Friday, December 31, 2010
Just got back to Portland, thought I'd pass along a typical hotel balcony photo. I was probably sipping on a nice cold beer and listening to the hotel tiki bar's cover band when I took this. Meanwhile, I understand it was snowing or sleeting or raining buckets or something similarly awful here in PDX. Could somebody please remind me why the hell I live here again? Because I've completely forgotten.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Here's a video I took around this time last year, trudging through ice and snow and slush in downtown Portland, wielding an iPod nano and trying not to fall over. It really wasn't all that much snow, but it was quite slippery and hard to walk in, hence the heavy breathing towards the end of the video, for which I'd like to apologize in advance. I'm sure it didn't help that I'd spent the entire day in meetings, leveraging proactive synergies outside the box on a go-forward basis. Also, it was uphill the whole way. Also, it was my birthday and dinner plans were cancelled due to the snow. A supremely crappy day all around.
So this year the plans are a little different, and involve vacation and a plane to somewhere a bit more tropical. Stay tuned.
I have been tinkering around with the blog, though. I thought it was looking a bit dated so I've been doing a bit of template tweaking. What's changed so far:
- I thought the sidebar was getting kind of cluttered & junky, so I moved a bunch of stuff off to static pages instead, like the ginormous Link Tree and my paltry About info.
- Speaking of static pages, this humble blog now has a navigation bar up top, including links off the site to Flickr & Twitter (instead of the sidebar Flash widgets I used to have for them).
- The post area has been widened so Flickr's new 640x427 image size fits. I've been going back and updating old posts to use larger images, starting with the ones listed in the Popular Posts widget, and continuing with others as they get hits. Speaking of the Popular Posts widget, would anyone be too upset if it went away? I'm of two minds about it right now.
- Reduced the number of colors used, and toned down the remaining ones. The post background is just white now instead of yellow/cream/whatever. I tried to find a more subdued version of that color first but didn't see anything I liked. I think the thing's a lot more readable now.
I admit the new static pages aren't too fabulous yet. That's still on the TODO list. Lots of things are still on the TODO list.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Actually the main reason behind this post was to help tweak the humble blog template a bit more so that larger-sized Flickr photos will fit.
Of course now I'll probably feel obligated to go back and update old posts to use larger photos. Oh, the fun just never stops here in the blog industry.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
So it turns out del.icio.us has this really great feature where you can export all your bookmarks as a ginormous HTML file so they aren't lost forever. So it's not really the end of the world, like it would be if they decided to kill off Flickr, or Google decided to nuke Blogger. And it'll be one less gadget cluttering up the blog sidebar, so there's that.
So since I've got this big blob full of HTML bookmarks, I figured I might as well post it here, so it continues to be shared and all that. So here's the whole schmear (after the jump), starting with the most recent entries and going allll the way back to 26 April 2006.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
A couple of video clips of downtown Portland's "Carwash Fountain", on the transit mall at SW 5th & Burnside. The city water bureau's page on downtown fountains describes it thusly:
Popularly known as "The Car Wash" (Officially Untitled)
Located at SW 5th and Ankeny Street.
This tubular fountain designed by Carter, Hull, Nishita, McCulley and Baxter was installed in 1977. A wind gauge shuts off its water on gusty days to prevent hazards for motorists.
There isn't a lot on the net about this architectural firm except for references to this fountain, but an intriguing detail emerges from a thesis titled "The Fate of Lawrence Halprin's Public Spaces: Three Case Studies", in reference to a park project in Fort Worth, TX:
The park was conceptualized by Halprin, but primarily designed and planned by associate Satoru Nishita, as indicated by the office documents.23 Therefore, when Lawrence Halprin and Associates disbanded in 1976, much of the correspondence reveals confusion regarding with whom Fort Worth officials should consult. The newly formed Carter Hull Nishita McCulley Baxter (CHNMB) seems to have been the primary contact after the Halprin and Associates breakup. Perhaps due to this final confusion, very little reference to this design exists.
Halprin and Associates, you may recall, was the firm behind Portland's Keller Fountain and Lovejoy Fountain, among other things. The Wikipedia bio for Halprin's associate Satoru Nishita indicates he worked on both of those projects, and apparently was the Nishita in the name of the subsequent firm. So this fountain has an interesting ancestry. And an unexpected one, since "Untitled" here looks nothing at all like the earlier two.
