A semi-daily chronicle of my life as a musician, a family man, and a citizen of Oregon.

Dec 21, 2008

Christmas Tree Decorating

It's been almost two weeks ago now since we put up the Christmas tree, but I just now have a chance to share some of the pics.  We got a really great tree this year from a new favorite on Fremont St.  It's a family owned business that's super-friendly.  They have this device where you can put the stump of the tree into a shaker that gets all of the rain off the tree before you load it up to come home (a must have for Portland).   Once all the rain was off the tree they put it through a binder for you before you're ready to go.

Here's a shot of us with the tree pre-decoration:

As usual, Andrew helped me string the lights on the tree:
And the finished product:
As kind of a neat aside you can check out our Christmas tree pics from last year to see how much the kids have grown (and how much weight I've lost).

Dec 14, 2008

Snow Day

It's about 25 degrees in Portland, Oregon, with about two inches of snow on the ground at our homestead. 

When we woke up early this morning there was only about a half inch on the ground.  Brianna and Andrew had a swim meet, so we headed out the door and watched the snow come down as the kids swam.  (More on the meet later, lots of pictures to post).

After the meet we came straight back home and have been pretty much inside all day, with the kids making short sorties outside every couple of hours to throw snowballs and get super cold hands which they can then place excruciatingly onto my cheeks.  Today we watched a movie, worked on a jigsaw puzzle, started our gingerbread house, and made a delicious salmon dinner.  Overall, a very agreeable winter day.

Portland has already cancelled school for tomorrow so Jen will be home with the kids.  Unfortunately, since I work for the electric company, I must go to work tomorrow come hell or high water.  Based on the wind I'm hearing outside I wouldn't be surprised if I got called in to work tonight.  Thank god for Trimet, they've got the buses chained and ready to go.

The only thing I'm worried about is the marathon on Sunday.  Olympia is supposed to be having the same weather as Portland that day, and right now they're calling for possible freezing rain and temperatures in the lower 30s, which would be awful and possibly a show-stopper for me.  As it is I wasn't able to get my 8 mile run in today, which definitely puts a cramp in my mood if not my training. 

Think warm thoughts and terribly wrong weathermen for our marathon day, we need all the help we can get.

Nov 30, 2008

Lessons in Running II: The ego filter

One of the amazing things about running for a long ways, or probably doing anything kind of extraordinary, is the reaction you get when you tell other people what you are doing or planning to do.  It's truly amazing how human minds are put together to filter every piece of new information that we receive through our own filter.  Our brains are put together to respond to new information by parsing what that information means to us personally. 

When you're running a marathon you get to experience this all the time.  Here's how the conversation goes:

me: I'm getting ready to run a marathon later in the month.
them: Really? Where at?
me: In Olympia, it's just a little marathon on the Sunday before Christmas.
them: I can't run, I have bad knees.
me: ok.

A good percentage of people, upon learning about something another human is doing, have the involuntary reflex to either join them in that activity or to reject the possibility of joining them based on past accomplishment or personal obstacles.  The funny thing is that I never asked anybody else to run.  I just said that that's what I'm doing. 

I know a number of people reading this are probably recognizing that they've participated in this conversation with me.  I really don't intend any harm or shame in pointing this out, it's just an interesting aspect of how our human brains are put together.  It's almost an involuntary reflex.

So to address the issue directly, I must admit that I do feel in the dark recesses of my mind like many people *think* that they have bad knees or some other personal situation that keep them from running, but just have never really had a good first-hand experience of running. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I thought *I* couldn't run because of my knees before this year.

I know that in the past I've started running and made some bad assumptions that ended up causing me to give up on the whole thing before I really got out of the starting blocks, so to speak.  I would become inspired to run and put forth great energy to do so, but without prior knowledge on how to best get started I was doomed before I ever started. 

I would figure I would try to run a mile at 10 miles per hour, which seemed to be a pretty low baseline to start running.  I would start these self-directed programs without a good pair of running shoes, figuring my gym shoes would probably work until I met some kind of criteria for commitment that would make the trip to the fancy running store worth it.  I wouldn't have much more direction or much more of a plan than to run as far as I could until I felt tired and then walk until I felt like I could begin running again.

The problem with my approach was that I was trying to do far too much too soon.  Since I was out of shape I would get out of breath easily, and then I felt like I would need to stop. I felt terrible for not being able to run for farther and the whole enterprise would be kicked off in a state of failure and shame.  Not an inspiring place to begin a new routine.

So what did I do differently this time around?  Really I kind of lucked into figuring out a better way. 

