Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hoyt Arboretum

Here are a few photos I took over the summer (or so) at the Hoyt Arboretum, part of Portland's Washington Park. I wasn't really taking these photos for a blog post, so they don't cover everything that's there; it's more that I realized I could take a long lunch, hop on MAX to the Zoo stop, and go wander around in a forest for a bit, either while thinking intensely about work or trying to avoid doing so. I used to go to the Arboretum all the time as a kid, but it had sort of fallen off my radar & I hadn't been there in years. I actually ended up there back in May looking for House for Summer, an art installation in the park that had just celebrated its 30th anniversary. It was a bit hard to find, so I ended up wandering around the area more than I'd expected, and after I finally found it I ended up wandering a bit more, and I've been back a number of times since then. Some parts looked familiar from mumble-mumble years ago, other areas I'm fairly sure I'd never been to before. (Btw you'll see the art in a separate blog post, because them's the rules.)

One bit I had no recollection of was at the north end of the park, where the Wildwood Trail winds down to a scary crossing of W. Burnside St., which is not technically a freeway but it might as well be. I suppose my mom was afraid we'd try to run across the busy street, or more likely she would totally have done it herself but didn't think my siblings & I were fast enough to keep up. So I got to the crossing, saw the cars whizzing by, and immediately noped out. So (as far as I know) I still haven't ever been on the portion of trail on the other side of Burnside. The crossing isn't safe here, and there aren't any sidewalks on either side of the street that would let you get to a crossing somewhere else, the bus doesn't stop here, and there's only a parking lot on the south side of Burnside if you feel like driving -- so you'd still have to run across the street. The trail continues north (and steeply uphill) to the Pittock Mansion, and then back downhill to NW Cornell & Macleay Park, so you could drive to either place (since Trimet doesn't serve either one) and do an out-and-back hike from there. Can't really do that on a long lunch break from the office, unfortunately. This is all about to change, though; a fundraising campaign just finished raising money to build a footbridge over Burnside to connect the trail in a less scary way. So I think I'll go ahead & wait for the bridge to go in next year. And yes, once it goes in there's bound to be a bridge blog post about it sooner or later. Though the way my drafts folder looks, I can't make any guarantees about when, exactly.

Monday, August 21, 2017


So I woke up at 4am this morning and drove down to Molalla to watch today's solar eclipse in a minimall parking lot, between a 24 hour McDonalds and the local Safeway. I figured the scenery on the ground doesn't matter with eclipses, and a shorter drive there means a less tedious drive back, which turned out to be true. I missed the February 1979 eclipse here thanks to Oregon's usual February weather, which was quite disappointing since I'd basically memorized the big book of eclipses I'd been given a few months earlier. I could have bored you to tears talking about Saros cycles and Baily's beads and whatnot, and then I would've been sad that yet another grownup didn't share my enthusiasm. Anyway, I was fairly determined not to miss out this time. The one thing that didn't cooperate was my clunky old DSLR, which decided to somehow drain its battery down to zero on the drive down. So all I've got are phone photos, although several of them turned out ok. In truth, though, even the most perfect images from the world's most accomplished eclipse photographers don't really capture the experience. I think I may have said something similar about rocket launches a few years ago, and it's probably also true of auroras (though I haven't experienced that in person yet). If you ever have a chance to see a solar eclipse in person, you really should do it, and then you'll be able say this to other people. (Incidentally, today I wore my t-shirt from the last rocket launch I went to, because moon. Nobody asked me about it, because Oregon.)

The photoset includes a few photos from totality; none of them are going to make the cover of National Geographic anytime soon, but I would've felt bad if I hadn't at least tried. Molalla had just over a minute of totality, so there was just enough time to marvel at it, scramble to take a few photos, marvel at it again, and hurry to put the eclipse glasses back on to avoid going blind. If I could do today over again, I might have gone somewhere further south with longer totality, since a minute-and-change was not nearly long enough. Since I don't get a do-over on this one, I suppose I'll just have to go travel the world and see more eclipses.

