PAgent’s Progress

Words Are My Favorite Toys

January 9th, 2006

At Least I’ll Admit I’m Miserable

I went for another walk at lunch. You may be impressed with all the walking I’ve been doing lately. What with walks along the river and walks in the nature park. Let me just remind you that I was given an ultimatum, given it over my cell phone in my local grocery store, and it was delivered with all the warmth a mafia enforcer would use when talking to a bookie who’s been skimming the take: I need to get some exercise.

So, I found myself setting off across the river again. It was pretty miserable. But I amused myself by observing the runners, their muscular thighs and sunken cheeks blasted an incandescent pink by the wind-blown rain, desperately trying to pretend they were enjoying themselves. I tell no such lies, to myself or anyone else.

But even though I don’t enjoy walking in the freezing rain, I do enjoy being outdoors, at least a little. It’s been very interesting to see the Willamette river running so high. The opaque brown water shoves through downtown with a force that is easy to overlook–until you see the roiling, turbulent cauldrons downstream of the bridge pylons. I would never have appreciated the violence streaming through town if I hadn’t been out walking next to it. There is a visceral connection to the world through its weather, a connection that you run the risk of severing when you never go outside and get all your information through the TV or the internet.

I walked further today, from the Hawthorne Bridge all the way to the Steel Bridge, and back over the river. If I’m going to make a habit of this, I’m going to have to bring a change of clothes, or at least a pair of rain pants.

And I’ll need to practice that glazed, pink-cheeked grimace that lets everyone know a little cold and rain won’t keep me indoors.

January 8th, 2006

To the Nature Park

After grabbing some bagels for breakfast, I took the kids to the Tualatin Hills Nature Park this morning. It’s a very different place at mid-winter, with the leaves off the trees. It’s a study in shades of browns and grays, highlighted by the green of the evergreens. It’s very different from the verdant, almost explosively saturated greens of the summer. And it was of course wet.

Although leaves are scarce, there is no shortage of lichen. Or ferns. Or fungus.

The Big Pond at the Nature Park was overfull, due to the recent heavy rains. The shoreline was a good 8-10 feet back from the normal bank.

The flooding left some of the benches quite isolated.

There was standing water everywhere, and sections of boardwalk that are normally 1-2 feet off the forest floor were flush with the surface of the water. In some place, flood debris was piled on top of the boardwalks, indicating how high the water had recently been.

Although the stupid daffodills in the front yard are already budding, it will still be quite a long time before the trees will explosively leaf out, the water will dry up, and everything will be in bloom. I’m looking forward to it.

January 7th, 2006

Suburbia From Sexton Mountain

This panorama thing is a hoot. Since the Photostitch program makes assembling these things nearly idiot-proof, I’ll probably make more of them in the future.

Here’s the view from the top of Sexton Mountain, looking east. Toward the rest of Beaverton. Portland is on the far side of the hills in the distance, just left of center.

They are building a new cookie-cutter subdivision at the base of the ‘mountain’. I suspect that ‘Sexton Mountain’ is named after the subdivision, rather than the subdivision being named after the ‘mountain’. They removed a good chunk of the hill in the process, leaving a sheer drop just beyond the fence in front of me. It will only be a matter of time before some teenager clutching the neck of a 40-ouncer in their fist, falls screaming to their death.

The parking lot to the right is for the new Haggen’s store. I love Haggen’s. I don’t know what kind of eldritch pact they made with the dark forces of customer satisfaction, but I will always shop there when I have the chance, even though it is out of my way. I took my daughter shopping this afternoon, and then we visited the park on top of the hill. She loves coming up here to see the view.

The picture was taken on a break between rainstorms. On a truly clear day, you can see Mt. Hood from here.

January 7th, 2006

An Early Onset of Hydrophobia

Back in October, I posted an entry wherein I waxed somewhat poetic about the oncoming winter rains. However, even amidst my defense of Oregon winter weather, I predicted that eventually, come spring, I too would have become sick of the rain.

I’m ahead of schedule. I’ve had it with this stuff.

In my own defense, this has been a miserably wet winter. Unlike the gentle mists and delicate droplets that usually fall on us Oregonians all winter, we’ve had torrential, soaking rains, separated by steady drizzles. Several times in the last week, I’ve had to put on a raincoat just to get the morning paper. Local rivers are at floodstage. There is standing water everywhere. The ground is completely saturated. Gutters are overflowing.

Enough is enough. Although we have barely made it into January, I am really quite sick of this stuff. Anybody have a spare ticket to Barbados?

January 5th, 2006

Climate Uncontrolled

In the continuing saga of our heating system, the service technician came to our house the other day. He called me at work to chide me for not switching the system to ‘emergency heat’ when the furnace refused to come on. Silly me, I assumed that if the thermostat was calling for the furnace to provide auxiliary heat, and the furnace wasn’t coming on, that switching to emergency heat would be pointless. No, the service tech told me, that’s always the FIRST thing you should do.

The service tech found a loose wire in the fossil fuel kit, and repaired it. All covered by the warranty. All is right as rain.

