Dust.

When you dust off a blog that’s been fairly unused for a while, you tend to kick up some dust.  It’s just like cleaning out your mom’s attic, or going through those boxes that you never unpacked the last time you moved 5 years ago, or cleaning out your car because you’re getting a new one.  You find bits and pieces of memories scattered about that mean something to you that you had forgotten you had, or thought lost, or hadn’t realized would bring up memories of happy times.

In sprucing up and dusting off this blog both before and during my adventures in Brazil, I’ve come across quite a few things which made me smile and laugh, experiences I’d forgotten I’d written about, pictures I’d taken.  I wanted to share one of them with you all, since it’s about a thing I’m finding I sometimes miss quite a bit here:

Jessie vs. Snowpocalypse, The (Silent) Movie.
Edited, filmed and produced by me. Shot on location in Portland in front of my house during Snowpocalypse, 2008.

Impressions.

I’ve been in Brazil now for nearly 3 weeks, and in Maceió for nearly 2 weeks.  I’ve had two weeks of Portuguese language classes, seen numerous rainstorms, and walked in or near the ocean pretty much every day I’ve been in Maceió.  I’ve sampled a BJJ-inspired MMA class, a class in Capoeira, been to the center of the city and to a touristy beach outside of town.  I’ve had all sorts of delicious and interesting food.  I thought I’d update you all with a little bit of my thoughts and impressions about all that I’ve seen so far.

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Click to get a closer view of my notes and textbook!

Language
It’s been one heck of a long time since I seriously tried to learn a new language.  Languages have always seeped into my brain with or without my permission, like water finding passage through cracks in the rocks.  I always liked that about my brain – it’s one of the reasons I was so confident in my abilities to take on this challenge.  But it’s been a long time since I’ve opened the floodgates, and the water pressure was never quite this high when I was taking French for an hour a day in high school.  I certainly didn’t have to use French after my first day of class in order to explain what kinds of foods I liked or didn’t like, or to ask a cashier to repeat the amount of money I owed.  I never had to know enough French after my first day to understand what someone was trying to tell me about when I would eat, and what, and how to get in and out of my house, and how to get to a new school the next day, and where to find a new roll of toilet paper.

As for French, having learned it all those years ago is mostly a big help.  Having gone through the mental process of learning a new language, and one that has many similarities – especially in sentence construction – is a big help.  But because it’s French, it also sometimes messes me up.  And sometimes when I try to answer in Portuguese, instead the French wants to come out.  Or sometimes Spanish.  Obrigado, NOT gracias!!  Muito, NOT muy!!  From what I can tell, of the major Latin-based languages French is the least helpful in learning Portuguese.  Spanish or Italian would make this MUCH easier.

But, there comes a time when you have to stop trying to put a language in terms of your own native language, and just let it be itself.  I did that with French, and I think that experience and its similarity with Portuguese is far more of a help than a hindrance.

At this point I know enough Portuguese to get by.  I can understand simple instructions, can make myself understood, and can generally clearly communicate what I’m thinking.  Communicating feelings is a bit more advanced.  However, I also know enough Portuguese (and according to several people, my accent is very clean) that other Brazilians think I can understand Portuguese at their normal speed of talking, which I most certainly can not.  At all.  Not yet.  And they all…ALL…talk fast.  Very, very fast.  The only exceptions being the teachers at the school, they speak a teensy bit slower, and keep their sentences a teensy bit more simplified.  That’s it.  So when people are speaking normally, I can understand maybe one word out of four, while I can understand like 75% of simpler writing.

I’m drowning in Portuguese.  Welp, I did say I would sink or swim, right?  Time to get out my bubble-arms and start dog paddling!

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I think this dog is always sleeping here.

Weather
It never gets below 70°F here, even at night.  It sometimes gets super windy when it rains, and when it does rain it often comes down in sheets, but the air is always warm and thick and humid.  It seems to rain more often at night then during the day, and the rains are surrounded by gorgeous blue skies and sunshine before and after.  When the sun comes out, it starts pushing above 90°F.  This is the end of winter.  I freaking love the weather here so far.

And I managed to go almost two weeks without getting at all sunburnt, or wearing any shirts with sleeves.  And once the sunburn is peeled off and gone, I shall start tanning in those hard to tan spots.  I hope.

 

Beaches

Ponta Verde Beach.  Three blocks from where I'm living.

Ponta Verde Beach. Three blocks from where I’m living.

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Hermit crab maybe? Regardless, this guy is apparently a rare find here.

The sand here is marvelously soft.  The water that I’ve seen is relatively clear – I haven’t really seen the crystal blue water yet, but I haven’t made it out to the natural pools yet either.  It is truly beautiful, especially considering the weather.  However, sections of the beaches in Maceió have tons of this seaweed stuff, which seems to always be mixed with quite a bit of refuse; bottles and plastic and….just junk.  There are workers out there every day raking and cleaning it up, but every day there is more.  Please recycle your plastic.  Please use less plastic.  The oceans will largely clean themselves eventually, if we quit putting so much crap in it.  Seriously.  Today I saw a rusted out CFL light bulb amongst all the other plastic bottle caps and plastic bottles and building materials and plastic bags and and and.  Thanks for saving energy, but I don’t think the ocean is the proper disposal area.

Stray dog at Paripueira begging for food.  Obviously has puppies.

Stray dog at Paripueira begging for food. Obviously has puppies.

The other beach I went to last weekend is called Paripueira.  It’s a very lovely beach and seems to be better tended, but it is definitely a tourist trap.   The kind of place where they charge you money to come in and spend more money.  If you want to do anything more than sit on the beach, it’ll cost you.  And the food will cost you. And there’s people on the beach trying to sell stuff to you. We spent $200 Reais – nearly $100 – on lunch for three people. They didn’t mention that at the school when I signed up for this trip! I guess I was expecting a more hands-off kind of beach, where you just walk in and set up your spot, then if you feel like eating out or shopping, there’s options, but it’s not expected.  However, the part I disliked the most about this spot were the dogs.  There’s sad looking stray dogs everywhere.

One in particular was skin and bones, probably sick, with lacerations near his tail and looking truly miserable.  It kind of made me ill to see it.  I bought some french fries to feed the dogs, however none of them seemed interested.  I don’t think I’ll go back there.

But the Brazilian dog story isn’t all sadness.  I see lots of pampered pooches here as well, and have met several people who’ve taken dogs off the street.  Nor are the beaches so touristy and regimented.  And they’re all of them, every one, gorgeous.

Martial Arts
I’ve taken two classes so far.  One is a basic MMA class taught by a guy named Tony, who IMG_3332trained with one of the Gracie brothers (The guys who invented Brazilian Jui-Jitsu).  The other was a Capoeira class taught by a guy named Jair who comes to the language school to give private classes.

The MMA class was a fabulous workout.  It kind of reminded me of Crossfit, with stations that would switch every minute; however one of the stations was with Tony himself, and he would have you punch targets or hold a car tire above your head while he hit your near the waist with the targets and you blocked them with your legs.  Each station was pretty hard – one was even an ab roller, and we all know how much those suck! – and that was just one of the stations.  My abs hurt for three days afterwards!

The capoeira class was the next day, and for all that it was far less intense than the MMA class, I finished it feeling pretty shaky and I sweated harder than I ever had in my life (although it may have been the weather, it was pretty hot and humid that day). Jair taught me the basic movement, called Jenga (no I don’t know if it’s related to the game), the four basic kicks and the four basic dodges, and of course cartwheels.  I’m definitely going to do that again; and if my understanding of what he said was right, he offered to bring me to some local capoeira events on the back of his motorcycle.  Speaking of motorcycles…

Maceió
…it seems lots of people have them.  Not a lot of big cruisery type bikes – nor a lot of rice burners either – but functional ones, or scooters.  If they do have a car, it’s a little European economic style car, although not a lot of hybrids.  People here are far freer with the car horn, but it’s more of a ‘hey I’m here, just FYI’ than a ‘get out tha fuckin way asshole’ manner.  But driving…man.  I’ve already seen one car accident, and I’m amazed I haven’t seen any pedestrians hit yet.  I haven’t seen driving like this since I was in Spain and fearing for my life in a taxicab on the freeway.  The driver there literally said that the traffic signs were more suggestions than laws.  Ha!  But then again, the cost of taking the bus here is about 30 cents cheaper than taking a taxi.  And apparently the bus system has never published a schedule.  You just go to a bus stop and wait, and hopefully one will come along in the next 30 minutes…makes a taxi drive seem almost worth it.

Ponta de Barra.  Lots of shopping in this area.

Ponta de Barra. Lots of shopping in this area.

As far as my general impressions of Maceió go, I feel…conflicted.  It’s a great little town, twice the size of Portland with about 1 million inhabitants.  It’s got beautiful beaches, great little bars and restaurants, fabulous music; but there is also a lot of poverty here. A lot. More than I’m accustomed to, living in Portland.  Even in the touristy, more well off areas like where I’m staying and the school is located, there is evidence of it around the corners and in the darker spots, the side streets.  You can see it everywhere if you look.  Maybe it’s my American sensibilities, I don’t know; but it makes it difficult at times to relax and enjoy myself.  It makes me feel a bit guilty for what I have, and looking for ways to help that will not be just a meaningless, fruitless drop in an ocean of need.

It’s also unfortunately littered with trash.  I mean everywhere.  There’s trash everywhere, and very little of it actually in the trash bags that are also left out on the street all the time.  From the ocean on, there isn’t a single place I’ve been that has not been littered.  Definitely something a Portland eco-conscious resident would find a bit alarming.  However, if you can overlook the trash, the area I live in is quite nice.  There’s lots of attractive apartment buildings with interesting architecture and a bunch of new ones being built closer to the beach.  Lots of rooms with a view!

Food
They have really good sushi here.

No really.  One of my fellow students is from Japan, and she agreed.

Buffet-type restaurants are really popular here.  There are two, right next to each other, at the end of the block from my school.  I’m trying desperately to not gain weight (see: Martial Arts, above), but until I started taking these martial arts classes and going for a run on the beach every few days, it was looking like a losing battle.  I already mentioned (on the Facebooks) Feijoada, which is probably my favorite Brazilian dish I’ve had so far, but let me list out a few other notable things I’ve eaten:

  • Corn and coconut milk cake
  • A pancake made out of fried mashed bananas and cheese with cinnamon on top for breakfast (zomg noms)
  • Cheese bread.  Ah, cheese bread.
  • Tapioca…things.  Basically pancakes made out of cassava flour and folded over with stuff in it; the original has coconut, but it can have anything from fruit to cheese to chicken hearts
  • Pastelarias - sort of like pastry shops – have all sorts of fried and baked goods like coxinha, which are teardrop-shaped bread things stuffed with shredded chicken, and all manner of pastéis, which are thin, flat flaky crust pastries filled with (usually) savory fillings, often cheese or chicken or ham. I finally found a pastelaria which sells a ‘Romeo and Juliet’, a pastel filled with guava jam and cheese that my sister in law told me about.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I hope to this week!
  • Johan and I about to try sururu for the first time with Luis, one of the teachers

    Johan and I about to try sururu for the first time with Luis, one of our teachers

    Sururu – The local dish of the area, it’s like tiny little mussels in coconut milk over rice with a side of the sauce blended with some sort of thickener to pour over, and farofa (a toasted cassava root flour) sprinkled on top.  The first version I ate also had shrimp (camarão) and a whole fillet of fish (peixe) on the bottom, while the second version made by my host had just the tiny little mussels in them.  They’re about a half inch long on average.  Tiiiiiny mussels….in my wine…wait no.  Wrong food.  Also, someone told me it’s the viagra of the Brazilian northeast.  Heh.

  • All sorts of doce, or sweets – I prefer the ones made with banana.
  • Açai!

    Açai! This was the small bowl. Glad I got the small bowl.

    Frozen blended açai berries with banana and granola and puffed rice and honey.  Oh, yeah.

When it comes to sweets, my brother was right: They use condensed milk a lot.  Chances are if it looks like a cupcake or a truffle-like treat, expect that there’s condensed milk – doce de leite – in it, or that it’s pretty much entirely made of it.  Very chewy, thick and sweet.  It tends to make me long for something a bit more bread-like and less like eating a solid hunk of milky taffy made out of sweetened milk.

 

Also, that’s a starfruit tree in front of my school.  Starfruit.  Yum.

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Also again – I like cachaça.  I’ve had it straight, with honey, made with a mixture of clove and cinnamon, infused with pineapple or cherries.  I like it all.  I’ll be bringing some home with me.  Just probably not the one in this next picture.  I just don’t feel that crab flavored alcohol should be a thing, you see.  Call me crazy.  How did they even get it in the bottle?!

Crab cachaça? No thanks.

Crab cachaça? No thanks.

And caipirinhas?  They’re Brazilian margaritas, they just use cachaca instead of tequila.  And who doesn’t love margaritas?  If you’re in the mood for something other than lime, you can get a caipifruta, which is just a caipirinha with other fruit in it.

Money
I don’t know why I had the idea that Maceió would be cheap.  Perhaps it was the fact that  Brazilian Reais (hay-ice) are about .40 to the dollar.  Perhaps it’s because of my image of South America.  Perhaps it’s because of those nice people I met in the airport in São Paulo who told me it’s much cheaper than São Paulo (yikes!!  SP must be crazy $$$$!!).  It is most certainly not cheap.  At least not near the beach, of course.  It’s not exorbitant by any stretch, but I literally was looking at suntan lotion for R$40.  $20 suntan lotion?!  Come on!  I pay on average $8-$12 for lunch, twice that for dinner.  A beer goes for about $4-$6, although they’re about 24-32oz bottles.  Not super spendy, but not the cheap I thought it would be.  Certainly not cheap enough for the cash I brought to last me until I leave.  Good thing I got a credit card with no foreign transaction fees!

In summary…well, I actually don’t really have a summarizing thought for this post.  I’m getting lots of relaxation, meeting lots of really cool people both brazilian and foreign, getting totally overwhelmed but still doggedly pursing my portuguese, and enjoying the tropical weather immensely.  I mean, how cool is it to be sitting at lunch with someone from Germany, Japan and Denmark and chatting in Portuguese with all of them?  The litter and the poverty and stray dogs make me sad.  As for being homesick…I think I’ll leave that to another post.

Stay tuned for my next post, where I show you all some of the…um…coisas muito interessantes I’ve come across so far.  Like giant oyster phone booths and the most amazing shower attachment I’ve ever seen…

CatDogManRat

Hello my little intertribe!

Intertribe (n): the internet tribe of lovely talented fabulous people who read my blog.

I have a Very Special Treat for you today!  It’s not often that I have a guest blog post.  Actually, it’s pretty much never.  At least up until now it’s been never.  Because, you know, everyone I know already has their own blog.  You have one, don’t you?  You’d tell me about it if you did, right?  Because I want to read it!  I’m always looking for new fun blogs to read.  Hook a girl up!

Where was I?  Ah, yes.  MY VERY FIRST GUEST BLOG POST!

Now I wouldn’t have just *anyone* write  a blog post on my own very dear to my heart blog.  Oh no.  But this story was hilarious, and has a great message, and is TRUE.  It happened in my house while I was away doing work-type things in far off places, but I wish I could’ve been here to see it all go down.  So without further (verging on excessive, I know) ado, let me introduce my very own roomie, Louie, and his recounting  of this fine tale of inter-species partnership.

Author’s Note: YES I use capitol letters in some funny ways. Just imagine I am from the 1820′s.

A Man, a Cat, a Dog, a Rat.
Adventures in organic pest control.

“Lo in some cave long ago, there died a caveman who did not listen when his dog suggested they were all about to be eaten by a Giant Bear. We are NOT his descendants.”

It was Jessie that noticed first. She seemed sure that there was something interesting behind the china cabinet.

“hey!” says Jessie, “over here over here! something is interesting!” she said in fluent Dog. However, interesting for Jessie might be scraps – once stuffing – of some dearly departed stuffed toy. Plush Guts.

I glanced at the cats, especially Her Mu-Ness, Puffy the Slayer, the Murderous Muffin, Scourge and God of mice and voles and terror even unto the very squirrels.

Nothing. She said “Wuh, huh? Oh no, nothing about, not for days, the dog is daft.” Amazing what a cat can say with one open eye and a body loaded with cat comfort.

I saw nothing, the cats ears were not swiveling and the toy focused canine returned to her investigation of the underside of the china hutch.

“hey hey hey!” her eyes and face say.
Oh be still jessie be still.
*wiggle wiggle wag wag* “but but come see come see come see!”
hush, puppy.
*Yip* “I am Not Kidding”
oh alright, I’ll come look, remove the Object of Attention, peace will reign.

Except it wasn’t plush guts.

It was not a big rat as rats go, ordinary, not even old enough to have developed evil genius cunning. But a pretty professional rat just the same.

>Insert Classical symphonic scores here, Peter and the Wolf meets Night on Bald Mountain<

To get a better look I slid the china hutch a bit. The rat flipped me off and shot as though from rat-gun across the floor wall edge.

Lets clear the air a minute. I enjoyed The Secret of NIMH, Flushed Away and Ratatouille. But real rats (not the caged kind) are not cute, not funny, not “just trying to live their lives”. They do not live happily in Nature. They are devoted to eating what we have, living in our houses crapping and peeing on every thing they walk on or by. They have evolved to Live Off of Us. The bring us plague, Leptospira, Rat-Bite fever , Salmonellosis and several forms of Typhus. Fleas and intestinal parasites come with them as well. A pair of rats can produce enough offspring to fill your house in a mighty small spot of time. They are dangerous to your pets, your home and your self.  They will bite your baby and kill your chickens. Rat traps and rat poison are dangerous to use, and they have not yet come up with that better rat trap we all hear about.

>Sports announcer over the dramatic soundtrack<

“And Jessie moves to Intercept, she’s on it, No, Rat has backflipped to duck under the curtain edge. The Murderous Mu has exploded onto the field, and is in hot pursuit!”

>crowds cheer<

“Rat to the corner, pressure is on, Man to the left, Dog to the right, looks like.. NO! Rat has evaded behind the couch but that is not stopping our Miss Muffin Mu! Man and Dog are flanking the couch, Rat runs for it and slips past Jessie, narrowly missing the snap of teeth. Pressing from Jessie, troublesome shelving. Jessie looks like she wants the score for herself!”

“Yeah but Rat’s extreme maneuverability lets him scoot back to the couch, scuffling, fierce squeaking tell us that he has run into … The Power-Puff! But this Rat is not down! Spectacular Acro-Ratics – who thought that rats could fly! Rat Looks Rat-tled though, signs of intimate contact with the claws of Mu. Rat has found every spot the cats paw and dogs maw cannot reach.”

“The Man has gotten a Stick! The Man has gotten a Stick! Comments Jim?”

“Well the Man is clearly the underdog here, no offense Jessie, and a stick is a traditional tactic. He will probably use it to displace the opposition from those claw and snout proof positions. My guess is it may also be useful in the Terminal Moment. Rat is making a move! A bold attempt! Feint to the curtains, a mad dash for the china hutch! But man has beaten Rat to the Hutch and slides it out far enough for the Power team of Mu and Jessie to get right inside! the crowd (all 2 of them) is Going wild!”

“Jim, this classic grudge match was first fought about 5,000 BC. That was about the time Cats joined up. Till then, man and dog played against the rodent team without this specialized player.”

“Well times may have changed Bob, but these are tried and true plays, first developed in the early days of the game and OH Boy the break seems to be over! Looks like rat is fully cornered… MU moving up Jessie is on guard. Man and stick are closing in and..

Thats it! the 967 millionth Rat bowl is over!

>crowd of two cheering<

Our lives are covered with technology, much of it unseen and subtle, some of it overt and obvious. In spite of the recent invention of Laser mosquito killers, I feel we are far from replacing the exquisite intricacy and infinite flexibility of one of our oldest technologies, other species. In this advanced world, we would do well to remember that most of our problems are still best addressed with what millions and billions of years of biological adaptation can give us.

The three of us bonded during this adventure. When all was over and the offensive carcass removed, Miss Muffin Mu, Jessie the Bold and Your Author had the most satisfying mutual pet-rub-snuggle session. Man and Dog and Cat all in a happy pile of purring and wiggling and self congRATulations.

We humans did not get here alone. We had help. Man and Dog and Cat evolved together. In mutual support, we have come to a future where dog and cat can largely retire and enjoy being pets.
I am fine with that, they have paid their dues. Again.

My dog is too sexy for Wil Wheaton

There I was, just standing there, minding my own business.

