Category: Weekly Update

2 Camps, an Ignite and Erlang

Last week was a busy one.

On Tuesday, I attended PublicMediaCamp, hosted by Oregon Public Broadcasting. Audrey led a session on location-based reporting and tools for reporting on local tech (sort of a hybrid session), for which I took some notes. During the second hour, Reid, Audrey and I had a good chat with Morgan Holm about running a membership-based organization.

WhereCamp PDX 2010 Schedule Board

Thursday night was IgnitePortland 9. I didn’t have an volunteer responsibilities this time around, but Sherri was the speaker wrangler, so I showed up early to see how she was doing. Some of my favorite talks this time around were “The vowel “R”, and other linguistic curiosities“, “Gypsy Jazz” and “Carl Alviani – Not Created Equal: The history and discernment of plastics in product design.”

Friday I attended the WhereCampPDX kick-off party at OpenSourcery for a bit and the Saturday I managed the registration desk during the unconference portion at Metro. I don’t know a lot about geography-related tech, but it was nice to be able to help out.

Einstein's Head

Yesterday was the last day of OMSI’s Einstein exhibit, so we made sure to stop by and check it out. I’ve recently read Walter Isaacson‘s biography of Einstein, so not a lot of the information in the exhibit was new. However, it was still very cool to see a few things like Einstein’s nobel medal and his handwritten papers on relativity and such.

I also picked up a used copy of Joe Armstrong‘s Programming Erlang and have been working my way through it. (I’ve been intereted in learning a purely functional language and a friend suggested Erlang,or Haskell). So far I’m enjoying it, despite the fact that (or because ?) it’s mind-bending at times. One thing that strikes me is how terse the language can be. And it’s making understand anonymous functions in a whole new way.

And, of course, no weekend is complete without at least one cat-assisted nap:

Sunday afternoon cuddle with Puck

Bronchitis, Moving, and Gardening

Life since early March has been a bit of a blur. A large part of this was due to the fact that I came down with a bad cold that turned into a lingering case of bronchitis. I’m  new to this kind of respiratory distress and so I waited way too long to go to the doctor. Eventually I did and my doctor diagnosed me with a mild case of bronchitis and sent me on my way with a handful of new prescriptions. Albuterol, a steroidal inhaler and even vicodin for the cough. On top of my normal regimen of allergy medications, I feel like a walking pharmacy. But the drugs appear to be working, albeit slowly. I’m feeling more energetic, am able to breath clearly and an coughing.

In the middle of all this bronchitis stuff, I moved in with my partner Sherri. I do not recommend moving while sick if it can be helped. I hired movers, but even then it took me forever to pack my tiny studio and even longer than forever to get it unpacked (we’re still opening boxes and sorting through stuff). But I love living in a house again (for the first time, really, since leaving my parents home when I was 17). Having all the extra space available is wonderful. Having a yard is a privilege I adore. Though, I’m realizing how expensive home ownership and maintenance can be. We spent several hundred at Home Depot this month just to get the yard and garden in shape. And we’ve still so much to do.

But the garden is simply lovely. The state of the yard when I moved in was fairly over grown. The blackberries emanating from the corner of the yard were threatening to take over. The raised beds built last year were either unfinished or completely full of weeds. The first sunny weekend available to us, Sherri and I attacked the yard with furry. I demolished the insidious blackberries. We yanked weeds out of the beds. We bought dirt, lots of dirt. So much dirt in fact that Sherri did not think it would fit in my little Toyota pick up (it totally fit, barely). We filled the beds and mixed in compost. Because it’s already so late in the season, we opted to buy starts, most of which came from the Portland Nursery. In fact, we went a little crazy with the number of starts we bought and had to get creative about where to put them. We have a half dozen varieties of tomatoes (including one called pineapple that I’m very excited about), peppers, summer squash, some heirloom eggplants, bush and pole beans, winter squash, a melon and an heirloom cantaloupe, and various greens. I take great delight in watering everything each morning, looking for signs of new growth. I August and September we’re going to have more fruits and veggies than we know what to do with! We also planted a handful of annuals and perennials in the front yard.

