12/31/2010

December Tasting Notes

EAT!

Lardo (food cart) - porchetta sandwich, pork belly and farm egg sandwich, lardo fries: I have to say, these sandwiches were flat-out fantastic. The fries were good, the pork on each sandwich fatty and moist, and the bread held up against the meat and toppings very, very well. Both sandwiches were also good the next day. Taste-wise I could eat this all the time. Unfortunately, doing so would probably kill a person in less than a month. Great, great food, but this is a once-a-year type place, unless you really are focused on gaining weight and clogging your arteries. We'll go back. In 2012.

Sweet Pea's Brulee (food cart) - creme brulee, vanilla marshmallows, s'mores, rice krispie treat w/chocolate: We stopped at this cart because it caught our eye while eating at Lardo. Everything looked so good...and ended up being disappointing. The creme brulee had a decent flavor, but was a little lumpy and had a faint taste of just burnt, rather than crisped sugar. This could be because it was melted with a medium duty propane torch - I don't know. The rice krispies were stale, so that was not good at all. The graham crackers of the s'mores were supposedly housemade, but they looked a lot like Nabisco to us. The marshmallows were average, but despite saying vanilla they were actually orange, which isn't the greatest of suprises. We won't be going back.

St. Jack's - smoked salmon tartine, madeleines, chocolate caramel tart, ham and gruyere croissant: We stopped in here just before the full opening of the restaurant, when just the cafe/bakery part was open, for breakfast. The tartine was magnificent, topped with capers, greens, a generous amount of smoked salmon, radish, and cucumber - very light and full of flavor. The baguettes come from Little T, so of course they are good. The croissant was excellent - one of the best I've ever had. (See pictures here.) The chocolate tart had a very light crust and a rich, full chocolate flavor, one I could eat daily (though shouldn't). The madeleines are baked to order and while they were definitely tasty little bits of baked dough, they didn't do anything special for me. Can't wait to go back now that the restaurant is open.

Little T American Baker - apple danish, baguette: I'll just leave it at nothing I have ever had at Little T has been bad. Just go there, see what's in the case, and buy it. And take home some bread. You will be happy. We go back often.

Foster Burger - Kiwi Burger, Foster Road Pileup: In the neverending quest to try all the best burgers in Portland Foster Burger, a newer place, finally made an appearance in my stomach. The Kiwi burger, supposedly #4 on the list, was an excellent burger, but I thought the lamb lacked a strength of meaty flavor to stand up to all the other toppings. It seemed to have good seasoning on it's own, just not enough of "it" for me to say it's really great. Very good, just not great. The Pileup was kind of a big mess, as one can expect. What was not expected was the insertion of super damn hot peppers, which aren't on the online menu but apparently are on the menu at the restaurant. If those peppers hadn't have been there, it probably would have been sufficiently awesome, but I'm not a fan of the hot. The fries were a solid offering as a side; the cole slaw was horrible. I went here for lunch and was one of two tables with patrons. Sure, it was the week before Christmas and this location isn't near offices (best for a lunch crowd), but it was sad. Can't see it justifying lunch hours if that's typical. Also ordered a pint of Black Butte Porter. BBP was typically yummy, but Foster Burger serves it literally ice cold. That's way, way, way too damn cold for a porter - the vast majority of the beer didn't get touched until the burger was gone. Service was fine, nothing special. We'll go back.

Lucy's Original (food cart) - Jucy Lucy, Bistro Burger: In Minneapolis there are a couple places who claim to have created the Jucy Lucy, which is a burger with the cheese actually inside the burger, placed there before it's cooked up. Up until now this wasn't available in Portland, but the wonderful people who previously ran the Little Red Bike Cafe have started a new food truck specializing in just these kinds of burgers. And they are awesome, very awesome. The Jucy Lucy, with American cheese inside the patty, comes with housemade sweet pickles, which I loved even though I'm not normal a sweet pickle fan - they provided a nice balance to the rest of the flavors. The Bistro Burger comes with blue cheese inside the patty, bacon on top, and a spot of fig jam for a striking contrast of sweetness to the meatiness of the bacon and beef and the robust flavor of the cheese. The wheat buns are also tasty and hold up well under the drippings of the burger, making a napking almost unnecessary. Almost. Will definitely be going back.

LATE ADDITION!

