February 25, 2011 - 12:00 AM
If there's one thing I've learned after experiencing the past four Pacific Northwest winters, it's that the weather is predictably unpredictable. There are times when the elements just seam confused. For example right now the sun is shining and there isn't a cloud in the beautiful Saturday morning sky, yet it's 24°F outside, which means that I can only appreciate the sunshine if I'm wearing a down jacket and the wind isn't blowing in my face. Tantalizing. Let me give you a brief run down of the past few days worth of meteorological events.
A similar pattern repeats itself every year during the wintertime. It will be cold throughout November and December, and we'll slowly become readjusted to the familiar Oregon rain. Then somewhere near the end of January the sun will start peaking out from behind the clouds and everyone will get excited because that obviously means spring is just around the corner. WRONG! All of a sudden mother nature shuts the doors on spring and pushes you back into the cold and rain for another month. It's as if Oregon refuses to head the orders of Punxsutawney Phil and demands that winter linger as long as possible.
The weather report usually threatens the coming of a light snow in the Willamette Valley sometime in February, but we usually shrug it off because it's common knowledge that you can't trust the weather report past 24 hours; it's just too unpredictable. This year, however, the joke was on us as I woke up Thursday morning to a winter wonderland in Eugene. Check out the view from my roof in the photo above. And it didn't stop there.
The snow and sleet continued well into the afternoon on Thursday. I remember walking from the EMU to Lillis around noon and almost being blown off the sidewalk by a flurry of fresh powder. Most of the ground cover had melted away by the time I got of work at 5:00 PM, but the cold lingered through the night.
Friday: Freezing Wind
Thursday night might have the coldest we've had in a long while. Definitely not good day to be riding a bicycle after the sun went down. Come to think of it, my Friday morning ride to campus at 8:00AM wasn't too pleasant either. I've slept in sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and a beanie for the past two nights. My roommates and I have been cranking the space heaters throughout the house since Friday afternoon, and the weather deterred most of us from going anywhere last night.
Like I said, it's a sunny, yet brisk Saturday morning. I'd like to be outside to enjoy it, but I'm also perfectly content sitting at my desk with a heater at my feet. Plus, none of my roommates are awake yet so I don't really have anyone to go outside with. The forecast is predicting heavy rains starting on Sunday and continuing into next week, but we'll see if that actually comes true. My weather forecasts are about as accurate any other source in the Northwest, so I'm hoping for sunny and 75° next week.
February 19, 2011 - 6:11 PM
What can I say? The Ducks are tearing up the hard court and today's game against Oregon State was no different. Final score: Oregon 82, Oregon State 63. Talk about a blow out. The real story of the day was Oregon making it rain from three-point land...all the long. As a team the Ducks made 13 three-pointers out of 26 attempts. Senior G Jay-R Strowbridge led the team with 26 points off the Oregon bench, shooting 6 of 9 from behind the arc. Congratulations to Jay-R for an MVP day and, while we're at it, Happy 23rd Birthday!
There isn't really much else to say about the game. It was kind of a laugher. The first points weren't scored until a solid three minutes into the game, so the first part was nothing but slop from both teams. Then the Ducks went on their first spree of three-pointers that sparked an 11-0 run in the middle of the first half. Oregon closed out the first half with five made free throws from Singler and Catron making it a 42-29 Oregon lead. Then the second half was just more of the same as Oregon State watched the Ducks drain 8 three-pointers, including a four-minute run where they made 6 in a row.
My favorite part of the game was probably when Coach Dana Altman essentially put Oregon's B-team in during the last two minutes of the game because we'd pulled ahead so far. I think they scored 1 point between the four of them, but, hey, they did exactly what they were asked...just don't blow the game. It was about this time that I learned a few new chants from the Pit Crew as well.
Apparently, thanks to Oregon football player, Cliff Harris, our new nickname for Oregon State is "Little Brother," because we've dominated them in the Civil War, (across multiple sports) for the past few years. We heard "Lit-tle Bro-ther" echoing through Matt Arena throughout the game. I also enjoyed when the Pit Crew started singing, "If you're winning and you know it, clap your hands."
There were several more miscellaneous enjoyable moments of the game. Ashton Eaton was signing autographs after breaking his own World Record in the Indoor Heptathlon a few weeks ago at the International Indoor Combined Events meeting in Tallinn, Estonia. Our old dorm-mates, Justin and Kenan, were contestants in the Chevron half-time car race. Justin won. Two students in front of us were rocking old Mighty Ducks hockey jerseys, as in the Disney movie with Emilio Estevez. Yeah, they were wearing jerseys for Charlie Conway and Coach Bombay.
