Thursday, June 21, 2007

Mt. Hood Scramble

Last Sunday, my friend Maggie and I participated in the Mt. Hood Scramble. The event was put on by X Dog Events, and 374 people ran in the race. The course was on Mt. Hood, right off of Hwy 35 a few miles from the Hwy 26 turnoff, in White River Sno-Park. The ride up to the Sno-Park was wet, rainy, foggy and cold, but as soon as we reached Hwy 35, our elevation gain permitted us a window of niceness above the weather line. Mountain ecosystems are amazing.

The race was 6 miles, through boulder fields, glacial rivers, mud pits (that seemed more like the LaBrea Tar pits), snow and ice, forest and tall weeds. It was a blast, and after I warmed up I felt very confident. I began to bound through the forest, scramble over rocks, push myself up hills, and leap over logs.

About 3 miles into the race, I lept over a log and landed on my right ankle, which rolled under me. The pain might have been excruciating if it wasn't numb from plunging through streams, cold mud and snow. As soon as I fell, Maggie turned around and asked me if I was okay. I replied that I wasn't I needed to sit for a second. I felt nauseous as soon as my ankle rolled, felt a gross "pop" inside of my foot. Of course the second things went wrong, an X-event videographer was there, asking me who I was and how I felt. I repllied as cheerily as possible, given the circumstances, "I'm okay. Pan away, pan away!" Some people asked if I needed a stretcher, and I said no, I was still numb from the race (and too impatient to wait for people to trek in to help me out). So I kept on running, kind of limp-jogging, through more obstacles, up and down hills, climbing up riverbanks, sliding down snowfields, it went on forever.

I finally crossed the finish line about the 90 minute mark, which isn't first place but still far from last place. Thankfully there was a keg of beer and first aid guys waiting for trail weary runners to seek assistance. My friend drove, so the beer perpetuated the numbness long after the effects of the glacial rivers wore off. I wouldn't change anything, except hurting my ankle, of course; the event was awesome and I'm hoping I'm better in time for the July 15th scramble event.

All of the Mt. Hood Scramble pictures can be viewed by visiting the photoset on my Flickr site.

By the way, happy first day of summer! Now it's all downhill after today...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Brian Baxter

Did he feel any pain, or was it as if he passed from one state of being to another? I heard it was a cooking related fire, in his top floor apartment, in an old converted house, three stories up. If that volunteer firefighter hadn't been walking by, more lives would have been lost. Two other women who lived in the 2nd floor apartment, and a family on the ground floor were helped to safety by everyone that had been summoned by the volunteer fire fighter on his way to Plaid Pantry for a cup of coffee before his early shift, around 5:30 AM.

So I'm at work a couple of days ago, and my co-cube mate takes a call from the County Medical Examiner. I hear her ask a couple of questions and then asks the caller to hold for a moment. She turns to me and asks, can we give information about an employee out to the medical examiner? I tell her no, not unless we have a signed consent from the employee. My cube-mate pauses, returns to the call and re-iterates what I just told her. "Uh huh....uh huh...oh, my....okay.......can you hold again please?" She turns to me and says, "They've identified a guy who died as Brian Baxter, found my business card in his wallet, and are trying to contact his family.


I swear this guy had called me every couple of days for about 6 months. Then my Recruiter/cube mate joined our workforce, and I turned his file over to her. Brian was really polite, I'd have to say the most polite person I've ever known. He'd always end his conversations (no matter how long or short) "Thank you. God Bless You," in a robotic monotone. I think he had some degree of mental illness, maybe schizophrenia, but not so severe that he was walking around talking about conspiracies and getting shots in his eyeballs to improve his vision. A few other people at our workplace who knew of Brian would quote his, "Thank you, God Bless" whenever his name was brought up.

Brian was an honest, good guy. He really tried and worked hard, but it wasn't enough. Our company tried him out in many different positions, and a variety of managers tried to strategize how to best utilize Brian's strengths to keep him employed, but he was finally let go for unsafe work practices. I'm not sure exactly what incident led to his final termination, but I heard it involved a weed whacker.