I've tried off and on over the last few years to start running, usually linked to an attempt to quit smoking.  This time around was no different.  I quit smoking in July of 2007 and with that event came the same jittery nervous energy that always accompanied quitting smoking.  I was looking for an outlet for all that bottled-up crazy when I ran across a blog post on lifehacker about the Couch to 5K program.

I bought a nice pair of expensive shoes from the fancy running store and I've been jogging since. After the 5K program I moved on to a 10K program which had me running 3 days a week and now I'm nearly done training for a marathon. 

It's funny because this is not something that would probably have been possible for me if not for the internet.  It is this particular delivery method for the message that would get me active. More to the point, I can't think of any other way I would ever be able to successfully start running.  I'm that kind of self-directed, personal research biased, own-counsel-holding person who needed to read all of the information and educate myself before I was willing to give it a true go.

I do think that at least 80% of the people out there have the capability to run at some level.  It just takes knowing how to get started and how to manage the program so that we're not overdoing it right out of the box.  If you don't choose to run, that's fine too.  Just because I like broccoli doesn't mean the whole world has to eat broccoli, but let's recognize it as a choice.  The biggest lesson for me is to remember to congratulate others on their successes before I put my ego-filter on and go through the list of why I can't do the same thing.

Nov 29, 2008

Lessons in Running

Today I completed the longest run I'll have before the marathon - a 20 mile run that took me around my neighborhood in northeast Portland and then down to my work in downtown Portland and back. The route looks like this:

As I was running today I felt great. These long runs are
always a good time to think through what's been going on in my life and how I feel about different things. It's a weird Zen state that one enters into, very peaceful and objective. The Zen of the iPod.

As far as the run today went I made it in just over 4 hours, which is about on target for what I thought it would be. I anticipate finishing the marathon on 12/21 in just over 5 hours. Today at around mile 18 I got this great feeling like I could do anything, and for the first time I realized I would complete the marathon. I know it'll be fine now, and a euphoria came over my whole body.

Of course, when I got home I stretched and took a shower and then laid on the bed, at which point every muscle and tendon below my waist decided to form into tight little angry balls that are still hurting me now. But I'll be fine by tomorrow or the day after.

During my run I was inspired to post about the different strategies and life lessons that the marathon training has taught me. I want to get this down before I move on with my life and the insights I've had float off into the ether.

The thought I'd like to share with you now is this: no matter how bad you feel when you're running very long distances, don't stop or give up. Walk. It's amazing what walking can do for you.

Firstly, sore and cramped muscles that are rebelling are placated. Panic is avoided and rational thought is given the opportunity to return. Running creates a sense of other-worldliness in which
you are simultaneously both very aware and very separate from your body. By walking, you can focus on what you are feeling and what might be causing your problems.

Luckily, I've had a pretty healthy time of it as I trained for the
marathon, but I did have at least one occasion where I felt seriously ill during a run. (Never mind the time last May when I fell and broke my elbow - then got up and completed my run before going to urgent care.) Walking for a little while gave me the time and presence of mind to make a good choice (to call Jen to consult) and ultimately to end that run early. Likewise, during my 18 mile run I would have given up at mile 15 or so if I hadn't taken the time to walk about a mile or so until my muscles loosened up and the pain in my joints subsided, after which I easily completed the run.

I've always been pretty patient, but I think this lesson is also
helping me in my daily life. It's a good lesson that when
things aren't feeling right or a situation is calling for drastic
change, sometimes the best thing is to ease up on what's
occurring at the moment. Maybe not halt completely, but slow down and think through the inputs that I can observe and what hidden message might be escaping me in my haste to finish a task. I might indeed decide to bag my current course of action and take a completely different tact, or it might just be that I need a new emphasis in what I'm doing now. Either way, letting up can give me the breathing space to validate what I should do next.

Nov 28, 2008

I'm Published

I received an email today from the managing editor of schmap guides letting me know that my picture of the KOIN building has been accepted as part of their application for their new iPhone app showing information about Portland.  You can see the picture I took right here.

How did this all come about?  This is actually a picture I took last May after Jen and I completed the Cinco De Mayo run in downtown Portland.  You may recall this picture of me enjoying a beer after the run.

When I uploaded these pictures to flickr I also did so under a creative commons license, stating that the picture may be used by anyone so long as they a) attribute the picture to me b) don't use it in a commercial manner and c) share the picture or any work resulting from the use of this picture under the same license.  By using creative commons one effectively says "hey, I've got some work here and I don't have any problem with others using it". 

In this instance, the folks at schmap then contacted me to let me know that they would like to use this work in a commercial product, and asked if I would be interested in submitting the picture for them to do so.  If I had wanted to I could have said "sorry, I want you to pay me $50 too."  This would have been my prerogative.  I didn't however, and I gave them permission to use the photo if they wished.  Thus, voila.  They have a free picture and I have a blog post.  The system worked just as intended.

