Sunday, July 23, 2006

Well, maybe a LITTLE crazy...

OK, this is starting to get a little annoying now...

However, Buster remains unconcerned...

All is can say is, thank the Lord for Mr. Carrier!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Crazy from the heat? Nah.

Yesterday, it nearly hit 105 degrees here.

We handle it the only way one CAN handle it...torpor. Buster has this down to a fine art.

The only truly annoying thing is that it's kept me off my new the time my morning chores (dog walking, pet feeding, coffee making, breakfast eating) are done, it's been over 90 degrees. But a few days ago, I did manage to take a nice 16-mile ride before the heat became too intense. The new bike is wicked fast, but I'm not. At least not yet. But with careful choosing of routes and bike paths, I was able to find a wife-approved route back to the Columbia River, the first time I've made the ride to the shore in five years. My handheld camera does not do the view justice, as you cannot see the majestic Mt. Hood over the river.

But once the temps get back down to normal, I can take some better shots. If they get back to normal, that is.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It's Margarita Time!

With respects to the Right Honorable Reverend Horton Heat.

Although we've had some hot days here already, I finally got managed to get fixins for the first margaritas of the season:

It's been a bit of an annoying few days, so the Ms were welcome. But since I make them the RIGHT way (1 part lime juice, 1 part Triple Sec, 2 parts tequila), one must take care to nurse them and include plenty of ice, or in a hour you'll look like this:

Monday, July 17, 2006

Cyclists with bad hips RULE!

As a cyclist with a bum hip, I'm in good company!

Also, I love this, where it talks about how Floyd Landis' Mennonite parents were uncomfortable with him racing in shorts, so he had to wear sweat pants! I really enjoy the thought of all the elite racers in their high-tech gear being smoked by some freak in sweat pants. Awesome!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I am Zinedine Zidane

This post involves talk of sports, but it's not about sports, so I implore those very wise folks who don't waste precious time with utterly inconsequential sports stuff not to tune me out right away. At least give me a minute.

Last week the world was all aflutter about an incident that happened in the World Cup final between France and Italy. Towards the end of overtime, one of France's star players, Zinedine Zidane, headbutted an Italian player.

Zidane was ejected and France lost the match. Afterward, Zidane said he was upset because the Italian player talked some trash about his mother.

Oh no! The ultimate insult! I can't believe that another player would make remarks about one's mother! Oh the humanity!

My favorite sports writer, Bernie Linicome, did a nice column about the meekness of such an insult compared to what usually goes on in sports.

Which brings me to the title of this post. I feel for Zidane. Because it was just this type of behavior that kept me from doing something I loved, which was playing football.

Many high school students were conscripted to participate in P.E. But I liked it. I was good at athletics, except for baseball. (My nickname: Andrew "Dribbler to Short" Heckman, because a weak ground ball to the shortstop was all I could manage when I hit the ball at all, which I hardly ever did. I like to chalk this up to my horrible eyesight rather than any lack of hand/eye coordination.) But FOOTBALL, THAT I could play. And I was especially good at intercepting passes and knocking down guys who were bigger than me (as happy fate would have it, they were usually guys who were better looking and more popular than me, not that either of those qualities were rare in my classmates.)

Intercepting passes and knocking people down are the main responsibilities of the position in football (or "Meatball," as a Brit friend of mine terms it) known as "Free Safety." So I thought I'd go out for football officially and try out for the free safety position, or, barring that, any position where I could run fast and collide with somebody.

But as it turned out, I learned that possessing intelligence and talent were not enough. Oh, I was fine on the field. But to be an athlete, one also had to be an utter asshole. In an athletic locker room, particularly a meatball locker room, one communicated in put downs. "Hey, give that towel, spongecock!" "Nice attempted catch, you fucking homo!" "You call that tackle, fag? I thought I was being humped by a mosquito!"

Actually, if the put downs had been that clever, I wouldn't have minded so much. But they weren't. It was the most degrading, inane, frat-boy atmosphere I have ever experienced. And that's not even getting into the towel snapping, pranks and fart-on-the-guy's-head-as-he-dries-his-feet hijinks. So even though I was good at the actual "job," I said, "Screw this!" to the company and quit.

I didn't have the fortitude of a Joey Harrington , who is too much of a Renaissance Man to be truly successful at professional meatball. I just decided I'd rather make pizzas so I could buy guitars, darkroom equipment and telescopes.

I'm sure it's just as well, but occasionally I wonder what would have happened if I'd stuck with it. At least I would have had a chance to "earhole" a few more jocks (for those non-meatballers among you, that means hitting a player so hard that he's looking out the earhole of his helmet). But I might also have ended up like Zidane, his last impression on the world being his expression of hatred for the moronic nature of jockocracy. I remember after Columbine happened, I talked with friends about how we understood why a high school student would want to shoot all the jocks, because the bastards made our lives miserable.