Nostrana - Olio Nuovo small plates, gnocchi in tomato butter sauce, bistecca alla Fiorentina, tiramisu: Nostrana had some special dishes for their Olio Nuovo 2010, which celebrates the new crop of olive oil from Italy. We ordered a special set of three small plates: Manila clams and zolfino beans - clams aren't usually my thing but this was excellent; purees of carrot, lentil, and potato - the oil drizzled over the top made this heavenly; and zuppa alla frantoiana - basically a vegetable soup with a piece of toast and oil mixed in, which was perfect. It really was a very nice set of appetizers and showcased the flavor of the olive oil as well as showed some fun ways to use it. The gnocchi was light and fluffy as gnocchi should be, but the tomato butter sauce - while excellent - may not be the right fit. I should point out this was our choice, so perhaps choosing the pesto would have been a better complement. We also tried a wine flight of reds made from Sangiovese grapes in Tuscany which were supposed to really show off the regions terroir, plus go well with pasta and grilled meat. All three (Dei Rosso di Montepulciano 2007, Pian dell'Orino 'Piandorino' 2006, and Felsina Chianti Classico 2007) did complement the dishes well with notes of leather and some berry. One in particular, the Dei glass, had a soft, buttery aftertaste as well. Not sure I'd buy a bottle of any of them, but we enjoyed them. And then there was the bistecca all Fiorentina. A 50-day aged, two-inch think, one-kilo beast of a steak smothered in Italian herbs and garlic and cooked to the rare side of medium rare before being sliced and arrange on the plate with a side of lemon slices, the steak was a masterpiece. I had seen pictures and this steak lived up to all my expectations. Of course, at $60 (check the dinner menu on the site link above - it's always on there) it better, right? Thankfully we had a certificate for $25 off when you spend $35 or more from Restaurant.com (which I paid $2 for), so that lessened the blow a little bit, but this was still a spendy meal by any stretch. And you know what? I was okay with that - I feel like I got my money's worth. I won't be spluring again for that steak anytime soon, but it was definitely a great meal - and there were leftovers! Oh, and the tiramisu was excellent. We split the dessert and it wasn't all that big, but it packed plenty of flavor. The ladyfingers were still spongy, instead of being a sodden group. To me that speaks of it being fresh, which is a rarity. Of course we'll go back...one of our favorite places in Portland.

Wifey and I also said a goodbye to one of our favorite places, Alba Osteria. That took up it's own post.

DRINK!

BEER

Southern Tier Brewing's Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout: I think the milk stout (milk because it has lactose sugar) part of this beer was very good. The creme brulee part, not so much. The flavoring used, although supposedly brewed with vanilla beans, wasn't up to my vanilla standards. I admit to being a bit of a Madagascar vanilla snob, but this tasted literally like that fake vanilla extract made with "vanillin" - whatever that is. I would try another stout, even a milk stout, from Southern Tier, but not this one.

New Belgium's 2 Below: Many people love New Belgium, but admittedly I have only tried Fat Tire and not been that impressed. This winter offering from them, though, I really enjoyed. It has a nice spicy and somewhat sweet flavor, is nice and light, and smells very good actually. I'd drink more of this.

Deschutes 2010 Abyss: I really enjoyed last year's Abyss and have one of the 2009's I plan on cracking open on January 10th for a certain football game on TV. Personally, I didn't get the feeling the 2010 lived quite up to that standard, though it was still a very good drink and I did buy an extra bottle for saving until the Best After date. Since trying the 2010 Abyss on my own, I've read various reviewers with much more refined beer palattes than I say the 2009 was the worst Abyss and 2010 seems like it could be the best, especially after a little aging. Obviously it's still up to the individual drinker, but I just thought that was interesting. Still, definitely a recommend...and maybe I'll get to the Portland pub to try the Abyss on nitro.

Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws: This is one of the most well balanced beers I've had in a long time. The hops and malt are in perfect harmony and the resulting taste is excellent, with a tiny bit of fruit and a nice sweetness. Supposedly this is a barleywine (11.5% alcohol!) that should age nicely, so I picked up a couple more to save. What's the bonus? It comes in 12 ounce bottles - more special beers should come in 12 ounce bottles.

COFFEE

Batdorf and Bronson's French Roast, Holiday Blend, and Guatemala Antigua Finca El Valle: We wanted to try something new earlier this month and Whole Foods was out of the Dancing Goats and Holiday blends, so we opted for French Roast and the Guatemalan. The French was a rich, dark coffee, but too dark for Wifey and not as strong as Stumptown's Hairbender for me in the morning, so we drank it but it doesn't seem to have a fit for us (we liked it, just not better than our other staples). Holiday is an excellent blend we both liked - smooth, balanced, with nice chocolate notes. The Guatemalan was also well balanced but a little too light for me - not enough caffeine. It's a good afternoon coffee, giving just a little bit of a pick-me-up for the after work writing. As usual Batdorf and Bronson make excellent coffee - haven't had one we didn't like.

WINE

Andrew Rich 2007 Pinot Noir: Wifey and I both really liked this wine. We got the bottle on sale at New Seasons, then used most of it to make French Onion soup. The soup was excellent, if a bit wine-heavy, but the wine also drank very well on it's own. A little fruitiness, a hint of leather, and just a tiny bit of spice for balance. Of course when we went back to New Seasons and wanted more it was sold out and probably not returning. Damn. Rich's wines are at the Winemaker's Studio in Carlton, a place we have been wanting to go anyway, so it might be time to make that trip.

Adelsheim 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris: This wine was supposed to be light, crisp, and bright. It was those things, but it also wasn't very good. We drank it because we can't throw it out (just would be wrong), but definitely wouldn't get again. To me a pinot gris should have at least a note of sweetness in there, preferably something of the peach/pear/citrus category, but this had none of that. Not for us.

12/28/2010

Misaki Catches A Goose

Around here we seem to always have flocks of Canadian geese, either flying north or south or just simply hanging out on a layover. These geese honk like crazy as they fly overhead and congregate in normal goose hangout spots, like high schools and parking lots.

And when they honk, Misaki looks up. She watches these large birds as they gracefully float on the wind, no doubt wondering just what it would taste like grilled up in her food dish with a nice red wine reduction. And we tell her no, Misaki, that's not going to happen - you don't get to have alcohol. How about a nice goose gravy instead?

Today, though...one of them flew too low. Misaki waited, biding her time...

And waited...

And POUNCED!

Misaki: I Can Haz Goose!

Okay, so it's not a real goose. That would be a little odd, with her catching it in the living room and all. Still, she wasn't any less excited than if it was real. This stuffed goose makes a (rather loud) honking sound and crackles a tiny bit too. It took Misaki a few minutes to find the honker, but when she did...oh boy. It literally sounded like a gaggle of the creatures was in my living room.

No, Misaki, you cannot bring this to bed with you. (Bed is in our bedroom.)

We've actually been meaning to get her one these for awhile. At her old home at Sanshou Shibas there was a toy very similar to this one - a duck instead of a goose, I believe - she apparently loved a ton, even though it's really kind of big for her mouth. She carried that thing around and wanted to bring it to her new home, but she shared it with all of the Sanshou Shibas so Misaki had to give it up for the good of the group. What a good pack member!

But now... Now Misaki has an entire goose all to herself. And since it was a Christmas present, I guess that makes it the proverbial Christmas goose.

Here's a few more pictures of Misaki and her Christmas present.

Misaki: Oh my god! So damn awesome!

Misaki: Back off Moochie! I've got this goose intruder under control!

Misaki: I think the correct place to chomp the spinal column is right...here. Cool. Now I don't have to ask Dad to finish off my kill.

Misaki: You are welcome, world. I have slain the goose. And later, I will slay him again. And again tomorrow.

Merry Christmas pups! And hopefully everyone had a good holiday.

12/23/2010

Writing Class Was A Success

So after six weeks and 12 lessons, I decided that online writing classes do not suck. In fact, it was actually quite a bit of fun.

Each of the classes - I signed up through Portland Community College, but the classes were done by a company called ed2go - focused on a specific basic component of writing, with plenty of exercises and examples. Each class also had a written assignment, which was then shared in a message board/forum system for analysis by the teacher and by our peers. There was also a five-question, multiple-choice quiz each week.

I feel like I learned quite a bit. Few of the concepts, admittedly, were new ones to me, but I could remember back to various English classes when I was first introduced to them and understand better why things are as they are. Given I now want to actively use the concepts to write seriously, they mean more.

Most education seems wasted on youth, I believe. It was all great back then, but there was no perspective involved, so most things were learned, tested upon, and summarily disregarded as unimportant.

The end goal of this class was to write a 500-word creative piece, which ended up being our final assignment. It could stand on it's own or be part of a larger piece, so I chose to write a scene from the oft-mentioned novel in my head I hadn't started. 1,900 words and multiple revisions later, I'm pretty proud of the scene I created. (As it turns out it's probably Chapter 2 of the manuscript and Chapter 1 hasn't been written. Whatever. Is that important?)

I took the final, which was holy-crap-36-multiple-choice-questions, and only missed one, which wasn't bad since I didn't study anything - just like back in college. I submitted my final creative piece to the forum for feedback.

I admit it - I was pretty damn proud of myself for writing the piece. Not only because I thought it read well, but because it represents finally starting the book I've been planning for awhile. It's the first step of a journey that will probably be pretty long. Fun times!

In all honesty I had no issues letting others read it. I liked it and thought others would too. I've been writing for the world on the net - here and elsewhere - long enough that a little criticism wasn't going to bother me. As it turned out, people seemed to really enjoy it. I deliberately wrote a serious action scene for this purpose, but everyone said they'd read more, which is all I can hope for, right? My teacher - as teachers are wont to do - knocked me down a couple pegs with some critiques, but she was spot on. I will make those changes, right the first chapter, and then move on with the rest of the story.

After taking the class I feel stronger than ever that this is what I need to do. So strongly, in fact, I signed up for another online class specifically about novel planning, which I found through Tawna Fenske's quite funny blog on gifts for writers.

Unfortunately for people hanging on my every word on this blog - probably no one - it means blog production is going down. I won't be writing any less, it just won't be in this space. Once or twice a week, maybe some cute Misaki and kitty pictures when the opportunity presents itself, but I'm shifting my focus for the moment.

You know, just until the BEST SELLER is written. What, are my expectations too high? Shrug.

Right - I have no doubt this will end up being a humbling experience. Or maybe it won't. I really have no idea, but it will be fun.

12/22/2010

2010 Pac-10 Bowl Preview

It's Bowl Season! Actually it started last Saturday, but since no Pac-10 teams were involved no one cares, right?

I managed a 3-1 record for rivalry week with my picks, giving me a 57-19 record on the year heading into the bowls. The only one I missed was the Zona-Zona State game, which in retrospect should have been predictable.

Since only four Pac-10 teams made it to bowls this season - Oregon, Stanford, Arizona, and Washington - I'm going to round out this bowl preview with a some Pac-12 (!) action. First up, the Utes, who join the best league in the land next season, followed by the rest in date order.

Las Vegas Bowl
12/22/10
Utah. v. Boise State

You have to feel for the Broncos. One kick away from the Rose Bowl - they would have been ahead of TCU - and they miss. Twice. Utah is a good team and they will be competitive in the Pac-12, but they aren't on the same level as these boys in blue.

Pick: Boise State

Alamo Bowl
12/29/10
Oklahoma State v. Arizona

Normally I like to give Pac-10 teams the benefit of the doubt, but Zona finished the season losing four in a row (albeit to Oregon, Stanford, USC, and the rivalry game). Early on they looked tough and confident, but by the end of the year they simply couldn't stop anyone. And the Cowboys have one of the nation's best offenses. Ouch.

Pick: Oklahoma State

Holiday Bowl
12/31/10
Nebraska v. Washington

When these two matched up back in September, in Seattle, I picked the Huskies to pull the upset - I won't make that mistake again. Remember last season when making the Holiday Bowl meant you were the second-best team in the conference? This year it's the Huskies. Yikes.

Pick: Nebraska

Orange Bowl
1/3/11
Stanford v. Virginia Tech

These Cardinal have been consistently strong in every game they have played. They have the nation's best quarterback - better than Kellen Moore or Cam Newton - who will be the top pick in the 2011 NFL Draft (unless he inexplicably stays in school), a balanced attack, and fantastic defense. Va Tech is good too, just not as good. Should be a very good game, very close, but my money - metaphorically - is on the Cardinal.

Pick: Stanford

National Championship Game
1/10/11
Oregon v. Auburn

If I could be objective about this matchup (I can't) I'd give Auburn more credit. They have a fantastic offense that ran roughshod over a SEC normally known for bruising defense. In fact, if you check the offensive numbers for Oregon and Auburn they are cumulatively very, very, very close. The difference in this game will be who can actually make some stops. The first team to punt or settle for a field goal is going to lose - and Oregon has a better defense.

Pick: Oregon

Sera says Ducks...the rest of the house besides her and I will be cheering for the Tigers and wearing blue.

It may have been a generally down year for the conference as a whole, but the top of it was pretty damn good. That truth will be realized out by the time the clock runs out January 10th.

12/16/2010

A Last Dinner at Alba Osteria

Earlier this month we got some bad news: Alba Osteria, an Italian restaurant in Hillsdale, would be closing it's doors at the end of this year. Considering Alba is one of the top Italian places in Portland and one we've been to multiple times, we decided to give it a proper goodby - by spending money and stuffing our stomachs.

What better way to say goodbye to a favorite restaurant? Wifey and I decided we wouldn't do gifts this year, but instead we decided to pick out some restaurants. We each chose a new one and one we wanted to revisit - with the news Alba was closing, my revisit choice suddenly became very, very easy.

We didn't bring the camera this time - this was a meal to be simply enjoyed, savored. No cameras needed.

The little town of Hillsdale is just up the hill out of downtown Portland, and Alba resides just off the main road in a converted house (I think - it sure wasn't designed for a restaurant) along with a spa, a salon, and at the opposite end of the building Caffe Autogrille, run by the same owner as Alba.


I believe the first time we went to Alba was for one of our birthdays a long time ago. We had been a couple times since, always for special occasions, but probably not nearly as often as we really would prefer. With so many other options in Portland, it's hard for us to go back to a place. Not that we don't, just that we aren't as likely. So many new and enticing places open all the time, so much goodness to try...

When we arrived, perhaps the first customers of the night at 5:30pm to avoid the dinner rush, we were given freshly baked crostini, long and thin like a breadstick. Then came fresh bread and butter.

Dinner at Alba is at once all about the pasta and not only about the pasta. All of the pastas are made by hand at the restaurant and always a delight. We each ordered a first course and then shared: gnocchi in a leek and cream sauce, and agnolotti dal plin filled with ground pork, veal, and rabbit in a light butter sauce.

Both were magnificent.

The gnocchi at Alba are always so light and fluffy they seem to simply melt in your mouth like little fluffy pillows. Clouds on your tongue. The ones I made at home in the past - I've about given up on them with so many options out and about who do it way better than me - never get that lightness.

And the agnolotti? While tiny, they pack a serious amount of flavor, meaty goodness hand-wrapped with care. I could eat these for days.

But at $16 each, neither dish is cheap nor is it filling. Unless one has a very small appetite it's simply not enough. Then again, when I think about making the dough for the agnolotti, cutting them out, scooping out little mounds of meat, and then wrapping them up one at a time, I get it. Considering all of that $16 sounds like a good deal.

Quality costs money, right?

Our main course was a grilled pork loin on a bed of celery root mash and pickled cabbage, then drizzled with basalmic vinegar. Our waitress asked the kitchen to split the order in half (it comes as two pieces of pork - it wasn't cut in half specially for us) and it came on two separate plates, each nicely made up, and each with a serving of pork that was plenty. The mash had great flavor and while I don't normally go for pickled cabbage, when combined with a little mash and a piece of pork dipped in the puddled basalmic, that was a little taste of heaven. The pork was perfectly cooked, with a nice crust on the outside and cooked through with plenty of moisture.

While $16 may seem steep for a small dish of pasta, $19 for an entree big enough for us to split and still have a small amount of leftovers is a steal.

We weren't going to get dessert...but decided to look at the menu anyway, figuring it's probably our last visit so what the heck. And we ordered a apple crostata - basically a free-form apple pie - topped with a small scoop of ice cream. Oh my...oh my. So good. Baked to order, this dessert just had the perfect balance of apple, ice cream, and crust. We have a recipe at home we've been meaning to try - might have to finally do it, see if it's anywhere near as good.

For $8 it wasn't a bad deal - it fed both of us, satisfying our sweet tooth and ensuring we would leave the table stuffed.

In no uncertain terms I love this restaurant and it's sad the city of Portland's food lovers will lose it. The good news is the pasta Portlanders love so much will still be available at Caffe Autogrille - fresh to go - and reportedly will also be coming to local grocery stores.

If this is our last visit to Alba, we truly will miss you.

12/15/2010

Misaki Endorses Nylabone

Misaki saw what happened when the kitties told the world how much they liked something, so now she wants to take a stab at it.

Some of her favorite things in the whole world are Nylabones. She has quite a few she has collected in a short time. Ruby liked them too, so when we found out we were getting Misaki we went shopping. Not entirely sure how much she would chew, we got here a couple different ones: The Flexi Chew and the Dura Chew.

As it turns out, she chews quite a bit. She nibbled that Flexi Chew up pretty quickly to where small pieces were coming off - we had to toss it because it couldn't stand up to her relentless jaws and we didn't want her swallowing the pieces.

One day we were at the pet store and Misaki picked out her own toy:


Seems fitting, "My Royal Princess." We're not kidding either. This toy was down at roughly nose level and she would not leave it alone until we bought it. From the second we brought it home it's been her favorite thing.

(The sound of teeth scraping on plastic...)

We bought her one of these dinosaurs as well, Dental Chews which are supposed to also clean their teeth a bit. She hasn't been as excited about that.

Sigh...

To replace the one she chewed up, we wanted to get her this ring because it was just the type of thing we thought she would like. See, she chews when she's bored, when we annoy her....so pretty much all the time she's not going on a walk.

Unfortunately the store I went to didn't have the ring in her size and we didn't think it was necessary for her to have the one for large dogs, since she is just a cute little pup. Instead, we bought her this.

At first she didn't seem too excited.

Now what did you get me that is probably lame?

Then she started to check it out.

Hmmm...

How about a nice little nibble...

This isn't bad...

Pretty soon she was going to town on her new toy.

Nom.

Nom!

NOM!!

Apparently this was an acceptable purchase for the princess. She proceeded to chew on this bone for the next two hours nonstop and it's now part of the daily routine.

If you own a dog who likes to nibble and hasn't had a Nylabone, we - and Misaki - wholeheartedly recommend them.

12/14/2010

2010 Pac-10 Football: Fun With Numbers

I like numbers – not math, but statistics. I like playing with them, manipulating them, trying to glean things from them. Being a huge sports fan gives me plenty to play with, so I decided to take a look at how the Pac-10’s all-time record books were impacted by the 2010 season.

Out of necessity I limited it to rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, passing yards, passing touchdowns, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Any more than that and this could get out of control. It’s interesting – when you look at the numbers and the way all-time standings change over the course of a season, you see some truly remarkable things happening. This is what I found by using the Pac-10's own record book and adding in the stats for the 2010 season (from ESPN).

*****

Rushing Yards (Before 2010)

1. 6,245......Charles White, USC, 1976-79
2. 5,044......Ken Simonton, Oregon State, 1998-2001
3. 4,810......Marcus Allen, USC, 1978-81
4. 4,169......Darrin Nelson, Stanford, 1977-81
5. 4,106......Napoleon Kaufman, Washington, 1991-94
6. 3,921......Yvenson Bernard, Oregon State, 2004-07
7. 3,824......Trung Canidate, Arizona, 1996-99
8. 3,731......Gaston Green, UCLA, 1984-87
9. 3,724......Anthony Davis, USC, 1972-74
10. 3,689......Ricky Bell, USC, 1973-76

Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers was 50th and no other current player was in the top 50.

Rushing Yards (Now)

1. 6,245......Charles White, USC, 1976-79
2. 5,044......Ken Simonton, Oregon State, 1998-2001
3. 4,810......Marcus Allen, USC, 1978-81
4. 4,169......Darrin Nelson, Stanford, 1977-81
5. 4,106......Napoleon Kaufman, Washington, 1991-94
6. 3,921......Yvenson Bernard, Oregon State, 2004-07
7. 3,877......Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State, 2008-
8. 3,824......Trung Canidate, Arizona, 1996-99
9. 3,731......Gaston Green, UCLA, 1984-87
10. 3,724......Anthony Davis, USC, 1972-74

Quizz jumped 43 spots to seventh overall in a single season. Assuming he comes back for his senior year he should easily pass Bernard, Kaufman, Nelson, and Allen, and should pass Simonton to finished second all time in league history. The real crazy thing here is Quizz is now seventh in Pac-10 history, but only third at his own school. He’d be the all-time leader at Oregon, UCLA, California, Washington State, Arizona, and Arizona State.

