Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize 2009

In honor of our president’s Nobel Peace Prize reception, I’d like to make two points.

1. There once was a species of bird known as the Great Auk. It grew a little less than three feet tall and looked like a large penguin. Flightless, the Great Auks fed on fish in the North Atlantic and nested on rocky coastlines throughout NE Canada, New England, up into Iceland and Britain. The Great Auk lived upwards of 20 years. Explorers laughed at how indifferently these birds regarded human presence. For this reason, they herded them onto boats and killed them for down-feathers. Increasingly, eggers stole the eggs. There remained colonies of Great Auks as late as the 1830s, until humans completely wiped them out. (To read more on Auks, simply search Google. Also, consider Allen Eckert’s book, The Last Great Auk.)

2. First, read this. Now think about the fact that you can go NOwhere in this entire world and safely drink water. Period.

Violence towards humans is bad. Violence towards nonhumans is difficult. Violence towards water is beyond my comprehension. Giardia, a protozoa spread by fecal-contaminated water, is found all over the world (source); over the past 50 years, thousands of miles of river and lake have been Giardia contaminated by livestock. There are more than 200 known cancer-causing PCBs that still show up in our water supply, as well as in farm-grown and wild salmon. For the sake of brevity, I will not go into insecticide-contaminated water, although it is perhaps the most serious and prevalent contaminant.

The poisonous chemicals the U.S. government mandates that watersheds filter into our tap-water to counteract the poisonous chemicals we have dumped into the ground and the oceans inhibit more than backpackers in Wyoming, more than local governments forced to revise water safety regulations (eg. Portland), more than 3.1 million Indian children who die annually from drinking contaminated water. Chemicals like fluoride, for example, do nothing to detoxify water, but rather pass as a placebo, encouraging tap-drinkers that (a) the water is safer, (b) teeth are stronger, (c) fluoride intake is without considerable risk, and—most importantly—(d) fluoride consumption is natural. Fluoride is one of many byproducts of industrial development, specifically aluminum, concrete, and fertilizer. Oh, also military-grade plutonium and uranium! Fluoride was introduced into the U.S. water supply in the 1940s, round about the same time the U.S. was really pumped about manufacturing as much aluminum, steel, glass, and weaponry as they could muster. What do you do with all that excess fluoride, especially when it’s deadly toxic? First step: convince people it’s not that bad.

Fluoride is an example of intentional dishonesty. There are scores of other chemicals found in our worldwide water supply that we unintentionally support by encouraging industry. Additionally, for the past 200 years, the United States has not only contaminated the world’s water supply by encouraging economic growth at the cost both human and nonhuman life, it has systematically drained its own rivers until they no longer support life. Farms. Golf courses. Las Fucking Vegas.

I’ve fished the Deschutes River since I was 5 years old. I’ve watched that river level steadily drop, the fishery thin, and the surrounding, booming development siphon the water to drench the farms that feed the cities. I’ve seen dead fish floating in back eddies and met fisherman who remember when there were so many Steelhead you could actually look into the river see them. Not on the end of fly-line, but in the water. Swimming. I’ve visited the Deschutes for nearly 30 years, and I have never seen that.

Lastly, please look at this picture. The river that created this canyon, the deepest of the planet, no longer reaches the ocean. It just peters out.

We are a species violent towards anything that doesn’t serve our immediate needs. (Perhaps this is a characteristic of our civilization, not our species?) Human violence toward humans, I believe, is a byproduct of our violence toward everything else. We see the world as a resource and we fight to retain ownership. How can we heal human wounds when we are still destroying the basis of that human life, those resources we fight over? How can we preemptively reward the leader of the most industrial (read: violent) region on the planet?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fashion Blog #2: Death of the 90s

[For Fashion Blog #1, please see 10/28/08]

I paid a fashionable woman to cut my hair, one week prior to today, this Fall Equinox. I have recently discovered that there may be a correlation between my worldview and my emerging pattern of seeing specialists only when in dire need. Such is the case of my 9 year break-up with my dentist (recently breached), my 7 year clothes-buying fast (not so recently broken, although arguably healthier than most other fasts I’ve participated in), and my 3.5 years away from hair trimmers. She braided and stuffed those years into a zip lock bag and I’m looking at it right now: there on my desk, next to a padded Locks of Love envelope. 3.5 years from now, all things will have returned to normal, except that I will have contributed to a child’s hairpiece which may or may not contain incriminating do-not-hire-me evidence within the strands.

I’ve looked at myself in the rear-view mirror twice as often, pulling tufts this way and that, wondering why my hair grows in this whirlpool of a circle on top of my head, so that it looks like I gophered up into the eye of a tornado. Long hair is predictably boring after a while. Which is awesome. It enabled the fashionista in me to take an indefinite nap, and I was fine with this. Now, however, my face is faced with an unfamiliar accessory—one that doesn’t stay
put, needs to be encouraged, managed, and often forced into place, and randomly decides to act completely different than it acted the day before. It’s like my head got a girlfriend. …which is debatably better than the other way around.

So, now, none of my clothes match my short hair. My bagg
y pants and flannels, t-shirts, Samba shoes, and jars full of hair ties… all evidences of my fear of venturing to a zone where junior high insult fests are born: the ever-changing zone of urban outfits (formerly suburban, and formerly formerly rural outfits, which (we’re all sure) is coming back next season). Jana and I went shopping for jeans today and, as I tried to explain my feelings on different articles of clothing, without convincing myself that I was complaining, I felt the rage of the Objective Perspective* slowly spreading throughout my body, moving from head to extremities. Fortunately, it never got to my toes because the jeans I was fitting into were so tight that I couldn’t fit my calves into them. And I feel like I have modest calves. They’re not friggin dairy cows or anything. Who could run more than 30 feet in these jeans? What happens if terrorists attack? (This is my go-to criterion, a question that gets to the practical heart of each apparel purchase. If the answer is “death due to clumsy escape maneuvers” or “capture and interrogation because the shiny white studded belt betrayed your hiding place in the dark,” I don’t buy it. And I encourage others to do the same. A good rule of thumb is that if you cannot play hopscotch in your footwear, you are not only missing out on a potentially fun game, you are asking for trouble. Everyone should be able to jump 5 feet (over burning shrapnel, a rabid cat, or down a crumbling staircase) at all times without falling over or breaking a bone. At the very least, everyone should keep a pair of tennis shoes in the car. You will never catch me on the street in high heels, but this has nothing to do with whether or not I look good in them. If the pointy portion were removable (see “Romancing the Stone” with Michael Douglas and that feathery chick) I might consider them.) By the end of the shopping experienced I had already mistakenly examined and asked questions pertaining to a pair of women’s jeans, as there is apparently no discernable difference between men’s and women’s clothing anymore.

Further, whatever happened to jeans that cover the entirety of the ass while sitting down? Sagging, which we all thought was a fad of the past, is now easier than ever—in fact, it’s inevitable—because zippers barely reach the top of the naughty area! I used to enjoy a nice long ziiiiiiiiiiiip, the catharsis of action matched by a comfortable noise. RIP, ziiiiiiiiiiiip.

I don’t want the holes and the rips and the ripcurl-tube-sized pant legs of nineties back. I just want jeans that fit. Are blue. Fit over boots. Aren’t made of clouds, cobwebs, or any other material whose natural life span is shorter than a bumblebee’s.

And speaking of bumble bees, when are spacesuits and beekeeping uniforms going to rule the trends? Carpenters, sailors, and army men have all had their day…

*The Objective Perspective: a talk show where I am cast as host Jay Leno, except funny and likable, and guests visit and answer questions, also inquiring into my thoughts on life, purpose, and general meaning. Although mostly just an excuse for me to bitch about something. Also, existing only in my head.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Deep Creek Basin: Wind River Range

In keeping with weird weather patterns of 2008/2009, Wyoming has ended its “moderate to severe drought” (link) with a super wet summer. Apparently, snow at 8-10K feet
in the Wind River Range melted only several weeks ago. This means that millions of tiny mosquitoes died during the late freeze, their stabby buzzy little bodies cold and brittle in those frozen snow drifts: less proboscal intrusions into my legs, arms, face, neck, back, ass, even through my socks. I still have to wear lots of DEET though. Several times per day I rub it into my skin, letting it combine with 8 days of sweat and campfire and dust. I taste it when I lick my lips and it tastes like I think bleach would taste. When the sun comes out (which is from 8am to noon, then thunderheads, then sun again from 4pm to 7pm) I can feel the DEET burning my skin, but that usually goes away after the third day.

For as many memories as I have of backpac
king—the different mountain ranges, family trips, fish stories, bear stories, storm stories—I rarely dwell on perhaps the biggest stimuli of any summer trip: bugs. You can’t see them in photos. You choose to forget them as soon as possible, because—except for birds—there is nothing redeeming about them. Fall and Winter, you guys kill them. And Spring, you are about eggs and wind and baby bugs. But Summer, you bring spiders up from their cooler ground holes, ticks out of the trees, and mosquitoes in thick grey clouds. My mom and sister used to wear nets over their heads and long sleeves in the middle of summer. This year, I will make a special effort to remember how minimally I focused on keeping my skin poke-free.

The late spring also carpeted the mountains with grass, hundreds of flowers, and a few blossoming deciduous trees (but not many). The Wind River Range is always breathtaking, but this year was especially beautiful. For seven days I spent time with my folks and our long-time friends, Dan and Sue. As a 29-year-old, half their age, I am exceedingly proud of them all for continuing a 30-year friendship and, in spending a 2 week vacation at 12K feet rather than Shilo Inns, kicking the asses of most adults my age.