Also included are a whole bunch of partial phase photos, since the partial phase seems fascinating until you see the total phase, and then you realize it's very much a secondary attraction. The parking lot had rows of leafy generic parking lot trees, so I got a few decent photos of the bizarre crescent shadows you see during the partial phase, created by images of the crescent sun peeking between the leaves. These were much stranger than I'd expected, and I felt compelled to point them out to people nearby & explain what was going on. I suppose once you've worked in a science museum, you never really and truly stop, even if it was 20 years ago.

There's also a short video of shadow bands racing across the parking lot just before totality. As far as I know this phenomenon is still not entirely explained; it's thought that it's an atmospheric effect, since it's different each time and sometimes isn't observed at all. I only saw it prior to the eclipse and not afterward, though I only looked for it briefly as people began driving home the moment totality ended and I didn't want to be roadkill before I could even tweet any photos out. Oh, and toward the bottom of this post there's also a video of the goofy animated cowboy outside McDonalds, at the intersection of state highways 211 & 213, which exists because Molalla is an old-timey rootin' tootin' Western rodeo town & don't you forget it.

A few things I didn't see, or saw but didn't manage to capture here:

  • I'd meant to look for the four planets clustered around the sun, including Mercury, which I don't think I've ever seen. I was too busy looking at the sun to remember to look for planets, so maybe next time.
  • Prior to the eclipse there were the usual little brown birds hanging around, chirping and looking for discarded fries or bits of McNugget. (Note: I am not a birdwatcher.) They seemed to get quieter as the eclipse approached, but I don't really recall whether I heard any during totality or not.
  • I also didn't look at the horizon; you're supposed to get a brief 360 degree sunset effect, but again I was too busy looking at the sun to notice.
  • Also no photos of Baily's beads or the diamond ring effect, because those are very brief phenomena and I just didn't time it right. This probably requires more eclipse photo experience, and possibly better (and more cooperative) gear than I had today.
  • I do have photos of the parking lot & crowds watching the eclipse, but these don't capture the strange light during the partial phase, I suppose because the camera wants to auto correct for the low light situation. It's not like during a sunset. There's no golden hour, and no long shadows. Things just get progressively dimmer and greyer, until the great sky monster finally eats the sun, and civilization collapses. I was going to say the effect is like the dimness from a distant forest fire, but that's not really true either, since it's also not hazy at all. It's more like an underexposed photo happening in real life, which is more or less what's actually going on.
  • The temperature dropped significantly on the runup to totality, and I put on a hoodie for a while. If you really want the full effect, I suppose you could simulate this by cranking up your AC while looking at these photos. This was the only weather effect I noticed, no sudden wind or absence of wind.

One more thing -- for comparison, at the bottom of this post I've embedded a photo I took of the transit of Venus back in 2012, which I unfortunately took with a crappy Blackberry camera. The transit had just begun so the planet's near the edge of the sun, toward the bottom of the photo. Transits of Venus are less impressive than solar eclipses, but much, much rarer, and I feel fortunate to have seen one. I dusted off my old sun-watching glasses from 2012 today to use as a phone camera filter. So keep those glasses around, kids: The next solar eclipse is in July 2019 in Argentina & Chile (assuming the winter weather cooperates), and then in November of the same year there's a transit of Mercury visible in the same region. (Those aren't quite as rare as transits of Venus, but I've never seen one.) The next eclipse in North America isn't until April 2024, and it makes a diagonal stripe from Texas up across the Great Lakes and over to Newfoundland. So that might be an excuse to go back to Cleveland, or maybe watch the eclipse at Niagara Falls, again assuming the weather cooperates.

howdy pardner

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Sunday, July 02, 2017

West Multnomah Viaduct

The previous bridge post went on about the historic circa-1914 viaduct on the Columbia River Highway east of Multnomah Falls. I mentioned then that there was another similar viaduct just west of the falls, and a reasonably alert reader might have guessed that a post about it was coming, because when I'm doing stuff for the sake of completeness, I can't just do one of the two and leave it at that. It just wouldn't be right, you know?

