Saturday, June 23, 2007

Centennials, Ceeds, and Coaking

Portland celebrated the 100th anniversary of the annual Rose Festival. As is traditional, the burgeoning dry season takes a pause during Rose Festival week to anoint the city in varying amounts of Holy Rain Water. For 2007, most of it fell during the Grand Floral Parade. The Weather Service supercomputers, not wanting Portlanders to miss the centennial, thankfully lied about the start time of the rain so we would all show up anyway.

Things started up dry though or else the kids would not be able to draw their ephemeral chalk art...

...and the gathering of some familar folks...

...including a few family blogger friends amde for good company.

The rain started getting serious about the time the parade began. A large cargo plane circled aroung a few times and a group of Navy Seal paratroopers kicked things off.

While this may be the 100th year, it was the first for me. It is astounding to live in a place for over 40 years before going to a simple parade, but that is me. The rain wasn't going to dampen my spirits. After all, Dean Wormer used his powerful connections to hook us up with some great people who reserve a space each year along the route. The Minisnab would be marching along shortly twirling her flag in sync with the music of the band. It was all pretty exciting. A group of Boy Scouts led off the parade with a banner to kick things off.

The area high schools nominate princesses of whom one is chosen for queen. They lead on their own float (after the Rose Festival Equestrians).

The floats for the parade are required to use natural materials for their decoration. It is a good opportunity for corporate interests to trumpet their civic presence. Here are a few...

There are school marching bands from Oregon, Washington and California as well as some corporate/private too. A disproportionate number of bands this year had Scotsmen as mascots (if its nay Scottish, its CRAP!!!!!) Here is an example of such a band....

Then finally, the MiniSnab's band comes up the street led by the flag team! Here are a couple of shots from their group (thanks to Swinebread & his better half for getting some great shots).

As much as the Portland Rose Festival is a local celebration, it is also a chance for international sharing. Here are a few examples from around the Paficic Rim from Mexico to Japan to China, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and other places.

All in all, it was quite a deal. There were mayors from all over Oregon as well as several former Portland mayors to mark the anniversary. The rain never did let up either and that is somehow appropriate for the Rose Festival. There is an uncanny tendency for the seasonal drying of summer to take a hiatus during Rose Festival week. For some reason, the late May Memorial weekend is almost always warmer and nicer than most Rose Festival weeks.

It is just part of the mystique of "Rosaria." The queen is deemed the Queen of Rosaria and the civic volunteer group that performs much of the groundwork for the festival are called the Royal Rosarians. I like to joke that during this time we all in a state of Rosaria, where Rosaria is a cross between reverie and hysteria. It is somehow appropriate, don't you think? While many substances can take you close to a state of Rosaria, only this parade or the companion Starlight Parade the Friday before that kicks off Rose festival can induce this unique state of mind. I look forward to Rosaria next year! It may not be perfect, but it is a darn sight better than a state of Rosacea.

Once again, thanks Dean Wormer and associated rug rats for the great company and great location! Thanks to Swinebread & better half for hanging out with us and getting better pictures than me and thanks to Ladybug's dad for joinging to see his litle bean perform.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I'll Do Whatever I Want. GOSH!!

UPDATE: Beavers win NCAA title for the 2nd straight year! Witness the awesome power of the Beaver!

The guy in the middle has a Napoleon Dynamite look on his face...anyhoo.

Congrats to the Oregon State Beavers baseball team! They are in the finals of the NCAA College World Series for the second straight year. This time they will be defending their title from last year. After finishing low in the Pac-10 and needing to win their last couple of games just to make it to the post-season, the Beavs stormed back to the top of the heap. Depending on the outcome of the game tomorrow between Rice and North Carolina, the Beavers could face a rematch of last year's CWS (if UNC wins).

Pretty good stuff for a college in the cold and rainy belt when the season begins. Go Beavs!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Homestar Stays on the Web

Homestar Runner Rejects TV to Stay True to Web

It seems like a foregone conclusion that the hit online animation Homestar Runner and his cartoon friends will end up alongside Meatwad, Space Ghost, Brock Sampson and the other pop culture icons on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim -- a block of cartoons for grownups.

Unfortunately for this would-be marriage, the only people who think Homestar isn't quite right for Adult Swim are the character's creators, Matt and Mike Chapman.

