05 October 2009

32nd Birthday Activities

I've decided to try updating Coffee Flitters more regularly, and with more mundane activities since they probably mean more to you than they do to me. What I mean is, I get a kick out of reading about your daily routine. Whether it be where you decided to go for brunch, to your new veggie garden, to the funny thing your wee one got up to. Such tiny moments that you may not think are worth noting mean the world to me, so I figured maybe the street went both ways: maybe those things that I don't take the time to note are things that might make you all giggle.

Anyway, it's my birthday, so I'm going to go for a bike ride around the sea wall with Ami. I'll post another update with some pictures if I get around to it.

16 June 2009

Oregon Trail, Interlude ::Pics Thus Far

This is turning into a bit of an epic, eh? Here's it's been nearly a month since we got back from Oregon, and I'm only getting to the first night! Ha! What a crazy thing, Love is.

So instead of more tales of 'whoa,' I thought I'd post some of the photos we took of the trip up to where I've posted. Which is to say, Day One.

Click here to view our photos (so far) on Picasa.

11 June 2009

Oregon Trail, Pt. 3, Astoria and Beyond

For those of you who grew up in the 80s, you can probably guess by the photo where this is going. From the moment Ami and I drove into Astoria, I was haunted by nostalgia: I had seen this place before--or at least parts of it--although I had never been to Oregon, let alone Astoria. It wasn't until we had driven our van a few kilometers out of town, at a look-out point, that it all fell into place.

Astoria was where The Goonies was filmed.

If I had known how to back-flip, I would have done one. The Goonies! Of course! And for the next hour my long term memory high-jacked my short term and took it for a joy ride down memory lane. I quoted scenes and replayed actions sequences like I had just viewed the 'ol flick. We dubbed them "The Goonies Rocks." Partly because we didn't (yet) know what they were called, and partly because it was just plain fun.

The rest of the trip was kinda boring after that.

No, I'm kidding. This little hallelujah was a mere blip on the radar compared to the rest.

That night we camped an a spit called Nehalem Bay, and it made me miss New Zealand. Here's why. When Americans go camping--and I'm generalizing here, but it's my blog, and I can bloody well do what I want--they tend to bring their homes with them. To the modern Yankee vagabond, the idea of pitching a tent is repulsive. And why would you want to when you can hitch up a mobile apartment to your Ford F350? I remember when I was younger and my family would go camping around the lakes in Kansas: these people were there then, too. While we were hauling arm loads of driftwood and kindling from the rocky beaches of Fall River Lake, there were a half-dozen "campers" lighting their gas grills and watching TV. It made us laugh then, but I think it took Ami by surprise. We couldn't walk 10 meters without her muttering, "Jesus Christ," or, "Holy God Almighty," or "Oh holy Jesus Fu"--well, you get the point. It was a religious experience.

Since the campground at Nehalem Bay catered to RVs and trailers, the ground was mostly paved. Yet a short walk around the toilets and we were standing amongst dunes pocketed with marram grass and white sand, peering around dramatic cliffs toward the Pacific. Equipped with 40oz of Pabst Blue Ribbon ($2 each from the corner store!), we whiled away the evening singing country songs and snapping photos. For a moment, I forgot I was ever anyplace else.

03 June 2009

Oregon Trail, Pt. 2.5, The Lazy Post

I just took a cold shower. And I mean just now, not in the context of the Oregon trip. I took a cold shower, cracked open a beer, and promptly chopped it like I was at a college kegger. It's been that kind of day. I'd love to tell you more about it, but I think I was talking about something else here. Where was I? Oh, yes: Astoria.

Soon after driving over the Astoria-Megler bridge, I was haunted by a lingering deja-vu. It wriggled into my senses and hung there like a sneeze that can't decide whether to come or go. Was there something about the double-story homes: their proximity to each other, how they peered through the hill top pines? Or was it the angle of the street to the sea? I just couldn't put my finger on it. It was as though some distant memory was projecting the town against a screen like a slide show or a reel of dusty celluloid.

I kept driving. Astoria was behind us in a matter of minutes, but the answer to the mystery still lay ahead.

26 May 2009

Oregon Trail Pt.2, The Reality

In the Oregon Trail video game, the first thing you do is load your wagon. From what I recall, you need to ensure you buy plenty of essentials from the general store before embarking; things like axles, ammunition, and salted pork. You also need to buy a wagon and horses, the modern equivalent of which is renting a vehicle, which I did. But from the moment I went to pick up our car, I knew our Oregon Trip was going to be very different from the Oregon Trail.

