Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Heppner to Ukiah

Today I had the good fortune of visiting Heppner Oregon. Hidden away in the foothills of the Blue Mountains of NE Oregon, Heppner is not on the way to anywhere. You have to want to go there. The principal of Heppner HS suggested I would enjoy returning to Hermiston via Willow Creek Road (FS 53) to Ukiah. He was not wrong. Following are videos and still photos.
The Blues have a way of sneaking up on you. Driving up Willow Creek, you can't see the forest just over the next ridge.

Listen for the crickets on this one. It doesn't do justice to the panoramic view...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Long Hot Day

Wandering the back corners of Eastern Washington I stopped in the little town (very little) of LaCrosse to visit the local High School (sales call). I was having lunch at the Tea Kettle Cafe (only lunch spot in town) when a man ran by outside looking like he was on the run from zombies. Arms flailing he raced by the cafe. We smelled smoke. Apparently the hardware store (out of business) was on fire. This was obviously the most exciting thing to have happened in LaCrosse for a very long time.

While shooting this video I was approached by an older lady demanding "Who are you?". It turns out that she and her husband were the owners of the afflicted building. She said that they had planned on remodeling the 100 year old building and startling a grocery business (there is none in town at this time). I pointed out that it might be cheaper to start over with a new building rather than bring the old one up to code. She did not seem to broken up about the fire, despite the fact that hubbies MG was inside...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Something New Something Cloned

Today, I drove from Portland OR to Kennewick WA. This trip takes you out the scenic Columbia River Gorge to the high desert of Eastern OR and WA. The Gorge is a dedicated Federal Scenic Area. You are pretty much not allowed to do anything there but look at it.
Once you pass The Dalles (I always wondered about the "The") you have left the trees beyond. The sky widens, rocks, sage, and grass prevail. It is still very scenic. Recently in our quest for safe clean and politically correct sources of energy we have hit upon the wonders of wind energy generated by huge spinning wind mills. Well, I hadn't been out this way in 6 months or so and I was unprepared for the proliferation of giant spinning fan blades. I used to think of everything east of The Dalles as "The Big Empty". No condos, retail shops, parking lots, just scattered cows, basalt plateaus, and the occasional rattle snake.
Actual cowboys live here. I was quite surprised at the change in the view. From Biggs Junction to Arlington the parade of giant spinning wheels is constant. It reminded me of a scene from a Stephen King novel which I have forgotten the name of. I have been a big fan (no pun intended) of wind power. After seeing the invasion of the hills along the Columbia I am not so sure anymore. Here is yet another trade off for us to consider. The locals have been complaining for quite a spell now about both the noise and the aesthetics (or lack thereof). Now I know what they are talking about.

A little further down the road I shot the following video of the big Potlach poplar farm at Umatilla. This is across the highway from the chemical weapons dump. Many will consider these cloned trees as a grotesque example of Frankenforestry. They are however a very fast growing source of pulp for paper which we just can't seem to live without. Before this plantation was developed the land was devoted to sage brush and rabbit brush and light grazing. With the addition of water from the Columbia River this land has proven to be a very fertile area for growing wheat, trees and spuds. Yes, water from the river that could otherwise support SALMON. Here we go with the trade offs again!

Yes, and I know I am not supposed to drive while playing with the GPS, shooting video, and talking on the phone...

Charles Darwin on Marriage

The Lady Wife and I have just returned from the City of Angels where we enjoyed the wedding of Elana (see Girl on Girl Action) and Seth (see The Handsome Camel). After a whirlwind courtship, proposal and acceptance our favorite niece has wed an extremely cool dude.

The ceremony was small, intimate, and followed the tenets of the Baha'i faith (Seth's side). I was honored to be asked to perform a reading. The following are excerpts from the notes of Charles Darwin:


Freedom to go where one liked
choice of Society and little of it.
Conversation of clever men at clubs
Not forced to visit relatives, and
to bend in every trifle
to have the expense and anxiety of children -
perhaps quarrelling -
Loss of time -
cannot read in the Evenings -
fatness and idleness -
anxiety and responsibility -
less money for books
if many children, forced to gain one's bread (but then it is very bad for one's health to work too much).
Perhaps my wife won't like
London, then the sentence is banishment and degradation with indolent, idle fool.

Children - (if it please God) -
constant companion, who will feel interested in one
(a friend in old age) -
object to be beloved and played with - better than a dog anyhow
Home, and someone to take care of house
Charms of Music and female Chit Chat -
These things good for ones health but terrible loss of time
My God, it is unthinkable to think of spending
one's whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, and nothing after all
No, no won't do
Imagine living all one's days solitarily in smoky
dirty London House -
Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa
with good fire, and books and music perhaps - compare this vision with dingy reality.
Marry! Marry! Marry!
My loving congratulations to Seth and Elana. Charles Darwin was right... about both Evolution and Marriage!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hotel Murano

The Lady Wife and I are currently in Tacoma, WA for our daughter Marie's graduation from University of Puget Sound. We are staying in Hotel Murano in downtown Tacoma. It was recommended to us by the good folks at UPS. So let's rip on this hotel a little...

