Technology and Lent

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1462 days ago

This website

The plugin that provided the email notification feature for this website broke with a recent update to my blog software, and it’s not going to be easy to fix. So I’m not going to fix it.

Of course, that means that the affected people aren’t going to hear that they’re affected. Sorry about that! (I’ll tell personally the few I know.)

In fact, I’m likely to switch to ikiwiki …eventually. Textpattern seems to have lost its mojo, and there have been some long-standing issues with it (like no native tagging support!) that seem unlikely to ever get fixed. And I’m hip to the cool technologies now, so a more infrastructure-like framework (i.e. ikiwiki, with git) for my blog feels like a better answer. And schmonz volunteered to do most of the work :)

That also means I’ll probably abandon tru_tags …more than I already have. There hasn’t been anything to do with it in a long while, at least not that I felt was worthwhile to be done. Most of the features that remain to be implemented require a major refactoring of the core Textpattern code, and that just seems very unlikely to happen (by me or anybody else) any time soon. So hopefully it will remain useful to the people who still use it.

This year’s Lent

I have utterly failed at this year’s Lent give-up. I have been better at going to bed at a reasonable hour, sometimes for days at a time. But I simply can’t do everything I need/want to do in my life with the few hours that leaves me between work, kids, and chores. So sleep will continue to lose to projects – although less-so than it used to. There are some nice perks to getting more sleep – I’m much more on-the-ball and willing to take on mental tasks that otherwise seem hard. But that extra value doesn’t offset the lost value from just not being able to do all the things I need to do.

Vegetarianism

Speaking of Lent, I also broke a 5-year streak of vegetarianism a week or so ago. Benjamin, Liam, and I had some extremely delicious tilapia, also breaking both boys’ life-long vegetarian streaks. Kristina chose not to participate.

We had a bunch of reasons for deciding to do it. And a bunch of reasons to not do it (i.e. to stay vegetarian). I may blog about all the tradeoffs some day soon, but for now, suffice it to say that it was a very close decision, and I’m not sure what’s next.

I made a web app!

If you recall, I started using SmugMug for my online gallery a few years ago. But when I made the switch, I left behind an old gallery site (on Menalto Gallery 1) that I’ve been meaning to clean up for a long time. It broke a while ago, motivating me to finally migrate off that old software – to ZenPhoto, which had been my long-standing plan. It took a few days getting ZenPhoto to work (when it should have been easy!), but I got it there, and I shut off the old site.

I also started this exchange with the ZenPhoto dev in which I start by being too grumpy and then he finished by insisting that his software simply must be unsupportable for him to support it. Net effect: I had to get off ZenPhoto.

But I had no alternate destination for self-hosting my images. My long-term goal is to migrate the images to SmugMug, but I want to filter them down from “every picture I took during that time period” to “just the best ones, tagged and rated” (like all the other pictures I post to SmugMug). And it will take Nathan-weeks of work to get that done, so it keeps getting put off. So in the short term I just needed a new self-hosting product, and there just aren’t any good alternatives. They’re all either old or ugly or badly designed or some combination of those three.

So I made one myself. I’ve never made a web app from scratch before, but I am quite comfortable in perl, had used Catalyst from a prior job, and I’d heard then that Mojolicious is better. So I tried it.

And wow, was it easy. Probably 8 hours total from “install mojolicious” to “the gallery is up and running on the new software”. That’s only just a little more than I spent trying to get ZenPhoto to work. Many kudos to Mojolicious, perl, and pkgsrc.

Now… ZenPhoto does way more stuff. (TONS more… too much, actually.) And this new software isn’t really ready for someone else to use it. And it has no tests. And it only does one extremely simple thing (i.e. serve nested directories of images, in name-sorted order, with no metadata).

But the code is small, easy to read, and easy to modify. (Roughly 300 lines of code, 115 lines of CSS, and 80 lines of HTML template.) The site looks really good (in my opinion). And it doesn’t require a database – just a directory full of images. And with some app-level caching and the help of Mojolicious’s preforking web server and great documentation for setting it up under apache mod_proxy, it’s about as fast is it could possibly be on my old host and slow network connection.

So ZenPhoto is out and my home-grown software is in. Here’s hoping it doesn’t need maintenance!

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Liam Eldon Arthur

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1879 days ago

Per my previous post, our new baby has arrived. His name is Liam Eldon Arthur, and he was born 7lbs 14oz and 21” long. He’s perfect :)

It took me a little longer than last time to get a post up; you can take that as a sign of how much busier we are with a 2-year-old in the house with the newborn. But we’re much calmer about this one, I think probably because we know we can make it through this period. Our exhaustion level is about the same, though; see: 2-year-old.

The delivery was much easier this time, and Liam is totally healthy and has been fantastic since day one – eating well, sleeping well, and not fussing except when something is wrong. (Many parents report a very different experience; I suggest swaddling as the likely remedy, or having our genes as the second. Either way, we are very lucky.)

I didn’t announce this one as publicly as last time; I’m still stubbornly shunning Facebook in favor of Google+, even though it seems likely that Google+ will fail, and it just didn’t seem necessary to go out of my way to post it to Twitter. It was nice this time to be able to limit the scope of the Google+ post, so it isn’t actually public. On the other hand, pictures are here :)

On the name: this one, like the last one, came after the delivery. Neither “Liam” nor “Eldon” was on our list before the delivery, although Liam was on the original list for Benjamin. We ended up abandoning the idea of having a hungarian middle name because we couldn’t find one that we liked and that was spellable and that was pronounceable. So Liam was the name that best seemed to fit the new baby, and Eldon came from a good friend of Kristina’s who told us about it as an oft-used name in her family, derived from her grandfather, who was a very special person. We liked the name, and the source, and it went really well with Liam and Arthur, so that was that.

My feelings are very similar to last time: the delivery was intense, and the after-effects (pretty much all positive!) have been strong, and I feel really good about my life right now. The feelings have been much less momentarily-intense… I think just because I’m a lot less scared (of the unknowns) this time around. But they are no less deep – I totally understand now how parents can say that they don’t love any of their children more than any others. It’s also nice to know that Heinlein was right:

The more you love, the more you can love — and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just. — Robert A. Heinlein, in Time Enough for Love

Also, as hard as this time is, I’m really enjoying having the quiet time at home with my wife and two boys. (I love that I have two boys… I didn’t expect that.) We have no distractions, no competing priorities, no work – just a simple life, focused on each other. I’ll be sorry to see it go (when I go back to work) in a few days.

As with last time, we owe huge thanks to all the people who have helped us, especially the huge investments of time and/or resources from grandparents on both sides – THANK YOU! I can’t imagine doing this without all that help.

Welcome to the world, little Liam. We love you already, more than you’ll even be able to understand… until you have children of your own.

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Huge news - we're having (another) baby!

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2087 days ago

(You may recall that I said something like this before.)

As the title says, our second baby is incubating =D We just had the first ultrasound, and the baby is exactly as it should be – tiny, funny-looking, all the limbs are there, and the heartbeat is just what it should be. (It’s too early to tell the sex, although Kristina has been having a rougher pregnancy this time, which has led some to speculate that this one’s a girl… or twins.) The due date is February 1st, 2012. (Yep – just 4 days off Benjamin’s due date…)

I knew, the first time around, that if I posted something deep and heavy then, that I’d have a very hard time matching it the second time around. That, of course, has turned out to be true. A second child simply has a less-“heavy” impact on me, because I’m much more prepared for it, via my experiences with the first. That seems like an obvious consequence… but it also has the potential to be disappointing for child #2 when they see this post for the first time. So, little one, when you read this years from now, please don’t take my less-passionate commentary here as a reflection on you, but instead as a reflection on how much your father has changed since the first baby came along. We’re also not quite as far along in the pregnancy (now) as we were with Benjamin – just 10 weeks now, and we don’t know your sex yet. I expect that will still have a huge impact on me :) I will post again once that happens.

I will say that having a second baby has had its own set of new (scary!) thoughts associated with it:

  • Hurray, it’s not twins!
  • When will we sleep, with two babies on different (disruptive!) sleep schedules?!?
  • Are we crazy for trying to keep the OB/GYN (and hospital) that we loved so much the last time around, even though she’s 2.5 hours away?
  • What stuff do we need this time around, that we don’t already have?
  • Oh no! We’re going to need a bigger car!
  • I learned my lesson and didn’t wait (past the first ultrasound) to announce the good news :)

So, a big hello, new baby :) I’ll have more to say to you soon, I’m sure.

