Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Eva Gets a Funny Hat

I took a short but fun trip down to Santa Barbara to see Eva, the youngest of the Carroll siblings, graduate from UC Santa Barbara. She now has a Bachelors degree in Zoology. We are very proud. As you can see, I took the opportunity to share in a little of her glory by sneaking into dignified photos. It's hard being my little sister.

All of the immediate family managed to make it out for the celebration, as did my mom's sister Mary and my cousin Jonathan who is on summer break from Columbia University. He informed us that there are limited tickets to his graduation next year, so he can't guarantee us seats. He suggested looking for a scalper. I get the feeling he may be embarrassed of us, though I can't imagine why.

Damian's daughter Molly was skeptical when he explained that Eva would be celebrating her graduation by wearing a funny hat and a long black robe, and that we would throw tortillas like frisbees. (That last part happened at my UCSB graduation. Damian liked that part best, and was determined to relive the experience.) Seeing as Damian regularly makes silly things up, Molly had to see it to believe it. Here's Eva with the aforementioned tortillas (provided by Damian).

As it turned out, every one of Eva's classmates had a name, so it took a long time for all of them to be called. Always one to multitask, Molly decided to style my hair for me while we waited. One of the announcers called out the names like it was a game show. It made things more interesting. I think we should hire him for my graduation in 3 years and one summer.

Afterwards, we went out for a lunch at the Beach House Cafe and had fruity boozy drinks to toast the graduate.

Molly showed her enthusiasm by doing her famous walrus impression.

Convincing, isn't it? I mean, which one is her??

I flew home that night and shared a truck with Renee the next day to move the bulky stuff down to our new place in Eugene. I'm so excited about our house! I'll give you a photo tour soon. Now I'm just finishing up the week at work before school starts on Monday. Yikes. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Portland Adventure Pants

One of my oldest and dearest friends Cara came to visit this weekend. She's put up with me since junior high, so she's pretty much a saint. Isn't she adorable? Don't be fooled, folks, under that winning smile and those killer curls there lurks a brain like a steel trap. She's currently a U.S. women's history professor, and she's applying to PhD programs this year. What a smarty-pants! In any case, she wanted a whirlwind tour of Portland and I was happy to oblige.

It's funny how showing someone around your own town can make things seem new and interesting all over again. (Warning to local readers, this post is full of shameless tourism.) We hit up a wide variety of local tourist haunts, and none of them disappointed. First we took pictures of Klickitat Street, of Beverly Cleary fame. Here I am, pointing helpfully to the street sign.

Continuing along that theme, we went to Grant Park, which borders Beverly Cleary Elementary, to check out the bronze fountain featuring Ramona, Henry, and Ribsy the dog.

Wilder briefly suspected that it was a real dog, and investigated accordingly.

After that, we met up with Cara's long-time family friend Geoffrey and his wife Moonstar for sushi at Zilla on Alberta Street. We tried out the sparkling sake.

From there we followed the blinking neon lights to the Alibi to soak up some tiki-tastic ambiance.

The next day we braved the Rose Parade traffic to get a taste of the west side of the river. Cara bought a monster stack of books at Powells, and gave me some great title recommendations for brushing up on my women's history. Even with my impending move to Eugene looming, I couldn't resist the temptation to buy JUST three books. I blame Cara's infectious enthusiasm.

Cara had read about the bizarre doughnuts at VooDoo, so we walked over there next. Despite taboo options like raspberry-filled voodoo doll and cream-filled cocknballs, we opted for classic glazed. Cara got a good picture of the case of doughnut wonders, though... and the painting of zombie doughnuts being controlled by their voodoo master.

After a quick Stumptown Coffee fix for Cara at Backspace (Amanda makes a beautiful mocha), we took a scenic drive out to Multnomah Falls for lunch. Local wine and smoked salmon were had, along with tasty turkey cheddar burgers.

Oh, and the falls were pretty nice, too.

On the way back into town, we went on a mission to get some Twilight-themed photos requested by the angsty-vampire aficionado Nancy Van Martin. After some twists and turns, we found the Viewpoint Inn where the prom scene of the movie was filmed, I am told. There was a wedding in progress, so we had to do a drive-by photo shoot to get the close up.

We also stopped off to see the view from the Portland Women's Forum viewpoint. The Columbia River Gorge was breathtaking, as usual.

Cara wanted to get a taste of each of the five quadrants (quintrants?), so we drove around to see the fancy houses by Laurelhurst Park and explored Hawthorne a little bit to check South East off the list.

Finally, we stopped off for a quick photo shoot in the rose garden at Peninsula Park, back in my neighborhood. There's a reason we're called the city of roses!