In any case, the west viaduct is basically the same as the east one, but at 400' it's only half as long, and it's harder to get decent photos of the west one due to trees. On the semi-positive side, the photoset does have a couple of pics taken from on the viaduct, which I was able to do thanks to being stuck in Multnomah Falls traffic. Anyway, here are a few links about the west viaduct from across the interwebs:

East Multnomah Viaduct

The next stop on the Columbia Gorge bridge project is not exactly a bridge; the old Columbia River Highway travels on raised viaducts for a few hundred feet on either side of Multnomah Falls, for the simple reason that there was nowhere else to put a road back then, as the only bit of flat ground was already taken up by the railroad line. (The area where I-84 runs now was filled in much later, and was just river or wetland a century ago). Like most bridges on this stretch of highway, the viaducts were designed by K.P. Billner, who wrote about them in a 1915 article:

Two long concrete viaducts, which stand against the hillside like steps, solved the problems existing near Multnomah Falls. Here the Oregon-Washington Railway & Navigation Co.’s road occupied all of the available space along the river. The cost of excavating a 24-ft. roadway along this railroad, and of carrying the excavated material across the track to the river, was practically prohibitive. Figure is a view of the 860-ft. viaduct located east of Multnomah Falls. The West Multnomah Viaduct is similar to that shown in Fig. 6. In the West Multnomah Viaduct, however, the the railing extends along the masonry retaining wall.

The roadways of these viaducts are carried on two parallel lines of columns spaced 17 ft. 6 ins. on centers. The longitudinal spacing of these columns is 20 ft. As protection agains possible settlement of the upper columns, inclined struts, following the slope of the hill, are placed between the upper and lower columns, these struts being capable of carrying the weight of the structure. A railing, consisting of cement mortar on metal lath reinforcement, is placed along the railroad side only (see Fig 6.).

A page about the east viaduct at Recreating the Historic Columbia River Highway includes a few vintage photos, and notes that the east viaduct cost $22,520.83 in 1915 dollars, making it the second most expensive structure on the highway, second only to the Latourell Creek bridge. The east viaduct also has a BridgeHunter page, and the Library of Congress has a Historic American Engineering Record entry for it with a few old photos, which are mostly interesting because they're taken from angles you physically can't get to anymore, unless you feel like standing in the middle of eastbound I-84. Legal says I have to remind people not to do that, btw. The photos you see here were taken from the far eastern tip of the I-84 Multnomah Falls parking lot/rest area, which I think is probably the only way you can see underneath the structure now without being in a moving vehicle.

Given all that went into creating the Multnomah viaducts, it's a shame they're contenders for everyone's least favorite part of the old highway. They were engineering marvels of the Model T era, but they weren't designed with wider vehicles in mind, and it seems like there's always a giant RV with extra-wide side mirrors heading the other direction whenever you drive across one of the viaducts. In the last 10 years or so, it's also become rather likely you'll be stuck in a huge traffic jam all the way through the Multnomah Falls area, which doesn't really enhance the viaduct experience either. Widening the road is probably out; the viaducts are protected historic structures, and even if they weren't the rail line is still right next door & there's nowhere to put a wider road. I suspect that at some point they'll have to ban private vehicles along this part of the road, at least during high tourist season, and only allow shuttle buses along the road, sort of like what the National Park Service ended up doing in Yosemite National Park. This won't happen anytime soon, but in the longer term it seems inevitable to me. Then the shuttle drivers can tell their passengers the scary narrow part is coming up, and people can wave at the shuttle going the other direction, just inches away, and it'll just be another fun part of the show.

Multnomah Creek Bridge

Next up, here are a few photos of the historic 1914 highway bridge at Multnomah Falls. (Did I mention there's an ongoing Columbia Gorge bridge project? Because there is.) The comprehensive Historic Highway Bridges of Oregon (1989) describes the bridge thusly (via

The Multnomah Creek Bridge, near the 620-foot drop of Multnomah Falls, is a noteworthy short-span arch and is a significant component of the old Columbia River Highway. This reinforced concrete deck arch is 67 feet in length .The barrel arch has solid spandrel walls and is 40 feet in length. The bridge was designed by K.P. Billner under the supervision of C.H. Purcell, State Bridge Engineer, and S.C. Lancaster, Assistant State Highway Engineer. It was constructed [in 1914] by the Pacific Bridge Company of Portland.
Smith, Dwight A., James B. Norman, and Pieter T. Dykman. Historic Highway Bridges of Oregon. Portland, Or: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1989, page 143.

