Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Last Gasp of a Dying Blog


If you got here from one of my Moo Cards handed out at WebVisions, welcome! This blog kinda died around the make that exactly the time I started school at the Art Institute of Portland in the fall of 2008.

I plan to rise like a phoenix from the ashes next month with a new blog/portfolio site on Wordpress. In the meantime, you should follow me on twitter, as 140 character chunks is all my brain has to give for the time being. Be sure to introduce yourself so I can follow you back!

I'm also looking for a web development internship this summer. I'm into front-end development with a particular interest in learning Wordpress, Drupal and other content management systems, sharpening up my JQuery and generally soaking up all your wisdom.

Contact me if you think we might be a match.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Another Country

2010_0227_038_boulder_day2Jess and I are in beautiful Boulder, CO for a long weekend, visiting her good friends from when she lived in DC. Carrie & Denis have two adorable boys Alex(4) and Colin (16 months). I actually first met them about three years ago when I helped drive my sister to D.C. to start law school.

We flew in Thursday afternoon and caught up with Denis, who picked us up from the airport. When we got to the house, Alex, who of course remembered neither of us, only played shy for about 2 minutes. Within the hour, he had taken to excitedly calling Jessica over to see his latest bristol block creation or Star Wars action figure.

Carrie put the final touches on some soup, carrying Colin on her hip almost the whole time. She said he was going through his mamma-separation-anxiety phase. She finally was able to put him down for a few minutes, and I took the opportunity to make my move. It’s my habit to scoop up cute babies whenever possible.


To my surprise, he didn’t freak out, just stared at me with adorable big brown eyes as if he was measuring my soul. I even got in some quick samples of baby cheek, one of my favorite delicacies. Later I got to help with bedtime, working through a short screaming fit (I sympathized—I hated bedtime as a kid too), to put on the nighttime diaper and jammies before handing him over to Carrie for his bedtime scoobie booby snack.

Carrie warned us that they’re early risers, so the pounding of little feet over our heads around 6am the next morning was no surprise. Luckily sleeping is one of my super powers, so I wasn’t bothered. I got to ‘sleep in’ till 8:00 and then it was up for a quick breakfast so we could all pile into the mini van to drop Alex off for a couple of hours of preschool, and Denis at a quick work meeting.

With our party down three adults and one kid, we headed to nearby Chautauqua park in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to hike a little.  Thursday’s dusting of snow gleamed off the fields and the trail while the almost ever-present Colorado sun beamed welcome vitamin D into our skin.

We made it about half a mile with a cranky Colin being carried by his mom before Carrie decided he wasn’t going to calm down. She offered to take him back to the car and hang out, while we hiked on a ways and enjoyed the woods.

The sudden silence was palpable after the half mile of constant crying, which lead to a conversation about parenthood, and how different the lifestyle of parents can be from ours. Of course, everyone does it differently, but Carrie & Denis have a fairly traditional structure in which he works and she mostly stays home with the kids. The night before she had detailed the workings of her mom’s group for us.

The group is has about 150 members, and requires a small fee for yearly dues. They ask each member to contribute on a regular basis, be it helping with events, trading child care or being on the board. Yes, I said the board. Clearly this was not our mother’s mom’s group! Everything is organized electronically, so non tech-savvy mom’s have a hard time unless they’re willing to learn. Carrie told us she gets about thirty Evites per month and sifts through them to decide what events they’ll attend. And the childcare trade? You get a certain number of ‘tokens’ per hour of watching others’ kids, which you can then trade for some kid-free time of your own for a night out.

I tried to imagine such a formal structuring of the ‘takes-a'-village’ concept in Portland and couldn’t really see it happening. Maybe there is something like that and I just don’t know about it—why would I? But I suspect, that Portland culture is a little too laid back for a mommy Board of Directors.

Alex and Colin are terribly sweet boys for the most part, with the usual tantrums and exuberance of course, both adorable in their own ways. Colin with those big eyes and super cute expressions and Alex with his polite manners and obviously sharp mind. He loves playing Uno and at four, he’s a pretty fierce competitor. He can’t hold his cards in his hand yet, so he puts them in neat rows face down on the table, quickly shuffling through to find draw-two or wild card that will ruin all your well laid plans.