First of all, nobody died of dysentery (I credit our trusty first aid kit for this one. Not that I had to use it, mind you. The simple fact a first-aid kit is near is enough to keep dysentery at bay). Secondly, our car was not exactly what we reserved.

We had booked the cheapest economy on the menu. On the website it shows a little Toyota Echo, but in fine print it says "or equivalent." This gives the rental company quite a wide berth, in my opinion, for what is the equivalent of an Echo? A golf cart? I mean, think about it: the very name of the car suggests it isn't so much a vehicle as the distant reverberations of a car that was. Luckily, they didn't have the tiny economy car we booked, nor did they have an equivalent. In fact, they didn't have anything save for a 7-seater Dodge mini-van. It was a 2009 model, so the back seats folded right into the floor. No muss, no fuss.

I know some folks would have been miffed at the fact they booked a rice burner and got a guzzler instead. Not me. All I saw in that minivan was reprieve: the bigger the cargo space, the less I had to worry about packing "neatly." When I got the car home I was packed in record time, needing only to fold all the seats down, open the side door, and, in heaping armfuls, load the whole kit and caboodle.

It was actually smooth sailing from then on. We didn't have any driving problems at all. Well, except at the US/Canada border where I was harassed for having avocados in the car. "You can't smuggle food into America," the guard said sternly. He didn't seem to agree with my assertions that, since the avocados were clearly labeled 'grown in California' I was technically just returning them. Oh well. We were down two avocados; at least we got to keep the pears (I implore someone to please explain this to me).

After staying with friends in Seattle (Nick, Pete and little Harper), we were on the road to Oregon. Our plan was to take the back roads and ultimately camp on Oregon's northwestern coast. We picked a spot called Nehalem Bay, both for its proximity to the beach and its proximity to Portland. Getting to Nehalem took us out to the southwest corner or Washington state. There, we cross the world's longest truss bridge and end up in Astoria, Oregon.

But it was in Astoria that things got weird.

21 May 2009

Oregon Trail, Pt. 1: The Legend

From the time we arrived in Vancouver folks have been telling us about the various must-sees of the area. Many pointed us to Stanley Park, while others took us out to some of the surrounding islands. Yet there is one place every Canadian agreed we had to visit: Oregon.

For me, Oregon found a home in my psyche when I was ten-years-old by way of a black-and-white, 2D video game, "Oregon Trail." The game was a test of courage, a measure of one's boyhood, and a glorious waste of time. It was also one of 30 games in a rotation for the entire fifth grade to use during Computer Lab; that one hour each Tuesday and Thursday when our sticky, prepubescent fingers meddled with the bits and bytes of fortune. Or, as was most often the case, when our under developed hands cramped up from repeatedly keystroking "control + open-apple + escape" on large, plastic-covered Apple II keyboards.

The games rotated every lab. Most of them, though, could hardly be called "games": disks with one single program meant to teach a skill: math, spelling, math, addition, subtraction, math. That's what I remember, anyway. I was always being handed 8-inch floppies with names like "Numbers and Grids", or "The Path for Math, Vol. 8." It's a wonder my math skills are so poor.

So, 26 kids in my grade, and 30 floppy disks to get passed around. Our teacher, we soon realized, had a mind-bending rotation system that involved a blend of quantum mechanics, multiple alphabets, and alchemy. None of us were certain whose turn it was to play Oregon Trail, so the long walk from our classroom to the computer lab often involved hushed, although vigorous and somewhat questionable, bouts of bribery. This was between the boys, mostly; the girls didn't seem to care about Oregon Trail, and I truly believe it was this fact alone that was at the heart of the divorce between Michael McHart and Christy Berry some 15 years later.

One only knew it was his or her our turn on the Trail when Mrs. Shaw delivered the floppy disk. Enveloped carefully in a green protective sleeve, the edges worn from hundreds of unfoldings, the disk descended as if by its own accord onto the table. I'm not sure Mrs. Shaw even set it down: rather, it floated from her freckled fingers as if magnetically drawn to the disk drive.

Legend was, nobody had ever reached Oregon. Ever. Some said it was impossible. Others, that there was a glitch in the game, and the moment you reached the border, it would freeze up, and you would have to re-boot. But real reason nobody had finished Oregon Trail was simple: it was impossible to beat in one hour.

