Monday, August 21, 2017

eclipse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

howdy pardner

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Sunday, July 02, 2017

West Multnomah Viaduct

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

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

East Multnomah Viaduct

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

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

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

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

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

Multnomah Creek Bridge

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

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

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

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

Questions for Humans: Dreams Wall

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

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

Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Guardian

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

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

Under the Same Sky

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

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

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

Lucky Lab mural

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

Arts Base murals

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

She Flies With Her Own Wings

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

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

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

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

Pu'u o Kaimuki

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

"History of Land Use in Hillsdale"

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

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

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Makalei Beach Park

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

Le'ahi Beach Park

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

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

keepalive (again)

Ok, so I started the year with a bunch of posts from the bottomless Drafts folder, then slacked the rest of January, then all of February. And as I point out every time I do one of these, I've managed to go 11 years and change doing at least one post a month, and it seems like a shame to have that streak end today, so this is February's obligatory keepalive post. One fun little administrative detail to point out is that this humble blog managed to outlive Twitterfeed, its longtime RSS-to-Twitter provider, a fact I somehow managed not to clue in about for a few months after its demise. I'd heard that Dlvr.it was a decent replacement so I signed up and (I think) connected all the dots so that posts here can be ignored by a wider audience. I say "I think" because I haven't actually posted anything since signing up, so this post is the somewhat belated experiment. I'll hit Publish in a bit and go see if it shows up over on the intertweets. If it shows up in a semi-timely way, and only one copy shows up, it's already better than crufty old Twitterfeed was.

Update: It worked! Voilà, le fromage:

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Alleyway Street Art Project

Next up we're visiting the Alleyway Street Art Project, a collection of murals in the NE Williams Ave. - Cleveland Ave. Alley between Jarret St. & Jessup St., if those directions make any sense. I don't know the backstory about why this one alley in a residential neighborhood has a bunch of murals. I suppose everyone involved just agreed to do it and didn't need or bother to post anything about it on the interwebs. I did run across someone's blog post with a few of the murals here taken at night, for what it's worth.

Belmont Rotating Mural

Next mural up is the Belmont Rotating Mural, which is basically the garage of someone's house on SE Belmont near 32nd which gets repainted by different mural artists every so often. These are rather old photos and I'm positive it doesn't look like this anymore. The PDX Street Art page (1st link) has a few photos of it as it's changed over time.

Ladd Circle


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We're wrapping up the Ladd's Addition parks mini-tour at Ladd Circle, the traffic circle in the center of the neighborhood's goofy street grid. The circle isn't a rose garden; it's basically just a landscaped circle with bushes and a couple of benches, if I remember right, and it's somehow gone over a century without anyone plunking down any monumental art in the center of the circle.

The one commercial building facing the circle is home to the cozy Palio cafe, named after the famous Sienese horse race. Previously there was a small neighborhood grocery store here until sometime in the 1980s. There are also a couple of churches facing the circle, which I don't have photos of since I admit I'm not all that interested in churches.

A few years ago, a local cyclist/filmmaker got the idea of riding a century (100 miles) by doing 650 laps of Ladd Circle. There seems to be some disagreement about how many laps equal 100 miles; I'm not sure if they're measuring the length of the inside of the circle vs. the outside, or what the discrepancy is about, but the BikePortland article says 650 laps, while the filmmaker's video about this adventure says it's a nice even 666 laps. A big group event last summer insisted that you could hit a century in just 500 laps. So who knows? One commenter did the math and figured that anywhere between 543 and 673 laps, depending on where you ride in the circle, and how pedantic you plan on being about your 100 miles. Personally I've never been 100% convinced that the ordinary laws of physics and reality operate inside Ladd's Addition, so maybe all of these values are true, and none are true, and uncanny magic is afoot. I half expected to run across the local minotaur at the center of the circle when I visited, but no such luck. He or she must have had the afternoon off or something.

Mulberry Square, Ladd's Addition


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And now we have some photos from Mulberry Square, the west square in Ladd's Addition (and the last of the neighborhood's four squares, after Orange, Cypress, & Maple). Again, same basic idea as the other three, with slightly different roses & landscaping.

Maple Square, Ladd's Addition


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Next up are a few photos from Maple Square, aka the north square in Ladd's Addition. It's more or less the same idea as the Cypress (east) and Orange (south) Squares we've already visited. The squares do seem to have different rose varieties, but I don't know if each is supposed to have its own overall theme, or we're just seeing the personal preferences of a few different volunteer gardeners.

