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

Apr 28, 2008

I Do Canoe

I realized a couple of days ago that we bought a canoe in March and I didn't even post it up here on the blog.  It's awesome, an Old Town Discovery 169 that we got off of craigslist.  For those of you who don't know craigslist has a feature where you can search for an item and save that search so that anytime a posting appears that matches your criteria you can either get an email (semi-cool) or subscribe to it via RSS using your RSS aggregator, such as Google Reader (très cool).

Anyhow, I had done this for any posting saying "Old Town Canoe" and had been watching the ads for about six months now when I finally found the canoe of our dreams.  Here's how it looks new:

Except instead of being red ours is blue.  It fits all four of us and we've taken it out on the Columbia Slough a couple of times.  The Columbia Slough is extremely polluted and so we're looking to expand our horizons - please leave a comment if you know of any good places.  I've heard that Sauvie Island has some good flatwater, but I haven't been able to find more info online yet.

Anyhow, here is the canoe strapped precariously to the truck the day that Jen brought it home:

Apr 27, 2008

I was led to read this book by way of one of those six-degrees-of-separation links that make the world the place that it is... I was watching the excellent documentary "The Smartest Guys in the Room" about my former employer, Enron, and it struck with me that the movie mentions "The Selfish Gene" as being one of Jeff Skilling's favorite books. A reader of Stephen Jay Gould's, I already had a bit of an interest in genetics and understood the book to expound upon one of my favorite subjects, Darwinism, so I though I'd check it out for myself.

Richard Dawkins does a superb job of laying out his logic in a convincing and thorough manner, and there were a number of moments in reading the book that concepts long discarded to the periphery of my knowledge were brought into sharp focus. Some examples include the mechanisms of evolution during the days of the primordial soup, the workings of symbiosis and parasitism (and how and why they cross paths), and the concept of the game the "Prisoner's Dilemma"(as well as its relation to genetics).

I loved this book and would highly recommend to anyone with a slight interest in biology, evolution, or a curiosity for learning more about the fundamental forces at work in our world. I am somewhat amused that Dawkins' assertion, roughly and ineloquently summarized as organisms, including you and me, being the vehicle by which genes keep themselves immortal, is reminiscent of a Vonnegut book I read years ago called Hocus Pocus. More specifically, the similarities are to a book within the book Hocus Pocus, called the Elders of Tralfamadore, which contains one of my favorite sayings, that I say almost every day - "What germ ever lived a life this full of challenges and opportunities?"

Dawkins can be arrogant at times in a way that borders on hubris, but I find that this aspect of his writing is more a mechanism of his deep and considered thought and very quick intellect than of an overinflated ego. That said, it bears keeping in mind during this book that some critical thought and a questioning mind can be helpful in keeping Dawkins' assertions in perspective.

Apr 26, 2008

Eye of the Tiger

I must admit to myself that sometimes when I'm doing something competitive or important, I sing this song to myself in my head.

Apr 25, 2008

Brianna's Birthday

This year we celebrated Brianna's birthday party on April 12th, the day before Brianna's birthday.  Brianna wanted a Hawaiian birthday at the house, so that's what we did.  She had a bunch of friends over and they played for a good part of the afternoon.  Jasmine and Paige spent the night and although we did have a tiny smidge of little girl drama it was a good time for everyone.

Jen made the birthday cake and decorated it with real flowers from our garden.


For activities we had the limbo...

And a hula-hoop contest, which Jasmine won...

And a piñata to top it all off.

Of course, Brianna got way too many presents...

After all that we just kind of played in the yards. 

To top the whole weekend off we went canoeing on the next day, which was Brianna's actual birthday, on the Columbia slough.  This was our maiden voyage on the canoe (which was far more successful than the maiden voyage of the tent trailer) and we had the coolest experience.  Brianna's favorite animal is the turtle, and we were really fortunate to spy a little turtle sunning himself in the middle of the slough.  Because we were in a quiet canoe we could get right up next to him.  Brianna named him Shilo, because he's shy and he's low to the ground.

Apr 23, 2008

Vegas Redux

So, yes indeed, here I find myself again, in Las Vegas Nevada. Long time readers, both of you, will remember my feelings on this place during my last trip. I'm pleased, in a self-satisfied and rueful kind of way, to see that not much has changed.

