storm clouds came in and blanketed us out. The top of the peak is advertised as being nearly 7,984 feet above sea level, and it is a convenient way of seeing the entire area--including a large obsidian flow that was totally invisible from the lakes!

A Piece of Obsidian
A Piece of Obsidian

Obsidian is a glassy black rock that comes out of volcanoes in areas where the silica content of the rock is high. Apparently, one can go to any number of obsidian volcanoes in Eastern Oregon and grab as much of the stuff as desired, but since this area was a state park, we had to leave it all there. From the top of Paulina Peak, the obsidian carved a giant tongue of rock straight through the trees, creating a sharp 200' drop from the top of the rock plateau down to the forest. There's a path through the giant piles of rocks; it was rather interesting to wander through, trying to see which rocks would grind down the others the best! True to its reputation, the obsidian rocks were quite good at shredding the pumice into dust.

China Hat Mountain
China Hat Mountain

Next, we drove like a bat out of hell eastward over various dirt roads towards China Hat mountain. It looks like a Chinese coolie hat, and there's a town with about four houses and a helipad at the base of the mountain. From there it was more dirt road northwards towards US-20, and we went westward to the first hotel that we saw, the Sleep Inn at the edge of the city.

Driving East Through the Desert

Occurred September 05, 2007 (Permalink)
US-20 East
US-20 East

Originally, the two of us had thought about seeking out the same series of caves that Jeff and I had climbed through the previous weekend. However, it wasn't clear on that last trip whether or not the caves were actually open to the public, since the sign said "CLOSED NOV - MAY" with duct tape over various parts of the sign (but not the entire word "CLOSED"), so we went back to the Lava River Cave, as described in the 26 Aug posting.

The next destination on the trip was 190 miles away in Frenchglen, OR. The instructions to get there were quite simple--east on US-20 130 miles to Burns, then south on OR-205 for another sixty. The entire drive along US-20 was quite uneventful--miles and miles of dry land totally empty save for sagebrush. For some reason they were tarring and chipping a good twenty miles of the highway even though it clearly didn't need it, but in any case it was quite droll.

Cow Traffic
Cow Traffic

Two miles south of Burns, we were following a Ford Explorer, when all of the sudden the Explorer starts braking. We were confused for a second, until we noticed the thick brown and black line in front of the Explorer. That's right-- a herd of cattle were being pushed down the street by three cowhands on horses! I took some time-lapse photography of the Explorer slowing down and being engulfed by mooing cows; it was quite hilarious to us both to sit there at a complete stop, watching cows move past while mooing balefully.

The next fifty-five miles of OR-205 twist and turn rather unusually. First, there is a long plateau a quarter of a mile wide and maybe a few hundred feet off the valley floor. The highway, instead of going around this, goes right _over_ it! Then there is Malheur Lake, which marks the rough start of the Malheur Wildlife Preserve, which extends all the way down the valley to the town of Frenchglen. The road follows the edge of this preserve on a crazy squiggly path along the west foothills of the valley. Though I was told that one could see quite a lot of exotic birds here, I don't recall seeing anything after the lake. Perhaps one should visit there when it is not bone dry.

Frenchglen Hotel
Frenchglen Hotel

The town of Frenchglen serves as a gateway to the Steens Mountains. It has a hotel that resembles a bed-and-breakfast (with good food) and a total population of 11. Surprisingly enough, the hotel was booked completely full-- I was simultaneously amazed that anyone would go there and not surprised because there aren't any non-campground places to stay for 60 miles in any direction. Unfortunately, there was exactly _one_ couple from our generation; they left us to socialize (or not) with the old people as they struck out for Steens Moutain in the dark. Sadly, it was hazy that evening, so I took no nighttime photos. There were a few that I took just after dinnertime to fill up the card.

Steens Mountain

Occurred September 06, 2007 (Permalink)
Little Blitzen Gorge
Little Blitzen Gorge

The Steens Mountains are a line of mountains heaved skywards by a thrust fault running northeasterly through southeastern Oregon. The west side of the mountain is fairly tame, rising 5,700 feet over the course of 15-20 miles. The eastern side, however, drops the same height in perhaps a quarter of a mile, providing awesome views of the sky, the Alvord desert, and pretty much anything one could want to see in any direction. Steens Mountain Loop is a forty-mile long gravel road that goes up one ridge of the backside of the mountain and down the other, but more about that later. The north loop is relatively straight and boring; one can drive quite fast over the rocks.

Off the Edge!
Off the Edge!

Nearer to the summit, there are vast U-shaped canyons that were carved out by glaciers during the last ice age. Similar to the formations that one can see in places like Yosemite but 2,000 feet higher, the lack of moisture up there means that aside from a modest covering of smallish plants towards the bottom, one can see the craggy details of the rocks even from the other side of the canyon! Moreover, the lack of erosion and root degradation means that we could walk right out to a cliff face to photograph the scenery!

Summit Marker
Summit Marker

Going further up the mountain, we arrived at the edge of the mountain ridge. The view eastward was gorgeous! The Alvord desert is a huge 8mi x 15mi salt flat, but from that high up it didn't look that big! The other thing that we saw was a huge green circle in the middle of the desert--apparently, some farmer must be making a lot of money keeping that farm running. With field glasses one could just barely make out a tractor taking down plants in concentric circles. In the distance we could see a chain of smaller mountains rising off the valley floor. Though we didn't venture out to them, I'm plenty sure they'd seem huge to anybody standing in the foothills, a perspective we'd get to study in detail at Hells Canyon.

Me at the 'Top'
Me at the 'Top'

The gravel road ends at 9,600 feet, though Steens Mountain itself continues another 133 feet up into the air. Having come that close to the top, we simply had to make the mini-trek to see the cell phone towers that we thought were perched atop the mountain. It turns out that was a total setup--yes, the road goes to the cell towers, but the cell towers are _not_ the top! The real top with the USGS markers sits atop a pile of rocks on a hump not 500 yards away. From either hump we could see Wildhorse Lake, perhaps the second highest lake in Oregon (the highest is in the Wallowa Mountains) and a long ridge line that must have gone another 30-40 miles southwards. Curiously, despite being right next to a Cellular One tower (and even more curiously since they don't claim service in Frenchglen!), our Verizon phones wouldn't dial out.

Big Indian Canyon
Big Indian Canyon

Descending Steens Mountain, one has a couple of choices for routes. The north loop is wide enough for two vehicles to pass comfortably, but that does not a loop road make! South Steens Mountain Road has a large warning sign at its entrance, telling people not to make the trek without a vehicle with high clearance (no rice rockets allowed _here_!) due to a section called the "Rooster Comb"--narrow, with cliffs on one side and rock face on the other, and little ability to pass, much less spin out. We took this south road, and man was it difficult! The Rooster Comb had some awesome views of the canyons leading away from Steens Mountain; the old-timer working the gas pumps in Fields said that it's better to go _up_ the Rooster Comb because it's less scary and the views are better going up, and I believe he was right. But we haven't gotten to Fields yet.

