Making the public private, courtesy Neil Goldschmidt, Inc.

by Steve, December 6th, 2015

Merry Christmas kids!

At times like these, all I can think about is Fred Leonhardt, once the risen star of political speech-writing in Oregon, and how his career was destroyed by the still-powerful politico-corporate network of child-rapist Neil Goldschmidt. So I dedicate this to Fred and to his family, and all they’ve sacrificed to support Fred’s righteous bravery. (Here’s Nancy’s take.)

Oregon’s Port of Portland and its unique Metro regional government have long been known as warrens of sinecures for ex-Goldschmidt operatives, along with executive positions at private corps like NW Natural and Nike.

Goldschmidt is still praised by many for his civic mindedness, primarily the prioritization of rail over highways. I appreciate that, and benefit from it. (But as a daily user of regional rail transit, I can tell you Portland’s system has proven poorly designed, with many choke points, inefficient routes, and inadequate capacity, especially during any kind of weather. But I digress.) The point is, Goldschmidt’s legacy hasn’t actually been all that beneficial for the public. To the contrary. I would argue that in addition to child rape, patronage and enlarging the public trough have been his enduring legacy.

Now comes Christmas in Portland, prime season for the privatization of public space. As soon as they lit the big tree, it and the entirety of Portland’s Fucking Living Room (Pioneer Courthouse Square) is cordoned off for a privately-organized, for-admission, 21-and-over booze fest. For a week. Merry Christmas, kids! Come back next week after we’ve hauled off the drunks, taken down the tents and hosed off the bricks! To be fair, I don’t know of a Goldschmidt/booze fest connection. But the Metro/Oregon Zoo connections are long-standing and well-known.

Last week, the Oregon Zoo announced that, in an effort to thin crowds, ticket prices are going up. Yay! Fewer poor people to have to stand in line with. Not sure why the Zoo can’t figure out how to, I don’t know, sell timed tickets like every museum that ever hosted a popular exhibit. Better yet, make it free, and have a lottery for available time slots. Our taxes are paying for it, so why should we pay twice? Oh, that’s right, so Metro can continue to host six-figure jobs for the Goldschmidt network.

And who’s quoted in the O, pimpin’ the price hike? None other than Krista Swan, who’s never been shy about her public adoration of “the man” Neil Goldschmidt.

“It should be a magical, fun experience,” said Swan. For those who can spare 50 or 100 bucks to take their families to see lighted cages. (I know, I know, they don’t actually light the cages. But the whole place is a damn cage.)

It’s naked elitism. They don’t give a fuck. I kind of admire the chutzpah it takes to say “screw you” to the people paying your salary and totally get a way with it. But I literally feel sickened by this.

My long-term, ongoing revulsion of zoos was recently enhanced by a $125 million zoo bond that was supposed to provide a large, off-exhibit elephant sanctuary for surviving victims of the zoo’s shameful captive breeding and exhibition program. As a pioneering captive elephant breeder (and one of few remaining), the Oregon Zoo has long used elephants as the face of its marketing campaigns. At some point after the bond was passed, the zoo decided they were going to spend that public money on exhibit space, and maybe think about a sanctuary some time in the future. Let’s not kid ourselves; the improved exhibit space is designed as an improvement for ticket-buying human spectators, not elephants.

The zoo has launched a massive outdoor media campaign promoting the new exhibit. The over-sized billboard hung from the side of the O Dock grain elevator in the Rose Quarter reminds me of Portland past, where there were industrial jobs that paid enough for a family to survive and buy a house. Now their tax dollars are paying to advertise the offensive, unethical exhibition of elephants they probably can’t afford a ticket to see.

I really hate the zoo. It’s a publicly-funded, commercial entertainment enterprise that is cruel to animals and increasingly off-limits to working people. At this point, I would be in favor of full privatization (with fair market price for the land and facilities). And we should legislate an end to captive breeding of elephants. End of story.