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Benjamin Zoltan Arthur

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2598 days ago

In case you didn’t hear from my email, twitter posts, or corresponding facebook posts, my amazing wife gave birth to my amazing son last Wednesday. His name is Benjamin Zoltan Arthur, he weighed 7lbs 15oz, and was 20.25” long. He is perfect!

I’m writing this post in a very exhausted state of mind, so please forgive my ramblings. I wanted to just get an announcement (plus a few thoughts) out before too much time passed.

I have a temporary photo gallery set up, but I put a password on it because I plan to move it later and don’t want it showing up on the broader internet until I figure out what pictures are really going to be ‘public’. (The picture in this article is from that gallery.) If you know me, please feel free to request the link and password from me or anyone in my family.

Some notes on his name: we’ve known for a long time that we wanted his middle name to be Zoltan, because he is half Hungarian (from Kristina) and he has a great-grandfather named Zoltan, and another great-grandfather with Zoltan as his middle name. We couldn’t decide on a first name, though; we had a list of about 10 candidates, with “Alexander” at the top, but were never quite sure about any of them. As soon as he was born, I declared “he is not an Alexander” and Kristina agreed (once she had a chance to really look at him). The problem was, he also wasn’t any of the other names we had on the list. So we grudgingly started looking for new name ideas. A good friend suggested “Benjamin” and as soon as I heard it, I knew it was a good fit. Within minutes I was certain it was his name. Kristina took a little longer to come around, but also agreed that it was a good name for him. So we finally settled on it, just a few hours before we left the hospital. I knew at the time that he had a relative named Benjamin, but I wasn’t sure exactly who; it turns out that Levi Benjamin Valley (commonly known as “Ben”) was my great-grandfather, and a father-figure for my own father. So this little boy is named after great-(great-)grandparents on both sides of the family!

We call him a bunch of things – Benjamin, Z, Big Z, Little Z, and Mister Z. I’m pretty sure we’re going to have “Z” as a nickname for him for a long time to come, and that his proper name will be “Benjamin”. I can’t get myself to call him “Ben” so I think we’re going to try to keep that nickname out of common use, but I have learned (from my wife) not to try to force these things, so I won’t.

So far, he’s been a very happy, healthy baby. He eats well and on a regular schedule (every three hours), he sleeps most of the rest of the time, and he has fairly simple cues for when he is hungry, needs burped, or needs his diaper changed. He is as cute as I’ve ever seen a baby be :) (Of course, all parents say that, but so far everybody else who sees him also has said that.) He has one minor medical problem that he inherited from his father, but it’s not a big deal, and easy to fix.

Our lives have changed heavily, of course. Everybody says birth is a life-changing experience. It is certainly an emotionally overwhelming one! I can’t remember another time in my life when I was so flooded with raw feeling in a single moment; it’s impossible to even catalog what the feelings were, simply because they were too big to be identified. One feeling was and is very identifiable – pride and love for my wife, who was simply amazing throughout the delivery, and through these first five days of his life. (Benjamin was posterior in the womb and sideways when he finally delivered, but she did it with only 6.5 total hours of labor, and only 1.5 hours of pushing. And now she’s totally on top of everything he needs, every single time he needs something.) And now I can’t help but feel completely attached to this little child; I get a little energy boost every time I see him; I can’t leave him alone for too long without needing to check on him; I have a really hard time leaving him, once I am with him.

In contrast, I find myself almost totally calm, all the time. I feel totally confident about how I handle him, about the choices I make for him, and about the things that will make him calm or upset. I don’t have any hesitation or doubt about him, at all. I think it’s some combination of a vastly simplified priority list (if you need a hint: it only has two items on it), general exhaustion, and general euphoria. It’s an interesting experience, living such a simple life (for the moment, anyway).

And of course, I have to thank all the wonderful people who helped, offered well-wishes, sent gifts, or gave their advice. And Kristina and I both owe a huge debt to my mother-in-law who came and spent the weekend with us. I think she made this weekend about 80% easier than it would have been on our own, and gave us a chance to adjust to this new lifestyle. We’ve spent today on our own, and largely we’ve been OK, and that’s because we had a few days to prepare because of her help. In any case – THANK YOU ALL!!!