Rock Road on the Rooster Comb
Rock Road on the Rooster Comb

The worst part about the south loop comes at the lower end of the Comb, because at that point the dusty road becomes a rock road! Big rocks of several inches scatter over the road, making the path a bit hazardous to anyone with bad suspension. We were bumping and bouncing up and down like the best hydraulic-enhanced bling car in Southern California, but without the golden trim, rims, under-body LED lights, and low profile tires. Eventually the road flattened out and Jason dared to disengage 4L. Down towards OR-205 we went; unfortunately at the junction of the loop road and the highway we realized that our average gas mileage had been about 5mpg and we had only a few gallons of gas left. The pumps in Frenchglen looked like they hadn't been used in a while and we only had enough gas either to return to Frenchglen or to try to make it to Fields. We knew Fields had gas, because the guests of the Frenchglen Hotel had made a point of telling everyone there was gas there when we were dining the night before.

Trekking Through Nothingness to the Nevada Border

Occurred September 06, 2007 (Permalink)

So off to Fields it was! The road was long and boring, but it did take us over Bird Hill, through a low pass in the Steens Mountains over to the valley on the other side, and into Fields. When the gas pump clicked past 18 gallons, the old-timer working the pump commented, "You boys must've been pretty low on gas, eh?" We sure were! The population of the town was a whopping 14, so I felt the need to purchase a mug commemorating that fact.

Denio, NV
Denio, NV

Denio, Nevada lay twenty miles to the south. Because we were so close to the bottom of Oregon, we went. Not much there either--that part of Oregon is so dry and remote that there's nothing on the mountains. No buildings, no trees, no power lines, no shrubs, no water, hardly any grass! From there we went straight north to Burns, avoiding the Alvord Desert route because it was all gravel roads and we were tired of that. Burns was hosting the yearly county fair, so the only hotel with room for us was a Comfort Inn; the man in line ahead of me at the reservation desk dressed in a big straw hat and coveralls and spoke with a thick Southern accent. If he'd brought in a pitchfork and a pig I'd have fallen over laughing.

Harney County Welcome
Harney County Welcome

Dinner was at the Apple Peddler in Hines. I had pork chops, and the man at the table next to me was ranting loudly to his friend about how people have no idea about food items available in other parts of the country. Apparently he'd met some woman who didn't know what sourdough bread was, and she spent a good ten minutes yelling at him for giving her stale bread: "Is this bread bad?" "No." "It's hard and stale!" "Yes, it sourdough." "No, it's the worst bread I've ever had!" "No, it's just different, that's the way sourdough bread is!" (etc.)

Old Chinatown in John Day

Occurred September 07, 2007 (Permalink)

The third and final region to visit on our trip around Oregon was Enterprise, Oregon, nestled in the valley between the Wallowa Mountains and Hells Canyon. For the first time since Bend, we left the tumbleweedy desert behind and climbed up into hills covered with yellow grass as we headed north on US-395. Admittedly, the view was not much of an eyesore improvement over the barren mountains of Harney County, but at least it turns green at some point during the year.

John Day is an old mining town in eastern Oregon. Started as a gold mine in the 1850s, the town got its beginning as the "bad neighborhood" complement to Canyon City, a mile south. In the early 1880s, two Chinese immigrants, Ing Hay and Long On went into business together, starting The Kam Wah Chung Co., a combination herbal doctor (Ing) and general store (Long), even as the Chinese population of eastern Oregon declined as the cities drew those Chinese who managed not to run afoul of the Exclusion Act. There's a museum a few blocks off US-26 that hosts the one remaining building of old Chinatown--theirs.

The case of the two men is an interesting study of the (partial) integration of the two men into American society--Long adopted western mannerisms and dress, spoke English well, opened a car dealership, and became well respected among the Caucasian community. Hay, in contrast, stuck fast to his Chinese customs and training as an herbalist while the local community of ranch hands and miners rejected the crude methods of late 1800s-early 1900s Western medicine for Doc Hay's strange and foul-tasting remedies. Trust me, having been seen by the Chinese doctors and ingested their odd remedies, they work, but they sure are odd!

Travelling to Enterprise

Occurred September 07, 2007 (Permalink)
Enterprise
Enterprise

Our tour over, I drove us eastward on US-26 to the junction of OR-7. From there, I faced the challenge to pass _five_ RVs to avoid having to fly up a mountain pass at 25mph in a 55 zone. After many more miles of back-country farms and rural settings, we reached Baker City and went northwest on I-84 to La Grande. From there, we took OR-82 around the Wallowa Mountains to the sleepy town of Enterprise, passing many a green field full of rolling sprinkler equipment. We passed up dinner at the Video & U-Bake Pizza joint for Ming Li, a Chinese/American restaurant on the edge of town. To be honest I wasn't expecting much, but upon entering noticed that the wait staff and cooks were all Chinese from the old country, and the food was actually quite good. One odd quirk though--I had to ask for chop sticks; the waiter was floored when Jason asked for a pair as well. Strange habits, we Californians have...

The Big Dipper?
The Big Dipper?

Long after the sun sank below the horizon, Jason and I strapped on our warm clothing and headed out into the countryside for a second shot at night photography. Because our hotel offered Internet access, I took a look at the satellite photos of the area and selected a spot that appeared to be mostly farmland--hopefully no lights, infrequent car headlights, and no mountains in the way. The place we picked was almost perfect for taking pictures, save for the cows that were mooing eerily nearby. I pulled out the 50mm lens a second time and snapped some good pictures of the stars in the Milky Way, the Big Dipper, and some other constellation I haven't identified yet.

Hells Canyon

Occurred September 08, 2007 (Permalink)
Approaching Imnaha
Approaching Imnaha

Upriver of Hermiston, the Columbia River flows southward from the Canadian Rockies; into this river flows the Snake River after passing through today's sightseeing destination, Hells Canyon. Two hundred million years ago, the Earth's land mass was concentrated in a super-continent called Pangaea and nearly all that became Oregon lay underwater in the ocean. An offshore line of volcanoes slowly built the Blue Mountains; as plates buckled and collided, the uplift of rock between them and the shoreline pushed the sea bed thousands of feet above sea level, helping to form the deep canyons that comprise the Hells Canyon area today. There's quite an altitude difference between top and bottom: whereas the Snake River is at about 1,250 feet, the Seven Devil Mountains in Idaho tower some 9,000 feet above sea level. We only saw it from the Oregon side, at perhaps 7,000 feet.

Moo.
Moo.

A week earlier, my boss had suggested driving out to Hat Point for some particularly awesome views of Hells Canyon. She was dead right about that, but what a road we had to traverse to get there! Paved roads stop at the town of Imnaha, which sits in a river valley adjoining Hells Canyon. Along the way, we saw many skinny pastures stuck between the Imnaha River and the Imnaha Highway. Apparently the farmers in the area don't place much stock in constraining their animals in pens, for we saw cows and horses grazing semi-wild in ditches along the side of the road, totally oblivious to the cars zooming by at 60.