This is a salient piece of the Goldschmidt story: how he created an elite and powerful network that survived his rape of a child, and continues to make public policy decisions largely for their own benefit, paid for by working people.

Update, 2:50 pm

Poor Krista thinks we’re picking on her.
swan1
Also, we don’t get it! It’s actually cheaper for the masses if they pack in on poor people nights! And she can’t be elitist, she scrubs baseboards with a toothbrush! (?)

And we must be living in the past to continue pointing out Goldschmidt’s nefarious influence. Also, we might need therapy.

swan2

Here’s a public official, complaining about hearing from her constituents. I’m afraid it’s Krista who doesn’t understand how public debates about public policy regarding public spaces are supposed to work.

Third wave espresso sucks

by Steve, November 25th, 2015

There, I said it. (And craft beer sucks, too.)

Now before you get your knickers in a knot, hear me out. I’m not a fan of Folgers or Budweiser.

I had my first espresso circa 1990, when second-wave coffee was pretty well on the way to jumping the shark. Starbucks led the way, selling primarily steamed milk flavored with a variety of syrups and espresso. My first double shot was from Captain Beans on Southeast 12th Ave. in Portland, and quickly grew to prefer it to drip coffee. I’m not a milk drinker, so I never bothered with cappuccinos or lattes. I’ve always preferred it straight up, with no sugar or milk.

In the early 2000s the “third wave” came along, with Portland’s Stumptown setting the tone. I grabbed a double shot at their original Division St. store after a dentist appointment once, and remember how awful it tasted. Not so much bitter as sour. Not the well-balanced flavor I had grown accustomed to. They call it Hair Bender. A balanced shot of espresso should not bend your hair. It should warm your soul.

Now in 2015, I find myself working in downtown Portland, trying to find a decent espresso. All the cool places have that awful sour taste. I braved the self-conciously hip Courier (record player on the bar? seriously?) to try their version of the double shot, and literally threw it away after a single sip. Mugshots: same story. Nasty. Ken’s Artisan Bakery? Same story. Spella? Not quite as bad, but definitely a noticeable sour taste. What’s the deal, I wondered.

One idea I had was that there’s some kind psychology in foodies that requires “good” things to be an acquired taste. Just like beer snobs have acclimated to dramatically over-hopped, unbalanced flavor in their beer, third-wave coffee snobs have convinced themselves that “sour” equals good in espresso.

The other thought I had was that most people drink espresso buried under two or three cups of steamed cow’s milk, and without sour espresso, they wouldn’t be able to differentiate “good” espresso without the sour tones cutting through all the lactose and milk fat.

Today I found a blog post about this flavor trend that explains it a little better. It seems in an effort to preserve the individualized flavor of single-source beans, third-wave roasters lightly roast their beans. Unfortunately (for those of us who prefer balance of umami and bitter), the preserved flavor agents are acids that would otherwise be muted in a darker roast. The result is a very unbalanced, acid-forward flavor. Maybe with a ton of sugar and/or milk this would be pleasant to drink. But that doesn’t sound very foodie, now does it?

It turns out that like beer brewing, it’s hard to improve on the Europe’s espresso tradition. Starbucks, for all their sins (and there are a lot) still makes a damn good shot of espresso.

Yes, you can learn to like bitter and sour things, and then pretend people who don’t like it are Budweiser- and Folgers-loving troglodytes. Or you can appreciate a smooth, rich, balanced thing, perfected over generations, in no need of improvement.

Ultimate Philip Glass Fanboi

by Steve, April 10th, 2015

musicI’ve liked Philip Glass since I first got exposed to his work in college in the 80s (yes i’ve heard the knock-knock joke; no, I don’t think it’s funny). I think Ben had a record of Einstein on the Beach, and maybe the Kronos Quartet. But it was Godfrey Reggio’s 1983 film Koyaanisqatsi that really blew my mind and got me hooked. In more recent history, I’ve seen Portland Opera’s productions of Orphée (2009) and Galileo Galilei (2012), both brilliant, but not as brilliant as the Met’s televised production of Satyagraha (2012) which Nancy grudgingly admits she liked.