I hiked out 12 miles early last Saturday, leaving my parents in Deep Creek Basin (barely a basin) for another 5 days. As I stuffed my tent at 6am it was sleeting, the wind was blowing, the fog was thick enough to knock out vision after 50 feet, and there was lightning. The night previous, over a meal of fish and powdered potatoes and bluebell leaves (a new, edible discovery, thanks to Karen Free), I said, “To be honest, I’m sorta sad it didn’t rain. I always like at least one brutal rainstorm per trip. There is nothing like holing up in your tent while the rain is pounding down on it. I only don’t like rain on the last day of a trip.” And this is because you have to pack and hike in it. The gods of Popo Agie heard me and must have laughed. Cold, miserable rain was replaced with cold, scary snow, thunder, and fog. After an hour the sleet had soaked and smeared my topo map with the remains of what used to be trails. I slogged out of the basin at little over 1 mph, completely drenched and muddied.

Next morning I hitched a ride from Lander, WY, to Salt Lake City (5 hours) with Shanny (aka Laughing Medicine Woman), her son JohnPaul, and her grandson Jesse. They were going to Shiners’ to see a doctor about Jesse’s frequent strokes, due largely to all the drugs Jesse’s mother abused during pregnancy. Jesse was one of the cutest 2-year-old boys I’ve met. JohnPaul is exactly my age. He has never been to the west or east coasts, and isn’t used to driving or seeing multi-lane freeways. He has a son with what appears to be a severe disability, which he refuses to call a handicap. His mother attends healings and makes medicine from Sage and Ferns and other traditional Shoshone ingredients. She doesn’t accept money for her tinctures and teas. There is no lighted path for Shanny, JohnPaul, or Jesse, just a bunch of scratch deer trails with not even a soggy map. We talked about Lander—the single road that bisects the town of 7,000, the scarce jobs, the local Indian-owned grocery store
soon to be overtaken by a new multilevel Safeway, the trailer parks, the rich hikers that move there to fund and participate in NOLS, the amount of black people we knew, the amount of gay people we knew, the amount of violence that takes place in our respective hometowns, the amount of drugs we take and have taken, the number of times we’ve been in prison, times we’ve been married, fights we’ve lost, cars we’ve wrecked, relatives in the military, friends in the military, friends that have died in the military, friends that have died, and friends we have—in general.

I’m happy to call JohnPaul, his mother and his son, my friend, after that ride. It was an interesting ride halfway home, after a week in another world.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Dentist

I have never been in a dentist’s office with colored walls. Until today, I had not been in a dentist’s office since 1998. It was just like I remembered except that this time they made me wear sunglasses.

As I fell asleep last night, I struggled to keep my motivation; if I allowed it to wane I’d sleep in and intentionally miss the appointment. I tried to get excited about my big visit: the prodigal son returns after 10 years! There’s a colorful “Welcome Back!” banner, hooked together with round brads, and all the hygienists wave streamers. They give me a free toothbrush, shiny smiles, and a brief nap during the polishing routine. Maybe I should bring one of my CDs, in case the staff is tired of XM radio. Maybe I’ll meet someone interesting in the waiting room. Maybe we’ll date for a couple months and she’ll convince me to get my teeth whitened and I’ll always remember her as “the dental affair.” Maybe I’ll end up hitting it off with the doctor. Successful owner of private dental practice shares Pearl-district apartment with local musician.

I’ve heard of doctor’s office porn fantasies: the busty, tight, white jackets, red crosses, and skirts. It’s hard for me to envision. I go to Kaiser Permanente, a place created to scare the carnal elements right out of a human. Posters of jogging interracial newlyweds, 6-piece helmeted families on bikes, and old widows in goggles and swimwear absorb all sexual fantasies and turn them into hours of Cooking Light articles. You reach for the crinkly Newsweek cover, but you miss and end up reading a pink pamphlet on HIV awareness or stroke-prevention.

The sexiest location in my multiplex care provider is the optometrist’s department, only because the sample spectacles are named “Black Horn-Rimmed” or “Flexy Bi-focal.”

The sexiest part of my dentist’s office is the sign that says “Private Practice.” It is either an empowering testament to the virtue of scholastic dedication and personal industry, or it is a loosely suggestive movie title that may have been filmed in the 80s. The white ceilings and dangling mobiles, the adjustable All-Seeing-Eye of Sauron that hovers above me, beaming light down into my throat, the trays and trays of plastic-wrapped utensils, like an airport cafeteria… I imagined the sterilized tooth-scraper’s cellophane wrapper, flapping around in a landfill. Who washes and shrinkwraps the tools at a dentist’s office? I wondered. Is it done throughout the day, like a restaurant, or are all the tools dumped into a boiling cauldron at 5pm, the hygienist soaping up all those sharp points, snapping on her 100th pair of latex gloves and dropping the older pair into one of those silver foot-pedal trash cans, filled with plastic packaging and floss?

