Archive for the 'Miscellany' category

I Know that Floating Shouldn’t Be Competitive, But…


“Wow, you made it the whole 90 minutes…Generally, a first time floater only makes it an hour.”

I couldn’t help but feel inordinately pleased when I heard these words, all the while resisting the urge to fist pump my triumph, which would have been unseemly for so many reasons, and completely not in the spirit of the experience.

My birthday treat this year? Deprivation — sensory deprivation, that is. I have always wanted to try one of those devices where you float in a tank with no sound, no light, and no movement, just me suspended in some super salty saline. So after a bit’o Internet searchin’, I came up with Mudra Massage, where they not only had a float tank, but they also practiced Ashiatsu massage:

“If you’re in need of deep tissue work, but don’t enjoy the discomfort of pointy elbows and thumbs, then Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy® is the treatment for you. Ashiatsu is a barefoot massage technique in which the therapist delivers deep, broad, consistent pressure while utilizing their feet and body weight.”

We had a winner! Sensory deprivation and then someone walking around on my back. Perfect.

I showed up for my appointment having followed their admonishments not to shave (my kinda place), drink caffeine, or get a tattoo prior to my float. I was ushered into a room with a shower and a giant pod that looked something like an astronaut return-to-earth space capsule. They gave me a few instructions, like where to place my head (near the fresh air input) and to relax my neck and shoulders (first time floaters will often tense to lift their head just a tiny bit to avoid the sensation of drowning).

Then it was just me, the shower, and the space capsule.

After a body wash, it was time to get in. Buck naked, I stepped into the hatch, gingerly, because it was super slippery, and lowered myself to my knees. Using the interior handle, I swung the hatch door down while simultaneously, and unceremoniously, falling onto my butt, enveloping myself in total, complete and utter darkness.


With a gentle recline, I lowered my back into the water until I was suspended in the briny solution, my head pushed down and my ears fully submerged. I could see nothing and I could hear only my breathing and the sound of my own heartbeat.

My first fluster had to do with where to put my hands. If I placed them along my hips, the buoyancy of the water would push my shoulders into an aggressive shrug — not comfortable at all. When I flipped my hands up and opened my arms wide, the edges of my fingers would brush up against the sides of the tank, which ruined the feeling of weightlessness. Finally, I raised my hands over my head — BINGO! Comfort at last. I figured, at that point, I would relax right into it and enter a Zen-like state.

Nope. No Zen-like state.

Instead, I started thinking about the return air. I wondered if it was working and how I would know if it wasn’t? I started thinking that it might be good to monitor myself for carbon monoxide poisoning…then I began trying to remember what the symptoms were and wished I had a “floating buddy” like I used to have when diving, to keep an eye out for nitrogen narcosis. This led to an entire fantasy about how it would make an interesting death in a James Bond movie to have a villain in a deprivation tank. A crow bar through the handles on the outside and the person inside wouldn’t be able to leave. Then you plug off the exterior air return…a horrible slow death in the space capsule.

As you can imagine, these lines of contemplation were not leading to a relaxing experience.

After what I estimate to be about 45 minutes of obsessive “I am going to die in the space capsule” thoughts, I began to have a mini hot flash. Game over. I decided to open the tank so that cool air could wash over my face. I sat up, and experienced a momentary bit of panic because I couldn’t locate the interior hatch handle! (I had turned in the tank and was not facing entirely forward.) A short burst of pawing in the dark and I pinpointed the handle, pushed it free of the capsule, and propped it open enough to gulp down some refreshing air.

As good as it felt to spring that hatch, to be honest, it also seemed that my need to burst free was somehow cheating…the process…me…I’m not sure. How silly is that?

A minute or two later, I returned to the tank. And what a difference that break made.

I laid back and immediately entered a Zen state, experiencing crazy physical hallucinations. There was a long stretch of time where I would have sworn I was a suspended in a giant bowl of jello…and I would occasionally gently press down on the water, and enjoy moving in the jiggling jello. At other times, I woke myself up with a snore or with body twitches. And later, I believed 100% I was laying on my bed — that there was something physically underneath me more substantial and much harder than the water. And perhaps it was the salt drying on my stomach, but soon after that, I swore a blanket had been thrown over the top of me.

These sensations were not alarming, rather I marveled at them.

This second half of floating literally flew by, until I was brought out of my Zen slumber by soft music emanating from the bottom of the tank. (I bet the astronauts didn’t have that.)

Would I do it again? I don’t know. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely. Was it a great birthday experience? Yeppers.

And of course, now I’m going to have to talk Tom and the Zs into trying it too!