If you don't already share your work using creative commons I'd encourage you to give it a thought.  Similarly, if you have need to use photography, music, or videos, I'd encourage you to seek work provided by creative commons license, and to follow the protocol for attributing per the license.  It's a great resource and many sites have built-in options for searching for creative commons content.

Nov 27, 2008


Well, Happy Turkey Day Everyone!

We had a great time - it was a small laid-back deal with just our
family and our friend Heather, who also spent Thanksgiving with us last

The menu was:

  • Salmon with creamy garlic sauce
  • Roasted Potatos with fresh rosemary, garlic and olive oil
  • Challah Bread (from our friend Gail)
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Creamed Corn
  • Salad
  • Numerous Appetizers
  • Snow White Cake with Cranberry filling
  • Apple Pie
As usual, we went around the table and shared what we were thankful
for.  For Brianna it was: Family, Jen and I (for cooking good
food), and her pets.  For Andrew it was: Family, leftovers,
and his legos.  For Jen it was: Family, good food, and
friendships.  For Dave it was: family, not getting injured
during Marathon training, and our pets.

Nov 22, 2008

Linux off a USB stick

I've been thinking about the things that I have learned over the last few days.  Sometimes you go through times in your life when you're absorbing more of the information around you.  More open to the little lessons of life.

Firstly, I've learned that Ubuntu Ibex and Fedora 9 from a USB drive is a wonderful thing.  The distros are basically the same running Gnome, with one very important difference; the package managers.  Not long into my experience with Fedora I remembered exactly what was such a pain about it going all the way back to when it was redhat.  RPM hell.  Conflicting dependencies, inability to work around the rpm manager, the limited availability of apps, and the feeling that the good folks at RedHat are far more concerned about their enterprise server business than the desktop user experience. 

I am now happily back to Ubuntu. The add/remove programs app manager is a pleasure. As we speak I'm using Ubuntu off of a USB stick on my work laptop.  It's pretty sweet.  I've got a 4GB jump drive and I set up the other 3GB as a persistent overlay.  I'm becoming quite addicted to having my own computer setup wherever I go for whatever hardware I can get my hands on. 

The only limitation I've run into so far is that there doesn't seem to be a very good WYSIWYG blog editor for linux.  I'm open to suggestion if someone has something that they like, but all I've seen is blogtk and drivel.  They're both fine enough, but they are not WYSIWYG and for some reason I don't seem to able to add titles to posts in either one, which is ridiculous.  I'm very spoiled from using Microsoft Live Writer in windows.  I diss MS as much as anyone, but Live Writer is a killer app.  My normal course of action on a linux machine would be to run the app I like under Wine, but unfortunately Live Wrtier doesn't work in wine.  :(  Epic Fail.

Nov 9, 2008

Run Like Hell

I ran my second race on October 19th, 2008 at Oregon's Run Like Hell.  For both Jen and I this was our first half marathon.  The race is a really fun deal, it's themed around Halloween and a lot of people dress up in costumes.  You can see some great pics here.  There was a Donald Duck, a Minnie Mouse, a Disco team, and a group of ladies dressed as bees.  Of course, there was a queen bee too!

Jen and I didn't dress up - I was exclusively focused on finishing and Jen was trying to beat an 8:30/mile pace.  Thankfully, we both met our goal.  I finished slow, but finished.  Jen finished at 1:50:41 and came in with a 8:27 pace.


Nov 8, 2008

Dynamic Stretching

They say you learn something new every day. For me, today, that is dynamic stretching. After reading this article in the New York Times I was a little shocked. I do static stretches religiously before and after my runs and have done so ever since I began running in January.

After googling I found a routine here that I'm going to try this morning. The plan is to do some dynamic stretching prior to the run and then some static stretching afterwords. I'll let you know how it goes.

Nov 6, 2008

Halloween '08

We've had a bit of a tradition going on for the last few years where we head over to the Sauvie Island and pay a visit to the pumpkin patch.  It's quite well known and well attended in Portland.  They've got hay-rides, pumpkins, a corn maze, a haystack, and etc. 

Brianna was really happy about her pumpkin.

Andrew and Brianna playing on the haystack.

They have this thing called the cow ride that's pulled around by a tractor.  The kids were very impressed.

After Sauvie Island we carved pumpkins.

Andrew, Jen, and Brianna with the final result.


On the big day our friends Keagan and Kai came over to join us trick-or-treating.

