Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Catching up post.

Oops. I published the end of May posts before I finished some posts that came at the end of May. Make sure you haven't missed the following:

Vancouver Lake Bike Ride, May 28.
Three sentence movie reviews: Hanna (a second viewing), May 29.
Early Morning Bike Ride, May 29.
Highlights from Dead Relatives Tour 2011, May 29.
Excepting vs. Accepting, May 29.
The picture-less and I'm giving up Catherine Creek post, May 30.

Poem for May: Entrance

You can read this month's post by clicking here. It's not mentioned on the site but this version is translated by Dana Gioia. Interestingly, there is a version translated by Edward Snow, which is quite different and not as lyrical to my mind.

My poems of late seem to consist of a sort of "make your own reality" theme. It's where I am, I guess.

Books read in May

So this wasn't a super exciting reading month, but in reviewing my reviews, I see that I didn't push Suite Fraincaise hard enough. That was a fabulous read and will remain foremost in my mind for a long time. I spent too much time finishing off the House at Riverton. Don't repeat my mistake.

Tales From Outer Suburbia
Shaun Tan
Read for sporadic book club.
I renewed this several times before I got around to reading it, and I only got around to reading it because someone had it on hold and I couldn't renew it any more. Then, of course, I read it in no time at all and thought it fabulous, and what the heck was I thinking, not reading it before this?

You've probably run across that weird kid growing up. Not the creepy weird one, or the socially awkward weird one, but the one who seems to be off in his or her own world. Maybe you talked once or twice to this weird kid and thought, "That person is a bit off, but damn, are they interesting." These stories remind me of a weird kid world. Everything was incredibly familiar and just a bit off and very enjoyable.

This Green House
Joshua Piven
By the man who brought us the Worst Case Scenario Survival Guide, you can now count on him to help green your home. This is chock full of plenty of projects ranging from easy to hard. Two of my favorite were retrofitting your toilet so you could flush with greywater, and how to make your very own washing machine. It involves a Rubbermaid container, a (new) toilet plunger, a drill to make a hole and your own muscles to get the clothing clean. It's genius! There were all sorts of fantastic gems in this book.

Poetry Daily
Diane Boller and other editors
One poem per day of the year (even including February 29) from the people who bring you a new poem every day.

The Man from Beijing
Henning Markell
On the one hand, I tore through this novel and put off daily chores so I could read more of it. So, super awesome. On the other hand, it was slow in parts, there were some pretty amazing coincidences that were never fully explained and I found the end dissatisfying. So, not so awesome. The books strengths are in its first two sections, after that its seemed like I was just reading to find out who dunnit.

The Complete Compost Gardening Guide
Pleasant & Martin
This book suffered greatly from the way in which the information was presented, which was too bad because there is a lot of good information in it. It seemed like every single page referred me to yet another page in the book. A few times of flipping from page 27 to page 188 to see what they are taking about seems acceptable, but after the first few times I think there's an indication that your book is suffering from layout issues, or perhaps your information needs to be categorized in a different way.

Suite Francaise
Irene Nemirovsky
Read for Kenton Library book club.
I just searched for a list of titles for good books to read and rejected more than five out of hand because they were set in World War II and I'm tired of reading about Nazis. If you think the WWII novel genre has become stale and overdone, and you don't read about Nazis either, I suggest that you make an exception for this book. Here's why:
  • The book was written by an author in 1942 and just recently published. Why is that? That's one of the things that makes the book great.
  • The writing in this book is superb, observing the flight of the citizens of Paris in the wake of the German invasion and also life in an occupied French village.
  • The book is unfinished, only the first two parts out of a planned five.
  • After you finish the book, you get to read notes the author made about the novel and also what happened to keep her from finishing the novel. That story, along with the unfinished story she wrote, provide a memorable one-two punch.

