Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Beautiful Evening in Portland: Sights and Sounds of Portland as the Holiday Season Begins

We eschewed shopping, as usual, on the day after Thanksgiving, but we did venture into town to see Man on Wire, a wonderful movie (it gets 100% on Rotten Tomatoes!) about the caper involved in Philippe Petit's astounding wire-walking between the Twin Towers the day before Richard Nixon announced that he would resign the presidency.

The movie was showing at the Living Room Theater in Portland, a great movie house that shows no ads and delivers scrumptious food to your seat! Afterwards, we strolled down to Pioneer Courthouse Square to see the newly lit city Christmas tree. We also stopped by Knit Purl to see the Thanksgiving dinner made completely from felt.

A few other store windows and signs--Kenny and Zuke's Delicatessen, the Ace Hotel, and Powells, rounded out the walk.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Beautiful Afternoon in Portland: A Walk-About Along the Willamette With The New Oregonians

Saturday was a superb fall day in Portland. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and it was warm enough to wear shorts for a walk along the Willamette with our old friends from Ithaca, Anne and Ron, The New Oregonians. Anne has been living/visiting for a while now, staying with her sister and family where she has been Aunt Anne of the Basement, a moniker her nephew coined and we have adopted. Ron has just taken a position with Oregon State and they will be moving to Corvallis (he from Athens, Georgia and she from a) New Jersey, b) Georgia, and c) from the aforementioned basement) in mid-December. Aunt Anne of Sunview Drive, as we now call her, will continue her HR-biz career. Here's a shot of the Steel Bridge with the Broadway Bridge behind it (the red one) and the arch of the Fremont I-405 Bridge in the distance.

Yesterday the four of us headed out on a walk over the Morrison Bridge, down the Esplanade (where down=down stream), across the Steel Bridge, and back to our car. Along the way, we had to back-track on the Morrison, not my favorite activity as my vertigo was raging what with being a hundred feet off the water, with nothing over my head, and with a steel-grating bridge deck. But, Mt. Hood was out, as we say, and that made life better. Back-tracking was caused by the fact that we were on the wrong side of the bridge to get to the river front, so we dodged traffic while skipping to the other side.

The walk on the Esplanade is made very exciting by the presence of combat double strollers, speeding bicycles, skateboards, and roller blades, all moving at speeds beyond our perambulation, and few if any offering warning of passing.

Our timing was perfect from my point of view. First, the Coast Starlight was leaving Union Station so we saw it close up and personal as it crossed the Steel Bridge headed for Albany, Eugene, Klamath Falls, and points south in California before pulling into Los Angeles twenty-some hours after we saw it building speed on the south-bound UP track.

Then, the Global Endeavor, a bulk cargo ship, was taking on wheat from the elevators by the Steel Bridge, which had in turn, taken it on from Shaver and Tidewater grain barges on the Columbia, having taken it on from other river-side elevators, that had taken it on from trucks that had been filled by the combines of eastern Oregon and Washington. Wonder where it's headed and what sort of bread will be baked from it.

Then, for the trifecta, bells started ringing and a disembodied voice announced that the lower deck of the Steel Bridge would lifted to allow some boats to pass to the south. The Steel Bridge is a double-decked vertical lift draw bridge that can lift its decks independently. So, while the bottom railroad deck was lifted for some not-so-huge boats to pass, the upper deck--cars and the MAX--were in place, and traffic rumbled over.

Finally, it was a walk through the plaza in memory of interred Japanese-Americans from Oregon, a swing past Voodoo Doughnuts where Anne and Nancy were briefly tempted by the famous maple-bacon bar, and then home to a grilled salmon dinner. Keta salmon, as they call it at New Seasons. I guess they think more people will buy it if you call it keta versus what anglers call it--chum or dog salmon. It was tasty however, and left us all yelping for more...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Gray Morning in Portland: Managing Carbon Falling From the Sky

AN ADDENDUM: Thanks to information provided by two colleagues, I am now able to estimate, with almost no precision, that our three trees produced round about 327,000 leaves. Thanks to Henry and Barbara for providing quantitative backing for my attempted carbon budget.

Our yard has three large big-leaf maples (probably more than you want to know about Acer macrophyllum at that link, by the way). They provide a lot of great shade in the summer, and of course, readers of this page know that Sheryl Crow found refuge in those trees this past summer as she was recovering from injuries sustained in a pre-mature fledging from her nest. But now, it's fall. And "fall" has taken on new meaning. Seems like about a million leaves have come down. They have no respect for us. Yesterday, we spent hours raking and removing leaves from other shrubs. This morning, I looked out the window, and the camellias were covered again. Even as I raked and bagged today, they continued to fall, and not into existing piles, but right back where I had just raked.

I estimate that, from the number of bags and carts we've raked up, somewhere around 75 cubic feet of compacted leaves hit the ground. At, and I'm just guessing here, 15 pounds per cubic foot, that's a little over a half a ton of leaves. What's left in leaves this time of year is cellulose and lignin, with very little water and nutrients. So, that means about 50% of the dry weight is carbon, taken from the atmosphere last spring and summer, and soon to be released through decay. It's too bad that we don't have a place to compost those pesky yellow fellas as we could sure use more carbon in our garden soil. But, they will be composted at a nearby facility and reused next year.

As the trees leafed out last spring, I tried to imagine the yard in the fall. I'll have a better idea next year. Where's that chain saw...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Beautiful Afternoon in Portland: Riding the Bus, Going to the Movies, and Walking Across the Broadway Bridge

Last week, Nancy and I hopped the 9 Broadway to Portland into town, went to see Rachel Getting Married, and then strolled around the Pearl District before heading over the Broadway Bridge and a ride home on the 6 MLK to Jantzen Beach.

It was a great fall day--beautiful sunshine, warm, and very windy. We were hoping the wind would blow the leaves off of our big leaf maple trees and down the street, out of our yard. No such luck.

On the way over the bridge, I stopped to take some snaps of the Albers Mill Building grain elevators. Albers was the largest cereal and grain company on the West Coast. The building was built about 1911 and was restored in 1989. It's now office space. The paintings on the elevator have been redone and are a real landmark in Portland. A big thanks from me to the Wheat Marketing Center and H. Naito Corporation for keeping this beautiful reminder of Portland's prominence in grain exporting (#1 wheat exporter in the US and 4.5 million tons of grains total).

Portlland's Steel Bridge from the
Broadway Bridge

Hood River Sunrises

I spent the week in Hood River, Oregon, a beautiful spot at the confluence of th Hood, White Salmon, and the Columbia rivers.

Contrary to most of the meetings I blog about, this one was held in a meeting room that looked out over the Columbia, as did my room at the hotel. Now, I'm not saying that led to a particularly productive meeting what with the concentration factor diluted by the chance to watch river traffic of barges headed upstream for more wheat, trains on the far side of the river, a saw mill, and the bridge and its associated activities.

The first few days were beautiful fall ones, before rain started on Thursday. The sunrises were beautiful over the Columbia, looking still and serene, backed up behind the Bonneville Dam.

Kingfishers and herons kept an eye out for a little something to eat, and we could see salmon jumping in the river as they headed up stream after a couple years in the ocean, looking for where they started life to start some new ones and end their own.