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Saturday, August 20, 2011
My grandma is one of the strongest women I've ever known. A fiery 5-foot tall woman working in politics, her small physical stature hid the energy and cunning she brought to every encounter. I never saw her back away from a fight. I also never saw her in a fight she couldn't win. Now, she's been living with stage IV cancer for the past two and a half years, beating the odds on life expectancy.

A healthy woman her whole life, she ate well, exercised, and had boundless energy. Then, one day, she was shoved while on the Metro. She fell and broke something. In the course of the x-rays, they found more than they were expecting to find: cancerous tumors in her bones. Further examination found tumors elsewhere as well. Since then, her overall health has declined as she's undergone chemotherapy, radiation, and fought resultant infections. Her bodily functions have been slowly shutting down, leaving her more and more dependent on care.

My grandma going into radiation therapy

I've written about my grandmom, my mom's mom, and Alzheimer's disease. I've watch her slowly fading. My grandma, my dad's mom, is on a different path. Her mind is as strong as can be expected, but her body is rapidly failing. The cancer's taking over, having recently moved into her brain. I've always lived about 3000 miles from most of my extended family, which has made it hard to be close to them. A few years ago, however, I realized that my grandmothers were in the end stages of their lives, both of them fighting fights they know they'll never win - they're just trying to lose slowly. I made the decision to try to be closer to them whenever I could.

So I write this on my grandma's 79th birthday, a day we happen to share as I showed up the day she turned 46. This is the first time that I know of that we've ever been able to spend this day together. It'll likely be the last birthday she has, according to her doctor, since, according to him, when she finally gives up on chemo she's unlikely to live another 6 months after that.

I'm just happy to be here with her today.

Willamette Jetboat Ride

Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I often wish that I could travel more and experience more of the world. Sometimes, however, I'm astounded at how much about my home city I don't even know. In this latest case, I went on a Willamette Jetboat ride.

one of the jetboats

Now, near as I can tell, these boats aren't jet-powered. Built on an all-aluminum hull and featuring three Chevrolet engines that combine for about 1000 horsepower, these light boats can tear up and down the Willamette River, through the heart of Portland, at speeds of about 50 mph! (Or would that be 50-ish knots?)

In any event, this guided tour, which I did with my DragonBoat team, showed me parts of Portland that I'd never seen before. The pilot was fantastically knowledgable about what we were seeing, from the Navy boats at Swan Island to the historic fire boat David Campbell to the history of the Morrison bridge.

Of course, the tour isn't just about listening to the wonderfully dry wit of the pilot ("you don't have to wear a life vest, but if you see me putting mine on, it might be time to grab it.") It's a bit about getting wet. I didn't get any photos during the trip because I didn't want to get my phone wet as we'd gun the engines, then hit the rudder into a hard turn, doing a cookie in the middle of the river and splashing all 50-60 passengers.

While there's a two-hour tour, we were on a one-hour rude that went north up to the railroad bridge, affording a beautiful view of the St. Johns bridge, then south to the Ross Island lagoon where bald eagles are known to nest, though we didn't see any on our trip.

If you're visiting Portland are a native like me and has never done this, I HIGHLY recommend it. I couldn't stop smiling at hoe much fun I was having!

Movie Review: Cowboys & Aliens

Tuesday, August 09, 2011
I had a chance to see the movie Cowboys & Aliens this past weekend. Of course, before I get into the review of the movie, let me give a quick review of the venue.

I saw the film at the St. Johns Twin Cinema, conveniently withing walking distance of my house, and saw the movie at a 5:00 PM showing for the amazing price of $4. That's not a misprint - I saw a first run film in Portland for $4. The St. Johns Twin Cinema is not the last word in theater design. It's an older building, there's no 3-D capability there, and I'm not subjected to a fancy surround sound system while watching a movie. I just get a reasonably comfortable chair, a big screen, and, should I want to purchase one, a beer while watching a film. Oh, and after 6 PM? The price skyrockets up to a whopping $6. Yeah, you can bet I'll be back.

thanks to geekadelphia for the image

Now on to the movie. Jon Favreau, who also notably directed Iron Man, does not, in my opinion, make a great film. His works will not stand in the annals of history next to the works of Alfred Hitchcock or Stanley Kubrick. He does, however, know how to make an exceptionally fun film. What Cowboys & Aliens perhaps lacks in artistic merit it more than makes up for the in sheer entertainment value.

The basic premise of the film is a cowboy/gunslinger/lonesome anti-hero, played by Daniel Craig, wakes up with no memory and a metal "thing" attached to his wrist. He wanders into a old mining town, nominally controlled by a cattle baron played by Harrison Ford, and trouble starts brewing. He meets Olivia Wilde's character, who seems unusually interested in his condition, and, as trouble is about to go from "brewing" to "boiling", aliens fly over and abduct a bunch of townsfolk. Daniel Craig's wrist-thing activates on proximity to the aliens, he shoots an alien flyer down, and he, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, and a bunch of townspeople go chasing the alien down in an attempt to get their friends and family back.

And the movie goes on from there. It's not a particularly scary film, though one scene did make me jump, but it's really an action/adventure film, and one that left me smiling. As movies go, it was a ton of fun, and I'm glad I saw it. I'll even likely see it again at the aforementioned theater.

Final word on Cowboys & Aliens? Definitely worth the cost of admission.



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