Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Frank L. Knight Park expedition

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When I did my recent piece on Governors Park, I thought I'd found the most absolutely unknown and obscure city park in downtown Portland. I was wrong. I was looking at the city's official Walking Map of Southwest Portland yesterday, and the words "Frank Knight Park" caught my eye. Hmm. Okayyy. Never, ever heard of it, I said to myself. Never even seen it on a map before. And talk about centrally located -- if you live on the west side and commute in to downtown, you drive right past the place every day. It's a small plot of land between SW Montgomery Drive and steep SW Mill St. Terrace, literally right across the street from where US 26 eastbound exits the Vista Ridge Tunnel. (Google Map of the area here) It's the steep, forested hillside on your right just as you leave the tunnel (which puts it in the upper left-hand corner of photo #4, from one of the Vista Tunnel traffic cams). When I say steep, I'm not exaggerating. "Ridiculously steep" would not be exaggerating. I visited the bottom end of the park because I didn't feel much like hiking uphill, and Montgomery Drive is a windy little road with no sidewalks, full of gigantic Lexus SUVs rocketing along at top speed -- and the drivers are all on the phone, of course, and oblivious to their surroundings. Gentle Reader(s), I try to go the extra mile for you guys and "dig a little deeper" and all that , but I usually draw the line at actual physical danger. I imagine the Montgomery side of the park looks a lot like the Mill side, except that you're looking nearly straight down instead of nearly straight up. At Governors Park I was at least able to wander in and look around a token amount. Here, not so much. There's no obvious way in, unless you have mountaineering gear, or a helicopter, or tentacles with suction cups for arms, or whatever.



The city parks department, understandably, doesn't give the place much attention. As I expected, there's no official Parks Department sign, at least on the Mill side. The official website refers to it as the "Frank L. Knight Property", and has very little to say about it: It totals 0.56 acres (slightly larger than downtown's O'Bryant Square, or an average Park Block), and the city's owned it since way back in 1941. As for amenities, there's the usual "Includes natural area". When the city uses this term, it can mean anything from a stand of old-growth trees to an abandoned nuclear bunker, and maybe even the city isn't 100% sure what's there. The parks department page, and the mention on the walking map, seem to be the only two sources of info about the park on the entire Internet. And they don't even agree on the name of the place. Since the city can't manage to agree with itself, I'm going to adopt "Park" instead of "Property", and keep the middle initial, because a place this obscure ought to have a grand name. You could just call it "Knight Park" if you ever had a reason to, although Lincoln County on the coast already has a park by that name As far as I can tell, this post will be the first-ever writeup about the place by anyone other than the city government itself.


I have all sorts of questions the city hasn't managed to answer. First, who was this Frank L. Knight guy, anyway? If he was the previous owner of the property, how on Earth did he convince the city parks department to buy it? It's not like you could put a soccer field here. Maybe you could put a scenic viewpoint up top, or something, if the place wasn't full of tall trees. A mountain goat sanctuary would be logical here, too.

Two theories I'm batting around. First, the city ended up with the property due to unpaid back taxes. It became public property right around the tail end of the Depression, so this seems possible -- in which case the good Mr. Knight probably wasn't the former property owner. Second theory, the current "Property" is what was left over after the tunnel was built, and the city had acted with great foresight by buying this crucial piece of property early on, well before they started digging the Vista Tunnels.

Or maybe they just bought it sight unseen, and Mr. Knight retired to Palm Springs on the proceeds, chuckling gently to himself all the way.

Updated 3/14/11: Thanks to the magic of the Multnomah County Library's historical Oregonian archives, we have a few answers. Frank L. Knight owned Knight Packing Company, a produce company with an old-style address of 474 East Alder, which ought to place it in the present-day Produce Row area. The July 14th, 1946 Oregonian had an article about a posthumous citation for philanthropy he was awarded for bequeathing $700k to Pacific University in Forest Grove. That's a lot of money now, and would have been an enormous amount of money in 1946. The article includes a photo, and says of him:

Mr. Knight, who was born in Des Moines IA in 1884, made his first home in the northwest in Tacoma, Wash., where he operated a shingle mill. In 1899 he moved to Portland, bought a vinegar company, and reorganized it as the Knight Packing company, of which he was president and manager until his retirement in 1936. From 1925 until his death he served Pacific University as a trustee.

A November 22, 1946 article mentions that he also left money for the construction of the downtown YWCA building, which still exists.

As for the park, I've come across exactly 4 mentions of it in the Oregonian:

May 4, 1941:

Park Property Offered - Gift of view property near S.W. 19th avenue and Montgomery street has been offered the city council by Frank L. Knight, 1890 S.W. Vista avenue. The property is west of and adjoins S.W. 19th avenue and Montgomery and also takes in what would be 19th avenue if it were extended. All taxes and liens have been paid and the property can be turned over at any time, said the offer, which will be considered Wednesday.

The city council took its time considering the offer, as the next mention of it I've found was not until late December of that year.

December 21, 1941:

Gift Ordinance Due - The city council Wednesday will have an ordinance to accept the gift of Frank L. Knight, 1890 SW Vista Avenue, of two parcels of land for park purposes and to express the appreciation of the city for the gift.

December 25, 1941:


The city council Wednesday accepted with thanks two view lots offered the city for park purposes by Frank L. Knight. The property is on S.W. 19th avenue near Montgomery drive and was given the city free and clear. An expression of appreciation for the gift will be made by the city to Mr. Knight.

As you can imagine, most of the surrounding articles relate to World War II. On the same page as the December 25 blurb is a piece titled "Women's Stockings New and Valuable Defense Aid", which is right next to "Alien Travel Restricted", alien meaning Japanese, German, or Italian. The December 21 blurb is on the same page as a notice to homeowners that their Christmas lights need to be turned off in the event of a blackout.

After that, the park appears by name exactly once, on October 25, 1970. It's part of a groovy-looking map of the city park system, which also appears to be a thinly veiled Frank Ivancie campaign ad. When your goal is to dazzle the public with the city's vast park system, I suppose you need to include the really obscure ones too. So it also includes Governors Park, all of the "East Park Blocks", Talbot Park, and "Block 101, Mocks Crest" at N. Willamette & Bryant. The last two spots are really quite tiny, as I've pointed out before, so the map's a bit on the misleading side if you ask me.

In any case, those brief mentions also seem to answer the "why" question, indirectly. The Vista Ave. address given for Mr. Knight is just uphill and southwest of the park, and if I'm looking at the map correctly the "view lots" protect the Knight house's view of Mt. St. Helens, or at least they would have in 1941 when Mt. St. Helens was a bit taller than it is now. And maybe they still do. This is a rare case where I actually wasn't cynical enough when trying to think of reasons the park exists..


I don't really know what you could do with the place. A heroic private developer could probaby cantilever a house or two out over the hillside, but as a park... One possibility would be to make the place a "vertical park", with a staircase from the bottom to the top. The West Hills are absolutely full of weird and obscure public staircases, so that it's actually a lot easier to get around the area than you might think (this is actually why I was looking at that walking map in the first place). So I'm suggesting we put in a few more staircases, at least one here and one at Governors Park, but with a modern twist: Design them to accomodate runners. I expect running up the stairs here would be a great workout, to say the least. And if you blow out a knee on the way up (or down), OHSU isn't far away, and it'd be a golden opportunity to check out that world-class sports medicine department they're always bragging about. Making the stairs ADA-compliant would be very, very difficult, but if you had to, I guess you could always put in a municipal elevator, like they have down in Oregon City. There's just the "simple" matter of finding the money. It would help a great deal if it turned out that Frank Knight was an ancestor of Phil Knight, the Nike guy. There's no real reason to believe that, though.

On Wednesday, I took a few photos of the park, or of what seemed to be the park, since the place isn't marked, obviously. The top photo is the least unremarkable of the bunch. You probably can't get a nice, appealing photo of the park as a whole, since it's pretty much just a chunk of steep hillside covered in trees and scrubby little bushes.