Oregon’s LaMichael James is at 3,228 in just two seasons. The only other player with more yards in only two seasons of play is USC’s O.J. Simpson (3,423). This puts James just two yards behind Cal’s Marshawn Lynch for 20th overall. One hundred yards in the championship game against Auburn would move him up three more spots, including past Derek Loville for first in Ducks’ history. In two seasons. For what it’s worth if James stays four years and maintains his pace, he could break the all-time record for the Pac-10. It won’t happen, but there it is.

UW’s Chris Polk has 2,883 yards, 42nd all-time, and Cal’s Shane Vereen has 2,834 yards, 43rd. Both can return for another season.

Rushing TDs

Rushing touchdowns are inexplicably not listed in the Pac-10 record book, as far as I could tell.

*****

Passing Yards (Before 2010)

1. 11,818....Carson Palmer, USC, 1998-2002
2. 11,249....Derek Anderson, Oregon State, 2001-2004
3. 10,913....Alex Brink, Washington State, 2004-07
4. 10,911....Steve Stenstrom, Stanford, 1991-94
5. 10,708....Cade McNown, UCLA, 1995-98
6. 10,693....Matt Leinart, USC, 2003-05
7. 10,492....Andrew Walter, Arizona State, 2001-2004
8. 10,491....Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State, 2005-08
9. 10,220....Cody Pickett, Washington, 1999-03
10. 9,680......Jonathan Smith, Oregon State, 1998-2001

No active players in the top 50.

Passing Yards (Now)

1. 11,818....Carson Palmer, USC, 1998-2002
2. 11,249....Derek Anderson, Oregon State, 2001-2004
3. 10,913....Alex Brink, Washington State, 2004-07
4. 10,911....Steve Stenstrom, Stanford, 1991-94
5. 10,708....Cade McNown, UCLA, 1995-98
6. 10,693....Matt Leinart, USC, 2003-05
7. 10,492....Andrew Walter, Arizona State, 2001-2004
8. 10,491....Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State, 2005-08
9. 10,220....Cody Pickett, Washington, 1999-03
10. 9,680......Jonathan Smith, Oregon State, 1998-2001

Washington’s Jake Locker, a senior, is the only player to crack the top-50 this year. His 7,583 (before the bowl game) puts him 27th all-time, and a decent bowl game will push him up another couple spots.

Stanford’s Andrew Luck, the Heisman runner-up and the best quarterback in the Pac-10 in 2010, has 5,626 yards in two seasons. That still places him about 260 yards out of the top 50, but a good performance in the Orange Bowl will get him there. However, projected as the top pick in the 2011 NFL Draft it’s doubtful he comes back to school for even one more year, let alone two (he redshirted so could declare as a sophomore).

USC’s Matt Barkley, a true sophomore, has totaled 5,526 in two seasons. Another season in the 2,800 range will place him in the top 20. Arizona’s Nick Foles is a little behind Luck and Barkley at 5,454 and could also declare.

Passing TDs (Before 2010)

1. 99...........Matt Leinart, USC, 2003-05
2. 85...........Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State, 2005-08
2t.85...........Andrew Walter, Arizona State, 2001-04
4. 79...........Derek Anderson, Oregon State, 2001-04
5. 77...........John Elway, Stanford, 1979-82
6. 76...........Alex Brink, Washington State, 2004-07
7. 75...........Steve Stenstrom, Stanford, 1991-94
8. 72...........Carson Palmer, USC, 1998-2002
9. 70...........Jason Gesser, Washington State, 1999-2002
10. 68...........Cade McNown, UCLA, 1995-99

No Active players in the top 50.

Passing TDs (Now)

1. 99...........Matt Leinart, USC, 2003-05
2. 85...........Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State, 2005-08
2t.85...........Andrew Walter, Arizona State, 2001-04
4. 79...........Derek Anderson, Oregon State, 2001-04
5. 77...........John Elway, Stanford, 1979-82
6. 76...........Alex Brink, Washington State, 2004-07
7. 75...........Steve Stenstrom, Stanford, 1991-94
8. 72...........Carson Palmer, USC, 1998-2002
9. 70...........Jason Gesser, Washington State, 1999-2002
10. 68...........Cade McNown, UCLA, 1995-99

Locker has 53 in his career, which ties him for 26th all-time with Jim Plunkett, Brock Huard, and Jack Thompson. One TD in the bowl game would move him into second all-time at Washington, two would tie him for first, and three would give him the school record.

Luck and Barkley each has 41 career TDs (before Stanford’s Orange Bowl). That puts them tied for 47th all-time with Mark Sanchez, Todd Husak, and Troy Aikman. Foles has 38, just outside the top 50.