Until one Spring afternoon when I did.

01 May 2009

You're a Paean, Design

A few months ago, my good (dare I say "best") friend Phil sent me a website layout. Phil, you see, is good at just about everything he does. He's not necessarily what you'd call a "natural" (although he has plenty of talent), rather he simply can't stand the idea of being second best. When he decides to learn something (a sport, a game, a discipline), he doesn't rest until he's mastered it. While I tend to stop at "good enough", Phil continues. He hunts his pursuits: tracks their movements, understands their nuances; chases them until they're captured, killed, skinned. He wears his abilities like fur: they are necessary, and they are trophies.

So when I need anything--even when I don't know exactly what I need--I will ask Phil because I know his passion won't allow him to respond until he's exhausted all avenues. I've asked him for website mockups before, and he's always delivered layouts beyond my expectations. Yet this particular design was different: I hadn't requested it. Phil had tinkered away at a new design for my own personal portfolio, and I'm using this platform to say "thank you."

I've spend the past month building the code. During lunch hours, on weekends, and in between projects I've engineered his design. Electrifying the body, so to speak. So if you have a sec, check out the new look at lovezapp.com and tell me what you think. And don't be nice. Be honest to the point of being hurtful; it's the only way it'll learn.

24 April 2009

Having Friends Means Having Them Around

Jamie in a red t-shirt

Spring is spranging in Vancouver, and Ami and I have been busy entertaining more guests. For those of you just tuning in, our apartment in Kitsilano has been a regular youth hostel--and we couldn't be happier. The most recent lodgers were a pair of Kiwi girls visiting from Scotland: Deb, an old friend of Ami, and Charlotte. Due to our work schedule, most of the time the girls made their own way, but we were there to provide maps, bus tickets, and vouchers for various local attractions. We really liked having them stay, and we can't wait until Deb returns in October.

We also have more friends coming to stay this weekend. Jimmy K and Nicole were the other Kiwi couple who came to Vancouver to live, only to transplant to the far north for a more authentic Canadian experience (far north being Yellowknife, where the winter temperature is regularly between -20 and -40). I'm looking forward to hanging out with them this weekend. Even the most benign activity can go off the rails when we're with those two (see Darts post below).

I promised to tell you all about our trip to Las Vegas, but I haven't got the photos up on my Picasa album yet. Notice I didnt' say Facebook. I deleted my Facebook account last month, so I'm using Picasa to share photos now--which is better because you don't need a Picasa account to see the photos I've posted. So yeah: Facebook is soooooo 2006; Twine and Twitter are the new black.

Deb, Ami, and Charlotte

19 March 2009

One More Go on the Old Mountain

One of the best parts of living in Vancouver is the easy access to snowboarding. Considering Cypress Mountain is only thirty minutes away, and also considering we paid for season passes to this very mountain, I'm a little disappointed we only went snowboarding a few days. So when a Spring blizzard blew through BC, we made our best effort to have one more go before the park closed.

Snowboarding with Ami has always been a challenge. Her skill level far surpasses mine, and it's no wonder: she's been on either skis or a snowboard since she was seven. My Kansas childhood spent ice skating the frozen streets of East Wichita doesn't quite match her years on the snow. I've been chasing her since I strapped in to my first snowboard on Coronet Peak in 2004. Five years on, and I can follow her down the mountain just about anywhere.

Spring is a breath away. I promise to boost my efforts on blog updates from here on.

Check out a few choice shots of this season's snow activities.

18 February 2009

Darts with Tama, Jimmy K, Nicole, and Ami

We've recently hosted a few friends as they've wandered through our neck of the continent. After Christmas, Holly and Scot (Ami's sister and her husband) stayed with us for ten days. With them we tried to head up Cypress Mountain as much as possible, and even made a special trip to Whistler to get in even more snowboarding.

Next was an ex colleague of Ami's, Anna Marie, and her friend Amanda. The pair have spent the last year seeing as much of Canada as they can. Coinciding with their trip as our friend Tama from Wellington, and during his stay two other Wellington pals: Jimmy K and Nicole. It was with these last three that we went out on Valentine's Day for a night of darts and drinking. It troubled us many times during the evening why people would provide us with first alcohol, and then sharp projectiles.

The movie was inspired by Jimmy K, who also chose the song (Beastie Boys's "Sure Shot"). Enjoy.