Have a Happy Halloween!

decorations, jack o' lantern, pumpkin, corn stalks, fall, autumn, gourds

Have a happy, safe, and fun Halloween!

Here are some photos from our Halloweens past; click or tap on any picture below for larger, higher def images:

Eugene, Oregon, witch, jedi, hallway, teacher, students, 3rd grade class, 4J, Lane
claptrap, costume, cardboard, appliance box, borderlands, video game, robot, cosplay, fall
jack o' lantern, halloween, Eugene, Oregon, decoration, kid fun
Halloween, decorations, kid fun, pumpkins, jack o' lantern, fall, autumn, costume
Zelda, costume, boy, kid, fun, sword, shield, Nintendo, video game, cosplay
Gym, Gymnasium, witch, jedi, students, 3rd grade, third, dancing witch, Oregon

Scenes In A Classic Saab Shop

On a bright afternoon in late May I caught the Amtrak Coast Starlight down to California's Central Valley and picked up an old Saab. Not the cool Model 96 rallye car above, but a near mint, low mileage Metallic Walnut 1984 900 Turbo. Near mint in looks, yes, but the previous owner had let the car sit for a few years in an implement shed on a farm near Fresno, and it needed not only a thorough cleaning to get all that valley dust out of there, but a lot of overdue maintenance service: all fluids replaced, new shocks, and alternator work.

And how did I know that the 900T needed alternator service? On the lonely road between the valley and the coast, in the quiet hours just before dawn, the battery warning light came on, and the car stopped running. And what exactly am I doing in an old unknown car, way out in the middle of nowhere? I really had to wonder about my sanity. Well, hooray for a cell phone and the Better World Club towing service.

Hitched a ride (see below) to the Swedish Auto Factory in Santa Clara / San Jose and spent most of a day hanging out there. An amazing place, it's filled with all kinds of old, and newer, Saabs (and a few Volvos too) in various stages of being serviced or completely rebuilt. I saw some model numbers 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99, 900, 9000, 9-3, 9-5, Sonetts, a few Saab racing cars and more - definitely "9" nirvana.

Wandered around, took some pictures in and around the shop, and left with a much lighter wallet. Afterwards I gassed up the Turbo, and headed over the Coast Range to Santa Cruz and drove north on Highway 1 along the Pacific, then through The City and over the Golden Gate.
The 900T made it to Oregon with no additional trouble: fantastic, and that's about the end of this tale.
*               *               *
Misc notes:
The Pirelli "P-Slot" rims that were on the '84 900T when I bought it are interesting rims in their own way, but later I found a set of similar vintage 8-spoke Ronal / Shelby / Minilite / Whatever wheels, which really add to the classic style - see the last photo below.
For anyone in Oregon needing good service for their "9"s, the twin Saab shops of Rod Beckner and John Collins, next door to each other in Jefferson OR, are about the only ones in this area that really know vintage Saabs. Besides their expertise, these small town Saab shops are also surprisingly affordable, compared to the big city rates I encountered in California.
Older Saabs, although very well engineered, do have their own peculiarities and quirks. The models 99 and 1st series "Classic" 900 have a backwards facing engine (!), but that makes them the only cars ever made where the clutch can be replaced without separating the engine and transmission, or removing either from the car. These series of Saabs are so well designed that it's virtually impossible to be ejected through the windshield in a crash, and possibly the first production autos with a built in roll cage. Besides that they're a lot of fun to drive, and distinctively beautiful in their own weird way.

Here are a few pictures, in no particular order, all taken with a Lumix TZ-3. Click or tap on any photo to access larger, higher definition images.

scenes in a classic Saab shop, turbo, metallic walnut, Pirelli P-Slot
Scenes in a classic Saab shop
Scenes in a classic Saab shop
Scenes in a classic Saab shop
Scenes in a classic Saab shop, racing cowl
Scenes In A classic Saab Shop
Scenes in a classic Saab shop, race, rally, rallye car
Scenes in a classic Saab shop, ten 10 spoke Ronal Shelby Minilite wheel, rim
Scenes in a classic Saab shop
Scenes in a classic Saab shop
Scenes in a classic Saab shop
Scenes in a classic Saab shop, Pirelli P-Slot
Scenes in a classic Saab shop, soccer ball wheel, rim
Scenes in a classic Saab shop
Scenes in a classic Saab shop
Scenes in a classic Saab shop, ten, 10 spoke Ronal Shelby Minilite Wheel, rim
Scenes in a classic Saab shop
Scenes in a classic Saab shop, Pirelli P-Slot, Metallic Walnut
Scenes in a classic Saab shop, Saab 900T
Scenes in a classic Saab shop, Eugene, Oregon

Almost Halloween

pumpkin, squash, corn stalks, fall color, autumn, decorations, jack o' lantern

It's almost Halloween.