Imnaha River Canyon and the Wallowa Mountains
Imnaha River Canyon and the Wallowa Mountains

Outside Imnaha, a gravel road begins the twenty-four mile trek to Hat Point by climbing 5,000 feet in 5 miles straight up the side of the canyon with no switchbacks to an awesome vista of Imnaha! Ominously, there were yellow signs facing the other direction warning people that they needed to stop to let their brakes cool off. Considering that Steens Mountain Loop didn't have warning signs, we took that as a hint that low gear _and_ brakes might be required here! The second yellow sign indicated a 16% grade going down the road.

Having conquered the ridge, the road flattens out (relatively speaking) for the remaining nineteen miles out to Hat Point. Along the way we passed several places to pull out for pictures; several of the panoramas were shot from these locations. Up atop that ridge were several large mud puddles that Jason had fun driving through.

Hat Point Fire Tower
Hat Point Fire Tower

Hat Point consists of a giant wooden fire tower that was built in the early 20th century on the brink of Hells Canyon. Ironically, the trees all around the fire tower were all recently charred, and it was obvious that crews had started the work of rebuilding the wooden benches and viewing platforms that were there previously. Jason and I climbed up the fire tower to the lower of the two viewing platforms to give ourselves vertigo and shoot some more panoramas of the Hells Canyon area. The trip was surprisingly time-consuming, since we left camp around 10:30 and didn't finish until perhaps 16:30.

Joseph
Joseph

Heading back to town, we made a significant detour down Forest Road 39 to a more official looking viewing point south of the dam on the Snake River. That area had some decent views too, but by that point we were tired of seeing big canyons, mountains, rivers, and desert. We never did get around to hiking in the Wallowas. Dinner was at a mostly deserted Mexican restaurant in Joseph.

By the way, if you ride motorcycles, don't idle them for 15 minutes right outside your hotel at 7:15am on Saturday. Some people with oatmeal for brains were staying in an adjacent room and did that to us.

Unfamiliar Interstate; Home Again

Occurred September 09, 2007 (Permalink)
Interstate 82
Interstate 82

Sunday, we bade Enterprise farewell and started driving west back to Portland via OR-82 and I-84. Since neither of us had been on it before, we drove I-82 north into Washington and came back to Hermiston, Oregon for lunch. Highlights of the rest of the trip include seeing the new windmills being installed in the Columbia River Gorge and watching the salmon trying to swim up the fish ladder at Cascade Locks. It's quite odd watching fish trying to swim upwards against the current: they make a few feet of progress, then get tired and get pushed most of the way back, and occasionally a bigger fish comes crashing downcurrent, shoving the smaller fish around the place. Trouble is, the fish expect to go upcurrent, so making it "easy" for them by lowering the water flow confuses them and they end up fish chowder in the dam turbines. When we got back to Portland we hosed and scrubbed the Blazer until it was clean, leaving a layer of topsoil all over my driveway. Dinner was at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in downtown, with dessert at Pix on SE Division. 1,959.2 miles and 84 gallons of gas this year.

Website Upgrades

Occurred December 31, 2007 (Permalink)

I've updated the website maps to include some GMap 2.94 features such as terrain mode (looks awesome!) and satellite/hybrid mode. I also added reverse geocoding to the maps--simply move the mouse cursor over the map and it will tell you the approximate latitude and longitude.

New Year 2008

Occurred January 01, 2008 (Permalink)
Maddy
Maddy

I again spent New Years in San Francisco with Maddy and Clay. The three of us crashed at Clay's sister's flat in the city; unlike last year, we didn't carry on too long, opting to go out early instead. The first place we hit was a sleepy pub on 9th street for some munchies; after that, we strode along the MUNI Metro line, planning to wander around the city to see what we'd see. We ran into Maddy's sister's boyfriend, so we headed into downtown for some more drinks. As the hour got later, we left him at the bar and took the bus towards the Mission to meet the same folks we'd hung out with last year, and actually rang in the new year with them! The men mostly fell asleep on couches in the bar, while the ladies carried on; I woke up in time to get a beer, sing, and drunk-dial my friend Liz.

The next day, the three of us went to West Portal, ate brunch at a place hilariously named the Squat and Gobble, then wandered around the area for a while. We encountered some sort of Christian Scientist(?) hospital and hotel, saw the movie Juno, then parted ways.

The next day, dad and I carted a carload of old computer equipment (big CRT tubes, the old P120, miscellaneous other crap) over to the town dump. I rounded out the vacation by going to Fisherman's Wharf with Jason and his sister for chowder and chocolate, and then to Ti Couz for crepes.

Crepes are cool.

Hike and Fog

Occurred January 16, 2008 (Permalink)

Hiked Angel's Rest in relatively sunny weather on the 13th. Power was out when I came home the night of the 15th... except at my house! Enjoyed being an island of electricity until *CLICK* out went the lights. Stayed up late to watch a dense fog roll in, and took pictures.

I just noticed your CSS selectors to highlight form fields with focus. That rocks!

Crapola

Occurred January 28, 2008 (Permalink)

In the last week, I've... finished putting latches on the kitchen cabinets (only to have two of them break off because of cheap screw heads), painted test patches of red in the dining room and yellow in the kitchen, flooded the basement, tore out all basement carpeting, rearranged the movie theater, scheduled driveway repairs, and converted this website to git. Really I'm ready for this month to be over.

Chinese Name

Occurred February 01, 2008 (Permalink)
Wong-Ming-Fay
Wong-Ming-Fay

This is an imprint of my Chinese name (Wong Ming Fay (sp?)) made by my marble stamp. Grandma was interested in seeing it, so up it goes.

Driveway, Sidewalk, and Backyard Torn Up

Occurred February 04, 2008 (Permalink)
Driveway Ditch
Driveway Ditch

Sunday afternoon, I returned from having dim sum with Liz to find a work crew slicing and dicing the parking strip and driveway in front of my house with a bobcat. The plan is to remove the weed-infested strip of cement between the sidewalk and the curb and plant something (flowers?) there instead. The steep drop from the driveway to the street will be smoothed out somewhat, the drain fixed up, and various small chunks of broken sidewalk repaired. The foreman drove by and said that they would pour the new concrete as close to tomorrow as they can get, weather permitting.

Today, some gardeners came by to tear out the huge 40'x8'x3' ivy "hedge" behind my house. In the past, somebody planted that stuff next to the backyard fence; since then, the ivy overwhelmed the fence and it finally collapsed in the last storm. Since I wasn't looking forward to removing that much plant material myself, I bit the bullet and found "Paradise Restored" to do the job for me. Now that it's gone, the lady whose yard abuts mine came out and said "Oh thank you for getting rid of all that horrible ivy! I could never keep up with it and gave up years ago..." Hopefully that stuff will stay out, though I suspect it won't. There are pictures too.

Wisdom Teeth Removed

Occurred February 20, 2008 (Permalink)

Wisdom teeth removed. Enough said.

