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

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: