December 28, 2004

heart and mind aflutter

Whoo-hoo! Merry Christmas and Kwanzaa and all that jazz to ya’ll!

Everyone here at the Brainside Out World Domination Concern is still alive and kickin’, but we’ve been running around Minnesota visiting kind folk and eating delicious food and trying to get kicked out of Ikea… which was actually more difficult than it sounds, as Ikea doesn’t seem to have security cameras of any sort. Despite our best efforts to make fun of products and rearrange furniture and loiter without intent of purchasing anything, our actions went, for the most part, unnoticed.

Things have been lovely busy, and I’ve been doing my best to avoid computers and such as much as possible. Most parents will wait until all their kids have left the roost before they invest in cable television, HD TV, DVD players, high-speed internet, new computers, sub-orbital ion cannons pre-programmed with the coordinates for the neighbor’s house, etc. My folks have had plenty of time to buy all these things to make my visits more enjoyable, but for whatever reason they have yet to aquire most of them. It’s almost as though they don’t want me to stick around.

Anyways. The family is doing well, the friends are active and healthy, and it has proven to be another whirlwind tour of the spheres I have occupied throughout my life. A few precious days with Minnesota still remain, and it’s time to get out there and run around again. Nothing worthwhile will come to pass in front of a computer, at least not this week. There are far too many experiences to have and stories to collect to ground ourselves in front of a glowing screen.

And so we take to the streets! the salty streets of Minneapolis, where salty cars drive through salty fogs, and the smog casts the most brilliant sunsets, and everyone smiles through chapped lips.

Away we go!

December 22, 2004


The Subaru got a trailer hitch, today. While walking back to work from the trailer hitch shop I saw a dead cat in the gutter. It looked like a chunk of dirty gray slush that fell out from under someone’s car. It very well could have been, except that the slush was gray and not red. We sand our roads with red cinder out here in Oregon, so chunks of slush look like fresh cuts of red meat.

The cat was not that fresh.

Jody, Joel and I went on a hike over the weekend, and instead of a cat we brought two dogs with us. It was supposed to be a pleasant hike up to the Tumalo waterfalls, but the road was closed and on our hike to the trail Joel saw some cliffs he wanted to explore. He kept talking about these cliffs and wouldn’t shut up about these cliffs, so finally Jody threw down the gauntlet and told Joel to find a trail and lead us to these cliffs.

There wasn’t a path, so Joel made a trail through the thick, scratchy manzanita and other sundry pucker brush, straight up a thousand vertical feet to the cliffs. I would say that we reached the cliffs without a scratch, if only I wasn’t still bleeding from those damned bushes.

All in all, the toil and blood and sweat was totally worth it, as the view from the cliffs was spectacular. We explored a pinnacle that we dubbed Spider Monkey Face and were surprised to actually find bolted routes already set on it. We also found an icy logging road which we would take back to the trailhead, deciding not to do battle with the manzanita again.

At the logging road we were greeted by a monster truck Suburban. Even though it had big knobby tires and cans of beer, it was having trouble making it up the icy road. It kept sliding backwards. We slid down beside it and began our descent back to the trailhead. The road was rather slippery. We made it a game where everyone in the group had to fall at least once. Then everyone had to fall twice. No one had to really try, it wasn’t that kind of game, but it was still fun.

Jody and Joel had already fallen twice and it was my turn to fall, but then Jody skipped my turn and fell a third time. He fell in one direction and his foot fell in another, and he screamed in agonizing pain. He said he heard it pop. After taking it easy for a couple minutes Jody tried to stand up, but he could not put any weight on his foot. I was sure that his ankle was broken, and we still had more than a mile of slippery logging road back to the trailhead.

Luckily for us, there were two monster trucks sitting not even fifty feet from where Jody fell. It is almost as though the monster trucks made him fall, or he fell in an attempt to impress the monster trucks, or something. Joel and I slid down to talk to the fellows with the monster trucks, to see if we could get an evac. One of the monster trucks had a busted front line and it wasn’t going anywhere. The toolbox was out and everything. What’s more, these guys had just heard that their friends in the Suburban were completely stuck, and needed help out.

Luckily, there was one monster truck that still worked. It was a Frankensteinian creation that the guys had built out of spare parts the week before, an 80’s pickup truck with a two-person cab and no actual “pickup”. The bed had been removed completely, leaving nothing in back but the truck’s frame and a fuel tank.

We got Jody loaded up, and Todd was kind enough to give the two of us a ride back to the trailhead. Every time we hit a bump (and there were many bumps), it would jam Jody’s foot and he would hiss in pain. The road back was long, really long, and I don’t know what we would have done had Todd and his crew not been out four-wheeling that day.

After a cramped, bumpy ride wrought with pain and agony, the monster truck reached the car. Come to think of it, I’ll bet that Jody broke his ankle just so he could get a ride in a monster truck. That’s dedication. We got Jody down from the monster truck (which was no small feat, considering the cab sits about four feet off the ground) and loaded him into Joel’s Forester. Less than half an hour later, Joel and the dogs came jogging out of the woods.

At this point, any sensible person would request that we go to the emergency room immediately. However, Jody is not a sensible person and he was definitely not in sensible company, so we first made a stop at Parilla’s and grabbed some wraps and beer. We argued over whether the proper plural form of the name was Wrap of Khans or Wraps of Khan. We came to no consensus. We also told the people working at Parilla’s that if Jody survived, they could use his story in future advertising campaigns. “I broke my ankle in the woods, and when I finally reached town I had to get wraps and beer at Parilla’s before going to the hospital!”

Luckily for Jody his ankle wasn’t broken, but was just a really bad sprain. Luck is relative, though. You would think after all that trouble, with the ice and the monster trucks and everything, that he would have at least gotten a broken bone out of the deal. Sprains are sissy. I suppose I can keep saying that until Jody is healed up enough to kick my ass. He has threatened to break off his bad foot in my ass if I keep saying that, though I think it’d be worth the second trip to the emergency room just to see him do it.

No matter what happens, though, a second trip to Parilla’s will be in order.

Hey! Also! Check out Jody’s account of this excursion, entitled Tumalo Something!

December 19, 2004


The View From Rainbow Chair: Mount Bachelor, Oregon

Sometimes I wish that puzzles were made of metal and each piece weighed a hundred pounds, because then people could actually have an idea what I mean when I say that everything is starting to fall together. When you talk about puzzles, most have in their mind the vision of a tired old man, with white hair growing out of his ears, hunched over a card table strewn with puzzle pieces, slowly and meticulously arranging them into their intended pattern.

This is not what I mean when I say that things are falling together. My thought involves a machine shop and a crane, with a large chunk of metal suspended over a floor littered with twisted wreckage. For months the piece will hang in the air, nudged into position an inch at a time, searching for a proper fit while simultaneously trying to make sense of the mess on the floor. Out of nowhere the piece will cut loose, and when it hits the floor the earth shakes. The earth shakes, and the wreckage rearranges itself into an iron tapestry, radiating out from its new edition.

I have fired off my job application for working as a trip leader in the BWCA this summer. I have picked up the tickets for my kiteboarding trip to Baja this February, and all the paperwork for renewing my passport is in the mail. On my trip to Hood River last weekend I found a great place to live, and I’m all set up to move in next month. Today I dropped by the trailer store down the street and ordered a trailer hitch for mah Soob, and I should have time to get it installed after New Year’s. I’m set to take off for Minnesota next week, they expect me for Yukon Days, and I have some vague plans for meeting up with friends both old and less-old.

Today I finished up with my errands far earlier than expected, so I gathered all my snowboarding gear and was at the Mountain by 1:00. If you don’t count hiking Mount Bachelor with Shane in August, or gibbing in our front yard earlier this month, this was my first time back on my board since I busted my leg back in March.

To ride again was spectacular. It was a banner day at the Mountain, sunny and fifty degrees at the base. I managed to hit up every single chairlift that was open, including Sunrise, Rainbow, Skyliner, Sunshine (i like the kiddie terrain park, so sue me), Pine Marten, Outback and Summit. My muscles protested over the first few runs, but after crushing their dissent I picked up my skills pretty much right where I left them back in March.

I chose not to gib and huck as strongly as I did at the end of last year, mostly because it was my first time out, and also because that’s exactly how I busted myself up the last time. My carving was really strong, and I can just about lay out flat against the snow when the conditions are right (like, when it’s not 3:55 and everything isn’t iced up). I could pull an endless chain of flatland 360s in either direction, and I’m still perfecting all four of my air 180s (frontside and backside regular, and frontside and backside switch). I can comfortably ride switch for extended periods, and I have no problem linking turns so long as I remind myself to keep pressure on my front (usually my back) foot. I still need practice on spinning my nose and tail butters.

Even early in my session, I was already ecstatic to be on the snow again. I was riding up an all but abandoned Rainbow Chair when my cell phone rang. It was Erin, who had called to inform me that she had just been in a car accident, and then tell me that she was just kidding, and then ask whether I wanted to make a trip to the UberHeartless MegaSuper TransGlobal Store. I told her that I was on a chairlift, and she asked how that was, and I said that it was the best thing in the world right now.

I added that if there was some way I could do this every single day and still maintain my existence, I would. She told me not to dislocate my shoulder, which is probably good advice.

December 15, 2004

(almost) Free Stuff!

Attention all Bendians! As I gear up to move a couple hours north, it turns out that I’ve got some perfectly good furniture and other sundry domestics that need a loving home.

Why, I would go so far as to say that they don’t even need a loving home, so much as they need a home to avoid being sent to Goodwill, marked up, and sold back to you on December 23rd when you’re scrambling for those last minute gifts. Let me help you avoid the inevitable mass consumer scramble with my top-of-the-line products at bottom-of-the-well prices!

All the beautiful items below can be yours for a mere five bucks a piece. The low price is merely a result of my extreme desire to rid myself of all my worldly belongings, change my name to Alexander Supertramp, and live in an abandoned bus on the Yukon. These products are all well-fed and healthy… and they’re yours if you can haul them away!

First up, we have a dresser:

Buy this dresser! You know you want it!

This dresser locks, which leads me to believe that it isn’t a dresser at all, but perchance a piece of office furniture. Maybe it’s one of those giant locking journals for teenage girls. It’s made of real wood, and the drawers are rather deep. They echo if you shout into them. I swear. It’s yours for five dollars.

Next, we have a couch:

Buy this couch! You know you want it!

This is a nice couch from the esteemed Lava House estate. It comes with pillows and cushions. It doesn’t fold out into a bed, but it is still rather comfortable to sleep on, as many friends can attest to. Buy it to outfit your dorm room, hunting shack or X-Box room. The choice is yours for only five dollars!

We also have a stereo system:

Buy this stereo! You know you want it!

The speakers are quite big and they can punch. The receiver gets a clear reception from NPR, and has video hookups in the back for the X-Box or TV or particle accelerator or whatever those kids are listening to these days. It’s a great system for the garage or something. I have wires for the speakers, yes I do, and they are yours along with everything else. The CD carousel has a very stubborn personality, unfortunately, but I do live close to the Goodwill. Five dollars.

Finally, we have a coffee table:

Buy this table! You know you want it!

How many times have you looked around your house and said to yourself, “You know what? We need more octagons around here.” Well stop dreaming and start living with this lovely octagon coffee table! Gather seven friends and throw down a game of Monopoly or Twister! Prop it on its side and paint it to look like a giant stop sign! Five dollars will buy you endless possibilities!