Las Vegas is simply an abomination - a place that should not be. It's built in the middle of a desert. It consumes more of *everything* than is really feasible over the long term. Everything has this papier-mache and airbrush quality to it that reeks of a combination of trying too hard and impermanence.

That said, it's a lot better to be here with Jen than it was to be on my own last time. And, as the saying goes, when in Rome do as the Romans do. So last night after the obligatory conference "networking time" (free drinks to get the social lubrication going) we headed out to Diego, which is a Mexican restaurant in the MGM Grand pleasure compound where we're staying. It was very good and we had probably the best waiter I've had in recent memory. It was also reasonably priced compared to other meals I've had in Vegas.

Tonight we'll be grabbing dinner out again and then heading off to the Cirque du Soleil performance Ka, which one of about five shows they have here. We're really excited about the show and from there it's bim-bam-bing back to the airport and on our way home. I have Thursday and Friday off from work which should give me some time to resolve at least some of our afore-mentioned trailer issues and hopefully get some recording or something done.

Apr 20, 2008


According to a book I read recently, The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell, a key aspect of a dog's personality is her ability to experience frustration and handle the emotion appropriately.  Today was one of those days where I felt like a dog who never learned how to handle frustration.  I would definitely have bitten a family member today.

I try to keep things pretty upbeat here, as you may have noticed, but sometimes it helps to vent a little.  The major frustration involves the tent trailer.

A little background - Jen and I are leaving for Vegas Tuesday morning.  I'm speaking at a conference and Jen's never been there, so a short trip is in order.  We'll be there for two days which is about as much of Vegas as anyone with good sense can take, so it should be a good time.  Being aggressively chilling this year we also decided to try to go on a camping trip to Florence this coming weekend.  So there's a lot to get together and we're feeling a little bit of pressure.

We were working on the tent trailer this morning, and yes I did find two more wasps nests in the heating system (see previous story).  Nothing more satisfying than getting one up on wasps.  It reminds me how much bigger I am than them and how much better the tools I use are. 

Anyhow, there were a couple of problems with the tent trailer I already knew about - the left brake light cover came off during our retreat from Fort Stevens, and there's been a problem with these white plastic sheaths that are part of the rails on which the beds slide out.

New today - the hoses that connect the water tank to the sink are both split and leaking.  We have a neighbor who knows a lot about about rv's and trailers and so-forth.  So while I was out and about Jen mentioned the problem to him and he tried to help by showing us where you have to get to in order to replace the hoses.  Jen and our neighbor disconnected the current hoses and made a trip down to the hardware store to get replacements.  Here's where the story goes akimbo.  We've found it impossible to install these things.  Jen worked with the neighbor on it for a couple of hours and then she and I spent a couple more hours on it tonight.

When it comes to anything mechanical or requiring the kind of physical abilities that seemed to be grafted onto the y chromosome for other males, I've always known myself to be intensely lacking.  I carry the constant burden of this inherent inability.  I have no idea about engines other than in the vaguest terms.  I don't know how to operate a circular saw.  This weekend I used a hand-held belt sander for the first time in my life.  I may never do so again.

I love my house, but live each day knowing that every aspect of it is simply waiting to prove to me how unable I am to rise to its challenges.  There ends up being two categories of home ownership - those things I can see myself potentially figuring out how to do someday (I would put fixing the fence in this category) and those that I know I never will (ie replacing the water heater).

This is why the tent trailer situation is so frustrating.  I like the tent trailer, and I understand that it requires upkeep and care.  I simply find myself unable, not *unwilling* but _unable_ to perform the requisite tasks.  What I'll end up doing is taking it to someone who can fix it and paying them to do so, which seems to be the skill I was given instead of mechanical ability.  But I can't help but feel a little emasculated by the situation. 

Apr 8, 2008


A couple of weeks ago I looked over into the kitchen as Brianna and Jen were doing the dishes and Andrew was *supposed* to be helping and the vision of all three of them wearing hats inside for no reason totally cracked me up so I had to snap a pic.  Also, the pic is *so* Andrew.