*****

Receiving Yards (Before 2010)

1. 4,047......Troy Walters, Stanford, 1996-99
2. 3,939......Derek Hagan, Arizona State, 2002-05
3. 3,924......Mike Hass, Oregon State, 2002-05
4. 3,598......Reggie Williams, Washington, 2001-03
5. 3,572......James Newson, Oregon State, 2000-03
6. 3,351......Bobby Wade, Arizona, 1999-2002
7. 3,252......Dennis Northcutt, Arizona, 1996-99
8. 3,231......Mike Thomas, Arizona, 2005-08
9. 3,201......Johnnie Morton, USC, 1990-93
10. 3,188......Geoff McArthur, California, 2000-04

No active players in the top 50.

Receiving Yards (Now)

1. 4,047......Troy Walters, Stanford, 1996-99
2. 3,939......Derek Hagan, Arizona State, 2002-05
3. 3,924......Mike Hass, Oregon State, 2002-05
4. 3,598......Reggie Williams, Washington, 2001-03
5. 3,572......James Newson, Oregon State, 2000-03
6. 3,351......Bobby Wade, Arizona, 1999-2002
7. 3,252......Dennis Northcutt, Arizona, 1996-99
8. 3,231......Mike Thomas, Arizona, 2005-08
9. 3,201......Johnnie Morton, USC, 1990-93
10. 3,188......Geoff McArthur, California, 2000-04

Oregon’s Jeff Maehl is the current active leader in yards, but at only 2,178 doesn’t even crack the top 50. To do so he would have to pull down over 140 in the championship game, something he has only done once in his career.

Receiving TDs (Before 2010)

1. 41...........Dwayne Jarrett, USC, 2004-06
2. 32...........Jason Hill, Washington State, 2003-06
2t.32...........Ken Margerum, Stanford, 1977-1980
4. 31...........Sean Dawkins, California, 1990-92
5. 30...........Mike Williams, USC, 2002-03
5t.30...........Mario Bailey, Washington, 1988-91
7. 28...........J.J. Stokes, UCLA, 1991-94
8. 27...........Derek Hagan, Arizona State, 2002-05
8t.27...........Bobby Shaw, California, 1994-97
10. 26...........Troy Walters, Stanford, 1996-99

No active players in the top 30.

Receiving TDs (Now)

1. 41...........Dwayne Jarrett, USC, 2004-06
2. 32...........Jason Hill, Washington State, 2003-06
2t.32...........Ken Margerum, Stanford, 1977-1980
4. 31...........Sean Dawkins, California, 1990-92
5. 30...........Mike Williams, USC, 2002-03
5t.30...........Mario Bailey, Washington, 1988-91
7. 28...........J.J. Stokes, UCLA, 1991-94
8. 27...........Derek Hagan, Arizona State, 2002-05
8t.27...........Bobby Shaw, California, 1994-97
10. 26...........Troy Walters, Stanford, 1996-99

Maehl, a senior, has 24 touchdowns going into the final, tying him for 13th all-time with Shaun McDonald, Keenan Howry, DeRonnie Pitts, Dennis Northcutt, and Cristin McLemore. Both Howry and McLemore are tied for Oregon’s all-time lead, so Maehl has one more game to make the record his.

Washington’s Jermaine Kearse, a junior, has 22, tying him for 22nd in league history. Arizona’s Juron Criner, a junior, has 20, tying him for 29th.

*****

So what does this tell us, if anything? In all truth not a lot, but it’s interesting to note that in 2010, a year when quarterbacks were supposed to be making their mark, it was running backs making the big impact on the league’s history. It’s also worth noting that this group of running backs – Quizz, James, Franklin, Polk – may be one of the best conference groups playing at one time in league history. Yes, the quarterbacks and receivers are good, but from the perspective of making an impact on league history, it’s not happening. That could be because these players are more likely than a running back to leave school early for the pros, or it could be that these players generally are currently younger than the mature group of backs.

Either way, it was another fun season, it will be another fun bowl season (my preview to come in a couple weeks), and next year, with the addition of Utah and Colorado to create the new Pac-12, it should be even better.

12/13/2010

The Cats Want More Attention

Over the past few months quite a bit has changed at the MyNWX household. Wifey is taking classes at home to prep for a career change and I'm doing a lot more writing. Both of these things mean we spend a lot of time upstairs in the "office" - the third bedroom that has two PCs, printer, desks, and bookcases set up.

For a writer, this is where the magic happens. Or something like that.

With online classes one has to be fairly engaged while being on the computer, so that means hands need to be free to type and click as needed. This is not compatible with having purring kitties on your lap, which is quite the favorite pastime of all three of our fuzzy little bundles of joy. We found ourselves repeatedly pushing away the cats so we can finish various things. And no, they aren't happy about that at all.

The office also has a baby gate on the door. This initially was placed so we could watch Misaki when we first got her, so we knew where she was while she acclimated herself to her new home. Keeping the cats out of the room at the same time is just added value.

Of course, here's the thing: The gate is only two-and-a-half feet tall (just like this one, without the fancy modification), so the cats could easily scale it if they liked, but they haven't. Not sure why, but we aren't going to go out of our way to show them how either.

Hey! Open up!

Now, instead of coming in and jumping on our laps, the cats are forced to lay elsewhere in the house for hours on end while we get our work done. This does not make for happy kitties. Partially because they are Bengals - who really are dog-like pack animals - and partially because they are cats who presume to have access to anything they want at all times, they have not reacted well to this shutting out.