It's not the biggest or most innovative of the old highway's bridges; a 1915 Engineering and Contracting article by Billner describes various bridges along the highway and the engineering challenges they addressed, and the Multnomah Creek bridge only merited a brief mention: "Figure 7 shows two bridges of the arch type at Multnomah Falls. This view also shows the falls, which is one of the scenic attractions along the highway.". The other of the two arch bridges is the famous Benson Bridge between the upper and lower falls, so I gather the key design feature here is that the two bridges were meant to form a harmonious pair. Most of Billner's article is devoted to his bridge at Latourell Creek, and my post about that bridge has a bit more background on Billner (who still doesn't have his own Wikipedia bio, somehow).

Elsewhere around the interwebs, the bridge also has the usual Structurae and Bridgehunter pages, and the Library of Congress has a couple of vintage photos of it. And of course there are lots of other photos of it around the interwebs. The waterfall is obviously the main event here, but seeing as it gets multiple millions of visitors per year, a few of them are bound to take an interest in the old arched bridge they pass on their way to the gift shop. The bridge also gets a mention in a recent ODOT presentation about mathematical buckling analysis of arch bridges. It has a section on "Common Arch Bridge Types", and cites a few Oregon bridges for each type, since ODOT has lots of arch bridges and I gather they're rather proud of them. I dunno, I think stuff like this is interesting even if I don't completely understand it.

Questions for Humans: Dreams Wall

Next mural on the ongoing tour is Questions for Humans: Dreams Wall, on an industrial building at SE 10th & Salmon. This was created in 2015 by artist Gary Hirsch, and is one of a series of four Questions for Humans murals scattered around inner SE Portland; we visited Curiosity Wall a while back, so I still have to find Joy Wall and Relationship Wall to complete the set. As with the last wall, I sort of disobeyed the instructions by just taking photos to blog about later (almost a year later, as it turns out), rather than posting a selfie of myself with the mural. Technically speaking the last photo in the photoset includes a reflective RACC sign about the mural, and you can kind of see a silhouette of my hand holding my phone. That's about as much selfie as you're ever likely to see here; it's just not my thing, I guess.

While poking around the RACC site, I realized the artist behind these murals also created Upstream Downtown, the goofy salmon panels on one of downtown Portland's ugly parking garages, which were painted wayyy back in 1992.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Guardian

Next up, we're taking a look at The Guardian, the big tiger mural on Water Ave. between Yamhill & Belmont, at the east end of the Morrison Bridge. This was created in 2016 by artist Ernesto Maranje, as part of the same project as Under the Same Sky in downtown Portland. The RACC page for the mural describes what it's about, beyond just being a cool tiger:

This mural was created through the AptArt (Awareness & Prevention Through Art) “Paint Outside the Lines” campaign, a multi-wall mural project where trans-global artists are engaging with marginalized groups in the Portland community. Youth from p:ear worked with Ernesto Maranje on this mural with the goal of addressing the reality of growing economic gaps and the impact that divide has on all of society. As the wealth divide in the United States grows, so does the number of people made homeless. The youth painted their identity and things of importance into the shapes of flowers. A larger than life tiger stands guard above the flowers, protecting them as they develop and grow in a dreamy world. Next to the tiger a bird takes flight representing the potential all humans have when nurtured and protected. Elements of coral and sea life adorn the tiger, bird and flowers, highlighting the connection we all share regardless of where we come from or where we are going.

