Monday, December 31, 2007

Reflections On The Year Past

2007. Hard to believe that it is over. I’ve written the following in haste so I may make some adjustments over the next day or so.

I give 2007 an 8 out of 10. There’s some room for improvement, but overall a very satisfying 365 days. Some highlights, not all inclusive and in no particular order:

1) A new nephew. Not quite sure who he really is yet, beyond being very sleepy, but he seems cool. Even if he is squishy.
2) Friends. I really can’t express how unreal some of my friends are. And I keep stumbling on more and more great people all the time.
3) Living in the city. This is probably the single biggest catalyst for change in my life that I’ve had in some time. All for the positive.
4) Losing weight. I’ve dropped a total of 25 pounds now which puts my initial goal weight well within sight. Not easy, but it hasn’t killed me and I not only look healthier, I feel healthier.
5) Portland Timbers. Feel the love.
6) Portland Trailblazers. Feel that love. Wow.
7) Red Sox. World Series champs twice in my lifetime. That will last me for a long while.
8) I got a trumpet.

Some things I wish were different:

1) War. Stupid.
2) Romance. I could use a bit of it.
3) Distance. I wish I lived closer to my brother (or vice versa) and a few other amazing people. But then again, I’d always be missing out on someone wouldn’t I? There’s no perfect solution to this one, is there?

I hope that your 2007 has had similar highlights and very few lowlights.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Let's Put The Art in Party

Every Boxing Day my ancestral family hosts a party to celebrate and honor the heritage of our family and its many contributions to the City of Portland.

This party, for me, has never really struck the right chord. It always hit me as a bit stuffy and even pretentious. To please my mother I normally attend once every 6-8 years. This year was one of those years.

This edition of the party should’ve been the stuffiest of all; Hosted at the Portland Art Museum. However, to my surprise, I enjoyed this version tremendously. Bruce must be growing up. Mom will be proud.

I learned a great deal about the founding of the Art Museum and our ancestors’ roles in that. We were given a private tour by the current curator of many of the significant works that were sold or donated to the museum. Cousin Bill gave a great account of the family over the years and many of the specific donations, gifts and contributions.

The highlight, once again, was Aunt Lucy. She related several stories but one that was very touching. The family once had a Winslow Homer painting. It was sold to put Lucy through college. It turns out that several of her generation of the family attended college through similar sacrifices. It was evident to all how much this meant to Lucy and it really demonstrated to me the profound connections of family, city, museum, education and culture.

I’ve always felt a bit of disconnect to my extended family, much to my mother’s dismay, I fear. But, as I’ve been working to be better connected to both family and friends, I want this to change.

So, see you all next Boxing Day.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I just want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and happy secular holiday.

No matter what your particular version of this holiday time entails, I wish all of you the best through this season and well into the New Year.

Peace and prosperity, harmony and fulfillment. May these all be yours now and in the future.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gmail - At Least It's Not As Creepy As MySpace

I really like Gmail. I switched to it just before moving in June when I had to cancel my Verizon online account.

Gmail came highly recommended and overall I’ve been very satisfied. Great spam filters. Versatile archiving. Except for this one thing:

Ad bots.

They run an automated ad generator at the top of the email screen. It’s not a graphic or anything, just a link and a quick blurb. Except their ad bot is reading my email and generating targeted ads for me. It’s just a bit on the creepy side.

In the past week I’ve had the following ads come up, some more than once:

Indianwives – forgo the traditional arranged marriage; join the new century (eww.)

Bourne Identity becomes funny – the guys from MST3K take on Matt Damon (OK, this actually sounds funny)

Albany Apartments – great rentals in the capital region (I’m willing to visit Albany, but I didn’t know I wanted to live there – does the bot know something I don’t? By any chance does it know the Powerball numbers?)

Netflix – Get Netflix (reasonable)

Room Paint Designs – by Benjamin Moore – high quality, eco-friendly paints (too many house/remodeling emails?)

101 cookbooks – Minty Chocolate Christmas Cookies (isn’t the bot smart enough to know I’m on a diet?)

Now some of those make sense, but Indianwives? Where is that coming from? Did this bot actually put together a link between an email I sent to someone about Indian food and another lamenting my status as a single guy at holiday parties with happy, loving couples?

I’m considering writing some really provocative emails just to see what the bots will come up with. Feel free to send me some too. If I can make it a game it won’t be so creepy.

Gmail – Get your creep on. In writing. In a fun way. Oy.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Concert Series: They Might Be Giants

I know I’ve seen They Might Be Giants (TMBG) four times. It could be more. They do blur together a bit. They are one of the most fun live band experiences out there.

When I was a sophomore in college, TMBG came out with their first real single, “Don’t Let’s Start” in 1987. Living in the LA area, KROQ played all the cool new music and had it in heavy rotation. I loved it. Acquired the album and enjoyed it, but not as much as that one song.

Fast forward to junior year, 1988. TMBG had released more music and I met Alice who was a huge TMBG fan. She played more TMBG for me and once again I found a few songs that I loved and enjoyed the rest.

Now, TMBG are a difficult band to describe. They are smart. Funny. Ironic. Their lyrics cut every which way. They take traditional rock arrangements, turn them on their side, add accordions and funky horns and quirky synths and create a singular, unique sound. They really explore their musical space. They write children’s songs and Disney theme songs. They have an unreal appreciation for history and weave it into their act. They are, in essence, a renaissance band full of renaissance men.

All of the shows I’ve seen have had great moments. They’ve also all been within the last six years. Turns out it took me fifteen years from when I first heard them to get to one of their shows.

The first show that I saw was postponed because of September 11th. Rescheduled for about nine months later. The Crystal Ballroom was sweltering hot. The band had great energy and got great energy back from the Portland crowd. Two moments stand out: the extended drum solo where the drummer played in different styles prompted by the crowd: from Charlie Watts to Stevie Wonder to Animal from the Muppets. Hi-Larious. The second was when they played “New York City”. A fast paced, heartfelt love song. In the aftermath of September 11th, and the connection that show had to the event, the song meant more that night to me than it ever did before and ever will again. I’m certain of that.

I saw the band most recently in September of this year. Roseland theater this time. I really enjoyed the show as they played some more obscure songs than before. They even played “We’re The Replacements” which is a personal fave that I’d never seen them play live before. There was a horn section. They received phone calls from Carl Sagan’s grave. Good stuff.

What I really love about this band and its audience is that every fan of theirs has a different favorite song. They have that many good ones and speak to that diverse an audience. My personal favorites include the aforementioned “We’re The Replacements” plus “’Til My Head Falls Off”, “Ana Ng”, “Why Does The Sun Shine?” and “Another First Kiss”.

So, if TMBG come to your town and you’ve ever enjoyed their recorded music, go check them out. You will leave with a smile on your face and a bounce in your step. You might also feel a bit smarter.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

An Ode to Bud

I used to have a cat named Bud. His given name was Budweiser but Bud was his real identity. He was the coolest cat ever.

I got him when I was in sixth or seventh grade. Bud was a pound cat. He was a brown tabby with a white stomach and big, white paws. Bud had a singular talent of walking on his hind legs and asking not-very-politely for his food.

Bud had an attitude. Bud was independent. Bud was a bit ornery. Bud was like one of the cool kids in high school. The ones who impressed you just by knowing your name, even though you otherwise had little in common. Bud was a rock star of a cat. Remember those fat cat cartoons with the sunglasses? Bud could’ve been the inspiration for those.

Tragically, he was struck and killed by a car on the busy street where we lived. It was summer. I think I was 17 or so. My brother had to give me the bad news. I’ve always wondered if that was difficult for him. He did it rather businesslike. I was in the shower. He came in, told me through the steam and water, said that Bud was in the garage and then he left for work.

I didn’t cry. I think I always figured that Bud would go out that way. He had been hit in full stride. He had what you could only categorize as a smile on his face. Eyes open. The only sign of trauma was a small trickle of blood from his mouth. I can still see his image in my mind’s eye. I’d like to think that he died instantly and didn’t suffer. It certainly looked that way.

Bud was the last cat that I have called my own. Turns out I am allergic to the beasts.

I was reminded of Bud last night when I was at my friends, Lucas and Audrey’s for dinner. They have two cats of personality: Mudshark and Sputnik. Sputnik is a wonderful spaz of a cat. Mudshark may be the reincarnation of Bud himself. I had fun playing with them between a few too many swigs of port and episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

And with that I realized that I am a cat person. Not an active cat person but a cat person nonetheless. Allergies aside, if there’s a cat that I meet in my strolls I always try to engage it. Jangle some keys. Call to it. See if it will do that sort of feline Salsa dance between my ankles.

Yep. Cat person.

Take care crossing the street.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Could You Make This Sacrifice?

The case of Gabriel Allred has been a fascinating look at policy and law versus common sense and gut instinct.

A recap. Gabriel Allred is a 2-year old child. He’s been in foster care with Steve and Angela Brandt in Oregon most of his life. His biological parents both faced criminal charges and were deemed unfit, as was his maternal Grandmother here in the US. His paternal Grandmother, Cecilia Martinez, lives in Mexico.

The Department of Human Services has policy on the books that blood family is the preferred place for a child. The Brandts had started the process to adopt Gabriel. DHS thus sought out Martinez to determine if she was deemed fit and to inquire if she wished to petition for custody of Gabriel. By every account Gabriel’s life with the Brandts is one of love, affection, stability and familiarity. They behave and function like his family.

DHS decided that, by policy and law, Gabriel should live with Martinez. In Mexico. Gabriel, by law, can claim both US citizenship and Mexican citizenship. The issue of the child’s best interest thus became clouded in outcries of deportation, language and even race.

A proverbial no-win scenario.

Until Martinez did the most loving thing that she could have done. Upon visiting Oregon and entering into negotiations, she dropped her petition. It’s called a sacrifice and it could not have been easy for her. I wouldn’t blame her if she had continued to fight for custody. She had the law and policy on her side. I’m sure she would have provided the absolute best she could for Gabriel.

But even she could see that what was best for Gabriel wasn’t what was best for her.

Now, there are some unusual concessions in the agreement, so this isn’t entirely roses and puppies. But the end result is that the child’s interests trumped the law and the policy. But it took the sacrifice of a wise Grandmother to show DHS that Gabriel was the exception and not the rule.

I don’t fault DHS. Their policies are almost always proper. Even this application of policy was well intentioned. But their policy couldn’t interpret what so many of us know to be true:

Blood isn’t always the end of family. Family is often the place where you belong.

Gabriel, in the end, belonged with the Brandts.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Mayo Clinic


The single most awful ingredient known to mankind. Yet, even I, who can't stand eggs in most of their native forms use this god-awful stuff. But no longer.

The stuff is basically fat and calories. It's a lubricant for sandwiches and a creamer for dips. Consider this: would you ever eat the stuff straight or almost straight? I'll take a spoonful of peanut butter, a dollop of cream cheese, a pinky of jam and I'd never, ever consider putting a glob of mayo down my gullet. I bet you're the same. I sure hope you're the same. Ewww.

So why do we still use this stuff? The low fat alternatives don't do it for me. and, bless it, yogurt just has too different an overall flavor. But I've found a solution that works for me (Thanks, Mom!). Pickles.

Pickles do something interesting when you eat them. They increase your output of saliva. This in turn makes the dryness of otherwise plain bread dissolve away easily. Calorically they are nothing compared to mayo. Fat? None. Cholesterol? Nada. Salt. There's the kicker. Gotta be aware of that but that's really their only flaw.

So, if you're after another easy dietary change, add four more pickle slices to your 'wich and leave off the mayo. Unless you can't stand pickles, either. But c'mon, it's not like they're eggs.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

There Is No Parking In The White Elephant Zone

White Elephant.

The very name is fun to say. Hell, elephant alone is fun to say. Good word. But White Elephants and the parties they throw are quite fun themselves.

Sunday night was our annual department holiday party. Hosted at Ernesto’s Italian Restaurant. We were complete with our own version of Bad Santa (great job Ted!) and another curious excursion into the land of white elephant parties.

Now, for me, White Elephant parties date back to when I was a child. My parents would occasionally host the Catlin Gabel faculty party. I have very fond memories of the fun and laughter and specifically Pru Twohy, one of the most dynamic people I have ever known. I should dedicate an entire blog to her as she’s on the short list of the people who helped shape me into the dashing and charming gentleman I am today.

So, as White Elephant parties go, ours was a bit tame. That’s to be expected at a work party. There were no coats made out of human hair nor any flutes sculpted to resemble a penis (both are actual White Elephant gifts from other parties I’ve attended. True.). But we had good fun.

I was early in the arena, third or fourth to pick. My strategy was simple. Go big. There was a five foot long tube colored like a candy cane. Heavy. Solid. I went for it. Inside, rolled in brown butcher paper was a wallpaper mural of a window overlooking the sea. The cheese factor of this gift was phenomenal. I was satisfied that not only had I found a unique item that I could likely regift without shame but also that nobody in their right mind would steal it from me. I was done.

Or so I thought.

Within three gifts my mural was nicked. Can you believe it? So I had the indignity of having to make the trip to the gift table a second time. Now, I just wanted to nurse my IPA and chat with folks. My work there was supposed to be done. But, ever the good sport, I cracked some jokes, tried to steal Bad Santa’s Rum and changed my strategy. Small. I wanted the smallest package.

What I found was small, about 4 inches square. Covered in black crushed velvet it looked out of place. The clasp for the box lid was a band of elastic and I unwound it to reveal a small penguin ornament on skis. With a blue glitter coat. Tasteful. I felt less safe with this gift than the mural. As tacky as I thought it was, it did have the glitter factor as well as the penguin factor. Two major components of bizarre obsession of the knick-knack crowd.

Sure enough. My bird got nicked quickly.

With my third, shameful visit to the table, I decided I would go ugly. There was a clumsily wrapped blue package. The weight made it feel like a jug of laundry detergent. Cool, I thought. Practical. My kind of WE gift. I was hoping it would be HE compatible as our washer’s very new, and quite fancy. Alas, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was going to post a picture but it is really too hideous and might actually harm your computer. What I discoverd inside the ugly, blue bag was a gilded porcelain sculpture of grapes and fruit, in a cone shaped tower. Did I mention it was gilded? The sucker is heavy. It also is engraved on its base with the great artist named MITCHELL and dated 10-69. It’s almost as old as me. If I was more creative I’d come up with it’s thirty-eight year biography. Wanna give it a shot?

Well. At least I have a gift for my next White Elephant party.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Diet, The Kilt and The Wardrobe

My recent diet has taken its first real victims.

Both of my kilts no longer fit me.

Now, my kilts weren't very expensive, nor great works of tailored magic. But I still enjoyed wearing them as kilts are extremely comfortable. They also are great conversation pieces.

When I get down to a more permanent size I will certainly replace one or both of them. Maybe add a higher quality one in the family tartan. Who knows. But it's going to be difficult to replace my Timbers Army one. Custom tartan, that one. Not sure when another run of those will ever be done.

So, it looks like I'll be wearing traditional trousers to my company holiday party this evening. Oh well.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

There's Always Room For Gingerbread

Portland is a great place to live. You're surrounded by incredible natural beauty. Mountains. Coast. Gorge. The city has a vast abundance of breweries so you always have a new pint that you can try. There's a growing cultural scene that is both impressive and diverse, whether it's opera, symphony, theater, art, music, soapbox derby, association football, underdog sports, roller derby or any of dozens of other pursuits.

But Portland really is the people. The people are the city. One of Portland's finest is Dave Diffendorfer. Not only is he one of the funniest, most charming guys you could ever meet, but he's also an unique artist of gingerbreadic proportion.

For 14 years Dave has been making the Benson Hotel's lobby gingerbread house display.

He's got formal training from the Western Culinary Institute and, even though he left the Benson years ago, they retain him for this very special project. They set him up in one of the hotel rooms and he makes a veritable Everest of gingerbread, marzipan, icing and what not (chocolate covered baby's breath? Are you kidding me?) to create an amazing, and theoretically edible, display.

Check out his website for details on the history of the houses. And be sure to check out the Benson lobby in person to see what he can create. Look for ghosts and tributes to the mighty Portland Timbers and their faithful supporters.


For nostalgia's sake I ventured into the re-opened downtown Macy's to see their memorial room dedicated to the old Meier & Frank Monorail. When I was young we would visit Santaland on the 10th floor of downtown store. There was a monorail that hung from the vast ceiling and you could ride it above the heads of all the youngsters waiting to see St. Nick. Macy's has wisely created a display honoring this piece of Portland's past. There are only two monorail cars on display but the photos alone are worth the visit. Free.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Your Custom Made Rock Band

So Scott and I were chatting music again today at work. Go figure. He posed the question to me "Who is the greatest guitarist of all time?"

We both defaulted to Jimi Hendrix and went from there. For me it's probably Mark Knopfler after Hendrix. He's got a totally unique style and phrasing. He plays beautiful riffs and solos and can actually write songs. Dire Straits songs from the 70's and early 80's still stand the test of time for me.

Then we decided we'd extrapolate and form our own super groups. You should too. Here are the rules:

Choose one vocalist, one guitarist, one bassist and one drummer.

Pay attention to style and personal ego.

This is a band designed to play live. So, showmanship and stage presence should play a role.

That's it. Have fun. I'll post my own supergroup later. What's yours?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Scales of Justice

I really don't want this blog to just become a chronicle of weight loss and literature. I do have some things to say about matters of the day.

But, this weight loss thing is on my mind a lot, one of about four things that dominate the thoughts currently. So, this morning, I again mustered the courage to get on the scale. Now for those of you in internet-land who haven't ever fought the battle of the excess pound, the intimidation of a scale probably doesn't move you. Perhaps you might compare it to having blood drawn or getting an injection. Momentary fear that is gone quickly. But the fear of the scale persists. It grabs a hold of you. It mocks you. It even punishes you. It's one of those things that never leaves you even as the pounds do. Irrational fear. Like most fears.

For the longest time I didn't even own a scale. Ignorance is bliss. I didn't want to know. But it became necessary when my doctor and I started working on a plan towards better health. That was 15 months ago. I used it a few times and then it went neatly under the bathroom sink. Didn't touch it until I moved this past summer.

So it's been in my new bathroom under the sink. Staring at me every time I replace the tissue or get a new razor (I do shave from time to time) or a new bar of Safeguard. It's a light shade of green (I always call this Martha Stewart green) and matches the bathroom decor nicely. It belongs here. But, dammit. It's just a household appliance. It has no power over me. I am the great and powerful Oz.

So, this morning the scale and I had a little chat. I told it what was expected of it, what my job was in relation to it and how we could achieve mutual cooperation and understanding.

I think she got the message.

232 pounds.

Somehow, I've trimmed an additional four pounds in three days.

However, my system is not loving this. It's in sugar deprivation. I'm getting plenty of food and nutrition, but I got a bit of the shakes yesterday afternoon. A quick bite of salad and a very mini pack of SweeTarts later and I was back in business.

Still, this is a hopeful start to my ultimate goal. I know the first two weeks aren't indicative of the overall path of progress. This will slow down. But it still gives me a bit of the happies. And I sure welcome that these days.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

You Bought What?

I was having a conversation with my friend Scott at work. We were talking about music. What we love. What we dislike. How we have never been able to get into the Velvet Underground nor Zappa. What we concluded was that as we've gotten older our musical tastes have softened. We're both not nearly as adamant that the Clash is the only band that matters nor are we as concerned about The Who's place in rock history now that they are on every car commercial known to mankind.

So, I got to thinking. I've got a lot of CDs. Although I have one box that went AWOL in my move in July and I am missing a lot of good stuff. But I digress. I've got a good cross section of classic rock, punk, some disco, 80's progressive, alternative, grunge, soft rock, classical, jazz, etc. And I've got some stuff that seems so out of place. This is what I want to know. What is the single most embarrassing CD that you own? Do you ever listen to it?

For me, it's probably Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits. I haven't listened to it in a long time but I have a modest respect for the Bear-Cat. He's actually quite an accomplished songwriter. He's humble, funny and he has very little ego. I'd enjoy having him over for dinner. 'Mandy' is gold. Fact. If anyone has a copy of Soul Asylum doing their version of 'Mandy' I will pay money for it.

So, what's the worst CD in your collection?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Getting Belt Loopy

So. According to my friendly scale this morning I’ve dropped another pound. Yay for me!

More importantly I’ve found a new notch on this belt. I didn’t even know it was there. It’s also the final notch on this particular belt. This is good news. For the belt industry. A new belt means progress of a kind I’ve not known for a long time. Yay for me! Again!

Monday, December 3, 2007

From the Original Japanese

So, I've started on the first book of the triple trilogy recommended to me by my loyal readers.

With a double-blind random selection I am now toting around The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. This novel is translated from Japanese which means it is not eligible to be the great American novel. I wonder if that makes it sad?

It got me thinking. I've read lots of translated masterpieces. Camus. Sartre. Homer. Dante. I tried to read all but Dante in their original language. Even as one who was pretty good at speaking French and understanding spoken French I was horrible in the area of reading French. I was a functionally French illiterate.

Now I'm working on this novel. Honestly, I'm not sure I've ever read anything translated from Japanese before. But, I will admit, even just two chapters in I am hooked. And I think part of it is the translation. Part of it is the rave reviews. But the novel has a nice flow to it and I can tell that I will enjoy it. I also have no idea where it is really heading. Also good to get me hooked.

If it had been up to me I would've probably started with a shorter novel. This one's 607 pages. But I think it will go quickly.

If the wind and rain continues tonight like it did last night I'll make some real headway on this novel. It was impossible to get any real sleep during Sunday night as the weather was severe enough to shake, rattle and roll right outside my window. Unreal amounts of water.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Pencil is Mightier Than the Sword

There's a TV and movie fan movement going on to support the Writer's Guild in their strike against the studios. For $1 you can buy a box of pencils to be delivered en masse to the studio execs along with information about which show or writer you specifically support.

If you are interested in supporting this union which has produced an enormous quantity of quality entertainment, all relatively anonymously, click this link. Buy one box. Buy ten boxes.

They've amassed close to 400,000 pencils so far. You can check out the overall blog here.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Literary Update

Today I went to Powell's.

I used the morning hours to plan my attack at the city of books. I know that a list of books and authors isn't always preparation enough to tackle Powell's. So, I visited their website. I found each of the eight books I planned to purchase and cleverly located them in the proper Powell's room under the proper Powell's category. Once at the store I made very efficient use of my time with only the Roger Angell book being difficult to locate. But even it could not escape me and my Batman like detective skills.

Speaking of Batman. I owe the caped crusader some thanks. The 60's camp TV show was a staple of after-school viewing in my family. Stu and I would watch intently almost every day. I loved Batman. But when we would play act I never got to be Batman, rather I was Robin, the boy Wonder, and Stu donned the blue cape. But Batman's name was Bruce and he and I always had a connection that my brother and he never could. Cue evil laugh.

Bruce Wayne had a massive library at Wayne Manor. And within that library there was a bust of William Shakespeare. Stay with me here. Y'see, that bust's head was on a hinge and when lifted it would reveal the button that in turn revealed the batpoles behind the bookcases. Huge bookcases. So every afternoon as we were staring at the boob tube I was looking at the bard himself and staring at book, after book, after book.

My favorite book of all-time is my Riverside Shakespeare. It's the one enormous college text that I kept. It's not that I couldn't put it down or anything like that, it just feels like an important validation of my college experience. In some ways, it represents more to me than my diploma. In addition to being vital for anyone studying Shakespeare it is also a great desk, drafting table and doorstop. And it was Batman who introduced me to Shakespeare. Hence, the thanks.

I'm not the avid reader that I should be. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy great books. Even good books. But I have always had a difficult time making time for them. This has to change. In fact, if I'm going to tackle this literacy project it will change. I now have all nine of the books listed in the Literary thread from November. I bought all but Confederacy of Dunces as my housemate David had that on his shelf.

I've yet to decide which one to start with. How do you choose? Will one of the books take offense and shred the last of its pages so I never know the resolution? Jealousy could happen. I may just draw names from the hat. Fairer than a Presidential election if you ask me.

I bought the books today based almost entirely on price. While I prefer hardbound books they are vastly more expensive. Trade paperbacks are superior to a standard paperback so I did splurge a bit on The Floating Opera so I could have the more substantial heft. Paperbacks make me a bit sad, actually. There's just no way for a paperback to avoid having it's spine creased and curled. It instantly becomes damaged goods.

Some facts about the books:
Longest: 988 Pages, Pandora's Star
Shortest: 244 Pages, The Dharma Bums
Least expensive: $1.95, The Ginger Man
Most expensive: $24.95, The World Without Us
Oldest: 1955 The Ginger Man (also the oldest physical book-printed in 1979)
Newest: 2007 The World Without Us
Used: 6
New: 2
Not for sale in Canada: A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters

I love books. The feel of a book. The weight. Turning pages is such a satisfaction. They're all numbered. It gives you a reminder of your progress with every turn. I wish the feedback in some of my relationships was as clear. Yet, I know that every book has been at the sacrifice of a tree. It's the curse of the environmentalist. Every tree hugger I know makes huge sacrifices to live responsibly. But each of them loves books and has a massive library. Sort of like Batman. Ironic.

I also love Powell's. It's a bit crowded these days for my tastes, with a few too many of the self-absorbed wandering its stacks. But it is where the books are. The staff are very friendly and helpful. It just feels like Portland to me. I like that feeling. I also get a kick out of seeing people play with 'POD', the sculpture across Burnside. My friend, Pete Beeman, designed and built this massive thing of steel, springs and iron. It even has wheels. It's very shiny. Those are Pete's rules: Make it big. If you can't make it big make it shiny. If you can't make it shiny let it bleed. Or something like that. But I digress. The books.

So. Here we are. I am a bit intimidated by the pile, but I plan to start the first one on Monday during my lunch break. I'll try to keep you up to date on my progress. But not one page at a time.


Maps and Legends, Weights and Measures

I got on the scale today.

How's that for the start of an entry? This is actually a good thing. I hate the scale. I've never trusted it as a great way to measure fitness and health. I was in the best shape of my life when I weighed 190 even though the charts said I should be at 170. But I know that when you've put on as much weight as I have over the last 8-10 years that it's not all muscle mass. Still, today I actually was feeling thinnish and I thought to myself that it was probably time to do some gathering of data.

When I last got on the scale, in the first week of July if my memory is any good, I was tipping it at a not-particularly-healthy 248. Most people are surprised when I tell them the actual numbers. I take that as a kindness, but even I know that I resemble a Weeble more than a G.I. Joe.

At Thanksgiving many of my family said they thought I'd lost weight. I chalked it up to a nicely pressed shirt that was actually tucked in for a change. Turns out they were right.

Today the scale read 237.

That's 11 pounds that I've dropped in five months. Not earth shattering, but as it's not the result of much exercise and is more a product of some moderate changes in my diet it provides me some optimism.

My very good friend Kip's wedding is the first weekend in April. I am honored to stand with him as best man. It's time to put this body through some real improvements. Gotta look good for the pics and who knows, I may end up deciding to take a date.

So here's the goal. 210 pounds by April 1, 2008. That's 27 pounds to lose in four months. So, roughly 7 pounds a month. Less than 2 pounds a week. This is possible even if it is lofty.

So here's the master plan. I've got very few master plans so this is actually another good thing:


I've been a roll out of bed, clean up, hit the streets kind of guy for as long as I can remember. I hardly ever eat breakfast. This has to change. So, it's off to the cereal aisle when I next visit my one stop shopping center. Maybe some oatmeal from time to time just for variety. I'm a 1% milk guy anyway so that should be easy.


I am right now drinking my last sugary, bubbly soda for four months. Including diet soda. I happen to be fond of water but I almost always reach for soda instead. Time to buckle down.


I don't eat many desserts. I never eat the donuts and pastries that try to serve as some sort of office thank you at work. I've stopped eating ice cream as part of a low lactose project. But I have a sweet tooth something awful from time to time. It normally manifests itself as Red Vines, Twizzlers or the ever evil Jelly Belly. I love Jelly Bellies. I am confident that I will still love Jelly Bellies when I am allowed to taste them again in April.

Drive Thrus.

I am done with fast food. Finis. I've been cutting down on it anyway but I need to do better.


When I lived alone it was very easy to make too much food and to then eat too much food. Living with a housemate has helped. From now on, I only cook enough for a single meal per person.


I actually eat a lot of the good stuff; Vegetables. Lean chicken. Fish. But I also eat far too much bad stuff; Pasta. Empty Bread. Ceaser dressing. Red meat. White rice. Potatoes. I have far too much starch in my diet. A few changes, with an emphasis on a higher proportion of vegetables is in order.


There is an Indian restaurant two minutes from my office. They make fantastically savory food. I love the place. But it is far too easy to eat too much and too much of the bad stuff of their lunch buffet. I will not eat there again until April 7 and then only if I have met my weight goal. The Chinese place and Italian place are also off limits, if only so I don't get accused of discrimination.


I'm not a huge fan of exercise for exercise's sake. I'd prefer something where you keep score. But this is a vital component of the plan and I need to make myself move more and break a good sweat when I do it. This part of the plan is still a work in progress. Maybe some night walks in the 'hood. Certainly some weight work. But I really don't want to join a gym. Running leads to heart attacks, I'm certain.

So. Some big changes to make me small. Or smaller. Still big. 210 is still 20-40 pounds more than I should weigh. But this is about moving in the right direction, not being perfect.

Wish me luck.