November 25, 2003

A Story About Crud

The last couple days have been fairly busy, with the whole “moving down to Bend in a snowstorm” thing and the “stressing out over the snowboard instructor workshop that will decide if I will be one of a select few to be hired” thing and the “finally trading my Minnesota driver’s license in for an Oregon license and watching an integral piece of my Midwest identity slide away” thing.

We have time for one story so I’ll make it a good one. Out here in Oregon they sand the road with red volcanic rock. When this rock isn’t angry and flying all up in your face and breaking your windshield it is busy getting mixed into the snow and ice. This is the same snow and ice that flips cars on their sides as they drive up to the mountain, and the same snow and ice that collects under your car when you drive carefully to keep your car off its side.

While in Minnesota this cruddy snow is a dirty gray color, out here the magic angry rock turns it a deep red. The chunks build up under cars until they fall off at intersections and start melting in the high-desert sun. Because of their misleading color and speedy puddling, the chunks look like bloody hunks of meat left in the road, and people actually swerve to avoid them.

Welcome to Bend

“And how would I go about starting a cult?”

“You could say you’re a prophet.”

“Hmm… I can grow a mullet.”

“Mullets definitely attract the word of God.”

November 19, 2003


Props to yewknee for bringing to our attention the great feast to be had at Cutting-edge animations and biting social commentary bring law to life for kids young and old. Genius voice-acting makes the cartoons come alive! Did we mention it’s like they come to life?


However, we felt that some of the stories were a bit difficult to follow so we remixed our own. Check ’em out:



JOYRIDE – Courtesy of Daniel

But please, we are not design majors or law professionals so don’t let us have all the fun! If you have a good idea please submit it for consideration. Email your masterpiece to dane at brainsideout dot STUPIDSTUPIDSPAM com.

November 18, 2003

Relief for Hardworking Hands

Over the last few weeks this town has managed to make me really cranky, and I never realized how cranky until I unloaded a full barrage of ranty goodness on a good friend. I feel like ever since November came about I’ve been living in a different town, which really isn’t far from the truth. The process has been a creeping devolution ever since the end of August, when everyone started clearing out of Hood River. Kelsey left for Canada, Sara went back to Duluth, Tons to British Columbia, Bobbie and Randy to Florida (and soon the Caribbean), Wyatt to San Fran, Dills to Dills-Land, Wayne to Baja… all the familiar Bee Dub faces scattered to their respective corners of the earth.

And along with their departures went Karaoke at Jack’s, late nights at Savino’s, and pretty much any act of cronyism that was worth having in Hood River. All these things are still right down the street; I could wander into Jack’s any Friday night and bust out the James Brown, but there’s no point now that my audience is gone. It was a lovely summer no doubt, and it even managed to extend itself rather deep into the fall. I went kiteboarding through October, took a trip back to Minnesota and climbed mountains. But Joe, a rugged pal and the only person that made this fall bearable, cut town for Salt Lake City a few weeks ago and left me danglin’ in the ol’ HR.

The activity level here has all but died, and now that things are really settling in I realize what makes this small town so unbearable when the influx of seasonalists disappear. Brain-drain. I noticed it during the summer but was busy enough playing outside that it didn’t really matter, but now that there’s nothing to do there’s really nothing to do. There is nothing here to challenge me intellectually or creatively. There is no room for growth beyond the thin prescriptions I write to myself, and without the influence of other crazy individuals I’m finding my mind dreadfully banal. When I finish a day at work I have five hours of my own time to fill with whatever I want to do, and I realize that what I want to do isn’t really what I want to do. Everyone else in Hood River goes home to their families and cooks meatloaf and shuttles their kids to late-night mud soccer. I digest music. I read Ayn Rand. I scan the blogosphere. I recode webpages. I fall asleep. These are things I enjoy, but not necessarily on an everyday basis, and not necessarily on an everyday basis all by my lonesome.

