Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Let There Be Toast!

 There are moments when I lose my way. Then I look and realize how substantially my life has improved. Take for example the above picture of a beloved toaster oven from 2012.

Currently we have a toaster that is more powerful, more accurate – more toasty – than any other toaster oven I have ever owned.

Pita pizza stoke!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Holding On


Two more months of dark winter;

Probably two-three months until we can get vaccines;

Twenty-one days until Joe Biden is the new president;

Nine months, most likely, until the kid can return to actual school;

These are the numbers that churn through my mind. I want something different but am taking a deep breath.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Goodnight Sweet Prince

We bade farewell to our good friend Muktuk. A loyal and loving rat buddy.


Headlamps and Reflective Vests


I’ve started going on weekly walks with friends as a way to be social and get some exercise.

We usually get rained on and, as we need to do this late in day, most often walk in darkness.

I can report this is the event that I look forward to each week. Such may be a result of the isolation I feel from being home so much, but the simple pleasure of not being in the house and having a non-Zoom conversation feels good.

I like to imagine what it will feel like when I can have friends over for brunch, everyone sitting back unmasked and talking about the new set of problems that have taken over our lives. I’m hoping there will be a long moment when we can luxuriate in how good almost normal feels.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

2020: Just Get It Done and Gone

The aspect of 2020 is that I find most disturbing is how I became so quickly inured to multiple, ongoing layers of bad news and conflict.

For example, it’s not enough that a car wreck knocks out a natural gas transfer station, but it occurs in winter, during holidays, with freezing rain. And there’s a pandemic going on and, of course, Trump is wreaking mayhem.

I supposed I should have been used to this as this summer there were wildfires that blanketed the state in heavy smoke for a week. And there was a pandemic going on and, of course, Trump was wreaking mayhem. Positive note: nightly protests took a break until the air cleared.

Back in November, the Trump mayhem was more foregrounded as we feared he would stage a coup as he rejected election results. Although satisfying how all court cases, efforts to subvert, discard, nullify the electoral college failed, there was still the thought that millions of people cheered him on and felt such was the right thing to do – not to mention a major political party. And there was a pandemic, and the teenager hated remote learning with a passion usually reserved for war crimes.

Not that everything is black. I am grateful for an excellent team of caregivers who look after people I love.

Everyone in my bubble is healthy, if not crotchety (me!) from too much alone time.

The cat works overtime to provide us with philosophical insights about nature and laser pointers.

I know that the calendar clicking over to 2021 won’t magically bring change and better outcomes, but there’s a superstitious part of me that believes a new president, vaccines, warmer weather will lighten the mood.

I must remain true to this blog, which was a forum for stoke proclamation.

Better times Stoke!

Friday, December 25, 2020

No Sleep For the Wicked: Pandemic Skiing Sucks


I ski at Mt. Hood Meadows, a resort serving metropolitan Portland. I was hoping to go skiing often as a diversion to get me through the dark days of quarantine. I’m rethinking this as pandemic skiing sucks.

The first reason is that the weather recently has been crap – rainy snow, or snowy rain.

And if a good day arrives?

Back in November I read Meadows’ operation plan to limit skiers to 3K each day. Note, according to a three-season averaging of peak day stats, on the most crowded days there were only a few hours when the number of skiers were above the 3K mark. This combined with no lodge facilities, no public transit to the mountain, would result in my getting to the mountain’s parking lot and finding a space easily.

Nope. When the days aren’t total washouts, the lots fill up even quicker than non-pandemic days. This is because most people are driving cars with just one or two people inside of them.

Management also thought that dynamic pricing, making skiing off-times cheaper than peak times, would reduce congestion. Maybe it has to a moderate degree. But if conditions are good one can’t get a break going mid-week, as the entire state, or nation, is work-from-home, meaning schedules can be jiggered and mid-week skiing is easy to do for the masses.  

The notion that people will show up in the morning and leave in afternoon only applies if conditions are bad.

Then there is the singles line. Before, even on crowded days, one could always get runs in by jumping on a chair with other groups. The high-speed quad chairs, which are the backbone of Meadows’ operations, whisk hundreds of skiers up the mountain, the singles line usually moving at a good clip.

Now, singles need to social distance, one skier at either end of the chair – or ride up alone if that’s possible. So, any efficiently to skiing solo is now gone. 

Still, I’m not giving up, yet. During this super peak time of winter holidays, I’m stumped as to when I am able to ski and when the crowds and conditions might be worth the hassle.

A couple of weekends back there was the occurrence of a brisk, bluebird day right after a significant snowfall. Not only was there no parking at Meadows for the entire day, but the entire system of parking, from Government Camp to Cooper Spur, was shut down by boneheads with no traction tires taking up space.

On days like that, the outside feels like a rationed commodity, available only to a select few. This is not a good feeling.

Monday, December 21, 2020


I think of Spanish as a poetic language, so I wish to use it instead of quotidian English when talking about cats. 

Con un gato en la casa, debo preguntarme ¿qué es la naturaleza? ¿Es esto solo el mundo físico, plantas, animales? Con el gato recuerdo lo metafísico, innato, esencial, porque todos son también de la naturaleza. Entonces, cuando el gato entra en la habitación, nos acercamos a nuestro propio núcleo de ser.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

I’ll Take What Positive COVID News I Can Get


I spend plenty of time looking the NYT COVID map, as it contextualizes statistics by listing average daily cases per 100K.

From the graphic above, there are 32 daily cases in Multnomah County per 100K with a trend line going down. We have only to drop below 30 daily before the county gets a lighter color.

Of course, I’m looking forward to having the vaccines widely deployed. In lieu of that, I’ll take what I can get. A lighter color will be nice.

I really hope the holiday bump in cases isn’t too extreme.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Ice Fishing In 1977 Minnesota

My friends forget I grew up in southern Minnesota. Really. 

In the photo above my dad captures a 12-year-old me during an unseasonably warm day of ice fishing in 1977. I remember begging him to take me.

I've lived in Oregon now close to 20 years. There is still a boy in me who wants to go fishing. The older boy in me isn't there yet, preferring other outdoor pursuits.

But the bucket list is clear. I want to catch a salmon before my time is over.

Fishing stoke!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Friday, December 11, 2020

My Book on Leadership

I’m thinking of writing a book on leadership. The book would include these inspiring tips:

  • Motivate employees by being emotionally distant and unresponsive;
  • Have other people delegate effectively;
  • Act with fairness unless there were compelling reasons to do something different;
  • Translate television into reality so everyone felt they could be overly dramatic;
  • Plan for the long term by squinting and looking at an imaginary horizon;
  • Manage resistance to change with mockery and water balloons;
  • Provide guidance and encouragement but only with vague aphorisms unsuited to a competitive and technical work environment;
  • Recognize personal limits – “hey, I’m not getting any taller, am I?”

You’re welcome!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Can the Cat Be Moved?

 As we have three humans and one cat, there is much discussion how to relate to the animal.

We all agree that Stuart the cat should be loved and respected, but how this plays out causes debate. Mostly we all dote on the guy and all is well.

When I hit the finish line and plop down on the couch after dinner, I look around to see what the cat is doing. I have no qualms about finding the cat in other parts of the house and bringing him to the couch for a TV session. My wife says I shouldn’t pick the cat up and move him, as this doesn’t respect his independence of thought.

Last night we sat down to watch The Rachel Maddow Show without the cat, both of us looking around, hoping the cat was nearby and wanting to learn more about the breaking news of the day in a forthright, intelligent manner with a modicum of snark.

The thought of watching Rachel Maddow without the cat overwhelmed my wife, who reluctantly granted permission for me to retrieve the cat, who had no issues about a brief grooming before sleeping on our laps.

A cat isn’t a perfect stress-reduction recipe, but it is a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Ruminations on Henry Rollins


When I was in college in the 80s Henry Rollins would come through town at least once a year, sometimes more. Most of his most memorable performances were with his Rollins Band.

Looking like a gym rat with a sculpted physique, often he would wear only athletic shorts, giving intense, high-energy performances, drenched in sweat before the end of the first set.

The second set always involved a probing jam of free-flowing Rollins thought, covering sex and politics in a punk rock gloss of high emotion, low factual content.

During these years Rollins released an album titled “Hot Animal Machine” and “Drive by Shooting” credited to "Henrietta Collins and the Wifebeating Childhaters". Irony was always part of the package.

I was in awe at the intensity of the music but soon grew bored of the repetition and noise and moved on to other sounds. Still, when I think about punk shows, I hold up these moments, with fewer than 100 people in attendance, as the standard to which others should be compared. For this type of music there’s no phoning it in. Over the top or nothing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Tights – They’re Not Just for Biking


It occurred to me that far from being fashion forward as I don my spiffy biking garb, tights for men have been around for centuries.

Next time I wear tights I intend to pose like those gents in this 16th century Italian illustration.

You're welcome!

Sunday, December 6, 2020

We Get by However We Can

Although there were not enough meat and pickles for a sandwich, I went ahead and made one anyway.

This is just how I am. When confronted with adversity I figure out a way through. Somehow.

Perhaps the sandwich was not the best one ever, but it sufficed. 


Saturday, December 5, 2020

Cat Music: It’s Real


Spotify, the great validator of what is and isn’t, has a “Cat Music: Calming Sounds for Cats” playlist.

And, yes, it works on our cat.

Below is an excerpt from Smithsonian Magazine from 2015 explaining the concept.

The new study, published in Applied Animal Behavioral Science, concludes that domestic cats prefer “species-specific” music that resembles the tempos and frequencies naturally used in their communications. io9 reports:

"We have developed a theoretical framework that hypothesizes that in order for music to be effective with other species, it must be in the frequency range and with similar tempos to those used in natural communication by each species," write study authors Charles Snowdon and Megan Savage, both psychologists at the University of Wisconsin, and David Teie, a musician who has collaborated with Snowdon on the study of species-specific music for the better part of a decade. For instance, Snowden and his colleagues propose feline-appropriate music might mimic the rhythmic and tonal qualities of a purr, or a kitten suckling at its mother's teat.

I really love this amalgamation of cat knowledge the internet provides. Now to see if it enhances our relations with the cat.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Songs I Played Most In 2020

When not involved in brain-freezing considerations, I play music as I work at my desk. Interesting to see which songs I heard most in 2020. Most of the titles I wouldn’t be able to recall by name as I put on playlists and enjoyed the ambiance the music provided.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

COVID Skiing

A face covering is required.

Once all the hassles are dealt with, the awesomeness remains!

Only four people allowed into a restroom that usually takes 20+.

No eating indoors. Take the food out to the car.

Also, I skied single which meant that I could ride up a quad chairlift by myself or with one other person, each of us sitting at opposite ends of the chair. 

There are many more COVID skiing issues, but this is a quick report. A few turns will get me through this pandemic.