Sunday, December 31, 2023

Instagram Cat Photos, 2023 edition

Yet another installment of the annual New Year's Eve tradition. It's hard to believe he turned 13(!) this year. For that matter, this humble blog turned 18 a couple of weeks ago, and -- true to 2023 form -- I couldn't quite put a post together about the semi-big occasion. My hope for 2024 is to finish a few more half-completed posts than I did in 2023, but please note that I only said "hope" and not "goal", much less "binding contract". So we'll just have to wait and see how that turns out.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

central eastside murals, october 2023

Here's a slideshow of various new and new-ish murals around Portland's Central Eastside as of a couple of months ago. My mom was in town back in October, and she had somehow figured out that a.) outdoor murals are kind of a big deal here, and b.) I knew a thing or two about the phenomenon and might be up for playing tour guide. So here are some photos I took that day. Also, various food carts and twee little shops were visited in between all the art appreciation, and a fully artisanal, small-batch Central Eastside tourist experience was had by all that day, minus the beer part, since mom never really got into that.

Most of these were taken at either the Electric Blocks area near OMSI, or a previously-nondescript warehouse building at SE 8th & Alder. The outside of that warehouse has been sort of divvied up, with various artists each getting a panel of the exterior to work with. If I was really focused on this as a project like I was for a while back in the 2010s, I'd probably give each panel its own post and link to each artist's Instagram and find other work that they've done. But this year I've had enough trouble just maintaining the one-post-per-month bare minimum and that sounded like an excessive amount of work (unpaid (and unrequested) volunteer work, at that) to take on right now, so that stuff is left as an exercise for the reader. I did at least take photos of artists' signatures where possible, and those are typically Instagram IDs these days, so you at least have that as a starting point if you want to learn more about a particular mural.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Forest Road NF-1500-150, Larch Mountain

View Larger Map

Back during the height of pandemic-related social distancing, I had a sort of mini-project going to try to find places where I could get outside and go for a hike or at least a walk without encountering any other human beings, and -- ideally -- doing this without having to drive for hours and hours first. At one point I realized that old logging roads were great for this, because they usually don't go anywhere very interesting (so there isn't much to attract crowds), and they stay open and navigable without a lot of foot traffic (due to densely packed soil left over from the logging days). A side benefit to this is that you aren't fighting your way through brush all the time, which is nice during the height of tick and poison oak season. Ok, sure, having no-grow zones snaking through your forest and persisting for decades is on the whole bad for the environment, but... well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

That brings us to the subject of today's adventure, an obscure Forest Service road named NF 1500-150, which is one of several obscure Forest Service roads that branch off to the south from Larch Mtn. Road on its way to the summit. I had moderate hopes for this one, as in, it might at least have a decent view given its location near the top of the mountain. The National Scenic Area boundary -- which largely tracks Larch Mountain Road in this area, actually jogs south and west a bit more just to incorporate the land around road 1500-150. I had never heard of this being an interesting place, but it seemed at least possible that it might be a hidden gem waiting to be rediscovered. That occasionally works, so I figured I had to check it out. But no such luck this time. It's a short stroll through a dense young-ish replanted forest, along what is obviously an old logging road. And then it just gets to the end of the old clear cut and stops, and all you can do is turn around and go back. There aren't even any side trails to explore.

Maybe they figured nobody would object to this area being inside the boundary, since it had just been logged and adding it to the Scenic Area would pad out the total acreage without impacting the timber industry significantly. I don't know whether there was once a nice view looking west to Portland at the time, but if so they didn't add it to the Scenic Area's list of specific protected views and the forest has since grown back enough that there's nothing much to see here while strolling through the forest.