The things I do are not activities that are necessarily anti-social. God bless the person who can invent an establishment where intellectual nutcases collect in droves to drink blackberry tea, read beat poetry, discuss nerdy topics like semantic web design and who would win in a fight between Ernest Hemmingway and a monkey driving a monster truck, argue over Altoid flavors, and laugh about the abuse of sus4 chords in epic 70’s rock music. In a town that lacks others of a similar mindset there’s nowhere to go, but more importantly there’s no one to even go there with. What I’ve found, again and again in my travels, is it’s the people that make traveling and non-traveling worthwhile. You need people to travel from, people to travel with, and people to travel to.

And now that my people are gone, all the winds and cliffs and scented pine forests of the Columbia Gorge are not enough to keep me here. Which is strange to consider, because at one time they were more than enough to bring me here. But these things change, everything changes, and with everyone having moved away I feel like I have moved myself. Their lives have taken them elsewhere for the winter, and there’s no reason my life shouldn’t be the same way.

The wilds of the world alone are enough to draw me to the outer banks, and once again I stand at the brink of a journey. Wanderlust has ignited my soul and cast my eyes to the horizon. I need to see more, do more, feel more. The plan I have is the same I had half a year ago, when I first blasted across the continent from my midwest hotbed. I will go, and I will do this, and I will see where it takes me. I decided I wanted to live in Hood River less than a year before I ended up here. I decided I wanted to live in Bend less than two months ago. I move there in three days.

I have no idea what the next six months will hold, but I know it will be new and different and exciting all over again. And I know that in its own little way it will decide the next path I take.

November 16, 2003

Mountain Trip to Japan 1959

I can’t write. Literally, cannot write. Every word I try to put down makes me feel like I’m fighting off motion sickness. We had a lovely day in Portland yesterday; tried to find coffee, played with Duplos, pawed through used music at Underground Music downtown, saw Guster at the Roseland, watched the most f-ed up slideshow presentation ever, helped people protest outside Powell’s books, ate dinner under the spring-loaded dancefloor of the Crystal Ballroom… it was one of the most spendid days I’ve had in a long while and is completely incoherent in my mind.

I leave for Bend in five days, and everything is lost in the foggy static of transition. Right now I need to feel the cadence.

November 13, 2003


It’s always fun to watch people struggle at a Rubik’s cube who aren’t good at struggling at a Rubik’s cube and would be better off struggling at an Altoids tin. They spin and twist and stick their tongue out of the corner of their mouth just like so and are overcome with great elation when they get an entire side to be one color. In a large field of heather they hold the cube up to the sun in both fists, tilt their head back and cry with jubilance over their accomplishment. And they turn to you and hold it right under your nose so you can smell the day’s work and they say, “HA! Check it, yo!”

And as they stand there, vibrating, hopping back and forth from one foot to the other, you ask something. You ask now how are you going to get all the other sides. And they suddenly realize the fatal flaw in their quest, that they weren’t looking far enough ahead, and even for all their efforts in reaching their current benchmark of accomplishment, it will inevitably need to be deconstructed to reach the ultimate goal. For at this point, any movement on the Rubik’s cube that attempts to unify the other colors will break the single solid side.

Having declared that I burn and inhale no questionable substances, that I have in my possession no poo-flinging monkeys, that I do not depend on pillaging and plundering for the bulk of my income, the rental company has approved my occupation of Lava House. In case it has not been stated, and even if it has it needs to be reiterated, Lava House is a block from Wall Street (god I love that), which is the main drag in Bend. We can see the spire of the downtown Tower Theatre from our front deck, where cigars are oft consulted. Night-stalkers use our back deck and patter up and down the steps. Our washer and dryer are green. We have a fireplace for burning evidence and a gas stove for interrogating innocents. Down the street is a menacing stone church that was built by the wrath of God himself. I am a mile from the shuttle stop that will take me to and from the Mountain at will.