All that said, though, there's something beautiful about the perfect put-down. My personal favorite is from Michael Jordan, who at one point during a game turned to a player on the opposing team and said, "You know how many rebounds you have tonight? As many as a dead man." But then again, it's a lot different being burned by the best who ever played the game, as opposed to having your balls towel-snapped by the guy who is the quarterback of the team only because his dad owns the local bank.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Guess I hit a sore spot, huh?

Today while I was walking Buddy, I ran across this guy:

OK, it wasn't really Cartman. Actually, he looked more like my Dad:

Anyway, this guy was raking up a bunch of leaves that he'd just sheared off a hedge. As I was walking by, I commented that it was good to see somebody NOT using a leaf blower.

Big mistake. He replied, "Oh, I'll use the leaf blower in a minute," and then he walked over to me and began his spiel. "I was one of the last guys around here to stop using push mowers. Twenty years ago, I did probably about 40 small lots at a time. I probably walked 15 miles a day. I couldn't keep that up so I switched to gas equipment, but of course all the liberals get upset about the environment when you do that."

OoooooKaaaaaay I thought, and chucked out an olive branch: "Oh, if you're doing volume work that's different. I thought you were the homeowner here," and pointed at the big, expensive three-story house in front of which he was working.

"Oh noooo," he said shaking his head, "I'd never live in Portland. Did you know that 30% of the people who live in Portland work for the government? That's a big burden to place on taxpayers. I live in Battle Ground, Washington. Portland's a lot different than it used to be. Now it's all liberal, all these people who smoked so much pot that they're all paranoid; a bunch of pot-heads who never worked a day in their lives."

I am not making this up.

Rather than engage the gentleman in some good, honest debate (which I reckoned would be a futile effort anyway), I decided to turn my attention to another creature that was full of crap; so I just said "Well, okay then!" and continued on my way with Buddy.

Which was just as well because I was tempted to point out that the person who owned the nice big house and was paying him to tend it must have worked a few days to afford such a nice place and such good service.

But if I run into him again, I'm ready. After some quick net research, I found that 8.5% of Oregonians work for the state government, as compared with 7.7% of Washingtonians. So not that big a difference. And so stay on your own side of the Columbia and stop feeding off Portland's economy, you ungrateful Washingtonian right wing nut job!

Seriously, the more I thought about the encounter, the more it made me laugh. And, I'm afraid, the more it made me think that my Dad might have a long lost brother living not far from me!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Weeds? What weeds?

On the Fourth of July, I took Buddy out for his usual morning walk when what should I find in our driveway but a sofa. A dirty, beat-up, stained and tattered gray sofa. Because our next door neighbor rents rooms in his house and I'd seen a U-Haul truck parked there the day before, I thought that one of the tenants had either moved in and didn't have room for the sofa so they left it in our driveway, or that a tenant had moved out and didn't have room for the sofa in the truck. The difficulty with those theories was that the sofa was perfectly placed flush to the street and centered in the driveway. It didn't look like a "dump job" to me.

When I got back from Buddy's walk, I saw our neighbor directly across the street working in her front yard. So I asked her if she'd seen anything the night before.

"No," said Mary, a retired woman whom I've often seen working in her yard but who I haven't really talked to before, "I didn't see anything. But maybe somebody just dumped it there thinking the house wasn't being lived in, you know, because of all the weeds in the yard."

This was one of those moments when one's mind races to find the appropriate response. Obviously, the remark was not an absent-minded, unintentional insult, but rather meant as a none-too-subtle dig. But how to react. "Screw you, you crusty old whore!" I thought might be a bit much. "Well, some of use aren't comfortable with the tremendous waste of time and resources needed to keep up a so-manicured-it-looks-fake yard," was another choice, but too long-winded. And I didn't necessarily want to make an enemy. So I gritted my teeth and pussed out. "Well, I admit yardwork isn't a high priority for me..."and I played the pity card (which I'm not proud of) "...because I've got a rebuilt hip and a lot of crouching is really painful...(which is true)...but thanks, anyway."

OK. First of all, the photo above is of our BACK yard where the garden used to be. I included here for shock value. No one, not even us, can see it. The front of the house actually looks like this:

Alright, granted, the sidewalk needs a good sweeping and the post-bloom flowers need dead-heading. But it's hardly the forest primeval and the lawn IS mowed. Argotnaut suggested we respond by just paving the whole thing. Actually that's probably not a bad idea from an allergen reduction standpoint.

But what I'd really like to do is make the front yard look like the back, complete with lazy hillbilly dog:

"Y'all come on over here so's I can bite ya some" (smeck, smeck, yawn)

Or better yet, she can talk to my cat, Joe Pesci:

"You want weeds? I got your weeds right HERE!"

But I'll probably really respond by just tidying the yard up a bit. NOT A LOT, mind you, but a bit.