Ready to order? Fire me a message through my contact form, and I promise a prompt reply. First come, first served. In the case of a tie, favor will be given to those who are skilled in foosball, cribbage or arm wrestling.

Oh. And I live in Bend, Oregon. And I won’t deliver. Part of the whole point is that you come here and take my stuff. It’s like armed robbery, only without the guns and prison!

December 14, 2004

Final Exam: Brainside Out 1001

The personality of our ice maker could only be described as over-zealous. It makes ice, it fills itself up with ice, and it continues to make more ice. You know when the ice maker is full because it will instantly fill your glass with ice, no questions asked. It fills your glass with ice before you can even ask the question Why am I getting ice? I want to enjoy a tall glass of beer to celebrate the sounds my wrists make, they sound like cement mixers. I want to celebrate the cement mixers with a glass of beer, but I don’t need ice for a glass of beer.

I don’t need ice, but before I can say so our ice maker has already filled my glass with ice. And when this happens, and it happens a lot, we know that when we open the freezer all the ice will pour out and get all over our cherry floors. To keep this from happening I will often empty our ice maker into a large mixing bowl, and fling the ice into the street for the cars. I like to think of it as tossing feed to the chickens. I toss the ice to the cars and they all crowd around one another to get best pickings at the ice.

The cars are learning, they learn so fast these days with their computer chips and their mouse brains that have flown F-16 fighter jets, so they know that when I leave the house with a large metal bowl that they will probably get fed. The cars all drive up on the lawn begging for ice, and while this was okay a few months ago when we didn’t have a lawn, we now have a lovely carpet of sod that the cars tear up when they beg for ice.

I have since learned that our ice maker has an off switch. We knew this, apparently, but Shane forbids us from using the off switch. You see, Shane has sympathy for our ice maker, and Shane understands that our ice maker has feelings, and its feelings get hurt when we don’t let it get enough exercise. It gets bored and irritable.

It gets bored and irritable, and not only that, the cars will starve to death this winter if we don’t feed them. They need us to feed them this winter because it has been a bad snow year so far for the Northwest. It’s been so bad that Mount Hood hasn’t opened because of rain, and runs at Mount Bachelor have been closed because of avalanches.

You might say that an avalanche suggests a good snow year. You might say that, but consider this. Consider that when an avalanche happens, all the snow peels right off the mountain and into the parking lots and rustic cabins. Consider that we ski on the mountain, not on the parking lots and rustic cabins.

Take a piece of paper and sketch out a diagram that illustrates where the snow is and where the snow needs to be. Use arrows and familiar iconography to illustrate your point.

You have fifteen minutes.

December 12, 2004

May Cause Serious Injury or Death

Okay, my authority on the subject of monster trucks has officially been surpassed by my authority on physics. Which is curious, because here is a guy who hasn’t taken a physics class in his life. Your typical Hopkins High student will take a physics class senior year, but I wasn’t your typical high school student. My senior year I opted to take only two classes at school, jazz ensemble and concert wind ensemble, and take all my other classes at the University.

It worked out great for my first quarter, and I grabbed high marks in Greek and Roman Mythology and Geography of Environmental Systems. I tried to take Intro to Astronomy over winter quarter, but with the weather and snow and parking all working against me, I could never make it to class on time. Oh well. In its place I got to take art and networking and photography and study hall. That last semester was real brutal, I say.

You know, this website has got some really neat and useful stuff, some awesome content, that people are unfortunately finding via search. I’ve got photo galleries of Lake Superior oar docks, and memoirs about my Ford Tempo, and impossibly short stories that are so short they rarely exceed a paragraph. I may also have Kentucky essays, but I don’t really remember if I got around to putting those things online. It’s probably just as well I didn’t.

All this junk is hiding up in the attic, and unfortunately I have never been able to find the time to dust it off and redistribute it. I’ve made progress in rare fits and starts of inspiration, as evidenced by the limited content of the Photolog and Audio/Visual sections, but I’ve never been able to follow it up to its conclusion.

