Category Archives: Hood River

The Sound and the Fury

I just got back from doing a bit of night riding over at Mount Hood Meadows. Apparently this weekend they’re having a throw-down called Jamaican Days, which means they pipe reggae music through their outside speakers, host a bonfire out on the snow, and cook something at the chalet that smells vaguely Jamaican. It also means that the snowboarders burn something in the terrain park that smells vaguely Jamaican. How this makes it different from any other weekend is beyond me.

However. If snow conditions had any say in the matter, the festivities would be known as “If you hate your life and want to die, let’s go snowboarding! Days.”

As I was taking my first ride up the chair lift (I take Daisy Chair because I’m a sucker for its vintage charm) I heard a very odd sound, that was not unlike the sound of waves crashing on a beach. At first I thought it was the lift, and I braced for my imminent plunge to the earth, but when the sound didn’t change as I passed lift tower after lift tower, I began to wonder. Why, the sound even seemed to echo through the resort, and besides snowmobiles I know of no lift that creates such a din to actually echo.

No. The sound I heard was every single person at Mount Hood Meadows, simultaneously scraping the metal edges of their skis or snowboards across the ice, the bulletproof ice that covered the entire mountain in a cruel mockery of actual snow. Oh god, that sound. I swear, it was so loud you could probably hear it all the way down in Government Camp… hear it, that is, if you weren’t deaf already from getting punched in the ear in a brawl down at Charlie’s.

Anyway, in contrast to the abhorrent snow conditions to be had at the mountain this eve, we had a beautiful day here in Hood River. It started out as the typical crud, cloudy and somewhat chilly with a cold drizzle every now and then. Early in the day someone at the bagel shop said it was sunny in Cascade Locks, however, so that gave us hope. Hope and rage. See, Cascade Locks is located in a fucking rainforest, such that we firmly believe it should never be sunny there. When it is, we Hood River peoples take it as an affront to our very existence.

Fortunately, the sun was kind enough to migrate this far east, and we were treated to cloudless skies and 60 degrees for the entire afternoon. I was busy soloing the shop for a good part of the day, but I managed to get outside for a spell and unwind some kite lines. In the evening it was still crystal clear, and the stars were out while I was riding at Meadows.

Or perhaps that was because I slammed my head into the ice one time too many.

Hired Goon


I guess there’s been some changes ’round these parts over the last couple weeks. I’ve been busy with those so I’ve kinda been neglecting some things, small things like this blog and personal hygiene and common decency.

When I got back from Walla Walla last Sunday someone had been kind enough to leave me a dead bird on the sidewalk to my house. The next morning the bird was gone, replaced by little feathered turds. That afternoon I came home to find a dismembered wing on my front step, and the turds were missing.

So there was that.

Also, I’ve been busy raising a beard again. It’s hard work and it takes a lot of time and effort, especially for the few of us who do not have Chuck Norris in our ancestry. There’s so few of us.

So very few.

But yes, a beard. By the looks of things this is the winter of the Sketchy Facial Hair, and I wanted to throw in my lot. I would also like to have a beard for SXSW, along with a mohawk, if I can muster the guts to do that again. Yeah, a beard and a mohawk, so I can appear to be consistent with my Flickr and Facebook and profile photos. We call this “branding.”

This “alcoholic energy drink meets malt beverage” tastes like an atrocity.

That’s branding, too.

Hey, Kate took me to the Walla Walla Wal-Wal-Mart when I was back over there, and it is vastly superior to the Hood River Wal-Mart, and we actually went there twice, once to buy a potted plant and frozen chilies and again to buy windshield wipers and twelve mason jars, and both times the same clerk helped us. The same clerk! At checkout lanes that were at complete opposite ends of the store! And there’s a tram that runs every seven minutes to take you from one opposite end of the store to the other!

He was a really cool clerk, too. We wondered why he was working at Wal-Mart, being as cool as that. I thought he was probably writing a book about his experience, or at least blogging it.

Twelve mason jars is a lot more mason jars than I thought I needed, so I’ve been spending my time finding things to fill them up with, things like basmati rice and cashews and yerba mate. Yerba mate has a very strong organic, earthy taste to it, which is a nice way of saying it tastes like dirt. It’s dirt jam-packed with caffeine, though, so I’m not about to criticize. My bombilla fell apart way before the Web 2.0 boom so I need to find a new one before I can drink my mate again. Taragui, it was. The mate, that is. You can buy it by the kilo, like other things you can buy.

There was something else.

Oh yeah.