Zelda’s First Protest, Rocking it Portland Style


What’s a Portland Mom to do when her husband and oldest daughter are away in Medford for a soccer tournament during Memorial Day weekend? Why take her youngest daughter out to experience her first protest, of course!

In the spirit of protesting GMOs and Monsanto, Zelda and I armed ourselves with art supplies, constructed a few homemade posters (pictured above) and repaired to the Lloyd District for some Democracy in action. And, we would be remiss if we didn’t credit Alexander Rokoff for giving us permission to use some of his images from the War on Nature painting series. A huge thank you, Alex, because everyone loved that sign! (Click to enlarge and see the sign on the left inspired by his art work.)

After finishing our stint, I filmed the melee that was the finish line, condensing it down into moments that were memorable for us, including:

  • For my parents, the bee protestors. At 11 seconds.
  • Dude in sunglasses, shorts, and backward baseball cap who takes off running, flips a double bird, and yells, “Fuck Monsanto!” At 15 seconds.
  • The cute older lady with the dog that Zelda and I met riding the streetcar to the protest. At 20 seconds.
  • The guy in the construction/hazmat suit finding love. At 26 seconds.
  • The mad scientists. At 40 seconds.
  • The woman with the pig snout and the bunny ears. At 45 seconds.
  • The Portlandia exacta…a protestor in pajamas (there’s always someone running around in PJs in Portland), and a circus performer contact juggling crystal balls (another Portland staple). At 56 seconds.
  • Alexander Rokoff admirers digging his artwork on our sign. At 1:07 minutes.
  • Requisite drum led chanters. At 1:30 minutes.
  • Protest selfie!! At 1:51 minutes.
  • Matching hazmat suits for this couple. At 2:02 minutes.
  • Corporate exploitation of protest to expose hot thirsty walkers to yerba mate drink. (Which, incidentally, tasted nothing like a real yerba mate.) At 02:14 minutes.
  • Wonderful woman with retro camera documenting us documenting the event. At 02:19 minutes.
  • Free chalk! At 02:27 minutes.

Zoe Pong!

Zoe went to #OSCON (Open Source Convention) in Portland this July, attending a robotics camp for girls. Since most of the stuff they worked on with Lego Mindstorms she had already done at home, she found the most thrilling element of the conference to be swag acquisition.

She came home with bags of t-shirts, mugs, mouse pads, and strangely, a ping pong ball. Yes, a ping pong ball. And not just any ping pong ball! This one came complete with a picture of a little masked ninja face on the side, as you can see in the picture above.

One day, this ball provided her with a flash of boredom-relieving inspiration, and she announced, “I am going to make ping pong paddles.”

“Please don’t,” I pleaded, picturing that ill gotten little ball ricocheting around our apartment, and then into my head. By accident, of course.

Big surprise, Zoe ignored me, and with some tongue depressors, paper, and duct tape, she made two ping pong paddles. Amazingly, they functioned perfectly to allow for a robust game of Zoe Pong on our dining room table, since the paddles absorbed enough of the ball’s velocity to allow the game to scale down just the right amount. I hate to admit it, but both Tom and I became big fans of Zoe Pong, and had some epic matches ourselves! (Okay, we don’t officially keep score. We get so competitive, it could get a little too heated!)

After Tom, the Zs and I all took a turn, we agreed unanimously: “Ian is going to love this!” You can see him taking some shots in the picture here!

Bruise Wheels, Black Eyes & Totally Disgusting Weeping Open Wounds!

We were excited this year when Maker Faire came to Portland, albeit in mini form! The kids enjoyed watching the watermelon launched by the giant catapult with the fancy french name…trebuchet! They made some adorable animals out of sculpting chocolate, pedal-powered their own smoothies on some bicycle blenders, and, of course, went in for some obligatory faire face painting.

Only in this case, it was Trackers style. Yes, that’s right. Trackers, or what I call hippie survival camp, which the Zs love. (The girls said they do a zombie apocalypse camp, how cool is that?)

Anyhow, Trackers had a booth at Mini Maker Faire and they were doing some awesome horrorfilmesque face painting that was a draw for old and young alike. Truth be told, it was a bit strange to see wee little tots in line for fake wounds and bruising!

Of course, the girls were instantly smitten with the concept, and placed themselves in line as Tom wandered off to peruse a few uber geeky booths we might find boring.

Zoe quickly made it to the front of the line (the artist was fast), plunked down in the chair and declared, “I would like an open cut on my arm.” The makeup whiz asked me if I had a kleenex, which I did not. But a bystander offered what I hope was an unused napkin, which she declared, “Perfect!”

This Michelangelo of the Macabre ripped a piece of the napkin, placed it on Zoe’s arm, and then sealed it to Zoe’s skin with liquid latex, leaving a line through the center raised and unattached to Zoe. Then, she began to color over it with her makeup brush from a circular palette she called her “bruise wheel!” It looked shockingly real very quickly, the napkin appearing to be peeled back layers of skin.

The icing on the cake, if you will, came when she split open the raised bit of napkin and filled the resulting trough with her special concoction of fake blood (a formulation of chocolate syrup, corn syrup and food coloring). It was disgusting, as you can see in the staged pictures below.

Zelda was next on the docket, and she requested a black eye. The makeup whiz whipped that thing out in a mere minute or two, explaining in detail to Zelda how the bones shatter and the resulting bruise pattern that occurs with a hard strike to the eye socket.

“I don’t know how to do pretty makeup,” she chatted with Zelda. “When I got married, my friends had to do do all the princess work…I only know how to do the scary stuff!”

With my disturbingly wounded lovelies in tow, we set off to find Tom.

It didn’t take long for the tall guy to spot us from a distance, his face lighting up when he saw us approaching. As we came into focus though, his hand went to his heart and he visibly staggered upon seeing the girls, so realistic was the effect. I thought he was going to have a heart attack, which, naturally, was a bonus in the eyes of our darling children!

The walk back to the car drew a lot of shocked glances and outright gawking. Clearly the highlight of Maker Faire for the Zs, and also an interesting experience, to see how fellow pedestrians interacted with their injured selves.

Tea, Timers, Starfish & Coffee

Sometimes, the old fashioned way just feels better.

Tom and I have developed a bit of a tea habit. We like white teas, and green teas, and black teas, and ginger teas. (Although I am lazy about loose leaf. I tend to buy high quality bagged tea, such as Mighty Leaf and Tea Forte.)

We like tea pots too. The small Japanese tea pot. The smaller Chinese tea pot. The big dragon-themed tea pot that I inherited from my Grandmother (which has the faces in the cups, I posted about earlier).

What we don’t like is boiling our water, steeping our tea…and then forgetting about it. For some reason, we just don’t use our watch timers, or our electronic kitchen timer that sits right by the stove.

I’m not sure why, but digital just doesn’t seem to jibe with the process of making and sipping and appreciating tea.

So there we were, middle-aged farts with the short-term memory of fruit flies (we like to blame this on the children) who were letting their tea over steep…sometimes for half an hour!

What to do?

Tom found the perfect solution in my Christmas present last year: an old-fashioned, totally retro, bright yellow mechanical timer. We all love it, and somehow, it seems to fit perfectly with the ceremony that is tea drinking.

As an added bonus, the sound of the timer reminds us all of the bell that rings at the beginning of Starfish and Coffee, by Prince.

Perfect, since it’s one of our favorite family songs!

No, These Turtles are not Humping!

I had the most fantastic surprise in the mail yesterday! Four gorgeous, fabulous smelling turtle soaps, lovingly handcrafted by my aunt Leslie.

She is an incredibly talented and generous woman who thought the Zs and I would enjoy a little handmade Shea Butter and Aloe Vera soap.

Leslie, you were right! We do enjoy! We are enjoying!

For the record, I would like to say that the Zs practically got in a wrestling match in their excitement over which soap to claim for their bathroom. And, Leslie, you will be happy to know that living with 3 women has rubbed off on Tom, and he appreciates a non-drying hand soap as much as the next guy!

I also wanted to get a plug in for my aunt’s Etsy store. She makes some of the most gorgeous wooden crafts. Her cutting boards with inlaid turquoise–a great Mother’s Day gift.

Thanks Leslie for making my week!!

Stop…I mean Start…the Presses!

In Portland, we have a wonderful store, if you adore paper arts and letterpress. It’s called Oblation Paper and Press. I was lucky enough to take a letterpress class there a while ago, working with those incredible old machines and wooden letter blocks (I made a postcard-sized thank you card that said “Danke”).

Anyhow, our current downsized lifestyle, which I adore, does not really include room for a turn-of-the-century, gigantic, zillion pound letterpress machine! (Maybe when the Zs depart…) So, I didn’t think playing with letterpress would be in my future.

Then, Tom gifted me with the crafter-sized QuicKutz Epic 6 letterpress and die cutter this Christmas.

Before even using it, I have to say that I enjoyed reading all of the reviews. I traveled back in time, via the Interwebs, to the moment of its launch to see what reactions were when it first came out. The outraged posts on the part of professional letterpress artists about this innocuous little machine surprised the heck out of me. I am not sure what they found so threatening. I would think it would only expand people’s appreciation for, and understanding of, this incredible art.

The consumer reviews were definitely entertaining. My personal favorite was the complaint that to use it, you would continue to have to purchase supplies. Does a tube of paint came with an inexhaustible supply of canvas? Of course not. Think of it this way, you are buying a tool with a minimum amount of supplies to get started. Also, many complained, “I got it out of the box and it didn’t work perfectly on the first print.”

Welcome to letterpress!

When I took my class at Oblation, the pros had to use a ton of tricks and tweaks to get great results. Every machine had its own personality. Don’t expect home letterpress to be any different.

There are some good posts about modifying the machine, and about other’s experiences with it, including this one from Boxcar, here from Paper Crave, and lastly Viva la Blogette’s review.

Mine own first pass reactions after spending a few hours with the machine several weeks ago are below. Above is a photo of some of the results I got with the Epic 6 during that time.

  1. I was able to get passable results pretty quickly out of the box, particularly with the finer letters and lines.

  2. The plates that are included are uber low quality. When I opened the box, several of the stock images were dramatically warped and completely unusable.

  3. The brayer that was included worked fine for me, particularly on narrow text. In fact, for this, I preferred it to the fancier 6″ one I purchased on the recommendations above. I am curious to order plates from Boxcar though, and use the larger brayer with some guides. This will be the key to good results with larger inked areas, which are hard to coat evenly with the smaller brayer.

  4. I had no problem with cracking plates, as others did. But, I didn’t print any large runs. Also, I didn’t press boundaries in terms of increasing the impression depth.

  5. Watching a video or two beforehand is definitely helpful.

  6. You will definitely want more color than the solo black tube included with the kit, so buy an array of ink ahead of time if you can!

  7. Make sure you have lots of time to play the first time you take it out of the box. It’s addictive!

Wow, Sunrise Is Cool!

If only I had known how beautiful you are Mr. Sunrise, perhaps I would have dragged my ass out of bed a bit more often to see you! I suppose it is lucky that I live in the Pacific Northwest, where it gets light late enough in the winter that I had the chance to be mesmerized by the sun pouring over the horizon as I strolled over the Steele Bridge on my way to a morning meeting. It was a clear, cold winter day and the view made me stop and haul out my cell to snap a few pix. I don’t know that I have been more entranced by the vista of downtown Portland, or the Willamette River, than I was at that moment. These are the times that I am exceedingly pleased not to have a car, for if I did, I would have missed this entirely.

Bike Sixty Nine




Cars Should Be Called Fatmobiles!

As most of you know, we made the decision to move back to Portland as renters, living center city, without a car, plunking our children in their neighborhood public schools. And, we made it through last winter, spring soccer, and various summer camps sans vehicle. We were proud. But, as we all know, pride goeth before the fall.

Autumn arrived, and school started anew for the Zs, who were to be on two different campuses, playing soccer in two different leagues that called for four separate practices during the week and two to three soccer games every weekend. My parents were kind enough to loan us a vehicle when this crazy schedule began, and we planned to use it just until we worked through our various transportation challenges.

We began our brief stint of car possession with earnest promises to ourselves.

“We will only use it in place of the Zipcar. We won’t drive anywhere that we would typically walk, bus, streetcar, or bike.”

We super promised each other. But, somewhere along the way, someone must have been crossing their fingers because we learned, the hard way, that when you have a car at your disposal, when it’s parked right downstairs, you opt for efficiency and forget about walking altogether.

“Just this once, it’s so much faster…”

After less than a month, I am sad to say, we almost had fully regressed to the habits of the car owned. Tom knew we had jumped the shark when he drove the 6 blocks to Hot Lips Pizza to pick up food for the kids one night.

Aghast, we called my parents and asked them to take the car back, posthaste. They couldn’t do it for a few weeks, and we were in a panic. No lie, over that month-and-a-half, Tom and I each gained about ten pounds.

I am happy to report that we are again car free these days. (Although still very appreciative for the loan, Mom and Dad!) Yes, it is rainy, stormy, misty, and awful out, but we couldn’t be happier to be biking, walking, and streetcarring once more. The photos you see here in this post were taken on recent walks going about my daily routine — not moments one experiences from a car. I love the organic imprints left by leaves and rain on the sidewalk, which I snapped on the walk to my gym. And, this bare little tree with its few bright orange leaves still clinging to branches provided a stunning contrast to the driving wind and rain that marked a recent trek across the Willamette River on the Steel Bridge as I made my way to a work meeting. Truly, it was exhilarating!