I mention this only because I’m slightly embarrassed. I’m slightly embarrassed that most of the people who find this website via search are treated to elegant indexes, meaningful error messages and beautiful galleries. If I can learn not to sleep I could have enough time to fix it. Until that happens I’ll have to deal.

I’ll deal with it, and other people will no doubt hurt themselves trying to get around. I wish them luck! The nice thing about neglected websites, is that unlike neglected dogs or children or landscaping, they typically won’t break your neck.

Which reminds me. It’s supposed to get cold tonight, and I’d better grab the hose and spray down the sidewalk before the neighborhood kids walk to school tomorrow. No sense letting them get by with only one broken wrist for the holidays.

December 10, 2004

the pen never stills

Happy are those who dream dreams, and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.

This saying was printed on an old, old banner that my father had hanging over his desk at home, back in Minnesota. It was accompanied by a picture of a spindly looking aircraft still suspended in flight, its pilot having fallen out of the cockpit still gripping the steering wheel.

Less than a week ago I finally made a decision regarding the path I wanted to take in life. Over the past couple days I’ve been hammering out all the gritty little details that one typically doesn’t associate with dreaming, but are necessary lest the dream become lost in the translation from dream to reality.

At work I have been training in an army of web designers, who will become my successors when I leave the company next month. It’s been a good experience, as I currently enjoy teaching web design far more than I enjoy doing web design. Web design forces me to hurt my wrists. Teaching web design forces me to practice clarity of thought and patience.

In other facets, I’ve been trying to track down an affordable place to live in Hood River, which is going fairly well but not as smoothly as I would have hoped. I’ll be traveling up there this weekend to scout out prospects, and with any luck I’ll be able to hit up Mount Hood Meadows on my drive back to get some snowboarding in. I also need to look into installing a trailer hitch on my car, and finding myself a trailer for that matter, so I can haul my mattress and Goodwill furniture a couple hours north. Of course, the alternative is that I put everything out in front of the house with a “Free” sign and hope it disappears. No wait, scratch that. I’ll put it out with a $20 sign, so people will assume that my belongings have value and steal it under the cover of darkness.

Additionally, I need to pack all the stuff I plan on carrying, buy plane tickets to Baja, get a new passport, plan a few going-away parties, grab Christmas presents for all the lovely people in my life, and fly back to Minnesota for the holidays. However. That being said, this stuff hasn’t dominated my time over the last few days. There are much larger things afoot.

As I said, I have made a decision. In May I will move back to Minnesota for the summer, to lead teenagers on wilderness backpacking, rock climbing and canoeing trips in the Boundary Waters. This is where I want to go, as far as the whole scheme goes. There’s still so much to experience out in the larger world, and I’m not quite ready to hammer myself into a box. If I have learned one thing over the last few years, it’s that you are capable of doing much more than you will ever admit to yourself. Thus, the only way to learn your true abilities is to keep presenting yourself with insurmountable tasks.

The risk of failure is far preferable to the risk of never trying anything. At every opportunity, I choose to put myself into situations where I do not know whether or not I will be successful. The web has become an area where my knowledge and experience all but guarantees my success, and unfortunately the web is not something that I value in and of itself. I love what the web allows us to do, but it’s what we do with it that has always fascinated me, not the web itself.

I thirst to be immersed once again in the ends, rather than the means. I need the passion, the passion for knowledge, learning and the outdoors. I need the socialization, the networking, the sheer delight that comes from human molecules bumping and colliding into one another. I believe I can find that meaning, embraced with others by the lakes of Northern Minnesota.

December 7, 2004


It’s snowing right now. Or raining. Depends on the hour. It snowed last night so Shane and I built a terrain park in our front yard; drop, rail, quarter pipe and everything.

