Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Made in U.S.A.? Hell, It's Made Right Over There

It's a Bike!

Drew has been like an expectant father ever since he ordered himself a custom racing bike from Signal Cycles, the newest bike builders in Portland (add "Capital of Custom Bike Shops" to Portland's other titles, next to "Capital of Microbrews", "Capital of West Coast Bohemians", and "Land of Powell's City of Books").

Matt and Nate with their creation, Number 10 of the Signal Cycles custom line, a steel racing bike built to handle firefighter-sized racers.

And now it has arrived. Number ten off the non-assembly line, with a stamp to prove it. It really is nice. For a bike. And it seems to make him happy. No. Delirious.

So he took it out to PIR last night and won. It must work.

Drew Will Need to See This

The rest of you can talk amongst yourselves. A 100-year-old pair of Levis were found in Randsburg recently.

That is all.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

In Which a Night of Fat-Cattery Goes to My Head

So the Oregon Zoo in Portland, of which I am a loyal member (being that they have all the penguins) has summer concerts on their rather shallow and grassy amphitheater.

Since I am a member, they invite me to pay a lot of extra money for tickets in order that I may be treated like a VIP - they reserve a blanket for us in the best seating area, they reserve a primo parking spot, they serve us dinner and dessert, and then give us keepsake wine and beer glasses.

Both Drew and I have a problem with the line-up-early-and-dash festival seating at grassy amphitheater concerts. You try to get there early only to find out that the truly committed have been there since breakfast, then wait in line to get in, then hurry to the seating area, lay your blanket down on a spot of ground halfway to the concession stands, surrounded by fellow blanket squatters, and then, halfway through the opening act, somebody claims the inch of space between your blanket and the one directly in front of you and sits on your feet.

We thought that this VIP thing sounded like the way to attend an amphitheater concert without the thought of blunt force violence overwhelming the enjoyment of the music, so we splurged for the extra VIP treatment with our Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings tickets.

The VIP seating area is roped off, and the VIP blankets are neatly laid out so that every VIP has a nice bit of real estate to call their own. All very orderly and Republican. A nice fellow took our order and brought us typically awful zoo food. But still, we didn't have to lift a finger to purchase the awful zoo food. The couple next to us were seasoned VIPs and griped about the time it took for them to be served. I'll have to work on that.

This is the walkway in front of our blanket, and the stage not too far away.

Our blankets were situated right in front of a paved walkway that was (a) annoying, as it was a heavily used walkway, and (b) good, because the old security fellow kept it clear of would-be loiterers and squatters.

Keen makes a stylish wine glass holder that doubles as a shoe.

Once the concert got going, our seats were way too close to be able to see the stage over the dancing crowd, so we were (if you are Drew) forced (or, if you are me) liberated to (Drew again) stand (or, me again) dance all night. Luckily the dance floor was about a foot and a half below us, which allowed the shorter of us to dance AND see the stage. Brilliant.

And may I note here that if you have heard Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings' latest CD, you have heard about 50% of the goodness that is in store for the live audience. She is a pistol. What a voice. What a stage personality. I am pretty sure that when she left the stage, she was spent. She left it all out there. Heartily recommended.

After a while, as at all concerts, the dancers and forward-pushers got the upper hand of the elderly security squad, and our roped-off VIP section was occasionally breached. However, as I had paid so much for these tickets, I (yes, I) either turned around and stared at them, as if memorizing their faces for a later line-up of suspected trespassers, until they picked up their bags and daughter and left (you're welcome, guys in the second VIP row), or yelled at the ones in front of me until they moved on. No, really. I did.

Wow. A little privilege turns me right into a law-and-order Repub...Right wi...no... I can't say it. Meany.

I have since deflated back into my regular skin, and have left whatever servitude-induced assholery I adopted for the night behind in the roped-off VIP section.

It just goes to show you. A little privilege can change your outlook. If you are thoughtful and moral, it will open it wider. If you have a small, stingy heart, or just have a little too much Chardonnay, it may make it smaller, darker, and meaner.

I swear, next time I'll be a nicer VIP.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Shaken to the Core

Click to view in a size big enough for Drew to read without his glasses.

To the core, I tell you, by a scurrilous bit of claptrap on another otherwise righteous blog, by a commenter denying Berkeley Breathed the proper status of National Treasure, up there with Garry Trudeau, William Shatner, and The Mall of America.

Bloom County saw me through college, the Desperately Poor Years, the Reagan Administration Years (which coincidentally were the same years), and each bump in the psyche since then. For the past 25 or so years, if I was hitting a low patch, serotonin-wise, then you would find me with my nose in one of my Bloom County anthologies. I credit them with saving me thousands in mood-stabilizing medication.