So. In this I can now move to Bend whenever I want. I have a new address that will please the DMV and the Insurance and the Accounts Payable. I have a job as a ski and snowboard instructor at a mountain that caters to hot and single men. I have a cell phone on the charger and a mug of Vanilla Coke and Bacardi. I have a 60’s copy of Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness which is absolutely delicious. I have the best car in the world that is completely tuned up aside from a blown front speaker and two rear speakers that are filled with water. I have new snowboard boots that are build out of spun aircraft-grade wire and snowboard bindings that are built out of magnesium that doesn’t explode in water. I have a strong grasp of the English language and a fitfully loose understanding of physics and chemistry.

I have solved one side of the Rubik’s cube.

November 12, 2003


I’m bored. Lately everything that I’ve needed to do has gone over so silky-smooth that is isn’t even worth recounting. The Green Dragon wagon got an oil change and new windshield wipers. I paid too much for the new wipers but I got a free newspaper out of the deal. I went to Wal-Mart (weepy, creepy Wal-Mart) and got the Dragon a fresh air filter. Instead of those little computers you find in more technologically advanced societies, our Wal-Mart has the dirty spare part catalog that you thumb through to find your desired part. I found my car but the filth wasn’t helping me figure out whether I had a 1.8 or 1.9 liter engine. Seeking a familiar reference I checked the oil filter sizes, and upon seeing that the filter for the 1.8 was the size of a thimble I knew I had a 1.9. Bam. I installed the sucker in the parking lot.

The Dragon also has a serious vacuum leak that causes it to sputter and die in the middle of intersections, and my bouncy ball and electrical tape fix was failing quickly. I went to NAPA, where the fellow behind the counter had fixed the same leak on another car a mere thirty minutes before. Three inches of hose, an elbow joint and $2.88 later, the Dragon was completely road worthy again.

Anything that I need to do that I haven’t done yet is still cloaked in unintereting ambiguity. My rental company in Bend took the money to process my application to live on Lava Street, but I haven’t heard from them in a few days. Sigh. I need that approval. I need that approval so I can set up a forwarding address from behind the Safeway. I need that approval so lots and lots of bills can get sent to Lava Street. I need to start mailing first class letters to myself at my new address so I can prove to the Oregon DMV that I live there. I need to prove to the Oregon DMV that I live there so I can get an Oregon driver’s license with my current Oregon address on it. My Oregon insurance agency refuses to renew the insurance on the Green Dragon because my license is from Minnesota. My Minnesota insurance agency refuses to insure the Green Dragon because I live in Oregon. Assuming I have a place to live, I move to Bend on Friday the 21st. I start training on the 23rd. My insurance runs out on the 2nd. Between the 21st and the 2nd I need to come up with fifteen forms of photo id and eleventy-seven pieces of first class mail.

I will also need to buy a bed and fashion a spartan furniture set out of 2×4’s and the flesh of mammals. And pass snowboarding and drug-use proficiency tests. I’ve been practicing for the snowboarding test by breaking in my new boots and hopping around the house while strapped into my board. I’ve been practicing for the drug-use test… well, let’s just say I’ve been practicing for the drug-use test.

November 11, 2003

Rum and Dr Pepper

The junk is slowly finding its way into cardboard boxes. I leave for Bend in ten days. The only things that remain on my walls are a 2003 Spam calendar and a monkey with text. The calendar has Portland’s Decibully, Guster, Matt Pond PA, Nada Surf and Death Cab for Cutie concerts clearly marked out over the next week and a half. The monkey still quotes my father, who at the start of my western expedition reminded me of my priorities. "Your primary responsibility this summer is to learn how to windsurf," says the tiny rubber monkey with his fist in the air and a tack through his xiphoid.

Moving is the biggest pain in the ass, but fortunately the junk is easy to move. The junk fits in boxes or trash cans or in the neighbor’s lawn with a “Free” sign. The most difficult things to travel with, and the only things that makes travel worthwhile, are memories. There was a time, a year ago come Thanksgiving, when I was sitting upstairs at the computer in my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Madison, looking at satellite photos of this little town called Hood River. I knew, then. My bones quaked with direction and purpose. I pointed at a few tiny and smudged windsurfers who had found themselves taken up by satellite. There.