Well, a few of us in our department had grown to really know Brian, so we helped him fix up a resume, got him job leads, tipped him off to job fairs that were occurring and let him know where we'd be to lend support and encouragement, introduced him to our contacts at other companies and connected him with information about services and resources he didn't know about.

It had been about a month since I heard from Brian, and I never thought for a split second that the house fire reported on the news Sunday morning was Brian's place. He was the only one who wasn't saved that morning. One of the volunteer fire fighters interviewed afterward said they suspected the fire started in the top studio apartment, they were unable to get to the person inside because the room was engulfed in flames.

What a horrible way to die, unless he passed out from smoke inhalation and didn't feel a thing. I mean, it's still a horrible way to go but I would feel a little better about it if they could confirm that he was unconscious when he caught fire or whatever happened. I can't get over how nice he was, what a strange, random process of selection life makes. What's Brian doing now? Nothing? has he been reborn? Did he achieve nirvana? Is he at the pearly gates, holding a ticket and waiting to get in? Brian was in his mid-thirties and about 5 foot 6. He had blond hair and a goatee, and a stocky build. He must have told me "Thank you, God bless you" at least a hundred times.

The whole thing really makes me think about how quickly circumstances can change, in the blink of an eye something about your life can change drastically.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

more on disgruntled job seekers

It's always fun dealing with people applying for open positions at our company, especially when our positions are made possible through a federal program providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. We definitely come in contact with different job seeker personalities: people who think we discriminate against regularly-abled people (we are perfectly legal), people that are angry that you haven't considered interviewing them--when in reality you've received 150 applications for an open position and the person complaining has no relevant experience and didn't completely fill out the application--and the people who are angry because they are unemployed and just spend their day on-line picking apart employment ads. Below is a letter we received from someone who obviously fits in the last criteria mentioned.

----Original Message-----
From: Cre Cre
Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2007 5:31 PM
Subject: Inquiry/question regarding Courier Position

I recently read an ad that your company ran on Craig's List, seeking to fill a courier position.

This is part of the description:

"This position is made possible through the JWOD program, and requires the applicant has a disability... Position requires applicant to be able to define and design delivery routes with attention to optimization. Pick up and delivery materials to multiple locations on a daily basis. Additionally, applicant must be able to pass a drug test and a background check, lift up to 50 Lb easily, be able to climb stairs and/or ladders, and be able to provide documentation of a disability. Position requires, twisting, stooping, squatting, bending and walking long distances."

How on earth is a person with disabilities supposed to "lift up to 50 Lb easily, be able to climbs stairs and/or ladders", and perform "twisting, stooping, squatting, bending and walking long distances"?

This company comes across as insane with a description like that. It's clear you people don't know what you're looking for, or understand what the word "disability" means, or need to further define what you mean by "disability". Anyone who can officially DOCUMENT their disability would not be able to perform any of those duties - certainly not to the degree you're requiring.

Please go back and revise the requirements and while you all do, be sure to devote some time actually utilizing your brain cells. You'll be doing all the people with disabilities a favor.


Our general protocol when we receive something like this is to not respond--first of all, adding to the bullshit just creates more bullshit. If someone felt strongly about what information was conveyed in a job posting, a more appropriate way to go about getting a response would be to call the numbers included in the job announcement and have a decent conversation with someone who could answer those questions. But we're not dealing with a rational or intelligent person here, we're obviously dealing with a coward empowered by internet anonymity. So, without further adieu, here's my passively annoyed, anonymous response:

Dear "Cre Cre":

I don't know where to begin after reading your letter. The sheer magnitude of your ignorance seems unreal, and I can't figure out if you suffer from mental illness or if you are just uneducated. It's a shame that you can't see beyond your narrow-mindedness when it comes to disability, and it's apparent that your idea of "disability" is some poor crippled person in a wheelchair or someone drooling and limping around...maybe you're envisioning us threatening to fire Chrispoher Reever unless he climbs a ladder while carrying a 50 pound box of files?

You chickenshit asshole, it's obvious your small mind couldn't consider that maybe a great candidate for this job would be one of our returning military servicemen, you know, many of those guys are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, having developed PTSD, or had a physical injury, such as amputations, deafness and blindness? Maybe we're a good fit for these guys because the company I work for provides a supportive work environment and an opportunity to make a federal prevailing wage with great benefits. Maybe someone with schizophrenia or autism would be successful, why would you discount any of these qualified candidates? You can be diagnosed with mental illness, or have a learning disability, and still be in shape, and be comfortably ambulatory. Maybe the ideal candidate can function better in a physically active job.

And why not credit people for knowing who their doctors are, or how to obtain documentation of their disability? Our company is the largest employer in our state of people with disabilities; approximately 800 of our 1100 employee workforce has a documented disability. If you did any research before emailing us, I think it would be clear to you that we know what we're doing, and it's working for over 50 years.

Thanks for your inquiry and go fuck yourself.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Utopia Cafe -- glass art show

I was the featured artist at the Utopia Cafe in the month of May, and below are pictures of some of the things I've been working on, and a picture of my work up at the cafe. The cafe is located in SE Portland, Oregon, in the Belmont district. If you missed my May show, I have been invited back for the month of July, and again later in the year.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Dog Mountain

We went on a hike on Dog Mountain last Sunday, and below are some pictures of that hike. Dog Mountain is located in SW Washington, along the Columbia River, about 12 miles east of the Bonneville Dam. It was a warm and beautiful day, and the hike consisted of grueling steep switchbacks. It was brutal, and a lot more then I expected, but as you can see below it was worth the hard work. I never would have forgave myself if I would have turned back before reaching the top.

I've also loaded up a new set of photos to my flickr account, and you can access those by clicking here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

science fiction vs. fantasy

If I had to pick a genre of book to live the remainder of my life by, and after carefully considering all of my choices, I would have to narrow down the possibilities to two: science fiction and fantasy.

I've always liked fantasy; there's something about magic and medieval times that I thought was pretty cool. Some of my earliest interests in reading were the Dungeons and Dragons books. When I was in middle school, I think I needed to do something to kill time in class. I must have finished a test early or something, and my teacher happened to have a book loan library. I noticed a Dragonlance book, it was the first from the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy, entitled "Dragons Of Autumn Twilight." That book sucked me into a several book commitment of understanding and enjoying an alternate universe.

To make matters funnier (nerdier, whichever you prefer), I used to play Dungeons and Dragons. The first time I played, I was 18 and got together with some friends I worked with at Kentucky Friend Chicken. The last time I played was about 10 years ago; I lived on Staten Island in New York, and I played with a group of people who put a lot of effort into hosting the game. I think the group in Staten Island were much bigger geeks then the work friends from Florida, but the geekiness made the whole thing more fun. We once spent 2 weeks rolling out new characters and drawing up dungeon maps. We also branched off and played a Shadowrun role playing game, which was like a science fiction dungeons and dragons. That was one of many fun times in my life, and playing Shadowrun seemed like the best of both worlds.

As fun as fantasy land can be, I think science fiction land would be the better choice. If you are existing in a science fiction genre, you can use a time machine to go back in time to the medieval period and when you're done, you just hop into your time machine and go where ever else you work. Many other things would be easier, too, such transportation (both locally and universally), places to see, variety of species to interact with, advanced technology and of course incorporating magic into a science fiction world isn't unheard of, I am a fan of Steven Brust's Jhereg Series and I think they do a great job combining science fiction with magic and fantasy world. I also think it would be much harder to justify something futuristic and science-fiction-y in a fantasy world.

On a completely unrelated note, I've always thought that Paul Shaffer from "Late Night With David Letterman" seemed like he was jacked up on speed or something. Maybe a little acid too, judgin by the way he dresses and his crazy sunglasses. This is entirely my opinion and assumption, and is in no way connected with Blogger or any other entity that I may or may not come in contact with.

Anyway, just an observation.