Well ok.  There I was, just standing there wondering if I should have someone take my picture with Wil Wheaton.  I was leaning towards no, because I’m just not the fangrrl type most of the time.  I don’t take pics, I don’t ask for autographs, unless it’s like a book signing or something.  I figure it’s kind of an invasion of privacy, and while it’s one that celebrities are accustomed to and expect, I don’t like to add to it.

But then, the coolest thing happened.  Because my dog is so freakin adorable.

Wil turns to me and says “Hey, you mind if I pet your dog?”

“Sure!!” (I mean, what else was I gonna say?  “Sorry, Wil, my cute adorable friendly dog does not want to be petted by some crazy celebrity writer guy.  Move along now, move along.”)

Poor pup though…she was already a little spooked by the Umbrella Guy statue.  She eyeballed him but good.  So when I got her to sit, and Wil started talking to her and telling her what a good girl she was, and patted her little head, she just ignored him.

Mostly.

Cuz my dog’s too sexy for Wil Wheaton…so sexy oh yeah!

Thanks again Wil for coming out and saying hi to all your adoring geeky fans!  Portland loves you.

Wil who?  ::yawn::

Wil who? ::yawn:: (thanks to @bmw for snapping this pic!)

A Tale of Three Bamboo

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

For some reason, even though that first line from A Tale of Two Cities resonated in my young brain so loudly, I just couldn’t get into that book.  Never did.  I’m sure I read that first page at least a dozen times.  Maybe I should try again.  But this, dear interwebs, is A Tale of Three Bamboo.  Or is it Bamboos?  Whatever.  Our story opens…

The Triff...er I mean Bamboo

The Triff...er I mean Bamboo

Despite numerous warnings that I was insane to even contemplate the idea, I planted bamboo in my backyard.  And not even the relatively safe kind, i.e. ‘clumping’ bamboo.  No, I planted the ravenous, crawl into your house in the middle of the night and kill your pets kind of bamboo.  The Day of the Triffids bamboo: timber bamboo.

(Side note: OMG!  The BBC is going to film a new version of Day of the Triffids! W00t, I say.  Wewt even.)

But on the other hand, this is the same kind of bamboo they make floors out of.  And utensils.  Gorgeous ones!  Or at least that was the counter argument in my head when I was rationalizing this step in my Eternal Project.  Seriously, everyone I talked to thought I was insane:

“And then, I’m gonna plant some bamboo along the fence here…”

“You’re going to plant bamboo?”

“Yeah.  The big kind.  Timber.  Black, and Tiger.  They’re so pretty!”

“You’re going to…plant.  Bamboo.  Willingly.  In your backyard.”

“Um, yeah.  Pretty much.”

“Do you KNOW what bamboo does??”

“Yes…I’ve taken precautionary steps.”

“Yes but…it’s crazy!  It gets into EVERYTHING!”

“Yes, I know.  Like I said, I’ve taken steps.  Two sides are going to be surrounded in concrete, for starters!”

“Well…I still think you’re crazy for even considering it.”

“Thanks.  Your concern is duly noted.”

That’s how most of my conversations went.

But I did it.  It’s done.  And so far, all my pets are still here.  Or, well, they didn’t die of bamboo related injuries, at least.

I can’t say the same for my poor bamboo though.

I did my research, you know.  Like I said, I surrounded the planting area on two sides with concrete.  The other two sides, a foot and a half deep bamboo barrier, especially made for the task.  I planted them in little mounds, so the runners would be easy to spot.  I fertilized only the top six inches of soil or so, so the runners would stay close to the surface and be easy to maintain.  I check all the runners twice a year, and trim the ones that are heading in the wrong directions.

I did not, however, protect them from my dog.

I started with 3 bamboo.  Two black and one tiger, just like I wanted.  (Interestingly, both are classified as  Phyllostachys nigra.) Jessie and I drove waaaay out to Hillsboro to the Bamboo Garden Nursery (Yes, Jessie and I did meet Oggie the Bamboo Dog).  We were driven around the woods in a golf cart by the nice and helpful bamboo guy, who helped us pick out two black bamboo and one tiger bamboo. We carefully drove them home, planted according to directions, watered and carefully watched over my new charges.  Well, watched them except while I was at work.

I guess Jessie was still in her destructive stage, because it wasn’t long before one of the black bamboo was ripped out of the ground.  And replanted.  And ripped out again.  And replanted again.  And ripped out AGAIN.  And replanted, but by this time, it was becoming clear that the poor thing had met its match.  Eventually I had to admit that the plant was dead, and had now become a doggy chew toy.

Now, I have a fence around my bamboo.  They’re probably safe at this point, but I’m not taking any chances.  I have since replaced the unfortunate black bamboo with some free golden timber bamboo that I found on craigslist.  One of my favorite things to do around this time is to look for all the new little bamboo shoots popping out of the ground, letting me know that my mission of creating a privacy screen between me and my neighbors is coming to fruition.

So far….nothing.

Sigh.

Grow faster, bamboo!  FASTER!

Apparently my endless reserves of patience do not extend to plants.  Or actually, weather.  Because you know once the weather warms up for a couple weeks, those bamboo are going to be all crazy in yo face growing fiends.  Unkillable.  Unstoppable.  With poisonous whip-like stingers.

Hmm…perhaps I should get a really big machete.  You know, just in case.  Plus, it gives me an excuse to go to Andy and Bax!