I went back Thursday morning to try to get some better photos of the place, and ended up taking a bunch of close-ups, including the last 4 pics here. It's not all blackberries and wild roses there, but ivy and vine maple are nowhere near as photogenic. The last photo's looking towards downtown from the park... or from Mill right next to the park if we're going to split hairs here.

Here's a house for sale on Mill St. Terrace -- it looks like they're asking a cool $10M for it. Ten. Million. Dollars. For a house perched right over a freeway, no less. I can't see a lot of people falling for that, but I guess you only really need one. Some nice photos of the view from here, regardless.

The vicinity of the park is sort of interesting. Just east of the park, a narrow street called Cable Avenue branches off of Mill. Snyder's Portland Names and Neighborhoods describes the street thusly:

For years, this was an un-named alley. Then, in 1892, a city ordinance designated it Cable Street. The name referred to a cable system which pulled streetcars up an inclined trestle to a hillside terminus at Spring Street. (At that time, 18th Avenue was still called "Chapman Street.") The cars were drawn up the trestle by attaching to them a cable actuated by a system of weights. Cable Street was almost under this trestle. The cable line ceased functioning in 1904, when the "Vista Avenue Bridge" was built across Canyon Road, providing a moderately inclined route which streetcars could use to get to the "Heights".

I seem to recall that when the Westside MAX line was under construction, workers discovered a bunch of mechanical bits left over from the old cable car line, right around the new MAX station at 18th & Jefferson. There were promises made about accomodating some of these old bits into the decor at the station, but nothing seems to have come of that. TriMet has a page about our city's brief dalliance with cable cars, as does The Cable Car Homepage, and PDXHistory has a nice picture of the old trestle. Over a thousand feet long, rising at a 20% grade. Yikes! Take that, aerial tram!

More tidbits about the local area:

  • An excerpt from the book "Portland Hill Walks" discusses the area.
  • A walking tour of another portion of Montgomery Drive, further up the hill.
  • The twin Vista Tunnels made someone's list of historic tunnels
  • The Mercury points us at a funny YouTube clip created from police videos of the Zoobombers biking through the eastbound Vista tunnel.
  • If you're of a geekier bent, here's a bit about the tunnels' lighting systems, in case you were curious or whatever.
  • Some photos of the Goose Hollow / King's Hill neighborhood, just to the north and downhill from the park. The park isn't quite in Goose Hollow, and isn't quite Portland Heights (i.e. the rich neighborhood up top) either. Which I guess makes it a "gateway", one of those high-concept things that architects & designers really get their rocks off about. Someone should inform Randy Gragg, or at the very least the "Portland Architecture Blog" guy.
  • If you hike around the area much, sooner or later you'll need a beer. And you're in luck: Former Mayor Bud Clark's cozy Goose Hollow Inn is right at hand. Mmm... Beeer....

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

...wherein I finish my beer...


Photo #1: A nice big glass of beer. Cranberry Éphémère, if you're curious.


Photo #2: Moi, not long after taking photo #1. Did I mention it was a nice, big glass of beer?

Mmmmm..... beeeeerrrr.....

Speaking of beer, a piece at Rooftop Brewing about homebrewing with fresh hops. Sounds ambitious. Tasty, and ambitious.

Meanwhile, Beervana points us (well, those of us who remember the original) at an ancient Ranier Beer commercial on YouTube. You know, the one with the motorcycle. You know the one.

Blogriculture has a couple of recent beer-related posts: The aforementioned Rainier commercial gets a mention, and the point is made that while the commercial is great, the beer wasn't then and isn't now. There was a time when people called it the "Green Death", if that gives you some idea. The other post discusses the impact of beer on Oregon's economy. Our stats page at is here, but as the post notes, the numbers here are probably understated, since it just looks at the brewing & retail angle, and ignores the agricultural side of things. And we grow a hell of a lot of tasty, tasty hops here.




It's that time of year again. Two pics of this morning's fall drizzle, on the transit mall downtown. The first just as the rain began, and the second once it really got going. The second is a color photo, believe it or not.

Continuing with the drizzle theme, sort of, here are a few mostly downbeat items from the interwebs, found over the last few days. Or if not downbeat, at least somewhat lacking in sunshine, sweetness, and light. Or even if they're full of sickly tooth-rotting sweetness, I'll still have something snarky and disagreeable and downbeat to say about them. Because that's the theme for today: Drizzle.

  • A post at BlueOregon about the nation's cooling economy.
  • Also at BlueOregon, a piece bashing the Oregonian's wingnutty editorial about the demotion of Pluto. Also see Bill Maher's very funny rant on the same topic.
  • Not downbeat, but distinctly lacking in sunshine and other forms of light: Cosmic Variance has a nice, somewhat technical discussion of dark matter. If I owned a brewpub, my stout would be called "Dark Matter", and I'd offer a companion coffee stout and call it "Dark Energy". Because it would be funny. Really.
  • Rummy, in Salt Lake City, had this to say, seriously:

    "We face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising of a new type of fascism," he said.

    "And that is important in this 'long war' where any kind of moral and intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere," he said, taking aim at detractors of the US "war on terror".

    Am I the only person who sees a conflict between paragraph 1 and paragraph 2?
  • Someone refresh my memory, wasn't there some sort of big storm down in Louisiana or Mississippi or somewhere about this time last year? I, for one, sure am glad we have Dubya around to do his usual "heckuva job" fixing these things.
  • The ever-insufferable Randy Gragg, the local paper's one-time "architecture critic" is back in town, and already up to his old tricks. If he and his architect/developer chums are really so amazingly superior to the rest of us rubes, why did he move back here from the bright lights of New York?
  • This is more of a schadenfreude item than a downbeat one. The Mercury reports on an groovy discovery made in the flowerbeds in front of the Duluth, MN police headquarters. Nelson: Ha, ha!
  • Sen. Ted Stevens officiated over the opening of a new Iridium satellite center near Fairbanks, Alaska. No word yet on whether satellite phone service also relies on a "series of tubes".
  • A piece about the late, lamented gas turbine car. It's a weird fit for Treehugger, considering how inefficient the things were, but it could run on peanut oil, or even perfume. Lots and lots of perfume.
  • Meanwhile, an angry SUV driver went on a rampage today, mowing people down all over San Francisco, thereby doing what all the other SUV drivers in the world merely fantasize about, 24/7.
  • If you really want to wallow in despair, you might enjoy the site "Fundies Say the Darndest Things!"
  • In the same vein, you might also like LarkNews, which is sort of like the Onion except all-religion, all the time. At least I don't think it's serious, I hope.
  • As I've gotten older, I've become more and more opposed to the whole "time passing" concept. Here's another reason why. These days, even "modern" houses can be old and creaky and desperately in need of the This Old House treatment. It's not fair. New stuff should stay new forever. Ok, maybe I'm just grumpy because I found a grey eyebrow hair the other day, for the first time ever. On me. It just isn't right, I tell you.
  • There's also movie fatigue to whine about. There are vastly more movies than any one person will ever be able to watch. Even if you limit yourself to good movies, or good bad movies, you'll still end up with a Stack of Shame, or a constipated Netflix queue in my case.
  • It's August, and you know what that means. The holiday shopping season won't really start until back-to-school wraps up, but the fundies are already warming up this year's batch of nutty "War on Christmas" hype.
  • OlsonOnline picks apart the loaded word "Islamofascism".
  • I've mentioned before, I think, that I'm the world's worst gamer, and the most unmotivated. I've never actually solved the old Colossal Cave text adventure even though I first played it back in the 70's. So it'll come as no surprise that I'm really terrible at this flash game, which requires being good with a mouse and all. Maybe you'll have better luck. I haven't even had a go at the new Google Maps-based flight sim. As much as I suck at ordinary games, I triple-extra-suck at flight sims, with all those complicated buttons and controls and all.
  • Pink Tentacle informs us that researchers in Japan have found an ancient stone idol that looks like the head of a kappa, an aquatic monster from Japanese mythology. The first 5 minutes of the movie always begin this way. Tokyo is doomed. Doomed, I tell you.
  • It's too late to win yourself a World Stupidity Award, but there's always next year, unless this year's winners blow up the world first.
  • Alt.portland has a piece about Oregon City's Municipal Elevator. I mention it here because it's sort of the Portland area's answer to Seattle's monorail. A weird, down-at-the-heels remnant of the past, a wistful reminder of the unmet dreams of an optimistic, bygone age.
  • And this is actually a cute animal post, not downbeat at all, although the cat in this Cute Overload post does look distinctly predatory, so this is definitely a downbeat post if you're a steak. Of course, if you are a steak, at that point the worst is already over, so far as you're concerned.