Autumn Bike Ride

The weather turned cooler, it's already rained a bunch, and although it's still fall, the long wet Northwest winter is not too far away, so it was time to put some fenders (mudguards to you Brits) on the Bridgestone CB-Ø. While I was at it, the handlebars were changed, rear racks installed, and some bags were hung on it and the saddle.

I took the CB-Zip for a shakedown ride on a cool crisp and sunny day, and took some pictures of the trip through autumn splendour down 10th Ave to the library, before I headed back toward the hills south of town, and home. And although wet slippery leaves can be a real hazard when it rains, on this fairly dry day it was a pleasure to cruise through crunching carpets of color: red, yellow, brown and gold.

In Japan, there is a word for the season of falling cherry blossoms - Sakura - and it has inspired poetic thoughts and feelings for some centuries. I wonder if they have a name for how it feels to ride under brightly colored autumn leaves as they slowly drift down upon your path ahead?

Bridgestone CB-Zip, fall color, Eugene Oregon, B-Stone CB-Zero, trees, red, gold
Bridgestone CB-Zip, fall color, Eugene Oregon, trees, gold, red, bicycle, autumn
fall color, Eugene Oregon, B-Stone CB-Zero, bike, leaves, autumn, ride, red
Bridgestone CB-Zip, fall color, Eugene Oregon, bicycle, trees, leaves, autumn, red

All photos taken with a Canon Digital Elph SD550, my indestructible old pocket camera. Click or tap on any picture for larger, higher resolution images.

The Dead, and Un-Dead Streets Of Eugene

Eugene Celebration parade, hippie bus, band on boat, boat on top of bus, downtown traffic

During the economic downturn following the events of the early 2000s, the company I worked for took a big hit; rather than face a layoff, I accepted a temporary reassignment at their offices in Southern California. Besides having to be away from my family for a few months, the one thing I was not looking forward to was having to negotiate the traffic around Los Angeles, which I'd heard was full of the worst drivers in the country, maybe the entire world.

So were the driving conditions in L.A. as awful as they were made out to be? Well, yes... and no. For one thing, the place is freaking huge, and people there don't think twice about jumping on a freeway and rocket sledding at high speed 40 or 50 miles to go buy a book and have some ice cream. And death on the roads, a routine daily thing there I guess, is treated pretty nonchalantly - Newscaster: "Fatal 15 car pileup on the inbound 605! Our sky cam shows traffic backed up for miles! Boy, I wouldn't want to be stuck in THAT on my way home, ha ha!"  Co-anchor: "Yeah, it's a mess alright! Ha ha ha!" (Note: this was an actual 6:00 news broadcast. I'm not making this up.)

Anyone who has ever driven in any city in Italy, Mexico, or Japan would laugh at the idea of Southern California traffic being unusually bad, because really, it isn't. I did notice however, that the drivers there didn't want to slow down and stop for fire engines and ambulances, a behavior just as sad, sociopathic, dumb, and actively working against their own better interest as what Tea Bagger Republican types do. That's about it; for the most part driving in and around L.A. isn't any worse than being in Portland or Seattle. Except it's freaking huge.

After being awhile in Southern California, I built up an idyllic false memory of how peaceful and calm the streets of Eugene were in comparison to L.A. I was wrong. After getting back to Oregon I realized how bad the overall level of driving skill, caution, and courtesy is here. Eugene/Springfield is a fairly compact urban area, and it doesn't take long to get from one side of town to the other, but that doesn't stop a lot of people from going way too fast, and since there are so few dedicated arterial streets, and a large river dividing the town with even fewer bridges, it just worsens the situation.

A further complication is that there are three Walmarts, and that gets Walmart shoppers confused, since it's an odd number, and larger than two.

But simple geography doesn't explain why things are so crummy on the streets here, so over the last couple of years I've done some semi-serious study, and developed a semi-theory, and it goes something like this:

Eugene, and to a lesser extent, Springfield, is a melting pot of sorts, and for various reasons a lot of different types of folks have settled here lately. First off, there's a major university (Duck U!), and as everyone knows, college students, especially the teenage ones, are the worst drivers, ever. Secondly, like the rest of the country, there's a sizable, and growing, percentage of the population that are, to be polite, "aging", and you have to agree, senior citizens are the worst drivers around.  

