Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Caring for the Land and Serving People IV

I'm at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest for a meeting of scientists from 3 research stations and land managers from several regions of the Forest Service. The purpose of the meeting is to put together a video short course about climate change and how it might affect forests across the western US. The HJ Andrews is a beautiful place with a great meeting facility. The meeting room has windows (!) and when breaks come around I can walk outside and be in old growth forest in a couple minutes.

It's interesting to listen to the talks given at this oasis in the woods. Lots of top notch science. Science that has been going on for a quarter-century sort of sub rosa. Sort of because the world's scientific community knew about it, but it wasn't de rigueur for the government.

Meetings have changed a lot in those 25 years. There's no sound of slides dropping into a Carousel projector. Slides now fly into the screen from the left, dissolve into checkerboards, float in spirals, and do all sorts of other weird things. Half the people today had laptops on the table (Are they really tabletops? Mine is too hot to hold on my lap), taking notes, revising talks, checking emails, surfing the web. The whole Experimental Forest compound is bathed in wireless internet, even though there is no cell phone service. The speakers are recorded with a digital camera directly to a computer. The talks recorded today will be seen around the world tomorrow.

I guess change is global and real.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Virtual Vacation: Urban Hiking

We aren't quite sure where we are in the whole timetable of the virtual vacation, but it must still be on and I'll explain why later on. We received our copy of the book Walk There!, issued by Portland Transport. It's a nifty little compilation of walks around the Metro area. About noon, we took off on a 4.7 mile jaunt from the Kenton Neighborhood, home of the really big Paul Bunyon, down the Columbia Slough, and back along a major thoroughfare.

The walk down the slough starts by crossing an industrial area on an old viaduct, still in use, but one of those pieces of American infrastructure that's Third-World bound. Heading west along the slough, a backwater of the Columbia River, we passed the Portland International Raceway where the Mazda MX-5 race was about to begin. We were walking along when the strains of O Canada drifted to our ears! It must still be the Virtual Vacation if we are hearing the anthem of our friends' nation and our beloved neighbor to the north! Hmm, hmm, hmm, O Canada we stand on guard for thee, protégera nos foyers et nos droits!

Then the race started and the book's recommendation to listen for the sounds of song birds and the sights of eagles and osprey seemed moot--or is that mute? We did spy a heron and we got to watch a bit of the race. There was a red car that was way back by the end of the 3rd lap--I hope he quite and saved both the fuel and the C-oh-two emissions.

We then passed by some other urban hikers paying a round of golf on what must be either the raceway golf course or the waste treatment golf course as it was right next to the waste water treatment plant. It certainly was green!

We crossed back over the slough, passed a canoe launch that has a very cool etching of tide tables in the steps so that you won't get stranded in the shallow water (if you pay attention). The trail provided great views of both the settling ponds and the treatment facility itself, complete with flaring methane gas from the process. We didn't see any wildlife in this phase of the hike although we had our eyes peeled for Winnie the Poo...

After about 1.5 miles of walking along a pretty noisy main road, we arrived at Kenton Park and back to our starting place. We passed Pacific Hide & Fur Depot, not a business you see everyday, although maybe another sign that we are still on Virtual Vacation with our Canadian friends...

All-in-all, a nice walk, plenty of exercise, no Golden Retrievers, and no overly padded and helmeted kids on all manners of wheeled transport.

Virtual Vacation: City Chickens, or Tour de Coops, 2008

Nancy and I participated in the 2008 Tour de Coops yesterday, a very fun walking, biking, and/or driving tour of selected chicken coops of Portland. The city allows each household to keep up to three chickens (no roosters) in a suitable coop. The Tour visits only a small number of people who keep hens; it's a surprisingly popular (or is that poop-ular) activity about town.

Participants were able to ask the details of coop construction, hen management and productivity, and the pros and cons of neighborhood fowl. Quite a number of people on the Tour seemed to have chickens of their own and were comparing notes on bedding, breeds, and brooding as well as on free-ranging versus tractoring versus traditional open runs. In short, all the information you ever wanted about urban chicken keeping was available for the $5 price of admission and a few hours on a Saturday.

A cable TV crew was covering the tour for future broadcast. Details are at
When you see the ending of the shoot, remember that it took Jill and the crew about 10 takes to get 10 seconds of the goodbye. Then it was a wrap and away they went...

Nancy and I seem to have to name things in order to remember them. In Venezia, we had our own names for the different Campi. In Portland, we named the houses we looked at--Bus Street House, Art House, Oil Tank House. So yesterday we had the Engineer Coop, The Fussy Coop, The Bike Coop (the guy was wearing some bike clothes), Obama Coop, the Realist Coop. Pictured here are our rationales: Engineer--complete coop specs, Fussy--paint job and foo-foo, Obama--speaks for itself, Realist--meat cleaver holding up a window lest those hens forget their fate should they stop laying...