Stay tuned for the next chapter, wherein my bamboo start growing at a rate of 2.65 feet a minute for the entire summer, and I next complain that they’re growing too damn fast.  Yay, gardening!

Duh, what’s up Doc? Duh…

I had a pet rabbit once.  Rabbits are stupid.  Yes, they’re cute and fuzzy and soft, but underneath the surface…they’re cute and fuzzy and soft.  In other words, there’s just not a lot of synapses firing in there.  I dunno, maybe I had a particularly stupid bunny, but from what I’ve seen and heard, it was pretty average.  And by average, I mean stupid.

Case in point:

NOM NOM NOM.  From my new most favorite website, http://www.epicpicsofwin.com

NOM NOM NOM. From my new most favorite website, http://www.epicpicsofwin.com

This of course does not include bugs bunny, who is very very smart, not to mention delightfully snarky.  But then, he’s a cartoon character, not a real bunny rabbit.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, is my dog.  My dog is a FREAKIN GENIUS.  People ask me if my dog is smart.  In answer, I tell them she does my taxes.  They laugh, because they think I’m kidding.

I’m not.

Ok yes I am.  But if she could grasp concepts like the US Tax Code and the use of a computer, I’d totally let her do my taxes.  I’d probably get more money back.  I could start up my very own tax consulting business, and I’d give her her very own office complete with buckets of liver and salmon treats and her very own ball boy to toss her tennis ball three times a day for an hour.  And a wading pool.  And sticks to chew on, that won’t get all splintery.  She’d do people’s taxes, and then play with her tennis ball, splash in the water, and I’d be rich, because duh, my dog can do people’s taxes.  And people would pay me to have her do their taxes, and they’d tell their friends that a dog does their taxes, and they saved OODLES of money, and how cool is that?

Don’t believe me?  Well, forget about the fact that she knew more commands at the age of 6 months than any stupid rabbit.  Forget that she is probably the most awesome dog on the planet.  You want unbiased proof, well here you go.

I took her to the Doggie Dash on the waterfront when she was 15 months old.  They had a frisbee competition that day, and any dog could register to compete.  I knew she was a fetching fool with balls, but she’d never even SEEN a frisbee before.  I’d read that it’s not a good idea for young pups to jump too much, and frisbee is just begging for jumps, so I hadn’t exposed her to that yet.  This would be her first time.  15 months old.  Never seen a frisbee.  And competing against probably 20 other dogs, many of whom have seen a frisbee, and knew what to do with it.

My dog came in FIFTH.  FIFTH!!!!!

So there.

Check out my post on OurPDX.net about the 22nd!!! annual Oregon Humane Society Doggie Dash, coming up on May 9th.  Jessie will be there, but she’s pretty good about not being all elitist and rubbing your face in the fact that she’s a genius.  Me, I have a bit more trouble with it.  Proud mother, I guess.  But…

<whisper whisper growl grunt bark bark grunt>

Um.  Jessie says I should quit being a crazy proud doggie mom.  So, sorry.

House cleaning

This is a post about cleaning house. Not like, you know, vaccuuming and mopping and dusting, although that is where it starts; more like cleaning out all the random thoughts and stuff lingering around in my head that I’ve been wanting to share. Stuff that just didn’t warrant a blog post of its own.

One of the things that sold me on my house was the wood floors throughout nearly the entire thing. They’re so easy to clean, right? I mean, with carpet, you never know what can be lurking beneath the surface of those little fibers. They remind me of cilia. Or, you know, the ocean floor. And we all know what sort of beasties can hide under there, right?

Ok ok maybe I’m exaggerating a touch. I don’t hate carpet. I quite like it in fact. But I digress. (I do that a lot, though. Oh look shiny! Anyway…)

So when I bought my house, I also bought myself a fancy shmancy vaccuum cleaner that claimed to do wonders with wood floors. I used it religiously for the first couple years. And then I quit. I don’t know what it is, but one time I just didn’t want to drag the whole thing out, deal with the cord leapfrog game, yell at my dog for attacking it, which 1. she’d been getting much better at, having figured out how to attack the switch that kept the bagless dust collector compartment attached and flipping it – I’m telling you, my dog’s a Freaking Genius, and 2. loudly, since of course the vaccuum is running, etc. I just whipped out the broom and swept. And discovered something interesting: sweeping is kinda cathartic. I find that my floors feel cleaner, since I know the broom didn’t spray crap out the back vent. I also start thinking about stuff while I sweep. Anyway. I swept my floors tonight, and starting thinking of all those little things I’d like to mention, such as…

What? It’s a new year?

Whoa, where did the year go? It’s been a year of lessons for me, emotional ones. A lot of growth, which is never bad. I may go into more detail at a later date on that. And I found out I’m going to get my very own nephew, complete with a Baby Decoder Ring and Binky accessories! How awesome is that? I’ve made some career decisions that may or may not have been good for me, but that remains to be seen. My dog somehow found herself on the news, Live @ 7 with Steph Stricklen, but then she is pretty damn cute. I bought an iPhone, restarted my blog after a 2 year or so hiatus, and met oodles and gobs of cool Portland tech and blog folk. Not a bad year. I wouldn’t put it on the top 10, but certainly the top….err..30. Ok ok 20.

Happy birthday to my adorable little pup!

im000103

Ahhh!! The cuteness! It burns!

Yes, the jessinator turned 3 this week. Happy birthday to this fuzzy little creature, my little life saver / loyal companion / partner in crime / exercise slave driver. You are one in a million! For her birthday, I took her to our doggy daycare, Dogs Dig It, and she got to pick out a free toy of her very own when I came to get her. She picked out a duck, which she’s been carrying around ever since. Well, as much as she carries around toys. It’s not quite like a ball, I guess. But she did carry it all the way out to the car before she forgot about it, and carried it all the way into the house before depositing it on the kitchen floor. It’s love, I tell you.

I had my mad skillz affirmededed

After much convincing from @djtv, (ok really not *that* much convincing), I signed up for a class on DJ Mixing at SPUN Academy. Taught by the one and only @MrBallistic, that veritable icon of old skool DJness and a fellow Twitterer along with @djtv, the class had us on turntables the first night. At first I was all, you know, thumbs. Or well, jerky. As in not smooth, and clueless. But by the end of the class I was mixin up some killer tunes and had the pitch control nearly figured out. Mad skillz, I tell ya. Mad. Skillz. Crap. Now I need a catchy DJ name. And Nita, if you read this, for the last time NO. Suggest that one more time and no mic for you!

And finally…

I enter this new year full of hope for the future, fearful of being disappointed once again, but determined to not let that stop me now, as ever. I leave you with a few words from those lovely English boys, the Chameleons, ever the thoughtful blokes:

It’s just coincidence / Well you can talk that way / But I have to say / I don’t believe in it / And with the chill of chance / I decided to dance / The days away… / But I wasn’t worried at all / Dreams are what you live for /

Here’s hoping dreams come true in spades this year.

1000 Acres, or Hiking With My Were-Dog

Dogs are fun.  Smart dogs though, can be challenging.  I sometimes wish I had one of those sleep all day, lounge around the house, climb in my lap kind of dogs, but alas, that is not the dog I requested.  I requested a smart dog who loves to fetch, and by golly that is EXACTLY WHAT I GOT.  Except apparently I failed to analyze the implications of such a request, and now have a dog which I must exercise daily, or else…well, suffice to say even my Jewish imperviousness to guilt is no match for the infliction of guilt my dog can bring to bear.

So picture this:  Dog that needs exercise + Snowpocalypse 2008.  BAD.  Oh bad bad bad.   I can only brave the snow and ice of my neighborhood so much, right?

So!  I came home last night, and got the guilty puppy dog eyes, and promised – nay, swore – that I would take her out today. 

So this morning  afternoon I got out of bed, tossed dog and myself into car, and headed to the 1000 Acre Wood

And found out that my dog turns into some funky were-dog pelican/chickadee hybrid creature when she encounters puddles, like so:

1. Dog runs at (usually large) puddle

2. Dog hits puddle at full velocity

3. Dog turns into a pelican, opens mouth and skims surface of puddle scooping up a billfull of water

4. Dog stops, ruffles feathers fur, preens and looks quite smug.

I submit the following evidence:

img_03491

The pelican swoops

Jessie in flight

Jessie in flight. Notice puddle in the rear...

In case you weren’t aware, the Sandy River Delta, otherwise knows as 1000 Acre Wood, is a fabulous place for off leash dog happiness.  Today, even with the hail:

Oh, Hail!!!

Oh, Hail!!!

…I still saw quite a few people.  I estimate the ratio of dog to owners around 1.39:1.  It’s often MUCH higher.   It’s a pretty awesome place, even with the power lines that bisect it in several places.  I encourage you to get out and enjoy it.  Just be prepared for muddy paw prints on your clothes.
Um, not going *that* way today...

Um, not going *that* way today...

prettiness.  And iPhone cameras are pretty cool.

prettiness. And iPhone cameras are pretty cool.

badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger...

badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger...

Coming up next: eTown PDX, or How I Nearly Got Ejected From the Schnitz.

Scenes from SNOWPOCALYPSE!!!! 2008

Yeah, I know everyone’s doing it.  But far be it from me to not partake in the extreme weather catastrophe spirit!  Therefore, I humbly submit my entries for the SNOWPOCALYPSE 2008 photographic and video archives:

Will my rhodies survive the winter?  I have a hunch they will!

Will my rhodies survive the winter? I have a hunch they will!

 

This next shot required a bit of laying down on the job.  During which time the denizens of the pictured yard came outside:

Denizen:  “Hey, you ok there?”

Me:  “Oh yeah, just taking some pictures here…no worries!”

Denizen:  “Um.  Ok. “  <strange look as he reenters his domicile>

You gotta take some risks when you’re an amateur photog, you know.  Great pictures require gettin down and dirty.  In the mud.  And snow. 

 

Brrr.  Portland grass yelling WTF?!?!!

Brrr. Portland grass yelling WTF?!?!!

 

And the pièce de résistance:  My latest Jessie video, entitled SnowFace.  Enjoy.

I <3 Portland

I love this town called Portland a heckuva lot.  So, in honour of the upcoming 18th anniversary of my arrival in this great town, I thought I’d toss out a list of five things I love about Portland.  I know, the usual list number is 10. However, I tend to espouse, at great length, about things I like, so in the interest of keeping this to a nice, blogworthy length, I opted for half the items, but all the love. So here it is…5 things I love about the city formerly known as Stumptown.