And welcome to the world, my son. I’m writing this in one room, while your mother cuddles you in another room, and just in the time it’s taken me to write this post, I miss you :)

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Huge news - we're having a baby!

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2751 days ago

Well, the title covers the major fact. But there’s a lot more to say… too much, in fact. It’s hard to know where to start, how much to cover, how much to say online…

To set the stage, I’m sitting in an airport (BWI), after an essentially pointless (but expensive!) single-day trip that finished early, and I suddenly find myself with a few unexpected hours on my hands. Probably enough to write something appropriate online about my new baby boy. (Yep, it’s a boy!) But there is so much tied up in my head and my heart, it’s really hard to just get started.

First: to our baby: whoever you are, whoever you end up being, when you read this someday, you should know that your mother and I already love you very much. We’re a little nervous about what the future holds, but we feel so good about you, and about us, and about how this is going to work out. People say that you’re never really ready to have a baby, and we followed that model – we weren’t quite ready, but we knew it was time, and so we decided to try. And suddenly (quickly!) it happened, and you are on your way. Our life isn’t perfect… but I (we) find that it doesn’t really matter… we know that it’s going to be great. We’re in the 20th week of the pregnancy, halfway there. You have been perfectly healthy so far, and your mom has had an easy pregnancy, and you have little bones, and fingers, and a heartbeat, and a face, and it’s so scary wondering who you are going to be, and if we’re going to be good parents, and what you’re going to need from us, and what we’re going to have to give up, and what we’re going to gain, and where you’re going to take us. And yet we aren’t often actually scared; somehow, we are both generally calm, and feel ready for all these things to come, one day at a time. I think a lot of that is because your mother and I have such a strong relationship. And some of it probably already comes from you. And some of it is probably just because we’re underestimating everything to come :)

And I have to let you know – just yesterday, when I found out you are a boy, was the first time it really hit me that you’re going to grow up someday, and be an adult person, with your own decisions, hopes, failures, loves, stories… and suddenly you were a person, not just a creature growing in my wife’s belly. (!!!) It’s a very, very heady thing. Welcome to the universe, little one. In about 20 more weeks, I’ll get to welcome you to the world. Oh boy, here you come :)

Second: everyone else: Kristina and I are having a baby. (Just in case you missed that part.) And it’s a boy (we found out yesterday!). And we’re already mid-way through the pregnancy, with a due date of February 5th… or 8th. The official date with the doctor is the 5th. But the real date is the 8th, based on my own calculations (using a variety of official methods) plus what the ultrasound estimated. But someone had calculated the 5th using the simple method, and the doctor said the date from the ultrasound (the 8th) was “close enough” that she just called it the 5th. So really he’s due on the 8th :)

You might also have noticed that it took me a long time (about 15 weeks!) to make the announcement online. Well, there’s a reason for that. Which is that work wants me to move to Phoenix, and this baby has made us rethink whether that is a good idea, and I have been hiding the fact that we’re pregnant from work, so they don’t wonder if I really will move… because if they find out I’m not moving, I might lose my job. That’s been a lot of stress. A lot. So two weeks ago I finally got fed up with it, and told them that I’m not moving, and here I am, still with a job… at least, for now.

The important part, though, is that when I told them, I also felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders – and suddenly I was free to be excited about this little baby, and I started engaging in all sorts of ways (budgeting, shopping, reading, announcing, blogging, etc.!) that made it clear to me that keeping my baby secret was really having an impact on my life. So let that be a lesson to you, readers, family, and child: secrets aren’t worth it. I regret that period when I wasn’t free to tell the world about my son – that shouldn’t ever be necessary. I wish I had told work right away, no matter what the consequences might have been.

And lastly, no, we don’t have name ideas yet. Other than “Arthur” or “Gunther” or “Edgar.” And we do have ultrasound pictures, but my wife has a shy uterus, so we’re sharing those off-line :)

So, good morning, everyone! I probably won’t be blogging a lot in the coming months… but that’s because I’ll be so damn busy living!