I couldn't find any info online about the old clearcut operation. The Forest Service has a vast amount of GIS data online including all sorts of really esoteric stuff, but if they have any public records online about historical timber sales I have yet to come across it. It's not something I would need on a daily basis but it would've come in handy here. I did find an alternative, though: This company sells hardcopy aerial photos taken over the last century or so, and to shop for what you need they have online maps with heavily watermarked versions of these images. So looking at historical photos of this spot gives us a rough timeline for what happened here:

  1. 1953: No clearcut. If anything, the forest looked older and taller than the surrounding area.
  2. 1973: The initial phase of the clearcut was visible, which was a square-ish area maybe halfway down the road. Evidently they started in the center and cut outward from there. I don't know whether this is a common pattern with clearcuts, or something specific to this place.
  3. 1981: They expanded the cut to the south by this point.
  4. 1993: After 1981, the cut expanded further, this time to the north and to the sides. I assume all of that happened prior to the present-day National Scenic Area being created in 1986, since that generally prohibits logging, at least where anyone might see it. Maybe this place was grandfathered in as a cut already in progress. In any case you can see kind of a donut pattern as the early pre-1973 cut area had already filled back in a bit.
  5. 2020: At this point the forest has grown back a lot, though most trees are still shorter than surrounding forest, and it still doesn't resemble a natural forest.

The road branches off at an altitude of nearly 3200', and descends to about 3070', around 800 feet below the summit but still higher than any of the surrounding hills nearby, so I think the clearcuts would've been very visible while it was happening. Maybe the clearcuts were enough of an eyesore that they added the cut area to the Scenic Area boundary just to make sure it wouldn't happen again. Meaning it contributes to the Scenic Area by being scenic from a distance, not because it's a scenic place to visit and see close up. That's my current theory, anyway; if anyone really needs an answer to this, you might need to check the Congressional Record, and the searchable online form of it only goes back to 1995 or so, so instead you'll need to find a library that has it in traditional hardcopy form covering the mid-1980s. (There are limited records going back further, so you can find stuff like subcommittee hearing summaries, indicating who testified but not what they said. Which is a start, I guess.) And if that approach doesn't pan out, maybe try calling or writing to people who were Congressional staffers or lobbyists back then and see if anyone remembers. I've switched to second-person here because I'm not quite curious enough to try that myself. I really, really dislike cold-calling people on the phone, for one thing.

An unfortunate thing about the area is the way it was replanted. Evidently nobody told the logging companies that the land here would be protected for forever after once they were done logging it, so the replanting was done in the usual densely packed mono-crop style, like a Christmas tree farm instead of something a bit more natural. And maybe it's just me, but I think tree farms are inherently creepy. They're a kind of liminal space, positioned in a hazy spot somewhere along the civilization vs wilderness boundary, and subtle enough that you may not realize what felt wrong about the place until later. It somehow feels like an urban exploration environment, but one made entirely of trees, if that makes any sense. I gather this is a common feeling around the New Jersey Pinelands, driven by both fact and fiction. Ok, you probably won't stumble into a mob whacking here and suddenly have to go into witness protection or whatever, and there's no science to back up the idea that a place can just have inherently "bad vibes", if you can even define that. But the place still just felt off somehow, and I didn't feel like sticking around long to figure out why.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Coffee Creek Falls

Here are a few photos of Oregon City's Coffee Creek Falls, which is conveniently located right on South End Road, literally right next to the road, a bit south and uphill from downtown Oregon City. Let's get the bad news out of the way first: There is no actual coffee here. Not even decaf. It's just plain old water like every other creek out there. The same is true of the more famous Coffee Creek down in Wilsonville, the one with the womens' prison named after it. No caffeine in that creek either. Same goes for the Coffee Creek in Douglas County, which was the site of a brief gold rush in the 1850s. Based on a bit of light googling there are probably dozens of Coffee Creeks scattered around the state, possibly because the water was a bit muddy when someone named it and it reminded them of terrible pioneer-era coffee. That or people just thought about coffee constantly, which is understandable. Still, the name kind of gets your hopes up and then dashes them, and maybe once the geographic naming authorities finish up renaming all the places currently named with racial or religious slurs, after that they can start in on renaming non-caffeinated places and things named after coffee, on the grounds of false advertising. That or figure out how to add caffeine to these creeks and lakes and whatnot, and I have no idea how that would work.