Tomorrow I start my new job at my windsurfing and kiteboarding shop. Even though job titles are kinda ridiculous and we really have no use for them, I shall be working as the Director of Web Marketing for Big Winds, a position which is known internally as “Hey, we have our own computer geek!”

I have worked for Big Winds a couple of times in the past, once in 2003 and again in 2005, and I hearts them lots and lots. I love the people who work there, I love the store and the products, and I love their business ethos. Needless to say, I’m stoked as hell to work for these guys, to be surrounded by people again, to be active in the community, and to know that this summer I will kiteboard so much I won’t even be able to piss straight.

The upshot of all this is that I’m taking on Big Winds as a full-time job, and I’m going to have very little time to run Brainside Out. I’m still kinda stunned by the whole bit, shocked and nervous and excited and somewhat nauseous, but I think there’s a tremendous opportunity to do some kick-ass stuff here. I’ve told my clients about the change, and they have all been extremely supportive and enthusiastic. Like, bummed I won’t be able to rock stuff for them anymore, but amped for me nonetheless.

Still, I’m freaked out by the fact that I’ll actually need to wake up in the morning. I suppose it’s a small price to pay to be able to interact with real people, though.

Brainside Out will continue to exist, perchance as a shadow of its formal self, but dammit if it’s not going anywhere. I’ve been running that dealy-deal for 1 1/2 years, have gotten to build some great websites for some absolutely ripshitkickass clients, and I take a huge amount of satisfaction in knowing that I’m fully capable of running my own show. With the ridiculous degree of autonomy that I’ve been enjoying in running Brainside Out, the shop may have gotten more than they bargained for. I mean, I build good shit, but I’m used to doing it on my own terms.

That said, I did work for them in-house on two separate occasions, for half a year on both counts. In 2003 I shared an office with the head manager for a couple weeks, until he realized that I talked and cursed to myself so much that I needed to be quarantined to my own office. Big Winds was also the first client that Brainside Out ever had, and thus precipitated my move to indie status.

Nah, they know what they’re gettin’. And I’m stoked.

Geez, did I mention I’m stoked?

I Heart Sprint

Last week my cell phone suddenly lost most of its ability to make and receive calls. The nature of the glitch suggested that it was a problem with Sprint’s all-digital wireless network built from the ground up. My phone kept getting booted off Sprint’s network and into roaming land, so my initial concerns were about my monthly bill (which is already a little bit out of control).

I sent the following message to support:

Dearest Sprint,

Lately your Sprint Network coverage within the 97031 zip code has been extremely spotty. Normally I get an extremely strong on-network signal when I’m in town, but for the last couple days I’ve been experiencing some rather frustrating trouble.

Frequently when I go to place a call, my Sprint Network signal suddenly drops to zero. As the call starts dialing, I’m suddenly on Digital Roam, or even (gasp!) Analog Roam. Thus, I am being forced to “roam” even though I’m well within Sprint territory, and well within my usual locales when placing calls.

I assure you that my home or office have not suddenly relocated themselves to places that would have spotty Sprint reception, nor have I wrapped my home or office in tinfoil or lead shielding or other such things that would interfere with signal strength.

No, nothing has changed except for the signal quality and reliability that I am currently receiving from Sprint. I will allow that it might be a problem with my cell phone itself, but beyond turning it off and on again, there really isn’t a whole lot of diagnosing I can do in that regard.

That said, the reliability of your “all-digital wireless network built from the ground up” has suddenly become very questionable. I suppose this is a long way of saying that when my next bill shows up, I will dispute any and all “roaming” charges that have resulted from the instability of your own network.

Yes, I know that my plan includes “free” roaming off the Sprint Network. However, I also know that while you don’t charge me for “roaming” when I make/receive calls off your network, you do nick me for “long distance” charges, which are normally included when I use your network.

Claiming that you offer “free roaming” when you simply charge for “long distance” in its place is merely a clever game of marketing semantics, as you are effectively charging for the exact same thing. Thus, I shall dispute any charges for either roaming or long-distance.

Take care, and have yourself a lovely day.

Dane Petersen

Not long after, I received the following response:

Dear Dane,

I apologize for the inconvenience caused by the coverage issues. Thank you for contacting Sprint together with Nextel in this regard.

Since your plan includes roaming, the long distance calls made withing U.S. would not be charged even while roaming. However, the long distance calls made to outside the U.S. would be charged irrespective of roaming.

I have checked through our resources and noticed that we have good coverage in your area.

We understand that in spite of the good coverage, you are experiencing service related problems. To resolve this matter, we need to create a trouble record for this issue. Therefore, I have forwarded your case to the appropriate department. One of our specialists will call you within the next 48 hours (on your Sprint number) to assist you.

Our specialist will take the required information, which is used by Sprint engineers to improve the network. Each month we add or improve hundreds of cell sites based upon the information received. Thank you for reporting this situation and we will do everything we can to resolve this issue.

Thank you for contacting us. Have a great day.

Abel R.

Sprint together with Nextel
“Where our customers come first!”

Refer someone to Sprint and get $25.
Visit for details.

I wrote a reply the following day, by which point my troubles had, well, progressed:

Dearest Abel,

Thank you for your response. I will take you at your word that I will not be charged long distance for my calls placed to destinations in the U.S. while roaming within the U.S. That said, Sprint has given me plenty of reasons to be distrustful of our relationship with one another, so please don’t take offense as I brace myself for other hidden charges that we haven’t discussed here.

In the time since I wrote my original message, my troubles with Sprint have progressed from mildly irritating to downright infuriating. In an effort to “force” my phone to use Sprint’s network (which according to my phone has strong signal coverage, despite evidence to the contrary) I have disabled both analog and digital roam.

As a result, only about 25% of the outgoing calls I have been trying to make actually go through. The rest result in errors ranging from “The network is busy, please try again later,” to “No service available.”

Additionally, I’m receiving frequent voice mails from calls that never even caused my phone to ring. I would estimate that at least half of my incoming calls are not coming through to my phone, and are instead getting diverted to voicemail.

Not being a specialist myself, I don’t know whether this is a problem with my phone, or a problem with the network. I hope that the specialist can help answer this question. I also hope the specialist can manage to get through to my phone when he or she calls.


Dane P.
Brainside Out together with Dane Petersen
“Where you hear us before you see us!”

It wasn’t long until I received a reply. I must say that while not being all that helpful, Sprint is very responsive. Sadly, however, my dear friend Abel had been replaced by someone new:

Dear Dane,

Thank you for your reply.

I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience you are experiencing.

The zip code 97031 is covered under the PCS coverage network and there is a problem with the phone reception or coverage, this could be because of the following two possibilities:

1. Phone difficulties: Please visit a Sprint Store to get your Phone tested. To locate the nearest Sprint Store, you can click on the following hyperlink:

2. Network difficulties: If your Phone passes the diagnostic test and the coverage problem persists, you can contact us to process a trouble record for this service-related issue. Please dial *2TALK from your Phone or 1-888-211-4727 from a landline phone. Our specialists will be glad to assist you.

Thank you for contacting us.

Odalys D.
Sprint together with Nextel
“Where our customers come first!”

Refer someone to Sprint and get $25. Dial #REF or visit a store for details.

…as an aside, I find it rather tactless on Sprint’s part to include a “Refer someone to Sprint!” link in their email signature on support emails. Seriously, if I’m mailing back and forth with your support crew you can safely assume that I’m kinda pissed at you about something, and probably not in the best mood to burden others with your service.

As of yesterday it appears that the worst has finally passed, as my phone seems to be making and receiving calls once again without issue. I figured I owed Sprint an update regarding my current status:

Dearest Odalys,

I am pleased to tell you that as of today my phone seems to be working fine. I am now able to make and receive calls with the same rate of success that I had previously enjoyed with Sprint. I didn’t bring it into a Sprint Store for testing, however, as the nearest store is 60 miles away and my gut tells me that this has been a problem with the network, not with the phone.

Also, with an hour of freeway driving and six inches of snow standing between me and the nearest Sprint Store, I fear that under current weather conditions I would probably die if I were to undertake such a foolish excursion. Seriously, I hear they’ve resorted to cannibalism in Portland.

No, the Oregon landscape has consumed enough poor souls this winter. I feel it is my duty as a responsible citizen not to add to the mounting body count, and instead I chose to wait this one out. If the fact that my phone works again is any sort of evidence, it seems that inaction in this case was indeed the best action.

Thank you for your help, and have a lovely day.

Dane P.
Brainside Out together with Dane Petersen
“Where cold fury follows us wherever we go!”

Refer someone to Brainside Out and get $25!
Visit for details.

Today I received a call from a Sprint representative who, along with being uncomfortably apologetic for the problems I have been experiencing, assured me that a network specialist would contact within the next couple days regarding these issues. I thanked him for his deep concern and made sure he understood that most of my troubles seem to have already been resolved, but I agreed that further correspondence with Sprint would certainly be enjoyable.


I have discovered an axiom of Hood River laundromats, in that at any point in time at least one quarter of all washers and dryers must be out of order. At first I thought this only applied to the laundromat in the Heights, which besides its defunct collection of machines isn’t all that bad as far as laundromats go. Well, as far my standards go for judging a “quality” laundromat, it isn’t bad. I guess.