Just a little bit longer, just a lot more effort, and I knew I would be there. I knew nothing of karaoke nights at Jack’s, of 3:00 am Savino’s, of albino midget pro kiteboarder parties at the Copper Salmon. I didn’t know how to properly downhaul my sail or rescue my hide at Rowena. The first time I had even seen kiteboarding was the August prior. No matter. What mattered at that time were hazy dreams, not specifics. At some point everything would work itself out in its own crazy way, and for now a vaporous idea of what lay before was plenty.

But while the future is born of dreams, memories are born of specifics, and little by little one gives way to the other. And ladies and gentlemen, the time is upon us once again to get a helluva lot more specific.

November 9, 2003

Make Up Your Mind

I go through periods where all I can concentrate on is the specific, and I eventually reach a series of revelations and then all I can think in is the general. It’s always progressive, never regressive, always moving forward to some unknown goal. Recently I’ve been in a specifics stage, and right now I’m on the cusp of entering a general stage. I can look at life, focus on the small things and draw far-reaching inferences as to the nature of reality; how our universe is composed, the best means of arriving at truth, what this elusive “truth” actually is, etc…

Right now everything is related; atomically, molecularly, mechanistically, socially, naturally, etc. I can take what I have learned in many different mediums and apply them across disciplines. I feel like I have lived a million lives since I moved out here, since I left for college, since I was born. I have done so many things that are, on the surface, greatly unrelated, but I feel it is my duty, in order to justify my existence both to myself and to a lesser extent others, to explain how they relate to one another. And from my experience of how they relate, we can infer grand universals of the universe writ large. It’s heady stuff, but it’s important stuff.

“Why do humans do what they do?”

“How does that relate to natural law?”

“What is natural law?”

With this last one I’m not necessarily questioning the premise that there is a natural law, that there is an objective universe. I’m just curious how many layers we need to peel away until we have an accurate representation of that universe. If you’re down close to the Earth the surface looks flat. If you’re on a mountain it resembles a dome. From space it looks like a sphere. Toss in the strange relationship between gravity and a massive body’s ability to bend the fabric of spacetime, and the Earth is four-dimensional. Back away far enough and it is reduced to a pinpoint of light.

All my lives, my millions of lives, all seem to have at least one thing in common. Me. It is a clumsy concept of me (as Hume pointed out in his Bundle of the Self theory), but I insist that there is something mental, spiritual and physical (keeping these words conveniently undefined for the moment) that is constant and forms a cohesive whole of my doings, my experiences and my memories. Me. And what have I done? The list is extensive, and is absolutely incredible for the short amount of time it has all taken place in. And now with Bend on the horizon, the list only stands to get longer.

And it’s already so long that I can’t keep it all straight. My mind often finds itself befuddled over its history. No matter, though. Look forward. Live in the now. Recall the past, but don’t dwell there. If you remember neat things, like tossing frisbee with Bee Dub friends at the Sandbar on your second day in Hood River, cool. But don’t get hung up trying to conjure memories. It’s too much work, and it just gets in the way of creating new memories.

Taken individually, nothing I have done is all that impressive, but really to have an accurate understanding you need to look at everything in context. Pulling them out and looking at accomplishments on a plain white background is conducive to analysis, but an abstraction of real life. In real life we’ve got concerns like hunger and hydration and stress and bad memories and good memories and states of euphoria… all things that indeed make up our own personal realities, but are all variables that need to be momentarily forgotten during the analysis phase. And maybe that’s why my brain feels so fuddled; that to evaluate my experiences I need to detach them from the very things that make my experience. Lunacy, indeed, but it is a thought. Maybe I don’t need to try as hard as I think I do. Just relax, breathe deep, and let the life flow through you.

The experience of climbing Mount Adams was unlike any other. Waking up at 1:00 in the morning, donning our headlamps and crampons, trudging up glaciers and false tongues to the Lunch Counter, and then starting the brutal ascent to the false summit. Yikes. To think that a year ago I was in my apartment penning an essay or something, with mountaineering nary a glimmer in my eye. We humans are more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for, we are, we are.