So far, we’re having a lovely visit, though we learned the hard way that we violate Colin’s nap schedule at our peril. Aside from enjoying the different weather (sun!) of Boulder, the constant breath taking vista of the Rockies to the west (does that ever get old? I hope not)—It feels to me like we’re visiting another country—the country of Parenthood. We’ve adapted ourselves pretty well to the customs of this new place, getting out of bed at earlier hours (for me anyway), riding the occasional tantrum wave and grooving to superhero soundtracks in the car while joining in the local custom of playing Blues Clues to make long drives go by quicker.

Like most trips away from home, I’m enjoying the local flavor and taking in all the joys of this new lifestyle—but this peek into parenthood, also reconfirms my decision that I wouldn’t want to live their permanently. We barely have the energy to herd our three rambunctious cats. I have nothing but mad respect for Carrie, Denis and good parents everywhere (especially mine) for shepherding little lives until they can bloom into adulthood.


Monday, November 02, 2009


This week's creative writing assignment was to write a sonnet. I'd never written a sonnet before but having learned the basic rules, it's not hard to see why. The are a lot of rules! I don't write much poetry to begin with so trying to conform to all those rules was a challenge.

While I was trying to write my first sonnet, a second one rudely interrupted and insisted on coming out first. So here they are, in order of their birth (but reverse order of conception).

Sonnet Lament

These sonnet rules do cause the mind to rage
Time ticks away, the deadline doth approach
Though inspiration shines upon the page
The lines resist all efforts to be coached
into neat rhythms tied up with a bow
encased in fourteen lines measured in fives
There must be well kept tricks that I don't know
which give eternity to poet's lives
That Shakespeare makes a student's life pure hell
Examples lofty in their faultless prime
Just three more lines before the sounding bell
At least I'll fin'lly turn one in on time!
In time and hist'rys dimming light shall fade
This poem and (a hopef'lly) passing grade

For Jess

My restless youth was full of lonely years.
Love's sweet caress was ever far from shore.
Watched friends aglow but hid my bitter tears,
that fell atop a barren desert floor.
Through modern web I cast my spid'ry eye,
you lured through the promise of like minds.
At rink's edge did I see you standing by,*
and rolled into your arms through fate's designs.
Like parted souls rejoined we made our vow,
through sickness, health, in happy and in sad,
Long wait forgotten in the here and now,
your presence wipes away all but the glad.
Though in the law, we be not legal wives,
Your best friend I remain, for all our lives.

*Yes, we met online and then at roller skating rink

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fight Cancer, Win an Ipod Touch

This day has been mostly a waste, but it’s not over yet, so I thought I’d do something that’s been on my mind for a while. Taking a page from Fatty’s book, I’m giving away my brand new, still-in-the-box-with-the-plastic around it 8 GB Ipod Touch to some lucky person who heads over to my Livestrong page and donates any multiple of $5 to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

If you’re a Fat Cyclist reader, I’m sure you’re probably used to bigger and better prizes. So sorry I don’t have a bike or a fabulous trip to give away. But---fighting cancer is about everyone doing what they can. I’ve got this toy sitting around I don’t need, doing my part to kick cancer in the nuts is more useful than making a few bucks off Ebay.

So, even though I’ve just broken every good rule of blogging by posting to my ghost-town of a blog, on a Friday afternoon, I’m hoping you’ll help make sure my day isn’t a total bust, by going over to my page and dropping a fiver or three or four and telling your friends. Those of you who knew my mom, who we lost to Cancer in 2007, know I come by this procrastination honestly. She was late to her own funeral you know. (I made sure of it—consistency is important).

This contest will last until Midnight PST on Monday Oct 26th. Tuesday, I’ll announce the winner. For the price of a crappy Starbucks latte, you could have yourself a cool new toy. Regardless, you’ll be fighting cancer—and that’s always a good way to spend the day.


For mom. Miss you.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mountain Bike Bliss at Hagg Lake

Ride Around Hagg Lake

Going to school during the summer had many nasty side effects, one of which was that I didn’t ride my mountain bike on one single trail for the entire summer. The closest I got was doing a few short track races at PIR, which, being 10 minutes by bike from home is pretty convenient. Still, last summer, I did both Mountain Bike Oregon Weekends and even managed to run off to Bend with my girlfriend. I couldn’t stomach the idea that my poor steed wouldn’t touch a trail in 09.