Backyard Renovations

Occurred February 25, 2008 (Permalink)

While I was down for wisdom teeth removal, I decided that it might be a good time to take down the greenhouse--except for anything mouth related, I felt fine. During the long block of sunny February days, I went out with my trusty drill, jigsaw, and a few other tools, and bisected the greenhouse. It was a lot of work to cut the racks inside the greenhouse, unbolt the joined sections, move the old frame out and the door back, then dismantle the rest of it, but in the end I have much more space in the back yard and some spare greenhouse parts. The racks I gave to Ann, though the rest is still cluttering up the back.

RSCDS Ball 2008

Occurred March 01, 2008 (Permalink)
Ball
Ball

Pictures from the Scottish Country Dance ball are finally posted. It looked to me like the ball went quite well this year--the usual people from Bend and Salem, and a sizable group from Idaho as well.

Backyard, Part II

Occurred March 09, 2008 (Permalink)

Today, Ann and I went travelling in search of plants. We hit up Al's in Woodburn followed by some place out in the middle of nowhere in Clackamas county. Sunday, I transplanted the plants into the dirt, cleaned some of the muck out of the pond, and put solar LED lights around the garden. Looks fabulous; will have pictures when I'm done with it all.

Filesystem Histogram

Occurred March 10, 2008 (Permalink)

I wrote a program to chart a histogram of file sizes on a filesystem. Later, I extended it to plot fragmentation at each file size as well. The resulting "fhist" program is up along with some sample graphs.

Interior Painting

Occurred March 28, 2008 (Permalink)

I've decided to paint the house this year. Thus far I've gotten the dining room and kitchen done up in red and yellow, respectively. A photo album is up too.

I have seen the paint in person. And it is good.

Car Wrecked

Occurred March 31, 2008 (Permalink)
BAM
BAM

The Accord got rear-ended on the freeway, with me in it. I think Libby said it best: "Poor crunched-butt car. Rest in pieces."

Searching for Cars

Occurred April 08, 2008 (Permalink)

Since I no longer own an automobile, I have purchased a Zipcar subscription to tide me over until I buy a car. If nothing else, this will be a keen way to take a Honda Element (and whatever other vehicles are available) for an extended test drive into places where the dealership probably wouldn't let ou go (Columbia River Gorge, say). However, this at the added inconvenience of having to take the bus to the zipcar, as there aren't many up on the hill where I live. My dad snorted "they have time sharing for cars now?" when I told him I was getting Zipcar.

(Well, heck, I don't know what to buy yet, so renting random cars doesn't seem like an outright waste of money...)

Generally speaking, I want a vehicle that's shaped like a station wagon. SUVs are too big for SE Portland, and the Accord sedan had problems fitting anything larger than a medium box. AWD is a nice perk, but not necessary where I usually go with cars. That said, I do remember sliding around on desert dirt roads a few miles out of Bend with the Accord. Fun is fun... sometimes. I also remember getting the Accord stuck on a snow embankment; also, places like Hat Point probably suck rocks off the ocean floor in a 2WD car. I should also note--I never plan to drive to Beaverton (or work) again unless I have to. This means that mileage isn't my highest priority, because more of the potential use of the car shifts to fun stuff... in which case I'll pay for the gas regardless. That said, I am generally aiming for 20mpg or more.

Did you look at the Scion xTupperware? I'm getting one from Zipcar this weekend to move the last of my stuff from Troy down to NYC. I finally got rid of my car last week. what a relief!

I went to the dealership, but I've never driven one. The '09s have huge C pillars, which I don't find attractive or a boon for visibility.

Subaru? Honda?

Occurred April 11, 2008 (Permalink)

After the last car accident, I (made the person who hit me) rent me an '05 Subaru Outback. I don't recall much of that car, though I remember being impressed with the amount of storage space and the holes they'd hidden all over the car for storing stuff. I vaguely recall that it had a non-turbo H4, which was enough to get up the Portland Hills on US-26 still managing a good 58mph. It took the US-30 Crown Point test pretty well too, though I'd bet things have changed since the 2005 model year. (I don't recall if it had stability control... not that you'd need it on dry pavement.) It was roomy enough, though I've noticed that the Outback doesn't have a whole lot of rear seat room if the fronts are adjusted for my legs.

I examined a new '08 in the dealership one late Friday afternoon; the interior matched my memory of it. Granted, these things are expensive--the H6 with all the stuff I want is 32k. Will try to rent one again, but Hertz doesn't have any Outbacks (they're waiting for a new shipment, they said.)

While at the Subaru dealership, I also poked into the 2009 Forester. All-gray interior I'm not wild about, but it _is_ larger than the Outback and a lot less expensive. It also looks like an SUV more than a tall boxy wagon like the old ones did. Comfortable enough, too. Haven't test-driven it.

Tonight and Thursday I'm borrowing one of the Honda Elements that Zipcar has. Aside from being 60 blocks from here, I'm looking forward to being able to examine the car more thoroughly. I visited a Honda dealer this weekend too; the Pilot is too big to maneuver, though the CRV might be manageable. Actually, the CRV is temptingly roomy, though it has the same engine as the Element and weighs even more.

Toyota Prius, II

Occurred April 14, 2008 (Permalink)
Prius Engine
Prius Engine

Yesterday, I returned a 2008 Prius to Hertz. Most readers will recall that I drove one from Portland to San Jose and back last October, and while the gas mileage was phenomenal, I didn't like the trunk taillight bar going across the back window. Well, that didn't change--I still dislike it. I was impressed that I nearly got my tallish bicycle into the back; had I bothered to detach the front wheel, it surely would have fit. The car was generally roomy, and it did fit quite a lot of stuff coming up from the Bay Area, and had enough torque to get over the mountains at the Oregon border. Certainly it works quite well as an economical hauling car though road noise was pronounced.

On the US-30 to Crown Point test it generally handled the curves quite well, even when taking 15mph turns at around 25 in the dark. The handling was tighter than the Accord, but that's no surprise. But, the poor rear visibility dissuades me from buying it. Last weekend, I looked at a bunch of other Toyotas (RAV4, Matrix, Scion xD). Rear window visibility was ok, but the rear quarter view was terrible--they've made the D pillar so large that you can't see what's hanging out near your rear fenders.

Test Track

Occurred April 16, 2008 (Permalink)

Some people have asked me what exactly this "US-30 test track" is that I've referenced both in IM conversations and on this blog. This is a route map (offsite).

The track involves roughly 120 miles of various kinds of driving that I tend to do on a somewhat regular basis to see how the car performs when going most of the places that I go with the car. It does not include any off-roading at all, unfortunately, except for the odd unpaved road within the city limits.

A-B: Home to Work: The first leg of the trip starts out at the Fred Meyer on NE Glisan St. Actually, it starts at my house, but I'll not publish that kind of detail in a public forum. Typically I park the car in the garage, turn the lights on, and take pictures all around and inside the car. What I'm looking for are the things that do not show up in the car brochures--little details that I notice, wear marks, how easy the controls are to reach, etc. I also look for things like how many bends there are in the intake/exhaust ducts on the car (more twists means more turbulence, which detracts from engine power), how easy it is to check the fluid levels, reach the oil/air filters, battery and headlights, change the wipers, and any other basic maintenance. I also look for things that annoy me.