All in all, I'm a big fan of the new arena. Mac Court may have the nostalgia, but Matt Arena is nicer than most NBA arenas I've been too. The entrance montage alone made me feel like I was at a Trail Blazers game. Life is good for Duck's sports at the moment. New arena. Ducks are climbing up Pac-10 standings. After today's win we're into 4th place in the Pac-10 and five games back of #13 Arizona.
February 16, 2011 - 7:48 PM
I'm no connoisseur of fine art, but I will say that I enjoy an occasional art exhibit from time to time. I'm a big fan of any artwork that has a twist of social commentary. I also love when I don't have to pay or travel far to see any art exhibit, so UO's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is pretty stellar from my point of view.
Earlier today I hit up the Schnitz, as I like to call it, to check out the new exhibit by artist Chris Jordan called "Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait." I first heard about the new exhibit when Chris came on campus to speak with participants in this year's Environmental Leadership Program (ELP). Initially I imagined that this collection was a purely environmentalist critique on American consumerism, but I found out that the message of Chris' artwork addressed more than just environmental issues in America. Below I've included an excerpt of the artist's project summary to give you a more clear view of what I mean.
"Running the Numbers looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.
This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities we each play as individuals in a collective that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming." ~Chris Jordan, Seattle, 2008
Okay, commentary aside, I've included a couple more of my favorite pieces from the exhibit. Feel free to check out Chris' website to see the entire collection. The link is included above.
Depics 320,000 light bulbs, equal to the number of kilowatt hours waste in the United States every minute from inefficient residential electricity usage (inefficient wiring, computers in sleep mode, etc.)
February 13, 2011 - 5:05 PM
Remember when I mentioned that I'm in a running class at the beginning of the term? Well, to be fair I had to drop down from the 10K training to the 5K training course, but the good news is that it's actually starting to pay off!
Earlier today I ran the Truffle Shuffle, which is Eugene's largest winter race. Officials were estimating that over 2,000 people showed up to Alton Baker Park today as participants competed in several events including a kid's fun run, a two-mile walk/run, and a four-mile run. The best part of the event was that Euphoria Chocolate Company passes out chocolate truffles to all the competitors upon finishing the race, and if there's one thing I learned today it's that nothing tastes sweeter than a milk chocolate truffle from a nice run along the Willamette River.
I ran the four-mile race and initially I had plans of running by myself until I bumped into several PPPMers before the race. First, I ran into a couple grad students, Mark McCaffery, who's my CPW project manager, and Tiffany Hall, who was the GTF for my PPPM 494 course last spring. Then I ran into (no pun intended) Stella Day, a fellow PPPM undergrad, and her boyfriend, Noah. It was nice to see some familiar faces, not to mention a little support and friendly rivalry during the race. Personally this is the first official race I've ever run, so it was a good experience for me...I think. I'll give you a quick recap.
The starting line was completely chaotic. Thankfully I had already latched on to Stella and crew, or else I probably wouldn't have made it in time. Just as we found our way to the back of the chute the rain threatened us with a light sprinkle, and not a minute later the gun sounded and the race began. Expect ‘began' isn't really the right term because, you see, the farther back you are in the starting line the longer it takes to actually cross the starting line. It probably took up a full minute to walk/jog the fifty feet from where we started to the starting line.
The majority of the first mile was spent dodging strollers, leaping over dogs on leashes, and swerving in and out of a few hundred peoples' worth of slow running traffic, mere obstacles between that delicious truffle and me. I think that first mile took at least ten minutes, but I did appreciate the warm up jog.
The second mile was much better. Stella and I eventually found each other after the swarm of confusion, and I was starting to find a rhythm, although the scenery did a pretty good job of distracting me. What can I say? It ended up being a pretty nice day.
Mile three was the quickest without question. Even if I wasn't running any faster it seemed shorter than the other. Everyone seemed to be hitting full stride and reaching the halfway mark triggers something in our minds that makes our feet go a little faster.
The final lap was less than preferable. I still had the ‘horse headed for the barn' mentality, but they must have moved that finish line back a ways because it took forever to fin it again. Mark and Tiffany started to pull away. It was a struggle to stay within eyesight of Mark's neon yellow running cap. We were back in familiar territory when we passed by the giant yellow "O" on the south side of Autzen, and that's when the cheering from the volunteers along the road became louder. The final two hundred meters were pretty spectacular as you entered the homestretch with people cheering and snapping photographs. The announcer yells out the names of runners as they pass.