A "different" carrot recipe

Hey, campers! Here's another tasty recipe from the wilds of Eastern Oregon. Like several previous items (the UFO invasion in Morrow County, and the local way to make "chow mein", for example), my wife discovered this in a local newspaper from out there, and brought it to my attention, just to gross me out. The dry 2/3 of our state seems like a normal, calm, rural place on the surface, but then you read the local paper and realize you're in Twin Peaks country. I don't know what would be weirder: a.) that people really eat this stuff out there, or b.) they don't (due to common sense and taste buds and so forth), but they put it in the newspaper anyway.

Today's recipe actually comes from the same "nice" little old lady as the chow mein glop I wrote about earlier. This recipe doesn't seem to have a name other than "A Different Way to Cook Carrots". She writes, "For those who do not like carrots, please try this recipe, you might like them this way." Fat chance.

Our delicious, nutritious ingredients:

1 1/2 cups raw baby carrots
1 8 oz. can cream of chicken soup (follow directions on can)
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
buttered dry bread crumbs [no quantity specified]

The directions, such as they are:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. [She doesn't say to do this, but it stands to reason.]
  • In a buttered baking dish [of unspecified size], place the baby carrots in it, and pour the soup over 'em.
  • Then sprinkle the cheese on top, and finally top it all off with the bread crumbs.
  • Cover and bake for 30 minutes.

When she says to follow the directions on the can of soup, I assume she means to reconstitute it with milk the way you normally would, although I'm not 100% sure about that. Maybe it's just because I'm a computer geek or something, but imprecise directions make me nervous, especially if I'm supposed to eat the end product. I haven't looked at a can of cream of chicken soup in a long time, and there may be other directions besides how to use it as soup. If there are casserole-specific directions, I suppose you'll probably want to use those instead.

The justification given for this dish is that it's a great way to get people to eat their carrots. Which is crucial, because carrots are wholesome and nutritious and full of vitamins and minerals and generally super-duper good for you and all, in case you missed that part back in grade school. The classic way to get people to eat what's good for 'em is to disguise it with so much fat and salt and modern gee-whiz chemicals that you negate any health benefits the clandestine nutritious bits might provide. But hey. At least they ate their carrots. Mission accomplished.

What you get from this recipe, I imagine, is something akin to a chicken pot pie, except without the pastry crust. Which is heresy, of course. The chicken and the crust are what it's all about, and everything else is secondary. I will grudgingly tolerate carrots in a pot pie, because they're traditional and everyone does it, but I really don't think they go with chicken. Or cheese, for that matter. And it's rare that chicken and cheese are improved by being combined. It's like matter vs. antimatter, except three ways instead of two, if you can imagine such a thing.

Despite all the snarkiness, I really do, 100% sincerely, want to help, for real, honest, and if you're going to insist on serving this stuff to picky eaters (i.e. people who don't like carrots), you'll need all the help you can get, so here are some suggestions on how to improve this tasty, tasty delicacy, without making it too much work, or involving any weird ingredients. My sense is that this recipe has less potential for improvement than that chow mein recipe, so I don't really want to get your hopes up too much, but here goes:

  1. She doesn't say to do anything with the baby carrots. If you're going to hide them under an opaque layer of salty beige soup, the decent thing would be to slice them up, especially if you're serving this to carrot-o-phobes. It's harder for them to pick all the orange bits out that way. And maybe add some chopped celery while you're at it. I mean, why not? It wouldn't be worse that way.
  2. In this day and age, suggesting that people make their own pie crust definitely counts as "too much work". But maybe you could get a frozen crust from the store and use that, and bake your soupy cheesy carrots in a proper pastry crust, the way God intended. Hint: You probably want to avoid any premade crusts that involve graham crackers or oreos. I mean, be my guest and try it if you really want to; I just don't think it'll have the desired effect, is all I'm saying.
  3. If your frozen crust doesn't come with a top, or even if you aren't doing the whole pastry crust thing, you might try some mashed potatoes on top. There's a rich tradition in England of putting mashed potatoes on top of meat pies. I don't normally advocate copying what the British do when it comes to food, but, I mean, there are potatoes involved. You can't go wrong with potatoes. (If you ignored my advice in the last item and went with the graham cracker crust, my advice this time is to leave off the potatoes. Like you'll really listen or whatever.)
  4. Add some garlic, maybe some onions. Even garlic powder would work in a pinch, for this sort of thing. If you think garlic's a weird ingredient, there's nothing I can do to help you.
  5. If you have a can of peas or a bag of frozen peas lying around, this might be a great opportunity to dust it off and inflict it on the unwary. Just hide 'em under the soup, like you did with the carrots. Peas are traditional in your classic pot pie recipe, so you can get away with it, although I personally don't hold with cooked peas, generally speaking.
  6. But please, please don't try the above with lima beans. Your oven will explode and burn down the whole neighborhood. Or to be more frank about it, I refuse to offer any useful advice when it comes to lima beans; if I have to make up crazy nonsense to deter people from using lima beans, I'll do what I have to do. You have to draw the line somewhere.
  7. Find some way, somehow, to ditch the canned soup. Ok, I'll admit that getting some chicken and doing up some gravy would be harder than just going with the canned soup, so let's agree that "not using canned soup" is an advanced technique here.
  8. This will probably taste better after a few drinks, especially if you used the Oreo crust. Like the recipe itself, it wouldn't do to get too fancy here. Martinis would be correct if you're trying for the whole 50's suburbia effect, but they just seem a little too swanky under the circumstances, and I just don't think the pairing is quite right, flavorwise. Rum-and-cokes would be better, and drink 'em out of jelly jars if you've got 'em.
  9. Just pack it in and make the damn chicken pot pie, already. Or get a frozen pot pie from the grocery store and microwave it, if you're feeling unmotivated. It'll be a million times better, either way.

That chow mein recipe I covered (or variants of it) turns out to be a time-honored taste sensation native to the upper midwest, and today's recipe certainly has a sort of cornfed, stick-to-yer-ribs quality to it as well. I wonder if the, ah, chef is originally from that neck of the woods. From the grainy photo of (allegedly) her next to the recipe, I'm guessing she's somewhere in her late 70's to mid-80's. If you read local obits of people that age and older, a remarkable number of them were born somewhere in the Midwest, usually the Dakotas or rural Minnesota, and moved out here some time between 1910 and the dustbowl era. My own grandfather-in-law is yet another of these Minnesota migrants, and my father's family came west from Missouri about that time, and I've met several other people who did this as well. Nobody's every really explained why all these people left en masse, although I suppose the climate may have been a factor.

Right now it's state fair season in the Midwest, which is a great chance to examine the current state of the art in the local cuisine. Pharyngula has a bit about the state fair in Minnesota -- tater tot hotdish on a stick! deep-fried Oreos! The Champagne of Blogs offers a similar report about the Iowa State Fair, with plenty of photos. Deep-fried mac & cheese! Pork chop on a stick!

I hesitate to mention this, because I'm not a mean person, but on one hand you have this... cuisine, and on the other you have all these nice, well-meaning little old ladies whose husbands all had heart attacks and kicked off at age 55, my own sainted, dearly-departed grandmother among them. As I said, I'm not a mean person, so I would never, ever suggest there's a causal link here or anything. I'm just sayin'.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Green, Yellow, Red, Grey


Weird, yet somehow appealing, in an abstract, formal sense. Well, to me, anyway.


