From Oregon

Volume 11: Winter 2006

Here I (still) am in Corvallis, Oregon.

As usual, it was a quiet year. My strategy for staying out of the hospital has been working. I’ve even improved my health a bit, but more on that below.

Stupid Trip

In January a friend was visiting the Puget Sound region, and invited me to join him for a few days. I did, in what I later came to call the Stupid Trip.

It wasn’t stupid that I went to see him; that part was a pleasure. What was stupid was how I planned it. He was going to be in Port Townsend, but I also wanted to make a side trip to visit another friend in Everett. They’re across the Puget Sound from each other. The other constraints for the trip were (a) except for getting to and from the train, the trip was going to be public transport, and (b) I wanted the trip to be about four days long, for fear of tiring myself out. The outcome of all these constraints was this schedule:

Day Route Travel
Monday Corvallis-Port Townsend 12 hours in car, train, ferries, buses, and waiting
Tuesday Port Townsend-Everett 5 hours in ferries, buses, waiting, and walking
Wednesday Everett-Port Townsend 5 hours in car, ferries, buses, and waiting
Thursday Port Townsend-Corvallis same as Monday, but in reverse

You can do the math: an average of seven and a half hours on public transport each day. Not an ideal way to spend a trip. And that’s overlooking the missed connection in Everett which forced me to walk two miles in the rain, in the dark, in a city I didn’t know to meet someone before he left. That was a joy, let me tell you. For all that, I barely got to see Port Townsend in the day. Certainly not when it was sunny. And since I’m on a roll of complaining, I’d just like to say Amtrak’s choice of movie, Just Like Heaven, was appalling. Nothing livens up an (alleged) romantic comedy like a madcap hospital chase scene involving the body of a comatose woman whose family has just made the heart-rending decision to end her life support.

Yup, definitely a stupid trip. Good to see the people, but the scheduling was dumb. Next time: take longer and make a loop, rather than reversing course half way through.

Oh, and I almost lost my now-unreplaceable rain slicker too. Turns out they don’t make that kind of cheap rubberized stuff anymore. Instead, you can get something worse for five times the price. Luckily, the person I’d left it with in Port Townsend was kind enough to send it.

Lest you think the trip was mostly bad: it wasn’t. Some other good things: a rainbow seen from the Port Townsend ferry; someone flying a parafoil near the Mukilteo ferry; a helpful woman at the Everett Safeway; wandering through the Elliott Bay Book Co. store in Seattle, jotting down titles to suggest to my book club; and overhearing the convivial folks of Whidbey Island celebrating a fellow commuter’s last day of work.

Paperworks, Farewell

Early this year, my friend Shannon decided to close her paper store, Paperworks. I’d spent a lot of time there in the previous few years, and gotten to know the staff really well. It got to the point where I was ringing up my own transactions and occasionally minding the store when they were short-handed and needed to grab lunch from the bakery next door. It really had become a part of my day, and I was sad to see it go. Yet I was happier knowing that Shannon would no longer be chained to the store.

Shannon looked for a buyer, but didn’t find one. (She did sell the Web side of the business.) She had to be out of the rented store space by the end of June, and had scheduled a week to clean up. I didn’t want to give a physical goodbye gift, as she was going to be bringing much of the store’s stock home with her. Instead, I promised to devote the last week of June to helping her empty and clean the store.

The whirlwind began on the last day the store was open, a Saturday. Shannon had planned to work the day alone. Unbeknownst to her, that morning the local paper ran a story on the store’s closing. When I stopped by at 11 AM, she was inundated. I’d never seen a line five deep at the register before. I (figuratively) leapt behind the counter and began to wrap customers’ purchases. The next thing we knew, it was noon. I think we both were glad I’d stopped by.

Cleaning out Paperworks took some work, but it was fun. The first few days were devoted to consolidating the stock and taking down decorations. By Thursday most of the furniture was gone. Friday, the last day, was manic. While Shannon was dealing with the files and a thousand last-minute details and interruptions, Marcie took control of the cleaning and did an amazing job. (More thanks go out to everyone who helped, and there were quite a few.) We were constantly putting things outside on the FREE! table: paper scraps, display racks, chairs, a Christmas tree stand, a 5 1/4" floppy disk holder, a pair of men’s dress pants (size 32) with suspenders, and a chick incubator. The latter wasn’t taken, but most everything else was. Liz and I scraped the vinyl Paperworks logo off the window, and presented Shannon with it in the form of a wadded-up ball colored red, tan, and black. I believe she still has it.