Given Kate’s account, which includes a four-month tour of every laundromat across the Great American West, perhaps I have unduly low expectations given my experience in Hood River. She is typically aghast when I describe an average Hood River laundromat, and assures me that such traits are not universally present in laundromats the country over.

Okay, despite the 25% failure rate of its 1980s vintage collection of washers and dryers, the Heights Laundromat isn’t bad. It has slippery yellow plastic seats, a working Neo-Geo arcade machine, and a kick-ass dollar store next door. Plus, there’s this huge and cool wooden bench out front with the words Heights Laundromat burned into it, that has a great view of Mount Hood when the weather is nice, and an even better view of the parking lot when the weather is bad. Seriously, you can see the parking lot so well that you almost feel like you’re there.

Now, for the longest time I thought the Heights Laundromat was the only gig in town. Business directories and Google Maps suggested differently, but every time I went in search of a fabled second laundromat I turned up empty-handed. Back in October I would drive up and down the street keeping a keen eye out for this laundromat, never to find a thing. There was the paint store, the car wash, the diner that was obsessed with eggs, but alas, no laundromat.

I finally stumbled upon it this past weekend, when I was quite literally on my way to the Heights with a load of laundry. Turns out the Westside Laundromat has a few things going against it, not the least of which is the fact that it’s listed on the wrong side of the street in Google Maps. The lettering is peeling off its sign, and what’s more, it’s attached to the Chinese restaurant. In my quest for alternative laundromats, I never thought to check the Chinese restaurant.

While smaller than the Heights Laundromat, one couldn’t exactly describe the Westside Laundromat as cozy. The front door barely fits in its metal frame, and it protests violently every time someone makes an entrance. The few arcade games that are available are tucked into a back room, and aren’t even turned on for that matter. There are instructions that remind you to check inside dryers for children and pets before loading, but neglect to tell you to keep an eye out for, say, other people’s clothing.

What Westside Laundromat lacks in ambience, however, it makes up for in proximity. While the Heights is nearly a whole mile from my house, Westside is a measly block. Yup. One block from my house, and it took me two months to find it.

If Hood River is any indication, owning a laundromat seems like a pretty sweet business. You open up the place in the morning and you lock it up at night. You spend your day kicking around town doing whatever you find prudent, while in the meantime people are jamming your face full of quarters. Your infrastructure is at least a quarter-century old and requires no modernization, and if anything breaks down it’s nothing a sheet of notebook paper, a Sharpie and a piece of tape can’t fix.

Maybe I’ve got this freelance web design thing all wrong.

Moisture is the Essence of Wetness

UPDATE: We’ve got pictures of the carnage!

It has been raining here for the last two weeks straight. In case you haven’t heard, Oregon is pretty much fucked.

The Hood River was a raging muddy torrent when I went down to check it out yesterday. The river was running so high and so fast that it was producing seven-foot standing waves, which would make for some epic kayaking if it wasn’t for all the detritus coming down from the mountains. Along with the slurry of mud and water there was an endless barrage of logs, brush and sticks, and the occasional tree that was 20 feet long and a foot in diameter.

Needless to say, for the last couple days the Hood River has been belching a constant stream of junk into the Columbia River, and as a result our waterfront looks like mayhem. There’s a debris field that extends downstream from the mouth of the Hood River past the Event Site, a distance of nearly a mile, and it is packed so tightly with logs that in places it looks like you could walk across it. As for the mud, sand and rocks that have been washed down, all that stuff has been settling just outside the mouth of the Hood River.

At the moment, Kite Beach has grown to the point that it pretty much constitutes the entire Hood River waterfront, and all the half-buried logs and trees make it look like a bone yard.

Things don’t get any better as you move upstream. I’ve heard that the Hood River crested at 14 feet above flood stage, and given what I’ve seen (which includes a picture of a railroad trestle mere inches from being underwater) it’s not too hard to believe. Highway 35 is closed between Hood River and Government Camp, as the road is totally fucked up. A section of the highway that parallels the river near Robin Hood Campground was under six feet of water, and in other places the road is chilling out beneath huge mudslides. The bridge over the White River is gone. Gone.

This past weekend Joe and I went on a hike to Burnt Lake, near Zigzag on the southwest side of Mount Hood. To reach the trailhead we took the Subaru on the rugged path around the west side of the mountain, which in many places is just a single-lane gravel washboard.