Luckily when I sent out a desperate call for a last minute riding buddy, Zan replied. She shuffled a few meetings around and suddenly we had a whole Friday to search out and ride that sweetest of mountain biker drugs—singletrack.

I perused my stack of little-used guide books and we narrowed the choices to either Post Canyon in Hoodriver, or Hagg Lake, just an hour west of Portland. Since we were looking for something a little more cross country, than freeride oriented, we chose Hagg Lake, and to say we weren’t disappointed would be an understatement.

As Zan was loading my bike onto her car rack, I heard her yelling out the name of a mutual friend who was just riding up to my neighbor’s house to go on a road ride with them.  When we mentioned our chosen destination, her look was not very approving. “Is the trail bad,” we asked, concerned.

“No, it was just a little buggy.”

Since fall was well underway, we figured that wouldn’t be a problem.

We parked near the dam and entered the trail having no idea what we would find. The weather was as perfect as we could ask for—a picturesque fall day with full sun and a light breeze. The trail started out mellow, winding gently through a tunnel of trees.  For about 90 seconds I found myself thinking, “This is nice…I could even bring Jess out here*.” Then things got interesting.

The trail started to dish out surprises—going from smooth and flowy in one second to sudden turns revealing small, but lung/leg-busting little hills that would leave you walking if you weren’t geared down and ready for them.  I become more alert and more excited. My smile got bigger. Dragonflies darted in and out of my path but there wasn’t a mosquito to be found.

About 15 minutes in, we made a hard right turn into a sharpe, longish off-camber incline with enough exposure to make me rethink my attempt to ride it. It was one of the many sections we encountered that I thought might be rideable on a second pass. But such is the fun of exploring a new trail. You don’t know what’s coming so you just have to stay focused and try to react without letting your brain get in the way. When we started, I felt like I didn’t even remember how to ride over bumps, but after a little while, I started to loosen up.

The biggest surprise of the day was finding out pretty quickly that I’m a  more advanced MTB rider than Zan.  Zan is an Ironman and a regular racer with our team and could easily hand me my ass on the road, without even breathing heavy (which is good since she has asthma). In fact the one road ride that Jess and I took with Zan a couple of summers ago, she was recovering from a bad cold and her lungs were still pretty weak, which was the only reason we managed any semblance of keeping up. 

Mountain biking seems to require just the kinds of sudden hard efforts that asthma probably doesn’t like—and hills are more challenging because you’re also navigating obstacles. We quickly fell into a routine, with me riding in front so I could keep my rhythm going and just stopping every few minutes to wait.  It gave me a chance to enjoy the scenery and stop and smell—well if not the roses, then the trees.

The nice thing about riding around a lake, is that you don’t have to do a lot of way finding. For the most part when we encountered forks in the trail, we just kept turning right. We did take a few wrong turns, which ended us either at a cliff overlooking the water or in one case, a disc golf course ‘hole.’ We just counted it all as part of the adventure.

It’s a good thing there weren’t many bugs because they might have ended up in my teeth. The smiling was pretty constant and I kept suppressing the urge to shout for no reason—and sometimes I didn’t bother. I felt like Hiro after he teleported to NY for the first time.

Zan and I couldn’t figure out why no one had ever mentioned how extremely awesome the Hagg Lake trail is. Even Danielle hadn’t said anything that morning. Maybe the bugs were so bad, she had blocked out the good memories.

There seemed to be a bit of everything to be had.  As we worked our way around, skinny tunnels through trees gave way to wider bits of double track along open fields, which turned into literal singe-track—divets through high grasses just big enough for our fat tires.

About two thirds of the way around, we got going after a photo stop and I got into a particularly good groove. The trail was throwing some challenging hills, but I went into the zone and powered up them.  Then there would be the descent and some flowing curves. I was killing it, and I could hear Zan right behind me, which kept me motivated to go faster.

Finally the trail opened up again and I pulled to one side of a double track section, and a guy I didn’t know whooshed past, yelling “Wow, you’re in really good shape!” as he went by.