From there, I head out to work. The freeway onramp at NE 58th Avenue has a fairly steep slope, which gives me a chance to evaluate heavy acceleration... if I'm not stuck behind a line of people merging on the freeway at 33mph. Once I'm on the freeway, the twisty curves on I-84 and the Marquam bridge let me test how well the steering responds at high speeds. I know, the Terwiliger curve in S. Portland is nastier, but takes me out of my way.

After curving around downtown, I end up heading west on US-26 towards Hillsboro. The freeway climbs 400 feet in about a mile, and if you're in the fast lane the cars seem to drive between 57-63mph. I consider this to be a decent test of hauling ass up a mountain, as it were. The backside of this slope lets me test the rolling resistance of the car--can I coast down the hill with my foot off the gas? Generally speaking, no. Then I go to the office and, erm, test the parking spaces. Given that the office is in Beaverton, this gives me ample opportunity to test performance going in and out of red lights (lights are never green in this town).

B-C: Work to Angel's Rest Trailhead: After work, get back on the freeway and return to the east side. Usually this is after work, so I get some dinner and get back on I-84 heading eastward somewhere around NE 60th Avenue. The merge ramp there is short but becomes an exit lane, so one can use it to test flat freeway acceleration from low speeds--the road going to the onramp is 25mph and they have cameras to enforce that.

The I-84 route takes me east through Gresham, Fairview, and Troutdale. The concrete on these parts of the freeway are in bad shape, what with heavy SUVs with traction tires wearing deep ruts into the road surface, and the state not having the money to repave or at least grind the road surface until it's smooth. Result? Lots of road noise. The nicer the car's interior, the more of the engine I hear and the less of the tires on the pavement.

After leaving the metro area, the speed limits increase to 65mph. Needless to say, drivers usually speed up to about 70-75mph. I can pretend to be a Californian and go fast. Usually I do this stretch in the dark, so I have an empty freeway to figure out how well the low and high beams show me the road. Once I get to exit 28, I get off the freeway.

C-D: Angel's Rest Trailhead to Crown Point: Now we're actually on US-30. The old Columbia River Highway follows the freeway westward for a few miles but gets progressively steeper and curvier as the road climbs the wall of the Columbia River Gorge to get to Crown Point. The speed limit is 40 despite the curves and the high chance of tree debris over the road, so this road is best done after 9:30pm with high beams on and no traffic. I slalom up the hill to the Point (an old WPA monument/rest stop, turn around, and slalom down.

D-E: Crown Point to Vancouver, WA via Ainsworth State Park: Once back to the Angel's Rest trailhead, I keep going east on US-30. The road is flat here, but very narrow in places. Consider that the highway was designed for a low volume of narrow tall 1920s automobiles, and suddenly driving a big truck on that road becomes a scary endeavor indeed. But it is a good test of whether or not the car can fit in a skinny lane next to a wall of rock... and how well I deal with driving said vehicle.

I then get on 84 heading west back to Portland, drive to 205 and go north into Vancouver, west on 14 to 5, then south on 5 back to Portland. If there's a breeze on the Columbia, crossing the river lets me assess how much the car suffers from side-to-side sway.

E-F: Vancouver, WA back to Fred Meyer: I get off 5 somewhere in North Portland and drive around on city streets back to the Glisan Fred Meyer. If the car has a gas mileage indicator I can get a rough estimate of city vs freeway. At Fred Meyer, I pick up some groceries and stuff them in the back. In the 12 blocks to get home from Freddy's, I go fast up a steep hill and make some tight turns to see if I can make the groceries slide around.

Honda Element

Occurred April 17, 2008 (Permalink)
The Element's Suicide Doors
The Element's Suicide Doors

Initial impression of the Honda Element: It's big, roomy, and very configurable. The rear seats fold up along the sides or completely come out of the car. The rear suicide doors open wide enough that two can get in at the same time, though the suicide doors don't open if the front doors aren't open--same sort of door wriggling games you get with extended-cab pickups and coupes. Gas mileage was awful--16mpg over the length of the entire test track, as compared to 47 for the Prius, 23(?) for the Outback and 24 for the old Accord. Granted, this was a 2005 Element, whereas the new Elements have an extra gear in the transmission, so its likely that the new ones won't tach 3000rpm going 72mph on a flat surface with not much wind. Honda claims that the 2008's overall mileage is 22-23mpg. On the other hand, maintaining 58mph on the US-26 hill kept the engine at 4000rpm for 1.5 miles, causing me to burn 1/8th a tank of gas just getting to work(!) My guess is that of Steven's, that the vehicle's drivetrain has to be programmed that way on the hills to overcome air resistance and weight. Parallel parking wasn't that hard, though it never is in Portland because we don't squeeze the way people do in, say, San Francisco. The back seats had excellent legroom, however; Alexis was very happy that she could stretch out in the rear seats on our way to lunch Thursday, and that's even with patman (6'4" guy) in the front. My boss said the floors were sturdy enough to survive the high-heels test. On the way home from Freddy's the food cans broke loose from the plastic bags and slid all over the floor from the front to the back, with an annoying RRR RRR RRRR WHAM noise every time; cargo nets would help with that. This is, however, the only car so far that has passed the bike test.

Update: I nearly forgot--I almost creamed a Corolla that was passing on the right because the Corolla is too low and the Element too high to see it out the windows, and the same apparently goes for the right rear mirror. Actually come to think of it, the Corolla was hanging out alongside the mirror, which meant that the mirror didn't see it and the windows were too high. I only saw it after it shot ahead of me. Typical elephantitis syndrome of large trucks/SUVs, I guess?

Zipcar

Occurred April 18, 2008 (Permalink)

Zipcar is the time-sharing car service that I've been using to get around town since the end of the Accord when I don't feel like taking my bicycle. You sign up for their service ($25 application fee and either $50/yr or a $50/mo commitment) and they mail you an RFID card. When you need a car, you make a reservation and wave the card at the reader to check it out. Supposedly there's an interlock between the RFID card reader and the ignition so that it's safe to leave the key tethered to the dashboard. However, I find it odd to have to use RFID to get in the car when it's locked. The RFID card doesn't always work on the first try; it will beep to say it recognizes that there's a card, but the doors don't unlock until you try again. It's also annoying to have to take the bus to get the car, because there really aren't any Zipcars in my neighborhood. The car comes with a gas-only card for filling the tank. Other than that, it's quite nice--$8/hr or $67/day to rent a car with unlimited mileage and gas. In all honesty the cheapest rate level ($50/yr fee and no usage commitment) might even prove an adequate complement to owning a car. That said, I'd probably go nuts having to walk 15 blocks to a car when it's 25 degrees outside. In good weather, Zipcar is less of a pain than, say, Hertz. Hertz+AAA is cheaper for a full day rental; Zipcar is cheaper for rentals shorter than about ~8.5 hours per day. Hertz could be easier if one goes for the "they drop it at your house" option but I'm sure that makes Hertz more expensive than Zipcar. Also, it's nice that Zipcar amortizes gas among all the users with the gas card.

if your major complaint is location, I think I'll go for it. there are a billion locations in nyc ps- nice comment-posting "password", I hope the bots don't find out ;)

They haven't yet.