Bonus photo: On the transit mall, downtown. Because I'm way too chicken to take pictures of the crack dealers.



Tiny flowers in Jamison Square. Fall is just around the corner, but someone hasn't gotten the memo. Nursery plants can be so obtuse about these things.

I'm not usually all that tuned in to the seasons and so forth, but in the past week or so I've noticed a change in the air. Or maybe it's the angle of the sun, and that the days are shorter. Starchy root vegetables sound even tastier to me than usual. There's a sense, perhaps an instinct, that the slack days of summer are ending, and it's time to get serious about... something. Surviving the winter? Holidays? School?

One nice thing about fall is that it's harvest time, meaning hop harvest time, meaning fresh hop beer time once again. This year the annual Fresh Hop Festival is at the new Lucky Lab pub up in NW Portland. The last couple of years it was held out at the Golden Valley pub in McMinnville (see Sunday's post). It's kind of a shame it's moved, although I can understand wanting to be closer to where most of the beer geeks live.

On a related note, it'll be Oktoberfest season soon. I've never really understood why Portland hasn't gone in more for Oktoberfest, why there isn't a huge tent in Waterfront Park and a long weekend of silly beer-drenched revels, tubas, lederhosen, women in low-cut outfits carrying giant steins of beer, politically incorrect drinking songs, the whole deal. You'd think that would be a natural fit here in Portland, but it doesn't exist. It's a real mystery, and a damn shame.

A few days ago I was up at Reservoir 3, enjoying the peace and quiet. A squirrel ran by, and around a corner, completely ignoring me. You can tell it's getting to be fall when squirrels are so busy foraging they barely see you. This isn't always a great plan when you're a tiny rodent, though; I heard a bit of rustling and scuffling, and when I rounded the corner I came across the squirrel again, trying to escape from a huge red-tailed hawk. The hawk hadn't managed to catch the squirrel, but it was cornered, out in the open. The hawk hopped about on the ground, trying to move in for the kill. Then they both saw me and froze. The hawk glared, enraged. It must've thought I was here to take its prey. I imagined it was considering driving me off, beak and talons slashing away. I stared at it, it stared at me, and the squirrel bolted for cover. Up a nearby tree, into the canopy, and it screamed squirrel obscenities at the hawk once it was safely out of view. The hawk kept glaring, refusing to give ground and let me pass. Not only had I deprived it of a meal, I'd failed to catch the squirrel myself. Yes, I really am a pathetic excuse for a predator. I can't deny that.

After a few more moments of avian disdain, the hawk flew to the top of a nearby lamppost and completely ignored me. Apparently it had found me unworthy, and had no further use for me.

I really ought to have had the camera along, to capture all the excitement, but sadly, no. Sometimes I'm a pathetic excuse for a photo-predator, as well.


The old Metropolitan Presort building being demolished. Seems they were sitting on prime Pearl real estate, which is way too valuable to waste on single-story industrial buildings. Seems it's still up in the air what's going to go here. My money's on "upscale condo tower", possibly with a combination doggie day spa + trendy martini bar on the ground floor. But that's just a wild guess.

Oh, wait... I was right about the condo tower. Say 'hi' to the 937 Condominiums, a shiny new 16-story condo tower, with a design (supposedly) based on fractals. Woooh, fractals. The ground floor retail tenants are presumably still TBD at this point, but I'm still betting on the doggie day spa + martini bar.



Photo 1: Leaves changing color already. No, no, this is too soon, dammit. Entirely too soon.


Photo 2: A building under renovation, in the south end of downtown, near PSU. This was built as one of the Portland Center Apartments back in the mid-60's, and now it's becoming yet another upscale condo tower. These must be the old fridges, on their way to the dump, since they aren't made of stainless steel or anything fancy like that. As for why they're outside on the balconies, it's obvious: They're just chillin'.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Lazy sunday alcobloggage

In February, I'll regret not having gone out and done all sorts of summery activities today, but I'm making the choices for today and not for six months down the road, so I'm slouching on the balcony with a drink and something to read, and I thought I'd blog about it so I can go back and read this in the dead of winter and wonder why the hell I wasn't at the beach, or out wakeboarding, or driving the MG with the top down, or whatever. Well, it's because I wanted to, and I can, I guess. And I agree, that's a lame reason, but there you have it.

So I have 3 things in front of me. First, we have "Ultimate", the Sunday paper's glossy new foray into the ultra-luxury lifestyle segment. The cover story gushes about the latest gazillion-dollar hobby ranch development out near Bend. The new gimmick is that all the McMansions there must be done in a style the developers call "Napa/Tuscan". Seriously. A bunch of fake Tuscan villas out in the middle of the desert. There's even a small vineyard as part of the "grounds", growing what the article describes as "French hybrid grapes". Hybrid in this sense means hybridized between European and New World varieties. These hybrids are generally not well thought-of in the wine world, but they'll grow almost anywhere, even in the middle of a desert, a desert with extremely cold winters. It's not really Tuscan without a vineyard, and this is all that'll grow here, so hybrids it is.

The article profiles the retired couple who bought the first house in the new subdivision. Seems that now that they're experts on the Tuscan lifestyle, they're considering a trip to Italy to see the "real thing". Wow.

There are also articles on $35,000 outdoor grills, and Lamborghinis, both of which are incredibly practical in our drizzly climate. Not. Overall, the magazine invites public ridicule, as does following its dictates.

The facing page across from the end of the Tuscan ranch blather contains a house-for-sale ad, for the house discussed in the article. If they really loved the place so much, why is it for sale so soon? The world can be so damn mysterious sometimes.

The second item is a 70's paperback, "The Serial: A Year in the Life of Marin County", by Cyra McFadden. It's a great satire on an era that deserved it. Gold chains, hot tubs, cults, drugs, it's all there. In other words, the larval stage of people who are now scrambling to buy gazillion-dollar Tuscan hobby ranches in the middle of the freakin' desert.

I bought the book some time ago, at a great used book store down in McMinnville. We went back yesterday, to discover that the bookshop is gone, replaced by... an upscale wine bar. Seriously. The place was empty when we walked by, but it sure looked sleek and expensive. We didn't go in. And why bother with a pretentious wine bar when Golden Valley Brewing is just down the street, I ask you. Mmm.... Red Thistle Ale...

Item #3 is a stack of geeky math papers, which I probably won't get to, y'know, with the booze and all. (The booze is just a mundane gin & fruit juice concoction, whatever was here w/o going to the store, basically.)

Actually I haven't gotten around to any of the 3 items yet, due to this moblogging business. It's not really a lazy Sunday if you sit and write about it instead of living the moment, so I'd probably better wrap this up. See ya!
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Friday, August 25, 2006

This Beat is Tikitronic

tiki mask 1

tiki mask 2

Two vintage tiki masks adorning the soon-to-be-bulldozed Jasmine Tree restaurant, near PSU in downtown Portland. (Shiny new condo tower, coming soon, courtesy of local taxpayers. I'm resisting temptation to go off on a rant about that, but see the user comments on the above link.)

The Jasmine Tree is one of our city's last vestiges of "tiki culture", something I never really got into, but which is near and dear to a surprising number of people. For example see these reviews and writeups about the restaurant at,, and NWTiki

I did happen to go there on New Years Eve a few years ago. There was a sort of dinner-theater musical revue show that was supposed to culminate in champagne-soaked revels right on the dot of midnight. They actually ran out of material about ten minutes shy of the witching hour, so there was a bit of awkward standing around until we got to the champagne. But hey. If you've never heard "Proud Mary" sung in broken English in a tiki-themed Chinese restaurant on New Years Eve, you may have already lost your last chance to. Dinner included a nice big platter of that sliced, cold BBQ pork, with the hot mustard and sesame seeds. I don't care whether it's authentic. I loved the stuff as a kid, and having it once again with a fruity parasol drink in hand was just freakin' sublime. Ok, this was after the second or third fruity parasol drink, if I recall correctly, which I probably don't.
After a couple more parasol drinks, I finally started to understand the weird animatronic "Enchanted Tiki Room" show at Disneyland, which until that moment had just mystified the hell out of me. That moment passed, and the singing animatronic birds once again mystify the hell out of me.