We were pretty exhausted by the time we got back home, but Cara still managed to make an amazing arugula salad for dinner. You'll have to ask her for the recipe. It was to die for. We fell into bed happy and full.

Thanks to my neighbors' chickens, we had fresh scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast with fresh sage and rosemary from the herb garden. Topped with Tillamook sharp cheddar and a couple dashes of hot sauce, it's my new favorite breakfast invention. So good!

I was sad to have to take Cara back to the airport so soon. It was so fun having her as an excuse to put off packing and say a proper good-bye to Portland. I'm keeping my fingers crossed UO stays on her short list. She even got the cloudy weather she was hoping for!

Ok, back to packing. Sigh.

Friday, June 05, 2009

You've got some Xplaning to do...

Yesterday marked two years since I was hired on at Xplane. The one and only Andrew James Crowley penned the above sketch in honor of the occasion. It was requested that I write a little bit about what working at the company has meant to me, but everything I tried to write seriously kept coming off as cheesy and sentimental (albeit true), so I opted for the cop-out "Ten things i never thought I would do that I did because of Xplane." I could add several "Work for client X" bullets to this list, but that would be kind of boring, and I think the Secretary of Education one sums up my mixed feelings and sense of irony about working for corporate and government clients pretty well. Anyway, here's my list:

I never thought I would…

1. have a corner office
2. become the resident Powerpoint expert (woooo… nothing can stop me now!)
3. design a presentation about how great No Child Left Behind was… for the US Secretary of Education
4. get labeled a "hipster" by a client when I was wearing my nice pants
5. achieve a level of Zen wherein I cease to notice when rubber bands and foam balls are ricocheting off my head
6. really like oil company guys
7. wish so much I could visit St Louis
8. feel sorry for myself because coming up with stick figure drawings can be so haaaaard sometimes
9. genuinely look forward to having lunch in the office with my coworkers
10. leave a job I truly loved where I had so much more to learn

Ok, so reading that again, some of it doesn't really make much sense out of context. So, for those of you who aren't familiar with the inner workings at Xplane, here are a few photos to give you some idea.

My "corner office" (actually just a corner of the one, big office everyone shares). The black drain pipe radiates cold in the winter and makes me have to pee every half hour when it's raining.

We take Halloween very seriously. That's Aric, our CEO, dressed as Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, and our head of finance, Rich, channeled his teenage self and rocked a mohawk.

Is this diagram printed huge, or am I really small?? You'll never know! Unless you ask me. Then I'll tell you.

Marvin and I trying to prove we're serious sometimes.

The pictionary Dream Team. Our only failure was when the category was "Famous Landmark" and Matt drew Pee Wee Herman. I guessed Pee Wee's Playhouse instead of the Alamo. Total fail.

The talented, sardonic, and inhumanly flexible Dylan Meconis... she might be listening to This American Life, or she might just be ignoring you.

Mister Clean gets political.

Joe's Gerald Ford piece de resistance.

Joe has fun with photoshop.

Drew comes to stay with us for a month!

Man, I'm going to miss this place.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Radio Waves

My good friend / talented illustrator / expert infographic designer (and fellow science nerd) Joe Shoulak clued me in last week to an interesting episode of Science Friday on NPR that discusses the advantages of landscaping with native plants. Just a couple of nights later, my soon-to-be housemate Renee (who has a fabulous blog on urban homesteading) gushed enthusiastically about the same broadcast. I couldn't wait to listen to it myself! You can hear it by clicking here, or you can go to the Science Friday website here. Click on the yellow caterpillar picture like the one above to see a series of impressive photos, captioned to explain the basic concepts.

Finding a discussion like this in the media is SO exciting to me. I feel like the stars are aligning in the U.S. (so to speak): economic, scientific and political variables catalyze the push for environmental solutions, and thus a healthy and heated dialogue is sparked about how to improve and implement land and natural resource management. What's even more exciting, is that people are getting motivated to rethink their landscapes on an individual level.

Like any complex issue (and what worthy issue isn't?), this one has a lot of angles to consider, and a lot of angle enthusiasts to argue their points. (How did you like that extended "angle" metaphor? Double double meaning!) I'm particularly interested in people's views about mixing permaculture practices with native plantings. How can we inform our landscape decisions to create low-energy, food-producing, water-managing, environment-supporting, and aesthetically beautiful landscapes? What about public landscapes? Is it possible to do all this in an urban space that fits the needs of the surrounding community?

I have so much to learn and so many questions. I can't wait to start school!

[Update: Dr. Doug Tallamy, who is featured in this broadcast, has a great website for his book, which includes a clickable map of the US where you can get suggestions for native plants in your area that you can plant in your yard.]