Electric Cars

Occurred April 19, 2008 (Permalink)

Yes, I actually went to Ecomotion, a green-car dealership on Sandy Boulevard. In addition to "good enough mileage" cars (Civics, Hybrids, and other small cars) they sell a 4-wheeled electric box^Wwagon by Miles and 3-wheel Zapcars. I didn't really have an opportunity to test them--the Miles EV claimed not to go above 25mph ("government regulation" claimed the sales lady) which made it impractical to test anywhere near Sandy (35mph speed limits). That said, it looked like it could (just barely) seat four. Crash protection might be minimal--none of the usual manufacturer brochures of "look at the frame, it will keep you alive when you ram something at 70!" The Zapcars are classified as motorcycles due to the three-wheel design; though they claim a top speed of 40mph, I was off-put by the lack of sheet metal. Maybe the car was made from fiberglass? In any case, the range on those cars was not more than a few hundred miles. This did not come as a surprise to me, so I conclude--gasoline is still a great fuel, because it packs a lot of energy into an easily portable format. Electricity is a great idea, but admittedly the all-electric cars remind me of 1920s autos in terms of speed and range. Oh well, some day.

20s cars are great if they come with cute blond flapper chicks

Subaru Forester/Outback

Occurred April 20, 2008 (Permalink)
2005 Subaru Outback
2005 Subaru Outback

Today I went to a Subaru dealership to test drive as many Subarus as I could. Unfortunately, the only pictures I have are of the 2005 Outback that I rented a few years ago. As far as I can tell, the exterior styling is mostly the same, though the instrumentation seems to have changed a bit in the past three years.

The first car was the 2009 Forester. From what I can tell, the engine and the AWD are the same as last year, and everything else has been updated, from the 2008 Impreza, no doubt. There's more legroom in the back seat, though the Forester remains taller than the Outback. Past versions were shorter, but this new 2009 seemed to be almost the same length. Unfortunately, being dealer cars, I wasn't able to take it much further than out to 33rd (about 27 blocks and back), much less on my usual 130mi test track. The acceleration on the freeway was good (though admittedly the onramp to east 84 is downhill). Generally speaking the ride was solid and pretty quiet, though I did observe the engine taching pretty high even to get up to 65. But as I've said to a few people now, I don't much like the grey-on-grey interiors; new model year cars also make me leery.

The 2008 Forester, by comparison, is smaller than the 2009. Accordingly, the rear seat has precious little legroom--if I adjust the driver's seat to fit me then I can barely squeeze into the back. This makes it a non-starter to me; anyone I haul around should be able to fit in the car, regardless of how long their legs are.

The third car was a 2008 Outback 2.5i Limited. This car is powered by a 4-banger and a 4-speed automatic transmission (4AT). Merging onto the freeway, it was, shall we say, gutless. Not that one needs guts to drive down a hill onto a road that goes 50mph, though passing felt a bit slow. The steering and suspension felt more solid than the Forester, though I felt that I had to turn the steering wheel further to go around the same corners. Storage space in the rear of the car was more generous than the Forester; as the sales guy explained to me, Foresters are tall and short whereas Outbacks are shorter and long. The Outback doesn't have door frames, though I didn't observe wind or road noise being particularly noticeable. Given that these Subarus cost a bit more than the other vehicles I looked at (Prius and Element) I'd expect them not to rustle as much. Leg room in the back was acceptable but not as good as the Element; on the other hand, I don't see my food rolling around even if I don't spring for cargo nets. Overall it was a decent car and inexpensive. I did not have a chance to try SportShift on either Outback.

The fourth car was the 3.0R Bean Outback. Ignoring the foo-foo designer interior logos (Subaru says they're dropping the L.L. Bean for 2009), this car impresssed me. The engine is a 6-cylinder version of the regular Subaru boxer engine; the transmission is a 5-speed automatic with a knob to switch between three different modes: intelligent gas saving, regular sport, and sport-sharp. Getting on the freeway in gas-saving mode was a bit gutless ... but then I tried it with Sport-Sharp mode turned on, and did we ever zip down the road. The gas mileage was probably horrible, but the car accelerated so much more quickly than the Accord did that I was soon racing along 84 at Californian speeds. Passing was a breeze, as this car (even in regular Sport mode) clearly has plenty of power to spare. This car also comes with an oversized moon roof, which was pleasant to open up and enjoy the tiny bits of sun that evaded the clouds. The mirror turn signals weren't as bright as I'd hoped, though I do recall thinking that they were plenty bright when I saw an Outback XT downtown a few weeks ago. Heated seats and dual climate controls were nice amenities that reminded me of Woodley's Volvo. Only drawback? You pay for the extra performance.

What about the test track, you ask? I took the '05 Outback on the test track back in 2005. At that point didn't have the 205-14-5 spur into Vancouver, but the rest of it was there. I don't remember a whole lot about the experience other than it handled well on everything the road threw at it. Food did not roll around, and even if it does it'll stay in the cargo area. Visibility was excellent.

Honda Civic Hybrid

Occurred April 21, 2008 (Permalink)

Monday night I rented a 2007 Civic Hybrid to get myself to dance class. Regrettably, it was raining heavily and dark, so there are no pictures. If you want to see one, have a look at Honda's web site. Really, the point of this exercise was to compare the Civic Hybrid against the Prius, since I'd bought an Outback earlier in the day.

The Civic Hybrid, from what I can tell, is a more or less standard 4-banger with an electric motor attached to provide the motor with low-end torque. This means that the car will run, albeit slowly, if the battery dies; this also means that the engine never seems to shut all the way off. As one might expect, the gas mileage is lower than the Prius... but the Civic Hybrid looks like all the other Civics. Actually, there are some differences--the Hybrid has turn signals in the mirrors, just like the Accord Hybrid did.

The Civic handled the test track as well as the other cars in the roundup; the engine ran at lower RPMs going up the US-26 hill towards Beaverton than the Element, and had an easier time going 70 on 84 out to the Gorge. Despite the rain and the tree debris all over US-30, the car felt perfectly ok. There is no hatchback version of the Hybrid, which means that the Prius feels like it would do a better job of hauling cargo. Road noise, however, was much quieter in this car than the Prius.

Subaru Impreza

Occurred April 23, 2008 (Permalink)
2007 Subaru Impreza
2007 Subaru Impreza

I am a practical person. Because I wasn't 100% sure that I'd really be buying the Outback on Tuesday, I made a Zipcar reservation for an Impreza to get to SCD class on Wednesday. This left me in the funny position of having a car... and renting a car. So, we get a drive report for the Impreza even though I'd already taken posession of the Outback.