Cypress Square, Ladd's Addition


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If you've followed this humble blog for any amount of time at all, you're familiar with a few of my ongoing "projects", where a project is some sort of theme I latch onto and pursue to the point of absurdity for a while, like murals, bridges, fountains, city parks, and a few assorted other things like that. So back in 2012 I posted some roses in Orange Square, one of the four tiny rose garden parks in the Ladd's Addition neighborhood. You probably expected me to visit the other three squares and Ladd Circle in the middle of the neighborhood, because that's how these projects always go. And I actually did go and take the requisite flower photos back in 2014, but the posts went into my ginormous drafts folder and I sort of forgot about them without ever actually finishing & posting them. Which is kind of a shame since a.) the photos are mostly flowers, and I haven't had a lot of flowers here lately, and b.) the research for the first post applies to the circle & remaining three squares too, so there isn't actually that much work that needs doing on these posts.

Cypress Square is the east rose garden in Ladd's Addition, named for one of the adjoining streets. The names for individual squares were given back in 1909, but they fell out of common use at some point after that, and basically nobody uses these names anymore; the squares are usually just "east park" or "north garden" or "south square", etcetera. I rather like the proper names though, so I decided to go ahead and use them here, even if nobody else does anymore.

Romona Falls

Next up, we're looking at Romona Falls, a sculpture/fountain in VanWa's Turtle Place plaza. The Waymarking page for it (1st link) notes that it was created by artists Greg Conyne and Wendy Armstrong, & includes the text of the plaque attached to it, which I'm shamelessly copying & pasting here:

For this sculpture/fountain the artists reclaimed used but familiar objects from a number of sources and combined them in an entirely new and different context. Old equipment from Clark Public Utilities, C-Tran and the City of Vancouver offer clues to the past expressed in a somewhat nonsensical way.

The rough, rusted and used appearance works well with the elements of the theme: Conserve Reuse Recycle. Seasonal rainwater from the roof of the adjacent building is captured to provide a portion of the falling water. The name "Ramona Falls" recalling a well known site on the slopes of Mount Hood.

As I noted in the earlier Turtle Place post, the plaza has since been torn up and rebuilt as a terminal for Vancouver's new Bus Rapid Transit system (which will open in early January 2017), but supposedly they're keeping the fountain as well as the plaza's giant mural.

As for the fountain's sorta-namesake, here are Wikipedia & Oregon Hikers Field Guide pages about Ramona Falls, since I've somehow neglected to go take my own photos of it yet. I have no idea why the fountain is spelled slightly differently, whether it's an in joke I'm not privy to, or maybe a typo that was caught late in the process & was too expensive to fix. Beats me.

Turtle Place

Next up are some old-ish photos of VanWa's Turtle Place, a small plaza on 7th between Washington & Main. This had previously been the Vancouver bus system's downtown transit center, until the city decided it was attracting crime and they might be able to do without a downtown transit center at all. So in 2007 they turned it into a pedestrian plaza, with a gigantic mural and a couple of sculptures. The plaza was always meant to be temporary, until they found another transportation use for the place, and you can see they didn't spend a lot of money on the place except for the art and the mural. Since I took these photos, the plaza shown here (such as it is) has been torn up to make way for a terminal for The Vine, a shiny new Bus Rapid Transit line out to Vancouver Mall, which is scheduled to open a week from today (1/8/17). The photos show they kept the giant mural, and apparently they're keeping the plaza's fountain too, which is good since I have photos of it too, and I haven't gotten around to posting them quite yet, and I'd hate for them to be completely obsolete before I use them.

Hooker St. Skybridge


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The next bridge we're looking at is yet another pedestrian bridge. This one crosses Naito Parkway at SW Hooker St., connecting the Lair Hill neighborhood with the so-called "Bermuda Triangle" area that's home to the local naturopathic college. There's no actual intersection here, since this stretch of Naito is a 1940s-era quasi-freeway, and the the skybridge is one of the only ways in or out of the Bermuda Triangle, along with the creepy Arthur St. Tunnel.

The school's master plan notes the bridge is one of the main ways for students to access the campus, and points out that the bridge is quite old and not ADA-compliant. The bridge has been there much longer than the current school, in fact; it was previously home to PCC's Ross Island Center for a couple of decades, and before that it began life as Portland's amusingly named Failing Elementary School (named for pioneer Josiah Failing, also the namesake of NE Portland's Failing Pedestrian Bridge). I figured the bridge had probably been built for schoolkids, so I dug into the library's Oregonian database again. In a October 2nd 1947 article, school administrators & parents were clamoring for a new pedestrian bridge, since the state was in the middle of turning Front Avenue (now Naito) into a nice modern superhighway. The State Highway Department included such a bridge in their initial plan for the highway, but hadn't contracted anyone to build it, and they favored dropping the idea because it might cost up to $50,000. It seems the state also believed kids wouldn't actually use a pedestrian bridge if one was built, & would rather just dart across the busy highway or something, apparently. Neighbors pointed out that the closest library & playground were on the far side of Front, as was the Neighborhood House afterschool program, so over half of the school's students were likely to need to cross the new state superhighway at some point during the school day.