Anyway, Glass has written a memoir, and he’s hitting the airwaves and lecture circuit to promote it. I heard him with Terry Gross on her NPR show Fresh Air the other day. I have a real love/hate attitude toward Gross. She’s actually a really good interviewer, but it’s partly because she so unselfconsiously asks really stupid questions. (She’s famously bad at talking to black people.) Anyway, she plays a kind of clueless everywoman, with just enough book learnin’ to be dangerous. If her guest isn’t completely offended, it makes for pretty good radio. Like this exchange with Glass:

GROSS:
I always think of there being something obsessive about your music because of its repetitions and then variations on the repetitions and the speed of it and the precision of it, and I’m wondering if that’s fair to call… Like, do you think of your composing or your performances as having an obsessive quality to them?

GLASS:
You know, that’s a fair question and I’m wondering would people have said the same thing about Brahms or Chopin? ‘Why is he playing that strange music? Why do we hear those chords over and over again?’

GROSS:
You know why I think of it with you too, because I think, um, pattern is often a part of obsession? Like repeated patterns, shifts in patterns, and…

GLASS:
Well I certainly didn’t invent that, that’s been around for a long time.

GROSS:
Mm hm.

GLASS:
I think it may have been also, not just the music itself, but the way it was presented with the ensemble, you know with amplified music, it could be interpreted as being aggressive, though that would only be true if you didn’t know anything about popular music, and that most popular music was already much more heavily amplified than anything that we did.

GROSS:
So you’re telling me you’re not OCD. (laughs)

GLASS:
(laughs) I’m not saying that either.

GROSS:
Well are you? Are you?

GLASS:
I don’t think so.

GROSS:
OK.

GLASS:
But how would I know?

***

It’s actually a broad-ranging interview, worth listening to all the way through. Later on, Terry returns to her passive aggressive shading of Glass’ music:

GROSS:
Do you ever think, in spite of the body of work that I’m famous for, I feel today like writing a simple song with an easy-to-sing melody and some nice chords behind it?

GLASS
(Laughter) I feel that all the time.

GROSS
Do you write it?

GLASS
I’m always trying to – I’m trying to. I’m writing an opera right now for the Washington Opera, and I’m always looking for clarity and simplicity. It doesn’t come easily to me.

***

Glass is speaking at the Newmark Theatre in Portland April 14. Admission includes a copy of his new book, Words Without Music.

Some people can’t stop talking about child rapist Neil Goldschmidt

by Steve, January 12th, 2015

Thomas Lauderdale has a very high opinion of some people who don’t deserve it.

Most glaringly, Lauderdale can’t stop singing the praises of admitted child rapist Neil Goldschmidt, who, according to Lauderdale, “got people to be better than they were.” Well, Elizabeth Dunham, the woman Goldschmidt started raping repeatedly when she was a pubescent girl, didn’t get better, she got dead (a “circumstance” Lauderdale describes as “unfortunate.”)

Personally, I think serial child rape and a 30-year coverup kind of trump whatever fluffy civic bullshit Lauderdale might be talking about, but maybe that’s just me.

Then there’s Goldschmidt crony and former Metro president (and alleged stripper aficionado and ex of one of Neil Goldschmidt’s top 5 Oregonians) David Bragdon, whom Lauderdale ran into in New York and told “You need to come back and save the city, because it’s going down.”

And of course there’s Lauderdale himself, who thinks he’s the only one in the city with the right temperament to be mayor. “I just don’t see anybody else in the city that has that… even though I think that sounds weird as I say it. But I think that I do have the right temperament for it.”

Fortunately for the good people of Portland, he’s too busy with his own show (and doesn’t want to take a pay cut) to run the show at City Hall.

