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OMSI Volunteer

Sunday, August 30, 2009
So I've signed up to be a volunteer at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. I had a quick phone call with a woman there that I'd be working with, which was cool, and it concluded with, "Great! Can you make it to our volunteer orientation tomorrow?" In a mere 24 hours I was signed up and orientated.

small OMSI logo

I'm not going to be the greeter at the front or running the physics demonstrations, though. I've volunteered to be part of the "Evaluation and Visitor Studies" team, which does the data collection and analysis on how people learn from and interact with museums (specifically, of course, OMSI.) I'm excited about this because it allows me to put my particular skillset to good use and do something that I honestly feel is fun. I'll also get to meet new people, which is important.

Of course, that's not all...

As an OMSI volunteer, I'll get to go to OMSI, the exhibits, the attractions, and all that fun stuff for FREE! (Let's face it: one of the reasons I haven't been to OMSI in a while is that a full day there is pretty darn expensive!) OMSI is also conveniently located just south of the eastside esplanade, so if I want to take a walk afterwards, I can.

It's a win-win situation, I think. Of course, I have yet to do much more than attend the member orientation, so we'll see.

iPhone, Part Deux

Tuesday, August 25, 2009
So about a month and a half ago I finally bought an iPhone 3GS. I wrote a bit about it, but didn't have too much to report because I'd only had it for a few days. Well, I've lived with it for a while now, and I feel confident that I can better share my experiences. With that, here's how it is:
This is mankind's greatest achievement since Airwolf.
I mean it. This thing is awesome. For my lifestyle, it's about the most useful, value-ridden accessory money can buy. Of course, my lifestyle right now is such that I live in an urban area with a lot of 3G coverage, I'm a Mac user, and I like to be out and about often.

This isn't to say the iPhone isn't without a few weaknesses, but I'll get there in a bit.

The strengths of this things are numerous: easy to use, easy to set up, easy to like. Applications are plentiful, and it really does almost everything I've ever wanted in a mobile device.

I've got applications to:
- SSH into my web server
- Play Civilization Revolution
- Play Chess
- Check Facebook
- Update Twitter
- Tell me what restaurants, banks, convenience stores, and gas stations are around me (and how to get there)
- Look at maps and satellite views of wherever I am
- Tell me what song is playing on the radio or wherever
- Tell me what happy hours are nearby (and call a cab afterwards!)
- Read the New York Times
And many, many more!

It's cool, it's useful, and it's also has a nice email reader and integrated iPod functionality. What more could one ask for?

The problem isn't Apple...

And now, for the weaknesses. Really, there's just one - but that one is so big that it's almost a deal-killer and should be very carefully pondered by anyone interested in getting an iPhone.

The weakness?

In the United States, the iPhone is only available through AT&T Wireless.

AT&T's network - in the Portland area - is bad. I mean, it's almost criminally awful for a company that advertises itself has having "more bars in more places" and "the world's fastest 3G network". Sure, maybe in Iceland I'd get great reception, but not in Portland. Even with the 850 Mhz overlay, "more places" doesn't seem to mean much. Sitting at home, I've watched my phone - while I was holding it - go from 3 bars to 2 bars to 1 bar to "searching..." and back to 1 bar. I've had a ton of dropped calls and more voicemail without a missed call than I can count.

..and, even with 6 years as a dissatisfied Verizon Wireless customer, Verizon never had data service just die in a region (say, North Portland) like AT&T did a couple weeks ago for almost a day. (Though, in their defense, customer service was really great about it.)

Now if AT&T would just turn on MMS support like they're supposed to...

Curious Comedy

Sunday, August 23, 2009
This weekend I was invited by some friends to join them in enjoying an improv comedy show at the new relatively new Curious Comedy Theater in northeast Portland. With an admission price of $12 per person, we were treated to a couple hours of live improv theatre.

Which was nice, I suppose.

Honestly, I wasn't incredibly impressed. It was funny, yes, but not riotously funny. It felt like there wasn't that gel that some improv teams have - almost forced at times.

However, I'm not going to be too critical. It was funny, it is a not-for-profit, and there's far more going on at this place other than just improv shows. It's got shows for kids, improv classes, and more. It is, in my opinion, a valuable addition to the community, and has that feeling of "really trying to get started" that I'm very forgiving of.

So, in summary, I wasn't impressed this time... but I have high hopes for the future.

A Ramblin' Man

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
So lately I've been attending (as a non-member) the Mazamas Street Rambles. It's basically a big group of people that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at REI in downtown Portland (NW 14th & Johnson) and then sets out to walk/hike around Portland for a couple hours.

And it's TONS of fun!

I've been twice, now, and each one has been filled with interesting sights and interesting people. In deference to the 80+ people who show up in the summers, the group stratifies into different intensity levels; those who want a nice, brisk walk can join the "2" or "3" groups while those who want to really push it can join the "4" or "5" groups.

The first ramble I went on was rated a "2", and was mostly flat. It went over to the waterfront and down the Portland Greenway, under the Fremont and Broadway bridges, and eventually connected to the Eastside Esplanade/Waterfront Park loop. The walk was full of beautiful views and was fun - though not incredibly strenuous.

A view from a street ramble

For the second ramble, I opted for a "3". The destination for this group was the Hoyt Arboretum, which we got to through Washington Park. Being in the West Hills, this was not a "flat" walk like the first one - which suited me fine.

A view from a street ramble

I'm enjoying these walks immensely, and I plan to keep doing them. Good exercise, good people, and good times!

Demo Days

Sunday, August 09, 2009
So today I volunteered at TEAM OREGON tent at the Triumph Demo Day out in Hillsboro today. Cascade Moto, the local Triumph/Moto Guzzi dealership (and, incidentally, a huge supporter of TEAM OREGON's motorcycle safety efforts) was playing the part of host to the Triumph factory representatives and riders were given a chance to explore the offerings that Triumph has. BMW - by their own admission - tagged along to the event and allowed riders to explore their motorcycles as well.

So after I was done volunteering I signed up to ride a couple bikes. Of course I wanted to ride the Sprint ST, but the list was tragically full. So the the first one I found myself signed up for was the BMW K1300GT, or what I call my "Dream Bike".

Riding this was like riding a dream. It was mega-stable through turns and over bumps, and the brakes would haul it down from alarmingly fast just as quickly as the powerful engine would get it up there. It's a big bike, but a very, very nice one (and correspondingly expensive.)

My second ride was on the BMW R1200RT, a bike I've also drooled over. I don't have a lot to report on this one.

I was unimpressed. A lot of vibration came through the handlebars, and the engine seemed to lack oomph. I mean, every time the bike felt like it was going to hit that magical power-band, it was time to shift. It didn't seem to have much torque at the low RPMs (and that's compared to my old Ninja 500R), and, while the reliability is legendary, it just didn't excite me in any way

I was about to leave when I made another pass by the Triumph tent, hoping to maybe score a ride on the new Tiger. Alas, this was also a popular ride, but since the day was winding down I asked if they had any bikes open. I was offered a ride on a couple different cruisers... or the Street Triple R.

And this is where my day got interesting.

You see, while the K1300GT put a smile on my face, this bike made my heart beat just a bit quicker. I mean, this thing did not want to play well with others. While on the heavier bikes I was working hard in the turns to maintain speed, the Street Triple R didn't even need to slow down, and was growling at the bikes ahead, begging to be let by. I mean, even sitting on it was different; the BMWs were comfortable, relaxed, and you definitely felt like you were piloting a nice motorcycle. On the Street Triple R? I could barely make out the mirrors in my peripheral vision, but couldn't see the bike at all. It was like flying, with every input from me translated into action by the bike.

So awesome.

Movie Review: The Hangover

Sunday, August 02, 2009
So I've now seen The Hangover twice, and I have to say that it's one of the funniest movies I've seen in a while.

The basic plot - for those who missed the preview - is that the groom and his three best friends (well, two best friends and soon-to-be brother-in-law) head to Vegas for his bachelor party. Fast forward to everyone waking up unable to a) remember anything that happened or b) locate the aforementioned groom.

I would say that what sets this movie apart from all the rest is that none of the characters seem to think the behavior is normal; they're trying to piece together what happened and find their friend and are a little freaked out by what they find. Awkward (and occasionally awesome) situations abound, and hilarity ensues.

Technically, the movie breaks no new ground that I could tell - but the use of music was done quite well to accentuate certain scenes and there were no obvious flaws to find. The writing was solid, the acting was solid, and, in fact, everything worked better than you'd expect in a what-happened-in-Vegas? style comedy.

Final word on The Hangover? See it. See it twice. It's worth it, and you'll laugh damn hard.



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