During Memorial Weekend, Sherri and I were supposed to attend a couples retreat together at Great Vow Zen Monastery. But, Atari is in the middle of treatment for a urinary tract infection and may also have diabetes. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving town while his diagnosis was still up in the air. So, we elected to stay home. Knowing that we were now going to be in town, a good friend from college decided to visit. We ended up taking two mini road trips, one to Hood River and the other to the Coast, with a detour to pick strawberries. Sherri good some good photos and also wrote about it here and again here.

Somehow during all of this I managed also to give a talk on CodeIgniter at the April meeting of Code ‘n’ Splode and I volunteered at this year’s BarCamp. I also finished a volunteer project that I’d been working on — the website for a friend’s NGO, the International Cardiovascular Health Alliance.

Things aren’t going to get any quieter anytime soon. Next month I’m volunteering for and speaking at OSBridge, a conference for open source citizens. My Zen community is also holding a founder’s dinner for our Portland Center. Sherri and I will be attending and helping out with that. Because I haven’t seen my family since Christmas, Sherri and I are going to Sacramento the weekend after my birthday. I’m not looking forward to the sweltering Sacramento heat, but it will be nice to see everyone and get to show Sherri my old ‘hoods. We’ll probably take a side trip to Davis so I can show her the campus and town. I’m sure it will be a shock to me how much Davis has grown since I left (it always is).

And all of that is happening in June!

Update: Here’s a photo of the garden:


Weekly Update: 11 January

It felt good to get back to routine this week after the disruption of snowpocalypse and the holidays. I do enjoy those adventures, but find that I miss the touchstones of practice (work, yoga, zazen) that normally comprise my week. I feel strange and cluttered without them.

So on Monday is was nice to go into the office. I have three office mates, but was still the only one working in the office. I would be joined on Tuesday by one of my office mates, which was nice. It gets lonely when I am there for several days at a time by myself. Tuesday night Sherri and I met for lunch and walked over to Whole Foods to enjoy lunch in their eating area (which has the microwave that my office lacks). I enjoyed some leftover bbq rice and beans while Sherri enjoyed a tofu salad with pita.

On Wednesday we both went to our usual level 1 class at Prananda yoga. I haven’t done yoga it a couple of weeks and it felt great. A nice easy class. Afterwards we made a yummy ginger stir-fry with black-eyed peas and barley.

Thursday was a busy day. I worked at home in the morning and then had back-to-back web development meetings in the afternoon. The later meeting was to work on the site plan for my sangha’s new website. I’m very excited to be working on this project. I think it’s an area to which I can contribute in a way that will be very beneficial for our members. This motivates me and keeps me very focused on making steady forward progress.

Friday I also worked at home, developing the database schema for the rewrite of a client’s web application. I’m also enjoying working on this project. It’s the first time I’ve been able to work closely with another developer, and I like the energy that our collaboration brings. I also worked with the veterinarian to get Atari some medication for his UTI (for which I noticed symptoms the previous night).

Saturday was a ‘me’ day. I spent the whole day at home reading and relaxing. I read Gregory Berns’ Iconoclast and started Percival Everett’s The Water Cure.  Sherri arrived after her yoga teacher training and we enjoyed a dinner of roasted delicata squash with sauteed zucchini over quinoa. We also watched the first part of The Story of India.

On Sunday after Sherri taught yoga while I ran errands, we visited the Portland Art Museum where we tried to see the Wild Beauty exhibit which was closing today. Unforunately we’d procrastinated too long and no more tickets were available for this limited exhibition. We recovered from our brief disappointment and had a nice time looking at the Asian and Native American art exhibits.

Right now I’m waiting for Sherri to arrive home after a staff meeting. The apartment smells wonderful because I have an Andean Squash and Bean stew simmering on the stove.

Next week looks to be very busy. There’s the the GeekGirls lunch on Monday that I’ve wanted to attend for a while, but haven’t made the time. And then Full Moon Yoga that evening. On Tuesday there are two user groups meetings that I must decide between: the PHP user group and the Portland Data Plumber’s group. I’m more interested the the latter, so that’s probably the one I’ll attend.

And of course Battlestar Galactica starts its final run this Friday! Sherri and I haven’t figured out where we’re watching it quite yet. The Baghdad is showing it, so that’s one possibility.

Weekly Update: 4 January

My plan is to write a weekly update every Sunday. This is the first one.

Why a weekly update? As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my Ango commitments was to start a daily writing practice. I didn’t do so well at this commitment. I wrote here and there, but not even close to every day. So I’m setting a slightly more manageable goal: to write at least weekly (per blog, ideally). Once I’m doing this on a regular basis, I can work on increasing the frequency gradually until I’m writing every day.