Even then, the road was nearly impassable because of all the downed trees from the windstorm we had two weekends ago (kindly recall my ghostly night at Smoky Campground). That road, part of which is the popular route to Lost Lake, is hosed as well. Not to mention Zigzag, where swollen rivers there have forced the evacuation of many of the homes that Joe and I drove by last weekend, remarking, “Man, just look at these awesome houses on the river! I would love to have something like this!”

Things aren’t much better elsewhere. The Oregon Coast got pounded, and one person died in Gleneden Beach. Tillamook, the small coastal town of cheese and ice cream fame, got hammered especially hard, with road closures and evacuations and the whole gambit. Record rainfalls have been shattered in places all over the state, with anywhere from 3 inches to 13 inches of rain in a 24-hour period.

That’s the view from here. Monday it was 65 degrees here in Hood River, and so humid it was tropical. Yesterday as I was watching the river do its wild thing, the wind suddenly picked up to 25 mph or so, pelting my face with rain that fell sideways. This morning I woke up to an incredible rainbow over the Columbia River. Across all of these episodes, the one thing that I remember is that it was always raining.

Or maybe it was never raining.


On Saturday night our endless summer came to a screeching halt, and I happened to be outside to witness the transformation. I’ve been feeling slow and lethargic lately, and needed some change in routine to shake out of my rut, so I decided I’d load up the trusty ol’ backpack and hit the trail for a couple days.

There is this place in the Cascade Range, somewhat close to where I’m currently living, that I have been trying to reach for the last three years. It sits somewhere between Mount Hood and the Columbia River, and it’s called Wahtum Lake. As far as lakes in the Cascades go it’s a bit bigger than most, but it’s pretty wimpy compared to anything I’m used to. Nevertheless, Wahtum Lake is a lake and it’s in the mountains, and I love lakes as much as I love mountains, so right there is a natural attraction. Not to mention Wahtum Lake is within 30 miles from Hood River, making it a worthy destination for a quick weekend in the woods.

As I said, this lake has eluded me for three years. In 2003 my friend Ryan and I flew out to Oregon for spring break, and spent a couple days tromping all over Portland, the Oregon Coast and Hood River. This was the first time I had even seen Oregon, so the entire time my head was crazy with all the green. I thought I was going to suffocate on the thick living air, and I figured that would be a dignified death, all things told.

We decided to hit up Eagle Creek for a few days, intending to hike up the canyon all the way to Wahtum Lake. It’s nothing too difficult as far as distance goes, and we had even brought snowshoes for the higher elevations. However, we hadn’t factored in the rain. Oh the rain. The incessant frigid drizzle, that quickly sapped from us all available energies. Ultimately we hiked in for two days, basecamped 7 1/2 Mile Campground for a few days, and hiked out soaking and cold.

That was the first time we tried to make it to Wahtum Lake. My second attempt was a solo trip executed within the warm cocoon of the Subaru, in the spring of 2005. See, you don’t need to hike to Wahtum Lake from the Eagle Creek Trailhead. There are logging roads galore that will, so long as they aren’t washed out or gated shut or being used for, well, logging, take you straight up to Wahtum Lake.

Once again I began my assault on the summit of Wahtum, this time taking a route far less noble, with a support crew that included rear defrosters, fuel injection and a CD player. Despite being so grandly outfitted I was once again sent down without seeing Wahtum Lake, this time because the road was choked with snow. I did find a really cool rough-skinned newt, however, so the trip wasn’t a total loss. His belly was bright orange and he was pumped full of neurotoxins. How exciting!

So yesterday, it was with no small amount of trepidation that I set out for Wahtum Lake. The weather was clear and warm and beautiful, and despite a few near-collisions with oncoming traffic on the one-lane road, I made it to the trailhead without a hitch. Signs posted at the trailhead requested that I post some sort of “pass” or pay some sort of “fee” to leave my car in my parking lot, but I just told said signs to bugger off. I slouched into my backpack and hit the trail.

And after descending a couple hundred feet, I finally saw Wahtum Lake. It’s a nice blue lake, surrounded by steep hills and thick stands of pine. Splendid.

However, Wahtum Lake wasn’t the goal. I was gunning for Smoky Campground, a five-mile southbound hike from the trailhead. It was a wonderful hike with some spectacular views along a 4,000-foot ridge, and the sky was achingly blue. Mount Hood was looking over my shoulder for most of the ridge, and sometimes Mount Jefferson even poked his head up. At one particularly amazing overlook I could see Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, and parts of the North Cascades all adorning the horizon.