The 100 Thing Challenge
Dave Bruno
Dave Bruno and I got off on the wrong foot when, in his preface, he used his cat as an example of the disposable American lifestyle. It seemed that one of the family cats was killed by coyotes and when they brought home a new cat to replace the dead one, the other cat was angry for months. Bruno attributes this to the other cat realizing he was disposable, and easily replaceable.

I, however, chalk up this situation not as an indication that Americans have a over-consumption problem (we do) but to the fact that Dave Bruno is not a responsible pet owner. If he knew that coyotes were a problem (he did) and chose not to keep his cats out of harms way, I would say he is guilty of animal neglect and perhaps abuse. And I don't blame that other cat for being mad, as clearly he was living with a family that didn't care enough for him.

So, given that all that happened in the preface, it's amazing I made it through any of the rest of the book. But I did, and despite Bruno's lack of respect or responsibility for his cats, there were some good bits of knowledge to glean from this short book. He does a great job connecting things he had acquired with the fantasy future he developed in his head. Through his descriptions of the prowess of his pen collection (really!) and his master woodworker fantasy I realized that a goodly number of objects I've been holding on to are perhaps things that I hold on to because of who I want to be, not who I actually am, and will perhaps never be.

Also, for those of you thinking about reducing your possessions to only 100 things, but have no idea how that is even possible as just your bed has potentially 12 things (bed frame, box spring, mattress, mattress pad, fitted sheet, top sheet, blanket, comforter, pillow, pillow, pillowcase, pillowcase) know that Dave Bruno would count "bed" as one thing. In fact, "library" was one of his things, encompassing all his books. So he wasn't super rigid. And also, because he has a wife and children and, according to his rules, shared items didn't count, he didn't count any plates, cups, utensils, pots, pans etc. on his list.

The House at Riverton
Kate Morton
So this is the kind of book to read when you are on a very long vacation and feeling very lazy and not really caring if what you are reading is super interesting. It's got promise: good upstairs/downstairs scenes set in an English country house before WWI, a family tragedy, a very old narrator looking back across her life. But it is a very long book and the main character herself is a little slow to pick up on details like, for instance, who her father is.

It's not a bad book, but its one of those that isn't good enough to be truly enjoyable, and not bad enough to put down so I kept on grimly reading until the end.

The Ha-Ha
David Kirby
David Kirby's poems are much too long and narrative for me to ever memorize, but I greatly enjoyed them. I enjoyed them so much that I rationed myself to one poem read per day. His form is somewhat rambling, and he manages to cleverly hit the humor and the passing pathos in nearly every one.

Started, did not finish
Diana Gabaldon
I spent the early part of my adolescence reading the kind of romance novels depicting a very Fabio-like man on the cover. The romance part of it was a draw, of course, but I also liked the historical fiction settings.

Being a learned adult with access to historical fiction novels that don't have Fabio-like men on the cover, I sometimes worry if the historical fiction book I'm reading that includes romance does not, in fact, fall into the Fabio cover category. I had that fear with this book and it was partially that fear which caused me to discard it.

It was also slow to start. We spent an agonizingly long time establishing that the main character was a WWII combat nurse who deeply loves her husband, but hasn't spent much of her marriage with him, due to the war. After about 25 pages of this, I got the gist and also the drift that when she was plunged back into "back in the day" Scotland, the guy she meets she would feel very romantic feelings for, but I'm guessing there would be no sex. I read to the point she was thrown back in time, a bit more and decided to end the Fabio/not-Fabio conundrum and stop reading.

Balthazar's Odyssey.
Amin Maalouf
This had an interesting plot (merchant goes on quest for rare book he accidentally sold) and was well written, though the prose was a bit dry. I'm blaming this on the translation. However, it was kind of slow and I wasn't very attached to the story, so I put it down. If you are interested in 17th century end-of-the-world fiction this might be for you.