Now it’s really windy, and our terrain park is pinwheeling through the neighborhood along with garbage cans and a Volkswagen Fox. The wind is blowing towards the shooting range, so all our stuff will probably get caught in a tree and people with shotguns will have to get it down for us. In case you didn’t know, that’s the best way to get stuff out of trees. Shotguns. It works on pinecones, coconuts and a Volkswagen Fox.

I wonder how the chickens across the street like all this wind. I would wager they don’t. I would also wager that they don’t care that they don’t, being that they’re all chickens and all. They’re not all chickens, though. They are roosters too. Sometimes when the weather is nice the neighbor will let the chickens play outside. Sometimes when the weather is nice the chickens will escape and run around the neighborhood. Sometimes when the weather is nice the roosters will crow in the morning as I get into my car, and I will laugh because I think it sounds funny.

But tonight the weather isn’t nice. Tonight the weather is pulling the chickens and the shingles off the roof, and sending them into the field. Most of our stuff is probably in the shooting range, but the other stuff is in the neighborhood that they’re building right next to our neighborhood. You see, that’s the thing about neighborhoods. They’re never done. There’s a vacant lot across the street with all sorts of hardware and junk and machinery, and that’s where most of our terrain park comes from. That’s also where the neighborhood kids build jumps out of dirt and hit them with their bikes and break their wrists.

The kids that break their wrists don’t live in the neighborhood that they’re building right next to our neighborhood. They’re still building that one. They’re still exploding stuff in that neighborhood. They come by our house during the day to warn us that they’re going to be exploding stuff, and they say that they’ll be exploding stuff until they finally get an explosion that’s in the shape of a neighborhood. They come by to warn us but we’re never home because we usually work.

I say usually, because sometimes we take time off from work for certain things. Sometimes we take time off because we were snowboarding and we dislocated our shoulder doing that. Sometimes that happens. It didn’t happen to me, but it happened to someone. She’s doing okay now, but her left arm is slung up and out of commission for six to eight weeks. She’s getting kind of bored with movies and TV and she tries to read, but reading makes her fall asleep. She falls asleep instead of reading, but when the explosions wake her up all she wants are coloring books.

Her name is Erin and she’s a very nice girl and she deserves coloring books. She didn’t even get a chance to play in our terrain park before it got blown into the trees. When you see her, please wish her a speedy and colorful recovery. If you don’t see her, you can wish her well right here and I will make sure that she knows. She’s afraid of clowns, though, so if you get all fancy when you wish her well please no pictures of clowns.

December 6, 2004

Take this job and shove it.

That’s it. I will make good on existing commitments, but I am totally over web design. I’m done. No more.

I quit.

Let me explain. Last September, I wanted nothing more but to work in the web design industry. To that end, I spent my fall covering the world with resumes, and I never heard a single response. Not one. Convinced that I was pursuing a dead end, I shifted the entire focus of my life and became a snowboard instructor instead. Fate never gives you what you want when you look her straight in the eye, but if you dance around the subject long enough you’re bound to end up with what you want. Or what you deserve.

In January I picked up a job working as, of all things, a web designer. It was one of those things in life that catches you completely by surprise and kicks you in the gut. You’re coasting along in one vein, convinced that you have a pretty good idea how the next season of your life is going to play out, and suddenly everything changes shape. You spend the entire autumn scampering around for a rake, and when you’ve all but given up the search you take one more step, and it flies up and hits you in the face.

That’s what this job was. I had all but sworn off my dreams of becoming a real web designer, when all of a sudden along comes the perfect opportunity. In the past eleven months I’ve probably built thirty websites. Every one is different. Some are better than others. Some more attractive than others. Every one embraces the web standards approach.

When I arrived on the team, the company I worked for had no standards for how it implemented a website. You see, when I say I’ve built a couple websites, I mean quite literally that I built a couple websites. I didn’t design them. The designers do that. I didn’t program them. Our scripters do that.