The funny thing is that the New Years excursion was my parents' idea. They were going with friends, and invited us to come, so we were going with a bunch of people who were all huge tiki fans back in the day and didn't see anything ironic about it at all. It was just like the old days, I gather; couples going out for dinner, parasol drinks, and a show. This was probably the right way to do it. When people see chop suey on the menu and start laughing derisively, it really ruins the whole mood.

The only worrisome part of the evening was how a few mai tais in a Tiki bar can bring out the un-PC-ness in people of a certain age. I've tried to explain, very patiently, that it's not ok to refer to people as "Oriental", but the advice doesn't really take even at the best of times, and it's far from the best of times when you put people in a restaurant that reminds them of when they were 23. At least the place was noisy, and I don't think anyone overheard them. Or at least, I didn't see anyone I knew there, so if anyone was offended, at least they were perfect strangers, which is something, I guess.

Let's be honest here, the JT is a total dive. It's survived as long as it has because it's near the college, and it offers cheap mixed drinks and karaoke in a weird retro setting, and you can get a bento to go for lunch (a distinctly non-Tiki practice). Let's not pretend it's a cultural treasure here.

Here's a Christian Science Monitor article discussing the hipster-driven resurgence of the Tiki phenomenon in recent years. I don't really know (or, quite honestly, care) all that much, but I do have a few theories, or, ok, notions, of my own about why people found this stuff so appealing at one time, and why some do now. I'm sure there've been many books written, probably even doctoral dissertations written, on this topic, and we could go look at those, but where's the fun in that? I mean, this is a blog. Uninformed speculation is the heart of what blogging is all about.

People enjoy the temporary fantasy of an exotic, non-urban, magical land, where life moves at a slower, more sensual pace, and there's always time for another drink, and the friendly (if a bit simple) natives bid you a hearty welcome, or aloha, or arrivederci. I say "arrivederci" because I gather that in the 21st century, rural Tuscany has replaced Polynesia as Pop Culture's distant, exotic land of choice, just as Polynesia replaced the 1920s-era fixation with "Arabia". The retro fad isn't really about Pacific island culture, either; the yearned-for distant land in this case is 1959 America, not Polynesia. (By "Polynesia", I mean the pan-tropical Tiki universe, which also included China, "the Orient", Florida, and sometimes Cuba. And Bali, and maybe the rest of Indonesia. And Singapore. Anywhere with palm trees, basically. It was the 50's & 60's, and nobody really knew or cared about the differences between all these places.)

Tiki had a bit extra going for it, in that it provided an excuse to show a little skin, in an era when an excuse was needed. Consider the old National Geographic policy on nudity: You could show it, so long as the people being photographed were "innocent" natives who didn't know it was sinful and wrong. The plethora of tropical island B-movies from the era took the same tack. You could show skin, anywhere from flashes of bare midriff up to substantial nekkidness, so long as everyone acted like it was no big deal. Island maidens could splash around in the lcal waterfall all they liked, wearing nothing but a smile, so long as they remained blissfully unaware there was a movie camera lurking in the bushes. I think it's telling that the genre started to die out in the late 60's, when the, uh, taboo receded a bit.

A couple more Tiki-retro articles here and here, if you're interested.

If I was a Real Journalist (and not merely part of the unwashed blogging rabble Real Journalists alternately sneer at and quiver in fear of) I'd go visit the city's soon-to-be only vintage tiki bar, the Alibi up on Interstate Avenue, and interview people at both places, and do original research and so forth. Pshaw! It's not that I'm opposed to going to a corny retro bar and downing mai tais, per se, it's just that I haven't had time, what with having an RL job and all, and I can't write it off as a business expense, and basically I'm just lazy & haven't gotten around to it. Plus, if I go at a later date, I can use that for a followup post, which will make me look far more dilligent than I actually am.

Word on the street is that someone's going to be opening a brand new tiki outfit called "Thatch", somewhere in off the hipster regions. Somehow it just won't be the same. I can't really put my finger on it. It's sort of like how old B monster movies are great, but new B monster movies (like the stuff you see on the SciFi Channel) are godawful trash.

I mentioned tiki / tropical island / jungle B-movies earlier. Here are a few, most of which I've seen. I have mentioned I'm a B-movie dork, haven't I? I thought about doing mini-writeups about each of these, but I've already spent far too long working on this post. Each link takes you to the IMDB page for the movie, and there's plenty of info there if you're interested.

And there's Gilligan's Island, of course, which is sort of a spoof of all these silly movies they kept making. More seriously, the University of Hawaii has an extensive database of films relating to the Pacific, with a focus on documentaries. Why the weird title? Fads come and go, and what could be more unfashionable than 1990 dance music? Not old enough to be retro, maybe will never be retro, since nobody can ever predict that in advance. Well, that's my justification, but it really came about because I was trying to come up with a play on words involving "Tiki", and I came up with "Tikitronic" because I'm a geek, and that in turn reminded me of a song from long ago. So there you have it, if you care.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

wednesday things-n-stuff


I haven't done any cute animal photos for a while, primarily because I don't have any. But I do have a few small stuffed animals at my desk, and here's a photo of one. This may appear to be a hippo, superficially, but it's really a wombat. My wife gave it to me, and she says it's a wombat.


Yet another wildflower photo, taken a while back. I was actually going to go take a better photo this morning, since this isn't exactly the best photo ever taken, but the flower was gone, and the ivy median where it used to be had been extensively pruned back. Further down the street there was a white van marked "Inmate Work Crew", and a bunch of shady characters in orange vests were doing a bit of groundskeeping. I didn't get close enought to see whether they let these guys have sharp objects or not, but I don't see how you're supposed to trim ivy if you don't have anything sharp. Yikes!

Various items found on the net:
  • Another cute echidna, for your enjoyment, or at least for mine.
  • Got a search hit from someone at the San Diego Zoo, who was looking for "psycho killer raccoons terrorize olympia". I hadn't heard anything about that, but the zoo in San Diego is highly respected, and more importantly they have echidnas, so I take this sort of thing seriously. Turns out there's an Associated Press article by that title out there on the interwebs. Jeepers! I've never been a fan of raccoons. As much as I go in for the cute-animal thing, I specifically exclude raccoons. Yecch. If they're a nuisance, and a danger to the community, why should they be treated any differently than the way rats are dealt with under these circumstances?
  • I'm not into motorcycles, in the sense that I have absolutely no desire to own or ride one. I've told my wife several times that she ought to slap me silly if I ever seriously consider a motorcycle, even as a midlife crisis toy way off in the distant future. But they sure can be real purty to look at sometimes.
  • In somewhat the same vein, here are a couple of cute post-WWII German microcars. Awwwwww....
  • Perhaps our fair city's Downtown Security Network is perfectly innocent, but the name and concept still give me the heebie-jeebies. Seems now the city wants to catalog all the privately-owned security cameras downtown, you know, strictly as a crime prevention measure. For protecting the children and all that. There's no mention of networking the cameras together, UK-style, so that everyone's under government surveillance all the time. Not yet, anyway.
  • I've never watched a single episode of Survivor, so normally I wouldn't bother talking about it, but they've really jumped the shark this time. Seems that in the next Survivor series, there will be four teams, grouped by race. Yes, you read that right. The people from the show are spinning it like it's going to be a serious exploration of race in modern America. Somehow I doubt that.
    I also doubt, somehow, that the minds behind network TV reality shows really know anything about the subject or have anything useful to contribute on that count. I can see it now, people getting thrown off the island when it turns out one of their great-grandparents was a non-Aryan mongrel. Maybe next they can group the teams by religion, following traditional US practice: Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and "Other". A huge argument breaks out within the Protestant team, with the Southern Baptist faction accusing the Episcopalians of secretly wanting to join the Catholic team, and insisting on hauling up a huge "Mission Accomplished" sign all the time, win or lose. The conservative blogosphere blows a gasket whenever the Jewish team does well, muttering darkly about "the people who run Hollywood" and so forth. And the folks lumped together in "Other" have a bit of trouble getting along, as well.