I have a cavity: a hole or a cave where tiny communities of life live and eat and chat about the upcoming week’s agenda. “What’s on the docket?” asks bacteria culture A. “Spread from 38 interior wall decay to 37 root? Loosen the amalgam on the molar? Mutate to effectively negate mint odors?” I feel bad that my return to the dentist, next month, will destroy the habitat of a species trying to survive, struggling to exploit their niche. But I guess we’re in competition and that’s natural. There are no moral quandaries here, no right or wrong. It’s my tooth or the bacteria: my genocidal directive for the sake of long-term oral harmony among the remaining life-forms there.

My new dentist, she understands. It’s a hard decision, but it’s a no-brainer. Go in with guns blazing and eradicate the threat. There’s a time for reflection and there’s a time for action. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury to remain indifferent. She knows all sides of the issue—the cost, the tender risk, the fall-out—but, ultimately, it’s my decision. My trusted advisor and cabinet member, I’ll probably acquiesce to her judgment. This is why I hired her, after all.

She’s pretty confident we’ll win. Which is hot.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Where is the Subject in Natural Selection?

Here’s an interesting link that Jana recommended I watch: it’s an episode of Nova, recounting a town’s (Dover, Pennsylvania) fight over the inclusion of Intelligent Design/Creationism curriculum into the public schools’ education system.

In brief, the Dover school board mandates curriculum that the teachers and other members of the community disagree with. A trial ensues, which debates whether or not Intelligent Design/Creationism is a scientific theory and which secondarily addresses the constitutionality of mandating curriculum in the public school system. Watching the program, I was surprised that primary issue in court was the science of Intelligent Design.

Personally, I think Intelligent Design is a pretty simplistic and boring idea, but I find it funny that we had to go to court to find this out. (What ever happened to reading?) I was much more interested in whether and what kind of rights a community holds, as to what is taught in their schools.

This program focused more on Evolutionary Theory and its differences with Intelligent Design. I spend a fair amount of my spare time reading about animals, so I enjoyed this. …until, as is usually the case, I became frustrated by the program’s language.

It’s not just a problem with Nova. The problem is that almost all curriculum on Evolutionary Theory uses imprecise language.

I frequently have a beer over a chapter in one of my favorite books, called Animal Behavior, by John Alcock. Alcock uses the generally accepted definition of evolution: “Evolution is the process of change in traits of a population of organisms over time.” It is important to note that the “theoretic” portion of this definition is the PROCESS of change and not the fact that traits change over time. To emphasis this, others (Wikipedia for example) often add to end of that definition “…due to a number of mechanisms and processes.” Evolutionary Theory is not change itself; it is a process which (we may assume) contains a Cause, Reason, or Mechanism by which change occurs.

Natural Selection is this mechanism. What is Natural Selection? Merely survival. As Kenneth R. Miller says, evolutionary theory implies that “there's a struggle for existence, whether we like to admit it or not.” (link) The struggle he speaks of is both active and passive, and it is between more than 1, 2, or 3 variables. Strong species actively compete with weaker species for food and habitat, but that is only part of the struggle; weak species passively fill previously undiscovered niches, or—due to seemingly random changes like climate change, habitat change, or individual mutation—find themselves in a natural environment that is not well-suited to their traits. It may be easier to understand that, depending on the species, a species’ struggle for existence may be with many different elements of existence, including seemingly passive elements, like Time or Chance.

I get frustrated while listening to and reading about Evolutionary Theory because we speak of Natural Selection as a causal solidarity, in the same way we’d speak of a god. This is a huge language problem. It comes from two places, I think. First, as a species of story tellers, humans invented god-orientated causations for most unexplained phenomena, and this general acceptance of underlying Cause probably trickles into our language as much as it effects our understanding of our environment. Second (and more importantly) we are a reactionary species with the ability to understand abstract chains of causation. We benefit ourselves by finding the source of a stimulus, rather than immediately reacting to it. For example, compared to many animals, humans react much slower to most sights, sounds, and smells. We get around our slowness by addressing problems proactively. We might not be fast enough to outrun a flash flood, but we may have remembered a life preserver. Or perhaps we built a levy. Our propensity to compile our observations into patterns allows us to predict the future. When we find constants in our patterns, our predictions succeed more often. GOD—as a constant, the ultimate source—provides gratification to a species that is constantly thinking about causation.

For the purposes of Evolutionary Theory, our causation is Natural Selection. But Natural Selection by what, or whom? Do you see how this language gives sentience to an unknown subject?

Consider, for example, this narrative passage from Nova’s program: “…the forces of nature, such as the environment of an individual island in the Galapagos, select those organisms best suited to that environment. And [Darwin] believed that, over time, this could give rise to new species.” (link) I notice statements like this—statements that reference ambiguous subjects like “forces of nature”—everywhere, since I've started listening for them.

