Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Read The Book Your Kids Read Because It's Fun

Both kids read this and I am almost too late to the party.
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, was an excellent tale of a fifth-grader with birth defects.

Both my daughter and son read this and were moved by the story. My son is now in the fifth grade, so I can refer to Wonder to illustrate the various points parents usually emphasize.

The story is about a boy, August, who initially was home schooled but decides to give a New York prep school a try. This is fiction, which allows the story to be told from multiple characters' first-person.

There is a sister, parents, school administrators, bullies, friends, allies, and intrigue appropriate to the grade level. All the Star Wars references check-out which gives the writing verisimilitude. The social struggles, which make up the main narrative engine, were gripping and appropriate.

The best writing makes the reader feel that he/she inhabits the life of the characters depicted. This succeeds and if there is a lesson to be gleaned from the book it is one of empathy, delivered in a non-preachy manner.

My 10-year-old picked up that the real villain was not Julian, the boy who socially isolates August, but rather his mother, who refuses to confront her son's bad behavior. Palacio has empathy both for the bully and bullied as they are both only 10-years old.

A truly enjoyable read!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

Kid Floods Grocery List Ap With English History-like Stuff

Once again I went to the market with my computer open to the vicissitudes of family life. The son, instead of trying to gain access to special foods, just wanted to boggle my mind with fancy concepts.

My mind is indeed boggled.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Hanging Out In The Columbia Gorge With The Family

Once we arrived at Catherine Creek we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the scenery.
Although I do have a penchant for the ski, windsurf, and bike aspect of the Columbia River Gorge, just standing in the cascade of beautiful scenery is an excellent way to spend time.

A while back we all had a nice time just hanging out under a friendly sky.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Daughter Gets On Board With Stoke Proclamation

Aqua-cats or squikittens are the creatures that adorn this license plate.
The daughter was given a school assignment to create a vanity license plate -- I was very proud she chose a Portdaddia-inspired theme.

As a family we proclaim our stoke!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fun Bike Day On Planet Portland

Up, up, up to Council Crest Park for the great view. My new Specialized Diverge made the ride all the more excellent.
Monday's I often ride with my friend Mel, who owns a recumbent bike shop called Recumbent PDX. We do the same ride every time, from his shop on Hawthorne on the east side of Portland, up to Council Crest on the west.

I had a new bike for the ride and Mel had some new toys -- two helmet-mounted video cameras.

Each ride Mel likes to choose a different bike or trike from his shop to test and photograph. The mission yesterday was to get some good footage of Mel on a rugged HP Velotechnik Scorpion.

Despite having a well-stocked bike shop from which to take gear, Mel usually forgets to bring a bag of any kind. As a result when we parted we swapped cameras, Mel not having the ability to carry safely two cameras. He wanted my footage as he planned to make a video showing the trike in action.

From the camera on Mel's helmet I made this video which shows some of Portland's finest scenery on a beautiful fall day. Note Mel's custom biking Birkenstock sandals.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Daughter Invents Superhero Called Quantum Quinn

The daughter invented Quantum Quinn for a school project. As the words are hard to read I have typed them below:

Manipulates atoms to harness their power!

Provides the world with energy applicable to major sources of consumption!



The world relies on electricity, and lots of it. In 2014 the US generated about 4,093 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. About 67% of that was generated from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, petroleum). In order to obtain fossil fuels, fracking and mining must occur. Fracking pollutes the water, mining destroys the ecosystem. Once obtained, using fossil fuels does even more damage. They’re burnt, and emit fumes that pollute the air, and thicken the ozone, which causes global warming. One hero may have a solution…

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wisdom Of Aging Actually Just Delusion

The daughter is now almost as tall as I am, but this is a favorite windsurfing snap.
As I have shared, the proclamation of stoke is a dominant theme in these pages. I first came across this expression in a windsurfing blog. "I proclaim my stoke for all the blessings," the page read.

The phrase resonated deeply with me, both as a general philosophy of humility and thankfulness, as well as a whoop of delight for a really excellent sport. With all my activities, relationships, crusades, few things give me such unmitigated joy as windsurfing the Columbia Gorge. Seeing such breathtaking panoramas and then playing in the wind and waves, skimming over the Columbia with speed and precision (some of the time), has been a high point of my life.

As September comes to a close I realize this season's sailing may be over. Looking back I am happy to have continued to make progress with the sport. I had no expectation to improve my sailing, as I am 50 this year, but yet such occurred -- not because of any exotic diet or exercise regimen, but rather improved knowledge of how I sail and being able to dial in the gear to enhance my style.

Lucky for me windsurfing is an arcane sport full of all sorts of metrics and tolerances which allows for much ruminating.

Part of the fun of this summer was that I was able to sail longer periods of time without falling into the water, and was thus able to sail more often without a wetsuit.

Please ignore that this was the hottest summer on record in Oregon, with more days in the triple digits than ever before. So perhaps my perception of sailing longer without falling and therefore not needing a wetsuit was merely a consequence of the higher temperatures.

Perhaps the knowledge of self that I attribute to age could better be explained by gracious self-deception. To that I say, stoke!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Things I Don't Mind Spending Money On

Fun passes: Outdoor experience is relatively inexpensive, at least the parking.
Obviously when you park your car at a fee day-use area you must pay for parking. But paying these fees shouldn't shackle your buzz.

A state park ranger once explained that if you pay for parking, especially if you buy an annual pass, you are sending a signal to the administrators and politicians that these areas are important and you are willing to make them a priority in your life.

Most of us give money to one charity or another because the cause is somehow significant to us. If our parks and wilderness areas are a source of joy, we should treat the permitting process as a chance to vote with our pocketbook. Generally these passes are quite reasonable if each is used several times.