Under the Same Sky

Next up, we're looking at Under the Same Sky, a huge mural at SW 2nd & Stark, created in 2016 by artist Kevin Ledo with help from a local refugee & immigrant youth organization. The RACC page for it includes a short description:

This mural was created through the AptArt (Awareness & Prevention Through Art) “Paint Outside the Lines” campaign, a multi-wall mural project where trans-global artists are engaging with marginalized groups in the Portland community. Students from David Douglas High School and R.I.S.E. (Refugee & Immigrant Student Empowerment) worked with artist Kevin Ledo to create stencils and words in Arabic, Swahili, English and Somali about belonging and diversity that were applied to the mural.

Since its founding six years ago, AptArt has facilitated workshops and collaborative murals with communities living in conflict-affected areas, including Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria and Jordan. Portland is the first U.S. city to be a part of this effort. Artists Kevin Ledo, Ernesto Maranje, and Ruben Sanchez are painting murals at four sites in Downtown Portland and the Central Eastside Industrial District as part of the program, which takes place in 2016 and 2017.

Lucky Lab mural

A little mural inside the Lucky Lab brewpub on NW Quimby, with an arrow pointing toward the restrooms. I don't usually do indoor murals, but this one contained dogs and hops, plus I was headed to the restroom anyway, so I figured I might as well take a couple of photos. The hashtag above the signature in a few of the photos points to the creator's IG profile & website, minus the hash symbol obviously.

Arts Base murals

Here's are a few photos of the Arts Base murals on a former upholstery store at N. Williams Ave. & Wygant, as seen back in December 2014 when I took these photos and promptly forgot about them in the Drafts folder. A 2011 Portland Street Art piece explains that a group of artists & local residents rented the abandoned store, covered the outside in murals, and converted the inside to studio space. City Hall, on its usual quest to seek and destroy all unpermitted fun, declared the murals to be graffiti and ordered them painted over. Eventually the city relented somewhat and agreed the murals could stay, but the artists & their studios in the building had to go, because zoning. So the end result was a brightly painted and now re-abandoned building, at least as of December 2014 when I stopped by. Through the magic of Google Street View, I see that the same murals were still there in November 2015, but by June 2016 they'd been replaced by a much more sedate -- even tasteful -- yellow and grey geometric pattern. I can't help but think the swanky new townhouses across the street had something to do with the murals being toned down.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

She Flies With Her Own Wings

The next mural we're visiting as part of our ongoing project is She Flies With Her Own Wings, in the Alameda neighborhood at NE Regents Dr., Ridgewood Dr., & Alameda St. This is another one with an RACC description:

The inspiration for this mural comes from the Oregon state motto—”She Flies With Her Own Wings”—and displays the state bird, insect, flower, tree, and fruit. The creation of the mural involved the participation of nearby kindergartners, their teachers and parents, and neighborhood volunteers.

I have gotten the distinct impression that every weird blog project of mine eventually requires a trip to Alameda. First there were a bunch of tiny not-quite-parks to visit, thanks to the neighborhood's winding streets and tangled intersections. Then there were some public stairs that needed a visit, which I didn't visit the first time because I wasn't doing stairs then. And now there's a mural, which I didn't visit the previous two times because I wasn't doing murals then. As far as I can recall, I think these are the only times I've been in the Alameda area in years, so if you happen to run into me there, it probably means the neighborhood has painted a local intersection, or they've somehow gotten themselves a new bridge or something.

I think I've said before that I don't claim to be a journalist, nor have I ever been accused of journalism. While I was taking these photos, a woman jogged by, saw I was taking photos, and told me she'd worked on painting the mural. A real journalist would have seen this as a great interview opportunity. I just said something to the effect of "Oh cool, I like it.", and she smiled and kept jogging. A real journalist would have headed back to the office, filed a Pulitzer-worthy story just before deadline, and headed off to a nearby dive bar where the bartender calls everyone "pal" or "mac". I created a draft post and then forgot about it for close to a year and a half, and the closest thing I'll ever have to an interview here is being recounted from memory. In short, if you're looking for examples of the groundbreaking internet journalism of the future, this is not the place to look, and I'm not the person to ask.