One might argue that “heritable traits” are usually the responsible subject, and that the term “Natural Selection” is a substitute. In other words, instead of saying “Natural Selection favored large-billed finches over their small-billed cousins,” we might say “Heritable traits favored large-billed finches...” But this is still imprecise. Firstly, it implies that heritable traits are collectively “doing” something. More importantly though, it is incomplete; heritable traits are not solely responsible for the survival of large-billed finches but not small-billed finches. Couldn’t we also say “Exceptionally hard nuts kept food sources scarce for small-billed finches because the nuts favored finches with large-bills?” We could, but we probably wouldn’t, because it isn’t clear that large-billed finches serve the best interest of the nut. Finches serve their own interest actively, and the interests of the nut (if at all) passively. Would we ever say “the Galapagos Islands favored finches by providing them with food and shelter when the birds were blown off course during a migration?” Probably not, because it’s much too imprecise an explanation for how the finches survived. Finally, one might argue that heritable traits, hard nuts, and the Galapagos Islands collectively favored finches; combined, we might refer to these variables as Natural Selection. What an imprecise statement! I might as well have said, “All natural things worked together to favor big-billed finches.” And we haven’t even discussed what variables are considered “natural,” and what aren’t.

All I’m saying is that we’re using a creationist language to talk about Natural Selection in broad terms. I’m definitely not criticizing the science, our methods, or Evolutionary Theory at all. On the contrary, I enjoy these concepts and hope to hear more and more about our new discoveries. But for the purposes of disambiguation, I feel compelled to criticize the language used by this Nova special and programs like it. The overly dramatic production compromises the legitimacy of several issues:

(1) Creationism and Evolutionary Theory are dissimilar areas of study, the goals of each also dissimilar.

(2) Public education, despite being a publicly funded institution, contains an elaborate hierarchy of representatives (teachers and administrators alike). The democracy within our school systems is convoluted, to say the least. The citizens of our country should dictate the public curriculum.

(3) Wealthy interest groups frequently insert themselves into the public arena, posing as a larger body than they are, with an agenda that ill-represents the constituents they claim to represent, and proceed to fuck over those with contrary opinions.

That said, I enjoyed watching the program and recommend it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bride Wars

My clothes got soaked during the monsoon yesterday, as the rain funneled off my car's trunk into the circuitry of every piece of gear the band owned. Completely drenched, I dropped at the top of the stairs my wet clothes and my Sambas, on which Jana shortly thereafter slipped and did a Samba all the way down the stairs. I'm not sure if God or I am now responsible for her misaligned spine, but I’m pretty sure that my punishment is to watch the worst movie ever filmed. Sharing eases the burden. So here you go:

"I'm just going to check my ice-sculpture rolodex."
"Canary... Burnt Canary... isn't there something in between?"
"Miss [Vera] Wang is a stern mistress."
"The International Butter Club? You've actually been sitting around eating sticks of butter from different lands?"
"Officer Not-Your-Husband is here to arrest you!"
"Oh my God, I'm upset because you have feelings. You nailed it."
"I'm gonna do a complete head count of the hot drunk single guys and then choose."
"It's like a whole new me... I cry all the time."

Can someone please explain to me why you have rehearsals for a ceremony that requires no skill and lasts 20 minutes? Additionally, can someone please explain to me why wedding planners are unequivocally the most annoying and stressful creatures on the planet? Never mind, I know why. It’s because their job is to coordinate the most annoying and stressful events on the planet.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Wiener In Review: Hot Diggity

The Wiener In Review: Hot Dog Establishments Of Portland
------------------------------ Hot Diggity ----------------------------------

Entry 3: Certain foods lend themselves perfectly to what we’d normally consider non-food oriented activities, and, in this respect, the hot dog is one of the most malleable. The largest reason for this is the hot dog’s portability, like a sandwich, a snow cone, or a grape. (Formal request: Will someone invent more awesome, portable foods, please? Thank you.) The second largest reason that hot dogs are associated with non food-oriented activities is because hot dogs are awesome. They are the world’s greatest food, and if you don’t agree with me, you might as well get the hell off my blog spot. What other food inserts herself perfectly into backyard gardening, home repair, street juggling, county fairs, presidential rallies in the park, fire dancing, dog shows, car camping, blatantly inappropriate humor, Trace Atkins concerts, baby showers, all sports events, and late night trips to 7-11? Only the wiener.

This is why Hot Diggity scored crucial business points by setting up their portable construction-cart-esque hot dog house outside the Tigard Home Depot. Imagine your sweaty, strapping dad in his overalls. Now imagine him working on your leaky gutters. He realizes he doesn’t have a plumber’s snake—a definite necessity because you live under a grove of cedar trees, populated with over 300 different species of warring squirrels, the casualties of which pinball down through a thicket of branches before slumping dead in slew of needles and nuts, flowing toward the drain as it rains and eventually clogging your gutters which haven’t been cleaned since 1975—and so your dad yells he’s running over to Home Depot to “get some supplies.”