The above-referenced slur sent me back to my Bloom County stash this week to find and scan my favorite strip of all time.

It's an eerily accurate portrait of me and my chauffeur, life partner and protector, Captain Drew. In our household, the phrase "a woman of rare beauty and delicate constitution" is praise reserved for only the most deserving.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pictures from the AVC - Clearance Priced

Ooh, pretty shadows.

The legendary 43 degree banking of Alpenrose Velodrome.

The legendary coach Des Dickie setting Dean on the right trajectory.

Keeping an eye on the competition's thigh size.

Hugging the whole world.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Notes from the Velodrome

Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge 2008


I have learned not to approach the keirin unmedicated. Case In Point.

The above link is to a crash in the heat directly before Dean's heat.

Thus properly diazepated, I was able to endure the qualifying rounds, which Dean easily controlled, and even the crushing irony of the final in which he cruised to victory except for that bastard Steven Beardsley taking advantage of his final let-up in the home stretch to sneak around for the win.

Dean leading Keyln Akuna to the final lap of the Olympic Sprint.

Later in the day, Dean and his Colorado Springs posse joined forces for a sloppy but effective enough win in the Olympic Sprint (a sort of relay on wheels).

I'm sure Aaron Kacala understands by now that being on the podium with Dean often means being used as his ride down off the steps.


Sunday is sprint day. I committed to facing the day without pharmacological assistance, which lasted until the third round when I accepted a tall glass of banned sauvingon blanc with shaky hands.

As I write this, it is lunch break. After lunch, Dean competes in the final heats of the sprints. The least he can do now is fourth, which he would accept as a crushing defeat.

On Sunday after two days of announcing tongue twisting names from half a dozen countries and trying to keep the dullest 100-lap slog sounding entertaining, odd things can come out of the announcers' booth, like, "that's a big ask..." and, "something like thighs burning..."

The last event before the break was a ten-mile race, in which the bastard Steven Beardsley came in second. We happened to be sitting right behind the bastard Steven Beardsley's mom, who was so happy. Just goes to show. Even Steven Beardsley has a mom. (Actually Steven is a lovely young fellow, about the same age as Dean, with apple cheeks and tousled hair, not cut in a Serbo-hawk like some, less emotionally mature, twenty-three year-olds.)

Later Sunday

Another ugly, crunching crash in the semi-final sprint heat directly before Dean's heat. Unfortunately, the victim of said crash was unable to continue due to the fact that the crash had aggravated a newly repaired hip that had been broken in a keirin some time ago. A pity, since he was the one Dean wanted to race the most - a highly decorated bit of legend in track circles.

I have a moment of panic, but I compose myself for the final sprint, which Dean seems to win without having to pull out any wacky voodoo moves.

Dean staying ahead of Giovanni Rey in the final sprint.

The announcers are ecstatic to see Dean finally step on the top step of the sprint podium after so many years of being the pipsqueak upstart, eclipsed from his perch on the lower step by the winner's massive man-thighs.

Dean and his thighs atop the sprinter's podium at last, alongside Giovanni Rey and training partner (and winner of Most Awesome Uniform Design) Keyln Akuna

I am happy for him, and consider him the most excellent individual person yet assembled with earthly DNA.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Camping! Dirty!

Nature, wilderness, quietude, we'll get to all of that in a moment, but first, this:

Yesterday I peed standing up.

Now back to the camping report:


Drew's favorite place to camp and hunt when we lived in Bend was Black Crater, where there was a little lake so secluded that you had to drive really lousy excuses for "roads" in your least favorite junker and then hike another mile to reach. This, Drew's Happy Place, was our destination this weekend.
Drew in his Happy Place. Such as it is.

Of course, we knew that there had been a forest fire two years ago, foreshadowingly called The Black Crater Fire, but in Drew's rosy-tinged world, he saw the map of fire destruction as seeming to have miraculously saved Black Crater itself and its tiny, pristine, and lonely lake.

As you may have guessed, the lake is still tiny and lonely, and pristine in a way, that is, pristine of all animal life save bugs, a few confused frogs, and some trout possibly dropped by air tanker during the fire.

At least the lake is still pretty...

And it's so quiet. In the morning, there was no sound at all. No sound. Imagine.

Life is showing signs of revival, but it's early still. The green trees are small, but getting lots of sunshine through the dead branches looming above. The fish are jumping. The frogs are chirping. And there is one pair of woodpeckers (I think they're dating) having a field day in the dead wood.

This is your bark. This is your bark under intense heat.

The actual camping experience went mostly well. We were (understandably) the only people there - probably the only people within a five-mile radius. We could have walked around completely nude (but that would have required much too much bug spray). The quiet was shocking and soothing and habit forming. I could have used some grass to lounge on. There was mostly just dust and dirt, so we stood and balanced on logs a lot.