You might be curious why I posted a couple of video clips rather than the usual overly large set of fair-to-middlin' photos. For some reason I don't have a lot of photos of the thing, despite having an office a couple of blocks away for over 5 years. And of the few I've taken, none really seemed worth posting here. Part of the problem is that the wind sensor everyone goes on about also seems to detect me waving a camera around nearby, and the fountain has an uncanny way of shutting off as I'm framing a shot. Not really sure how that would be possible, but it's happened at least twice that I can recall. The once exception to that rule seems to be the shooting of brief yet boring video clips, so I have two of those, and here they are.
The YouTube video was previously seen here by the elite few people who visited that particular 2006 post. At the time I said:
It's often called the "Car Wash", but don't be fooled. If you try to wash your car in it, a nice policeman will drop by and shoot you full of holes. I mean, not to detract from the relaxing(?) tone of this post or anything, but the fuzz really will do it. Go ahead and try it if you don't believe me. [Legal Disclaimer: Don't!]
If I'd written this a couple of years later, it would have contained a waterboarding joke instead. Ah 2006, you were such an innocent bygone year... Anyway, what will actually happen is that you'll get a misdemeanor citation with a small fine and maybe some community service, plus the entire internet will make fun of you for a few days, especially if there's video, and forever after strangers will approach you on the street demanding to know if you're that carwash fountain guy/gal. Maybe you'll eventually get a cheesy reality show gag out of it, if you're lucky.
Elsewhere on the interwebs:
- Here is someone else's video, which is better than either of mine, not that that would be very difficult.
- Photos by Artnchicken, UnrulyJulie, & an overhead view by JAFO09
- Blog posts at Portland (OR) Daily Photo, EnzymePDX, Edward Blank, & The Travel Gal.
Updated: This little post here has been lifted -- naturally without attribution or anything, by what looks like a spamblog. As far as I can tell, it's nothing but randomly swiped content about car washes, posted anonymously without any credits or bylines, and with hyperlinks stripped out for some reason. They don't appear to be selling anything, and there aren't even any ads there, so it's not clear what the point of it all is. There's surprisingly little one can do about content thieves on the interwebs if you aren't a ginormo-monstrous record company or movie studio. Google suggests you try a DMCA takedown. I still might do that, but I'm not a huge DMCA fan and I'd hate to seem hypocritical by using it to my advantage. What makes this doubly annoying is that the Portland Water Bureau posted links to the swiped post -- rather than the original -- on both Facebook and Twitter this morning, and the either haven't clued in on the mistake or haven't bothered to fix it. I mean, I'm not selling anything either, and I don't have any ads, so purloined content and waylaid traffic doesn't translate into lost revenue or anything. I'd have to say it's purely an ego or vanity thing: I just don't like to see people making off with my stuff, even if they don't benefit and I'm not harmed in any concrete way. And besides, the videos themselves are still getting hits from the copied post, even if the original post isn't. The fact that it was done anonymously is puzzling; I'd probably be even more aggravated if there was a name attached, someone falsely claiming to have written this post. As it is, it's merely incomprehensible. I just don't see what their angle is. Maybe they're trying to boost a search engine ranking for some reason. I didn't see anything weird in the page source, so if they're trying to give you malware, they're doing so very subtly. Or it's a fresh attempt to figure out (or confuse) Blogger's spamblog-detection algorithm. Or someone's being paid to blog about washing cars, and they're lazy/greedy and are taking the shortest of shortcuts. Honestly, I can't come up with very many plausible hypotheses as to what might be going on here. I'll update this again if I decide to try to anything about it, which I may or may not do.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
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Today's installment in the ongoing bridge project takes us out to the Sandy River once again, this time to the Stark Street Bridge. Stark was one of the first roads on the east side in Portland, and generally follows the Willamette Baseline for much of its length. It extends all the way from the Willamette River to the Sandy, and originally sported milestones (some of which still exist) at one mile intervals along its entire length. At the Sandy end, the road winds down the hill to the river, and ends when it merges into the Columbia River Highway. Although the historic mile markers along surviving parts of the Columbia River Highway continue with the Stark St. numbering all the way to The Dalles, believe it or not.