Also, as in the rest of the western US, there is an expanding immigrant population here. Except for the illegals, who drive very carefully so they won't get caught, everybody knows that people from south of the border are the worst drivers anywhere. Add to that the large number of people from Asia that have come here recently, either university staff and faculty members, or as part of the South China/Hong Kong diaspora, and really, Asians are the worst drivers in the world, period.  

In fact, due to the university, there are a lot of just plain Foreigners here, and since they can't read the street signs, which of course are in American, that automatically makes them really bad drivers. We can't forget that there are a lot of native Oregonians that have moved here from rural areas of the state to pursue the greater economic opportunities available, and as everyone knows, rednecks are the worst drivers in the country.  

For some time now, Eugene has consistently been included in many of the "Top Ten Most Livable Cities" lists in various magazines and websites catering to the upwardly mobile, hipster, living on investment portfolios social leech classes. Now the streets are increasingly choked with latte swilling, cell-phone yakking, sun-glass wearing, iPhone texting, get-out-of-my-way SUV drivers from all over the country that have descended on this city like a horde of buzz-word spewing locusts, and they truly are the worst drivers anyone has ever seen.

And because the school system (actually, the school board itself) here is seriously fu messed up and fixated on "choice", the morning streets are packed with mobs of harassed, over caffeinated moms in mini-vans, desperately trying to stay on schedule while shuttling Buffy to the French Academe, Ken-Do to the Japanese Gakkuen, and little Truman-Angela to the Diversity Sensitivity Training Gender Studies school, all of which are on opposite ends of town. And it's established fact that moms in mini-vans are the suckiest drivers of all time.

And lastly, there are the old hippies: thank goodness for the medical marijuana program, because without it there would be a heck of a lot more of them out there, driving around looking for their 1/4 ounces, and everyone knows that stoners are the worst, uh... whatever... uh, drivers? Cosmic truth, like, whoa - flashes! And... "Peace", ya know?

So that's it, that's my theory. And if I haven't insulted like, you know, everybody already, if I've left anybody out, get in touch and let me know, and I'll insult you, too.

Now here are a few more snapshots taken at various past Eugene Celebration parades, all with a Lumix TZ-3. Click or tap on any picture for larger, higher resolution images.

Eugene Celebration parade float, Corvallis Da Vinci Days Kinetic Challenge, downtown traffic
Eugene Celebration parade float, big fish, downtown traffic
Eugene Celebration parade, float, hippie bus, boat on bus, downtown traffic
Eugene, slug queen, parade float

The Wild, Wacky Early 2000s

Dick "Pacemaker Heartbeat Away" Cheney, Osama "My Mom Can Make The Costumes!" Bin Laden, Saddam "It's My Party" Hussein, Nickelback Dude
Dick "Pacemaker Heartbeat Away" Cheney, Osama "My Mom Can Make The Costumes!" Bin Laden, Saddam "It's My Party" Hussein, Nickelback Dude

Remember the early 2000s?  For those of us who either weren't there, or weren't paying attention, let me recap:

Minor party functionaries in a southern state full of crazy ass old people, run by the brother of the Republican candidate, stopped the vote counting and threw the Presidential election, aided and abetted by both a partisan majority of the supreme court, and a media savvy enough to know that dramas and disasters boost ratings and profit; the most influential player during all of this was the owner of the world's biggest media conglomerate, who happens to be a citizen of Australia.

To be totally fair, both parties had the weakest slates of candidates in recent memory: each of the men running for President were unsympathetic and inarticulate at best, and the Vice Presidential contenders were both remarkably ugly and unappealing, with vicious personalities.

Taking full advantage of the resultant weakened and incompetently led new government, a radical militant Islamic Jihadist Arab from Saudi Arabia, related to that country's royal family, planned and carried out a series of unexpected and unconventional attacks within the borders of the US. These devastating events were completely undetected beforehand by our usually infallible intelligence services, all of which had gone through major organizational changes immediately following the election.

In response to those terrorist attacks, which demoralized a fearful public and threw the nation into economic panic, our government in turn carpet bombed a poverty stricken, mainly Pashtun populated country with no organized military, where the Arab Jihadist happened to live at the time.  Emboldened by an easy victory, we next invaded another, totally unrelated neighboring nation, at great cost in lives and capital, effectively bankrupting our treasury and accomplishing nothing except the enrichment of military contracting companies, the largest of which the Vice President was a major shareholder in.

Meanwhile, the President urged the country to take vacations at Disney World (which happened to be located in the state run by his brother) as a solution to the economic downturn, as well as going on public record stating that he had no intention of apprehending the Saudi Jihadist behind the terrorist attacks. Inexplicably, in spite of all this, he won a second term in office.