Of course, we got a great haul candy-wise.  I've been trying hard to make sure I don't eat more of the candy than the kids do.  :)

Nov 5, 2008

Running Update

We've targeted a specific marathon - the Christmas Marathon in Olympia WA on 2/21/08.  Everything is going good so far - I ran a 16 mile run on Sunday, which I must admit was really hard.  I learned that it's really important that I eat a piece of toast w/ peanut butter and a piece of fruit just about an hour before my run, and that gu works a lot better than mini snickers for during the run (even though I heard different advice from friends).  It was a rough run, I got really hungry after about 6 miles and my energy was quite drained by the end.  I had to walk a little bit around mile 14.  As I've learned, though, there are good days and bad days running and the best thing is to just get the miles in at this point.

In terms of speed I'm still really slow.  The idea is to finish the marathon in December and then start working on speed - maybe dropping back down to 5k training plans and then building back up from there.  The shamrock has a 15k  which would be a good run next year.

Oct 25, 2008

Continued Bathroom Humor

I've posted a couple of times about the need that people feel at my work to post signs in the bathroom.  The seem to do so in a sisyphian attempt to reason with people who piss on the floor, convinced that people who partake in such actions do so not because of their inherent laziness or possible incompetence at the task, but because of some sort of belief system they hold in which this is a desirable behavior.

Well, just like Sisyphus himself, it looks like this activity may indeed go on for all eternity.  Here's the latest edition of the bathroom times:

Note the brave editorial decision to capitalize words beginning with the letter U intermittently.  Keeping us on our toes, and therefore touching less piss.

It is worth noting that after I took this picture someone wrote after the bullet "It is not only Uncivilized (sic) but also very Unhealthy (sic again) for the rest of us to walk on urine" the words "Blatantly untrue".  This last comment leads me to believe that despite my previous arguments it may indeed be true that there are people who pee on the floor because they think it's a great idea.  Weird.  Notice, however, their lack of motivation to post signs advocating their position.  When you're in the majority, as the bathroom floor pee-ers are, you take for granted your convictions.

Oct 16, 2008

The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake

The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake by Breece D'J Pancake

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
First thing to just kind of get out there is that the story of Breece D'J Pancake is kind of a bummer. I won't get into it in too much detail - but suffice to say that Pancake was apparently a guy who wasn't too comfortable in his own skin, may have been a bit depressive, and seemed to feel like a person outside much of the time. The reason you probably haven't heard of him is that he committed suicide at a relatively young age - 25. Admittedly, I am often drawn to this kind of person - Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, etc.

But putting all of that aside, Pancake was an amazingly talented writer who excelled in the short fiction form. Pancake was from West Virginia. Think coal miners, farmers, rural towns. This is the world that his stories inhabit, and the authenticity of this world leaps off the page.

His stories are poignant and profound, with layers of meaning not explicitly outlined, but there for the reader to pick up and examine, just like the trilobites that are the feature of one of his better known stories. As I read this I thought a lot about Hemmingway. Apparently I'm not the only one, as the comparison is drawn on Wikipedia as well.

View all my reviews.

Oct 6, 2008

Back in the Swing

Let's just clear the air and admit what we're both thinking.  It's been a really long time since I've updated. This kind of self referential thought is kind of boring so let's not give it any more thought than that.  I'll start writing more.  You'll start seeing more.  It'll work out, don't worry.

So without much thought a whole month has gone by.  The kids are back in school, Brianna is now in 4th grade and Andrew began 6th grade.  They both have plenty of extracurriculars  to keep themselves entertained.  Andrew is in fencing once a week, is playing the saxophone in band still, is taking piano lessons, and is taking an after-school spanish class.  Winter swimming starts in a couple of weeks for both of our kids.  Brianna is participating in a program at school through SUN where they visit a nursing home once a week to visit their adoptive grandparents.  Brianna is still participating in the I Have a Dream program, which she will continue to do up through her graduation from High School. 

With school starting for Jen this fall I'm now working earlier shifts at work on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  Jen and I are also training for the Christmas marathon in Olympia Washington on December 21st.  This means that Wednesday and Thursday nights Brianna accompanies me on my runs - last week she did six miles and three miles.  This week we'll do 7 miles on Wednesday and 3 miles on Thursday.

My longest run so far was on Saturday, when I ran 13 miles.  It took me two hours and fifty minutes.  Definitely this will just be a marathon where I'm trying to finish.  I'll worry about increasing my speed after the beginning of the year.  The biggest thing I've noticed about training for the marathon is the gigantic time commitment.  Between the running and riding my bike to work I'm also hungry all the time, but in a good way.

Anyhow, that's the scatter-shot for now.  I'll be doing more specific updates as they come up.