The moral of the equipment story: the expensive stuff performed well, the cheap stuff performed (with one exception) on a par with their price. The winners:

  • My super-technical backpack with secret compartments I'm still discovering;
  • Our new space-shuttle Jetboil cooking equipment (faster than a microwave at boiling water, we swear);
  • My sleeping pad (which is pink, because it's totally girls-only);
  • Our two-person tent with stash shelves and vent action (the one cheap thing that made the winner list);
  • The French press; and
  • The beef stroganoff-in-a-bag from Mountain House (it's like real food!).
The losers:

  • Drew's cheap sleeping pad;
  • Drew's new air pillow; and
  • the Kung Pao chicken-in-a-bag from Backpacker's Pantry (not sure what it is, but we doubt if it's made out of food).

On the List of Things to Bring Next Time:
  • More beef stroganoff;
  • A hammock;
  • Wet wipes;
  • Garbage bags; and
  • More underwear.
We decided that despite the road sitch and the dead tree issue, we should come back every year to watch how the place comes back from charcoal to life again.

And, finally, the latest entry into our collection of butt-shaped objects: the butt-shaped tree.

I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Camping! Yay!

Okay, okay, okay, okay, so I got my new fluffy mummy bag that weighs about as much as a Skittle, a pillow that squishes down to the size of a used Kleenex, an overpriced stove system that I believe features parts from a space shuttle, a tiny lamp called a Glorb which shoots laser beams, geek-wear head lamps, something called a Sani-Fem F.U.D. (I know!), and freeze-dried kung pao chicken in a bag.

I think we're ready to venture out-of-doors.

Since I haven't camped sans vehicles since I was a Girl Scout, we are starting with a short hike and an overnight stay to test out all our hiking-camping equipment.

I've soured on camping over the past 20 years, not because I disliked marshmallows or campfires, but that I frown on staying in campgrounds that end up feeling more like large apartment complexes without walls, with all the other project dwellers feeling just as comfortable to let their kids hang out in your no-walled apartment as in their own, to play loud, lousy music, yell at the top of their lungs, and find a short-cut to the one smelly bathroom through your living room.

The idea of hiking in to a much more out-of-the-way campground, inaccessible to vehicles, is so brilliant, I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner.

Except maybe the whole Sani-Fem F.U.D. thing. But if that thing works out and my squatting days are truly over, this may be a the best thing since hotels.

Stay tuned for important updates.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

No Oprah for Me Today

It could have been a terrorist attack, but I think it was just a blown transformer thingy out on 36th Ave.

It was all OMG for a moment there this morning - the lights went out followed by a big crunky-sounding bang, and then another. Louder and less glassy and tire-screechy than a car accident would be, but not as clearly explosive as an explosion would be - like an explosion in a metal box. Times two.

The dogs, outside sniffing after breakfast, were trying to fend off the inevitable giant robot bear attack by barking in their freaked-out voices, which, I hate to tell them, would never scare off a giant robot bear.

I went out to investigate, and could see nothing but our neighbor doing the same thing.

She went in to call 911 (whatever), and I went in to round up the dogs and take a stroll over towards 36th Avenue.

We found a fire engine, a cherry picker, a flopping-down power line, and one dude trying to direct traffic.

Case closed. Luckily, Oprah was not in my plans today, but neither was rotting freezer food, so here's hoping for a quick fix.

I'll quit using up my Raspberry power now, or I'll have to go drive it around.

Hey, wouldn't it be great to have a cell phone you could power like those wind-up flashlights? Get on it, geniuses!

Update: The power outage lasted about three hours, so my ice cream sandwiches should be safe, if I had any. Which I don't. I'll be at the store. In the frozen foods aisle.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Yes, I Realize I've Been Back from the Beach for Awhile Now

But I have had nothing to say, and I can guess that you don't need me posting more drivelly drivel than usual.

Today I made a $374 bet.

I bet AT&T that my Raspberry device will no longer take a picture because of the device's bad quality. They are betting that I must have dropped it from a great height, causing unseen outward damage, but some subtle user-based trauma that they can blame on me.

Here's how the bet works:

  1. They send me a new phone.
  2. I send mine back to them.
  3. They inspect my old phone for people-caused damage. If they find any, they charge me $374 for the phone ($275 more then I paid for it).
  4. No, they will not send my old one back to me and forget the whole thing.
  5. I wait for their honest judgment.
  6. If I'm cleared of wrongdoing, they let me have the new phone and don't charge me for being bad.
Man, I hope the few bumpy little wacks it has taken have not done anything disastrous to its innards. Because I took their bet.