I reached Smoky Campground (they call these campgrounds but really they’re just one-banger backcountry campsites) by late afternoon. I hadn’t seen another soul for hours, and I wouldn’t see anyone until I got back to the trailhead the next day. To save weight I had left my tent back at home, bringing only the poles, rainfly and ground cloth. This is the configuration that they often refer to as “quick pitch”, even though there is little that is “quick” about “pitching” with only these tools.

Since you don’t have the actual tent to keep the form, you’re at the whim of the poles, and in accordance with physics the poles tend to fall to the ground. This makes it difficult to do anything with the rainfly but throw it over your head, or maybe tie it around your neck so it blows in the wind like you’re some kind of superhero. Really, this is how I figure you “quick pitch” a tent:

  1. Stake down the ground cloth.
  2. Put the poles in the ground cloth.
  3. Grab the rainfly and throw it over your head.
  4. Now you’re a ghost! Spooky!
  5. Walk around a bit.
  6. Trip on the poles. There they are!
  7. Finagle the rainfly’s velcro straps around the poles.
  8. Keep doing this until you imagine you resemble a tent, not a ghost.

I made dinner. I got cold. I made a fire (which was, strangely enough, the smokiest fire I have ever made in my life). It got dark really quickly, which is when I started realizing how creepy it is to be on a solo trip. I put out the fire and went to bed. It was 7:00.

Sometime during the night, it got cold. Then it got colder. Before long I was deep in my sleeping bag wearing every single layer I had, including my rain jacket. The wind started picking up, and I started cursing this campsite on the top of a ridgeline. Actually, I had no idea how windy it was until I stepped outside to pee. Wow, it was really rippin’ out there, but you could hardly tell from inside. Such was a testament to the fine construction of my tent, even without the actual “tent” part of it, and my awesome quick-pitch skills. Spooky! I slithered back into my sleeping bag and checked my watch, just to see how many more hours of darkness I had left.

It was 8:00.

Anywho, somehow I managed to sleep through the night, even though it was cold and the wind was howling and demons were tromping around outside. In the morning I awoke to more wind, and rain this time around. I gathered my crap, made a hasty breakfast of Milky Ways, and tried my best to dismantle the tent from the inside-out to avoid getting wet. Loaded up and hunkered down in my rain gear, I began the soaking trod back to Wahtum Lake. Whereas on the hike out I could almost see to Canada, this time around I could hardly see 100 feet in front of me. Clouds and fog boiled up and over the ridge, and a silent, relentless drizzle soaked me to the bone.

I was loving every minute of it. In its own dumb way I knew that this was exactly what I wanted.

By the time I reached Wahtum Lake it was snowing, my gloves were sodden, and my hands were useless. I hiked to my car, tossed down my pack, and began the arduous process of extracting my hands from their gloves, and then pulling my car keys out of my backpack. I started the car and loaded my gear into the back, warming my hands in the exhaust so I could summon enough dexterity to peel off my rain gear. Thus unclothed I tossed my dripping layers in the back, climbed into the driver’s seat, and wiped the layers of slush off the windshield.

The thermometer in my car read 34 degrees.


Scotch on the rocks. We’ll see how long I can remain coherent.

A couple nights ago some friends and I dressed up as pirates and ran around downtown Hood River for the entire evening. Rather than simply doing this at random (which would be kind of fun, come to think of it) we were participants in this year’s Booty Hunt, a competitive bar crawl of epic proportions.

Well maybe not epic, but all things considered, pretty huge for Hood River at this time of year. For this year’s Booty Hunt we had more than 25 teams competing in a scavenger hunt, traipsing from bar to bar solving puzzles and picking up clues and drinking Full Sail Sessions until we couldn’t see straight. And once we couldn’t see straight we went to the sushi bar and did shots of sake.

All told, Sparky’s Skallywaggs came in third place, and we were pretty proud of ourselves for that. At the beginning of the night all the teams were shown a treasure chest full of loot… or “booty” I suppose. Later in the evening we convened at the Full Sail brewery where every team was given a mad-lib-esque story in which each piece of treasure filled a particular blank… trouble is, there was one extra piece of treasure. Our goal for the night was to figure out which one didn’t belong in said story.

We did pretty well, but we could have done better had we not mistook what was actually a mini bottle of whiskey, for a mini bottle of rum. Sparky is going to take it up with the storyteller, however, because everyone knows that pirates drink rum, not whiskey, and thus the part of the story that discussed the pirates drinking whiskey was inaccurate at best, and libelous at worst.

Nevertheless, our prize for third place was the treasure chest itself, brimming with the storied booty. Quite a haul, considering we’ve now got in our possession such gems as a plastic witch, a screaming knife, and a dildo.