In perhaps a first, the Atlanta-based Chapman brothers have turned down both Comedy Central and Cartoon Network to stay on the web.

Wow. I guess money DOESN'T mean everything. The Brothers Chap keep their hip Flash cartoon off of TV and on the web so they don't ruin the character of it. Classy. I guess it is time to watch Strong Bad read his e-mail.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Yawnfest 2007 is Mercifully Over

The San Antonio Spurs won the ever-decreasingly popular NBA Finals this year. After watching some high-tempo athletic competition at times this season, the playoffs showed the ugly old NBA once again with the teams that hack, injure, and foul being favored over finesse and athleticism. It is no wonder nobody watches the NBA playoffs anymore with scores in the 70s and 80s and people standing around for 23 seconds on each possession trying to figure out how to get to the hoop without getting manhandled.

The NBA playoffs were over when the Phoenix Suns were, when the NBA decided to suspend 2 of Phoenix' best players (for getting too far from the bench) for their most critical game after the Spurs' Bruce Bowen threw a dangerous cheap shot at Steve Nash and nearly ended his career. NBA official Stu Jackson said it was, "not a matter of fairness, but of correctness." No matter that 2 Spurs stars left the bench earlier in the game for a regular foul. At that point, the NBA cast its lot with boring, unathletic basketball where the biggest bruisers get the spoils.

And that is why they are getting the lowest ratings ever.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Colin Powell Finally Gets it Right

Saw this at Talking Points Memo today...

"If it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo. Not tomorrow, but this afternoon. I'd close it," he said.

"And I would not let any of those people go," he said. "I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system. The concern was, well then they'll have access to lawyers, then they'll have access to writs of habeas corpus. So what? Let them. Isn't that what our system is all about?"

"Every morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere, is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds," Powell said. "We have shaken the belief that the world had in America’s justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open… We don’t need it, and it’s causing us far more damage than any good we get for it."

Exactly right. If people have so little faith in American principles, then there is no point in having an America. The entire weight of human history argues for this basic rationality against the collective temper tantrum of the last 6 years. It is time to grow up and stop living in fear, however many still cannot make that choice.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Get Out the Bike, Days 2 & 3

Saturday morning brought more mosquitoes from the bog, but we were learning to live around them. We used a new type of Cutter repellent without DEET. The active ingredient here is Picaridin. It stinks less than DEET and appears to be equally effective, so there we are. When you get a bite every few minutes, that is no big deal. When you have 10 mosquitoes biting you within a minute of exiting a tent, then a repellent seems like a great idea.

I washed my hands afterwards and started on the pancakes. We had some soy-based sausage that is much better than it sounds, but I totally forgot about it sitting in the cooler. After cleanup, the MiniSnab made sandwiches out of the rest of the baguette which we put in a backpack with water, grapes, and granola bars and we set off on the bicycles for the wonders of the park.

Why, here is the baguette chef herself!

My broken pedal was a bit floppy and my foot kept sliding off of it; usually followed by an expletive or two, but we were off to grind out some mileage. Our first stop of the day was at Battery Russell. Battery Russell was shelled by a Japanese submarine Jun 20, 1942 and other than a few incendiary balloons, I believe this was the only attack on the mainland of the United States (not that such a fact would matter much to a Hawaiian or servicemen who lived through Pearl Harbor or its aftermath). They didn't hit anything (nor did we). Battery Russell was a gunnery installation activated in 1904 and decommissioned in 1946. Standing at the gunnery pits, it is impressive to see how large they were. The whole apparatus would be over 40 feet tall with the gun turret pointing over the top of the battery towards the sea. Though I am sure they roared liked thunder in 1942, the whole place was quiet today with barn swallows swooping about and the sweet smell of cut grass in the air.

Soon, we were off again to new bike trails and new locales. We followed the signs to South Jetty. There were lots of signs on the bike path to South Jetty. And why not? South Jetty is a cool place with a large rock emplacement built between the mighty Pacific Ocean and the mouth of the Columbia. The Jetty served to divert oceanic power and lots of sand away from the dredged channel of the Columbia river. This allowed ships to enter more safely across the Columbia bar and up the river itself (more safely does not mean safe is still one of the most dangerous entries around and requires a river pilot to guide ships in).

Area B from the top of the dune looking oceanward. (Can you see us waving Moody and Pandabonium?)