This bridge dates to 1914, around the same time as the old highway went in. Apparently there was a ferry at this spot before that, and the original road alignment went more or less straight downhill to the river, and roughly straight back uphill on the other side on present-day Woodard Road. Those steep roads wouldn't have been paved at the time either, so it would have been muddy most of the year in addition to being steep. The newer road alignment along the river on the east bank of the bridge required a bit of blasting and excavation, apparently.
Although I just said "east bank", there's a geographic quirk here that's worth pointing out. The bridge sits on a bend in the Sandy River, so when you cross to the east bank of the river, you're actually heading north and slightly west.
Info from across the interwebs, mostly the usual suspects:
- Byways.org has a historic postcard image of the bridge.
- Series of photos on Wikimedia from something called the "Historic American Engineering Record", which sounds like a fancy name for going around taking photos of bridges, basically.
- Photos by Mike Goff, Michelle Smith, Jodi Tripp, Richard Doody
Located two miles from Troutdale, Oregon, over Sandy River, near the Portland Automobile Club House. This bridge replaces an old wooden structure which fell on Good Roads' Day, April 25, 1914, dropping a 5ton auto truck into the river.The report even includes photos of the original bridge, both before and after it collapsed. It's not hard to imagine the cruel mockery that would have ensued had the Internet existed in 1914. I suppose it's not too late if you want to get in on the mirth and mayhem. Just copy one of the report photos and give it a meme-compatible caption, something along the lines of "GOOD ROADS FAIL". Upload it somewhere the cool kids can find it, and shazam, you win +1 internets.
Walking across is about the same situation as the slightly older bridge downstream in Troutdale, although the walkway is less rickety. If anything, it gets even less pedestrian traffic than the Troutdale bridge, since there isn't a public park right at either end of the bridge, and there's no sidewalk once you're on the east bank of the river. I don't really have any helpful safety tips when it comes to the usual "not dying" angle. If you're superstitiously inclined, you might want to avoid the bridge if they hold another Good Roads Day here. Not sure there's much danger of that; the practice seems to have fallen out of favor except for one town in New Hampshire that's kept the tradition alive semi-continuously since 1914. Same time of year and everything. So if New Hampshire falls into the ocean or has a civil war, or all of New England is consumed by an unholy Lovecraftian apocalypse or whatever, and we're colonized by the refugees, and they try to transplant one of their quaint and unironic New England festivals here, and you're of a superstitious bent, and you happened to read this humble blog and know there's something to be superstitious about, there are a lot of nice places you could be on that day that aren't this bridge. Yeah, ok, that's a real stretch, I readily admit that. But the rules say I have to come up with something, because them's the rules.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
A few photos of the The Venetian, a high-end hotel & casino in Las Vegas with an over-the-top Venetian theme (hence the name). Luxury hotels in Vegas often aren't themed, and theme hotels tend to be more mid-market than this. But in this case they had a big budget and turned everything up to 11 -- including, unfortunately, the fragrance in the casino's climate control. I started in on a major sneezing fit and we didn't stay inside for long. Oh well.
The construction cranes you'll see in a few of the photos are for the stalled St. Regis Residences project, which would have added an ultra-expensive condo tower to the Venetian-Palazzo complex. They didn't quite get it finished before the Vegas condo bubble imploded, and it's anyone's guess what will happen with it next, or when that might occur.
Meanwhile, the replica Rialto Bridge shown here is the scene of a pivotal zombie attack in Resident Evil: Extinction. Which is actually an enjoyable zombie flick, and not just because parts take place in post-apocalypse Las Vegas. The part with the zombie crows is pretty cool too. If you like that sort of thing, I mean, and I realize not everyone does.
Our occasional tour of art on the Transit Mall continues with a visit to Interlocking Forms, yet another of the original 1977 crop of big arty doodads. I haven't run across a lot of info about it on the interwebs; Portland Public Art did a short post about it, back when they boxed it up for storage before MAX construction started. And there's not a lot of useful info about it there. There's a Yelp page titled "Interlocking Forms" that's actually about "The Quest" for the most part, and it's not a terribly useful or accurate page about either piece. And an Examiner story has a photo of it.