20MPDC 5/31/11

Wednesday 5/25
Pricing happened. In the meantime I contemplated various garage sale logistics. Tables? Where will I get them? Also, there will be a lot of clothing and I need to display it in a way that people actually look through the clothing. I want it all hanging. How will I accomplish that? These are things for the brain to work on between now and the sale.

Thursday 5/26
More pricing. I've got the shelf cleared off, except for the e-waste which I will take to the recycler this weekend, no foolin'. I haven't yet passed out any of my harvest helper flyers, because I'm busy debating two things: is it too early? and, should I pass them out to everyone, or just people I can see have gardens?

Friday 5/27
Made it through the drawer in the dresser in the front room. Tomorrow I tackle the bookshelves.

Saturday 5/28
Bike ride sapped all energy.

Sunday 5/29
Overscheduled this day.

Monday 5/31
Overscheduled this day also

Tuesday 6/1
Work then volunteering then work again sunk this day. Better luck next week.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Catherine Creek

My friend Deborah and I took a trip to Catherine Creek for a Memorial Day hike. I got some good photos. In "Edit HTML" they are listed there, but I cannot see them in compose. Will they show up on the blog when posted? If not, it was a lovely trip with good conversation and the gorge was gorgeous.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Excepting vs. Accepting

They will take gold bars, first-born children and possibly pounds of salt, but for god's sake don't give them actual US currency.

Note: a few days later this was changed to "accepting" so it turns out they would take cash after all. Also note that this gas station sign is a favorite sighting when traveling the long road (Lombard) to St. Johns. It's always wishing people a happy birthday or congratulating them for something or other. It's one of the treasures of Lombard street, as far as I'm concerned.

Highlights from Dead Relatives Tour 2011

Fun to say:

Another picture of a German grave just so I can hear Matt pronounce it.

As usual on the Dead Relatives Tour we visited my great-great grandparents (my grandfather's maternal grandparents) and my grandparents' (my mother's parents) graves. New this year we bumped up over the hill from my grandparents' cemetery to visit my great grandparents (my grandmother's parents) graves. My great grandparents are buried at Skyline Memorial Gardens. We had to stop and get directions to the graves because the MAunts hadn't be there in awhile. Although their remembering of "down that way" turned out to be true. Much to my delight the sections of the cemetery were named. The names were fabulously retro: Last Supper, Terrace of Serenity, Mediation, Prayer, Old Rugged Cross, Sermon on the Mount, Devotion, Gethsemane (I had to ask what that was) and Apostles, as well as others.

My great grandparents were thankfully not buried in Atonement (I'm betting that section had slow sales, except when purchased by long suffering wives as a good place for their not-so-great husbands to be laid to rest) but in Everlasting Life!

With the help of our handy map, we found the graves, and were sad to see that they had been neglected, apparently for several years. Both of them had sunk a bit and most of my great-grandmother's was obscured by a thick coating of dried mud. We didn't have anything to clean the gravestones with, so Aunt Pat arranged the flowers and we took leave. Next year we will bring some broom/mud scraping objects.

Early morning bike ride

Not much to photograph on a misty and cold morning.

Three sentence movie reviews: Hanna

Watching it this time with Matt I could relax because I already knew what would happen. I had time to notice the spectacular cinematography and enjoy even more the acting. Matt really enjoyed this too, though he found it also a very tense experience.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vancouver Lake Bike Ride

I'm looking for some good swimming holes in the Portland Area. For when the hot weather comes. "You mean the one day of hot weather?" people comment when I say this. It's been a very cold spring and last summer was more "Arctic" than "Summer," as evidenced by the sad looks on the many urban tomato growers as we headed into September with nary a ripe tomato.

Portland does not seem to have an abundance of places to swim that are not rivers. I think this is because the mild summers don't drive people to find or make bodies of water suitable for swimming. When 80 degrees is considered "hot," sitting in front of a fan is enough to become "cool" again. Because I grew up in the hundred degree heat of Boise, Idaho summers, I am used to retreating to the water when temperatures shoot up.