Oh crap! All that time I thought it was Zan! “I thought you were my friend!” I yelled as he pedaled away.  It wasn’t long before the real Zan came pedaling up. She had heard him coming in pretty hot and pulled over right away. It’s kind of hard to look over your shoulder on the trail. It’s a good way to run into a tree. No harm done and we continued on our way.

All too soon, we could see the dam and the road going over it that meant our perfect trail was near it’s end. A short pavement stint took as back to the parking lot where we sat on a picnic bench and ate snacks. Zan introduced me to something called Primal Strips that look and taste like jerky but are vegan. You can pick gluten free or ones made without soy. They were pretty tasty and I couldn’t wait to try them out on Jess.

Two fishermen wandered over looking every inch the part except for one guy with an incongruous Livestrong bracelet. He inquired whether we had ridden around the lake, the distance and how long it took. “That’s longer than I need to ride,” was his conclusion. He saw us struggling to open up our Primal strips and kindly offered up his friend’s pocket knife, which he promised hadn’t been used on any fish. Since the knife was about 2 inches long, I figured he was telling the truth.

He was inspired to tell us about his son, who did a triathlon nearby and how he talked his girlfriend—who had never run before in her life—into doing a half-ironman. “It was a big race—they had real Ironmen from Hawaii and everything.”

Zan was quiet, and by the greatest effort of will, I refrained from bragging for her about her Ironman status. She had just showed me her new tattoo of her Ironman Canada number before we started the ride. But Zan’s not one for showing off, so I kept my mouth shut.

“Did she break up with him?” I asked the fisherman, about the girlfriend. Jess wasn’t happy with me for taking her on a 65 mile ride of all hills in the coast range. I could just imagine the reaction of someone who had never run trying to do a triathlon with little no training.

He laughed. “Well, things were tense for a while and I don’t think there was a lot of lovin’ going on.” He didn’t quite have an accent, but he drawled in a way particular to people who’s lives are slower-paced than city dwellers.

We we quiet then, going back to our respective enjoyment of what would turn out to be one of the last gorgeous days of fall.

On the drive back, we hit the inevitable traffic snarl on Hwy 26, and Zan had the brilliant idea of getting of at Sylvan and taking Skyline to Germantown Rd and over the St John’s bridge. It’s a road she’s ridden dozens of times, but had never driven. After we’d passed a few cyclist on the narrow road with more than it’s share of blind corners, she wondered aloud how they ever survived riding up there!

Of course we hit another parking lot on the road as we got to the bottom of Germantown, but it didn’t take too long to inch our way onto the bridge entrance. Zan pulled over to let a tailgating guy in an 80’s red Prelude pass by before he smashed up the bikes on the rear rack.

The whole day made me simultaneously glad I’d managed at least one MTB ride and kicking myself for not somehow squeezing in more of them over the summer. I’ll be holding onto the memory of smooth flowing trail under a bright blue sky to see me through a long winter of gray.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Road Map to Distraction

...because knowing is half the battle.

1. OK, I'm getting to work. See me study web site design. Now where was that tutorial I was going to check out?  Hmm, I will search for it.

2. Ah, here it is! But what's this? Looks interesting. I should go check it out.

3. (30 min later...) wow, this site is full of great stuff. So helpful and interesting. I think I'll check out the examples of good design next.

4. (Clicks on example page). Wow, this guy not only has a good site, he is hysterical and totally twisted. Better sign up for the RSS feed so I can read more later.

5. (RSS sign up takes me to Bloglines) OK, that's done. Oh look, Fat Cyclist has a new post. (Click)

6. Fatty: "Be sure to take a look at my sister’s blog post today. In one day, she’s went from $0 to $755 for her LiveStrong Challenge." I hate cancer. (Click).

7. Wow, that's so cool. Maybe I should sign up for a Livestrong ride and raise some money...

8. What was I doing?

And so on...

The problem with working 'on the web' is you have to be on the web to do it.  Must work on Save vs OHLOOKBRIGHTSHINYINTERNETOBJECT!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Do You Want Apps With That?

In marketing parlance, I'm what's known as a laggard. I don't rush out to buy the next big thing as soon as it hits the market.  Especially when it comes to technology. It's a given that it's going to be over priced (known as market skimming) and full of bugs.  So I wait, sometimes years, and let the dust settle.  Back when I was still a PC owner, I went straight from Windows98 to XP if that gives you any idea.