Beer is definitely a “supply,” and so is a new Skilsaw. These are dangerous essentials, especially when used together; plus, if your dad’s wife (A.K.A. your mom) finds out he bought a new saw, or if he can’t finish all the beer on the drive home, he may have a lecture waiting. No need to worry about these inconveniences while purchasing a hot dog, though. That thing will be halfway to the colon by the time Dad pulls into the driveway.

Need more convincing that hot dogs and Home Depot go together like hot dogs and John Kruk? Consider the similarities between a Home Depot and a sports stadium parking lot. It takes endurance to traverse the 5 miles from your car to the gate. Then, once you finally enter, you have to contend with intercoms, overpriced novelties, and swarms of tools. You need energy to stay focused. This is where the wiener comes in. (Formal request: Will someone please invent a Stadium Pal to take care of hot dog digestive inconveniences?)

I’ll try not to let my love of hardware and lumber compromise my objectivity in reviewing Hot Diggity. But, for the record, I fully support their location. I’m not saying I support Tigard. Pave that place, I say. Wait, it’s already COMPLETELY paved. Sod that place, then. Sod it, seed it, and ignore it. Perhaps in 500 years Tigard will look 50% less offensive. In the meantime, if you absolutely MUST acquire some screws to re-affix the florescent lamp to your cubicle, and you can’t take the company credit card all the way in to Portland, or all the way out to Burns, I suggest visiting the Home Depot off SW Sequoia Parkway in Tigard, across from the trillions of office buildings and faux-park goose habitats, and eating a hot dog at Hot Diggity.

......1.The Sausage. Plump and delicious. Roasted outside on their gas BBQ. Kosher, Polish, Smoked, or Spicy (and the spicy is nicey). No veggie option. Pretty damn good. 0.9 points.

......2. The Bun and Accessories. Hot Diggity uses those oversized Kaiser buns with the tiny little seeds. These guys are a crapshoot. They offer more real estate on which to pile accessories, but they go stale faster than their traditional, starchy, jet-puffed and smaller cousins. They have a crust on top, and are side-loading. If you toast them, get ready for serrated gums and a gooey stick-to-your-teeth, doughy center. Sometimes, however, they’re just right. Mine wasn’t, but it was probably because they had been sitting out all day. Hot Diggity provides Mexican Taco Cart-style containers of jalapeƱos, sauerkraut, onions, and relish. They have Dijon mustard and ketchup. The accessories don’t live up to the sausages, but everything’s pretty fresh, and the onions and relish haven’t melded together into maggoty brain stew. 0.4 points

3....3. The Cost. $2.75 plus a quarter for optional cheese. Finally! …a place humble enough to keep all wieners under 3 bucks. It is of paramount importance that you be able to pay for a hot dog with the forgotten, wrinkled dollar bills in your jacket pocket, or with change from your car ash tray. Paying with a debit card at a hot dog stand is grounds for a beating. A hot dog stand which charges enough to warrant debit card payment is grounds for a verblogal lashing… a punishment which is not near as effective as a physical beating, but—as I haven’t been in a fist fight since 8th grade—much more practical and legal. Fortunately, Hot Diggity keeps it reasonable. 0.7 points.

...... 4. The Presentation. On a paper towel. Definitely not fancy. Practical though. And shit knows I appreciate practical. Why, just the other day, I debated writing a blog on how impractical high heels are. Seriously, high heels are the stupidest and most impractical things I can think of. MTV is a close second. Mark McGrath is a close third and all religion is fourth. Hot Diggity gets 0.9 points for presentation, even though there is little to no presentation. I can do this, because it’s my friggin blog.

..... 5. The ‘tude. Meh. The lady was really interested in her Dean Koontz book. She wasn’t much for conversation, and she didn’t treat my hot dog like a royal scepter. I forgive her, but she will not be knighted. 0.5 points.

In conclusion, Hot Diggity scores a big 3.5 out of 5 points! Good job, Mr. or Ms. Diggity! I like the name, I like the location, and I like Open Daily diligence. They serve a couple other things of little consequence: chicken teriyaki, breakfast burritos, blah blah blah. Across the street, I frequently check the status of my web servers, which are stored in a co-location: a geeky, temperature-controlled, hi-tech environment of racks and server cabinets. Periodically, I sneak across the street to the Home Depot for lunch, hoping the mustached construction-workers will overlook the transparency of my server-room skin. Maybe they’ll think I’m one of them.

(Informal request: For perhaps the best-ever blogged description of Home Depot, please visit the blog of Portland band, Menomena.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Your phone could become a problem for someone else.

Last Friday I was getting this weird problem, with the random rogue DNS entries on random client workstations in my domain. The DNS entries were and I couldn't find any public records or run a whois or anything. Yet, I googled the above IP addresses and found two email strings, both posted 4/7/09, noting the same IP addresses. Other networks were having similar issues: bogus web browsing, problems with internal name resolution, etc. My gut told me this was a worm, and that it was related to Confiker because of web browsing problems! Fortunately, my gut was wrong.