You might have guessed, correctly, by the previous paragraph that I don't have a lot of source material for this post. The usual waterfall fandom sites don't mention it for some reason. And getting to the falls doesn't require any actual hiking, so the usual hiking and outdoor websites don't mention it either. And it doesn't appear that any interesting historical events have ever happened here, at least going by local newspaper archives. So once again I had to resort to the state LIDAR map (see here) just to try to guess how tall the thing is. The part you see here is probably around 20', but LIDAR seems to indicate there's more of a drop up above this that isn't visible from street level, so that it may be closer to 50' or even 75' high depending on where you measure from. And then the creek continues dropping on the other side of the road, too, so the total drop from what looks like the top of the hill down to the Willamette River comes to around 350'. I don't have any photos of that part of the creek and I have no idea whether it ought to be included or not.

The falls do appear in a few places online, at least. There's a page about it at

OregonWaterfalls, and a Waymarking page, and a YouTube video from 2015 and even an Urban Adventure League Flickr photo. As for official governmental stuff, there's, well, a photo of the falls on a city 'natural resources' page and brief mentions of it in connection with some current and ongoing public works projects, and that's about it. Oh, and a fairly recent water quality report on OC-area creeks. Coffee Creek did relatively well in some catetories and worse in others, most notably in bacteria numbers. Just passing that along in case you were still thinking about drinking the water, on the outside chance that I'm wrong and there's caffeine here after all.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

Sulawesi, SW 17th & Morrison

Back in February I finally hit "Publish" on a post about Icarus at Kittyhawk, the Lee Kelly art at the Beaverton Central MAX station. That post was stuck in Drafts for ages because I didn't know what it was called, until I finally found that crucial detail on a walking/driving tour map of Kelly art around the Portland area. I said at the time:

In fact the map includes a lamentable number of others that I wasn't aware of and have never visited. Somehow I feel like I have to add them to the ol' TODO list now, although for the life of me I'm not sure why.

...and sure enough, here's a TODO item from that map. This is Sulawesi (2008), on the West Portland Physical Therapy building at SW 17th and Morrison. I actually like this one. It's a reasonable size, and somehow it actually fits with the building it's on (the circa-1958 Annand Building) and looks like it's always been there, despite being about a half-century newer. Usually at this point I would go off on a tangent about the cool midcentury building, but I haven't found any interesting info about it by name or by address. I can tell you the building once housed an office of the Equitable Life of Iowa insurance firm starting in 1958, and they were seemingly hiring new stenographers every few months, year after year, and after that other tenants came and went over time, and I have no historical anecdotes to share about any of them, or the building, or anything really. Which at least makes this an easy post to finish, so there's that, I guess.

I'm glad I checked that walking map again before hitting 'Publish', since I had gotten the name of the art wrong. Sulawesi (the correct name) is an island in Indonesia, the 11th largest island on the planet and home to 20 million people. I almost mistakenly called the art "Surabaya", which is a city on the island of Java, elsewhere in Indonesia. The Surabaya metropolitan area is home to about 10 million people. So that would have been kind of embarrassing. Searching for more info under the correct name comes back with a result for "Sulawesi I" (1997) a similar Kelly sculpture outside a library on the Oregon State University campus. The OSU one is described as "A wall-mounted sculpture with silver leaf with looping and linear forms reminiscent of script." That could be the origin of the name here too, or it's named for resembling the weirdly-shaped island itself, which looks a lot a letter in some unknown alphabet.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Panther Creek Falls

Our next adventure takes us to the absurdly photogenic Panther Creek Falls, a bit north of the Columbia River Gorge in Washington's Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This is a bit further afield than most of the weekend hikes I post here, so a few notes are in order: It's about a 90 minute drive from Portland, first heading east to the town of Carson, WA, and then north on Wind River Highway (or Wind River Road; signs are a bit inconsistent on this point). The map above has all the route info you need, and I would just add a couple of details:

  • First, the directions have you turn right off Wind River Something-or-other onto Old State Road. This is a loop road that intersects the highway twice, and the directions assume you take the second turnoff. If you leave the highway and the intersection isn't a right angle, you jumped the gun and are on the first of the two junctions. Just stay on the road till you're back at the highway, do a U turn, and you're back on track. I think the road you turn left onto is initially called "Panther Creek Road" and doesn't become forest road NF-65 until the national forest boundary.
  • Second, the parking lot for the falls could really use an official sign to that effect. But right now there isn't one, so your best bet is to look for what looks like an old rock quarry on the right side of the road, forming a rough parking lot. There's only one of these along the road, unless maybe you're on completely the wrong road, so it's a good clue that you've arrived. Most likely there will be a few Subarus parked there already when you arrive. I was strictly looking for official USFS signage and kept going for a few extra miles before turning around, but that's just me.

As far as I can tell, as of 'press time' you don't need a Northwest Forest Pass to legally park here, though that could change at any time. This is the regional National Forest parking permit, which runs $30/year, or you can rely on $5 one-day passes you can print at home if you don't like planning ahead and don't mind paying the inkjet cartels every so often. I had a day pass with me due to an earlier stop the same day, so (required or not) I left it on the dash just in case, as a sort of talisman to ward off prowling tow trucks.

I think there is supposed to be a sign for Trail #137, right across the road from the quarry/parking lot. When I stopped by there was just a bare pole on the left side of the road, but there was only one of those, and the trail starts just to the right of that pole. The trail switchbacks downhill a short distance to a junction: A sign there says "viewpoint" is to your right, and to your left is another trail branch to the base of the falls. The viewpoint is not at the actual top of the falls, but at the point partway up where Big Huckleberry Creek rumbles in and joins the main falls. That's the heavily-flowing bit in the first photo. If I was going to be a tedious pedant about it, I would pause here and go off for a few paragraphs arguing that it's actually a separate waterfall and then try to think of a name for it, since the side creek already has lower, middle, and upper falls of its own. The more important thing for you to notice is all the wooden railings keeping you on the trail, and the multilingual forest of warning signs, and the makeshift memorial right behind you as you watch the falls from the viewpoint, all of which are due to a tragic fall back in 2018.

Backtracking up to the trail junction, the other branch of the trail heads downstream a little and then switchbacks down to another viewpoint. This is where the first photo was taken, and you can see the whole falls you had a partial view of at the top. But wait, there's more: This lower viewpoint is also the top of another, lower tier of the falls, which adds another 30' or so to the total height of the falls. Right now there's no legal way down to the bottom of this bottom tier, and I have no idea how one might get down there safely, or back up. Strictly from a picture-taking standpoint the ideal thing would be a bridge at the same level as the inter-tier viewpoint, but downstream a bit so photos can include the whole falls, and make it a proper solid bridge, not a bouncy one, so long-exposure shots aren't ruined by other people walking across. But the Forest Service will probably never have that kind of money, and I'm pretty sure I can live with the current arrangement if I have to.

This is one of those places that the internet made famous, and this humble little blog is far from the only place you can read about it. It has the inevitable Washington Trails Association, Friends of the Gorge, and OregonHikers pages. And, unusually, its own Wikipedia entry, which features a photo seemingly taken from a point that's now off limits after the big post-2018 trail redesign. Other pages about the falls include ones at Adventures PNW, Aspiring Wild, Outdoor Project page, and World of Waterfalls. And despite all the stereotypes about social media, I have not actually encountered any Instagram photos of anyone doing yoga poses in front of the falls, unless maybe you count this one from early 2018. And it might also be of someone doing Gangnam Style dance moves instead, and either way they're far away and in rain gear, so I don't think it counts.

You might think a 140' waterfall that looks like this would've been famous since pioneer days, or at least from Carson's heyday as a hot springs resort town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I mean, just look at it, c'mon. But that doesn't seem to have ever been the case. I fired up the local library's database of the local newspaper, which runs back to sometime in the 1850s, and there is precisely one mention of the falls in all that time, and it's a story about the accident in 2018.