But wait… is this another instance of Neil poking his head up, testing the waters for a comeback? He was never convicted, but he admitted to behavior clearly defined by Oregon law as serial felony child rape, which would have landed him in the pokey and on the predatory sex offender registry had he been busted before the statute of limitations expired. So forget about it, Neil; crawl back into your hole.

And Thomas, stick to your day (night) job, and maybe find a different political hero to promote. (Prince Andrew, perhaps?)

Oh the places you’ll go

by Steve, December 18th, 2014

pinthehatonthecathatsIn 1999 I finished an associate degree at Portland Community College, and Nancy talked me into doing the commencement ceremony at the old Memorial Coliseum. The speaker was an up-and-coming local politician who condescended to the assembled hoi polloi by donning a red and white stripedy top hat and reading from Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the places you’ll go! (By the way, the stripedy top hat is from a different Dr. Seuss story. Just sayin.)

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to great places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own, and you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

I think she preceded the reading with a heart-warming story about a woman who overcame her addiction and completed a program at PCC or something. Look, PCC is a community college, not a rehab program. Sure, there are some feel-good stories about people turning their tragic lives around, but primarily it’s working class people of all ages getting a basic post-secondary education. I’m sure she was just trying to be ironic and cute, but I’m not the only one who detected a generous whiff of elitist paternalism.

We’ve joked about this pol’s failure to connect over the years. Whenever her name comes up we say, “Oh, the places you’ll go!” She married the scion of a deeply connected construction baron and later left local government in 2007. Last year she became the head of a local non-profit foundation which we’ve happily supported over the past few years.

When you give money to non-profits, their development staff become your best friends every December thereafter. (I always tell these guys they don’t have to kiss my butt, and politely decline all the perks and galas and wine buses and behind-the-scenes tours offered.)

The other day we got a voice mail message on the home phone, not from the development director, but from my erstwhile commencement speaker herself. Her unctuous tone was markedly different from her speech 15 years ago. She left her cell and office numbers. (I didn’t call her back.)

Oh.

The places you’ll go.

NOTE: That call left me conflicted like crazy. This has been one of our favorite causes over the years, and I don’t want to cast aspersions on their incredibly valuable work (which is why I’m not using names here; if you know Oregon politics, you already know who I’m talking about). We directed some money their way last year, and we’ll no doubt support them again in the future.

The typical Oregonian

by Steve, November 5th, 2014

politicsJudging from last night’s election results, we can surmise the following about a mythical “typical” Oregon voter:

  1. He doesn’t give a shit about higher ed funding. Measure 86 would have helped people pay for college without raising taxes. It’s going down 58%-42%. This surprises me. State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, who spearheaded the measure, was philosophical about its defeat. “Measure 86 was a bold idea,” he wrote on Facebook. “In a state that can’t seem to prioritize higher education, we came up with innovative ways to leverage non-tax resources to get the job done. Sometimes new ideas take time to catch on.”
  2. Our typical Oregon voter is a racist with no understanding of how our broken federal immigration system requires agricultural workers to come into this country without papers. Measure 88 would have let these hard working, tax-paying people to get licensed to drive. It’s a public safety issue as well as a basic human dignity issue. They’re here, they’re not going away, and they’re going to be driving with or without a license and insurance. But the measure is going down 67%-33%. No surprise here. The white nationalist know-nothing opposition was well-organized.
  3. Hooray! He paradoxically thinks women should be constitutionally protected from discrimination. Measure 89, Oregon’s Equal Rights Amendment is passing 64%-36%.
  4. He’s perfectly content with an electoral system that, particularly with state legislative elections, is closed to anybody not registered R or D. Measure 90, the top-two primary universally opposed by the powers-that-be in both major parties, is going down 68%-32%. No surprise. I wonder how a measure to do top-two primaries for the state legislature would do. Because seriously, unless I register Democrat, I have zero say in my representation in Salem. This is not democracy, people.
  5. He might be a little conflicted about it, but damn it, he likes to get high. Marijuana will be legal in Oregon next July, with Measure 91′s passage by 55%-45%. Good. But the fact that this is the only significant bright spot is kind of depressing. And the fact that Oregonians value this more than higher ed and the public safety/human dignity issues makes this victory feel hollow.
  6. He doesn’t want labels on his food telling him if his corn has fish genes, because Freedom, damn it. To be fair, basically every packaged food in America has GMO ingredients (unless it is specifically labeled organic or certified GMO-free). Anyway, this one is still too close to call, but Measure 92 is leaning toward failing on a razor thin margin. The big money came out for this one. I figured this would go down hard, given how much fear, uncertainty and doubt was spread by big agribusiness. The fact that it’s too close to call is heartening.

