2009-04-30

Funniest things

I think this is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I don't know why exactly it strikes me so much, but there you go. Hope you enjoy it too :)

A greyscale day

Yesterday it was a bit dreary as I was coming in to work, and it just seemed to really suit some blanc et noir photography, so I snapped these photos down on the waterfront. Enjoy!

A greyscale day

A greyscale day

A greyscale day

2009-04-29

Society, celebrity, and not thinking for ourselves.

Due to a couple of things I've read or heard about recently, I've been thinking about celebrity and why it is we in America have such a weird, voyeuristic interest in celebrities, and also why we have such a desire to insert ourselves into what we perceive their lives to be like.

I think in many ways in American culture, we are not encouraged to think for ourselves, and in fact, we are encouraged not to think for ourselves. This happens in politics, as we are told to simply "vote Democrat" or "vote Republican" with the implication that anything/anyone from that party is good, and anything/anyone from any of the other parties is inherently bad.

This happens in religion. Among Christian circles, for instance, things are grouped into "Christian" and "secular" and then one group is blindly accepted and the other blindly rejected.

Our country has a great desire to be focused on automobiles as the primary form of transportation. So, when a bunch of people want to ride bicycles instead, rather than actually looking carefully at how to make it safe and convenient to do so, we paint the picture as if cycling is highly dangerous, only athletes would do it, and we start telling people to just wear a helmet and you'll be fine. This propaganda has gone so far as to cause many people to use leg injuries in cyclists as a reason for wearing a helmet, media outlets to emphatically state, when reporting on bicycle/car collisions that a cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet even if the cyclist wasn't injured or suffered only non-head injuries, and even doctors to exclaim that a helmet saved someone's life when all of their injuries were to the face. You're not supposed to think about it, you're just supposed to wear a helmet. You tell me how that makes sense.

All of this kind of behavior (these are just a few examples) is encouraged, we are told that it is the appropriate thing to do, that it is perfectly fine and right to do so. I think this leads to a society where we make mass generalizations based on labels, we judge large groups of people wrongly based on preconceived notions and assumptions. We feel perfectly comfortable, for instance, calling someone a "liberal" based on a particular view, and then simply laying out every other belief the person must hold, because surely all "liberals" believe the same things. It happens both ways, and all over the place in American society. We use these mass generalizations as excuses to not actually deal with issues, to not think carefully about things, to not really address problems.

So, how does this fit into celebrity? In a society where we are encouraged to live on the surface of life and not dig deeper, we begin to see that as actual life, we think that's all there is. We are trained not to think and make decisions for ourselves, to look into who we are and what we feel we need to do with our lives - we just pick the paths that are accepted because they are accepted and play along for our whole lives. So to me, it's no big surprise that we have this obsession with celebrity. They are people who, on the surface, look healthy, happy, successful (based on the definition of success floated about by society) - we are happy to accept that at face value (in fact, we do it without even thinking about it), and then wish we could simply step into that idea of their lives - as it would save us the trouble of having to figure our own lives out. Worst of all, it doesn't seem at all unusual, because this is just how life goes here. It's become so usual we don't even think about it anymore.

So there you have it. Just some of my thoughts on the subject, musings and such. Feel free to comment if you have any other thoughts on the subject. Cheers!

2009-04-25

if the world were ending...

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." -Martin Luther King Jr.

2009-04-23

A bit of a shameless plug... can you blame me? :)

Well, it's not entirely a shameless plug, because I've really been interested in checking out the Madsen cargo bike since I saw a while ago that the Bike Gallery in Portland was going to be the first retail shop carrying them. Anyway, they're having a drawing for people who link to them, to win a free bike. So, everyone go click on the link, and if I win one, I'll post a good review of them on Portlandize with lots of good pictures :D

Madsen Cycles Cargo Bikes

2009-04-21

Why I like Portland

There are a number of reasons I think Portland is an amazing city, particular for the United States. Recently, they have just put out a draft Climate Action plan which addresses a number of issues, with the goal of reducing carbon emissions in Portland by 80% by the year 2050.

The specific goals of the plan focus on 8 target areas of energy usage: Buildings and Energy, Land Use and Mobility, Consumption and Solid Waste, Urban Forestry, Food and Agriculture, Community Engagement, Climate Change Preparation, and Local Government Operations. Amongst a lot of great things like new building requirements for energy efficiency, incentives to update existing buildings, converting public buildings, infrastructure and services to more energy-efficient technologies, and promoting electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, here are a few of the things that really struck my fancy from the plan.