    Or maybe they could do liberals vs. conservatives, or gays vs. straights, or Italian Mafia vs. Irish Mafia, or Bloods vs. Crips, or, or, or...

    Personally, I'd suggest a left-handers vs. right-handers battle, although it really wouldn't be much of a contest. Those righties wouldn't stand a chance, the poor saps.
  • Slashdot mentioned the latest Windows vs. OSX security article. It's actually not that great of an article, on one hand giving the standard list of Windows design flaws (SYSTEM account, registry, alternate data streams, ACLs, etc.), and on the other singing the praises of Apple's launchd, which is really just a modern replacement for a few ancient BSD-legacy daemons (init, cron, inetd). It's certainly nice that launchd is secure, but comparing it to Windows is... well, I'm trying to avoid the obvious Apples-n-oranges cliche here. It's just not the same thing.

    At one point the author says "Windows has no equivalent to OS X's bill of materials, so it cannot validate permissions, dates and checksums of system and third-party software.", which is not exactly true. The MSI installer lets you provide hash values for the files in a package, and it's not difficult to validate files against the hashes provided. The one hiccup is that MSI uses a proprietary hash algorithm, so there's no way to know how secure it really is. I'm not a big Windows fan, and I'd certainly hope that OSX is more secure, but really, if you're writing an article like this, it pays to do a little research first.
  • On a somewhat related note, check out the return of David Brent, who's now, um, consulting for a certain large software company based in Redmond-where-the-shadows-lie.
  • Coolest. Beer bottle. Ever. I must find this.
  • A mini-profile of a local creepy anti-immigrant protester.
  • The creationists are at it again. Since they can't weasel their beliefs into the schools by pretending it's scientific, instead they're taking a page from Karl Rove, swiftboating their opponents and violating Godwin's Law in the process.

Apocalypse Not

Maybe I'm tempting fate by starting this post with 5 minutes until midnight, but if the predicted (but only by wingnuts) Great Iranian Apocalypse of 8/22/06 is going to happen, it had better hurry up and be quick about it. Not that I'm trying to encourage that sort of thing, mind you.

A few Iran-related links to share:

A couple of additional observations here. First, it fascinates me how the apocalypse crowd can blab on and on about Ahmadinejad fixin' to blow up the world, and the question of how he might pull off that stunt never comes up. It's just sort of assumed that anyone who makes mean faces at us a.) wants to blow up the world, and b.) therefore can blow up the world. Bernard Lewis and his adoring fans suggest that the end is near solely because of a date they find significant, and completely ignore the issue of whether there's any credible mechanism for doing so. That's not science. That's not even political science. That's nothing but numerology, and it deserves the same respect we normally reserve for numerologists' predictions. Lewis can have a booth at the state fair, between the palm reader and the bearded lady, if he likes. But an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal? What did he do to earn that sort of honor?

And second, I'm amazed by the near-infinite capacity to forget, as shown by the media and certain segments of the general public. Somehow, the war nuts have managed to keep crying wolf again and again, year after year, and people still shriek "Eek, a wolf!", even though the wolf never shows up. They swear up and down that Saddam has zillions of WMDs, and it turns out he doesn't, and then they swear up and down, with a straight face, that Ahmadinejad has zillions of WMDs, and nobody bats an eye. Somehow, they can keep predicting Armageddon all the time and the public never tires of it, and no credibility is lost when the world resolutely fails to end, again and again. I don't know how they manage this trick, but in terms of gullibility the true believers compare unfavorably even with weird outfits like the old Church Universal and Triumphant, a New Agey doomsday group that holed up in Montana back in the 80's, to await the imminent nuclear war that never happened. Membership dwindled after that, which seems only logical. It doesn't seem to work that way with fundies, though. Every failed apocalypse just whets their appetite for the next prediction, and they remain in a constant end-of-days tizzy, day after day, year after year, and this seems perfectly reasonable to them. That will never cease to astonish me.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

...wherein I get artsy during a conference call...

I drew this on the ol' Blackberry during an atrociously boring conference call this afternoon. I was the only guy in the room who knew squat about Windows device drivers, and I couldn't get a word in edgewise, so I drew this instead. SpinPen is my fun new toy for the day. Although as a geek I can be hard to satisfy. It could use, oh, a Logo interpreter built in, for that retro-cool turtle graphics schweetness. And it'd be nice to be able to post it here directly from the BB, without involving a desktop box.

Now, I'm not one to brag, but this design isn't that far from being lucrative modern art. I've got the design part down, I think. The next step would be transferring it to a large, salable physical object, say, acrylic on canvas, the larger the better. Traditionally I'd also need an elaborate theoretical framework that appears to explain the painting. The simpler the painting, the more complex the theory behind it needs to be, otherwise people will start thinking they, too, can pull off something like this. Which they can, actually; coming up with the theory is the hard part, and that's why paintings are so expensive. That, and name recognition. Name recognition is a simple matter of schmoozing the right people at gallery openings and various cocktail parties, and getting them to say nice things about you, and being sort of colorful and weird so that people remember you. I don't schmooze very well, but I can be weird with the best of 'em, and possibly even colorful if there's money on the line.

In recent years, the need for theoretical BS has dissipated somewhat. Instead, you can simply explain the process you used to create the works, the geekier the better, and people will think you're the most l33t artist they've ever met, and they'll give you all their money. And making art with a Blackberry is pretty damn geeky, you gotta admit. I seriously think this would actually work, at least until the novelty wore off and your technology wasn't geeky enough anymore. Then you'd have to find a brand new gimmick and start all over.

The dirty little secret of modern art is that creating it is so much easier than what had come before. It's much easier and cheaper to build an undecorated modernist glass & concrete box than one of those over-the-top Beaux Arts layer cakes they used to build. If people will pay just as much, or more, for a nearly-blank canvas than they will for an intricate cherub-filled allegorical painting, obviously you want to do the almost-blank canvas, because you can churn 'em out so much faster than you can with that cherub nonsense, and your cost of materials (i.e. paint) is substantially lower. If you can just pile some rusting chunks of steel together and call it a sculpture, why spend years and years chipping a piece of marble so it looks like a guy throwing a discus?

Now that we have computers, it's become clear that ease of creation implies ease of automation; go too far down this path, and it stops being art entirely. Consider Mondriaan, who had to draw all his straight lines, and color all his rectangles, entirely by hand. Tedious! Now anyone with a paint program, say a free Java app on a Blackberry, can pull off something not entirely dissimilar, in a matter of minutes during a meeting while the marketing guys are busy synergizing proactively outside the box or whatever the hell it is they do. There are screen savers available that'll draw Mondriaan-like pictures on your computer screen while you aren't using it and probably aren't even there to watch.

Or consider poetry. First, here is "The Great Lament Of My Obscurity Three", by the Dada poet Tristan Tzara:

where we live the flowers of the clocks catch fire and the plumes encircle the brightness in the distant sulphur morning the cows lick the salt lilies
my son
my son
let us always shuffle through the colour of the world
which looks bluer than the subway and astronomy
we are too thin
we have no mouth
our legs are stiff and knock together
our faces are formeless like the stars
crystal points without strength burned basilica
mad : the zigzags crack
bite the rigging liquefy
the arc
towards the north through its double fruit
like raw flesh
hunger fire blood

And for contrast, here is "Famed symbologist Professor Robert Langdon is", attributed to one Willis Fournier:

by her bossy boyfriend capturing the passion and energy Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou give cautious
that the world beyond the hedge possums Crash and Eddie that speeds by in chases across France and England
aimless perambulation and visits they accept this and incorporate it into their the economic and psychological
by and realizes the importance mother on Curb does so here as well Slevin (Josh Hartnett) in the middle of

You won't find the latter poem in any collection anywhere, because it's actually a spam I got the other day. In the days of Dada, it was thought that combining randomly selected words and phrases was a way to open a gateway to the subconscious mind. Now, similar works are cobbled together by spambots running Perl scripts, at the behest of the Russian Mob, in order to sneak past your spam filter.