What my job has been (at least, after I crawled out of software support hell) for the last eleven months is something one might call design implementation. I take the beautiful Photoshop comps that our contracted designers cooked up, and I make them work as a website. I don’t have input on the creative aspects of the design, but I am responsible for reining in the designers when they create something foolhardy and wholly dysfunctional for the web.

I tweak certain aspects of the design so they work with our content management system. I do massive amounts of project management and modest amounts of information architecting. In the process, I have developed a set of robust standards-based HTML templates, a la CSS Zen Garden, where I can graft on just about any design using pure CSS code.

The sheer amount of knowledge I needed to possess to reach this point is mind-boggling. I have internalized every common browser quirk known to mankind, to the point where they become completely invisible in my designs. The reason I rarely use browser hacks is not because I don’t know them, but because I write my code in such a way that I can sidestep hacking situations altogether.

Whitespace parsing errors, duplicate character errors, child selector filters, star hacks, escape character hacks, box model hacks, image replacement techniques… some of these are things that are so new or so esoteric that you won’t find them in any book on web design. In some industries that would be considered bleeding edge, where techniques are so new that they’re not even documented. In standards-based web design, however, word travels fast. Anything that blazed through design weblogs a month ago is now old news.

We make it look simple. As web designers, it’s our job to make it look simple. While I have been building websites for nearly four years, my professional career as a web designer has lasted only eleven months. In the process, I’ve probably learned enough tricks, techniques, hacks and philosophies to fill five books on the subject.

And now I could really care less. The change hit me about three months ago. It was at that point I became able to implement any contracted design, for any client website, without tables. When that happened, it felt like all the air had been sucked out of my passion for the sport. Validating in an XHTML Strict environment wasn’t a problem. I had mastered just about every CSS technique I would ever need. I had mastered XHTML/CSS, so the next logical step was to start on adopting new skills. I set out to learn Linux, PHP, MySQL and JavaScript. I grabbed a stack of O’Reilly books and started digging in, ready to learn something new.

What I actually learned surprised me. I found that I had no interest whatsoever in picking up these skills. The books didn’t fill the void left by the mastery of XHTML/CSS. I was shocked when I came to the realization that this was not the direction I wanted to go. Shocked. What was up with that? I have an endless thirst for knowledge, and I had only mastered a small fraction of the world that makes the internet work.

What did I feel I had to lose in learning these new skills? A better understanding of scripting, hosting and databases would go a long ways in making me a better web designer. Didn’t I thirst for continual growth? Why the sudden resistance?

And then, I knew. I remembered. I never got into web design as an end. I don’t enjoy websites for the sake of websites, computers for the sake of computers, or code for the sake of code. I got into web design one cold January night in 2001. I had a crisis of faith regarding my major in jazz studies, which set forth a chain of events that resulted in my becoming a writer. I needed a place to quickly and easily publish my thoughts, so in February I started a website named Cromlech.

I wanted a website not because I wanted a website, but because I wanted a place to publish my thoughts. I taught myself web design not because I wanted to learn web design, but because I found that the knowledge made it easier for me to manage my writings. I studied web standards not because I wanted to sleep with the King, but because the approach saved me time and agony, and because I strongly believe in the standards-based philosophy.

Web design has always been the means, and I never should have allowed it to become the end. In hindsight, I am glad that I chose this path, or else I may never have recognised the path that I wanted to take in the first place. I should have realized that something wasn’t right when the means began to consume nine of my precious hours a day, five of my precious days a week. My coding skills grew incredibly quickly under those conditions, and I can only hope that I can find a similarly intense environment for honing skills that I value more than web design.

I will quit web design now. I will start wilderness training in June. I will continue writing always.

December 5, 2004

What is it about monster trucks?

Somewhere along the line, I became an authority on monster trucks. This didn’t result from me being a knowledge leader or anything on the subject of monster trucks, mind you. I actually don’t know a heck of a lot about monster trucks. I’ve been to two monster truck shows in my life.