I am running Symanted Endpoint Protection on my network; the definitions were current, and full client scans (on obviously infected machines) picked up nothing. Turns out, I had a rogue DHCP server intrusion, which means that I probably had very few "infected" machines. A rogue DHCP server is basically a device that gets infected with malware, then enters another network and falsely answers requests for IPs. We observed several symptoms of this but the most notable symptom was that numerous other clients received bad DNS info: sometimes they had browser problems, some had fake "ipconfig /all" DNS server entries, and some even had fake DNS entries entered directly into their network TCP/IP properties. This sort of malware apparently can enter a network on a laptop or mobile device (like a visitor's laptop or Blackberry or--god forbid!--an iPhone), which was probably our culprit. We have proactive antivirus scanning on all our machines, but we weren't actively scanning network traffic for packets that may contain bad DNS info.

Our solution, thus far, is to install a portion of Symantec's Endpoint software called Intrusion Detection. It runs on all client machines, notifying the client and/or admin when network settings are suspiciously changed.

Another couple thoughts are contained here:

As far as finding the viral culprit, that proved more difficult. Despite a slew of messed-up machines, I only found one instance of malware, and deleted it manually. The rest of the machines healed themselves eventually after many dns flushes.

For the moment, I'm glad to have resolved this issue, which--surprisingly--hasn't hit more networks yet. However, I'm still a little dissatisfied with my network security (and I probably always will be!) because i'm not sure *exactly* what Symantec's Intrusion Prevention software is doing. I'm also not totally sure what people mean when they encourage "monitoring DNS traffic" (see the first link I posted). I'd much prefer a way to effectively lock down the DNS info all my clients, somehow ensuring that it can't be changed unless it comes from my DHCP server, but that is a little above my head.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Wiener In Review: Zach's Shack

The Wiener In Review: Hot Dog Establishments of Portland
---------------------------------Zach's Shack-------------------------------------

Entry 2: I've spent plenty of time at Zach's Shack over the years, predominantly because there is a Pacman machine, it's open really late, there's an assortment of beer and hotdogs, and--up until 12/31/08--you could smoke there. I've written a fair amount of lyrics for a singing/dancing robot there. The walls feature framed Jimi Hendrix and Phish posters, and the jukebox matches the vibe, although it gets kinda loud sometimes. In the summer, you can ping pong out back, which is pretty cool if you don't mind getting challenged by annoying guys in cutoff jeans that look like Tobias Funke and like to play ping pong while drinking PBR. If this sort of thing intimidates you, or if you don't like potentially drunk, late-night walk-in remnants of Mt Tabor Legacy, Southeast's never-will-die Hesher ROCK club, Zach's shack is way too Portland for you.

One time I took my friends Colin and Shiho to Zach's shack, since it was the only hot dog place open after Colin's show. I watched a kid with a trillion-dollar camera round his neck pass out, face first into his hotdog. The camera hit the table and broke, but he didn't wake up, so his friends did the honorable thing and took pictures of him with their phones.

I remember when Zach had his little shack down the street in a much smaller hut. It's better now.

OK, on to the rating sheet!

1. The Sausage. Basically your local grocery store wiener. If you get one sausage choice at a hotdog establishment, it had better be top notch. 0.2 points

2.The Bun and Accessories. Probably the best part about Zach's Shack is that the hotdog accessories remind me of raiding the fridge in college: you might find anything in there, and you're liable to put whatever you find on your plate. This is a good thing, because hotdogs need to evolve, like everything else. They need new life, new color, and new styles, just like fashion (please see my fashion blog entries). At Zach's Shack you will find jalapenos, olives, sour cream, cheddar cheese, pickles, tomatoes, and other savory diddley doos to compliment your wiener. Unfortunately, they get named silly things like Sgt. Pepper, and Los Lobos (which is my go-to dog). Sometimes the bun can be boring, but the toppings make up for it. 1 full point of relish

3. The Cost. $2.50 - 4.50 per dog. Not as bad as Nick's FCIF, but still... c’mon! Real wiener-eaters MUST know how much it costs to make a good tasting wiener at home: next to nothing. And, considering what I'm paying for the remaining two criteria, I unfortunately have to award Zach only 0.4 points. OK, OK, hold on. To be fair, Zach's Shack offers a punch-card, and I am a sucker for punch-cards. Bonus point tenth! 0.5 points.

4. The Presentation. At first, I'm prone to be harsh to a place in what I consider to be one of the cooler areas of town (just barely), but--on the other hand--the divey vibe is relatively consistent. Red plastic baskets, cracking vinyl booths, a door that never stays shut in the winter... I'm fine with that. What I HAVE noticed is that my hotdog differs dramatically, depending on who's working. Some nights all my pepperocini will be lined up perfectly along the wiener, and other nights they'll be all piled up at the end in a soggy pool of brown mustard and salt, like the cook took a lesson in presentation from the creators of Taco Bell's notoriously non-layered Seven Layer Burrito. Awarding 0.4 points is pretty generous.