Fussy Coop lady claimed you could teach chickens tricks and she had a picture of some of hers as chicks climbing on her cat and dog.

I found out that it's pretty damned hard to take pictures of hens through poultry wire with the lens on autofocus--duh. Turned that off and had better success.

Did you ever eat City Chicken? We did as kids in Cleveland. It was fashioned, in our case, from cubes of fatty pork (probably trimmings from shoulders or something) that were stuck on a wooden stick and were supposed to be reminiscent of a chicken leg. Turns out that it's a term pretty much restricted to western Pennsylvania, out to the west as far as Michigan. Thinking about chickens in the city brought back the memory of:
"What's for dinner Mom?"
"City Chicken, boys."
"Oh" (we weren't allowed to say yuk or anything like that when it came to whatever my mother was going to put in front of us).
"Your father likes it..."

Anyway, if you've got a hankering for City Chicken, check out this web site: City Chicken

Of course, when you come down to it, the chickens are likely less excited about being in the city than we are. Emails from their country cousins probably have them clucking "don't fence me in..."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Virtual Vacation: Local Food III

I'm back in Portland today and figured I'd better brag about the best local food going: Chuck Hinton's Cannon Rib Express. You find varying reviews of this BBQ if you Google them and I break the commentators down into two groups: those that have had, and enjoy, good BBQ, and those that haven't and/or don't. You just can't do better as far as I'm concerned--the ribs and chicken slow cooked over mesquite at the steel shack on NE 33rd Avenue melt in your mouth. The side dishes are small but good. He throws in a pile of white bread for good measure. The hot BBQ sauce is spicy, so if you aren't sure, get the mild with hot on the side--he'll give you plenty. The smell permeates the area and I'm sure it ups the sales at New Season's Market that shares a parking lot. People walk into New Season's, mouths watering, and walk out with carts full of food. Even vegans and vegetarians lift their noses into the air and sniff.

One of the best thing about Chuck's is it also shares a parking lot with Walgreen Drugs...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Virtual Vacation: Local Food II

Or maybe this post should be called Local Food Place as there are no pictures of actual food--I forgot to snap the pizzas, which by the way, were very photogenic. I guess you will have to trust me. Yes, they looked better than they tasted. I would put them somewhere in the Portland range, not as good as Hot Lips, maybe as good as Good Neighbor. Not as good as Oregon's Best--New York Richie's in Island City and Enterprise, but definitely pizza, as opposed to anything called pizza in Corvallis. Anyway, here are some low light motion shots in the restaurant, Pizzeria Paradiso.

They have a quote on their web page from The Washingtonian, whatever that is, saying that the pizza was better than any in Naples. I doubt it. Maybe Naples, Florida, but I doubt that too. It was not as good as Pizza al Volo in Campo Santa Margarita, Venice. The ceiling, pictured to the left, was painted in a very cool fashion.

However, this guy was crawling towards the restaurant!

Oh, what's this Virtual Vacation thing? For the past few years, we have vacationed with our friends Richard and Ronna from near Ottawa, Ontario--that's in Canada. They've come here a couple times and we've joined them in Quebec. Well, this year we couldn't make it work for a variety of reasons, so we decided to do a Virtual Vacation and post our exploits on our blogs. We are supposed to be doing wacky things around home, and we will, but Ronna called a start to the vacation and I happened to be off on a trip to DC. Check out the activities at our blog sites--Ronna, Nancy, and Richard are each posting away.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Virtual Vacation: Local Food

Ronna started this thread. I'm in Our Nation's Capital (or Their Nation's Capital, for friends in other countries) so it's not really local food. Chances are, Chuck Hinton's BBQ will hit this page before long. However, be that as it may, here's some "local food" I've consumed lately.

My daughter, Molly, and I went to Zola the other night. Here's her "Zoljito"--their version of a Mojito--along with a glazed chicken with asparagus on a pastry shell filled with caramelized onion custard or something. I had a baked black cod with fennel spatzle and oranges. A side of roasted potatoes with cherry tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese finished us off.

Very nice restaurant, right next to the International Spy Museum, nice design, good wines, you know, just your average local food...

On the other hand, the building I've been working in, the faceless structure tucked away in Rosslyn next to the Newseum (featured in this blog the other day), has a "buffet" in the basement. "Buffets" are very popular here in Our/Their Nation's Capital so people can get something to eat quickly. I've been "enjoying" the "buffet" all this week. Here's todays before and after shots.

Before and After shots...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Life in Third World America II

OK, so on Monday I saw, coming out of a vehicle elevator at 1222 22nd St. NW, a shiny black 12 passenger van with tinted windows and a government license plate. The building is adjoined on the north by the National Osteoporosis Foundation at 1232 and to the south by a building that has construction fencing around it advertising a luxurious new boutique hotel. It's been surrounded by that fence for over a year, with no construction in sight. The weeds are growing along the sidewalk and the roof is covered with, wait, an array of radio antennae! What every luxury hotel needs!