The notion that the unpaved areas are wild and free and there for the taking is a quaint one, as in 1890s quaint. I live in a large metropolitan area where plenty of people like the great outdoors just as much as I do. Regulation, trash removal, trail maintenance, all cost money. Flowing some greenback love into the programs we cherish is just common sense.

Not pictured above is my favorite pass of all -- the Oregon Sno-park Permit, for winter fun up on Mt. Hood.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Dual Nature Of Self Apparent Through Chinese Political History

Each flag has a pin of an illustrious leader: Chiang Kai-shek for the ROC; and Mao Tse-tung for PRC.
I write plenty about the weird way my mind works. But such is merely a pretension, as I honestly believe I am not alone with contradictory thoughts, different opinions at different times of the day, self-doubt, and endless analysis.

In my early years I fancied myself a student of Chinese political history. Many a happy rumination centered on who was the ultimate dictator, Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China on Taiwan, or Mao Tse-tung, of the People's Republic of China (the big China).

When I moved into my current home I hung up the flags of the two Chinas in my garage, happy to remember good times in both these places. Previously I never had the space.

It only occurs to me now that after 13 years in this house never once has a tradesman, friend, visitor, or family member asked about these flags. I believe this is because an aura of seriousness and authenticity radiates so forcefully from me that others fear they would appear small as the answer would be obvious.

Or maybe the flags are hard to see when the garage door is up.

In any case the flags more recently have come to symbolize the many contradictory aspects of our personalities. I might applaud the decadence of Chiang in a boorish mood, or celebrate the military excellence of Mao when in a productivity mindset.

A conclusion is not needed. The flags exist in harmony with lawn-care equipment and give me nice memories when I look at them.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

I Am My Own Worst Enemy/ Best Friend

Beautiful in its utility.

In the movie The Incredibles the superhero, Mr. Incredible, is seen trying to blend into everyday life as an insurance adjuster and doing a poor job because, well, Mr. Incredible is just too good, too pure, too moral. Obviously the job doesn't suit him. But to make matters worse, his boss, Gilbert Huph, is overly obsessed with company profits and the bureaucracy of insurance. 

To reflect upon Gilbert's ridiculous nature there are a few seconds of him exactingly arranging his pencils on his desk.

I hate to admit it, for Gilbert is not exactly a heroic character, but this is me in a nutshell.

Yesterday morning I turned on the lights to my office, eager to get to work, but one LED light in an array of six had failed. As 98% of my work involves an illuminated screen, overhead lighting is just not mission critical.

But the annoyance of not having the room's lighting as it should be would have ruined productivity for the entire day.

Lucky for me I had been my own best friend by making sure I had a cache of spare bulbs just for occasions like this.

Unfortunate for me, myself as my own worst enemy took charge, and I feverishly ruminated on what I should have said to a service worker in Burnsville, Minnesota in 1982. But at least I ruminated in proper illumination!

I celebrate myself as a total nutcase here on these pages.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Labor Day Camping Pacific Northwest Style

Note our heavy clothing.

We headed up into the Gifford Pinchot National forest for Labor Day Camping. Rain, cold, and the absence of Sasquatch attempted to dampen our moods. Unsuccessful.

We camped in a Forest Service campground which was truly excellent. The individual sites were much bigger than those at state parks, but the kids had a shock with the vault toilets.

Although much of the state was suffering from fire, localized rain every twenty minutes made me not worry about wildfires. The forest was so lush with moss and ferns and spongy ground that it felt that summer hadn't occurred.

We explored Ape Caves in the Mount St. Helens National Monument and did some nearby hikes.

Another great outdoor moment courtesy of the soggy Northwest!

Entrance to the 13,000 foot-long Ape Cave.

Rocks, trees, moss, water.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Challenge Of Parenting Is In The Unknown

"Stop your whining. Look at the sea, and contemplate eternity, goddamnit!" I yelled. Travel with children can be stressful.
When my children were really young, in diapers, I tried to prepare myself for the serious eventualities of life. Namely, what if my daughter became a cheerleader and my son wanted to play football?

The rub with this scenario was that in high school I was the guy with the bad haircut, listening to music nobody's ever heard of, and carrying on about how unfair it is being the only living soul in a sea of zombies.

So the irony of life would deliver two kids, popular at school, who enjoyed mainstream activities such as cheerleading and football.

I pictured myself enthusiastically encouraging them with their pursuits, not letting on that I was an alien to the world of pep rallies and pressured fourth downs.

As it turned out my kids don't seem on track to do either of these two activities, although it's not too late. I suspect if popularity is attractive to them they will achieve it at some point. But the test of parenting remains -- how the hell to handle the meltdown that is happening right now.

Each day delivers a crazily unique set circumstances never before experienced on planet earth. There is no way to be prepared for any specific eventuality. Rather the secret is to get enough sleep and budget extra time and mental calories to hack your way through the crises as they come.

And, of course, to proclaim stoke for all the blessings!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Summer's Over -- First Day Of School

The enthusiasm is palpable.
School started up amid much anxiety and gnashing of teeth.

As a parent it's so easy to get caught up in the everyday drama of just getting the kids clothed and fed and off to school. Then at the end of the day the kids are in foul moods because they've been getting up late for the last 90 days.

The days are getting darker.

This summer we experienced fantastic land- and seascapes that glow in my memories. Jokes were created and consumed on the spot. Barbecues, travels, family, friends. So much fun.

Now the season of responsibility is upon us and I don't like getting yelled at. Parents as taskmasters are the norm at the beginning of any school year.

My point here is that somehow I can keep my eye on the prize and declare my stoke for all the blessings.

"Horse buddies, hell yeah!" as my daughter would say.