It wasn't easy, that's for sure, but I'm glad I did it. Check one more thing off my University of Oregon/Eugene bucket list. Will I get serious and train for the Eugene Half-Marathon? That remains in question with a heavy chance of unlikely. I only have one question. Will I get a chocolate truffle at the end?
and train for the Eugene Half-Marathon? That remains in question with a heavy chance of unlikely. I only have one question. Will I get a chocolate truffle at the end?
February 12, 2011 - 11:52 AM
I assume it's becoming common knowledge that I really like beer. I realize I run the risk of being stereotyped as a college kid when I say that, but it's not like that. When I say that I enjoy beer, I don't just mean I enjoy drinking it. I enjoy smelling it. I enjoy brewing it. I enjoy learning about it. I enjoy talking about it. And, yes, I enjoy tasting it. You can imagine my overwhelming excitement when I was told that Eugene was playing host to a beer festival. Did you hear that? A festival devoted to that beautiful, sweet, bitter, malty beverage. A festival for everyone that wants to celebrate succulent concoctions of malts, grains, barley, and hops. I was like a kid in a candy store.
Craft brewing is an up-and-coming business or trend in the beer brewing industry, but the industry itself has had a very turbulent past. At the turn of the 20th Century there were roughly 1,800 breweries in America, all of which were local or regional mom and pop style craft breweries. The 1920 killed the industry upon enactment of prohibition laws, and beer brewing didn't fully climb back into American culture until the 1950s. Within the next two decades the beer market became dominated by "The Big 3" as Coors, Miller, and Budweiser started marketing their beer and producing it on large scales that eventually forced their smaller microbrew competitors out of the business.
In 1978 there were only forty-five breweries in America, the largest of which was Anheuser-Bush, makers of common beers like Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob, Natural Light etc. Today Anheuser-Busch produces and distributes over 100 different domestic beers, import beers, specialty brews, non-alcoholic beers, and malt liquors. In 1965 Anheuser-Busch held only a 12% share of the beer industry market. By 1985 that number jumped to 37%, and in 2005 it was up to a staggering 45% share. That means that nearly 1 of every 2 beers sold in America is a product of Anheuser-Busch.
As the saying goes, ‘money is power,' and the beer business is no different. The power that these beer giants yield nowadays sure does make life difficult for small brewers who enjoy beer for it's taste rather than it's profit margin. Thankfully, that's where these microbrew festivals serve a purpose.
Last night the Lane Events Center was packed with representatives from 50 breweries serving over 100 beers! Of course you had the Eugene and Springfield locals like Oakshire, Ninkasi, Steelhead, Track Town, and Hop Valley. I tried to stray away from those booths, though, because I can get those anywhere around town. Ninkasi did have a couple new beers that aren't being sold yet, like their Unconventionale and the Dry Hopped Tricerahops Double IPA. There was also the normal crowd of well-known breweries from around Oregon, like Rogue (Newport, OR), Deschutes (Bend), and Bridgeport (Portland).
It's really tough to say which beer was my favorite because they were all delicious in their own regards. The Back in Black IPA from 21st Ammendment was particularly good, and I have to show some love for the only San Francisco brewery in attendance. Maui's Coconut Porter and Lagunitas' A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' were group favorites. My vote for best in show went to Block 15's Love Potion #9. It was difficult voting for a Corvalis brewery, but you really can't beat raspberry-chocolate porter. It felt like we were drinking a fine, chocolate dessert truffle.
My favorite part of the night, however, might have been seeing the few big breweries, like Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Company) and Hoegarrden/Leffe/Stella Artois (Anheuser-Busch), who barely poured any glasses of beer. Seriously, they didn't have anyone waiting in their lines! There was absolutely no demand for the big named brews. It was hilarious! Moreover it made me happy to see that there's at least a small constituency of Americans that prefer quality craft beers. Hopefully that trend continues to grow in the next decade. If everything goes as planned, maybe my roommates and I will host a booth of our own at the KLCC Microbrew Festival in a few years. Knock on wood.
The information included in this post primarly came from "Beer Wars," a documentary by Anat Baron about the beer brewing industry. Highly recommended.
The photo above (from left to right) shows Ross, Steven, Natalie, and Kevin enjoying their first brews on Friday night. Photo courtesy of Cam Norris.