I thought at first blush that the establishment must be Japanese by design or ownership. What with the name, Murano, which means valley in Japanese, the minimalist design, and hip urban architecture it all seemed to point in this direction. Would it were so, but the hotel is actually named after an island in the lagoon of Venice Italy.

Before I begin the deconstruction let me point out some real positives. Our room on the 21st floor has a truly spectacular view of Mt. Rainier. The lobby bar pours a hella good vodka martini. However the real experience of Hotel Murano begins at arrival...

We pulled up to the Hotel in the new family truckster looking forward to the valet parking advertised in the promo lit and website. I was informed that the parking was actually $18.00 for 24 hours. Ah what the hell, go ahead. I opened the back door of the car and began unloading luggage. The "bellman" asked me if I would like help with the luggage and then wandered off to let me schlep it to the front desk on my own. This is where I began to suspect that the institution lacked the service that would have prevailed if the Gods of customer service were Buddhist.

After checking in, loaded down with the aforementioned luggage we entered the elevator for the trip up. The elevator (apparently because they could do it and it gives the image of "exclusivity") required swiping of the room key card to activate the floor buttons. Most guests seemed to be fumbling this badly. We made it to 21, I stepped out heading for our room, and found that the Lady Wife had been a tad slow off the mark and was now on a return trip to the lobby. Not knowing what floor we were on it took some trial and error for her to finally arrive at our room. Ha! Ha!
In addition to the post industrial chic architecture and design I must also point out that the Hotel Murano is also a theme hotel. The theme in this case is Art. Each floor is devoted to a different and apparently prestigious artist. We were lucky enough to land on the floor devoted to one Bruno Romanelli. Bruno's works lent a wonderful aire of depression, darkness and death to the 21st floor. Our room has a lovely etching of what is apparently a corpse framed and prominently displayed.

On arising in the morning I showered and put on the oversize terry cloth robe which was hanging in the bathroom. The tag on the hanger informed me: USE ME ALL YOU WANT... AND IF YOU CANT LIVE WITHOUT ME, I AM A CHEAP DATE. $105.00

Another ever so trendy tag was the knob hanger that at most hotel's reads OCCUPIED. Not good enough for the Murano, theirs reads" TIED UP. Ha! Ha!

Apparently to make amends for the fact that I spent a fruitless 45 minutes last night attempting to log on to their "wireless network" I was supplied with a SPIRITUAL MENU. So where is L. Ron Hubbard on the menu? Can I switch religions daily? What about the secular humanists (atheists) among us? If religion isn't what you need please note the PILLOW MENU.

OK, It's 10:00pm and we have just returned from our celebratory graduation dinner. I am lying on the bed in the $105.00 Murano terry bathrobe. I hear some noise at the door. The Lady Wife looks up from the computer and says "Dean! there's someone coming in the door!". I leap into action and find a gentleman with his luggage and a card key who apparently was given the same room that we are already checked into. He, embarrassed, retreated to the elevator. I called the front desk and advised them that either he or I or both should have our rooms comped. The customer service juggernaut of the Hotel Murano lurches on!

At the end of the day I was not charged for parking, Internet service or any of the other threatened charges. Perhaps the management felt bad about trying to give us a roommate. Lastly, I confess we did not try the restaurant. We were lucky to find a less pretentious eatery just up the street. The surprises that Tacoma has in store are beyond imagination...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Heart Healthy Crockpot Nutria

Thanks to Jack Bog's superior blog for introducing me to the following excellent website: Apparently the folks in Louisiana are partial to eating Nutria.

The Nutria, for those of you who don't know, is a large rodent hailing from South America that was let loose on the American ecosystem a number of years ago by confused investors who thought they could corner the market in large rat fur. They did and then promptly released the buggers to infest our ponds, lakes and waterways.

Last year my former dog Domino (Jack Daniels terrrier) got in a battle with a Nutria which ended up costing me $250 in stitches (for the dog). There was some comic effect from Dom wearing a cone on his head for a few weeks.

Fact is, the Nutria is just not cute. You might mistake him swimming through the water for a beaver, but you will quickly note his lack of big flat tail. The Nutria eats grass. This makes him a favorite on golf courses across the country. They have very large, sharp front teeth. The gentleman to the left is in danger of loosing a digit or two.
Which brings me to the subject of eating Nutria. I have never sampled this delicacy but I would be willing to try. On a previous mission to South America, I had the good fortune of eating the Nutria's little cousing the Guinea Pig. It was scrumpdillyitious. The Nutria due to his larger size and vegetarian diet can only be better, right? Fair readers, if any of you are in the vicinity of Portland, OR and would be willing to embark on a late night hunting expedition on a local golf course with me please advise via your comment below. The first one to bag a fat Nutria, gets to watch his partner clean and skin the prize! I would think someone with the cultural background of Dwight from The Office would be keen on this...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Olde Reed Addendum

The previous post featuring the Quest article "The Outdoor Pool Seriously Used To Be Awesome" featured a largely illegible jpg of the article in question: herewith the text:

Back in Olde Reed, when there were lots of "e"s at the end of words for no apparent reason, there was something known as the outdoor swimming pool. It was nestled in the west end of the canyon, surrounded by trees and blackberry bushes. This was a fixture of my childhood, being a Portland native. Swimming lessons were conducted there. you would walk down the precipitously steep steps as the familiar summertime smell of chlorine and sunscreen wafted up to you.