  • For each type of urban neighborhood, identify the land use planning changes, infrastructure investments, including public-private partnerships that are needed to achieve a highly walkable neighborhood and develop an implementation action plan.
  • Together with Metro and TriMet, develop a joint funding schedule for infrastructure improvements such as sidewalks and improved access to destinations beyond a reasonable walking distance.
  • Identify the steps necessary to create a world-class bicycle system throughout Portland and Multnomah County.
  • Fund the first tier of improvements identified in the City of Portland Bicycle Master Plan and adopt a schedule of funding to address subsequent improvements.
  • Implement appropriate pricing mechanisms on driving such as congestion pricing, tolls and parking pricing and direct these funds to infrastructure for non-automobile transportation modes and programs to promote their use.
  • Encourage businesses and residents to purchase new and reused goods with minimal packaging that are durable, repairable and reusable.
  • Complete the implementation of mandatory commercial food waste collection in Portland and begin collection of residential food waste.
  • Provide weekly curbside collection of food waste, other compostable materials and recycling. Shift residential garbage collection to every other week.
  • Acquire, restore and protect open spaces to promote functional forest ecosystems with high potential to sequester carbon dioxide.
  • Recognize trees as a capital asset to City and County infrastructure.
  • Establish joint City-County institutional capacity to support the development of a strong local food system. Provide policy direction and resources to significantly increase the percentage of home-grown and locally-sourced food.
  • Increase the viability of farmers’ markets, community gardens, community-supported agriculture farms and home-grown food through qualitative goals. Integrate these goals into all planning processes.
  • Provide educational opportunities for residents that will enable them to grow fruit and vegetables at their place of residence and in cooperation with their neighbors.
  • Encourage the use of public and private urban land and rooftops for growing food and remove obstacles to local food production.
  • Create 1,300 new community garden plots.
Particularly the transportation and food-related bits get me really excited. Not only are those things I'm particularly interested in myself, but I think they will encourage people to really think about consuming less, and about changing what they consume. It's incredibly exciting to me to think about a network of community gardens throughout the urban boundary of Portland producing fruits and vegetables for the neighborhoods they are located in, greatly reducing the amount that has to be shipped in, as well as giving people a closer connection to their food - and encouraging them to cook more often, spending more time at home, and again having a closer connection to their food. It's exciting to me to see the possibility of some real limits being put on car travel, to reduce the unnecessary usage of automobiles within the city. It's exciting to me to see the planning of neighborhoods as a community unit, with all daily needs arranged within feasible walking distance. This will encourage non-automobile transportation, community focus, and just allow people to spend less time traveling to the places they go on a daily basis.

Imagine neighborhoods in Portland where only 10% of daily trips are by car, where the neighborhood worked together to cultivate a community garden (or several) that supplied a significant part of the produce used in the neighborhood - or perhaps had small gardens themselves and pooled produce, and perhaps even chickens for eggs and eventually meat (since that's legal within Portland city limits). In this neighborhood would be at least one park, a school, a grocery store, perhaps a food co-op, retail shops, a mix of houses and apartments, a bakery, a coffee shop, a movie theater, a brewery (or two), restaurants, some specialty businesses, etc - all within easy walking distance.

That physical description isn't too far off from many already-existing neighborhoods in inner SE/NE Portland, now we just need to get the parts that encourage transportation and community changes down.

Anyway, the potential of this plan to really significantly change the city is exciting to me. Have a happy, sunny Tuesday, Portland! (and elsewhere, too)

2009-04-19

Noris Dairy

We just started getting Milk, Yogurt, Butter and Cream delivered from Noris Dairy, which is down between Salem and Eugene. We've had their milk and cream before, as New Seasons used to carry it, and we loved it. The milk is pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), and non-homogenized, so it has cream on top and you have to shake it. It is exceptionally tasty, comes in glass bottles and has really spoiled us for most other dairy products. The butter we had never had before, but we used it for cooking recently, and I just happened to try a little bite on its own, and it was absolutely delicious. They also have chocolate milk, which we have added to our weekly order as a bit of a treat for ourselves :)

It's so nice to have it delivered every week, and it will be nice for us to be able to just plan that as our dairy intake for a week.

Cheers, and best wishes for a wonderful week!

a good start to the weekend

So far we've had a great start to our weekend. Friday night, we went to our friend Lauren's birthday part out at the Night Light Lounge, and had a nice time chatting and people-watching.