Apr 6, 2008

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Cryptonomicon is a story about cryptology, WWII, and generational legacies.  The book plays with time in its storytelling, jumping back and forth two generations in its action.  It also contains multiple main characters, whose lives intertwine throughout the narrative.

One of the main characters is an individual who knows a lot about UNIX, and his knowledge is sprinkled into the narrative.  As a linux user, I liked that aspect of the story a lot.  I also appreciated the diagrams and drawings that are tastefully employed throughout the book.  I'm that kind of visual person and it reminded me of my own desperation to find a white board as I attempt to explain concepts.

The one criticism I would have of the book is that the language is clever in a way that can be slow reading at times.  Sometimes a writer's style can flow in a way that causes the book to be easily consumed, such as in the case of King, Grisham, or Vonnegut, but Stephenson is not one of these kinds of writers.  Each character has a very strong voice, and it can be a bit jarring to follow the constant transitions in the book.

The book is a generous 900+ pages, made even more dense by its lack of chapters or sections. After reading the entire wheel of time series this doesn't seem so huge to me, but it is a pretty long book.

I definitely dug this book a lot and would recommend it to anyone who is into a bit of technology or science-fiction in their reading material.

Apr 5, 2008


The maiden voyage of the tent trailer was not without its challenges and opportunities.  It stands as the shortest camping trip I've taken in my formidable career.

As one might expect, this was a time to learn a lot about how the thing worked and check out the extent to which everything is in working order and for the most part it's great.  I got the outside sink working and the inside sink works, but the cold water tap is very slow from a kinked hose I think.  We got the furnace, stove and refrigerator working great.  Even though it was raining we were nice and dry and I can report the beds are very soft.  I didn't get the water heater working but I think I got that part figured out today.

As far as the towing goes, even though I'm still a little nervous about driving it we got it up to Warrenton just fine.  I even had to turn around with it at one point due to a wrong turn and a dead end street, which is just about one of the most difficult things you can do pulling a trailer I think.  I'm backing it just fine even though it's not entirely intuitive to me yet.

We had mandarin chicken (for everyone else, who aren't vegetarians) and burritos (for me, who is).  The little stove is really neat to cook on - super easy and the food tastes great because it's like cooking on a gas stove.

While Jen got dinner ready the kids made amazing origami things out of this kit I got them for the trip.  They had a ball.

Also, Maybell found her new home in the tent trailer - right by our feet under the table.

Here's where things start to fall apart for us on the trip:

Since we bought the tent trailer we noticed in the little enclosures and nooks and crannies on the outside that there were some paper wasp nests.  We also encountered a few wasps as we cleaned out the trailer and we've been dutifully killing them as we've come across them. 

Before we left on the trip there was a wasp near the hitch that Jen killed.  Subsequently, probably from jostling the trailer around as we drove it to Astoria and then heating up the trailer with the furnace, we activated some wasps.  We noticed one flying around which I dispatched quickly with a napkin.  A few minutes later we noticed a second one, which I handled in the same manner.  There was then a third, again handled in the crushing-with-a-napkin method.

At this point we were a little freaked out, reasonably I think.  However, we were brave.  The kids got nestled down to bed and we did the same.  I was so tired at this point from the whole day of getting everything ready for the trip (packing, filling propane tanks, etc.) that I could barely keep my eyes open or from yawning every few seconds.  I pretty much sacked out the best I could and Jen decided to watch the podcast of "in treatment" we downloaded onto her laptop so as to unwind.  BTW - In Treatment is incredible.  It might force me to finally get cable.

Anyhow, just as I was finally beginning to doze off into the kind of sleep that causes drool to fall down the side of your mouth I hear Jen very much freaking out.  A wasp had bitten her on the hand and proceeded to climb up her sweater arm, taking little bites as it went.  I killed the wasp, and of course it was at this moment that we realized we didn't have any Benadryl.  Jen went off in search of some, which she did find via one of our fellow campers.

At that point we realized that it would be impossible to continue because we would all be so paranoid about getting bit by another wasp that the trip would be ruined.  Without any other real options, we packed up everything, loaded the trailer and truck and left the campground headed back for home around 12:30 in the morning.  We finally pulled in to home at around 2:45 am.  Not fun.