Sep 5, 2008

Rafting the Klamath River

On the weekend of July 26th & July 27th, just after we got back from our trip to Colorado, Jen and I packed a tent and some gear and headed down past Grants Pass, which is in the very southern part of Oregon, so that we could do some rafting on the Klamath River.  We were camping at Valley of the Rogue State Park, which is a fine state park but kind of an RV-fest because it's right off of I-5.

View Larger Map

We were there with some of our really good friends and had a great time camping.  Unfortunately I don't have any pictures from the rafting trip but I can tell you that it was _great_.  We used this place called Arrowhead Adventures and they couldn't have been better.  We had a great guide, Cristina, who made the trip a lot of fun.  It was a pretty intense river, and we did almost flip at one point, but we didn't lose anyone during the trip and for the most part it was just the right amount of excitement.  The trip goes all the way from Upper Klamath Lake in Oregon to Lower Klamath lake in California.

The day after the trip we did a quick geocache before heading back to Portland.

Aug 24, 2008

Running Update

It's been quite a while since I've provided an update on my running situation so I thought I'd bring those interested up to speed.  As you may recall I started doing the cool running Couch to 5k program at the first of the year.  I completed that program and then went on to do the Hal Higdon Spring Training program, which prepares you to run a 10K.

I'm happy to report that I completed the HHST program and decided to go ahead and keep going with the Hal Higdon Novice Supreme program, which continues to the spring training program to a full marathon.  Today I completed week 14, which culminates with a 7 mile run.  The 7 miles went fine and although my thighs are plenty tired and sore tonight I didn't really have any problems energy-wise or with any kind of pain in my body during or after the run.  Again, this is the farthest distance I've ever run in my life, which is pretty neat.  I'm going to be bummed when I have to stop saying that.

I started riding my bike to work a few weeks ago and I think that the bike riding has actually helped me with the running.  Since I started I've cut my three-mile run by about 2 minutes.  It also helps because the ride adds about 550 calories to my daily calorie burn, so I'm hoping it will help me lose my tummy.  Up to this point it seems like my body has had no trouble adapting to the running while holding on to the stomach.

When I started running I worried the most about my ability to keep my breath, but surprisingly that's the last issue I have to worry about now.  I can run just about as far as I want to without worrying to much about my breathing.  The biggest limiting factor to how fast I can go is really my muscles.

Aug 17, 2008

Colorado Vacation - Phase Two

After the tent trailer debacle Jen and I decided that we weren't quite ready to give up on our Colorado vacation just yet.  We got home and with a little advice from my sister-in-law we booked ourselves four tickets to Colorado on priceline.com.  We got back to Oregon at 5:30 in the morning one day and left for Colorado at 8:00am  the next day.  My folks let me borrow a car so we pretty much got into town, went to my folk's house to say hi and pick up the car and headed out for camping.

We were camping in Buffalo Creek, which is in Pike National Forest, about two and a half hours southwest of Denver.  It was a great tent camping area, and kind of on the rustic side, with no water save for a spigot that served the entire camp.

We were camping with my brother and his wife, Kacie, and my three nieces Bethany 9, Brynlee 2, and Katie, who is 1.  Here's a picture of Brynlee and Bethany with Andrew and Brianna:


Brynlee is at a great age and I had a great time getting to know her better. 

One of the nights at the camp I made a fire in the pit and she was hanging out with me.  She wanted to help so I asked her to find me little sticks and told her if she gave them to me I would throw them in the fire.  Over and over she'd say "Here, Uncle Dave. I have one.  Here, put it in the fire!  Put it in there!" and I would take the stick and throw it in the fire.  Sometimes she'd pick up something that wasn't a stick and I'd say "There's something wrong here." and she'd say "Oh!  That's a rock." and throw the rock on the ground disgusted.   One time I was waiting after she gave me the stick, just holding it in my hand and she goes "Throw it in there, Uncle Dave!  The fire loves it!  Go ahead!"

Another cute thing she does is whenever she is trying to get a grown up to do something she says "It's good!".  Since we got back from Colorado I've been doing the same thing to Jen whenever I'm trying to talk her into something.  "Go ahead, Jen, it's good!"

Katie was also just as sweet as she could be.  For those that aren't familiar with this part of Colorado it's super dry in terms of very low humidity and pretty dusty, not dissimilar from eastern Oregon.  The whole week we would clean the kids with baby wipes and just about the time we finished with the second kid the first kid would be just as dirty as when we'd started.  We were all covered in dirt for most of the time.

We did a fair amount of hiking while we were there.  We went up to Crystal Lake during one of the days and had a great walk around the lakes there.

