It’s official: I hate Portland Oregon

April 23, 2012 at 4:43 pm | In just_so, local_not_global, notes | 4 Comments

As I write this, I’m shaking – with shock and with indignation.

I have a Cairn Terrier named Jigger. He’s 14 years old, he’s deaf, he’s very very mellow, and he prefers to spend his time nosing around for food. He’s not territorial or bad-tempered, and is in fact one of the happiest, “jiggiest” dogs you’ll ever meet.

He grew up socialized around other dogs and has never picked a fight with another mammal, excepting the raccoons that live in the back garden of the house we used to own in Victoria British Columbia. He’s never been in a fight with another dog, not even a cat (once, in Rockport Massachusetts, a shop cat swiped him across the nose, but he just wanted to run away, not fight).

But in Portland in the past few months, I have met more neurotic, unsocialized dogs than I can count. It’s the norm for owners here to forbid their dogs from interacting with other dogs on the sidewalks or even in the parks. The one exception to this is that some dog owners take their pets to the “off leash” areas in parks, but even those areas are not frequented much. Eight times out of ten, when you pass one, it’s empty. Of course that might be on account of all the shitty weather you get in Portland.

Anyway, we finally got some warmth and sun in the last few days. Jigger is older and less likely to want long walks anyway, so this afternoon the spouse and I just went around the block with him and then sat at the shady chairs and table set out by Pix Patisserie across the street to have some coffee, and to let Jigger enjoy some more “outdoor” time without forcing him to walk in the afternoon heat.

I’ve mentioned before (on Facebook) that I think Portlanders don’t know how to keep dogs or socialize them properly (our neighbors seem to think their Fox Terrier is a cat that can be left alone at home for hours upon hours on end, for example), but this afternoon’s experience took the prize.

I’m still shaking.

We’re sitting at a table, Jigger is resting under my chair. He has his back turned to the rest of the sidewalk. He’s deaf, and therefore is oblivious to approaching noises. An older woman who looked, frankly, like a demented bat out of hell, approaches with four (4!!!) Scottish Terriers – one of which is wearing a muzzle. That should have been our warning, I suppose.

As they approach, her dogs see Jigger (who hasn’t seen them, nor heard them), and before I know what’s happening, one of them has set upon him and is biting the hell out of him, dragging him into the middle of the Scotty pack. Then the others have at him. I jumped up and started pulling dogs off my dog, but the stupid asshole of a dog owner just fucking stood there instead of moving on! They were biting his side, his ears, anything they could get a hold of. Every time I got one dog off, another would lunge. The spouse got into the act, and I managed to pick my dog up. Another Scotty got a hold of his tail and bit it, literally hanging on my dog’s tail with his teeth, and I nearly dropped my dog – who was by now in a total panic. I’ve never seen him so panicked.

I picked my dog up again, my husband is trying to pull these shitty, vicious creatures away, and the emotionally retarded excuse of a dog owner is just fucking standing there, mouth open, instead of helping to pull her dogs away and fucking move on! I was wishing for an extra pair of legs with which to kick her dogs at this point.

Then the waiter from Pix comes running out and for some reason assumes that the dog I’m holding and cradling, the dog I’m trying to pull away from his attackers, is attacking me! What an idiot. It must be the typically endless rain that softens their brains. So he’s pulling Jigger off me and nearly strangling him in the process (Jigger was of course on the leash, which by now is wrapped 15 times around me and god knows what else – the poor dog is choking by now).

Finally the asshole woman has moved away a few paces and I grab my dog again, trying to calm him (he is freaking out and crying), and I ream her out. She then actually tried to accuse us of being responsible for not telling her that we had a dog with us (can you believe this???), and I remind her with as many expletives as I can that my dog was resting under my chair, minding his own business, and that she’s parading down a fucking PUBLIC sidewalk with a team of neurotic, vicious, ill-socialized terriers.

Meanwhile, my chin is bleeding from where Jigger’s claw strafed it in his struggles, and my legs are cut up from the other dogs (I was wearing a skirt since it was warm).

Like I said, I have never met so many badly socialized dogs as in Portland, and it is due, every single time, to the owners not having a fucking clue. These people should not be allowed to have dogs – they clearly do not understand dog psychology nor understand that dogs need to be socialized with other dogs.

For example, one afternoon, at Jamieson Park in the Pearl, a guy apologized because his dog came up to mine and was friendly, wagging his tail, wanting to play. He said, “Oh, I’m sorry, he hasn’t learned yet not to go up to other dogs.” And I thought, “right, you nutcase – you’re going to socialize your dog right out of being friendly with other dogs, aren’t you, you moron?” I mean, he actually apologized for the fact that his dog did something totally friendly and natural. In a park. On a stroll. On a Sunday afternoon.

No shit, Sherlock, you’re gonna make a great dog daddy. Not.

This afternoon’s incident is just the icing on the cake. Four dogs attacking my dog (at least one of them was muzzled), and the asshole of an owner just standing there, dumbfounded. I don’t want to live in a neurotic, anti-social town like this.

I would say Portland is for the dogs, but that would be an insult to dogs.

Jigger last year, at Gonzales Hill in Victoria BC


Random notes

November 15, 2010 at 10:07 pm | In harvard, ideas, notes | Comments Off on Random notes

I’m in information overload right now – cramming into my head a 2 1/2-inch thick binder full of sometimes esoteric data well beyond my usual comfort zone (financial info and accounting, anyone?), as I get ready to interview a few arts organizations. Too many words, too many numbers.

But of course, when it rains, it pours – which is why I’m finding additional information online that I really want to splash around in, versus just dipping my toes into.

So…, here’s a very brief shout-out for two (ok, three) pages in particular.

First, Alexandra Samuel has an incredibly useful 5-part series called Social Media for Journalists, which is a must-read for researchers of any sort. Want to know how to use Evernote or LinkedIn or bookmarking services or even Google to your best research advantage? Click on through. I’m not sure why or how I missed the series when it came out (it began on October 26 and ended on October 29), but better late than never, as they say…

Next, tomorrow morning there’s going to be a Berkman Center lunch hour webcast scheduled for EST 12:30pm with Juliet Schor (in our Pacific Standard Time zone, this will start at 9:30am), called Using the Internet to “Save the Planet”. The webcast will be archived for those who want to view it later, but if anyone has a free hour around tomorrow, drop in on Schor’s presentation. From the blurb:

We are witnessing escalating evidence of human destabilization of the climate and biodiversity loss. In the sustainability community, both activists and practitioners are increasingly turning to the internet to foster new lifestyles, consumption patterns and ways of producing. There has been an explosion of web-enabled innovations around consumption sharing and extra-market exchange in order to reduce footprint. At the cutting-edge people are turning to peer production and open-source practices to accelerate the design and diffusion of ecologically-intelligent and efficient modes of provision in agriculture, consumption and manufacturing. (source)

The page has additional links to explore, and (this my third pointer) there’s a great video of Schor’s presentation last May at the Seattle Library, which you can watch here.

PS: And since Schor has talked about up-scaling and up-ticks in consumption, which sounds like the Gilded Age of yore, here’s a link to a great Frank Rich op-ed from Nov. 13, 2010, Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?

Notes: Traffic volume, hormone levels

April 25, 2009 at 2:22 am | In notes, transportation, victoria | No Comments

When I was at yesterday’s Committee of the Whole at City Hall, I listened to the City’s engineers talk about cars and vehicular traffic, and how it relates to the question of whether or not to keep Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge (also known as the Blue Bridge).

Out of the blue (this being the color of the day), their discussion conjured a crazy image in my head. It was as if, instead of describing cars and traffic volume, they were describing hormone levels. In my mind, I could zoom out, look down, and see the little cars driving through streets as though they were chemical hormones discharging through bloodstreams. Potent teenage hormones specifically, which could at best be placated (with roads designed to accommodate them), but which absolutely couldn’t be controlled (or self-controlled) through any kind of limitation.

In youth, love (well, ok: sex) will find a way, and in the traffic engineer’s heart, cars will …well, find a way. Force of nature, better get ready, it seems. (The grown-ups have left the building.)

Engineers + roads = true love.

Notes: spatial arrangements for cars and kids

February 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm | In notes, urbanism, victoria | Comments Off on Notes: spatial arrangements for cars and kids

Bear with me, gentle reader, as I try to describe in words a spatial relationship. Something about how the combination of roads and a school near my house affects pedestrian movement has been bugging me.

Around the corner from where I live are two east-west running arterials, Yates (one-way west-bound) and Fort (one-way east-bound), that merge just east of Fernwood Ave. (which runs north-south). After the merge Fort St. continues as a single two-way arterial.

The merge creates a triangular space, the very tip of which is occupied by a Shell gas station (map). From the tip of the triangle (where Yates and Fort merge) to the end of the gas station property is ~300ft. At the western edge of the gas station, the triangle is bisected by Fernwood Ave. Look to the west of Fernwood Ave., and you see Central Middle School (official address: 1280 Fort St.).

The school occupies the bulk of what follows in the triangle, with building and playing field stretching to Ormond St. in the west. (See this map for details.) Apartment buildings line Fort St. along the edge of the school’s playing field. The field is shielded from traffic, and the street in turn is shielded from the blank space of a school playing field that’s intermittently used.

So far so good, …except for pedestrian crossings. Fort St. is a busy one-way heading east (Yates heads west). Like Yates, Fort is a relatively densely built-up street with low-rise apartment blocks lining both sides. Fort St. now has a fairly decent (and new) bicycle lane as well, but, like Yates St., it’s clearly a hold-over from low-density automobile-oriented living, which explains why both arterials were streamlined into one-ways and why traffic generally speeds along both streets. Since both roads connect Oak Bay to downtown, the traffic isn’t insignificant, and both roads are used by the buses heading to and from the University of Victoria.

Let’s go back to the triangle’s apex where Fort and Yates merge. There you’ll find a crosswalk, but you won’t find one the additional 300 feet further west at Fernwood Ave., even though that’s a popular crossing point for people heading to catch buses to downtown on Yates, or for people crossing the street to walk up Joan Crescent to Craigdarroch Castle.

There is a crossing (with traffic lights!) another ~650 feet further west of the apex at Moss St., which is designed specifically to feed into the school’s property.

After that (heading west), there’s nothing for at least another ~900 feet at Linden St. In fact, it’s almost as if pedestrians are discouraged from attempting any crossing between Moss and Linden, even though there are two other cross streets abutting Fort (Pentrelew and Ormond), and there are a number of apartment buildings and services (veterinarian, church/ community center, dentist, several law offices) on either side of the road that make people want to cross.

So what gives?

It’s easy to blame car culture, but I don’t think it’s just that. I think the missing crossing opportunities are also a by-product of controlling children (middle schoolers), who are obliged to use the crossing-guard-manned “school crosswalk” at Moss Street during morning arrival and afternoon release. It’s to discourage their freedom – to cross the street at another unmanned crosswalk – that the rest of us are forced either to take our lives in hand by scurrying across the street (legally, by the way!) at intersections that have no crosswalk, or to go out of our way to cross the street where there are crosswalks.

Perhaps it’s a combination of controlling the kids and making room for cars. At any rate, we have two very wide arterials tearing through a relatively densely built up part of town, with too few options for pedestrians to cross, and it looks like it’ll stay that way unless we admit that even kids can cross an urban road without assistance.

We protect the children by giving fewer signals to drivers to stop for the rest of us at other points. Somehow that seems nuts.

Notes: Grist-ly.

January 19, 2009 at 11:49 pm | In notes | 1 Comment

I checked into my blog’s admin pages last night to post my Sunday Diigo links. I’m aware that I last blogged – about “mystery” of all things – on January 12, which happened to be my mother’s birthday.

I don’t especially like thinking about my deceased parents. They were bonkers, frankly. January 12 would have been my mother’s 93rd birthday, and my father’s birthday next month would be his 100th. Imagine, my own kids are just 17 and 14. It’s a generational stretch, sort of like a skipping over something, but am I ahead, behind, or the something skipped in this rondo?

I was born late, unplanned, unexpectedly: my mother had successfully fledged the first two of her six daughters and was looking forward to settling into a normal middle age, with just “a few” younger girls still at home. Then I came along, number seven. Sometimes she told me that it wasn’t her choice to have that many kids, that she would have stopped at three – leaving me where?

It’s strange to think that “back then” birth control was accessible after a fashion, but that it was culturally inaccessible to my mother. My wish for her was always that she should have had access to choice, even at my expense. That would have been fair, but life plays differently.

I am so grateful that a woman’s right to choose is now accepted in most civilized countries, and that safe, reliable birth control is available.

Over the last few days I’ve read Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. Aside from being bowled over by Tharp’s energy, I’m impressed by (and not a little jealous of) the moral support she received from her mother, who seems to have been relentless in pushing, affirming, and then once again re-affirming her child.

Is all that cheerleading idiocy? (Where does that question even come from?) One tries to be supportive of one’s children, naturally. But for me, it’s hard to stop feeling the knife edge of criticism (self-criticism, too). My mother despaired of other people’s“plans,” which she could criticize at twenty paces.  She wanted to inoculate me against plans (and dreams), just as you’d expect a woman with very little control over her life to do. She told me: never, never aim too high since you will only be disappointed. Or, if she was feeling punchy: life is like a chicken coop ladder – full of shit from top to bottom.

The trick (there’s always a trick, no?) is perhaps to know that there are many interesting things even on chicken coop ladders: funny feathers, bits of undigested matter that provide …clues, foreign particles for variety… The chickens would say, it’s all grist to us, and peck away regardless.

So there you go: I thought I’d start with grist, write about grist, and end with grist, prompted as I was by pecking (picking) at the wound of rejection. But I can’t help but put a plug in for a woman’s right to access birth control and choice.

Notes: Mystery

January 12, 2009 at 11:23 pm | In notes | 2 Comments

As I was on a sort of nostalgia rag (see my comments to the Freshness post, for example), I was reminded of a book by Louise Huebner (go ahead, google her), which I read when I was 14. Her book, while having an eccentric title, was about power and control, a topic of keen interest to any adolescent.

Huebner pithily critiqued people who try to give themselves airs through mysterious behavior. She basically called bullshit on this; her remarks stayed with me from that moment on.

She asked, “What has being mysterious to do with [control]?” (And if that’s not a question every teenager wants resolved, I don’t know what is. It was certainly of pressing concern to me.)

At this point, Huebner continued with pure gold, or balm: “I’ve known a lot of dull and stupid women who were mysterious. They had no control and were accomplishing nothing. They were a mystery to themselves, and this is what they projected.” (Source, p.65. Note: it’s a PDF.)

In other words, the labored effort to come across as a woman-of-mystery essentially covers up a lack of power.

(Aside: as an art historian, I can attest that entire “movements” were built around the representation of stupid, powerless women as mysterious femmes fatales. The entire Pre-Raphaelite movement springs to mind, for example. Goo-y Pre-Raphaelitism is still a favored trope of adolescents, or those stuck there. Hm, kitsch and powerlessness: perhaps a rewarding subject for another “notes” excursion?)

Today, I’m intrigued by how Huebner’s comments articulate something salient about blogging and online presence, too. Mystery (wo)men aren’t nearly as interesting as people who are open and who have actual stories to tell. They have the power, and possibly authenticity, the must-have accessory of the virtual age. (I’m still stuck in adolescence, of course, trying to figure it all out…)

And privacy? Well, at the least we have to consider that unless you’re a secret agent working for the CIA or something, mystery is no shield against an invasion of privacy. The open person’s shield of defense is his or her friends. Why? Because they know who you really are and will vouch for you.

Notes: Gaia

January 7, 2009 at 6:42 pm | In notes | Comments Off on Notes: Gaia

Musing this morning on the article I found through one of John Geraci‘s tweets, Green Algae Bloom Process Could Stop Global Warming by Andrew Williams in Clean Technica, I wondered whether the earth is growing us up. You know, like parents grow up kids?

It seems our projects and responsibilities get bigger, same as when kids grow up and have to take on more responsibilities. I can recall when the prospect of cleaning up a major river – say, the Rhine or the Thames – was considered nearly impossible. But it’s done now.

What if Margulis and Sagan and Lovelock et al. are right, and earth is a living organism – wouldn’t it be growing us up? From “clean up the river”/”clean up your room” to “clean up the climate”/”clean up your house”?


Gaia Hypothesis

Dazzle Gradually (Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan)

Deep Hot Biosphere (Thomas Gold, Freeman Dyson foreword – not Gaia, but consider the proposition of an earth suffused by living microbes… What are they there for? Gold called our present model “surface chauvinism”: full marks for a pithy characterization!)

Ok, so maybe I’m crazy. But it beats being beaten down.

File under: whimsy.

Notes: Housing 2.0

January 7, 2009 at 12:02 am | In notes | 7 Comments

I’m finally finishing the article that was due a few days ago – hate being this late. Prompted by what I came across in several articles recently, it’s about housing for people who are homeless. Except I’m looking at this as a “2.0” issue (yes, I know we all have two-dot-oh coming out our ears, or are hearing it as “two-dot-uh-oh,” but…).

A Vancouver architect wants to use companies like Britco and Shelter Industries to churn out the kind of modular housing they usually build for workers up in the Alberta tar sands (which are also in recession, hence the demand for worker housing has receded, hence Britco and Shelter Industries could instead crank out housing for the homeless).

The crux of his idea hinges on speed: it currently takes months if not years to get a social housing project off the ground and into the ground, built. Part of the hang-up has to do with the red tape around permanent housing: try to build anything permanent around here, and you’re tied up at city hall forever.

Modular housing, however, is temporary – the word is in italics, because of course you can apply to renew the temporary permit every 12 months, rinse and repeat as needed.

Point is: modular housing could go up really quickly and actually provide help immediately. It’s not rocket science.

While I was reading about the many variations of modular and mobile and microhousing, I was also thinking about Mark Surman’s A city that thinks like the web, and about other ways in which that two-dot-oh thing has changed engagement, turning people from passive consumers into producers (naturally, Larry Lessig’s TED talk came to mind – if you haven’t seen this, WATCH IT NOW, it’s great).

So then I wondered about learned helplessness, and how we prevent people who are homeless from housing themselves – we make them wait for government action, and we forbid them from constructing their own shelter (largely because they can’t meet the permitting and code requirements). This is kind of the opposite of the two-dot-oh thing that has done so much to revolutionize the way we interact with intangibles. Houses, however, are still mired in …well, in real estate, right? What if houses were tools, instead, the way blogging software is a tool for publishing, or slideshare is a tool for content sharing, or …(fill in the gap with your favorite tool).

Or consider people like Keith Dewey of Zigloo, right here in Victoria, who went past the notion of a traditional house and built his own out of cargo shipping containers in Victoria’s Fernwood neighborhood. Repurposing cargo containers in turn got me thinking about all the other innovators out there. If the change from “houses 1.0” to “houses 2.0” is going to happen, it’ll happen first on the edges, whether with creative innovative individuals, or marginalized groups (people who are homeless). Early adopters for “houses 2.0” are going to be artists and dreamers, or people who can’t afford traditional housing, but who really don’t want to stay mired in learned helplessness, either.

Finally, the creatives aren’t inventing the wheel here. There are historical precedents (there are always historical precedents), but the grooviest, most far-out one was probably Archigram (google it, or see the recent BBC audio slideshow here).

Archigram was ahead of its time, otherwise it would have had the web and mobile technologies, but it didn’t. Archigram proposed ideas like the “DIY Plug-in City,” or villages contained in hovercraft, which would descend on “action points” at certain destinations. As I write in my article, the need for that kind of mobility where the place moves to different locations) doesn’t exist anymore as prerequisite for change or a dynamic, active culture: the internet brings “action points” to you, and we don’t need to move villages (or dream of doing so). But Archigram’s underlying purpose in conceiving of a mutable moveable architecture? Now that’s something that overlaps to a couple of degrees with temporary housing, which in turn overlaps a couple of degrees with unlearning learned helplessness, which in turn overlaps a couple of degrees with mashup culture, which overlaps a couple of degrees with the mobile city, which overlaps a couple of degrees with …a DIY plug-in city.

I have no idea what “houses 2.0” will actually be – I’ll leave predicting the future to others. But somehow I can’t imagine that we don’t have some version of it heading our way.

(For some thoughts from high end architecture – i.e., not necessarily the “houses 2.0” aspect – on the impermanence of architecture, see Asian Designers Are Schooling America. Changes are coming from all angles.)

Notes: feminism.

January 5, 2009 at 10:11 pm | In notes | Comments Off on Notes: feminism.

Occasionally, I note that some articles about feminism have people talking – but I’ve stopped reading them. On occasion it struck me that an article will approach the topic from a generational p.o.v. to ask how a new and younger generation has changed the thinking around feminism. (“New and younger” just makes me feel “old and older,” which might account for my not being as interested in the articles as I might be.)

But today I wondered how feminism is affected by the erosion of rationality under cultural relativism. Few people seem to want to defend reason anymore – it’s so Eurocentric, so white male, so incorrect. Instead, we’re supposed to be non-judgemental and “mindful” of “cultural differences” – even those, which by any measure, are barbaric. But then we’re not supposed to use that word anymore either, since it denotes our cultural elitism and western privilege.

Doesn’t the idea of feminism itself depend on Eurocentric rationality, on Enlightenment? When I read the following in Wikipedia, I still can’t shake the idea that a specific rationality is feminism’s founding insight, and it doesn’t placate me to think its goals should be relative:

During much of its history, most feminist movements and theories had leaders who were predominantly middle-class white women from Western Europe and North America.[14][15][16] However, at least since Sojourner Truth’s 1851 speech to American feminists, women of other races have proposed alternative feminisms.[15] This trend accelerated in the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement in the United States and the collapse of European colonialism in Africa, the Caribbean, parts of Latin America and Southeast Asia. Since that time, women in former European colonies and the Third World have proposed “Post-colonial” and “Third World” feminisms.[16] Some Postcolonial feminists, such as Chandra Talpade Mohanty, are critical of Western feminism for being ethnocentric.[17] Black feminists, such as Angela Davis and Alice Walker, share this view.[14]

Since the 1980s, standpoint feminists have argued that feminism should examine how women’s experience of inequality relates to that of racism, homophobia, classism and colonization.[15][18] In the late 1980s and 1990s postmodern feminists argued that gender roles are socially constructed,[19][20][21] and that it is impossible to generalize women’s experiences across cultures and histories.[22]  (source)

“…and that it is impossible to generalize women’s experiences across cultures and histories”: this sounds like a point of view that isn’t.

“…how women’s experience of inequality relates”: Feminism is relativized? Feminism as a project of knowledge management? (Ick.) Feminist theorists and scholars as knowledge managers? (Off topic: Not immediately related to the idea that feminism is managed, whether by an academic mandarin class or through education and programs, but I’m reminded that George Orwell wrote this great essay that analyzed and critiqued James Burnham, including his book, The Managerial Revolution. Memo to self: reread Orwell. When Burnham wrote his book, he was on a rebound from his first love, Communism. That his work inspired later hawks is another matter – as someone who studied post-war Germany, I don’t think his efforts in founding the OSS were that off-base since the counter-propaganda was massive and appealed to a many “ex”-Nazis who were only too willing to switch from one totalitarianism to another.)

The first principle is equality between men and women, in law and in practice. If we “relativize” that (or abandon it outright) and talk about “women’s experiences across cultures and histories” instead, do we still have a first principle, or just a never-ending series of stories, relative to one another – stories that may or may not cohere, that may or may not have a shape?

Can relativism provide what my neo-marxist intellectual heroes used to call – using the Greek word and exposing their culturally elite tendency – a telos?

Yeah, telos:

A telos (from the Greek word for “end”, “purpose”, or “goal”) is an end or purpose, in a fairly constrained sense used by philosophers such as Aristotle. It is the root of the term “teleology,” roughly the study of purposiveness, or the study of objects with a view to their aims, purposes, or intentions. Teleology figures centrally in Aristotle’s biology and in his theory of causes. It is central to nearly all philosophical theories of history, such as those of Hegel and Marx.” (source)

It’s not cool to talk about ends or purposes anymore, because to do so implies valuing one end over another. Ends cannot be relative to one another and still meaningfully be a telos or goal.

File under: Just wondering.

Also file under: Too long. (This was supposed to be a “note,” not an argument.)

Also file under: Gotcha, haha. (Why? My thinking relies on men – dead European white males, at that…)

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