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The long-overdue "I know what I did last summer" post

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3033 days ago

Wow, according to my last post, it’s been 144 days since I blogged. Too long, but it’s a sign of how busy life has been. I’m going to use this post just to catch up quickly, then future posts will hopefully be more insightful:

  • I’m still a vegetarian
  • The new job is good (and I was promoted!), but time-intensive
  • The dogs are awesome
  • Buying the Honda Element was very much the right decision – it is perfect for the dogs and for Kristina’s plant (and dirt!) hauling
  • The new house is great
  • I did buy that motorcycle I had my eye on (and I love it!)
  • I sold my domain (truist.com) and replaced it with the one you see before you (rainskit.com). (And truist.com now has some very interesting content. But it’s a dumb name for a company.)
  • We all finally hired the right president

But of course, all of that put a ton of stress on my life and my wife, and we are still trying to recover from it. Speaking of which, she (my wife) also:

  • Turned 30, and got through a party that I think she would have preferred to delay
  • Took care of the dogs while I was traveling
  • Worked an internship
  • Took over as president of Pi Alpha Xi at OSU, and has had a stellar experience
  • Took a full load of classes this fall

Regular life things also happened. I’m sure I’ve forgotten many of them, but notable items include:

  • Discovered Pistacia Vera, an absolutely life-changing “dessert botique” (in Columbus!), that we now go to every weekend
  • Found DropBox and Carbonite, which are similar services that finally make file sharing and backup (respectively) just work the way they should have all along
  • Found Woot and its associated sites and got addicted; we’ve probably ordered 10 things from them so far
  • Amitai visited and during that visit, I bought a first-gen iPhone and hacked it to work with T-Mobile. (I love it!)
  • Had a very good Thanksgiving at my dad’s house, at which we learned some great news (that isn’t quite yet public)
  • Released two new versions of tru_tags, and used one of those releases to make this site’s archive page

So anyhow, it’s been really busy, and many parts of our life have fallen behind where we’d like them to be. The busyness hasn’t really been a problem… it’s just prevented us from doing other things we might want to be doing. I think our priorities are in the right place, though – I’m doing what I love, and Kristina is working toward a new life where she gets to do what she loves. I think that’s how things are supposed to be.

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Stirred, not shaken

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3201 days ago

Two posts ago, I mentioned how we were stirring our lives up, in a number of specific ways:

  • new job
  • new car
  • new house
  • new dogs
  • birthday party
  • uncertain motorcycle

And I forgot to mention that Kristina would be starting an internship at Franklin Park Conservatory.

So, all that stuff happened. I have the new job (in Cleveland, so I’m traveling there 50% of the time), we have the new car (described previously), we found a house in Harrisburg (Ohio), we have two new Great Pyrenees puppies (details below), the birthday party went well, Kristina started her internship, and the motorcycle is still uncertain.

Yeah, it’s been stressful.

I don’t have pictures of the birthday party, although some of the guests will probably send me some of theirs. I also don’t have pictures of the puppies because the camera is still in a box somewhere, but you can see a picture of Kodiak (the 11-week-old) on this page (with the little blond girl on the right side of the page) and Sophia (the 11-*month*-old) on this page.

As you can imagine, we’re pretty much stressed out, especially Kristina who did everything I did, plus started the internship, plus had to be home a few days with the dogs without me. But we’re getting through it.

Oh yeah – and some guy called me and offered to buy truist.com. I think I’m going to sell it to him (he offered a lot of money). I’ll post about that soon, but for now – I need a replacement domain name, and I’m running low on ideas. If you have any, please email me or post them here as comments.

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Stirring things up

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3259 days ago

Four weeks ago, life was pretty simple: I was comfortable (but not really happy) in my job, we had a nice apartment, our expenses were low, we had a fairly stable plan for the future, and I was planning on buying a motorcycle. Now, though, everything is different: today was my last day at NetJets, we just bought a car, we’re looking for a new place to live, the future is very uncertain, and it’s not clear if I’ll be getting a motorcycle.

And yet, still, I think today is better than four weeks ago. Crazy, huh?

The story goes something like this: Five weeks ago (to the day), I finally realized (after much prodding from my wife) what I wanted my next career move to be. I wanted to be a Product Manager for a software company, much like I was back before I left Noteworthy Medical Systems, four years ago. I realized how important it is for me to have my hands on real problems that I get to solve myself, and how important it is for me to be on the front lines rather than in an IT department (“in the business, not serving the business”). Nothing against NetJets – they have a truly amazing IT department! – but having tasted life in a software company, I wanted to get back to that. The problem was (five weeks ago) that it’s extremely difficult to get a job as a product manager in a software company, especially in Ohio, so I essentially put that plan on hold for “someday”.