I've already explored Blue Lake and found it lacking. There's no actual swimming to be done there, just standing in waist deep water and chatting with your companions. So I headed out on the bike to Vancouver Lake to see if it might be a solution for a future hot day.

On the way, I stopped at the quiet Liberty Park for a bite of lunch.

It was quite a delicious lunch and I congratulated myself for creating it.

Heading out of Vancouver, I had to cross the Railroad tracks. This sign was funny because the way the tracks cross the intersection there is NO WAY you could turn right from this intersection when a train is present.

It's not far to Vancouver Lake and these signs kept me appraised of just how close I was getting.

The Columbia River was flooding, spilling extra water into wetlands. The sky was blue, the wind was cold, it was a holiday weekend and no one was on the road with me. Not cars, not bikes. For a bit I wondered if the rapture had happened.

There were a few people at the crew club on the lake, but the park itself was also eerily deserted.

The lake too, showed signs of flooding. There were actually two people swimming in the lake, despite the cold. They were wearing wet suits. Verdict: It looks like a promising lake for a swim on a hot day.

One of the other reasons I wanted to visit the lake was because I am reading the Brothers K by David James Duncan. It's set in Camas, Washington and Vancouver Lake is referenced. In the book, all the cows at the dairy near the lake die, and Alcoa is blamed for their deaths, due to the pollution in the water. Alcoa, however, buys a bunch of cows and sets them to grazing in the same spot to prove the water is fine. However, one of the characters has a classmate whose father is paid by Alcoa to drag away the dead cattle every day.

So I enjoyed this sign, the main gist of I will translate for you:
1887: Vancouver Lake was 20 ft. deep & full of fish
1976: Vancouver Lake was 3ft. deep & had no fish.

That sign was right next to this more official looking one.

Which here describes Alcoa's donation of 112 acres. Later on in the sign it says, "Due to the generosity of...the Aluminum Company of America...Clark County was able to acquire and develop Vancouver Lake for your enjoyment." This makes Alcoa seem quite generous. Except that the other sign references the 17 million dollars spent in 1983 to clean up the lake. So, essentially, Alcoa got to pollute for as long as they wanted, "donated" the land to the people and the people got to clean up after them. Good job Alcoa! So generous.

Heron. A sign along my way described the many heron nesting spots around the lake.

I rode on to Frenchman's Bar. On the way, I stopped to read this sign, which pointed me to the view of the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.

I then captured this view of said confluence. On the Oregon side of the river, you can see this at Kelly Point park.

I saw three cats on my journey. One was obviously feral, but I'm thinking this one and the other one--who did not pose for a picture--lived at the Frenchman's Bar caretaker house nearby.

The mighty Columbia rolls on. You can see the flooding: the bushes are partially submerged.

More ship, more sky, more people over here at Frenchman's Bar.

Apparently it was the place to go to fish, because that's what all the people were doing.

Riding back, I can say I was within the limit.

When we hit that speed zone I was still okay.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Misleading Headline

The picture this headline makes in my head is that remains were found sometime in the past near Blue Lake Park and were moved back to their proper place, but turned zombie-like and wandered back to Blue Lake Park again. However, the sub-headline clarifies things:
Apparently it was a different set of remains this time. No need to worry about zombie remains here in Portland, folks.

Motel Garden

The Comfy Inn is completely surrounded by asphalt, but that doesn't keep someone from gardening.

Containers under the stairs:

A flower box full of vegetables.

Tiny house not long for this world

I've long enjoyed the section of North Omaha Avenue north of Lombard. Five blocks north of Lombard, the street runs into Winchell, making for a nice quiet place to walk. The houses are mostly small and look a bit disheveled in the positive way that says to me, "we love our houses and we are doing things to them as time and money allows, but alas, we have many interests and not much money, so things are what they are."