The day after our Crystal Lake hike we went with one of our neighboring campers on our first geocache.  It was a great one because it was situated out in a burn area that was remote enough to be a fun, somewhat challenging hike, but wasn't so difficult that the kids couldn't have a good time too.

Andrew was one of the first up to the geocache and was super excited to show the box when we found it.


The view from the location was incredible and really let you appreciate the effects of a forest fire.


It was a great trip and we had some really special memories of our families together.

Aug 16, 2008

Colorado Vacation - Phase One

Sorry I haven't posted in a while.  Things have been very busy at work since I got back from vacation, so all other activity has slowed, but we're getting things back on track and I can finally catch up on the blog.  I have *a lot* to catch up on so let's get right down to it.

The Agenda

In July we took a two week vacation to Colorado.  The original plan was to drive with our tent camper through eastern Oregon to Idaho, where we would stay for the night at a place called Three Island Crossing State Park.  We were then going to continue on to Strawberry Reservoir in Utah for two days and then meet my brother to go camping at a remote place in Colorado called Buffalo Creek, which is in the Pike National Forest.  We were then going to hit Willard Bay Utah on the way back and bring it on home.

The Trip with the tent trailer

We had a great, albeit long drive to Idaho the first day.  We listened to an entire audiobook "The Teacher's Funeral" by Richard Peck (which is great, by the way) in order to pass the time.  The kids did a great job and we were very excited to make it to Three Mile Crossing.  The park was nice, but there were a ton of mosquitos, which kind of makes sense because the states park people obviously water the lawns a lot and it's likely the only source of moisture for a good ways for many of the insects.  Thank god we had bug spray so it wasn't too big an issue.

If you notice in the picture we had a bit of an issue with the tent trailer because the bed there is kind of falling off of the rails.  We worked around it though and the kids slept where the dining table folds down.

The next day we headed out.  Jen got some time behind the wheel so that she could get some experience pulling the tent trailer, and she did a great job.

Unfortunately we had an issue just as we were approaching the Utah border.  The brakes on the tent trailer seized up and caused us some problems.  We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  Jen was a little excited that she got to use the caution triangles she had purchased for the trip.


We had the tent trailer towed to Burley, Idaho.  The guy there said he couldn't figure out what had caused the brakes to seize, so all he could do is disable them for use. Given that we were scheduled to go over the Rocky Mountains and we had the kids with us we decided it wasn't worth the risk and headed back home.  We got back to Portland at 5:30 the next morning.

Not to be deterred we made a new plan, and like a phoenix from the ashes our vacation rose again... more to come soon.

Aug 2, 2008

World War Z

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
My buddy Ken gave me this book to read and although I was skeptical of reading a book about Zombies, I was pleasantly surprised by how readable and interesting this book is. Honestly, this book is far better than anything covering Zombies has the right to be.

The book examines the social, cultural, political, and military consequences of a return from the dead. The Zombies in the book are classic Zombies, like they move real slow and they have their arms out in front of them, they're dumb and don't have any reasoning ability, and they're super-strong.

Told as a series of interviews with survivors of the Zombie wars, the author uses this interesting device to tell vignettes in different voices, which makes the book much more exciting.

The good news is that although the book basically covers a post-apocalyptic world, it doesn't get depressing. This is a fine line to walk when attempting to be deadly serious about the rise of the undead.

And for anyone at all familiar with zombies, there's some great satire available at funny or die... Zombie American

View all my reviews.

Jul 9, 2008

Summertime and the livin's easy

With the exception of the broken arm we've had a pretty kick ass summer so far.  The kids are doing great.  Brianna is taking swimming lessons, and tennis lessons.  Andrew is on swim team, as well as taking tennis and fencing lessons.  In between times we've had barbecues, dinner with friends, and bike rides.   As a matter of fact, we bought a bike for Jen last weekend, which she loves.  It's a Specialized Stumpjumper with a super light frame.  We put some commuter tires on it for now and Jen is good to go.

As for the arm, it's healing just fine.

Jen, the kids, and Jasmine had a good trip with one of Andrew's friends and family to the Oregon Zoo.  The pictures aren't the best - it looks like something may have been on the camera lens and one of the settings wasn't quite right.  But while the fidelity may not be 100%, of course the content is.

Brianna and Jasmine both got to hold a bird:


The kids goofed around on a tractor:

This picture cracks me up because it reminds me of a picture of Supergrass, minus the beer bottle:

Jul 3, 2008

Jun 29, 2008

Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco

Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco by Bryan Burrough

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Think the television show "Thirty-Something". Think Ronald Reagan, greed is good, the movie "Wall Street" or "Glenngarry Glen Ross". Think about the 1980s when the kimono of Wall Street was being opened and the 80% of people in America who see money as a necessary evil became aware of why companies do the seemingly senseless things that they do.