So then four weeks ago (to the day), an old friend/coworker from Noteworthy called me up and basically said “we need you to come back and be a product manager – are you interested?”. Huh, funny how these things happen. I told her I was maybe interested, and spent the next week talking to her, going to Cleveland for interviews, and trying to figure out what had changed since I left. After about a week of this, I was convinced that Noteworthy was in good shape, and that this was a legitimate opportunity, and that I’d really love going back into the product manager job.

So it was easy for me to say yes to the offer – except that Noteworthy is in Cleveland, and we live in Columbus, and Kristina is very happy as a student at OSU. So I was going to have to travel to Cleveland for this job, leaving her in Columbus, and we both know that we don’t do well with full-time travel. So I managed to work out a deal with Noteworthy to travel half-time, working from home the other half, and after much discussion we decided that we could handle that, and I said yes to the offer.

That was two weeks ago (to the day).

So I put in my notice, and we started making plans for how to make this all work. First, obviously, we needed a second car. We’ve never had a second car – our lifestyle just never demanded it, and a car is a huge expense. The question was, which car?

Well, that gets to the next decision, which was to get a dog. As part of agreeing to the travel, Kristina and I made an agreement with each other that we’d get a dog for her, to help keep her company while I’m gone. Well… she wants a big dog. And I think that it’s always better to have two dogs, because they keep each other happy and healthy. And we happen to know of a breeder who has Great Pyrenees puppies for sale, and that happens to be the particular breed of very large dog that we had our eye on… so the plan is to get two huge puppies. Oh, the changes…

So back to the car. Between the two new dogs, and the fact that Kristina is a horticulture student who regularly carries plant stuff around, we decided that we needed a car with lots of space and that’s easy to clean. Minivans were right out, jeeps weren’t big enough, and SUVs are generally a waste of money, so that left the Honda Element – a perfect car for this situation, and one that we really liked. But then that got tough – we were trying to keep the cost low (so we needed a used car), but we like having convenience features (power mirrors) and a nice stereo, and we both like driving stick-shift cars, and we didn’t want one with a ton of miles on it. It is possible to get an Element that meets all these criteria, but we couldn’t find one in Columbus. So we went to Pittsburgh (Monday night) to buy one that we found there, and so far we love it. It took a lot of work to finally settle on that car, and to get the financing sorted out (without having a used car dealer screw us), and get a price negotiated, but it was worth it.

But wait, there’s another consequence to getting these dogs: our current apartment doesn’t let us have pets. (And I wouldn’t put two huge dogs into our place anyway.) So we have to find a new place, preferably a house with a large fenced yard. And we need to rent it because we’ll probably move in two years when Kristina graduates. And our current rent is quite low, and we don’t pay our gas bill, so our housing expenses are about to go way up. And we’re probably not going to find something close to campus with a large fenced yard in a safe neighborhood that’s not too expensive. So that search will continue :)

And finally, all these increased expenses may mean that I can’t get a motorcycle. I have my license (took the class last fall) and a helmet (birthday present, a week ago) and a riding jacket (another birthday present), but no motorcycle. More on this as events unfold.

So, to summarize: new job, new travel lifestyle, new car, new house, new dogs, maybe no motorcycle. Oh, and Kristina’s 30th birthday is in June, so I need to plan that. So yeah, things are a little stirred up around here :) But they’re good.

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Oregon trip

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3493 days ago

Kristina and I took a vacation in Oregon this August, and as expected, we fell in love with it. We’d both always had this idea that we’d like Oregon, and one of the people on my team at NetJets lives out there and invited us to visit, and this year is our fifth anniversary, so we decided to go. With the help of a few borrowed guidebooks and the advice of a local, I did a lot of planning, made a loose itinerary, and booked the flights and hotels.