5. The 'tude. Keepin' it real. Zach is the man. Every time he's served me, it's been with the proper amount of "I'm glad you're here," combined with "Don't do anything lame, this is my store and I will kick your ass if you're rude." I can't say the same for the employees. I've waited for upwards of 20 minutes for one hotdog without an apology, and sometimes I have seriously wanted to punch too-cool-for-school employees in the face. I'm sure their clientele drives them crazy, but they get no sympathy from the harsh reality of Weiner-In-Review. Zach, himself, is the only thing keeping this score from dipping below the 50% mark. 0.6 points.

In summary, Weiner-In-Review awards Zach's Shack 2.7 out of 5 points. However, I will continue to make this one of my prime hang-out joints for many reasons other than the quality of the hotdog. Did I mention the table-top Pacman machine?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Weiner In Review: Hot Dog Establishments of Portland
-----------------Nick's Famous Coney Island Food--------------------

Attention Readers!
This post marks the first of what I hope will be many in-depth culinary reviews:

Before I dive in with relish, I should describe which establishments I'll review and on what aspects of dog-dining I'll focus. Basically, any purveyor, griller, cooker, or boiler of sausage, any shack, stand, restaurant, or backyard bbq, any Tom, Dick, or Harry... I'll review them. Recommend them to me. Here are the categories, with each criterion amounting to 1 point (for a perfect total score of 5):

1. the sausage
2. the bun and the bun's accessories
3. the cost
4. the presentation
5. the 'tude

NFCIF has a soda fountain feel. There was this little girl sitting in a booth wearing a zebra stripe undershirt and matching tie. She looked like Paula Abdul at age 6. Can't argue with that. The place was just remodeled this past year, and now all the red vinyl is shiny. The Blazer game was playing on 3 giant flat-screen TVs. The NFCIF website details a pretty interesting history of this Hawthorne establishment. Before the total remodel (and--I just found out--new ownership) of 2008, I remember that the hours were totally weird, the floor looked much older than me, and their were no veggie options. All good signs... This has changed, however, perhaps not for worse.

1. the sausage. Nice and pink, not too long, piping hot, tender, all the best. 1 full beefy point.

2. the bun, etc. The bun was a traditional puffed top-loading bun. Nick's only serves one variety of dog--the Coney Island: chili, American or cheddar cheese, onions, and pepper. The bun sustained heavenly texture even beneath that mound of chili, so I give full marks there, but the chili was a little lean. I could have used more chunk and spice. .8 points.

3. the cost. $6.75! Way too much. Apparently, I'm paying for the Red Robinesque pictures of Babe Ruth and Elvis on the wall. If I see baseball on the wall, I want baseball on the TV. Otherwise, I don't really want any TV. But let's talk dollars for dog... 6.75 dollars is ridiculous. 0.1 points.

4. the presentation. White plates. My fries in a white bowl. Chili slathered over the entirety of the plate. Not bad. But not amazing. I definitely could not eat the hotdog without a fork, which is both a good and bad thing. Service is prompt and they say "order up," and I like that. 0.6 points.

5. the 'tude. Attitude is part of hot-dog service. The waitress was smiley and cordial, even a little bouncy. That's cool if you're bringing out a plate full of orange slices or cheesecake. But this is a hotdog: a symbol of the working class, the industrial revolution, the eternal need for escape, sports, women, men, children, and pets. On these counts, she was probably agnostic. 0.5 points.

NFCIF succeeds in creating a fun throwback atmosphere to the days of it's inception (1935). There aren't too many places in town that do that for me. They offer some good microbrews and a full bar, as well as full Coney Island-style menu (cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, sandwiches, and totally new vegetarian options). The beer was great, and so were the Blazers, but--as I mentioned earlier--my primary objective is the hotdog, and I must remain steadfast.

Nick's Famous Coney Island Food wins a 3.0 (out of 5).

Monday, January 19, 2009

New Year Resolutions

1. carve tiki god

2a. learn to play raquetball
2b. buy court shoes and raquetball goggles
2c. organize and win a raquetball tournament

3a. bury (dead) pig in a bed of coals, cook and eat him/her
3b. drink tiki drinks while eating tiki pig
3c. hang out on porch in the sun with tiki god
3d. make this last for a whole weekend (week preferred)

4. go to dentist

5. go to Japan

6. get mohawk

7a. release Each Other (album 3) in March
7b. tour beaverton, tualatin, and portland office spaces,

. playing for cubicle-imprisoned employees
7c. finish The Crunch (album 4) by November

7d. find alternative title for The Crunch shortly thereafter

8. go to Starbucks 0 times

9a. attend beekeeper's association meeting
9b. wear beekeeper's suit and tend bees

10. visit old friends

11. run half marathon