November 28, 2009 - 11:15 AM
I did not spend Black Friday camping out at Walmart at 4am for the best deals. That's not my style (in more ways than one). Rather, I slept in and spent the afternoon trekking around Portland on foot. My Aunt Wendy and I bused to downtown Portland to hit up some favorite spots, explore new ones, and work off some Thanksgiving weight.
We meandered the streets towards Powell's Books. Powell's, for those who have not been there, is large. There's many adjectives that come to mind, but large seems to be the best to describe Powell's. As an English Major, I don't feel like a kid in a candy store, I feel like a kid in a candy factory. Powell's spans a whole city block, and multi-storied rooms are packed with new and used books rising in shelves fifteen feet high. Within minutes I am overwhelmed with new reads I want to pick up. On this visit, I found a harder-to-find book, Beer and Circus, I've been looking for for my thesis (the book looks at problems with big time college football and undergraduate education). As always, it was a successful visit to Powell's.
After our Powell's adventure, we made our way up Burnside to Washington Park. I had been to Washington Park years ago, but it was great to rediscover everything it has to offer. We climbed several flights of stairs to a statue overlooking downtown and Mt. Hood. We then descended into the park making our way from trail to trail passing the rose garden, zoo, Japanese garden, and the edge of neighborhoods. The forested park switches from lush wilderness to immaculately manicured gardens flawlessly, but one thing is consistent: it's beautiful. I was quite jealous of Portland residents that get to exercise in the park regularly (there were many on the trails). On the other hand, I am spoiled by Eugene's many incredible running trails and parks, so I won't complain too much.
As the sun set, we finished the evening with a walk back down the hill to the Pearl District and then returned to Washington Park to meet the rest of the family for Zoo Lights. It was entertaining to watch my little cousins go wild, running from exhibit to exhibit amid holiday lights. Finally, to cap the night we headed downtown to the Deschutes Brewery Public House. It was a great way to cap a truly Portland day: local bookstore, park, boutiques, and food. That's my idea of a Black Friday outing: local, on foot, and non-stressful.
November 27, 2009 - 10:34 AM
Thanksgiving was incredible. I am in West Linn at my Dad's Cousin Mel's house, and all my Northwest family is congregating for the holiday. Rather than giving you a generic "I love spending time with family, eating turkey, and watching football" post about why Thanksgiving is so meaningful to me, I'm going to break down the three reasons Thanksgiving is arguably the best holiday of the year.
1. Smoked Turkey. My Cousin Mel slow smoked our 26 pound bird in his smoker from 9am to 7pm. My philosophy with cooking is the longer the better, and slow cooked meat is the way to go. The turkey was tender, smoky, and extremely flavorful; my salivary glands beg for seconds just thinking about it. The smoking process goes beyond just the meat because it becomes a social experience with people gradually congregating around the smoker as appetites rise faster than the internal temperature of the bird. Although hungry, it's great to talk with relatives and learn new things about everyone while drooling in anticipation of turkey. As Mel remarked over a smoky beer, "It doesn't matter if the bird's perfect, you just wait long enough until everyone's starving and it'll seem like the best thing you've ever tasted." Without a doubt it's the best way to cook a turkey
2. Fall. It would be very easy to condense "fall" into specific subcategories such as "football," "pumpkin pie," "apple cider," "fall color," etc. But why? For me, fall is perhaps my favorite season because it has many parts that are individually incredible but combine to make an all-inclusively awesome time of year. I believe Thanksgiving is the culmination of, for lack of a better term, all things good. In one 24 hour period you have: football, fall color, harvest foods, and good company to boot. In short, you have all things good.
3. Vacation. It's Week 9 of 10 at the University of Oregon, and most everyone is exhausted come this time of year. There's a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of winter break, but it will not be realized before the gauntlet of final exams and class projects. Thus, Thanksgiving is a much needed break from the term-end rigors. Not only that, it gives a hint of the comforts of home before the long break (meals cooked by others and free time to name a couple luxuries). I am lucky that I will be teaching next year, so this break was a nice reminder of the beginning of college breaks but the anticipation of more Thanksgiving and winter breaks to come. Needless to say, I hope to cling to those breaks for as long as possible.
In a roundabout way, I do love Thanksgiving for eating turkey, spending time with family, and watching football. However, as primitive as some of these experiences are (i.e. congregating around a smoker to watch a turkey cook), the layered richness of family, weather, color, harvest, and anticipation of things to come make Thanksgiving my favorite holiday.
November 22, 2009 - 10:51 PM
I love my Ducks, and with good reason: a win over Arizona set up the most important Civil War possibly ever. The winner will go to the Rose Bowl. However, not only do I love my Ducks, but a group of students have faced some mixed praise and controversy for a video they made in support of a potential Rose Bowl birth. To watch the video click here.
The group, "Supwitchugirl," used the Duck mascot without the permission of the Athletic Department or Disney in their music video for "I Love My Ducks." Thus, the University acted accordingly by making the students remove the video from YouTube because it was not authorized and may cause trademark problems with Disney (which owns the copyright for the Duck) and the University. Many students were angered by the decision because they believe that it represents Oregon in a positive, fun way. Personally, I think the song is entertaining. With lyrics like, "Is that my boy Masoli? Cooking up the offense like he's cooking ravioli..." They are harmless, humorous lyrics that build camaraderie around a very special year for Duck football. It's tough not to look ahead, but one may draw parallels between the Chicago Bears and the Super Bowl Shuffle in '85 and "I Love My Ducks," which is quickly becoming a similar goofy, uniting anthem of the Ducks' Rose Bowl run. It's frustrating that business and politics have to interfere with a seemingly harmless music video, but such is the business of college athletics and merchandising. At least the video is still viral and available online (even if it's not on YouTube). One way or another, it has a strong presence on campus at the moment, and I would hardly consider it "underground."