As we drove back home Jen and I talked about how we didn't want the kids to take away from the situation that something like this can happen and the whole weekend is ruined with disappointment and dissatisfaction.  It was already obvious that this night would be a memory they would carry into adulthood, but we wanted it to be a lesson as well.

As such, this morning Jen sprang into action.  She started making calls and talked to a few different insect experts who gave us some great advice and actions to take to get those little buggers out of our tent trailer.  In particular, Jen ran across one service called Bee Control Northwest that was extremely helpful and valuable.  Here is what we learned:

  • We were dealing with paper wasps.  Because of the part of the lifecycle they are in right now we were probably only dealing with a couple of nests at the most, each which could have a maximum of 12 wasps.
  • The Bee Control Northwest lady made the excellent point that we are all for the bees and wasps, which perform an important role in our world, but that they need to also be controlled so as to make our coexistence harmonious.
  • We were concerned about setting off a fogger or taking a similar action in the tent trailer because we didn't want the poisons to soak into the canvas in the tent trailer or effect its water proofing properties.  We learned that there were indeed other options available.
  • If all else fails, we could hire an exterminator to come take a look and if we need to use a fogger there are botanical options that aren't harmful to us or the pets.
  • Everyone we talked to agreed that the best thing to do was take a shop vac around the tent trailer and suck up any paper nests we may see, getting into all the little places that wasps could conceivably bee.  We basically needed to take the thing apart as best we could and vacuum thoroughly.

So today we headed off to Home Depot and bought a shop vac (which we've procrastinated on buying for years) and a thing called Hot Shot no-pest strip.  Even though this is definitely a chemical solution we just couldn't take the risk of having another trip go bad because of waspy cohabitants.  On the advice of one of our experts we decided to pop up the tent trailer, clean it out really well, and hang up the no-pest strip for the next week.  After that's been done we'll air it out for a week and we should be good to go.  This should be perfect because we have another trip coming up to Jessie Honeyman State Park in a few weeks, and the whole process will be done with before then.

Finally, we still wanted to get some family time in so tonight we're camping in the living room.  Jen set up a sheet spread out over chairs and I blew up the inflatable mattress for the kids.  We'll be sleeping in the living room and pretend camping for the night.  Tomorrow we'll go swimming.

Apr 4, 2008

Okkervil River

Man, I really love these guys. I've got this album and it's great.

Apr 3, 2008

Panorama Lodge

Jen and I returned again this year to Panorama Lodge, a bed & breakfast in Hood River Oregon to celebrate our 5th anniversary together.  The bed & breakfast is adorable, just a little ways up in the hills above Hood River with a beautiful view of the Hood River valley and the nicest folks running it, Lee & Linda.  There were three other couples staying there that night and they were all great people from different parts of the country, as close as Tillamook and as far away as Oklahoma, near where my dad grew up.

We got there the first day and wasted no time in getting some hiking in.  There's a little road just by the b&b that has a great view.

At one point on the trail there was even some snow on the ground still.

I had a chance to really appreciate the trees and shrubs.

The next day was rainy but we headed up to the Washington side of the Columbia river and did some hiking there.  Even though we got very wet and I ended up getting a really bad chest cold we enjoyed ourselves very much.

Apr 2, 2008

Tent Trailer

A few weeks ago Jen and I bought a new tent trailer.  I bought it from someone I work with so it's nice to know the previous owner.

It is bad ass.

It's also fairly big - 16' folded up.

It's got a heater, a stove, a sink, a shower, a bathroom, all that stuff.  The biggest challenge is getting it into my driveway since we live in the city and have a lot of cars on our street.  My neighbor gave me a hand so we proved that it's possible to get in there, it'll just take some practice to do it regularly.

Jen, being the wonderful person she is, has already cleaned it all out and it's looking great.  As I'm learning more about it I'm becoming less intimidated about all of the different systems for water, electric, & propane.  We plugged the electrical in a few days ago and the refrigerator is working great.

We'll be taking it on it's maiden voyage this weekend at Fort Stevens in Astoria, OR.  I can't wait.