The bike path worked its way to the base of the last dune before the shore line and turned to run parallel with it. The sky was bright but not completely sunny as the northern coast seldom is on dry days. The ocean breeze was light, constant, and felt perfect and the trail was flat...perfect riding weather. My large frame was getting tired and winded by the time we hit the end of the bike path at a place called Area A. South Jetty was Area C, so we needed to press on along the access road for vehicles. We continued on for another mile until we reached the turnoff for Area B. At that point, the road narrowed and a stern sign said "NO BICYCLES BEYOND THIS POINT." Hmmm, weird. We followed the turn off into the Area B parking lot and, lo and behold, there is no bike route to South Jetty! We couldn't believe could they make all those signs and then deny riders a legal way to get to the jetty.

Looking northward to the unbikeable jetty from our dune outpost.

We were pretty tired by that point, so we ditched our bikes and climbed a tall dune to eat lunch, enjoy the warmth of the sun and ocean breeze while munching on our lunch goodies. We both lazed and snoozed for a good hour and decided not to chance an illegal trip to the jetty on our bikes. So we headed back the way we came and my total lack of conditioning along with a general fatigue I've had lately combined to make the trip back more grueling than I would have liked. MiniSnab, a spry young rapscallion, had no trouble with the trip home.

Looking north and eastward from the dune across the Columbia River into Washington state. The pilings in the foreground were once holding train tracks that brought the rocks to the jetty to be placed.

I took a long nap in the tent while the MiniSnab wandered around and had fun exploring the campsite and environs. When I woke up, we decided to avoid mosquitoes for dinner, locked up the bikes and headed to Seaside. We played at the video arcade (hint for out-of-shape dads, don't attempt Dance Dance Revolution after riding several miles on a bike), ate dinner, bought some Seaside Shirts, found a campsite mosquito fogger to make the evening campfire bearable, and purchased some S'more fixins to make up for my cinnamon roll debacle. We got back in time to make a campfire and MiniSnab made a couple of S'mores while I sipped some wine and watched the flames. After yapping back and forth for a bit, it was time for bed.

We slept in as much as we could on Sunday. We decided to skip breakfast and go back to Seaside for breakfast and to get home sooner. The morning brought drizzle, so the tents would need to be dried out at home. This allowed us to do a sloppier than normal job of packing them and we split duties until the trunk was loaded, the bike carrier was attached and carried the bikes (now locked to deter any possible hooligans in Seaside), and we were ready to go. We stopped by the recycle/trash station and we are happy to report that we recycled MUCH more than we trashed. This area has a particularly active and engaged recycling service so even our plastics were recycled. Good for them!

We drove out to the south jetty in the car to find that most of it was closed for renovation. Nonetheless, the MiniSnab conquered the rocky summit in the public zone. Giant pieces of equipment were parked behind fences and stockpiles of fresh boulders were waiting to be placed on the jetty. All in all, it looked like quite the civil engineering project. Congrats to Kiewit Pacific for suckling from our tax bosoms on this bid.

MiniSnab summits South Jetty!

Instead of the black basalt that makes up the current jetty (left) , the contractor uses a serpentine-like green stone (right) for renovation, probably trucked from Southern Oregon.

MiniSnab auditioning for a Toyota commercial

We had a nice breakfast/lunch at Riley's in Seaside, did a little more running around, then headed on home to recover from our vacation. MiniSnab and I got some quality time together (a rarity nowadays) and I hope I have kicked started my metabolism. When my bike returns from its pedal replacement and tune up, I am going to see how a 12 mile round trip to work affects the old knee. Until then, ta ta!

PS - You might notice that the Hill Country Gal, Leilouta, and Selba are added to the friends list and, since they are all repeat visitors, these links are LONG overdue.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Get Out the Bike, Day 1

The MiniSnab and I escaped last weekend to Fort Stevens State Park here in Oregon for a weekend of camping, bicycling, feeding the mosquitoes, and doing a little shopping in Seaside, Oregon.

I reserved a camping spot a few days earlier. A smart person would have chosen a place as far from the lake as possible. A smart, but ill-informed person would choose a site solely on reducing proximity to other campers. I was such an ill-informed person. Our camping site was quiet, but our tent was less than 50 yards (or meters) from a mud bog that was once an outlet of Coffenbury Lake.