The Impreza 5-door is a hatchback version of the Impreza sedan, and quite a bit smaller than the Outback. Shorter, lower, etc. However, upon driving off in this car I figured out why it is that people love to rally with them-- despite the 4-banger, these cars' transmissions are tuned to give you lots of low-end torque without even having to press the pedal much! Even with the normally aspirated non-turbo version! Probably not a match for my 3.0R in S# mode, but they'd be close. In any case, merging on the freeway was downright delightful, and going up US-26 towards work was just plain snappy.

Because all Subarus are AWD, I took this Impreza for a high-speed spin on the US-30 part of the test track. Throughout the entire path, I kept the speeds at or exceeding the local speed limit, cruising around the 15mph curves at 30 in heavy rain and never felt that the car wasn't up to performing. Time to the top and back was 20 minutes, whereas with other cars (which I'll admit I wasn't driving as aggressively) it would take 30. Driving on the freeway the engine tach'd around 2500 for 70mph.

2008 Subaru Outback

Occurred April 25, 2008 (Permalink)
2008 Subaru Outback
2008 Subaru Outback

After all that fuss, I bought a 2008 Subaru Outback 3.0R. A road report will be posted just as soon as I get around to taking it out for a spin. Funny, since I bought this car on Tuesday but somehow haven't gotten around to driving it yet. [Now posted below. --Ed.] Lucky for me, I had the foresight to go home Sunday, poll all six area Subaru dealerships for bids, and get Carr and Wentworth in a bidding war for this blue and grey car. Also lucky that the 2009 Outbacks are coming in about three weeks and the economy is bad, so they were both willing to undercut themselves just to unload the car.

Test track highlights: Heading up US-26 towards Beaverton, the powertrain is generally gutless until you push it from Intelligent to Sport# mode. That wasn't a huge surprise, since the 2005 Outback was permanently in Intelligent mode and suffered from that problem too. I had to be a little lead-footed to maintain 60 in Sport mode, but had no problems doing 60 in Sport#. The gas pedal and the brake have a firm feeling--unlike a lot of drive-by-wire cars where you nudge the accelerator and the car goes, I have to give both pedals a healthy push to get much of a response. Of course, in Sport# mode alleviates those complaints for the gas pedal, but the brake is always like that. It's not a critical problem since the brakes clearly stop the car, but it will take getting used to.

Heading east on 84 out of town, I noticed another thing--this car is a drive-by-wire car. Since there's no throttle cable, when the cruise control is engaged the pedal doesn't remain where you left it when you engaged the cruise control. Instead, it rises back to the top position as soon as you ease off the pedal. The car, of course, does not slow down, but if you want to use the pedal again you have to push it as hard as you normally would push it until the engine revs up to tell you that you've found the old position. I vaguely recall the Prius having the same characteristics. The engine tach'd around 2300 to maintain 70, 2800 to maintain 80, and 3200 to maintain 90.

Going up US-30 to Crown Point, I had a chance to turn all the lights on: head lights, high beams, and fog lights. The headlights by themselves are really quite bright, possibly due to their projector lens assembly. However, there is a sharp cutoff between dark areas and headlit areas. The cutoff seemed to be aligned to show the reflectors atop the concrete center median, which was useful. The high beams appear to be as bright as the headlights, but are aimed higher. The fog lights lit up the bottom periphery that the foglights did not catch. The daytime running lamps may or may not be useful, though I have never had a DRL car so I do not know.

The Outback's performance on the US-30 curves was pretty good. I could keep the car at close to posted speed limits and didn't feel like the car was going to lose control. Being a heavier, longer, and higher-ground-clearance car than then Impreza, the Outback did feel a bit clumsier and heavier going around the curves. That said, I was going almost as fast as I was on Wednesday, but it was more fun in an Impreza. I'll try it again in a few months to see if it's the car or just the fact that it's still probably breaking itself in. The transmission seems to be a bit noisy, too. I checked the ATF levels, and they were ok, so maybe it will go away with time.

Oh yeah--I nearly got creamed by a semi while merging onto 84 west. To escape this predicament I engaged Sport# mode, floored the car, and went from 35 to around 80 in about 5 seconds. The large moonroof might have been great for watching the stars, but I wasn't stopping because of recent police reports about armed robbers driving around the Gorge towns to stir up trouble. Heh, that's just like West Oakland.

The interior is very comfortable and soft. I was also impressed that all of my car emergency tools fit in the black hidey-hole under the main floor of the cargo area. The tonneau cover appears to hide the cargo area's contents from public view, provided they aren't too big. I like the radio's ability to read MP3/WMA files off a CD. The car came with a couple sample defects--rather a lot of dirt caked in the engine, a rattle in the front passenger door, and a few dirt streaks here and there. But other than that, I still love the car.

Tulips

Occurred April 26, 2008 (Permalink)
Orange flowers!
Orange flowers!

Oh! I nearly forgot to put in a link to pictures of this year's crop of flowers. Returning from last year are red, purple and the yellow/red tulips; making a debut this year are a couple of orange ones and the small yellow globules of the Oregon grapes. Regrettably, the daffodils died before I could get any pictures. There are a ton of the little globular blue flowers too. I think the carnation came and went before I noticed, sadly.

Wauna Lookout Point

Occurred April 26, 2008 (Permalink)
Wauna Lookout Tower
Wauna Lookout Tower

Today: A blessed sunny Saturday! With that in mind, I decided that it was time to use the Outback for some outdoor activities, so I flipped through the red Sullivan book for a good hike and came up with Wauna Point. There are actually two versions of this hike--a moderate one up to the Wauna lookout point and a hard one up to the top of Wauna Point itself. I chose the first and was glad, because it turns out that I'm rather out of shape having lost most of April to car shopping.

The path out of the parking lot is a bit confusing--it's a paved bike path that goes alongside the freeway and an electrical transformer, before joining US-30 (now a footpath) that wanders up into the mountains that I-84 cuts through. Just before the end of the path there's a stop sign; from the stop sign the not-very-obvious trail heads up the Gorge wall. About 0.8 miles later there's a fork in the path--go left to the lookout point or go right to the top of the Point. I went left, wandered up through a bunch of steep switchbacks, and soon acquired the lookout point. There was even a big concrete pillar to note the end of the trail at 1050'. I took some panoramas from there, and looked way up to the real top of the Point. The real top looks to be less of a hike than Ruckel Ridge, but fearsome nonetheless.

I descended and wandered around US-30 for a ways. Ignoring the landslide blocking the road just west of Tanner Creek, US-30 becomes a hike-and-bike path running alongside I-84. I don't know where it goes, because I got bored and went back to Tanner Creek to look at waterfalls. Might be fun to return with a bike, but the bike hitch doesn't get installed until Wednesday.

The Tanner Creek loop trail follows the creek about a mile upstream to a series of waterfalls. Due to it being a sunny day, there were a lot of kids and dogs running around all over the place, and a number of heavyset people in the parking lot. Ihe eastern fork of the loop was more technically difficult, because it wound high into the creek walls instead of following the creek like the west fork did. The trail ended with a dramatic waterfall that was probably 70 feet high.