Turning from the bleachers to the field though, the Civil War is at the forefront of everyone's mind. A week from Thursday the Ducks will play OSU for a trip to Pasadena on New Years Day. It's going to be mayhem, and I can't wait to see the entire State of Oregon come to a standstill for three hours on December 3rd. I will be one of the lucky few packing Autzen Stadium in what will hopefully be a very memorable evening. Until then, I encourage you to ride the wave of excitement, crank "I Love My Ducks," and smell the roses.
November 21, 2009 - 9:34 AM
Week 9 of the ten week term. I love my classes, but the term has started to take its toll as the weather turns, the days get shorter, and with them my attention span. I cannot wait for Turkey Day as a much needed hiatus before the final push through the end of the term and finals.
This year I will be headed up to West Linn (outside of Portland) to do Thanksgiving with my extended family (my Seattle family mentioned in "Battle of Seattle" and my Dad's cousin and his family). I really enjoy spending time with the group, so it should be an enjoyable, relaxing weekend. I have adjusted to not doing Thanksgiving with my nuclear family, but it is definitely different after having done Thanksgiving with them for 18 years to not have spent the holiday with them the last two years. However, traveling from Eugene to Phoenix for about 3 solid days of visiting is a lot of travel during a hectic travel season. For that reason, it makes it easier to wait the extra two weeks to see them for the Christmas season.
Anyway, I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving, and I hope y'all have a great break!
XX BONUS QUESTIONS XX
1. What are you doing for Thanksgiving?
2. Will you be traveling?
3. What's a tofurkey?
4. What kind of pie will you eat first?
5. Is it still socially acceptable to draw a turkey by tracing your hand at age 5? 20? 40?
November 15, 2009 - 5:38 PM
As I mentioned in my previous post, I am taking a Pioneers of Sustainability class this term. My professor has us reading books from the 1970s from the founders of the sustainability movement in subjects ranging from economics to urban planning to energy. There's a common theme throughout that our modern industrial society needs a massive overhaul to localize and use clean, reusable energy sources, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, utilize our local bioregions for resources, rescale industry to an appropriate level, and place convivial tools back into the hands of the common man. Unfortunately, these changes were not made over the last 30 years, and we are beginning to realize that we need to implement some of these elements.
Our class is instilling us with a strong understanding of the problems we still face and the changes and principles that need to be implemented. Nonetheless, our class has some lethargy and reluctance to act on some of the ideas we've discussed. This frustrated me, my professor, and some others in the class. Thus, we had a heated discussion about the matter and vowed to act on something.
Six classmates and I met last Wednesday evening to vent our frustrations and figure out what we could do. Some of us were upset with the Universities tenuring process for professors, others were upset that sustainability groups on campus didn't really do anything hands-on; others were yearning for a sense of community.
I suggested we build a compost system in my backyard. Everyone jumped on the idea, and we made that our first project. While it was a smaller project, it represents the first step towards building our sustainable community. The seven of us all live in separate places, so one big compost site will now be a communal place for seven residences (upwards of 20+ people).
We talked with our professor, Robert Young, and he recommended a design and offered to help us build our compost system. We took him up on his offer, and today we built our compost system. We used wood pallets, PVC pipe, nails, and plywood boards to create the structure. All the materials were found for free minus the 50 cents we spent on nails. We walked over to Professor Young's house and picked up some plywood and pallets, and transported them to my house using his childrens' Radio Flyer wagon. We made the trek back to my house with his kids, dog Daphne, and the Radio Flyer in tow and proceeded to build our compost bins.
The most difficult part of the project was nailing the pallets together. We sawed off parts of the pallet to use as binding pieces for the pallets. Professor Young fervently criticized nails earlier in the term because they don't make them out of pure steel like they used to. Instead, we now have flimsy nails that go off at odd angles when you try to drive them in. I bought 15 nails assuming we'd only need to use about six. However, they bent at odd angles, and we wanted to do the job right so we barely got by with only six nailed as they are intended with the head going squarely into the board (we wasted 9, and made do with a couple shabby fastening jobs).
The lesson we took away from this is that goods today are made cheaply and poorly, and if you want to have them work properly you need to use a nail gun or some other tool that is excessively violent and unnecessary for the task at hand (violent in the sense that it takes a lot of resources and power to generate the tool and make it function, and it may be used violently). Like we learned in class, why not make nails properly so they don't bend as easily? That way you don't need to produce twice as many of them, they can be used as intended with a simple hammer, and they are appropriate for the task at hand. In a nutshell, that's the problem with modern industrial society. The needed changes are to: make goods work as intended, scale the technology appropriately (hammer and nail is all that's necessary), and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels (energy from human power rather than plugging in a nail gun powered by energy obtained through coal, natural gas, or oil).
Nonetheless, we got our compost bins built. We loaded them up with leaves, paper, discarded produce, and even a pumpkin. The compost will be a great resource to help us grow a garden and distribute to our neighbors for their gardens. However, the greater significance of today's compost bins was connecting with one another outside of class and building community. Our group gets tighter every time we meet, and we have a strong desire to get to know each other better while accomplishing practical tasks that make a difference in our community. In our world and in our lives it's so easy to go to work or school, take care of business, and go back to your house or apartment or dorm room. However, we've pulled ourselves out of that routine, and are looking around us at what needs work, what's wrong with the world, and we're doing things to fix that while looking one another in the eyes and taking a genuine interest in making our community and lives meaningful. Funny that it took rallying around a pile of trash to make me realize that.