Winter Wonderland

Portland has been covered in snow this past week.  Overall it's been a lot of fun and Agi and I have enjoyed walking around outside and going to the store for food to avoid driving.  I've got chains on the Jetta though and the car has done well when we've needed to use it (still looking forward to getting an AWD Audi however).   Though a couple days ago we got stuck twice briefly in the snow driving over to babysit our nephews.

We took the Max train into downtown on Saturday and braved a big snowstorm but were comfortable and warm because our gore-tex jackets and fleece hats do the job beautifully.  Downtown was gorgeous and there was a festive atmosphere and people were very friendly, talking about how cold it is.

Also, Melissa snow-shoed over to our condo yesterday, amazingly enough--it was pretty funny but we saw others doing the same thing.  We've been running our fireplace a lot and enjoying the cozy feel.  We had our neighbors over last night--a nice couple who we get along with well.

I'll take some more pictures and get these up--we want to remember this beautiful Christmas

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Movies

Our excellent local library--within walking distance--has a great dvd selection.  The librarians have good taste (at least what we like) and we've seen three good movies recently:

- "Osama"  One of the best and most moving films I've ever seen.  Was the first movie made in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban.  It was made by an Afghani director and featured kids who grew up under the oppressive rule of the Taliban.  Agi and I were very moved by how much people suffered--made us want to do something to help.

-- "Two Days in Paris"  Julie Delpy (French woman) has an American boyfriend and they spend two days in Paris.  Agi and I laugh a lot at these "international couple" movies and we both could relate a lot to different and stereotypical "Euro" and "American" behaviors:  how the Euro woman says she still keeps in touch with her 6 ex-boyfriends;  how the American goes to a burger joint to deal with his culture shock;  how the Euro parents live very differently than typical American families (in a flat and spend all their time talking about art).

-- "Good Night and Good Luck"   Very enlightening portryal of how journalist Edward Murrow took on McCarthy in the late fifties.  George Clooney did a great job directing.

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Brilliant Transportation Idea

Scott Adams of the Dilbert comic strip has a great blog where he often shares very insightful ideas.  Here's an excerpt from a recent post.

And this got me thinking about why we have so many cars in the first place. Excess cars cause traffic, pollution, and dependence on foreign sources of oil. And who benefits most by this situation? Answer: car makers.

Suppose the government enacted laws that made it legal for anyone to be a taxi driver in his own car without a special taxi license. And suppose the income was non-taxable. The result would be cheap taxis and high availability. Every time you wanted to run an errand, and had an extra minute, you could choose to pick up a rider and cut your own driving expense in half. Technology will make it easy to match amateur taxi drivers with riders. And the market would keep prices low.

Now obviously there are lots of problems with this scheme, in terms of security, liability, and people puking in the back of your Hyundai. But compare that to our current problems: car expenses, traffic, pollution, global warming, and excess energy use. I think the universal taxi scheme comes out ahead.

source: http://dilbert.com/blog/entry/taxi_please/

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How about some better cars?

I'd love to buy a great U.S. car that would actually compete against German and Japanese models.  While they gorged themselves on the profit margins from inefficient, dangerous SUVs this past decade, the rest of the modern world was innovating and working on producing fuel-efficient engines that don't require us to send billions to Middle East dictators.

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Book update

We've been checking out books on cd from the library. 

We finished Thomas More's Utopia on the drive down to California.  He definitely was ahead of his time and had very intriguing ideas on what would make a perfect society--some were good but others bad in a communist kind of way.

I read Real Food right after Agi did and it's been one of the most influential books I've ever read.  The bottom line: avoid processed, industrial food like the plague and eat whatever else you want as long as it's "real food"  (fruits, vegetables and animals that have actually been eating as their forebears did for millenia--e.g., no cows eating crushed up cows or processed grain).  This type of food tastes much better too.

We also listened to "the God of War" by M. Silver.  It was a very sobering story about a young boy growing up in poverty with a handicapped brother and single mother.  Beautifully written and made excellent points about the importance of caring for those who can't help themselves.

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Thanksgiving & Back in Portland

Agi and I have been keeping busy and a few times recently I thought about ditching this blog.  However, I've kept it up for about two years now and so I think I'll try to keep it going mainly as a record to remember what we've been up to.  I am, however, going to try to shorten down my entries.

- Over Thanksgiving, enjoyed meeting Sadie, the new Newfoundland puppy my parents bought;

- Had an exciting time shopping with younger brother Matthew, & Laurel & Agi.  Matthew's favorite color is definitely black currently.

- Saw new Bond movie--was good but not as good as the first "blond Bond" movie.