The Filmed by Bike opening night at the Clinton Theater was going on, and they had the entire block from 26th to 25th blocked off to all traffic, full of bike parking, with a beer garden and food. We didn't go, but we did happen to ride by it:

Filmed by bike

Yesterday morning we woke up pretty late, had a little bit of breakfast, and I walked over to Clever Cycles to pick up a nut I needed. I walked back and met Trina at New Seasons, and we picked up some groceries, headed home, and then rode our bikes over to Division Street, to Village Merchants. We poked around there for a bit, then got some tacos for lunch from the next-door taco cart:

Tacos!

We then followed the tacos with a waffle with strawberries and cream from the waffle cart down a block:

Waffles!

We never knew it was there, but I saw it in the morning on my way to Clever Cycles, and wrote Trina about it, so we decided to try it out. It turns out, the waffles were delicious.

Waffles!

Waffles!

From there, we headed down to New Seasons again, and picked up some seeds and flowers to plant in our front flower garden, and our vegetable garden. The flowers looked especially pretty in Trina's basket:

What bike baskets were made for

We came back home, and I gave the bikes a bit of a spring cleaning while Trina started on planting things. Søren especially was pretty grungy from riding all winter.

Søren and Tilly

Here are a few pictures of some of the stuff we have growing in our flower/herb garden:

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

Flower garden

After we got the new stuff planted, we cleaned off our outdoor chairs, plopped down in the grass, and read for a while. We brought Teagan out with us on his leash, and he enjoyed being able to explore a bit:

Teagan

We tried to bring Piccoli out too, but she nearly killed all of us trying to get back in the door again, so we decided to leave her inside :)

Our neighbor Kathy came by, and we chatted for a while, then Theresa came by, and we asked her if she'd want to ride over to the taco cart with us later for dinner (we liked it so much we were going to go back). She said yeah, so we just sat out and read some more. Eventually Theresa came out with her bike, and we toodled over to the taco cart.

Theresa's bike

We got there, and noticed that we had an hour until they closed, so we decided to look at Village Merchants really quickly. Theresa found a great dress that she bought, and then we went back over to the taco cart, which apparently had decided to close early, and was closed :(

So, we decided to ride to New Seasons, and we got a Vietnamese banh mi baguette sandwich they have on special this week, which was really tasty.

We came back home, and were realizing that Theresa didn't have a bell on her bike, so we donated one we had sitting in our basement, and I put it on for her. Then we just sat in the grass for a while as the light faded and it started getting cooler out and chatted for a while. Finally, we parted ways and Trina and I came back inside - she doing some shopping for yarn and fabric, and me playing video games :)

All in all, a great start to the weekend. In store for today - more gardening, washing dishes, laundry, and haircuts!

Happy weekend!

2009-04-15

bleak house - charles dickens

Setting: Mrs. Pardiggle is taking Ada and Esther along to the brickmaker's house on her "charitable work". The story is being told from Esther's point of view.

I thought this passage brings up a number of points worth thinking about. Hope you enjoy!

Mrs. Pardiggle, leading the way with a great show of moral determination and talking with much volubility about the untidy habits of the people (though I doubted if the best of us could have been tidy in such a place), conducted us into a cottage at the farthest corner, the ground-floor room of which we nearly filled. Besides ourselves, there were in this damp, offensive room a woman with a black eye, nursing a poor little gasping baby by the fire; a man, all stained with clay and mud and looking very dissipated, lying at full length on the ground, smoking a pipe; a powerful young man fastening a collar on a dog; and a bold girl doing some kind of washing in very dirty water. They all looked up at us as we came in, and the woman seemed to turn her face towards the fire as if to hide her bruised eye; nobody gave us any welcome.

"Well, my friends," said Mrs. Pardiggle, but her voice had not a friendly sound, I thought; it was much too business-like and systematic. "How do you do, all of you? I am here again. I told you, you couldn't tire me, you know. I am fond of hard work, and am true to my word."

"There an't," growled the man on the floor, whose head rested on his hand as he stared at us, "any more on you to come in, is there?"

"No, my friend," said Mrs. Pardiggle, seating herself on one stool and knocking down another. "We are all here."

"Because I thought there warn't enough of you, perhaps?" said the man, with his pipe between his lips as he looked round upon us.

The young man and the girl both laughed. Two friends of the young man, whom we had attracted to the doorway and who stood there with their hands in their pockets, echoed the laugh noisily.