I expect the Dada guys would get a real kick out of that.

A splash of color for Doomsday





Photos of some flowers I came across on the way to work, because I don't feel much like talking about the Middle East right now -- even though I may not get another chance, since today's Doomsday, apparently.

Gee, thanks, guys. I'd have appreciated a bit more of a warning.

Oh, what's that you say? This is just the media pandering to the apocalyptic fundie rabble again? Shocking!

To be fair, the day's not over yet. I suppose the unthinkable could still happen sometime between now and midnight. But I'd be inclined to bet against that, based on the apocalypse junkies' prior track record.

More on the 8-22 kerfuffle here. As that article mentions, one of the big promoters of the Doomsday notion is Bernard Lewis, who's allegedly one of the nation's foremost Mideast scholars. Which just shows the sorry, pig-ignorant state of Mideast studies in this country. If a clown like this is our leading scholar, what are the other scholars like? How did it get to be that hysterical blowhards are considered serious, responsible statesmen, and actual serious, responsible thinkers are dismissed out of hand? These people wet their pants at the first sight of a beard, or a turban, or merely dark skin; or the sound of a foreign language; or the scent of unfamiliar food; or the first opinion that doesn't precisely match their own. These people are not our betters, and they don't deserve our attention, much less our respect.

While Lewis may sincerely believe the silliness he's spouting, and the WSJ may genuinely find his arguments convincing, it would be naive to think this is anything but a precisely calculated act. The same people who got us into the Iraq fiasco would really love to have a shiny new fiasco in Iran, and I expect this is their latest ploy to try to sell it to the public. Or at least to certain gullible segments of the public, people who live for this apocalypse nonsense. It's important to keep the fundies on board -- it's their kids who disproportionately end up as cannon fodder in all the wars we keep getting ourselves into, and they have no idea they're being used. I almost feel sorry for them, in a way. Almost.

While we're at it, during the recent war in Lebanon the fundies were having a field day with a certain passage in the Book of Psalms, which they insisted spelled doom for Israel. They'll no doubt be disappointed to learn that the book doesn't really say what they think it says. Just another of those pesky King James mistranslations, apparently. Somehow I doubt they'll find that very convincing, though. Maybe the translation errors are "divinely inspired" too, or something. I'm not sure how that's supposed to work, but hey, what do I know? I'm just another of those hellbound secular humanists.

Updated: I've already gotten a piece of spam to this article, from someone in Omaha, Nebraska who did a Google blog search for the words "apocalyptic" and "iran". The post linked to several FOX News stories about how big and scary and inhuman Iran is these days, and how they'll happily kill us all if they can, basically the FOX party line when they aren't too busy with a missing-white-female case.

The post was just a collection of links, and wasn't abusive at all, so I figured a calm and reasonable reply was in order. Then I happened to check out a few of the other hits for the same Google search, and the identical comment had been posted at all of the sites I looked at which allowed user comments. In my book that counts as spam, and I'm not a huge spam afficionado, so I deleted the comment. If you'd like to see the original, right now it's attached to posts at Covert History, Simply Ernest, and Knickers Down, and no doubt there are many, many others.

Now here's the twist. The poster seems to be associated with a site called, which as it turns out is all about alternative fuels and energy independence:

Terror-Free Oil Initiative is dedicated to encouraging Americans to buy gasoline that originated from countries that do not export or finance terrorism.

We educate the public by promoting those companies that acquire their crude oil supply from nations outside the Middle East and by exposing those companies that do not.

We are also looking into creating a healthy debate concerning alternate methods of fuel production and consumption.

According to our preliminary research there are very few oil companies that do not use Middle Eastern Oil. We are working very hard to expand that list and you can help us do that.

Now, I'm not one for gloating, but a lot of us on the other end of the political spectrum have been saying much the same thing for decades now: We shouldn't be buying oil from nasty Mideastern despots, and really we shouldn't be relying on oil at all, since it's bound to run out sooner or later anyway. We've been saying that for a long, long time now, and until just recently everyone called us hippies and made jokes about us and absolutely refused to listen. But I have to wonder, what would the world be like today if people had paid attention back in 1973, for example, and we hadn't spent the last 33 years shipping our money overseas? Like I said, I'm not one for gloating. I don't even demand credit where it's obviously due. I just smile and say "Hi, welcome to the club."

Monday, August 21, 2006

...wherein I climb the Empire State Building...


This is me, climbing the Empire State Building. Ok, technically I'm just climbing a bookend made to look sort of like the Empire State Building, and technically it's not really me. But I did buy the bookends in Manhattan when I was there for a trade show back in the summer of 2000. And I have been to the top of the building in real life. I have photos of myself, standing on the south side of the observation deck, with the Twin Towers clearly visible over my shoulder. My coworkers and I were going to catch a cab down to the financial district and visit the WTC observation deck on the same day, but we decided to have a bite to eat first, and wandered down to Little Italy, and whiled away the hours over a delicious lunch, and a few bottles of wine, and a bit of grappa, and dessert -- please recall this was during the dot-com era, and we were on an expense account -- and we just didn't get around to it. So I figured, ok, I'll just go see the WTC next time I'm here...

I have a close friend who had reservations at the hotel inside the WTC for the first week of October '01, but only because the business trip had been delayed a couple of weeks by silly bizdev concerns. An aunt and uncle were in New York and visited the WTC a week before 9/11. A coworker of mine lost a childhood friend on 9/11. Of the people I've mentioned, none of them believes Saddam, or Iraq generally, had anything to do with the attacks. And why would they? All the arguments for believing so have turned out to have been fabricated, cynically and deliberately. Fabricated by people who desperately wanted a war with Iraq, and shamelessly exploited the memory of a few thousand good, innocent people in order to get the war they wanted. Even if it meant neglecting the hunt for Bin Laden and his allies, the people who really did attack us.

We're coming up on the 5 year anniversary of 9/11 in just a few weeks, and I have a feeling we're in for a bunch of wingnutty lets-bomb-Iran rhetoric between now and then, and between then and whenever we actually bomb Iran. Bill Kristol & Co. are convinced we'll be greeted as liberators this time around, and Cheney just plain loves killing people, whatever the excuse happens to be, and none of these people are very big on consulting public opinion or basic common sense, so I'm afraid this is probably a done deal. And probably they'll wait until after the election, so they can use the fear issue yet again. Plus, even now, I'm still idealistic enough to believe that the voters would not look favorably on a party whose president had just committed an unprovoked nuclear attack and killed millions of innocent people. I have to believe that. I cling to that. Karl Rove probably believes that too, and therefore the attack will come after the election, just like with Iraq.

Naturally, we'll be an international pariah afterwards. Nobody will want to have anything to do with us. The neocons will be all bewildered about how even nuclear war didn't create Utopia, and didn't make everyone want to be just like us, but they'll shrug it off; like Iraq, it's just an inconsequential speedbump on the way to a thrilling new war, maybe with China, or possibly Russia, or France, or Mexico, or all of the above, or who knows? Whatever happens, Dubya and friends won't bat an eye about the global condemnation. The international reaction will play right into the ridiculous siege mentality they've cultivated so carefully over the last few years. It won't bother them at all. Hell, they'll take it as a mark of pride. And then they'll nuke someone else on a whim. It's so much easier the second time around. And throughout all this, the Democrats in Congress will do just as they did with Iraq, desperately chasing the warmobile, barking "Me too! Me too!". In 2008 we'll get the usual sad spectacle of Democrats again trying to steer to the right of Republicans in foreign policy (regardless of how the general public feels about the whole debacle), demanding to know why we didn't just nuke a bunch of unrelated "bad" countries while we were at it. Hillary, or one of the Joes (Biden or Lieberman) will be on TV demanding to know why we didn't nuke North Korea and/or Zimbabwe and/or Belarus and/or Venezuela while we were at it.