But I remember the feeling as we climbed towards that summit and my lungs ached to keep oxygen in my body. There was no sound but the crunch of my crampons, the sound of my breath and the rush of blood in my ears. The only sound was what I carried with me, a personal biological orchestra. I remember those last struggling steps to the summit, atop a huge ampitheater of ice, as I rested and gasped for air every ten feet.

I remember that there was no fanfare at the top, there was no rush of emotion. There was no energy left for it. The pictures I managed to fire off were exhausting and irritating at the time. Relief did not come at the summit, as there was too much exhaustion to waste precious energy on emotion. Physical relief only came after we reached the car and threw down our packs, but the spiritual lift didn’t strike me until later, after my body had recovered. The mental fed off of the physical, which was busy denying emotional responses that should have been present in times of great accomplishment.

So much of climbing is a mental game. There were times when Joe was completely convinced that he couldn’t make it to the summit, and times when we flipped and I wanted nothing more than to give up… the desire to be back at home in bed with a mug of tea. "Why can’t the mountain be just 1,000 feet lower?" you ask yourself, even though you know the answer. Because it can’t be. You are here because it is the exact height it is, and realizing this you are forced to shoulder right up with reality and accept your fate.

In mountaineering, existence becomes binary. You can either go up or you can go down. There’s no question of whether you want to bake muffins or make an omlette or eat out, or maybe skip breakfast entirely and go kiteboarding. It’s the lack of options that makes mountaineering alluring, the brutal simplicity that exists when you have sealed your fate in making the summit. You’ve already set the pieces, learned what you need to know, packed the right gear, chosen the right climbing partners… now you just need to take everything you’ve got going on inside and channel it to the top of the world.

And that, my friends, is the rebirth of Universality. As in Mountaineering, as in Hood River, as in Life. There is a logical structure to all things; the question is only whether or not we have enough time, patience, reason and interest to figure it all out. You only get one shot at the whole deal, so you best make the most of the time you’ve got.

And troublesome questions like these should not plague your everyday life, but should be set aside in moments of intense consideration, in an attempt to improve your direction and passion in the things that matter the most to you. Because ultimately, that is all that matters.

Blueberry Muffins

I’ve been doing a little bit of work under the hood around here, lately. My instincts were correct, and IE’s massive pooch-screwing on my navigational buttons was due to the whitespace parsing error.

I brought the index pages of all sections (About, AV, Slapdash, etc.) under the wing of my new stylesheet trio. All pages used to reference one stylesheet, wildwest.css, for design and layout. Along with the main index and all weblog pages, they now reference three stylesheets that each contain different groups of elements to make maintenance chores easier.

global.css contains the style rules for all global HTML tags (<body>, <h1>, <p>, <img>, etc.)

layout.css contains style rules for all my layout <div id=" "> tags, such as #header, #navigation and #content.

styles.css contains style rules for any <div class=" "> tags and anything else that is not global or layout, but is style nevertheless.

A new problem that has come to my attention is that IE grossly farks up the layout when I use the {float: right;} element in the “content” layout <div>. I often use this in my weblog to make images float alongside text, but apparently I need to come up with another solution if I want to accomodate the painfully crippled browser used by 93 percent of the internet community.

I revamped some of my .PHP code, replacing <? include ‘nav.php’; ?> with <? @ require_once (“/i/”) ?>. This keeps all of my scripted navigation files in one includes directory, and makes sure the same navigation won’t accidentally be included in the same page twice. It’s super basic, but it’s all I know and all I need at the moment. I’m still overjoyed at the ability to edit one navigation file and watch hundreds of my subpages update automatically, but soon I think I’ll find myself building my own barebones content management system with PHP and XML. I want something that will let me script out super basic things, like page titles, navigation and imported stylesheets, and rebuild all files in a form similar to that available in the Movable Type interface. Something that allows me complete and lazy control.

Whatevs. It’s a beautiful day and I’m gonna go play outside.