"Barbarians at the Gate" is what the movie Roger & Me should have been. A turn by turn, holistic account of the players involved in what was the largest leveraged buyout in Wall Street history. The book is meticulously researched and is just as effective at conveying the motivations, back-stories, and insinuations of the story as the facts themselves.

Burrough and Helyar have done an excellent job in portraying the full, three dimensional personalities of the characters involved, and it is probably this fact that makes the book so immensely readable. While the financial terms and short-hands could be potentially confusing they aptly dumb down the terminology without losing the meaning necessary to understand the events. It is probably these two characteristics that I love most about this book.

Make no mistake, this is a book about the drama of white men in suits. There is no diversity in this book - the women involved are wives of the men "on stage". The closest the story gets to diversity is the handful of jews featured, which itself is an unfortunate stereotype.

I found this book to be fascinating, and a great example of how the motivations and incentives of those who make profound decisions about the US' largest companies may not align with the best interest of those who depend on them for goods, services, jobs, and investments.

View all my reviews.

Jun 28, 2008

Andrew's Band Concert

Brianna wasn't the only one with some end-of-the-school-year musicianship to show off.  Andrew's end of the year band concert was quite interesting.  He's taken up alto sax and is doing quite well with it.  He's a naturally talented musician who can pick up just about whatever he puts his mind to, and so for most of the year he was far ahead of most of the band.  He would make up his own songs or figure out Morphine songs on his sax to keep himself entertained.

The highlight of the night was the Laurelhurst Elementary perennial favorite "Let's Go Band".  Here's his feature (you can see him with the blond hair and the sunglasses):

Jun 27, 2008

Brianna's Piano Recital

Brianna has been taking piano lessons at this great place called Ethos Music, which is right here in our neighborhood in Northeast Portland.  This is a fantastic program, which is dedicated to building communities through music.  This place is right up my alley, so I'm happy to let anyone know about the great work they do.

The folks at Ethos did a great job running the recital.  Each child came to the front, bowed or curtsied, proceeded to play their peace of music, gave a bow or curtsy again, and then returned to their seat.  Most of the kids played piano, but there was one drummer, and one little girl accompanied herself on piano as she sang.

Brianna was accompanied by her piano teacher.  She was so proud of herself after she was done.  It's great to see her get that kind of self-confidence.

Of course, Brianna had a friend from her classes.

Jun 25, 2008

Here's a job opportunity that would be interesting.


If only I had my bachelor's degree, or experience flying a high performance aircraft.

Jun 23, 2008

The Amber Spyglass - Phillip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, Book 3) The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Amber Spyglass concludes the "His Dark Materials" trilogy. Much like the second book, The Subtle Knife, the action in this book paled very much compared to The Golden Compass. In my review of the Golden Compass I pointed out that what the book lacked in character development and depth of Character it made up for in action and suspenseful plot movement. This cannot be said of The Amber Spyglass.

The third book in the trilogy suffers from a need to advance an increasingly complex plot, which carries forward its authors message with all the subtlety of Kevin Smith's Dogma. Phillip Pullman's point of view and values are interesting to a point which is crossed about 2/3rds of the way through the book.

I will avoid a spoiler, but suffice to say that the book ends with an inexplicable love story that truly comes out of nowhere. Overall I would say that this series is good, but not great. The series is saved by its imagination and when the action does pick up in these two last books it is well worth the wait. I just wanted more.

View all my reviews.

Jun 22, 2008

Long Time Gone

I owe you an apology.  I have not been living up to my end of the blogger agreement, which consists of frequent updates about the less mundane aspects of my life, making sure to try and filter out the boring parts. 

It's hard.  I've been busy with work, kids, broken arms, my pending return to academe, and my constant search to find time into which I can squeeze some guitar playing.  But excuses and explanations aside I can tell you that Baby, I'm real sorry.  It won't happen no more.  I'll stick around, I'll make posts.  I promise.

In other news, a new development is that we bought a webcam and now we're all set up with Skype, which means we can do video chat with our peeps all over the world.  Last night Jen and I had a great conversation with our friend Aaron and my brother Dan.  Tonight we got to set up a video chat with Dan's family and I got to see my nieces, who are all unspeakably adorable.  Great stuff.

If you're interested in getting my Skype handle leave a comment and I'll send it along.

Jun 19, 2008

The Get Out Clause

I think this is kind of old but I saw this video linked from Guy Kawasaki's blog and was pretty impressed.

Apparently the band filmed this video at a bunch of different public cameras and then used the freedom of information act to obtain copies.