I’ve posted about 500 pictures over in the gallery, and they tell the basic story. (I know, 500 is way too many… but we took 1300 originally so this is a huge improvement.) We started in Portland and wandered all around town on the very-well-done public transportation. While there, we went to the world’s largest bookstore and went there again to stand in line for the midnight release of Harry Potter. We also went to the stunning Japanese Garden and the much-less-stunning International Rose Test Garden. From there, we got on the road and happened to pass by (and stop at) an aviation museum that houses the Spruce Goose. We then drove down the coast to Yachats, which is now the easy winner as our favorite place to vacation. I was a little sneaky and had rented a room with a view, and we spent a lot of time exploring the rocky coast and playing in the tide pools. Driving around there, we saw these cool Tsunami Hazard Zone signs, went to the famous Newport Aquarium (and stopped by the headquarters of Rogue Brewery), and took a few long-distance (but free!) pictures of the Haceta Head Lighthouse. You can see our cool Mustang convertible in some of those pictures :) Sadly, we eventually had to leave Yachats, and we semi-intentionally ended up having a crazy driving adventure through deep forest roads housing scary people who really, really don’t want visitors. From there we visited a few waterfalls and drove out to Bend. (Bend is the town where the person I work with lives.) Somehow, we don’t have any pictures of Bend, but we really liked it there. We do have pictures of our canoing trip and a trip we made up the Mt. Bachelor ski lift to try to eat dinner, but we ended up not eating there. Finally, we drove back to Portland, did a little more sight seeing, and flew home.

Phew!

Actually, it was great. We had 9 days, and no set schedule except for the hotel bookings. We were able to take our time and do whatever struck our fancy, from a big menu of previously-researched sights and activities. It’s my new favorite way to take a vacation :)

I have a few lasting thoughts / advice that I want to save, also:

  • Portland was an OK city, but we didn’t really love it. The highway traffic sucks, and the sky is always gray. It does have some great vegetarian food and good public transportation, but it just didn’t grab onto us the same way Chicago did.
  • The Japanese Garden is truly incredible. Wandering through there, I could help but feel awe and wonder, and be inspired by the talent and energy and time that went into making it. I will go back.
  • The International Rose Test Garden was boring (for me). It is just row after row after row of roses. If you really love roses, maybe you’ll like it.
  • Voodoo doughnut is only going to seem cool to you if you come prepared for it to be a dingy place from the 70’s.
  • When you think Portland Saturday Market, think “flea market” and you’ll have a good idea what to expect.
  • The Newport Aquarium is well worth visiting, and it’s even worth the price of admission :)
  • Never, ever, ever go to Yachats. If you do, you’ll be tempted to stay, and then it will be more crowded when we retire there ;) If you must visit, it’s well worth the money to stay at the Overleaf Lodge. You should also eat at the Drift Inn Restaurant (we ate there five or six times) and at the Yachats River House.
  • The best thing about Bend is that you can drive 30 minutes one way to be in desert, or 30 minutes the other to go skiing, or you can just stay in town to have great weather and lots of cool things to do. It’s the ultimate in micro-climate adjustability!
  • The Mt. Bachelor twilight dinner is a giant rip-off. We thought it would be really nice, but it’s really just a cheap ski lodge trying to sell fancy food. We tried to eat there, but they didn’t have anyone to seat us, didn’t have a table ready for our reservation, don’t have a good wine or beer selection, and ran out of steak (one of the four dinner choices). We left, and ended up at the Seasons restaurant in the Seventh Mountain Resort. It is now at the top of my list of all-time best restaurants, for service, atmosphere, food, and wine. Dinner there was absolutely amazing.

Anyhow, the trip was fantastic. We will go back to Oregon, maybe this winter. We want to see what it’s like in winter, and we’re already wishing that we’d brought back some good art from there. If not soon, though, then someday.

One last thing: I’ve put together a folder of favorite pictures, suitable for framing or giving as gifts ;)

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Planting Instructions for Hostas

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3614 days ago

…as learned by my wife, in class at OSU, the other day:

  1. Dig a hole (you should have known that)
  2. Point the green part up (ditto)
  3. Cover the stringy part with dirt (ditto again)
  4. Keep it watered (the part people tend to forget)

These instructions are from the Bridgewood Gardens Hosta Catalog, and they have a bit more detail if you follow the link :)

(By the way – Kristina is taking classes at OSU, leading to either a second degree or a master’s degree, in landscape horticulture (probably). It looks like a great program.)

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