This house is located at 7626 N. Omaha Ave. I've liked this house for years for a lot of reasons. It's tiny, and has a large lot. My mom and I happened to go to a house sale here, so we got to go inside. The woman who was having the house sale was an artist, so there was a lot of art, which always gives me a good feeling. There was even a nice chicken run for chickens. Sadly, it seems the owner was moving because she was in foreclosure.
Portland Maps (An Information Service Provided by the City of Portland) tells the sad story. In 2007, the house sold for $175,000, which is overpriced, in my opinion. I suspect it went into foreclosure in late 2009 when it sold for 105,000. It was on the market a few months ago for $125,000. I was wishing to buy it, but am currently lacking in cash for superfluous house purchases. In December of last year, the house sold for a remarkable $70,900! The new owners (Mark & Lorena Connelly) have applied for a permit to tear the house down, that is the sign on the fence to the right.

I'm sad to see this house go, and hope that the house that replaces it will have the charm that this one does. I'll keep us updated.

6/3/11 Update. I walked by this morning and the house was gone. Thank goodness I took the picture when I did.

20MPDC 5/24/11

Wednesday 5/18

Thursday, 5/19
I spent 15 minutes continuing to rue the fact that I decided to make a web site in Wordpress, rather than Blogger. It looks prettier, but I could have been done with this two weeks ago. Wordpress is not intuitive. It's not even understandable when I'm looking at the help screen instructions. Today I manged to get a picture uploaded (yay!) and then spent the rest of the time trying to turn off comments and make a category. It's getting close to done, though.

Friday 5/20
Two days of 20MPDC in a row! Today I finished the blog and finished the quarter sheet flyers to pass out. Next I will make a "tear off" poster to hang up in a few places.

Saturday 5/21

Sunday 5/22
I printed out my Harvest Helper flyers and sliced them up. They are ready for distribution.

Monday 5/23
Starting tomorrow I will pass out my Harvest Helper fliers on my morning walk. I've now moved on to garage sale 20MPDC. I've picked my tentative date (July 9) and today I labeled items for sale. I also straightened my storage shed to better hold items for sale after I label them. I'm pricing everything very cheap (mostly $1.00 or under, a lot of the stuff I priced today was 25 to 50 cents) so that it will be bought and taken away from me. I've been to garage sales lately and everyone seems to have an overinflated sense of their items worth. For instance, at a sale I went to recently they had a nice vintage metal cooler. Very retro cool. But priced at $75.00? At a garage sale? I think not. Maybe in a vintage store placed in a very yuppie part of town. But not at a garage sale.

So from now until July 9 I will be decluttering and pricing things for a garage sale at the same time.

Tuesday 5/24
15 minutes of pricing everything that has been sitting by the front door, waiting to go to the Goodwill. I had a realization in the middle of the night. I've been looking for a metal shelf on which I can set the seed starts. I want to pay less than $10.00 for one. It turns out, I have a metal shelf already. It sits by the front door and collects things that rarely, if ever, get taken to Goodwill. That's not a good focal point for the living room/front area. So I will price everything on it for the sale, store the items in the storage closet for the sale and move the shelf outside to hold the seed starts. Brilliant!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: Fast & Furious

Abandoning articles in the title altogether and using the more compact ampersand instead of the wordy word "and," this movie sees the triumphant return of Vin Diesel, who calmly drives his car under a burning, rolling gas tanker in the first scene, and THAT is what I've been missing during the last two movies. The FBI apparently had trouble meeting their recruiting quota of blue-eyed blondes as Paul Walker--who has previously proved himself to be an unreliable agent--is now back working for the man. Maya's back, Lettie's back, everyone is back, including, in case you missed the bulletin up above, Vin Diesel, which is all you need to know about this movie.

poster from: http://stenaros.blogspot.com/2011/05/three-sentence-movie-reviews-fast-and_22.html

Three sentence movie reviews: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