When Apple came out with Intel Macs, I went into interview mode and talked to everyone I saw in coffee shops. The honeymoon lasted about five weeks, and then the bugs started to crawl out into the open. I waited about a year, and then I caught the tail end of the caboose and upgraded, mostly so I could have my Mac and eat Windows too.  In fact, I'm typing this in Windows right now.

For the past two years, I've managed to maintain a comfortable indifference to the iPhone. I wasn't a hater (except of AT&T), but I wasn't pining for it either.  In fact, I've been remarkably anti smart phone since they came into wide spread use.  I never succumbed to the lure of the 'Crackberry' because I never felt the lure. As a jobless student, and before that a typical paycheck to paycheck American, I couldn't really justify it. Plus, I didn't like the idea of having so much stuff in one place.

I like my phone to work as a phone thankyouverymuch, a fact I confirmed after a brief stint with Verizon's TV phone, which may have let me watch ER, but couldn't allow me to understand someone on the other end of the phone line.  If my phone gets lost or damaged, I still have my camera and my iPod because they're separate devices, which do what they do quite well. As technologies get smaller, creators get more and more mashup fever, which I don't think is necessarily a good thing.

But, a few weeks ago, Jess noted that my contract expire date is coming up in a few months and started casually mentioning the iPhone.  As the weeks went by, the hints become more like hammers: "If you had an iPhone, you wouldn't need to print those directions." I promised her that I would add 'research iPhone' to my growing spring break to-do list.

Financially, I was surprised to find that the monthly cost wouldn't be much more than we're paying now--thanks to Jess's discount through work and our paltry need of minutes (aren't phones really just for texting now?). We both started asking everyone we saw with iPhones how they liked them.  The answers were mostly the same: people are by and large completely pwned by their new best friends.

"Do you like your iPhone?" I asked a classmate last week.

"Yes and no."

"What's the no part?" I asked.

"I'm addicted to it."

Other answers are variations on the theme.

"Does it drop calls?"

"Yes. But I LOVE it."

People admit to being antisocial. They no longer need books in waiting rooms. They hate AT&T but they can't live without the iPhone.

Finally, on a sunny day when we were riding bikes around town, we went to the Apple store and kicked the tires a bit, sent each other text messages, made calls and pestered the sales person with questions. What I heard about the upcoming software upgrade made me feel better. The whole 'not sending pictures with text messages' thing seems so very basic, and it's finally going to be fixed.  Not having that feature was one of the main things that helped me keep my ' yeah, I don't really need that' cool.

The next night, Jess found a movie of the March presentation from Apple about the new 3.0 features and we sat up watching way past our bed time, riveted by all the new possibilities and Apps.  A geek from Harvard with strong music foo demonstrated his Leaf Trombone app, playing a duet of Phantom of the Opera with his colleague by blowing into the microphone and sliding their fingers up and down the screen.

About the only thing they didn't show was a hologram of Princess Leia, begging Obi-Wan to help her. Maybe next year, and you know the light saber app won't be far behind.

So now I've gone from my carefully cultivated calm indifference, to gotta-have-it-now impatience. As of this writing, I have 88 days left on my Verizon contract.  Jess is already free and clear, and threatening to phone divorce me, so she won't have to wait. 

I actually looked at the Verizon web site to see what the penalty would be for breaking my contract--and then reminded myself that I really should wait for the new version of the phone to come out. It's not really early adoption if it's the third version of the phone, right?

Since the test drive, I've reconciled the fact that I'm about to sell my soul to the devil for at least two years.  We've heard rumors that Apple might one day escape from the clutches of AT&T, but we're not willing to wait.  I'll miss my nice clear calls (the few that I made anyway) on Verizon, but I'll console myself by viewing bike routes for camping trips with GPS maps and playing bluetooth connected backgammon with strangers on the train.

Oh, Jess and I said we'd look into comparable smart phones of the fruitier variety, but we never did. The writing is on the wall, and I decided that if I'm going to drink the Kool-Aid, I'm not going to complain about the after taste. 

When the time comes, I'll sound a hearty little "Baaaaaaaaah!" as I sign on the dotted line, and then we'll go home and hang photos on our walls using the iPhone to make sure they're level--cause there's an App for that.