Monthly Archive for August, 2007

The Portland Challenge

About this time last night, I was gearing up for the Portland Challenge, an adventure I had thought I would be undertaking today. The Challenge:

Undertake a non-motorized crossing of the Williamette River (in the water, not on the bridges).

For boatless chaps like me, this means swimming.

My initial thought was to the distance. It’s a broad river, but I knew I could make it. A fine and worthy challenge I thought, given that the event was a fundraiser for an orphanage in Kenya. Then I remembered learning about the Willamette during an Ecology and Environmental Studies course my freshman year. The Willamette is gross. Gross in a very well-founded, tangible, and chemical sense. The Wikipedia article on the river puts it nicely.

The Portland Harbor section of the Willamette River between downtown Portland and its terminus at the Columbia River is heavily polluted from years of industrial development of the river and its banks. Historical and current activities have included shipbuilding, creosote manufacture, and transfer and storage of petroleum products. State studies in the 1990s identified a wide variety of pollutants in the river bottom, including heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and pesticides.

Later, the article goes further.

In the Portland Metropolitan Area, these issues are exacerbated by Sewer Overflow Events during periods of high rainfall.

As of the fall of 2005, according to my professor, a new pipeline was being constructed so that the sewage didn’t usually overflow, but the capacity here was insufficient, so the raw sewage would spill into the river during heavy rains.

For those of you who do not live in Portland, you probably guessed it. It rained last night. Suffice it to say that while thrilled by swift and profound waters, I was cowed by drifting turds.

Perhaps I will swim the Willamette after it has had some time to flush itself.

CrissCrossHatch: Playing the Name Game

I had quite a time trying to find the right name for this site. Most likely this is because I have a hard time describing to people what I “do,” or what I “am like.” In person it’s easy enough to call myself student, or activist, or scientist – usually whatever I think they will be interested in. As I get closer to people over time they tend to be thrilled, or at least flabbergasted to find that I venture outside the realm they know.

Shedding my shy past means I will need to get get over taking it slow and getting to know people in stages (at least to some extent). I’m getting over being shy – I don’t have as much time to enjoy being awkward these days – but trying to play the name game produces problems. What happens then when the people who know me only as a scientist read a raving post about the rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other great orators, or those who know me as a student read a post about undertaking a high tech social enterprise? Do not think I am a liar or even prone to fibbing, please.

I am a fan of the adage eat like a bird, shit like an elephant. I like to gather information as if my survival depended on appeasing a voracious info metabolism (thank you, Wikipedia, for helping). I also like to share that information, like an elephant. That said, I think knowing a lot of things is pretty overstated. I do my best to forget details – the urban planner in my cerebrum is strict about preempting sprawl.

My interests lie where these paths collide. Technology and activism, religion and science, normal people and improbable events, athletics and music and conformity, daily life and ideas that won’t die, and journeying incessantly while trying to keep living the same damn life are a few of the places where my passions intersect. That’s where life gets really interesting.

My posts will be mostly about this or that, some specific thing or another. There are a lot of distinct, parallel lines in my life. I hope the site as a whole will bring to light the crosshatch, where the crisses cross.


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