Our grandchildren will think us savages, and madmen.

an afternoon amble

I decided to take a long lunch today and wander around at random taking pictures. The snarly dude in the top photo is the base of one of the four Tikitotemonikis, sculptures by Kenny Scharf that wrap around & hide the usual utilitarian streetcar power poles. (Although you can see the pole peeking out at the bottom here.) Disguising the poles is a cool idea, because they really are quite ugly. Too bad only super-rich neighborhoods get to have goodies like this.

One of our fair city's new palm trees, installed at NW 4th & Flanders by the supergeniuses at the Portland Development Commission in their latest weird attempt to gentrify the area. Maybe they're here to make the rich Californians feel at home, I dunno. But whatever the reason, it sure is weird seeing the Big Pink building framed by a palm tree. This will probably become an increasingly common sight, what with global warming and all. (I mention this mostly to see if any Big Oil astroturfing trolls show up here wanting to argue. That ought to be a real hoot.)

They say these are a special type of palm tree that can survive in our climate. But if you look closely, a lot of the fronds are already getting a bit brown and withered-looking. So we'll see if they really do survive the winter or not.

Also, they just look damn silly.

You know how the design-snob community keeps lecturing us ignorant rubes about their precious high-concept Tanner Springs Park, and that incredibly delicate ecosystem it's supposed to have? Here's a bit of that fancy-schmancy ecosystem for your enjoyment: gobs and gobs of disgusting algae, and a few dime-store goldfish. No native fish species or anything, just a bunch of freakin' goldfish. Refresh my memory, we paid how many millions of dollars for this crap?

The Portland Mercury recently proclaimed Tanner Springs Park the city's "BEST PLACE TO CATCH FISH AT 3 AM—WITH YOUR HANDS". So that's something, I guess. Although I sure wouldn't eat anything that came out of this thing. Yeccch. If this was really such a fantastic little ecotopia, there'd be herons and raccoons here all the time gobbling up all the fish, but even they avoid the place like the plague.

Ok, ok, the park has a few spiders, too, and some lilypads (but no frogs). I also saw one dragonfly, but it was probably just visiting from somewhere else. (I actually kind of like this photo, regardless of how I feel about the park.)

It probably goes without saying that the park was completely devoid of people (other than me), even though it's right in the middle of a big city, and it was a warm summer afternoon.



Wild flowers & berries along NW Naito Pkwy, under the Broadway Bridge.

I actually came down this way with the idea of making this post a three-park trifecta: Jamison Square, Tanner Springs, and the Liberty Ship Memorial Park (more info & lots of photos here). The latter is an odd little spot by the river where the concrete bows of some 150 or so WWII Liberty ships were buried, some partially protruding from the ground. Many Liberty ships were built in Portland during WWII, and many were scrapped here after the war, so it's sort of a fitting monument. Or at least it was a fitting monument. I walked past and it looks like the park just isn't there anymore. The memorial was private property, not a city park, part of a larger chunk of land owned by the Naito family. Most of the land was just a big, weedy surface parking lot, so nobody made much of a fuss when they announced they'd be building a pair of ritzy condo towers on the spot. I certainly don't recall hearing anything about removing the Liberty ship park, but that seems to be what's happened. As far as I can tell, it just sort of disappeared quietly, with no prior announcement, and no public fuss about it. I'm about the last person to get all misty-eyed with WWII nostalgia, but this just seems wrong, somehow. I realize the park was private property, but it was a piece of local history, and now it's just gone, poof. I wonder what they did with all those concrete bow pieces? eBay, maybe?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

4k : yippi-ti-yi-yay

Today this blog's Sitemeter counter hit a whopping 4000, after a mere, um, 9 months or so of operation. I guess that's sort of impressive, so long as we don't compare the numbers with any of those other blogs out there. Well, whatever. I'm not a competitive person.

I decided earlier today that I'd do a post all about whatever brought the 4000th visitor here, within reason. Then I decided that in case that reason wasn't interesting enough to sustain an entire post, I'd cover a selection of recent reasons people ended up here. Other than people who show up via "Next Blog", I mean, since those generally merit a post of their own. That's basically what I've ended up doing here, more or less. Or that was the starting point for this post, at any rate.

Recently I've gotten a decent number of visitors here via Technorati. Mostly it's because I link somewhere, Technorati picks it up, and someone follows the link back here, for some reason. So here are a few of the recent backlinkees (to coin a stupid word), plus the occasional thing of interest that I ran across via Technorati while checking out the backlinks, plus stuff I found on in connection with other items here, plus whatever, all in no particular order. Italic means potentially NSFW, depending, as always, on where you work.

Miscellaneous, primarily non-Technorati items: Some interesting search engine queries, plus other stuff I ran across while researching this post, plus whatever:

  • Recently I've gotten a number of google hits for the word "yuppiestan", which was mystifying until I did my own search on the term. While I used the word in reference to Portland's Pearl District, the searches seem to stem from a recent Ha'aretz opinion piece griping about how the affluent folks in Tel Aviv managed to sit out the war in Lebanon.
  • A scary LA Times article about the guy behind the "Girls Gone Wild" empire. What a creep. Eew!
  • You must watch The White Orchid, an obscure and deeply subversive jungle-adventure-love-triangle movie from 1954. This item actually has nothing at all to do with search hits, but I just saw the movie, and I thought it was great, so I'm passing it along. I might do a post about it later, come to think of it.
  • Dolphins: not so smart after all? Is nothing sacred?
  • More than anything else right now, I keep getting search hits for Merche Romero, the Portuguese TV personality, with most people searching for the phrase "Merche the Reject", which is the name of a rather vicious anti-Merche blog out there. I happened to mention it once, briefly, because of one of those "Next Blog" things, and the search hits just keep on coming, months later. It's weird. I don't know anything about Ms. Romero personally, but I think the fact that so many people are searching for a hate blog is really kind of icky. Don't you people have anything better to do?
  • A few off-the-wall hits recently, for the phrases "we feel fine", "my postal code", "why modern art", and the words aliens+ufos+apocalypse.
  • A couple of history tidbits: a bit about the phrase "here there be dragons" on old maps, and more seriously, a piece about Germany in 1933, as fascism was starting to take hold.

Updated: A few more items to pass along. I really didn't want to do yet another bullet-point item post, since I've done too many of those lately, and I don't want to fall into a rut, so I'm just going to tack these on to the end of this post.

  • When I posted this, I did get one interesting hit via "Next Blog", an interesting blog called The Age of Uncertainty.
  • Also found on the interwebs, if you like collected eclectica and you don't think I'm doing a very good job of collecting (which is reasonable, I suppose), you might prefer the daily items over at Bifurcated Rivets.
  • FrinkTank points us at the source of some entertaining spam they got recently, advertising yet another "herbal male enhancement" product called -- get this -- "Ejaculoid". *Snort* *giggle*. The funny thing is that several of the herbs mentioned (such as Eurycoma longifolia) are used for more or less the same purpose by various SE Asian tribes. So it's quack medicine, but with serious ethnobotany behind it. Weird.
  • I occasionally post not-safe-for-work links here, although I generally aim to keep this blog SFW itself. It's interesting the sort of traffic this generates. I usually have little or no interest in where visitors come from, but I've noticed a disturbing trend, disturbing because it plays into stereotypes I'd really rather not give credence to. Whenever I get visitors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, or other states in the region, almost invariably they're looking for porn. And really, I have very little here to offer them, but they keep showing up, I dunno why. I think it's sort of like Victorian England: Repress people that much, and they'll end up thinking of nothing else, night and day.
  • Pics of cool houses: Robert Bruno's Steel House, and house designs by designer & fantasy illustrator Roger Dean. Because straight lines are for chumps.
  • From Neatorama: Rollerblading in an abandoned water park.
  • In mathland, there's now a page at Wikipedia about large countable ordinals, a subject I've blabbered about here now and then. There's also an old Discover piece giving an enjoyable popular treatment of surreal numbers.
  • A lot of hits in the last few days for my Kelly Butte post. Seems that somebody's found a way inside the bunker. Sounds cool, and scary.