So looking at other pre-internet (or at least pre-WWW) print media, the falls got high marks in both Plumb's Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest and Bloom & Cohen's Romance of Waterfalls, two early guidebooks on the subject, both from the early 1980s. But many potential visitors would have read the parts about following bad roads off into the middle of nowhere, where -- if you could even find the trailhead -- you then faced a steep scramble downhill through the brush to a sketchy, dangerous viewpoint, while lugging a heavy camera and tripod around, and hoping a few of your 36 film photos turned out ok, or fewer than that if you were shooting 120 or 4x5 film.

The only other pre-internet mention of the place I've come across (though surely not the only one that exists anywhere) is a 1990 Forest Service publication, specifically some appendices to the master plan for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Page E-5 explains that despite the falls, Panther Creek as a whole just isn't "outstandingly remarkable" enough to qualify as a federal Wild & Scenic River.

It turns out that this isn't the only waterfall named Panther Creek Falls; an oddly similar one exists in the mountains of northern Georgia, and is also owned & operated by the US Forest Service. In fact it's only a few miles from Tallulah Gorge, which I visited and took a few photos of back in the late 90s. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution article from September 2023 (a few days ago) offers the heartwarming tale about an elderly golden retriever that got heat exhaustion along the long trail to the falls, and all the strangers who pitched in to help along the way to get the dog back to the trailhead safely. The dog is fine now, btw, but has officially retired from further hiking adventures.

I went back to the newspaper database and tried a few other search terms, just in case that led to anything interesting. The falls have evidently never gone by "Panther Falls", since the only use of that phrase came in a 1931 headline, when a woman and her daughter homesteading near Coquille were startled awake by a cougar either falling or jumping onto the roof of their cabin. (Slow news day, I imagine.)

In the same vein, there are Panther Creek high schools in both Cary, NC and Frisco, TX, and whenever one of their sports teams loses there is often a headline containing the words "Panther Creek falls", like this example from 2022.

And finally, I tried just "Panther Creek", and found a few results for that at least:

  • Most were about a different creek by the same name near McMinnville, namesake of a prominent Yamhill County winery and a bunch of area real estate listings.
  • The correct creek was mentioned briefly in a 1981 Roberta Lowe article in the Oregon Journal, but just in the driving directions on the way to an even more remote trailhead, the start of a long, technical hike up in the Indian Heaven area. Lowe columns were often like this, because the Journal felt its readers were grown-ups and trusted them to judge for themselves if they were up for that level of adventure. The paper went out of business the next year for unrelated reasons, and we never had to witness how this policy fared during the heyday of personal injury lawsuits.
  • A March 1937 first-person account, relating what sounds a bit like a 1930s version of Cheryl Strayed's Wild: Miss Jacqueline Arte (age 24) becomes fed up with the noise, chaos, commotion, hypocrisy, artificiality, and general wrongness of modern life, turns her back on society, and sets off to hike the Cascade Crest Trail (a predecessor of the Pacific Crest Trail), packing a change of clothes, a book of Nietzsche, and a .38 pistol. (Ok, not just those three items, but it sounds more 1930s, more hardboiled when put that way.) She started off at Panther Creek -- which served as the boundary between the modern world and the great wilderness -- and headed for Mt. Rainier, by way of endless meanderings and side trips. In Part II, she decided to hole up in a remote cabin and spend the winter writing a book. But ended up blowing out a knee dealing with firewood, and eventually had to be rescued after running low on food. Though she initially refused to leave until she was done writing.
  • This wasn't Arte's first wilderness adventure; in October 1934, the Oregonian noted her arrival at Crater Lake, having set out on a unhurried trip down the Skyline Trail (Oregon's predecessor to the PCT) the previous April, this time with the aid of a wayward pack horse named "Red Wing". The article said she was done hiking, but Crater Lake is of course nowhere near the California border, and she continued on her way south and eventually wrote a first-person account for the paper once she decided she was actually done for real, in January 1936. Fifteen additional months seems an exceptionally long time to hike from Crater Lake to California, but she explained she'd run low on money and supplies at one point and took a job as a ranch hand for a while, after panning for gold didn't, er, pan out.