Pu'u o Kaimuki

Next up, a few photos from Honolulu's Pu'u o Kaimuki Mini-Park, on the hill behind the historic fire station in the trendy (and often rainy) Kaimuki neighborhood. The park isn't very big, and the hill it's on doesn't seem that tall, but it has great views in most directions, and it's not crawling with tourists, so I thought it was worth a quick visit. A few of the photos in this set show a tall metal pole with a bunch of wires attached to it; I couldn't figure out what it was at the time, but it turns out it's the neighborhood Christmas tree.

"History of Land Use in Hillsdale"

The next installment in this humble blog's ongoing mural project is History of Land Use in Hillsdale, at a bus stop at the busy intersection of SW Terwilliger & Capitol Highway. Its RACC blurb:

The artists Angelina Marino and Joel Heidel enlisted the help of over 120 community members to develop the concept for this mural which addresses historical and cultural aspects of the area. The site is located on Capitol Highway at a transition point where forest met with what was once dairy and orchard land. In a stylized manner, the content considers land use from the days of the settlers who established the dairies to the current day results of the Terwilliger Parkway reforestation. It speaks of cultural diversity by use of colorization and the bells on the cows that, by shape or content, represent the diversity of residents, both historically and according to the current census. The plants used in the mural also tie decades and cultures together, including domestic flowering and fruit trees mixed with indigenous forest plants.

This one was tough to get photos of. It's usually viewed -- briefly -- from a moving vehicle. I finally managed to take a couple of photos once when I was stopped at the light, but it was around dusk and the photos came out poorly. My usual approach in recent years has been to do the blog post anyway while making self-deprecating remarks about the subpar photos, but I had to draw the line somewhere. A few weeks ago I went for a hike in Marquam Nature Park, with no particular destination in mind. I ended up walking south along Terwilliger, and it occurred to me I could continue on to the Capitol Highway intersection & then catch a bus to the Sasquatch brewpub in Hillsdale for lunch (Capitol Highway lacks sidewalks, so walking the rest of the way would've been a poor idea.) Then I remembered this mural was at the bus stop, so I could indulge this occasional weird blog project while I was at it. So a plan took shape, and here we are. I suppose it would have been simpler to just take a bus to the bus stop, take some photos, and then get back on the next bus, but this way it was part of a nice walk with beer and a burger at the end.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Makalei Beach Park

Next up, were visiting tiny Makalei Beach Park, another spot along Diamond Head Road nestled among the houses of assorted rich people. As with Le'ahi Beach Park, there's beach access, picnic tables, and indications there was a house or two here at one point. Again, no particular reason to go out of your way to visit this park, but I was in the area anyway, and it was sunny with palm trees, and I had just arrived from rainy Portland, so it was inevitable that I'd stop for a few photos, and here they are.

Le'ahi Beach Park

Ok, it's a rainy day in Honolulu right now, so I thought I'd finish off a few draft posts left over from previous times I've been here. First up, we're visiting Le'ahi Beach Park, a small park along Diamond Head Road among a narrow strip of houses of the rich & famous between Diamond Head & the ocean. It's basically a neighborhood park with beach access (though much of a beach) & picnic tables, and there's no particular reason for tourists to seek it out; I happened to be walking a loop around Diamond Head at the time, so I figured I'd take a couple of photos since I was in the area anyway, and there are very few opportunities to take photos of palm trees back in Portland.

The seawall at the park suggests there may have been a house here at one point. I don't know the exact story here, but this is one of several oceanfront spots in the vicinity that look like they once contained houses and now don't. Some are parks, others are just fenced off vacant lots, sometimes with old weatherbeaten for-sale signs. You would think this would be incredibly valuable land, snapped up and built on the moment it came on the market. As I understand it, if you were to buy one of these places, you'd be caught between state environmental laws that now frown on seawalls & require you as a new buyer to remediate the existing ones somehow, and rich neighbors who want you to reinforce your seawall to protect their seawalls, and who also insist that your new house not block their view, or cause any traffic or construction noise, or draw the wrong sort of people to the neighborhood. Before long, prospective buyers conclude it's just too much trouble, and go off to be terrible rich people somewhere else. Florida, maybe, or Palm Springs, or Dubai.