So, Googling away, lo and behold, you can easily find out that 1222 is listed as the White House Parking Garage. Gee, you'd think with all that land they could have a garage right there at the White House--wait, they probably converted the underground garage to a bunker for Dick. Aside: can you imagine the ad? Large colonial; prime location; 25 bedrooms, lots of bathrooms; great kitchen with MARBLE!; partially furnished; room for a home office, security system, NO OFF STREET PARKING. Call Laura (Let Me Make Your Home!) at 202-456-1414 ext. W or text her at Sorry, no Blacks or Muslims...

Two more observations. Want to bet the CIA has their hardhats on in that "boutique hotel"? And, ironically, the National Osteoporosis Foundation has a lot of cracked concrete in front of it. Just a guess, but I'm thinking not enough calcium in the mix...

Encore! Encore!

For your listening pleasure, more of 10 Trombones...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

10 Trombones, 2 Drums, 1 Baritone, 1 Sousaphone, and a Cymbals

I came out of the Metro station at Dupont Circle South after dinner with Molly at a great restaurant called Zola. About 1/4 of the way up the escalator, the sound of a dixieland brass band started to penetrate the tube to the tube. By 1/2, people on the escalator were starting to sway and crane their necks to look to the top. At 3/4, the music was loud and clear. At the top, a crowd of around a hundred was arrayed around 10 Trombones, 2 Drums, 1 Baritone, 1 Sousaphone, and a Cymbals--an all black, all-but-one-male, band on the street. A drum case lay in front of them to take in the take. It's not often you hear a band like this on the street outside New Orleans. Maybe they fled New Orleans, Katrina Refugees. It's not often you hear a band where the Sousaphone is in the lead--at least for the first 15 minutes until a couple trombones challenge for the spot. It's not often you see the lead trombone go to the crowd and pull people in to dance, following the lead of a small tow-headed 2 year-old who couldn't keep his feet still. It's not often you hear the crowd roar at the end of the song. It's not often you see the 5s, 10s, and 20s pour into the drum case for a band on the street in Washington, DC. It's the most uplifting thing I've seen in a city that's supposed to lift the hearts of all Americans. Not the marble, not the artifacts, not We The People, but we the people, 10 Trombones, 2 Drums, 1 Baritone, 1 Sousaphone, and a Cymbals.

Metro in Motion

I enjoy taking pictures in the dimly lit Metro stations in Washington, DC. The trains seem to careen in to the stations, they screech to a halt, disgorge passengers, swallow a new load, and off they go..."Orange Line to Vienna..." "Blue Line train to Largo...: "Next stop, Metro Center..."

To me it sums up the difference between the frenetic east and the laid back west. You can often beat the Max to the next stop in downtown Portland on foot. In DC, the blast of air coming out of the tube in advance of the hurtling trains ventilates the platform.

Meanwhile, I know all readers from true eastern cities are saying Washington and frenetic don't belong in the same sentence without a "not".

Life in Third World America

I'm in Washington, DC this week helping out in our Washington Office and enjoying the 90+/90+ temperatures and humidities. Here's a picture of my shirtsleeve when I arrived at work, dripping, this morning. Out my cube's window I have a view of the former Newseum building, one of those buildings that was built for a reason (the history of news), in the wrong place (Rosslyn, Virginia, across the river from almost all the major sites and museums of DC), and doesn't lend itself, in form or function, to anything else.

One can easily understand why Congress is looking forward to their summer recess. But the rest of the city stays around and suffers through the summer. I have to say, after a thunderstorm today and a hot afternoon, it did cool off a bit to be less-than-sultry tonite, but then I retreat to my air conditioned hotel, not to a small apartment in a crowded part of town where it is like still sultry.

I've noticed that the infrastructure in DC doesn't get the same sort of attention that many Congressional districts might get. Bridges to nowhere may get built, but almost every Metro station has one or more escalators out of service. No one is repairing them--there are just piles of parts stacked up. Pavements are broken, streets are unkempt, sidewalk patches are made with asphalt and it's not even rolled flat and compacted. Shoring at construction sites is wood with ladders that look like they are made from pallets.

There are lots of black SUVs and vans driving around at high speed--many have government plates--our government. That seems sort of Third World to me. Tin dictators and their minions, zooming about.

The town is full of tourists. I suspect most don't pay attention--they go to the museums, hang out at the Embassy Suites where I am, mowing through breakfast and the "hors d'oeuvres" (potato chips, tortilla chips, cheese whiz, and jalapeños--hope they aren't fresh...), and then head on home after seeing the seat of government and the decaying city around it.