- Drove up to Portland on Sunday from Sacramento with Mombo & Agi.  Long but scenic.

- Saw Over the Rhine in concert on Monday in Portland with buddies Kalen & Melissa.  Tuesday night we went with sister Melissa and Mark at a funky cool "Living Room Theater" club/movie theater and watched a documentary about the French guy who walked across the WTC towers on a wire; enjoyed a great beer while watching the show, Portland style.

- Last night enjoyed "Arts Night" at our new church and heard several bands, amateur--but quite good--poets, and admired various artists' paintings too.  We love our new church and the friendly, genuine people there.

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Various

Agi and I watched a great movie last week: Bella.  It was very well done--great acting and well filmed--and had a fantastic, uplifting and refreshing story.  It hit on the themes of bad luck, redemption and how to choose to love others and make a huge impact on their lives.

We checked out San Francisco's new beautiful Academy of Sciences.  Despite the Disneyland-level crowds, the aquarium, rainforest experience, albino alligator and absolutely amazing Imax/planetarium show were world class.  Highly recommended.

Funny quote I want to remember that Kim S shared with us this weekend:  Kim's sister in law Bethany was traveling in Turkey. A Turkish guy called out to the attractive, blond Bethany--make sure to imagine the accent--and said, "Where are you from... heaven?"

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Criticism, Praise and the Travel Doctrine

I've seen recently that if you're in leadership in a business, church or non-profit capacity (basically in any kind of leadership role) the likelihood of receiving both intense criticism and heartfelt praise increase dramatically.  You experience more intensely negative and positive feedback from others and have to be skeptical of both.  (Note: I'm speaking mostly as an observer of politics, church and business but have experienced more of this recently with my own business).  But that's why, again, I'm a fan of Obama's character--his poise and and even temperament are a huge asset for anyone, but especially for a president.

One other thing: when Kim and Brook were visiting last weekend we came up with the Travel Doctrine:  it's that basically all travel involves 20% unsatisfying inconveniences that make you wonder if it's worth it; but then 30-40% of your time involves amazing, unprecedented experiences that causes you to think, "I can't believe I haven't done this before or been here before."  The remaining percentages of the Travel Doctrine still need to be worked out...

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Portland Continues to Deliver

On Tuesday, Lovely Agi had the day off (banking holiday) so we tried taking the very efficient clean tram/trolly/train called Max into downtown.  We got on at a stop just five minutes from our house and then in fifteen minutes we were downtown amidst all the action and we didn't have to worry about parking.  We walked around for several hours, got some coffee at the world-class "Stumptown" coffee roasters at the Ace hotel and also checked out a beautiful copper-hammered statue on a prominent building downtown, called "Portlandia."  The Statue of Liberty was made using the same technique, which makes sense because "Portlandia" also looks like a statue that a disaster movie would feature being knocked down by some kind of Godzilla creature.

Agi and I love walking in the woods but we also love walking through cities and we've been able to visit a number of great cities in the world.  This also allows us to appreciate how good we have it in our new adopted city.  As we walked around the classy but non-pretentious buildings and enjoyed the friendly people we interacted with, we decided that Portland is one of the greatest places in the world.  Agi and I have a list of our favorite places and here is how we rank our favorite cities: 1. Edinburgh, 2. Paris, 3. Portland (yes, really) 4. Prague  5. Salzburg. 6. New York  7. San Francisco.   What I've found is that Portland reminds me very much of Copenhagen in climate, friendly, artsy people and level of activity among its residents (high).

On Tuesday we wandered into the huge and beautiful Multnomah County library (it's just like a mammoth museum) and I checked out a google adwords book.  We walked by the huge statue of Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln again and this inspired me to read biographies of these great guys.  A good day.

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The key to health

Agi and I visited our new general practice/family doctor last week for the first time here in Portland.  He saw that Agi was reading "Real Food" and said "that's an excellent book."  He then went on to explain that:  "the key to longterm health is being able to avoid medicines if you can and just allow your body to take care of itself.  Eat well for sure."

He then told me later that "my older patients--several who are in their nineties--all have one thing in common: they exercise every single day, rain or shine.  And nearly all of them are taking no medications at all."  (Our doctor is an M.D.not an osteopathic doctor).

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Funny man

I read Scott Adams' Blog every so often (he's the creator of Dilbert).  The man cracks me up nearly every time I visit.  Excerpts from today on why the bad economic times are OK:

"Traffic isn't so bad, bargains abound, and even the lines seem shorter. 

It's expensive to travel anywhere, but on the other hand, the new season of 24 is almost here. I don't need to go to faraway places and meet people when I can sit on my couch and watch Jack Bauer shoot those people.
"

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