Besides that, things have been fairly calm on this side of the world. A few days ago Kate got back from her canoe trip through Canyonlands, where they stomped through mud and carried folding chairs and dragged Grummans over rocks. She called me from the laundromat in Moab, where a week ago she had great cell reception, but this time around she just as well could have been calling me from Estonia.

Actually, it isn’t fair for me to bag on Estonia like that, considering that most eastern bloc countries have taken to cell phone technology exceptionally well and now offer widespread coverage. Honestly, the entire Orange Revolution in Ukraine was organized through cell phones.

And actually, it looks like Estonia was one of the first countries in the world to adopt a flat-tax income tax system, established in 1994 at 26% and reduced to 24% in 2005, and decreasing 1% annually until it reaches 20% in 2009. That’s some seriously progressive tax reform, there, and it makes this libertarian tingle all over.

So what were we talking about, dildos? No wait, cell phones. Suffice it to say, Kate’s cell phone provider, the famed Verizon Wireless, sucks huge ass. Their website is agonizing to navigate, and in their member’s area it’s impossible to find out anything about your account. Such basic information as “When do my night minutes begin?” and “How much are roaming charges?” are so cleverly obfuscated that they’re all but inaccessible through the website.

You can contrast this with my own wireless provider, Sprint, whose attitude towards my monthly bill is so reassuring it’s chilling. Go ahead and talk all you want Dane (their website knows my name but not much else). Talk as much as you want. Hey, even talk more than you want. Here are some pictures of svelte dark-haired women in trendy dress shirts, to encourage you to talk even more.

Look! These models use our cellular phone service! Well actually, you can’t tell from the picture that they’re using Sprint. You can barely tell that they’re using a cell phone made by one of our affiliated manufacturers. But trust us, they are! And they have phone numbers! And since you’re using our wireless network, at some point you may accidentally be connected to one of them, and the two of you could start talking!

Of course this won’t ever happen, since it’s all dependent on highly-improbable solar activity matching up exactly with cellular network anomalies, not to mention the variables of your phone habits and the habits of our models … but we promise that the odds are non-zero!

Verizon: We never stop working with against you.
Sprint: Together with NEXTEL FUCKING MODELS.

The argument clearly goes in favor of Sprint, aside from one thing:

  1. Go to the Sprint website.
  2. Note the URL in your address bar.
  3. Note how you have been redirected to (or, since they don’t have any redirect rules if you access the site without the preceeding www).
  4. Think to yourself, “Isn’t .html so, like, Web 1.0?
  5. Now, go to the Verizon website.
  6. Note the URL in your address bar.
  7. Note how you have been redirected to
  8. Think to yourself, OMFG, Verizon has skipped Web 2.0 and gone straight for Web 22!
  9. Note that while beats out of the water, destroys the hell out of for having, among other things, semantic markup and user-generated content.


Last night we ran up into the foothills of Mount Hood and, in an effort to appease the winter gods, burned piles of skis at our Pray for Snow party.

It’s amazing how much of the stuff that goes into making a ski, how much of that toxic garbage just burns like hell when you lay torch to it. We also burned cardboard effigies of John Wayne and Fabio, the significance of which was ambiguous, beyond the fact that they were made out of cardboard and they weren’t nailed down. Which was really the reason we burned most of the shit we burned last night.

Once our plumes of black, acrid smoke are finished enveloping the globe and blocking out the sun, we’re bound to have a killer winter this year. That is, assuming that our attempt to decrease the global albedo wasn’t offset by our contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. Which is very likely.



I have safely arrived in Oregon, the state whose motto is Alis volat propriis, which means “She flies with her own wings, but only only after she has compiled a report regarding the environmental and economic impact of her flight, and only while using wings deemed safe by the state regulatory process.”

Yup, I’m in Hood River and I’m losing my mind it’s so freakin’ awesome to be back here. However, those of you aching for a long and thoughtful post where I reflect and wax poetic about the place that Oregon holds in my heart, well, ya’ll are going to be disappointed. I have a tall gin and tonic that says this post will be long, yes, longer than hell, but it will never be able to fight its way out of the baser levels of the human psyche.

As it were, this gin and tonic is starting to freak me out… an ice cube exploded and blew its bits all over my desk, nearly shattering the glass and tearing off my face in the process. For my own personal safety and out of respect for those who would care deeply if something awful were to befall me, it behooves that I finish this drink as quickly as possible.

And then get started on a Deschutes Inversion I.P.A.