Farewell, Paperworks. You will be missed.


During the summer I received an unexpected financial gift. I thought long and hard about what to do with it. I didn’t want it go into my general account; I wanted it to go to something special, something lasting. At last inspiration struck: an exercise machine. I’d been using a weight bench & free weights, but was feeling limited by all the exercises I couldn’t do with them. (Last year I’d tried to screw some pulleys into the ceiling for a pulldown bar, only to eventually discover it was a false ceiling that couldn’t take the weight.) With an exercise machine, I’d be able to do the exercises I wanted, while feeling good about putting the gift money toward a long-term goal: improving my health.

I looked around and found a device at the local sports and fitness store that was $1 less than the gift. Soon, the machine (a Bowflex) had replaced my weight bench. To my surprise, it’s actually smaller in its stored configuration, giving my apartment more space. Yea! It’s taken awhile to adjust to, as the feel of exercise is different. For example, when you’re doing a bench press on a weight bench, you do most of the work when you’re pushing the bar back up in the second half of the exercise. With the new machine, you’re always pulling or pushing against resistance in the first half of the exercise. It’s a very different feel. Also, resistance on the machine don’t correspond directly to free weights, so I had to learn my limits all over again.

But I’m doing well with it. I’ve kept to a four or five day regimen, making exceptions only for (all too frequent) strains. The best part is that it seems to be making a difference. I haven’t yet become the “very buff 130#” a friend expects me to be some day, but in December I did finally break the 120 lb. barrier. My weight had been trending upwards, but never before had I been on the high side of 120#. Hoo-ha, 55.1 kg!

And I can finally do lat pulldowns.


As you can figure from the preceding section, my health has been good. No major colds, no hospitalizations. I’ve probably been exercising regularly more than at any time since grade school. I aim to continue that. There’s a new head of OHSU’s Adult CF group, and I think he’s going to change the group for the better. I was really encouraged when, during our first meeting, he handed me a chart showing my pulmonary function test numbers for the previous five years. No doctor had ever showed me that; usually, they’d compare the current numbers to those of the previous visit. I never got a “big picture” that showed long-term trends in the data. Even better, he said the chart was mine to keep; they were making the charts a standard part of a checkup; and they were planning to do the same with weight, too. All good, and long overdue. I’m encouraged.

San Fran

Glacier and I skipped the geology field trip this year. Circumstances weren’t right, gas prices were high, and we didn’t have any destination other than the mud pots near the Salton Sea. That’s a long way to go for something you wouldn’t spend much time at.

Instead, we went to San Francisco and northern California. Glacier had a conference in San Jose, so off we went. The trip down was uneventful except for passing Mt. Shasta. The cinder cones and frost heaves in the area were awe-inspiring, as they always are.

To make a longer story short: I visited friends, gamed, walked around Berkeley, got lost on BART (note to self: look at maps!), ate sushi, watched someone get california’d, resisted spending $100 in a comic book store, partied in bars with bikers, saw friends I haven’t seen in a while, met some guys I’ve known of for years, pet a scaredy cat, and generally had a good time with friends, beards, and bearded friends. I’ve never had so many drinks bought for me—to be honest, though, they were part of rounds being bought for everyone. At least I was smart enough to only drink about half of it. Everyone seemed to have Apple laptops (5 of the 6 homes I visited, and 60-70% of the developers at Glacier’s conference), and many also had copies of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. I don’t think there’s a connection...

And, amazingly, I didn’t get a cold. Glacier did, but he was exposed to a lot of people at the conference.


The last noteworthy thing I participated in this year was the creation of a calendar to celebrate Corvallis’s 2007 sesquicentennial. A friend invited my copy-editing skills, so I volunteered. The task was a challenge, but working with the other folks on the team made it fun. Choosing photos for the cover and different months was a particular pleasure. Sadly, my favorite image, young women with guns, wasn’t chosen. But I learned more about Corvallis’s history than I ever knew, had a good time, and helped make something for people to enjoy throughout the coming year of celebration.

That’s a good way to end a year.


Whoops! Here’s stuff I forgot, and updates:

  • For a while during 2006, you could get a freshly made raspberry lime rickey in this town. It was like 1990 all over again.

  • Rubberized rain gear is still available, if you look in the right places. Skip sporting goods stores like REI; instead, try those that cater to construction and road workers.

  • On October 17, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 effectively ended habeas corpus. I hope to live long enough to see this come to be universally regarded as a fifty-year low point for the United States of America, akin to the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s.

Last updated 6 January 2007
All contents ©2006 Mark L. Irons.

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