For a large percentage of the population of this country, all of these events and actions seemed perfectly rational at the time, which may or may not tell us something about ouselves.

In other news, the media, and therefore the public, were obsessively fixated on the disappearance or death of various blond girls; association football (known as "soccer" in the US), remained the world's most popular sport; and some volcano blew up somewhere.

These were the most popular films from the years 2000-2005:
2000 - Mission: Impossible II
2001 - Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone ("Sorcerer's Stone" in the US)
2002 - The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers
2003 - The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
2004 - Shrek II
2005 - Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

And the top hit songs for those years were:
2000 - Breathe, by Faith Hill
2001 - Hanging by a Moment, by Lifehouse
2002 - How You Remind Me, by Nickelback
2003 - In Da Club, by 50 Cent
2004 - Yeah!, by Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris
2005 - We Belong Together, by Mariah Carey

With only one exception, all of these hit movies were exceptionally well crafted and memorable. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for any of the chart topping songs.

Fun and exciting times, indeed.

Note: Of the four personalities from the early 2000s pictured above, only one is still alive today, and another is a zombie.

The Future Has Passed Us By

Yesterday I was taking the trash and recycling bins out to the curb, and as I got to the street the collection truck went by, at least an hour earlier than usual. Well, crap. Okay, I know they say to put the cans out the evening before, but sometimes odd things happen in the middle of the night, like drunks and dogs. Someone driving by after the bars close, may be able to spot your car and swerve around it, but they'll hit your trash can for sure. As for dogs, there used to be a lot more really big dogs around, and they would think it was fun to knock a garbage can over and paw through it; nowadays, it's the pet walkers stopping by and leaving a nice warm bag of poop in your trash.

1950s, 1960s, retro future, retrofuturism, 20th century, 21st century, prediction

Not only do we have to go through our refuse and separate out the glass into another tub, and read the codes on the bottom of plastic items to determine whether it can be recycled or not, while at the same time making sure not to leave any food residue on recyclables, now we've got to get all that stuff out there at the crack of dawn.

Not so very long ago, we were assured that by the turn of the 21st Century, we would all be living in space age design houses full of amazing gadgets, including appliances that would convert trash into usable items, while we commuted in flying hover cars to our robot-assisted dream jobs at the center of fantastically futuristic cities, and vacationed on the moon or Mars, courtesy of commercial space-liner travel.

1950s, 1960s, retro future, retrofuturism, 20th century, 21st century, prediction

Of course, we now know that most all of those happy science fiction fantasies didn't materialize. Google around and there's some amount of speculation concerning just how all of the future-gazing oracles of the previous age could have gotten it so wrong, but the simple truth is that everyone living during the mid 20th century had every reason to believe that the rate of technological progress would remain steady, as it had been all of their lives.

1950s, 1960s, retro future, retrofuturism, 20th century, 21st century, prediction
Someone born at the turn of the 20th century would have seen amazing changes just in the course of fifty years. In 1900 they would have taken a horse and buggy on dirt streets to the station to catch a steam powered train; by the late 1950s one could jump into a big metal sled capable of traveling over a hundred miles an hour, and drive to the airport to board a sleek aluminum tube jetliner that could whisk you through the stratosphere, anywhere in the world, at close to the speed of sound.  

It wasn't just transportation; virtually every field of technology also achieved quantum leaps in knowledge and application during that time, and no one thought there would ever be a time when things would slow down.

1950s, 1960s, retro future, retrofuturism, 20th century, 21st century, prediction

But slow down it did; sometime around 1960, for whatever reason, the rate of technological progress began to wind down to a crawl, and things just started to stay the same, year after year. Oh sure, we now have the internet, and mobile phones, and satellite TV, but the basic scientific knowledge that enabled the development of all these had been in place since at least the 1920s, if not the mid 19th century. We now live in an era where the dictates of the marketplace require the labeling of merely incremental innovation as being somehow revolutionary advances, and we're led to believe that the world of today is some sort of bright shining techno paradise. But the reality is somewhat different.

1950s, 1960s, retro future, retrofuturism, 20th century, 21st century, prediction

We are now almost 20 years late on all the glowing predictions of a golden 21st Century future, and today everything is essentially exactly as it was back in the 1950s. Our automobiles still use petroleum combustion piston engines and roll on rubber tires down our cracked and pothole filled streets, we're still entertaining ourselves in front of little illuminated screens, the cities are if anything much more the worse for wear than in the past, and even our commercial air transports are virtually identical to the 707 jetliners of 1958.

Oh I forgot - there are a couple big differences. We're now sorting our trash and putting it in different bins, and dog poop goes into little plastic bags. Welcome to the future!