Less than a week ago I finally dropped anchor here in Hood River after three solid days of driving across the country. I took the freeway this time, the same freeway I drove six times this past summer, in contrast to my previous Oregon/Minnesota excursions where I took the long and meandering route along Highway 12. Nevertheless I got to see a lot of awesome things, like the world’s largest androgynous holstein cow (New Salem Sue has horns and an udder), a 100-foot Virgin Mary towering over Butte, Montana, and most but not all of North Dakota.

I really enjoy living in this small town again. I love being able to walk downtown, hang out while eating a burrito, and talk to old friends as they wander by on the sidewalk. I love that Anna who runs Thai Winds still remembers my name, and even remembers my stint in Bend from all those years back. I love how my social calendar fills up not through articles in the Weekend section of the newspaper, but simply by chewing the fat with people in town.

I mean, the small town thing is rather panoptic at times… as my friend put it, you can fart in a store downtown, walk twenty blocks to Safeway, and someone in there will already be giggling at you. It wouldn’t be a good fit for the overly self-conscious, nor for those who are prone to rampant bridge-burning. But then, I’ve never really been any good at either, so thus far things are fine.

Also, I’m uber-stoked to say that my abode is fine, dandy and awesome. I was really nervous about what my place would be like, and it turns out that all the worrying was for naught. The bats (there aren’t nearly as many of them as I expected) are very well-behaved, and I’m quickly training them to be my bloodthirsty army of the night. My living space is so massive that I don’t know what to do with all the space (besides permanently installing a band, a rave and a halfpipe) and the view is absolutely killer. My windows (and deck, I have a freakin’ deck!) look out over the Columbia Gorge and the White Salmon River, and I can see Mount Adams from my dining table.

I’ve been unpacking stuff and stocking the kitchen and building wares from IKEA ever since I got here, and while I still have a long ways to go the abode is starting to pull itself together. I had a drift of crumpled newspaper in the living room that was four feet tall, and I’m still hauling piles of cardboard out to the recycle bin. I spent $50 on spices at the grocery store today, and now my kitchen is finally to the point where I can cook and prepare food.

I just realized tonight, however, that I don’t have any knives. For dinner I had to slice my french bread with a butter knife. I sliced the lime for my gin and tonic with my Leatherman. Another miserable trip to Wally-World may be in order, one with the sole intent of stocking the fuck up on cutlery. Hopefully I won’t have to put any of them to use while I’m still in the store, but my mental faculties have a sorry history of being able to deal effectually with the Hood River Wally-World.

But that’s a rant that might have to wait until martini night.


The application on my new place in Hood River went through, so I am now the proud lease-holder of… well… a lease. I’m moving into the upstairs unit of a duplex that in the last two years was completely remodeled with new applicances, new carpet, picture windows, a deck, and a killer view of the Columbia Gorge and Mount Adams and the White Salmon River.

Of course now that everything is dead and done, I can start wringing my hands and fretting myself into a frenzy. You see, I haven’t actually seen this place yet, and while I’ve been getting an awesome vibe from my new/future landlords, I still worry what I have committed myself to, sight-unseen. No doubt they’re worrying about me just the same. I mean, even some grainy digital photographs would have been comforting, but since that wasn’t an option for these folk I was forced to fly completely blind.

In all honesty, beyond satellite photos from Google Maps I don’t even know if this house exists. I very well may have put a security deposit down on a house that’s infested with bats, or has carpet made out of bent staples, or is in the process of burning to the ground. In hindsight my actions seem uninformed and hasty, but I can’t really see that I had any other options. There were a number of other available properties that I called about, but I got really bad vibes on all of them.

I could have moved to Hood River before securing a place to live, I suppose, but then I would have found myself burning money like crazy, renting storage space and shacking up in hotels and losing all my work productivity. Through all of this, my entire business infrastructure (computers and monitors and other expensive technical gewgaws) would have been rotting in my car, waiting for someone to walk by and pinch it.

No. I had to make a decision, and I think it is better this way. I hope.

Maybe this is a good sign. Whenever I feel like I’ve made the biggest and dumbest mistake of my life (moving to Hood River for the first time, moving to Bend to be a ski bum, taking the job at Alpine, starting Brainside Out) things have a way of working out anyway. They don’t necessarily turn out the way I had hoped or expected or even anticipated, but they typically turn out in a manner that I find acceptable.

What matters most is not that I always make the right decision, but that I’m learning throughout the entire process. Failure, as much as we go through life trying to minimize it, is often the best and most efficient teacher available. I’d be a fool to stop taking these risks in an effort to avoid failure altogether, because at that point my intellectual and creative growth would stagnate. I can live with dumb decisions, but I can’t live without making decisions.

So yeah, at this point I say bring on the fucking bats.