The first thing that this movie asks you to believe is that the main character--who looks old enough to have done a stint in the army and then gotten his bachelor's degree with the GI Bill*-- is in high school. But it's not like these movies are realistic in any way, anyway. Tokyo looks good, as usual, and it's fun to watch the cars drift,** but this movie has really nothing to offer except for screen time with Sung Kang, who is fun to watch; overall this is a Fast and the Furious movie you can easily miss.***

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2006/fast_and_the_furious_tokyo_drift.html

*IMDB tells me he was 24 when the movie came out.
**IMDB also tells me that the stunt drivers did all the drifting in real life, it wasn't created in CGI.
***"I don't want to watch any of them!" I hear you thinking. I totally get it. I'm just going through a thing, please stand by for return to normal movie viewing habits.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: 2 Fast 2 Furious

I heard this was a pretty bad movie, and I don't deny that is does not rank high on any measure of a movie, mostly because there is no Vin Diesel to perk up any scenes. However, it is not the worst movie I've seen this year---at least, I don't think so--and there are some memorable scenes like the great car scramble. Though Tyrese Gibson's Roman Pearce's character is not super developed, he has some amusing lines and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges is always entertaining, so there are worse ways to spend two hours of your life.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2003/two_fast_two_furious_ver6.html

Three sentence movie reviews: The Fast and the Furious

The fact that I remembered absolutely nothing from the first time I saw this 10 years ago indicates that there isn't much to this movie. However, that doesn't make it an enjoyable wad of cotton-candy-viewing the second time around. Paul Walker is less wooden than Keanu Reeves in Point Break (another favorite) and Vin Diesel is Vin Diesel, which means that despite the fact I don't have any interest in cars in general and illegal street racing in particular, I greatly enjoyed this movie.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2001/fast_and_the_furious.html

Friday, May 20, 2011

Infill, is there another way?

I'm a fan of infill. As someone who was not born and raised in this great city, but happily live here, I support people who love Portland moving to Portland. Projections are that roughly one zillion people will be living her by 2050 and I want my compact urban environment to be maintained for all those newcomers. I'm not a fan of sprawl. I don't really care that the infill houses don't match the existing ones in the neighborhood or that infill houses look alike. After all, a lot of neighborhoods don't have "matching" houses and most neighborhoods have banks of houses that were clearly built by some developer of the past as a row of them will be strikingly similar.

Infill in Portland mostly looks like variations of this:

Houses are 1500-2500 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths with a garage and a tiny front and back yard. My problem with infill is that this standard 3 bedroom/2.5 bath doesn't really make sense for a lot of Portlanders. For a family of four, 3 bedroom houses are great. But there are an awful lot of Portlanders who are not a family of four. There are also an awful lot of Portlanders who would rather have less house and more yard. I'm wondering if we can't look to a different model of infill for them.

One of my favorite things about North Portland is that it has a lot of very small houses on big lots. What worries me is that these are not seen as being worth preserving. Often, when they go on the market, they are bought by someone who tears them down and replaces them with the standard infill house.
But what if the tiny house, large lot became an infill choice? Tiny houses are much easier to maintain, heat and cool. If placed on a standard sized lot, they leave room for a large garden. They are all about sustainable. And they are cute. Take a look of some of these:

The Sebastarosa is 750-847 square feet:
The Enesti is 746-843 square feet:
The B-53 is 777-874 square feet:
All of the above tiny houses can be found on the Tumbleweed Tiny House website, which is also where the pictures came from. Somewhere in Portland there must be an infill developer who wants to focus on tiny house infill for the rest of us.

Three sentence movie reviews: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Due to the fact that there is that whole time travel thing going on, this movie is also overly long. However, the dementors are suitably scary and they did an excellent job with the hippogriff. It struck me, as I was watching Hermione explain everything to Harry, that this may be one of the few places in the Hollywood cannon when the female character saves the day and makes no excuses for her smarts and also is not punished by the shunning of the male characters, drug use or eating disorder.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2004/harry_potter_and_the_prisoner_of_azkaban_ver3.html