"You can't tire me, good people," said Mrs. Pardiggle to these latter. "I enjoy hard work, and the harder you make mine, the better I like it."

"Then make it easy for her!" growled the man upon the floor. "I wants it done, and over. I wants a end of these liberties took with my place. I wants an end of being drawed like a badger. Now you're a-going to poll-pry and question according to custom--I know what you're a-going to be up to. Well! You haven't got no occasion to be up to it. I'll save you the trouble. Is my daughter a-washin? Yes, she IS a-washin. Look at the water. Smell it! That's wot we drinks. How do you like it, and what do you think of gin instead! An't my place dirty? Yes, it is dirty-- it's nat'rally dirty, and it's nat'rally onwholesome; and we've had five dirty and onwholesome children, as is all dead infants, and so much the better for them, and for us besides. Have I read the little book wot you left? No, I an't read the little book wot you left. There an't nobody here as knows how to read it; and if there wos, it wouldn't be suitable to me. It's a book fit for a babby, and I'm not a babby. If you was to leave me a doll, I shouldn't nuss it. How have I been conducting of myself? Why, I've been drunk for three days; and I'da been drunk four if I'da had the money. Don't I never mean for to go to church? No, I don't never mean for to go to church. I shouldn't be expected there, if I did; the beadle's too gen-teel for me. And how did my wife get that black eye? Why, I give it her; and if she says I didn't, she's a lie!"

He had pulled his pipe out of his mouth to say all this, and he now turned over on his other side and smoked again. Mrs. Pardiggle, who had been regarding him through her spectacles with a forcible composure, calculated, I could not help thinking, to increase his antagonism, pulled out a good book as if it were a constable's staff and took the whole family into custody. I mean into religious custody, of course; but she really did it as if she were an inexorable moral policeman carrying them all off to a station-house.

Ada and I were very uncomfortable. We both felt intrusive and out of place, and we both thought that Mrs. Pardiggle would have got on infinitely better if she had not had such a mechanical way of taking possession of people. The children sulked and stared; the family took no notice of us whatever, except when the young man made the dog bark, which he usually did when Mrs. Pardiggle was most emphatic. We both felt painfully sensible that between us and these people there was an iron barrier which could not be removed by our new friend. By whom or how it could be removed, we did not know, but we knew that. Even what she read and said seemed to us to be ill-chosen for such auditors, if it had been imparted ever so modestly and with ever so much tact. As to the little book to which the man on the floor had referred, we acquired a knowledge of it afterwards, and Mr. Jarndyce said he doubted if Robinson Crusoe could have read it, though he had had no other on his desolate island.

We were much relieved, under these circumstances, when Mrs. Pardiggle left off.

The man on the floor, then turning his head round again, said morosely, "Well! You've done, have you?"

"For to-day, I have, my friend. But I am never fatigued. I shall come to you again in your regular order," returned Mrs. Pardiggle with demonstrative cheerfulness.

"So long as you goes now," said he, folding his arms and shutting his eyes with an oath, "you may do wot you like!"

Mrs. Pardiggle accordingly rose and made a little vortex in the confined room from which the pipe itself very narrowly escaped. Taking one of her young family in each hand, and telling the others to follow closely, and expressing her hope that the brickmaker and all his house would be improved when she saw them next, she then proceeded to another cottage. I hope it is not unkind in me to say that she certainly did make, in this as in everything else, a show that was not conciliatory of doing charity by wholesale and of dealing in it to a large extent.

She supposed that we were following her, but as soon as the space was left clear, we approached the woman sitting by the fire to ask if the baby were ill.

She only looked at it as it lay on her lap. We had observed before that when she looked at it she covered her discoloured eye with her hand, as though she wished to separate any association with noise and violence and ill treatment from the poor little child.

Ada, whose gentle heart was moved by its appearance, bent down to touch its little face. As she did so, I saw what happened and drew her back. The child died.

"Oh, Esther!" cried Ada, sinking on her knees beside it. "Look here! Oh, Esther, my love, the little thing! The suffering, quiet, pretty little thing! I am so sorry for it. I am so sorry for the mother. I never saw a sight so pitiful as this before! Oh, baby, baby!"

Such compassion, such gentleness, as that with which she bent down weeping and put her hand upon the mother's might have softened any mother's heart that ever beat. The woman at first gazed at her in astonishment and then burst into tears.