Last week was fairly busy. It was the first time in over two weeks that I worked in my office, and even then only during part of the day. The office is cold and lonely. My office mates haven’t been working there due to the weather and holidays as well. I interviewed a few developers for an open contract position that I have open.

On Wednesday (New Year’s Eve) I worked at home. Sherri arrived in the later part of the afternoon and we prepared an African Peanut Stew and Matcha Cupcakes for the NYE festivities at the Dharma center. Every year ZCO and Dharma Rain host a New Year’s Eve get together. It includes a potluck, dancing, a ceremony welcoming the new year and, of course, silent meditation.

Sherri and I arrived just at 7pm. Already there were a number of people in attendance, though I think many of them were ordained members of both groups. Usually there isn’t such a high concentration of ordained individuals at Downtown center events, but most everyone comes down from the Monastery for New Year’s. Sherri and I set our dishes out and the started socializing. Sometime later Hogen called everyone to attention, we chanted our meal chant and then everyone lined up for food. Sherri and I were delighted to find a number of vegan dishes and shared a large plate of our stew, a nice noodle dish, a quinoa salad and brussell sprouts, among other things. Most people sat on the floor and I felt a great sense of closeness and community.

Around 8:30 or so, Chozen annonced that she would lead a series of circle dances upstairs in the zendo. Those who wanted to participate headed upstairs, including Sherri and myself. I really enjoyed the circle dances. They were simple, communal and fun. I liked singing along and laughing with everyone when we tried to rember if we were a “1” or a “2” (in one dance, 1’s did a particular move at one time, and then 2’s at another time).

After the circle dancing DT distributed slips of paper and pens. Hogen instructed us to write down anything that we wanted to let go of from 2008. During this time people also worked to put the zendo back together (cushions in the right place, etc.) and to clean up from the potluck. I’m starting to think Zen centers are among of the most efficiently run places on earth! Slowly people gathered in the zendo and sat quietly waiting for the next, more formal portion of the evening to begin. Next the teachers arrived and sat down. Then we began the fusatsu ceremony, which is a ceremony of attonement and renewal of vows. There is a lot of bowing. Really. I’ve completed this ceremony once before, at the beginning of Ango and had forgotten how much bowing there is. Additionally, during the latter part of the ceremony we lined up (row by row, as instructed), approached the alter, lit the pieces of paper we’d written on earlier and dropped them into the fire. As people did this we chanted the Gatha of Atonement over and over again:

All evil karma ever committed by me since of old,
Because of my beginningless greed, anger, and ignorance,
Born of my body, mouth, and thought,
Now I atone for it all.

Then we sat two periods of Zazen (separated by a wiggle bell, rather than the usual walking meditation). This particular zazen was fairly challenging. I was cold and it was late so I was very tired. I must have yawned 20 times during the last period. Plus something I’d eaten earlier was giving my intestines a particularly bad time and they wouldn’t be comfortable or quiet.

Finally the new year arrived. The monastics served apple cider to everyone, one by one, in the style of a tea ceremony. I thought this was lovely. There’s something very powerful about the silence and the simple offering. By this time it was well passed midnight so Sherri and I collected our things and headed home.

The next day we slept in a bit and then headed off to Eugene. I’m going to write about our Eugene trip in a different post. Saturday we hurried home and I dropped off Sheri at her class just a bit late. After dinner, Sherri and I watched quite a bit of What About Me?, the follow-up to 1 Giant Leap. I can’t recommend these two films enough. Check them out if you have the chance.

Today ended up being unexpectedly busy. I tagged along with Sherri to SE Portland where she had a hair appointment. Afterwords we did a bit of shopping at Powell’s on Hawthorne where I picked up a handful of trade edition sci-fi books that I’d been wanting. Then we headed over to Tao of Tea’s Teahouse and Restaurant where we enjoyed a pot of second flush Darjeeling, a pot of 500 Mile Chai with rice milk, along with a very tasty lunch. Refueled and caffinated, we headed off to Bed, Bath and Beyond to look for a small pressure cooker for me. Having no luck there, we walked over to Target. Here we picked up a few essentials and spent a bunch of time trying on things we didn’t en up buying.

This weeks reads included Percival Everett’s Wounded.