Of course there is no “typical” voter, and money is always the decider in these things. But Oregonians have a long-standing aversion to funding education at all levels. And the nationwide tide of reactionary white nationalism is a strong undercurrent in lily-white Oregon, even (or especially) with its nominally one-party Democratic rule (protected by the defeat of Measure 90).  I hope Ted Wheeler’s right about changing attitudes on education funding, and I know looming demographic shifts nationwide will fundamentally alter the electoral landscape going forward.

So I have glimmers of hope. And a bong.

The Land Shark

by Steve, September 8th, 2014

An Ode to the Bicycle, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the WalGoose

me and pixieThe bicycle is a really remarkable invention. Next to the piano, it may be the pinnacle of human ingenuity. I’ve had a lot of bikes over the years; I’ve probably taken them for granted.

The first bike I remember was hand-me-down Schwinn Pixie in 1972. It had hard plastic tires. No pumping! No flats!

I probably got Butch’s Schwinn after I outgrew the Pixie. Then I got my first 10-speed in 1974, a shiny new Raleigh Record, serial #7 (my sister still has hers, lovingly restored by our dad). I was the first one in my class to have a ten speed. I wasn’t allowed to ride it to school, so a lot of kids didn’t believe me. That was third grade. Getting used to hand brakes was tricky at first. I crashed into a guy wire at the end of our cu-de-sac on Kirkwood Court, back-pedaling madly. But I got the hang of it.

I was eight. My family took a two week bike trip from Iowa City to Galena, Illinois and back, by way of Dubuque. We got our picture on the front page of the Preston Times. The reporter chased us down on the highway to get the interview and some photos. I remember being in some Mississippi River town with a levy and somebody singing American Pie. I had an idea what whisky was, but I wasn’t sure about rye. There was some kind of junk shop that had hermit crabs at the checkout. They weren’t for sale. And I didn’t have any way to get them home if they were. One of our stops was Maquoketa Caves, I think. Sue probably remembers. There was talk of impeaching Nixon. I remember seeing an editorial cartoon about it. Ten-Speed Touring, 1974

I also remember stopping at a small town general store with a house attached. You could see into the shopkeepers’ dining room. There was a big zucchini on the table. We also went to a parade where they threw candy. They didn’t do that at the only other parade I ever went to, the University of Iowa homecoming parade. And we met a dirt track motorcycle racer named Charlie Brown. He showed us the metal plate he wore on the bottom of his left boot. We went to see him race at the fair ground.

I got another 10-speed around high school time. A chocolate brown Raleigh something or other. It was a Christmas present too big to fit under the tree, so my old man put it in the shower to surprise me. My buddy Mark and I took a bike ride up to Wisconsin one summer, probably 1981 or 1982. Or maybe 1983. We didn’t make it to Baraboo or Wisconsin Dells, but we had a good time. One night we had to camp out in the yard of the Sheriff’s office in Dodgeville because the campground was full at Governor Dodge State Park. I think that’s as far as we got. We had old county maps that we photocopied at the library. We were lost more often than we knew where we were, probably. Mark bought a sausage in Wisconsin as a gift for somebody. When we rode across the Mississippi, I think it was the Bellvue Bridge, it fell off his bike rack and skipped overboard. “There’s nothing funny about sausage” became our catch phrase for senior year of high school. One of our last stops was Maquoketa Caves, I think. Mark might remember. Actually, I think we were going to stop there, but decided to keep riding, all the way home. I think we rode 150 miles that last day.