Even though we seem to have a LOT of Coleman brand products, it is only by coincidence and not because Coleman paid me the 44 cents in marketing revenues they would generate by having me blog photos full of Coleman swag. I am more likely to get a cease and desist letter from their attorneys now that frivolous lawsuits are now taboo for us normal people and only the necessity of corporations, but I digress.

After a delicious meal of vegetable soup (cooked on a Coleman stove with Coleman propane I hope you ignore) and half a baguette, we set out on our bikes for great things.

Here is the MiniSnab on her bicycle (which is the same model and color as mine, but with a smaller frame). While I was cooking and doing some set up, the MiniSnab found a favorite spot at Coffenbury Lake. That was our first riding destination and she is a good judge of finding good spots. The next stop was the beach and the location of the vessel Peter Iredale (good info link). Somehow in that short time, I wound up with pedal scrapes on both shins and blood on both socks. (I only found out later that I broke a pedal which caused one of the bloody spots.) I was (am) out of shape and a bit rusty i suppose.

The sun is a shade of purple!

I kept an eye on the bikes while MiniSnab checked out the remains of the old hull and did a little dune climbing. We watched the sunset and returned to camp to sit by the fire, try out a failed experiment in wrapping cinnamon roll batter around a stick and trying to cook it by a fire, then went to the tent to sleep.

(All silhouettes are of the MiniSnab)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Just a Good Reason...

I've been watching a mid 90s era series call Nowhere Man starring Bruce Greenwood recently. I bought the series on DVD. Wikipedia describes the show premise as follows:

Nowhere Man is the tale of a photojournalist named Thomas Veil. After leaving to use the restroom while out to dinner with his wife, Tom returns to find that his life has been turned upside down. His wife doesn't recognize him and is living with another man. His ATM cards no longer work. His best friend turns up dead. His mother was previously recovering from a stroke, so she is incapable of confirming his existence. In the course of a single evening, every trace of Tom's identity has been erased.

Tom comes to believe his erasure is related to a photograph he took a year earlier called “Hidden Agenda.” The photo depicts four men being hanged in South America by what appear to be US soldiers. The only shreds of evidence Tom has of his past are the negatives to that photograph. A mysterious organization covertly pursues Tom in search of the negatives. Over time, Tom's paranoia builds as he comes to realize that nothing is what it seems to be, no one is safe from this organization, and even he may not be who he thinks he is.

One of my favorite things about the show is that a great deal of it is filmed in Oregon. Portland and other Oregon landmarks along with our unique flora and fauna and outlines of familiar hills and peaks are laced throughout the show.

I heard a great quote on an episode I watched the other night. After a staged accident, the main character named Thomas Veil (as in veil of secrecy...get it?) is chloroformed by the ambulance crew and wakes up in a gated community called New Phoenix. The other residents are described as "disenfrachised" (erased from society by the same forces that erase Veil's identity). They want him to join, but the price of admission is for Veil to give up his secret (the film negatives). What Veil comes to find out is that those who can't or won't pay the price get warehoused in an on-site prison.

During New Phoenix's Founder's Day, Veil breaks the prisoners out to show the townspeople what their comfort and complacency have bought them, the same barbarity that was shown to them when they were disenfranchised. In a creepy afterward, the new leader of the town is being confronted by Veil. His quote is as follows (more or less):

Don't you see what has happened here? You've become the people you oppose.
Everybody has a name for it. Everybody has a reason. Is that enough to make it all right? Is that all it takes to make it okay to act like the people you fear?

Just a good reason?

At that point the new leader informs Veil that she has spiked his drink because he will be unable to cope with their need for safety and he wakes up in some cheap hotel room later, unaware of where he had been but back out on his own again and so the episode ends.

Those with a keen eye for current events will know immediately why this little bit of prose struck a nerve with me. However, it is worth a further explanation.

When I read that we host secret prisons: Europe's CIA Inquiry: Poland, Romania hosted secret prisons and that our nation used torture at these prisons and others likely including the Gulag of them all: Guantanamo, I have to wonder what reason could turn some of my own countrymen into people similar to the alleged 9/11 suicide bombers; people without a moral compass.

I know there are a million excuses and cover stories out there, but I really don't care. I am reading a book about the Norwegian resistance during World War II and I am astounded by how much the German occupation army of that war resembles some of our activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Apparently all it took was just a good reason...