I was five years old when I went to my first monster truck show, and I fell asleep. The second one I was fourteen and I went with a group of friends, and we all looked like we were out to attend a GWAR concert or something. Not because we were soaked in blood, and not cuz we were at risk of being eaten by a giant worm, but because we were dressed in combat boots and ripped t-shirts and wallet chains. I’ve never been to a GWAR concert, actually, but they’re gonna be here in Bend tomorrow.

That’s the problem with the music scene in Bend. It runs cold for two months straight, and you get used to absolutely nothing cool ever happening, and then BAM, out of nowhere here comes Captured! By Robots or GWAR or Big Wu or Justin Roth, and they’re playing music and tearing limbs off giant cyborg dinosaurs right in your backyard, and the gallons of blood are spraying right through your bedroom window.

Yeah. My knowledge of monster trucks is rather limited. The show I went to when I was fourteen and GWAR was kinda lame, too. No dirt bikes, no accidents, no natural disasters. And there was this one guy who said he was gonna break the world record for the most consecutive endos, but all he did was ruin his Oldsmobile on a freakin’ test run. Lame with a capital F, I tell ya.

Even though that’s all I got for monster truck shows, I have been to a real honest to gosh shit-kicker demolition derby. This was a real demolition derby, and it took place in a small northwestern Wisconsin town by the name of Spooner. This isn’t the small northwestern Wisconsin town where six people are shot dead by a guy with an SKS 7.62mm semi-automatic rifle. But it’s near that town. There are actually multiple towns in northwestern Wisconsin, despite widespread attempts to conflate them.

While monster truck shows are typically advertised on TV by that same guy who repeats every word three times, and splice together five million quarter-second clips from a thousand monster truck shows, real demo derbies are advertised on local radio if you’re lucky. Usually you learn about them from a hot pink flyer posted at the local IGA. While monster truck shows sign on the best announcer possible to keep the audience buzzed even when nothing is getting smashed, demo derbies usually give a six pack to the guy who runs the Saturday morning farm animal auction.

The show itself is kind of lame, but demo derbies are all about context. I mean, check out the whole scene. If you’re at a demo derby you’re probaby at a county fair or something, and you can probably ride a gas-powered ferris wheel that creaks and shudders, operated by an old man who shudders and creaks. You can probably play ring-toss or bottle-break or shin-kick or some other classic county fair game, and if you win big you can probably get yourself a framed picture of an 80’s Playmate, screened on a mirror.

Even though I’ve been living out west for a year and a half, and Central Oregon for over a year, I still haven’t been to a western demo derby or a rodeo or a county fair. Of this I am ashamed, but it’s no shame that a quick needle to the arm won’t fix. And even though I’ve never been to one of these events, I see monster trucks every day.

A phenomenon that I’ve witnessed extensively out west, and one that I never noticed in the midwest, is the personal monster truck. These guys take a regular truck, jack the suspension up three feet, and underneath they jam the biggest damned tires they can find. Seriously, you need to use a crane just to get up into these things.

And yet I’ve got nothing against the personal monster truck. Every time I see a Hummer H2 I’ll give it the middle finger, but when I see a personal monster truck I just laugh. The more ridiculously large it is, the harder I laugh. I give additional props if the back window has one of those tasteless rip-off stickers where Calvin is pissing on the Chevy symbol. I’ll give still more props if Calvin is pissing on the Chevy logo, and the sticker is on a Chevy truck. Or Ford. I paid my dues to the American car industry, having driven a Ford Tempo for six years and a Mercury Tracer for two, and I take no sides.

What it goes back to is this: All I need in life is 113 acres of land, a truck and a few cases of PBR. Oh, and I’d really like to have a river, so I have somewhere to toss my empties. I’m an environmentally conscious person, so I’ll be sure to fill up those cans with water so they sink to the bottom.