After high school, it seemed like there were always beat up 3-speeds around. I dragged one out to Oregon with me in the fall of ’89, tied to the top of the ’63 Step Van with some old rope. I rode it around some in Portland that winter, completely taken by the fact that I could ride my bike in the winter. With a sweatshirt on. And only get wet (not frostbitten). I bought my first cruiser in 1990 or so, at a yard sale down the street from my house on SE 26th and Sherman. It was a black cantilever frame, with 2-inch wide tires and decals and stickers all over it. I rode it until I had replaced almost every part on it. When I finally gave it away to somebody I worked with at the food co-op, the only original part was the front wheel. I’d changed everything else, including the frame, part-by-part as they wore out or broke. I used to ride it three miles to work from SE Taylor, across the Hawthorne Bridge, to John’s Landing, then home, then, if I was feeling good, up Mt. Tabor and back. One speed. I was in pretty good shape.

Bike in the woodsAt some point, I’m thinking 1992 or ’93, I decided to make the move back into a geared bike. In the intervening years, they had gone from 10-speeds to 21. Some even had 24, I heard. Mountain bikes were starting to get popular, and my boss claimed to have been one of the originators of the sport (doubtful). He talked me into investing in one. I think I dropped $470 on mine, which I eventually converted into a cross bike with 1.5 inch slicks. I did a fair amount of bike-packing on it. When TriMet first introduced their bikes-on-buses program, I hurried to to Pioneer Courthouse Square to get one of the first permits. I would put my bike on the Estacada bus, take it to the end of the line, then ride up the Clackamas River and camp at Fish Creek or at Indian Henry or somewhere else around there. I also took that bike on the Pacific Coast Highway, from Cape Lookout to South Beach, then across the coast range to Corvallis and back up the valley to Portland.

I still have it, and it’s still my main city ride. It’s my sleek black beauty. I used to take it up to the Bicycle Repair Collective on SE Belmont to clean it and overhaul it when necessary. (I was really sad to hear the Bicycle Repair Collective closed down, when the owners decided it was time to retire.) It still has the original shifters, dérailleurs, brakes, stem, handlebars and front wheel. Probably the best $470 I ever spent on a vehicle.

Ready to cruiseNow, we recently started spending a lot of time at the beach, and I remember quite fondly taking my original Portland cruiser to Cannon Beach one summer weekend and riding it in the surf. That was fun. Really fun. So I thought I better pick up another cruiser. First I got a white one with pink wheels for Nancy (and Emmy!).

Then I got blue one for me. Craig’s list specials.

I rode them both on the beach, but our sand is pretty coarse at spots, and it was pretty hard going. Not at all like I remembered. Much of our beach was basically not ridable.Cruising

Then I saw something at Fred Meyer that stuck in my head. A bike with massive 4-inch wide tires. It was branded as a Mongoose Brutus, and despite some dorky paint and graphics, it just looked cool. And knowing what little I know about physics, I deduced that those tires would be just the ticket for our soft sand. But the price… $279 on sale. So I just filed that away in my mind, and probably started googling fat bikes while waiting for builds to finish at work.

What I discovered was that this same bike, with different paint and graphics, was being sold as a Mongoose Beast at Walmart for $200 (delivered), and there’s a whole subculture of people buying these things and modifying them in some pretty cool ways. (They’re also sold at Target as the Dozer, with probably the worst color scheme of all.) It turns out they’re all basically the same cheap Chinese-made bike, and most bike geeks agree, a couple Franklins is a pretty cheap entrée into the fat bike world (light-weight geared fatties start around ten times that).