Except last night the heat went out again. The thermostat was dead. I checked the fuse (now that I know what it looks like) and it was blown. So, I made a quick trip to Fred Meyer, where they had exactly ONE 5 amp fuse in a kit with six other fuses of various capacities. I bought the whole kit, went home, and swapped the requisite fuse out. Et voila, we had heat.

Except the thermostat kept clicking loudly. Just as it did the last time it failed.

Sure enough, this morning when the house should have already warmed up to the setpoint of 67 F, it was still a chilly 61 degrees. Remembering the wisdom of the service tech, I switched the system to ‘emergency heat’. Sure enough, in just a few moments, warm air was blowing from the vents, and the house was warming right up.

Nevertheless, we continue to blow fuses, and apparently the heat pump is refusing to come on when asked, which keeps the furnace from coming on as backup. The clicking noise from the thermostat is driving my daughter nuts and waking her up at night, and I dislike waking up to a cold house.

I tire of this.

January 4th, 2006

Wet Panorama

Here is the panorama I shot on my wet walk the other day.

Click for a larger image.

There are a few artifacts from the merge process, but it’s not bad for someone with very little talent.

January 4th, 2006

What Religion Founder Do I Resemble?

Lao Tzu
You two would probably really get along!
Founder of Taoism

“In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.”

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 0% on Intuitive
You scored higher than 36% on Structured
You scored higher than 40% on Mildness
You scored higher than 59% on Traditional

Link: The Religion Founder You Resemble Test written by Stinkbot on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test
January 4th, 2006

A Walk in the Wet

I went for a walk yesterday during lunch. I went down to the riverfront, where the Willamette river was swollen with the recent rainfall. The river was running high and fast, brown and muddy. Walking in a freezing downpour, I crossed over the Hawthorne bridge, and along the east bank. I stopped at the Portland Fire Bureau’s Emergency Medical Services station. I took some pictures as I went, including a series of photos I hope to stitch together into a panorama. Few of the pictures turned out, though. The only one I liked is this one:

Cold water seeped down the back of my neck, and the roar of traffic from Interstate 5, only a few yards away, was deafening. I came back via the Morrison bridge, and returned to the office thoroughly soaked and chilled to the bone. I didn’t feel warm for the rest of the day.

January 3rd, 2006

Family (and bread) can warm a chilly home

I have four nieces, two nephews, and two great-nephews. We have always been a relatively close family, notwithstanding sometimes being scattered across the country, but out of the whole batch, I have had the opportunity to really get to know only one of my nieces as an adult.

Until this last weekend, that is. One of my other nieces joined us at our home Friday night, and opted to spend the night with us rather than drive back home in the dark and rain. It was by far the most time we had ever been able to spend with her, and it was really nice to get to know the competent and confident young woman she has become.

We had a lazy day on Saturday, with my niece shuffling around bundled under a down comforter. We often keep our house pretty chilly, so I decided for her sake to bump up the heat a bit. To my surprise, the house was 62 degrees, much colder than normal. And although the thermostat was constantly calling for heat, neither the heat pump nor the gas furnace was coming on. The air coming out of the vent was stone cold.

Not good.

I shut down the system, and opened up the access panel on the furnace. Now, unless the furnace happened to have a large flashing neon arrow saying “The Problem Is Right Here,” this was largely a pointless exercise, as my knowledge of gas-fired furnace technology could easily fit in a thimble, with room left over for my understanding of string theory. Yet, as all men know, this is an obligatory step in the process. Well, I didn’t see anything that looked definitively wrong, that is, no smoke and no sparks. I closed the furnace back up, and tried to restart the system. The thermostat made a loud clicking sound, and then went completely blank, and refused to come back on.

Okay, so we have no heat, and I have apparently fried the entire climate control system. Since I had accomplished my task as alpha male, it was now clearly time to call in the experts.

Fortunately, unlike the last time we were without heat, it wasn’t that cold outside, maybe 45 degrees. Also fortunately, unlike the last time, we still had light and power. I plugged in a space heater in the kitchen, and decided to bake the beer bread mix I had gotten for Christmas to warm up the house. Well, making the beer bread warmed us up so nicely that the wife and kids made a batch of banana bread right after. By now we were in the swing of things, so I made a batch of Cranberry Orange Walnut bread after that. This carbohydrate frenzy kept the house quite comfortable.

The Service Technician arrived ($130 for a weekend service call, not covered by warranty) and announced that we had simply blown a fuse. He replaced the fuse, and the heat came back on normally. I was still a bit suspicious, because the fuse had blown AFTER the heat had been refusing to come on. But we had heat, and that was good enough. And it was New Years Eve.

My niece had to leave by early evening, but not before my OTHER niece had arrived, bringing a friend of hers along with her. It was great to see her again, as she lives in California and a) the children adore her, and b) we don’t see her nearly often enough. She, her friend, and my kids played a short game of Mario Party 6, and there was much screaming and merriment. There’s more than one way to warm a house, after all.

This morning my daughter woke me at 5:00 am, to tell me that the thermostat was clicking loudly. As you might expect, it is calling for heat, but neither the heat pump nor the gas furnace is responding. I turned the system off before we could blow another fuse, and hopefully the service tech will be able to determine the problem. And hopefully this visit WILL be covered by our warranty.

A Happy (if chilly) New Year to all of you.