In a May 25th 1948 article, the state finally gave in and agreed to build a bridge, contracting with the lowest bidder for exactly $17,390.95, although the headline rounded it up by a nickel. You have to admit it looks like something built nearly 70 years ago by the lowest bidder, though it's best not to think about this while walking across the thing.

Unfortunately the delay meant the bridge wouldn't be ready by the start of the 1948 school year, and a September 5th, 1948 article explained the temporary, circuitous safe ways to school until the bridge was completed around November 1st, complete with lots of police and crossing guards everywhere.

The state's weird reluctance and penny-pinching around an obvious child safety issue might be explained by demographics, since this part of South Portland was a poor/working class, largely immigrant neighborhood at the time, as it was for much of the early to mid 20th century. I imagine the state would've preferred to just bulldoze the whole neighborhood in the name of Progress, like they later did in the South Auditorium area further north, and the largely African-American Albina business district in NE Portland.

Denver Ave. / Columbia Blvd. bridge

Several years ago, this humble blog featured a lot of posts about bridges. It was a good subject for an ongoing project: They photgraph well, they often have interesting history to dig up, and esoteric engineering details to nerd out over, and there's a limited supply of them, enough to sustain an interesting project, but few enough that you'll eventually run out and you can call it done. That is, unless you're willing to go further and further afield, or write about increasingly small and esoteric bridges that nobody in their right mind would possibly be interested in. Or you can do what I did, which is call it done, but continue on down the rabbit hole anyway.

You can probably guess where this is going: I outdid myself and found a really super esoteric bridge and wrote an entire blog post about it, and I feel like I need to apologize in advance for just how esoteric it is. This one may actually look vaguely familiar, in the unlikely event you've been following the ongoing bridge project all this time. We covered the Denver Avenue bridge over the Columbia Slough back in 2014, along with the Vanport Bridge next door that's used by the MAX Yellow Line. This time we're looking at the Denver Ave. bridge/viaduct over Columbia Boulevard & a Union Pacific rail line, a bit south of the slough bridge. I suppose I just assumed this was all one structure, and the Columbia Blvd. part was just the southern approach to the slough bridge, but there's actually a short bit of road separating them. The state's 2013 Historic Bridge Inventory assures that although the two structures look identical, structurally and legally they are two separate bridges. From the bridge inventory:

In the late 1920s, increased traffic on the West Side Highway led to a major revision in how the highway approached the Interstate Bridge, then the only Portland area crossing into Washington State. Prior to this redesignation, the West Side Highway ended at downtown Portland, with only the Pacific Highway continuing over the bridge. These new bridges were designed to match those on the Pacific Highway, and continued to be a major part of the approach until the construction of I-5. They both feature a unique baluster railing, which is now mostly hidden behind protective wooden paneling.

In a couple of these photos you can sort of see the "unique" baluster, which is somewhat less distinctive than it sounds, unfortunately. Since these photos were taken, ODOT performed a major renovation on this bridge as well as the slough one, and both now sport modern, safe, and non-distinctive railings. As far as I know, ODOT didn't bother saving a chunk of the old one for posterity; it's just gone. In any case, the bridge inventory also includes a few dry stats, in case Obscure Portland Bridges is ever a pub trivia category:

Bridge Number: 04518
Lat/Long: 45 35 09, -122 41 13
Description: Thirteen 71-ft reinforced concrete girder and floorbeam system spans with curved haunches

In case you were curious, "curved haunches" is a technical term in bridge engineering, and was not intended as an insult. The state's 2012 Bridge Condition Report notes that that the slough bridge proper (bridge number 04517, if you were wondering) dates to 1916, with steel construction, while the Columbia/Union Pacific part dates to 1929, with concrete construction. So I suppose there would have been a surface level intersection & railroad crossing here before the current bridge. I'm not sure why this would be useful information, unless possibly you need to date an old photo or it's part of a trivia question, but hey.