On that unscientific basis I'm going to conclude it doesn't inspire strong feelings either way in the local internet-using populace, and it's not particularly fashionable within the local contemporary art world. I wouldn't say I have very strong feelings about it either, although I'm kind of intrigued at how it manages to be both groovy (or some would say "dated") and austere at the same time. I do think it needs a better name, though, and I've taken to calling it "The Leg Bone's Connected to the Hip Bone". I have a theory -- well, more of an idle notion really -- that the more severe and intellectual an artwork is, the more it needs a jaunty or flippant name. Consider Mondriaan's "Broadway Boogie Woogie" for example.
I also searched for info on the sculptor, Don Wilson, with only a bit more success. It seems he either taught or teaches at Portland State University, and another piece of his (titled "Holon") sits at the south end of the South Park Blocks, on the PSU campus (the city's South Park Blocks Walking Tour mentions it briefly). It's a quarter century newer and much smaller, but the resemblance is pretty clear. At least once you know to look for it.
Another Portland Public Art post has a photo of Wilson sculpting something. Also ran across at least 3 city archives documents referring to other works of his; the full docs themselves (and the included photos) are unfortunately not online at this time.
The walking tour doc I linked to above mentions that Wilson was once an assistant to Frederic Littman, another local sculptor and creator of the Pioneer Woman on Council Crest, Farewell to Orpheus in the South Park Blocks, and other works. Other Littman students include Lee Kelly (Leland One, Kelly Fountain, Nash, etc.), and Manuel Izquierdo (The Dreamer). There isn't really a family resemblance between their works; it just goes to show how small and interconnected the Portland art world tends to be, basicaly an insular small town within the city, where everyone knows everyone else, gossip thrives, and you never want to burn your bridges if you can help it. Which is true of any skilled industry in just about any city, really. It's certainly true of software engineering in Portland, I can tell you that much from personal experience.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 08, 2010
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Today's batch of autumn leaf photos comes to us from around the SW Lincoln, Chimney Fountain area, if I remember right. The lens for these was an old Vivitar-branded 28mm f/2.0 made by Kiron, which I'd completely forgotten I owned until I found it in a drawer the other day. These were taken with the lens wide open and close to minimum focus, mostly to see what the thing can do.
I mean, I probably already have enough autumn leaf photos already, but I keep taking more for some reason, and I keep posting them here for some reason. So I like to think I'm doing so in the name of Serious Research, at least some of the time.
Another reason for all the leaf photos is that so far this fall has been far less crappy than the previous one. I seem to recall that 2009 went directly from a mild summer straight into nine or ten months of winter storms. There was no possibility of photographing a turning leaf and a blue sky together last year. Not without a little help from Photoshop. And I do realize that, decent fall or not, we still have months of winter storms ahead of us even in the best case, and photos of wintry grimness get old even faster than fall foliage does. So I'm making the most of it while it's here.
It may seem monotonous now, but in February we can all look back at these photos and marvel at how much color there used to be in the world, and sigh loudly, and take another sip of... whatever it is we're drinking at that point. Irish coffee is usually a safe bet at that time of year. Mmm... booze...
The main problem with sunrises is that you have to wake up early to catch them. If you go back over the nearly five (!) year history of this humble blog, the vast majority of sunrise photos I've posted have come from cold and clear (or at least only partly cloudy) days in midwinter, when the sunrise occurs latest. If you see sunrises any other time of the year, either I'm on vacation, or some idiot (other than myself) scheduled a meeting at 7 or 8am and I snapped a few quick shots while trudging resentfully to the office. Which is basically what happened this time. You're welcome.
You might have noticed that there haven't been a lot of posts lately that involved a quick pre-work expedition to some local bridge or city park or obscure statue or something. That was before the advent of 9am meetings. Which are an only slightly more civilized practice than 7 and 8am meetings. And then only because a.) we have a machine that brews up a semi-palatable quad espresso, and b.) the jug of aspirin on my desk is never empty.
I should point out that, for an engineer, complaining about meetings is not the same thing as complaining about work. Meetings don't count as Real Work, they're something that interrupts Real Work, and sometimes makes you go back and revisit the Real Work you did last week all because some PHB had a new whim.
So, in short, I do realize this humble blog's gotten a little monotonous of late, and I'm trying to figure out what I can do about that. It could be that I just need to take more vacations, and take more vacation photos when I do. And I can always post more kitten photos. That never seems to get old.