Opinions on the Walmart Fattie (a.k.a. the WalGoose) vary widely from utter disdain to sheer glee. In fact, there is apparently some serious disdain for fat bikes in general in the mountain bike community. My sister, the mountain bike racer and coach, calls them “fad” bikes, and says there’s always some fat guy showing up with a fat bike for races, ready to start drinking beer. “What’s the point?” she asks, and rightly so. For the races, it’s hard to see any point carrying that much extra weight. (And talk about weight; the Beast weighs in at just under 50 pounds.)

BeforeBut for sand or snow, there is definitely a point. We don’t get much snow, but I’ve got miles of sand to ride on, and I won’t be deterred by the righteous, multi-thousand dollar indignation of the serious gear heads. I decided to make one of these beasts mine. I picked red (they also come in green and blue), and this is how it looked out of the box.

The first thing I should have done was pack the bearings. They come with very little grease, and they are clamped down tight. (I did loosen the headset a little when I put it together.)

But the first thing I actually did was strip off the department store decals — they peel right off — and apply a little of my own branding. I toyed with names a bit before coming up with Land Shark, a ’70s Saturday Night Live reference. I also considered “Beach Whale.” If I get another one, I’ll go with blue and call it that.
New graphics

(This was before I knew there was a high-end bike manufacturer in Oregon called Land Shark, but I don’t think anybody’s going to mistake this tank for a carbon fiber road bike.)

The other first thing I did was take it for a ride on the beach (because of course I did) where I confirmed the still other first thing everybody says: You need to change the gearing. These things are geared way too high considering their weight alone, not to mention the extra rolling resistance of sand. The stock gearing of a 32-tooth crank and an 18-tooth cog was actually okay for dry pavement. (It turns out they had been shipping them with a 36-tooth crank, which would make it basically impossible to ride on any kind of incline.) So, anyway, the third first thing I did was put a 22-tooth cog on the back. It’s really easy to do, and only required crescent wrenches to remove the rear wheel, and a little screw driver to remove the springy thing that holds the cog in place. The stock chain is too short with these four extra teeth, so I picked up a chain at Fred Meyer and added two or three links from that. I already had a chain tool; you’ll need one if you don’t have one.

This made riding much easier. Or at least possible. It’s still a lot of work, especially on the coarser sand.

I eventually got around to pulling the bottom bracket apart and cleaning the bearings out and re-packing them. These are not sealed bearings, so the only tools you need to get the bottom bracket open are a big crescent wrench and a crank puller. I really should have done this first, at least before getting hit by a few waves. Yeah, the bearings were pretty trashed, but I cleaned them up and packed the hell out of them.

By now, I was able to actually ride this thing for a while, and the stock seat was making my ass pretty sore. So I picked up a cruiser seat at Freddies. Not the kind with springs; these jumbo tires running on five pounds of pressure (yes, five pounds) are all the suspension I need. It was worth it. I also wanted to ditch the narrow BMX handle bars (funny, the bike looks like a giant BMX bike out of the box, but that’s not the look or feel I wanted.) I got some cruiser bars, which give me a more upright, laid-back posture for cruising. (If you’re following along at home, keep in mind that the little BMX stem has a 22.2 mm handlebar clamp, and you’ll have to get some kind of whack stem adapter to go with standard MTB bars. I went with cruiser bars, and you can find them with 22.2 mm mounts pretty easily.) I took off the flimsy chain guard, and this is what I get: my Land Shark.
After
That’s the ticket!

Some guys are going all crazy trying to shed pounds off these beasts, drilling out the rims, changing seat post, saddle, stem, all that. But honestly, I can probably lose ten pounds off my arse more easily than all that, and for a lot less moolah. As it is, I’m into this thing for under three bills, and having a blast. It might just be my favorite bike yet.

Another thing everybody will tell you about these things is that you cannot go for a ride in public without getting comments from just about everybody. Kids are the funniest. I’ve had kids spluttering, trying to get the attention of their siblings. “Alex, look at the size of that guy the tires he has! ALEX! LOOK!” I wish I had videos of this. It would make a funny mash-up.