If you ever see a video of me picking my nose on the internet, that's what I'm doing too.

Jun 8, 2008

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

So today I did a 4.5 mile run, but things didn't go so good.  I mapped out the route on the computer:

One thing I didn't really consider is that coming off of 33rd avenue and going up Klickitat there is this gargantuan hill. To give you an idea, here's a graph of the elevation gain over a quarter mile according to Heywhatsthat.com/profiler.


Well needless to say, after I got up that hill my energy was zapped.  I kept going the best I could but I started to get that woozy, nauseous, not very good feeling you get sometimes while running.  Unfortunately I had to start walking at about 41st and wasn't able to run again until about 45th.  On the way back towards the starting point I also had to walk the last couple of blocks on Prescott.

This is the first time I've had to walk during a run since I started running programs in January, so this was a pretty big moral defeat for me.  In fairness to myself I had to take a break from running when I had the cast on, obviously. 

I think I'll be repeating this week in order to get a 4.5 mile run in that I don't have to walk during.

Jun 6, 2008

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Expanding on this blog's great tradition of both admiring and loving Trimet while also complaining about it incessantly, I experienced one of my more interesting commuting trips yesterday. 

The Rose Festival is going on right now in downtown Portland.  For my friends and readers not from the great state of Oregon, the Rose Festival is a civic festival that's been going on for over a hundred years in the city.  The city fancies itself a Rose capital because of its ideal weather for growing the flowers.  I'm not sure if the Rose growing is relevant to the festival or not, though.  The festivities include a parade, high school popularity contests, and a kind of fair on the waterfront with a Ferris wheel and a bungie sling.  For some inexplicable reason a big part of the Rose Festival is what is called the arrival of the ships.  Boats from the Navy, Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, and Royal Canadian Navy come in and dock on the waterfront.  It's a bit of an inside joke around Portland that local girls head down to the waterfront to meet sailors.

The weather has been unseasonably cold and grey, and I every time the subject comes up my coworkers say "it's always like this during Rose festival" in a way that I'm getting tired of.

Yesterday I was headed home and reading and I absent-mindedly got on the yellow line MAX, which goes into North Portland, instead of the red or blue line, which go towards my house.  I do this all the time and realized my mistake at about the 1st & Salmon stop, and was proud of myself for getting off before it was too late.  No big deal, I thought I would just wait for the next train.

Well, turns out because the ships were coming in, the Steel Bridge was up, so the MAX of any color couldn't run over the river.  Trimet did a good job of getting shuttle buses ready so we were all hussled over to make a detour over the Broadway Bridge.  When we got on the bridge, though, we discovered no love.  The Broadway Bridge also went up to allow the ships to get through.  We were stuck on the bridge for about a half hour.

My fellow bus-mates were many of the usual MAX commuters, but included specifically:

  • a very loud and sarcastically bombastic gentleman from an unidentifiable country
  • his mid-life female companion, who found his sarcastic complaints to be uproariously funny
  • a generic semi-jockey kind of guy with the heavy gauge piercing and tattoos that scream "I used to be way into Limp Bizkit, but I'm more of a Muse kind of guy now" that was very upset to be missing the beginning of the celtics/lakers game
  • A woman who agreed with him, about Limp Bizkit, Muse, and the game.
  • A hipster guy with glasses who knew a lot about a lot of different stuff
  • his female companion/girlfriend?
  • A hipster gal with a bright green knee-length mohair coat who seemed to be trying to make the best of the situation

It was one of those situations where I wished my earphones were just a bit more noise-canceling.

Of course, the vast majority were complaining which annoyed me because like my green-garbed friend I was in a mood to make the best of the situation and watch the ships come in.  But it was still interesting to see the ships, with the sailors all standing out on deck like little white smudges. 

At one point the fire boat started spraying out water, like an overexcited puppy.  Suddenly the water was dyed red, white, and blue.  Here's a picture:

photo credit: Jason McHuff

At that moment the girl in the green coat goes "isn't the USA awesome?" in a totally deadpan way I found to be very funny.

This morning I snapped a pic of the ships off the steel bridge:

Jun 3, 2008

Oneonta Gorge

On Saturday May 17th Jen and I went hiking up above Horsetail Falls by Oneonta Gorge, a hike in the Columbia Gorge, not far from Multnomah Falls.  Incidentally, this was 10 days after I broke my arm, and 10 days before they put the short-lived cast on.

It was a beautiful weekend and the weather could not have been better.  The pictures speak for themselves.

This is Ponytail Falls...

And here's Jen by the falls:

Here's the view from under the falls.  The ceiling is lava rock.

By the trail a rock wall was covered by moss that was being watered from the fall above: