Buddy

Years ago now, I was out for a few days sailing with my friend Colin. We were in my Columbia 22 and pulled into St. Helens, OR for the night. At dawn the next morning I went up to the restroom for a hot shower. Ahhh, I can still remember how nice that was after two hot days on the river. On the way back I noticed an aluminum skiff tied up along the dock and there was a guy sleeping in it with a tarp pulled over his head. I live in Portland, OR and am no stranger to homeless persons. Later, after Colin and I cast off and left port I commented that I should have bought that guy a coffee and listened to his story. It most likely would have been a sad tale, but I had this nagging thought that he could have been a very interesting person. I recall that story pretty often and the other morning I decided to not pass on another opportunity.

When I was over at Bakehouse Bagels by my work the other morning there was this older, scruffy guy sitting there drinking coffee. He was wearing many layers of flannel and a not-dirty, yet not-clean jacket. On the table was his cup of coffee and an odd looking little metal box. At first glance I wondered if it was a flask, but when I looked closer it had a slot toward one that made me think it was a tobacco and rolling papers holder. In his hand he had a small, thin book that might have been religious in nature. Outside the shop was this overloaded bicycle with an overloaded trailer dragging out back. Both were just piled with gear. On looking closer I saw a single cylinder motor in the frame space. I thought, Wow, you don’t see that every day. I turned around and asked him if that was his rig and he affirmed. I asked him how far he had traveled in it and he said he started out two years ago in Montana. Montana! That’s a LONG way from Portland, OR. When I inquired on how much it weighed, he figured about 550Lbs with him on board and that it moved along pretty good. He said he pushes it in town rather than running the engine. I was unclear as to the reason, but on the journey he had pushed it from Kellogg, Idaho to Spokane, WA, a route I later looked up as over 70 miles! He said it took two weeks.

We talked a little bit about living in the Portland area. He said he’s been staying under the shelter in Willamette Park for the last four days. He has been around various parts of town and been hassled by homeless people more so than the police. I asked if was staying around or pushing on and he said he was headed to Beaverton, of all places. “Too spendy here” he said, referencing Zupan’s grocery for food (this is a higher end neighborhood). I placed my order for a half dozen bagels and then thanked him for sharing his travels with me. I asked him his name and he said he goes by “Buddy”. I asked if he’d like my $3 change for his travels and he politely declined, informing me that he had money. I wished him well on his travels and went back to work.

So now I know a little about “Buddy”, yet the rest of my day had me pondering what other stories he had to share. How was it coming through the mountains of Idaho? How about from Spokane to Portland? What led him to this journey? What is the goal? If I come across him again, I’ll inquire, but for now I’m thankful for his kindness and willingness to talk about his life. Everyone has a story, whether we realize it or not.

Honey Bee

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This beautiful bee landed on my hand the other day while I was sitting by the Willamette river. It sat there for a good 2-3 minutes before taking flight. Tragically, just after take off it veered toward left and then crashed into the river. I watched as it struggled to free itself out of my reach.

With all the news in the last few years about bee die offs, I couldn’t help but think this was one of those warning bells. Then today I hear that 25,000 bumblebees died in Wilsonville, OR

Conventional wisdom and science tells us to eat out fruits and veggies. Well, all the flower based edibles require pollination to exist and bees do the vast majority of it.

This is serious folks. We can’t keep poisoning our environment. Of the 88,000 chemicals being used in the US today, the FDA hasn’t only done testing on less than 300! We leave the testing up to the companies that create them. Crazy!

Crows

While down at the river today a couple of crows came by and walked along the shore. The water level was down and they walked right along the edge. As I watched, one of them picked up an object the size of a quarter and placed it on a flat rock. Then it walked a bit further and did it again. After walking further on they flew off to the North.

I walked over to take a look and sure enough, each was a small freshwater clam. Obviously there is some motive behind this. I don’t think crows can break open the clams with their beak so what is the plan? Many times in fall I’ve seen them take walnuts up to a good height and drop them on a hard surface such as the pavement. I’ve also heard them hitting the roof but that isn’t as solid as pavement or cement so I would think less successful.

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If they were going to try the dropping tactic why wouldn’t he have taken the first one away and done that? Could it be that it was putting the clam on the rock to warm in the sun and kill the clam? Once the clam is dead it will open easily. I need to go back to work so I guess that mystery will remain unsolved.

Reminiscing on a New England Christmas

I came across our pictures from one of our trips to Vermont when the kids were young. This particular trip was for Christmas and it was 2001, just months after the infamous September 11th. It was eerie walking through Portland airport with a three year old and a six year old passing guardsmen in fatigues and carrying automatic weapons.

After a stop in Chicago, we descended into Burlington airport at dusk with a light snow falling. A warm welcome from my dad was followed by a crisp, cold drive through the Wynooski valley. In my minds eye I could see through the dark and snow to snow covered fields with picturesque red barns and silver silos standing guard over the dormant fields. Once we got to Stowe, we turned off Route 100 and wound our way into Stowe Hollow and were met with the pungent yet delicate smell of woodstove smoke. Mom had the house all lit up and was standing in the doorway as we came up the driveway, our tires making that squeaking sound in the fresh snow.

The snow continued to fall all the next day as we procured a sled for Kyle and Kate, and prepped the shovels and snow gear. Kate was all bundled up like a little Michelin man. Kyle, mister industrious, spent some quality time with the snow shovel making all sorts of paths and a snow fort.

Summer 2012, Kyle and I flew to Stowe to say goodbye to the old house as my parents were selling it. I was comforted by no hesitation or doubt in Mom and Dad’s voices about their decision. Living all the way across the country and only back sporadically, I had already said many goodbyes to the place and was at ease. On our last day, Kyle and I made one last hike up the Pinnacle on a perfectly sunny day to look out over the valley and mountains. This special place will always be in my heart.

2012 Open Source Bridge Conference

Today’s lectures gave me a lot to think about. Jason’s talk was inspiring about the loss of web content. An overwhelming majority of netizens don’t think about it when they put content up to sites. Currently there is the imminent darkening of the mobile me website. I had put content up there so I’ve been seeing the warning emails even though I pulled all my content off. I did a spring cleaning of my Internet presence a few months back. I found it ridiculous that I had accounts scattered over the Internet with all the perils of password duplication.

I am becoming more sensitized to the data footprint I am leaving on the Internet. It’s not that there are footprints there but that I’m losing control of my data content. How many Internet sites do people belong to? Some are “content passive” in the sense that they don’t add content to them. One might have an account on a news site, but that is only for access. A lot of people participate in the comment forums as well. This is “throw away” content. People don’t care if this content disappears of the face of the Internet. What about uploaded content? How would you feel if all your images that you uploaded just disappeared because some corporate management just decided to pull the plug? Jason’s archive team may save you from losing that data with their efforts. I don’t know about you, but I want control over that.

Another technology idea that has been swirling around my mind has been that of recording (and keeping perpetually!) the content that I create. It’s an easy enough concept, but what is the best way to do it? There are so many different data types and different applications that we use to generate data, store data, retrieve data. Sure, jpg images are ubiquitous now but who knows what the future will bring. I believe the answer lies in three parts.

One, as much as possible, use open standards. These standards aren’t limited by copyright, patent or some dubious corporate entity.

Two, use as simple a representation model as possible. We all love shiny, fancy things but these tend to be more toward the proprietary, complicated side of the continuum. Fact, ASCII will be readable FOREVER!

Three, given the above two, one has to let go the concern about file types. Some trust has to be given to future programmers writing a conversion utility to whatever future, better file version.

I’ve waffled back and forth about how to pass my content on to my kids and the future. Sometimes I feel luddite and write in an actual paper journal. This captures my handwriting and lends some feeling to what I’m writing. At the same time it is a harder medium for me to communicate in (no backspace key!) and requires the reader to physically possess the document (which has its own intimacy about it). Keeping things electronic allows increasingly better search, analysis, portability and storage.

Joining these two ideas, I’d like to find ways to both keep data on my own servers on the Internet and keep versioning/backup in perpetuity for those to come.

Debian Linux Squeeze Release

The Debian Linux OS is releasing its latest version this weekend, code named “Squeeze”. While most of the technologically oriented people don’t even know its happening, the whole process amazes me. If you think of what must happen to release a new version of Windows or Mac OS X, all the software pieces, the scores of people, the millions of lines of code, it is just amazing. Those take place with the coordination of a business structure and paid employees. Debian, on the other hand is a community of volunteers. Now try to wrap your head around the concept that Debian is not just an operating system. It includes nearly 30,000 software packages from the OpenOffice suite, web browsers, mail programs to a plethora of programming and scientific applications. So, when Debian releases a new version it is comparable to Microsoft rolling the top few thousand applications into their OS version and releasing that. Even more, this huge base of software is coded to run on 12 different hardware platforms. The full standard PC collection takes up 52 CDs. Truly amazing!

Oaks Bottom Amphibian Habitat Restoration

Recently, I volunteered to help improve amphibian habitat at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. It is a 140 acre wetland near my neighborhood in the center of Portland, OR. The city of Portland acquired the property in 1969 to prevent it from becoming an industrial park, making it Portland’s first urban wildlife refuge. A myriad of animals live or frequent the refuge including muskrat, raccoon, deer, osprey, and occasionally bald eagles.

Look closely and you’ll see one of three deer that were checking our work.

I have frequented Oaks Bottom doing various activities from walking, rowing and commuting by bicycle to helping out with my children’s science classes on field trips. Last year, Kyle’s 8th grade class made a beautiful botanical guide to the refuge. Other trips had us pulling invasive English Ivy or planting native sedges and rushes. This day’s event was part of SOLV‘s Beach and Riverside Cleanup which happens each spring and fall. Rather than drive to the beach to participate, which I have done numerous times( just ask my kids about the time we had sun, rain, sleet and snow all in one day), I thought I would bike to a gathering closer to home. The rest of my family was busy so I asked my friends Tanja and Darren if they would like to join me. Amazingly, the timing fit perfectly with their busy schedules. All three of us arrived by bike with plenty of landscaping tools.

Winter shows us the wetlands in all its glory with the low lying forested areas flooding and for those with keen eyes, the frog egg masses stuck to sticks. Dabbling ducks enjoy foraging on all the green grass around the tree trunks. The leaf out in spring treats us to vibrant greens and tadpoles swimming among last years leaves in the pools. Summer is the time to watch the osprey feeding their young in their uncomfortable looking branch nests on the tops of any high structures such as power line towers, river pilings and cottonwood trees.

This day’s work had 10-12 of us planting more sedges around the clumps that had established themselves in the swale the city had built. Marissa, our leader from Portland Parks and Rec, explained to us that invasive leopard frogs are out competing the native Red-legged Frog.

The Leopard frog needs year round water so this swale was designed to be ephemeral to give the native frogs the habitat they need. She demonstrated how we were to dig holes a and then tamp in the starts. The sedges are really hardy and can easily deal with the inexperienced handling. She also showed us how to plant the young willow saplings that she placed around the swale.

I started digging and quickly found chunks of brick, a nail, and a piece of security glass with chicken wire in it. I resisted the temptation to play archaeologist and struggled through more brick pieces and a piece of metal with a bolt still going through it. I planted six or seven willow saplings before moving on to finish off the sedges. I found the best way to plant the sedges was to take the crowbar and stab it into the ground to the depth you wanted and then work it around in a circle. Then the slender, cone shaped sedges would just slide right in. I wish I had thought of that a few flats of sedges earlier.

By the time we were done, the sun was high and the sweat was pouring profusely. Marissa was excited that we got all the plants in the ground and she led us back up to the trailhead to some snacks and the water fountain. One of the organizers was inviting volunteers to his house for a party involving a keg and I was sad that I had to be off to other engagements. I pedaled home with the satisfaction of those tired muscles and sweaty clothes that evidenced the real work that was done for a good cause.

Cruising Poem

by ????

“On an ancient wall in China

Where a brooding Buddha blinks,
Deeply graven is the message

It is later than you think.
The clock of life is wound but once

And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop,

At late or early hour.
Now is all the time you own,

The past a golden link,
Go cruising now my brother

It’s later than you think.”

How true! Replace cruising with whatever endeavor that you cherish.