Presently I took the light burden from her lap, did what I could to make the baby's rest the prettier and gentler, laid it on a shelf, and covered it with my own handkerchief. We tried to comfort the mother, and we whispered to her what Our Saviour said of children. She answered nothing, but sat weeping--weeping very much.

When I turned, I found that the young man had taken out the dog and was standing at the door looking in upon us with dry eyes, but quiet. The girl was quiet too and sat in a corner looking on the ground. The man had risen. He still smoked his pipe with an air of defiance, but he was silent.

An ugly woman, very poorly clothed, hurried in while I was glancing at them, and coming straight up to the mother, said, "Jenny! Jenny!" The mother rose on being so addressed and fell upon the
woman's neck.

She also had upon her face and arms the marks of ill usage. She had no kind of grace about her, but the grace of sympathy; but when she condoled with the woman, and her own tears fell, she wanted no beauty. I say condoled, but her only words were "Jenny! Jenny!" All the rest was in the tone in which she said them.

I thought it very touching to see these two women, coarse and shabby and beaten, so united; to see what they could be to one another; to see how they felt for one another, how the heart of each to each was softened by the hard trials of their lives. I think the best side of such people is almost hidden from us. What the poor are to the poor is little known, excepting to themselves and God.

We felt it better to withdraw and leave them uninterrupted. We stole out quietly and without notice from any one except the man. He was leaning against the wall near the door, and finding that there was scarcely room for us to pass, went out before us. He seemed to want to hide that he did this on our account, but we perceived that he did, and thanked him. He made no answer.

Ada was so full of grief all the way home, and Richard, whom we found at home, was so distressed to see her in tears (though he said to me, when she was not present, how beautiful it was too!),
that we arranged to return at night with some little comforts and repeat our visit at the brick-maker's house. We said as little as we could to Mr. Jarndyce, but the wind changed directly.

Richard accompanied us at night to the scene of our morning expedition. On our way there, we had to pass a noisy drinking-house, where a number of men were flocking about the door. Among them, and prominent in some dispute, was the father of the little child. At a short distance, we passed the young man and the dog, in congenial company. The sister was standing laughing and talking with some other young women at the corner of the row of cottages, but she seemed ashamed and turned away as we went by.

We left our escort within sight of the brickmaker's dwelling and proceeded by ourselves. When we came to the door, we found the woman who had brought such consolation with her standing there looking anxiously out.

"It's you, young ladies, is it?" she said in a whisper. "I'm a-watching for my master. My heart's in my mouth. If he was to catch me away from home, he'd pretty near murder me."

"Do you mean your husband?" said I.

"Yes, miss, my master. Jenny's asleep, quite worn out. She's scarcely had the child off her lap, poor thing, these seven days and nights, except when I've been able to take it for a minute or two."

As she gave way for us, she went softly in and put what we had brought near the miserable bed on which the mother slept. No effort had been made to clean the room--it seemed in its nature almost hopeless of being clean; but the small waxen form from which so much solemnity diffused itself had been composed afresh, and washed, and neatly dressed in some fragments of white linen; and on my handkerchief, which still covered the poor baby, a little bunch of sweet herbs had been laid by the same rough, scarred hands, so lightly, so tenderly!

"May heaven reward you!" we said to her. "You are a good woman."

2009-04-09

what makes it feel like spring?

Well, first of all, there's the sunshine, the people outdoors, and the cherry trees blooming :) See my post at Portlandize for more details about our weekend trip to Saturday Market.

Over the weekend we also got our first new plants of the season, which consisted of thyme, chives, dill, some geraniums, and some nasturtiums.

Monday we moved a few things from our garden area that had started sprouting again (more chives, and some oregano) over to our flower garden in front of our house, so they will be more accessible.

I'm excited to be getting outside more for non-transportation purposes, I'm excited to see more growing things, and to be growing more things, I'm excited to dig in the dirt with my fingers and cook again with things we've grown.

Theresa did some weeding in our main garden area on Monday, and we're going to talk soon about what all we want to plant in there this year. I'll post some photos of our front flower garden soon, and the vegetable garden once we actually plant some stuff :)

Cheers and best wishes all! Happy spring!

2009-04-05

spring is here!

This weekend is the first really nice weather we've had so far this year, and today Trina and I took advantage of it and rode our bikes down to the saturday market and then a bit further up along the waterfront. I'll be piecing together some video and pictures, I'll post them here once they're up :) Happy spring everyone!