Here’s a small taste of what it’s like to ride on the beach, at a time when the only gawkers were sea birds. (I’m riding one-handed and filming with my phone, which is why it looks a little wobbly at first).

Heron spotting

by Steve, March 24th, 2013

At Sauvie Island for Saturday Nature Church, we also saw about a million Canada geese, one Blue Heron, two deer, a flock of sandhill cranes, a bunch of smelt, and a really big tundra swan in the rehab pen.

Breakfast in Portland

by Steve, February 19th, 2013
20110225 Hashed Browns ?????_03
photo by MiniQQ

The wife and I found ourselves in downtown Portland for breakfast yesterday, and thought we’d hit longtime Portland fave Bijou Cafe. That didn’t work out; the line was out the door (but not around the block like the one for Voodoo Donuts down the street). We could have grabbed a crappy cup of coffee at Stumptown next door so we could sit down at their sidewalk table while waiting for our Bijou table, but we worried we were getting too close to acting out a Portlandia sketch.

Speaking of Voodoo, that place has come to define Portland. A couple walking ahead of us (mid 50s, him with a Harley jean jacket and pressed Levis) stopped a stranger and asked where it was. Pretty soon we noticed every other person on the street was carrying a pink box of donuts.

Also, good luck finding street parking in downtown Portland anymore unless you are parking a fixie bike, a streetcar or a short-term rental car (excuse me, car-sharing car). So we had to walk about 20 blocks to discover that we’re not cool enough for Bijou anymore.

So yeah, hipsters on fixies, ironic donuts and lines out the door for a pretentious over-priced breakfast. And cops cruising around looking for mentally ill people to beat up or shoot. That’s what our Portland has become, apparently (or was it like this all along and we’re just now noticing?).

Walking back to our car we stopped to buy a Street Roots. Had to wait in line for that, too, but only one deep (“It’ll be a good day when the line to buy Street Roots is as long as the line at Voodoo Donuts,” said Nancy).

Then we saw Bagel Bistro on 4th and Stark. Not a customer inside. We got breakfast there, and it was pretty good. Pretty, pretty good. Standard greasy spoon type menu, including genuine hash browns. None of those pompous “home fries” or “cottage potatoes.” Honest-to-goodness hash browns, grated and fried to a crisp golden brown. And the price was right, too.

Jesus, maybe we did end up acting out a Portlandia sketch.

Hey Portland Public Schools!

by Steve, January 27th, 2013

schoolsHey PPS: You don’t “balance enrollment” by closing more schools in poor neighborhoods.

How about you start by sending kids to school in their neighborhood? Fucking duh.

It’s the transfer policy, stupid.

I started telling you this five years ago. Did you listen? Board member Ruth Adkins pretended to. In August 2007 she said the board was taking a comprehensive look at the adverse affects of the transfer policy. “Stay tuned!” she said.

Five years later, from outside the district, I’m still tuned in enough to see they haven’t deviated one iota from the Vicki Philips/Bill Gates/Eli Broad model of shafting poor and working class neighborhoods for the benefit of the “better” parts of town. Adkins has had the opportunity to lead, but has shown no inclination.

We know Pam Knowles, Bobbi Regan and Trudy Sargent will never willingly give back a red cent of the funding they’ve stolen from poor kids, but why hasn’t Adkins joined forces with Martin Gonzalez, Matt Morton and Greg Belisle to challenge this elitist, classist status quo? Adkins was one of the most vocal members of the Neighborhood Schools Alliance, the group that rose up in response to exactly this kind of school-closure-in-poor-neighborhoods bullshit. If ever there were a moment for her to show what she’s made of, that moment in now.

But instead it looks like Animal Farm, Portlandia Edition.

Never have I been so glad to have moved my family out of that racist motherfucking city and school district. But there are a whole lot of poor kids who don’t have that option. When I shut down PPS Equity I said “Its time for…direct action. Its time to get off the blogs and take to the streets.” That was 2010. Looks like it’s high time to get up in the school board’s face on this shit.