I really wish I knew what became of Miss Arte after the 1937 episode; she doesn't appear in the Oregonian again after that, or in any other newspaper covered by the library's newspaper database, for that matter. I also don't see any references to books published under her name, though using a pen name would explain that. Maybe she decided society wasn't so bad after all, and settled down and had a quiet ordinary life after this; or maybe she hit the wilderness again and went completely off the grid this time, and vanished once and for all, the end; maybe she just moved out of town or across the country or changed her name and news of her further adventures never made it back to little old Portland. In short, the trail has gone cold. So on the remote off-chance anybody out there happens to know the rest of her story, please feel free to drop a note in the comments down below. Thanks!

Monday, July 31, 2023

Autumn Rider

So here we've got a few photos of Autumn Rider, a James Lee Hansen sculpture located -- a bit improbably -- in a median at the Gresham Town Fair mini-mall on Eastman Parkway in central Gresham. Going by the name I imagine it's a sibling to Hansen's Winter Rider No. 2 on the transit mall in downtown Portland.

By coincidence, a recent Oregon Art Beat episode ran a profile of Hansen recently on the occasion of his 98th birthday:

If you're one of those people who enjoys tracking down places and things you've seen on this weird little humble blog (I've heard occasional rumors that people like this exist, at any rate.), you can obviously drive there, park a few steps from Autumn Rider and check it out that way. Which is what I did, since this was just the first item on a lengthy todo list. But this is also pretty close to the Gresham City Hall MAX station, and one of the few things you'll see on the short walk to or from the train is Gresham's own MadCow Brewing, which opened in 2021. I haven't actually been there yet, but I like to stay on top of these things, so I may have to make another trip out that way. Maybe at that point this photoset will get bigger and include the same art but with close-ups of raindrops or snow on it. Who knows.

South Terminus

Next up we're visiting downtown Portland's "South Terminus", the little park/plaza at the south end of the downtown transit mall, where the MAX Green Line turns around and the Yellow Line becomes the Orange Line (and vice versa). The most notable feature of the place, from a distance, is a tall curved steel structure seen in most of the photos above, which exists to hide (and keep people out of) an electrical substation. The inner workings of it are further concealed by a fence and something called "coil drapery", and (most importantly) the south-facing side of the structure is covered in solar panels, which contribute a purely symbolic amount of electricity toward running the train.

North of all that, there's the actual turnaround area, which takes up most of the block and is just utilitarian train tracks and gravel. And because MAX trains have the turning radius of, well, trains, there was a crescent of land left over inside the loop, which became a small brick plaza and landscaped garden.

All of this was originally built in 2009 for the Green Line, and then "completed" in 2012, and reworked a bit in 2015 for the Orange Line, and further redesigned in 2017 for reasons we'll get to in a moment. If you're familiar with my ongoing projects and occasional obsessions here, you'd think I would have had a post up about it the day it opened, but no. I didn't even pay very close attention as it changed repeatedly over time.

The original design firm behind the project still has a project page up bragging about it, and -- to be fair -- the project got all sorts of rave reviews when the Green Line opened, like a 2009 Architect's Newspaper article, a breathless Oregonian article from January 2010, a similar Avada article, and a 2010 issue of FORM magazine. Though I should note that all of this publicity came even though the solar energy part of the project wouldn't be ready for another two years.

One of the selling points behind their design was, we're told, that "the solar panels identify both Portland and TriMet as leaders in sustainability". Solar project finally opened in 2012 and proved to be a bit controversial. Different articles tell us it either produces around 65,000 kilowatt-hours per year, or 67,000 kilowatts per year, depending on who's reporting and how much they know about electricity. Which is not a lot of power given what they paid for the system (although it cost less than half the original projections thanks to price drops for solar gear). Projections at the time were that the system would pay for itself in about 65 years, though a TriMet spokesman insisted it would be more like 22.5 years, which would mean it's over halfway paid for at this point, which is nice, I guess.