Now this wasn't one of these sissy modern day pools with the zero depth entry and laser guided water levels; it was a classic pool, probably from the fifties. It had cliff-like edges, and a real diving board. You just don't see that too much nowadays.

Then, several years ago, I think, a tragedy occurred. The watery heart of Reed College was ripped out in a blitzkrieg of enviro-cow-towing. Inexplicably, it was replaced with a fish ladder. Now, what kind of trade-off is this? We lose a pool in which people can frolic in the summer, and replace it with a fish ladder that someday a salmon might swim up and then die the in the swamp.

Some will say that the pool was hopelessly out of date, and would have required hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate it and keep it from killing kittens and puppies with deadly chlorine gas clouds. Others will say that precious few actual Reedies used the pool, and it was locked up almost all of the school year. Regardless, it was awesome.

So now we spend money in order to build a ladder for fish. What next, a zip-line for squirrels to get across the canyon easier? A miniature escalator so the ducks don't have to walk uphill? I say let the animals figure out how to get around. We can't have our precious resources diverted to lazy animals who live off of government cheese and welfare checks.

So, excuse me if this dinosaur is a little old-fashioned, but I liked the days in which we spent our money for people instead of fish, for summertime fun instead of bowing to slimy fish and their heartless, beady eyes.

Olde Reed

Back in the halcyon year of 2003 my son apparently thought more like myself on matters "environmental". Witness the front page story from the front page of the Quest student newspaper of Reed College:

Well, it's now 2009 the outdoor pool is gone, the current students don't know that it ever existed and the myth of the "Canyon" continues to grow unencumbered by fact, logic, or science.

The common assumption on campus includes the mistaken concept that the lake/pond is the only naturally occuring pond in the Portland area. Actually the dam which created the pond was built sometime around the turn of the century, backing up the springs of Crystal creek to form the current impoundment. The dam has obviously been maintained and improved over the years and until the advent of the fish ladder (concurrent with the demolition of the outdoor pool) was used both as a pathway and motor way over the creek at the base of the pond. The dam has done what all dams do over time. It has retarded the flow of water down the "canyon", resulting in the gradual accumulation of silt and organic detritus. Thus the pond has become shallower year by year. As it has become shallower, the water has become warmer and more filled with oxygen depleting (when it dies), algae and other water born plants such as duck weed.

The waters of Crystal Creek fed by springs above within and below the pond are beautiful, clear and cool. Allowed to flow freely it is a remarkably clear beautiful stream to see in an urban area. The pond itself however is a blighted polluted mess. Fortunately, as time passes it will eventually fill with silt and cease to be a pond at all. This being the case, why was the outdoor pool demolished in favor of a fish ladder? The obvious goal was to provide access to the pond by anadramous fish such as salmon and trout (steelhead). Yes, the odd fish, if it survives Johnson creek, could make it up Crystal Creek. But what happens to said fish after it powers its way up the fish ladder? It dies of course!

This brings me to to a fork(triple tined) in the road. I see 3 possible management strategies:
1. Do nothing. The pond will eventually disappear.
2. Dredge the pond to a depth of 20 feet. Landscape the shore and place strategic bolders, logs and other features to provide habitat. Plant liberally with large mouth bass, blue gill and crappies. Offer basic fly and spin fishing classes to the students.
3. Recruit an intrepid group of environmentally aware students, dress them in Ninja outfits, arm them with C4 explosive, detonators and a tutorial on explosive engineering. Blow the damn, declare victory for Environmentalism and allow Crystal Creek to once again flow freely without dams, fish ladders, or any man made "improvements".

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Stand By Me

I think you will like this...

Playing For Change | Song Around The World "Stand By Me" from Concord Music Group on Vimeo.

Next Blog Please

You may wonder where I get time for this. Fact is, my days are longer than yours.

So I started off by clicking the "Next Blog" button that appears at the top of the Blogspot screen. This takes you on a random tour of blogs around the world. About one in ten of the blogs I have encountered are in English. What I have found is a veritable storm of creativity. Check out the photos from Embrujo

This photo is, I have learned, an album cover for "Our Broken Garden" by singer song writer Anna Broensted. I presume the bruised damsel is the aforementioned Anna herself. Let me know if you like the music. If you find it please send me the link.

I found the lovely image to the right in a Polish language blog. Another homage to pork flu!