And as for the couch, it turns out it was the work of miserable teenagers. Its owner lives down the block and came to the front door to explain that the positioning of the sofa was a prank played on him by some teenagers. Those darn kids! The sofa has now been returned to its rightful place. But after that crack by our neighbor across the street, I might replace the sofa with a chifforobe and a rusty truck up on blocks.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Annual "Battle of Wilshire Park"

The above phrase was coined by my brother last year at this time while Argotnaut and I were in Germany. Oregonians love their fireworks, and every 4th of July is a battle royal. The time of year is really tough on dogs and Buddy is no exception.

Normally, the best we can do is keep the boy in a room with both of us and play the radio to drown out the noise. But that approach is not entirely successful in keeping Buddy from barking and trembling like a heroin addict going through withdrawal. So this year, we have gotten some homeopathic anti-anxiety stuff. A. is not sold on homeopathic remedies, for good reason, but we thought it worth trying for our little boy. If nothing else, the 20% alcohol content should act as doggy knockout drops, which is probably the actual mechanism of the medicine if it works at all. We shall see.

"Bartender! (hic) Another shot of that homey-pathetic med-sin! And be quick about.."

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Tigger mortis!

Today, Argotnaut informed me, "Your cat has expired."

He was so young!

Now that's what I call "deflating!"

Poor Jan Ullrich .

He wins one Tour de France, then plays second fiddle to Lance Armstrong for seven years, and then what does he get to show for his constant training and commitment during that time? Erectile dysfunction! 'Taint right!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Back in the saddle again! (sorta)

Argotnaut has done quite a nice post about why we visited our local recumbent bike dealer recently. She talks about the bike she had to have, and now I get to talk about the bike I got!

Ever since we moved out to Portland, I've been keen to ride the "Summit to Surf" ride that happens every year in late July/early August for the American Diabetes Association, a cause that is near to my heart. This is not a little 20-mile charity ride, you understand. Noooooooo. One must cycle up the side of Mt. Hood and then blast back down to the Columbia River (thus the "Summit to Surf"). And of course, the STANDARD ride (54 miles, 5400 feet of elevation gain, which would obliterate all but the most hardy Chicago cyclists) wasn't good enough for me. Again, nooooooooooooooo! Being a recumbent cyclist, I have a little chip on my shoulder about how standard diamond-frame cyclists think recumbents can't climb well and the people who ride them are nerdy engineering types. Which is somewhat true, but also it made me want to do the KILLER ride up to Timberline Lodge, which is at 6000 feet. The ride then becomes a 65-mile ordeal with 6500 feet of elevation gain. ALL RIGHT! LET'S DO IT! But one just doesn't jump on one's beater cruiser bike and do a ride like that. Well, one could, but one would go about 20 miles and then do one's best impression of road kill. Thus, training is required.

But every year, something happened to sabotage my plans. In 2001, I was working for myself and had the time to train, but then Arggy and I got kicked out of the house we were renting because the owner needed to sell it. So I shelved my training plans while we endured the horror that is finding new digs and then moving. In 2002, I was in the best shape of my life, riding 200 miles a week, including 40/50 mile rides with 2,000/3,000 feet of elevation gain. Then in June "The Calamity" happened. In 2003, I was simply physically unable to ride because my hip was a disaster and, unbeknownst to me, had started to fuse. In 2004, I had just had a total hip replacement in March, so training was RIGHT OUT!, plus there was also Argotnaut's understandable aversion to my getting back out on the road. In 2005, I was in Germany.

But in 2006, all obstacles have finally been overcome. Well, for the most part. My doctor has cleared me to ride long distances. Argotnaut has given her tentative blessing provided a) I train primarily on bike paths that are separate from the road (which there are enough of in Portland to suffice) until I'm strong enough to ride with groups, which afford more visibility on the open road, and b) avoid twisty rural roads where dumbfuck drivers tend to blast around hairpin turns, driving so fast and so lackadaisically that they fail to see a cyclist dressed completely in chartreuse and wearing so much reflective material that he/she appears to be radioactive. And there are my own caveats: no more riding at night (which really sucks because it's really great), no riding in rain or any other conditions that hamper a motorist's range of vision.

Of course, if we move to the Netherlands, where they have a separate system of roads for bikes, all caveats are moot.

But until then, I have the plan and, soon, I'll have the bike (it's on order). Now the only question is, is there time to train? Because the event is in a month, probably not. But there's always next year! And there's also Cycle Oregon!

Worts and all

Upon further inspection, Tavia is correct. The yellow flowers in front of our house are, in fact, St. John's Wort. I didn't see the "many little stems" in the center of the flowers until I looked closely. I assume the blossoms are small because they are in full sun most of the day, so if they like the shade they're in the wrong spot.

We've been fortunate in Portland to have a Spring that's been a little wetter than average, thus rendering unnecessary the worry about the skimpy snow pack, urethra-wide rivers and heavy watering of lawns that has accompanied the season the last couple of years. But now our dry season is beginning, so I'll finally have to get out our soaker hoses and give the crispy plants a drink.

The grass, on the other hand, can fend for itself!