The original plan here was a bit more ambitious and would have augmented the trickle of solar power with a trickle of wind power from 22 little fun-sized wind turbines atop the power poles. Unfortunately(?) the startup that was chosen to build these Little Windmills That Could couldn't get the job done and the whole firm cratered shortly afterward. At that point the idea was quietly dropped.

At one point there was a bench somewhere in the park/plaza area with a builtin LED display so visitors could monitor the system's power output as electricity dribbled out of it. I vaguely remember seeing it, but it's not there now. I can only guess at the timeline but I imagine it was damaged beyond repair by bored vandals shortly after it went in, and then quietly removed during the next renovation, since that's what always happens around here. Or at least it's what always happens in public spaces when you don't give "normies" any reason to spend time there.

I do have a proposal here: At whatever point they redesign the park again, my suggestion would be to divert some of the plaza's solar bounty to power a wireless charging station. To me, charging your phone from those solar panels right over there makes for a much better demonstration than just watching LED numbers tick over in electrical units almost nobody really has a feel for. You might ask why, if that's really such a great idea, why didn't they build it that way in the first place? That's actually an easy one: The project was designed prior to 2009, and wireless charging was still a wacky sci-fi idea back then, shelved next to flying cars and atomic jetpacks. By early 2012 the technology had advanced from "works in the lab" to "getting hyped at CES", but a lot of ideas get hyped at trade shows but never ship in volume, much less catch on with the public. The first phones supporting the new Qi power standard finally shipped in September of that year.

There was also an online version of that power meter, so you could watch your tax dollars at work without getting off your couch, if you were so inclined. The site continued on for years, long after its brick-and-mortar version was hauled away. But it's gone now, because if you were designing a hip, fancy, cutting-edge website in 2009-2012, chances are you built it in Adobe Flash, the powerful full-featured programming language of the future. Over time that consensus shifted to "Flash is insecure and unfixable", and it was officially discontinued in all major browsers on New Years Eve 2021, thus breaking the site. Maybe somebody who cares enough will go back fix it at some point, but I wouldn't bet money on that. Old websites that survive in the long term usually do so by being very low maintenance, like the Space Jam and Mars Pathfinder sites, both from 1996.

All in all, the solar thing was exactly the sort of project Republicans have in mind when they sneer at people for "virtue signaling". But that's a bit unfair in this case; the idea is not to radiate civic virtue directly, but to persuade rich Californians to invest in luxury real estate here, thus boosting the local tax base and (in theory) paying for future civic virtue that way.

There was also a small piece of land left over that they couldn't use for turning around, as it was inside the minimum turning radius of any MAX car, so it became sort of a public mini-garden. also I could swear there used to be public access into the landscaped area. A page at Kavanagh Transit Photos confirms my memory of this, showing what the place looked like in 2009 when it was new. No fence around the place then.

We get a hint of the issues facing the park in a September 2013 nuisance complaint, which asserted the plaza was full of tall grass and weeds and animal feces at that point, which seems accurate if memory serves.

Like a lot of people who take up gardening as a hobby, after a few years of it TriMet evidently realized it couldn't keep up with the watering and weeding and in 2017 hired another landscaping firm to rework the design into something a bit more low-maintenance. Their page says, diplomatically, that nearby construction killed a lot of the original plants here. The page says something about designing a fence to keep people out during construction, maybe it became permanent at that point. The signs around the area say "Limited Access" rather than the usual "No Trespassing" or "No Public Access". I'm not really sure what "Limited Access" means here. It's an unfamiliar bit of officialese and I'm not sure how to interpret it. Maybe it's still officially open and there just aren't any entrances anymore. Maybe you're only allowed in on group tours, which are offered once every other decade.

Oh, and before all of this, there was a circa-1900 house here. It wasn't on the National Register of Historic Places, but was on the city's historic inventory as of 2002 (mentioned in some of the paperwork around moving the Simon Benson House, a National Register property) A little searching came back with a photo of that house, from an interesting Rose City Transit page about what various MAX stations looked like before they were MAX stations.

Sunday, June 18, 2023


Next up we've got a few photos of Inheritance, a very large mural by Portland artists Alex Chiu and Jeremy Nichols. This is located on the south side of the new-ish (built 2019) 250 Taylor building, in downtown Portland at, yeah, 250 SW Taylor.