After that, I got back in the car and took it to the ice cave to see how it handles the off-road areas. On ice the car seemed to handle ok despite the weird noises coming from the undercarriage; I stopped to have a look and realized that was just the slush being thrown up by the wheels--with 8.5" of clearance, the underside was completely dry! I kept going towards the ice cave, but the height of the snow got higher and the gap between the snow walls kept getting narrower until ... I encountered the spot where no snow plows had ventured past. At that point, I got to make a 3-point turn in the snow, which the car executed beautifully, despite the fact that I was basically using the bumpers as a snow plow. I then took the car onto some dirt roads and tried to make it slide around at 35mph; no such luck with this car. It would appear that Subaru is serious about the fancy AWD in the 3.0R. A day gone, I hit up the Charburger in Cascade Locks before heading home.

Surveying the Streetcar

Occurred May 10, 2008 (Permalink)
Interstate 205 at NE Glisan
Interstate 205 at NE Glisan

The Portland Department of Transportation (offsite) has been asking recently for surveys of potential routes for streetcars through the east side of the city. So far they've proposed a number of corridors, mostly through southeast, and assigned the work of determining the community impact to each quadrant's advocacy group, in my case SE Uplift (offsite). I volunteered to bike the "Glisan Streetcar" route, which is basically 19-Glisan along E. Burnside, NE 28th, and NE Glisan out to Gateway Transit Center.

PDOT has already done the work to figure out where they could run a streetcar line; to us, they supplied a workbook containing questions about the impact that a streetcar might have on the areas that it would serve. Most of these questions were traffic related--how many cars, bicycles, pedestrians, trucks do we see? What is the situation with car parking? Do bicycles or pedestrians have a hard time getting around? Evidently the argument for streetcars is that more people take them than would take a bus serving the same alignment; electric streetcars emit less pollution than diesel buses; and streetcars can hold more people than trolley or diesel buses.

For my run, I chose to take my bicycle and pedal along the route, stopping every five blocks, answering PDOT's questions for each place where I stopped, and photographing each stop. In this manner I accumulated a large photo reel of pictures of an ordinary street in Portland, and all the things that I saw along the way--people out for a jog, cyclists, buses, trucks delivering freight, people going to restaurants, etc. An interesting way to survey city life on a Saturday afternoon, though with an admittedly transportation-focused eye. Full report later when I get to cobbling one together from my notes.

Folklife NW

Occurred May 25, 2008 (Permalink)
Estonian Folk Dancers
Estonian Folk Dancers

The Scottish Country Dance demo team was invited to perform at this year's Folklife NW festival, so I carpooled up to Seattle with the Gertzes to wear my kilt and dance around a bit! Folklife is a 4-day festival in Seattle that features many many different kinds of folk dancing, dance lessons, music from all over the world, ethnic food, etc. It was awesome--I practiced Scottish and Irish dancing, learned that Contra dancing is very similar to Scottish and Irish and that I therefore could participate in them without too much confusion, and towards the end I took some lessons in Lindy Hop and Western Swing. Perhaps I'll try picking them up later this year back in Portland, though the Irish stuff has given me plenty to learn about.

Repainting the Outside of an Old House

Occurred June 09, 2008 (Permalink)
Before and After
Before and After

After nearly 100 years, it was time for the old paint on my house to go. Despite my attempts to keep the green tidy, there were so many layers of (lead) paint on the wood that the bottom layers of paint were peeling off the wood, leading first to the ugly alligator look and later to massive paint damage and eventual wood rot. Solution: remove old paint, apply new paint. Regrettably, this is _expensive_ as heck--preparing the site for possible lead contamination and scraping the old paint have to happen before priming, sanding, and spraying on the new coats of paint. When I bid out this project, there were not many takers--most painting firms in the Portland area refused to tackle the removal part, and the industrial paint removal firms charge an arm and a leg. Yuck. But it was time to repaint my house from scratch.

The oracle of Angie's List (offsite) put me on to a company in Hillsboro called Shades of Rose Painting (offsite). Their estimate was fairly costly (15k) in terms of raw dollars, but adding up the amount of square footage on my house I came up with about 2,000 square feet of wall space on the outside of the house. Not really all that bad, considering that they promised safe removal tactics and two coats of Miller paint. After my month of reviewing cars, I called them up and they arranged to start work two weeks later. Sweet.

The first step of removal is to get the old paint off the house. In the old days people have used bad techniques such as pressure washers (spraying a large quantity of water at your house strips the grain and erodes the bond with the new paint), torches (burning the paint releases lead into the air), heat guns (slow) and sanding (releases lead particles all over the ground). Shades of Rose employed infrared lights, which soften the paint to the point where it can be scraped off the house in large pieces. Every morning they would lay out big tarps to catch the paint scraps, and every afternoon they would carefully bag them up and vacuum the work area to minimize the lead spread. The scraping technique, incidentally, is not 100% successful at getting the paint off, but it comes quite close. In many places one could see wood grain that hasn't been exposed to light in a century. The exposure did not last long, however--almost as soon as they finished stripping a section, they would roll some primer over the area so that the wood would not absorb too much moisture.

At the same time, I hired a carpenter to come to the house and fix various things that were wrong with my house. The back of the garage had ugly vertical LP siding (and the back porch had plywood), which I replaced with siding to match that of the house. This was rather tricky, as 2.5" siding is no longer made. He had to buy regular 4" siding and rip it to the correct lengths, but it looks awesome. He also tore out and replaced all the rotten parts of the front porch and replaced the ugly metal handrails with wooden ones that match the railing on the front porch. He also fixed the stairs that had rotted away.

After two weeks of listening to scraping and squeaking noises, the painters were done! They came back with big cans of gray-blue primer and sprayed it all over the house. The primer dried for a day, then Amish Green was sprayed on in two coats. Next, the window and door trim; fascia boards; porch trim were hand-painted with Plum Island; and accents on the windows and the brackets were painted a straight white. After several days' rain delay, the porch floors and stairs were painted Codman Claret and covered with an enamel. The house looks awesome! It only took three weeks! As an aside, I'm painting the inside, though it'll be a while before I finish. I still have two rooms to paint, trim to repair, picture rail to install, and window sashes to paint.

Repainting the Inside of an Old House

Occurred June 18, 2008 (Permalink)
Living Room
Living Room

After months and months of work, my house is fully repainted, outside and inside! The story of the exterior was told in the previous entry; this time I shall detail the interior work. Before I start, there are pictures of all the newly colored rooms! No more landlord white on the main level!

Some readers may recall that I started painting the house back in March. At that time I knew that I wanted a warm, cozy red for the dining room, and I figured that I could make the kitchen warmer by replacing the white with a sprightly yellow. I didn't really know _why_ those colors appealed to me so strongly, but I went with them anyway. I hadn't consulted any books on color theory, thought of a color wheel as a sort of odd way to represent a linear frequency spectrum, and the whole notion of integrated color schemes was but a foreign concept to me. Howe