#5: Rain.

rain

Rain. Duh.

 What?? What did you say? Rain, are you serious? This, from the girl who lists as one of her most traumatic childhood experiences being caught in a NYC deluge? Yep. It was an epiphany level experience when I realized I actually kinda like the rain now.  Let me clarify: I like Portland rain.  Not torrential downpour, soaked to the bone southeastern US rain, no way.  But the misty, pervasive showers, the gentle sprinkles, they cleanse the air and don’t make me feel like I’m about to drown, which is how I felt during the above mentioned deluge.  Granted, I’m a bit taller now, so my fear of drowning by puddle is somewhat reduced, but still.  Also, the myth (Yes!  Myth!) that Portland gets oodles and buckets of rain keeps people away, because we all know that once they get here, they never wanna leave.  Like me.

Powell's Books

Deep in the stacks @Powells

#4: Powell’s.

Ok I know what you’re all saying.  Yawn.  Of course Powell’s is on the list, EVERYBODY puts Powell’s on their list, can’t you be original?  From my perspective though, I keenly feel the humongous slap upside the head that Powell’s is to other major book sellers (::cough:: Barnes & Noble)  Some of my favorite things in New York when I lived there were Blimpie for the subs, catching a Mets game at Shea Stadium (insert heartbreaking sob here), and going to Barnes & Noble.  B&N seemed like a reader’s mecca to my young, book-loving soul.  Plus, it was in New York, so how could anything else possibly measure up?  Now picture me walking into Powell’s the first time.  No lie, I swear I could hear a choir of angels.  And I remember thinking, clear as if it was yesterday:  “Barnes & Noble, you SUCK ASS.”  Thankfully, my appreciation of Blimpie subs faded long before that.  My Mets fandom however…I’m sad to say is still alive and in mourning.

#3: Dogs.

Jessie

Jessie @ the Sandy River

Portland is not the number one dog-friendly city in the country.  I find this extremely hard to fathom, as does my dog.  She has a tendency to get quite squeaky in the car when we pass by locations of particular canine interest that she likes.  Therefore, she tends to maintain a fairly constant level of squeekiness as I drive around Portland.  Between our usual hangout at the dog park at Mt Tabor, the constant dog cookies the mailman brings, the occasional splashdown in the uber dog-friendly section of the Sandy River, the thrice-yearly baths at Lucky Lab Dog Washes (Dogtoberfest, Multnomah Dog Days, Tails & Ales)…the list goes on and on. 

 (Err, correction, Jessie says that the Lucky Lab dog baths are NOT on her list of faves.  But they have beer! I insisted. And live music!  And free doggy samples!  She just glares at me.) 

There is nearly always some dog-related event going on around town.  Not to mention all the dog parks scattered throughout the metro area (Mt. Tabor is our fave!)  So what if they’re not exactly welcome on public transportation, like they are in Chicago or whatever.  Or Austin Texas.  Really??  Austin Texas??  Portland dogs are loved, and everyone knows it.  Screw the rest of the ‘we love dogs’ cities…if I were a dog, I’d want to live in Portland.

#2 Nature vs City.

Nature in the city, how I love thee…let me count the ways!  I love how Portland has so seemlessly blended the need for expansion with a very green sense of the need for parks, and greenspaces, and community gardens, and, well, nature within the city limits.  I mean, just consider some of the bigger natural spaces within the city:

Cherry tree near Lloyd Center

Cherry tree near Lloyd Center

That’s the short list.  It doesn’t include the hundreds of city parks and recreation spaces scattered all over.  I’ve never lived anywhere in this city where I wasn’t within a few blocks of a park, and all super nice (at least during the day…).  Having such a plethora of natural spaces, I think, creates oases of calm for a city’s residents; a place to recharge, to introspect, to run and play and love and think.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Portland is so progressive, sustainable-conscious and green:  There is evidence of nature’s power everywhere you look.  Nature is perpetuating itself in Portland.

#1: Community

Some of my friends

Some of my friends

I’ve lived in a lot of places, but I’ve lived here in Portland longer than anywhere else.  I remember coming to a realization once, long ago, while living in Syracuse NY (aka the armpit of NY state.  Trust me).  I realized that no matter where you go, where you lay your hat down at night, that the place you live really makes very little difference in your life, when you boil it down.  The place is not you, and you are not the place you live in.  It can have its effects, true, but they tend to be minor; the thoughts you have and the life you live and the problems you face are universal.  I was convinced that that was a statement of truth.  Not anymore.  There is something about Portland, something about the particular combination of sun and sky and rain and mountain and ocean and desert that make up Portland and the Pacific NW that surrounds it, that make it truly a unique place.  And it attracts truly unique people.  Never in my life have I encountered so consistently such caring, thoughtful…good people.  I have had good friends while living outside of Portland.  But never so many, who are so dear to me, and who I would honestly entrust with my life and those things I treasure the most.  I love this place, and all the people in it, whether I know you or not, because you make Portland what it is.  I will be happy to die here, someday.  Um.  Someday not too soon, that is.  Dammit where is that salt…anyone have any wood I can knock?!?

Well there it is.  5 things I love about Portland.  Love Portland too?  Then get involved, and get out there and enjoy it!