Since it's still a recent building, there are still live pages about it from the architects, construction firm., and property management company, if you're interested. The construction link mentions that the building is built to withstand that 9.0 earthquake geologists keep telling us we're overdue for. Which is a nice feature, given that the building's sole tenant is the local natural gas utility, and The Big One is likely to make a huge mess of their infrastructure, with broken pipes spewing fire and spreading chaos across the region. As opposed to merely contributing to the heat death of the planet, which is what natural gas does when the infrastructure is working as designed.

Because this blog has been around for a while, I can point you at a 2006 blog post here featuring the previous building at this location, the eccentric-looking United Workmen Temple building. We were told at the time that unfortunately the weird old building was too far gone to be salvageable. I'm not the kind of engineer to ask whether that was really true or not, but my office was nearby at the time and we had front row seats to the demolition, and workers had a real struggle on their hands trying to take the core of the building apart, and it took them many months to take the site down to bare dirt before they could start building the new one. This is also the same block that used to be home to the late, lamented Lotus Cafe building, although that half of the block remains vacant as of 2023 while developers wait patiently for the Before Times to return.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

hnl ✈️ pdx, may 2023

Here's another batch of window seat photos, this time from earlier this week. Most of these show the north shore of Molokai, which is home to the world's tallest sea cliffs, although the very tallest ones are off in the distance and were covered in clouds when I took these photos. If the weather had cooperated I might have gotten a waterfall post (or several) out of this flight, since that area is home to Oloʻupena Falls (which the World Waterfall Database rates as 4th tallest on the planet at 900m / 2953'), along with several others that are nearly as tall. They're basically inaccessible from land, so seeing them from a plane is your best bet for catching a glimpse of them, short of renting a helicopter or approaching the base of the falls by boat.

In some of these you can also see Maui, Lanaʻi, and the Big Island. Kahoʻolawe is somewhere in that direction too but it might be behind one of the other islands or obscured by foreground clouds in these photos.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Dans la Nuit (Lovers)

Semi-fresh on the heels of Floating Figure (last month's rather stale public art post), here are a few photos of Dans la Nuit (Lovers), also by French-American sculptor Gaston Lachaise. It used to be outside the Portland Art Museum, on the right side of the main entrance, across from Floating Figure, having replaced Auguste Maillol's La Montagne around 2014 in conjunction with a temporary Lachaise exhibit. The two sculptures quietly went off exhibit or maybe left town sometime in 2020-21 while everyone was focused on the pandemic, and protesters were busy toppling statues of various dead presidents right next door in the South Park Blocks.

This post and its companion are another reminder that this humble blog does not aspire to be anyone's hub for breaking news: I took most of these photos back around 2014, shortly after the big Maillol-Lachaise swap-out, before the little nameplates were installed. Obviously I couldn't hit the big orange Publish button at that point, since I didn't actually know anything about the newly arrived art, so I saved a couple of draft posts with placeholder titles and moved on. A year or so later I was in the area and noticed the nameplates and duly took photos of them, but by then I'd moved on to other projects and just left it at that: I knew the photos were saved somewhere in either iPhoto or Flickr and I could probably find them again if I was in the mood to finish these posts, and I could always go back and take new photos if I genuinely couldn't find the older ones. Meanwhile fresh sedimentary layers of draft posts kept accumulating on top of this leftover art stuff from 2014, and eventually the art (and the nameplates) weren't there anymore, and Google was (as usual) pretty useless without already knowing the titles, or at minimum the artist. Then a few months ago I stumbled across the 'lost' nameplate photos during a brief, yet tedious, photo-organizing bender and remembered I'd been looking for them. So I added those photos to the appropriate photosets, updated everything with the actual names, did the usual internet research, even got some words in place... and then saved the posts as updated drafts, to languish for a few more months. Because, as it generally is with these things, taking the photos and researching and writing is ninety percent of the work, while editing is the second ninety percent of the work.