Barbur TC pedestrian bridge

Ok, next bridge up is another pedestrian one, the rather ugly 70s concrete one over I-5 at the Barbur Transit Center. I hadn't really planned on doing a post about this thing, but I ran across it while taking photos of Tapestry, a large mural along the Barbur-side approach to the bridge. I figured I was there anyway, toting a camera, and it was technically a bridge, so sure, why not? A PSU study of local pedestrian bridges notes this was built in 1976 along with the transit center itself. The study notes that many neighborhood streets on the other side of the bridge lack sidewalks (a common problem in SW Portland), so it's not part of a wider network of safe bike/pedestrian routes. I'm not sure that's something city planners even considered back then, and I'm not entirely sure this area was within city limits back in the 70s. Until the late 70s & early 80s large portions of Multnomah County outside the central city were unincorporated, and the county didn't really bother with things like building sidewalks or a proper sewer system, keeping people from building in flood zones, maintaining a useful park system, little details like that.

I didn't see much of anything in the library's Oregonian database about the bridge itself, but I did run across a September 12th, 1976 article with architectural drawings of the proposed "West Portland Transit Station". Barbur was the city's first transit center, as it turns out, and apparently this was a new concept imported from Toronto that other US cities hadn't adopted yet. So, little piece of history here. Though it seems like they hadn't quite perfected the concept, given the center's ugly 70s shelter, which looks rather cheap and dilapidated these days. The article mentions that the transit center was about 92% federally funded, since it's next to an interstate & qualified for money, I suppose because TriMet buses still ran on freeways in those days. A later October 28, 1979 article (which I seem to have misplaced the link to) describes major vandalism problems at the still semi-new transit center. Neighbors said they avoided the pedestrian bridge due to burned-out lights and broken glass. TriMet had even installed security cameras to keep an eye on the place (which was an unusual step in 1979), to no avail. There's probably no easy way to know whether the rate of petty vandalism has dropped since the 1970s. It seems to me, anecdotally, that it has, but I have no actual evidence to back this up. TriMet might have internal numbers on how much they spend each year repairing vandalism, and maybe a count of reported incidents, but I haven't seen that info reported publicly. Assuming my guess is correct, you might be able to chalk this up to the wider national crime wave of the 70s & 80s, which in turn has been blamed on various factors ranging from long-term macroeconomic shifts to the use of leaded gasoline. I've also seen a proposal (which I don't have a reference for at hand, unfortunately) that certain architectural styles tend to promote vandalism. In particular, as the idea goes, people see things made of ugly grey concrete and are instinctively driven to damage them. The idea has a certain poetry to it, but I have no idea how you'd go about proving it. The transit center & bridge haven't gotten any prettier since 1976, so if they aren't getting vandalized like they used to, that would tend to disprove the "architecture rage" idea.

Esplanade Floating Bridge

At some point, I decided that this humble blog's ongoing bridge project also applied to pedestrian bridges, and later concluded that floating bridges are also in scope, so here we are looking at the Eastbank Esplanade's floating pedestrian bridge. I apologize for only having one photo of it; I'm still not sure how this happened, but I've meant to go back and take more for months now, and I haven't gotten around to it, so I think we'll just go with the one photo, and you can google it if you want to see more.)

When the city created the current Esplanade in 2000-2001, they wanted to build something with connections at both ends; the previous trail began at the Hawthorne Bridge and dead-ended at the Burnside Bridge (without actually connecting to the bridge) which made it rather useless. I-5 runs right along the east riverbank and even hangs over the river for a bit north of the Burnside Bridge, so there was nowhere on shore to put a new trail. So the solution they came up with was a 1200' floating bridge running parallel to the riverbank, just offshore. The city parks page about the Esplanade claims this is still the longest floating bridge in the country. That may change in the future, if a similar proposal in Chicago gets greenlighted. The proposed RiverRide system would add floating bike paths along parts of the Chicago River, since buildings are built right up to the river's edge in many places, leaving nowhere to put an onshore pedestrian or bike path. We'll probably just let Chicago win that one, rather than starting a new arms race of ever-longer floating bridges. I'm not sure where you'd put a longer floating bridge, for one thing. I suppose you could add length to the existing bridge by adding some gratuitous zigzags, though I doubt anyone other than the Guinness world record folks would be impressed by that.

Human Diversity mural

Next mural up is on the Garlington Center building at NE MLK & Monroe, featuring panels from various world cultures and a quote from scientist René Dubos. A 2011 Oregonian article about Portland's fading African-American murals mentions this was created in 1993 by artist Judy Madden Bryant with help from local high school students. Since I took these photos, the center proposed replacing its existing building with a new clinic and housing complex, to be completed some time in 2017. I haven't gone back to check recently, so this mural is either gone already or it will be soon.