Moochie will lay down outside the gate and chatter at us, though he - the most needy of them all we thought - actually handles this better than the other two. He ends up taking over the top of the kitty tower and sleeping for hours. However, he also is the cat who loves to curl up on the couch while we watch football. With less football watched this season he now aggressively demands attention anytime we do sit on the couch. With his strong claws we always put down a blanket layer and many times now he doesn't want to wait for it. And he doesn't sit still, pushing into our face for petting (and sometimes at the expense of a plate of food - calm down boy!).

Sera is a little more needy, she who would like us to think nothing ever bothers her. She will come to the gate, mew once, and wait. If we fail to let her in she mews again, louder. This will go on until she yells or we let her in. See, the gate is a great idea, but it's not soundproof; with our kitties soundproof should be a requirement. When Sera comes in the only place she wants to be is Wifey's lap.

Lilo becomes very angry. She doesn't ask to be let into the office - she demands it. Her demands aren't quiet like Sera's, but instead start angry and get angrier. Her incessant yelling inevitably gets her what she wants. It would be nice if there was a way to train a cat to not yell as much or as loud, so if anyone out there has ideas please share. Her voice carries throughout the house, so confining her anywhere isn't going to do it.

Why won't anyone listen to me?

If we still choose to ignore her, Lilo will go into the bathroom - which shares a wall with the office - and rattle the bathroom door against the springy doorstop. Yes, it's annoying. If that doesn't work she'll start throwing things on the floor. If we left the toilet paper out of the cabinet she shreds it.

Lilo is not a cat to be ignored.

I suppose it would be one thing if she came into the office and quietly curled up to sleep, but she doesn't. She has to explore. She has to help Wifey with her studies. She has to bounce from lap to lap, to see which one is better (always ends up on Wifey's). She has to sniff and annoy the dog if Misaki is in the room. She licks every single piece of paper she can get her tongue on; raking the rough kitty tongue over paper produces a horrifying sound.

Mom needs help with her studying.

At least she stops yelling when she comes in.

Purr Purr Purr!!!!


Hey, wait. Why are you taking pictures of me?


Turn it off paparazzi!

I feel a little bad for them. I mean, we've always been pretty interactive with the cats, and because of the things we do now - the studies and increased computer time - we are shutting them out. And they are angry, lonely, and sad about that. I get it. I completely get it. And we do feel bad about it.

One may think cats should be able to handle something like this on their own, since cats usually are solitary animals. Plus, they have each other, so it's not like they are completely alone. And they have toys and cat trees, plus full run of the rest of the house, so it's not like they are being closed in an empty room.

This is part of the demand of owning Bengals, though - if you did the research you knew this going in. They need their people. They view their people not only as part of their pack, but the focal points of the pack. If their people aren't around, they will get sad - and they get overly excited when we are back or again available (hence Moochie's enthusiasm when we do sit down to watch some TV).

Misaki doesn't seem to have many issues with this, but then again she gets the gate opened up for her whenever she appears. She also sleeps on her own chair.

Bengals are smart cats, but asking them to understand this is a bit much. I'd like to say we are doing it to provide them with a better life - like any parent for their child, I suppose - but they are so spoiled already I can't really make that claim. We are doing it for a better life at some point (for us), if it all works out, but hopefully they will be able to adapt to our changes.

And we just have to remember to focus on them a little bit more when we aren't working on the computers.

12/10/2010

Rain is Life - Well, Here Anyway

I have something to say.

Today it rained. A lot.

Does that do it for you? As a reader, are you now inside my head seeing what I am seeing? I'm going to go with no, unless you have some fantastic ability to telepathically see what I'm thinking. And that would be weird, so please stop.

As a writer I should know better than to write such a damn boring sentence. It doesn't convey much, or anything really. That sentence is as interesting as a flattened cardboard box (well, assuming you aren't a cat - my cats think flattened cardboard boxes are awesome). Those few words cannot adequately express what I witnessed today.

Moochie: Flattened cardboard is awesome. And mine. I don't share.

For one thing, the sun never came up yesterday in Portland. I mean, the sun did come up - that's what it does, it has to. If the sun didn't come up we'd be in a hell of a lot more trouble than just wet, that's for sure. The problem today is the rain clouds were so thick and so dark all the sun did was make it a mildly lighter gray, like going from night to charcoal on the color palette.

All day long the rain fell in torrents, slamming against the roof with such force it wakes up the cats. Considering they don't get up for fireworks, that's saying something.

At my office I am on the fourth floor of a four-story building, and the rain fell so hard I couldn't hear the person across the cubicle aisle talking to me. The conversation simply stopped, both of us looking up at the ceiling, wondering if today is the day it finally collapses. Thankfully (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) it did not, otherwise you'd be getting a much better story now.

To get to my car after work I have to walk roughly a block and a half from the building to the parking structure. I did hit the light in the crosswalk so I had that going for me, but I didn't have a hood on the coat I chose to wear this morning. Oops. By the time I walked that distance, which took about two minutes at my increased pace, I had water streaming down my face, my glasses were spotted so much I couldn't see, my khakis were soaked, and I stepped in a puddle that soaked one foot. That in itself is amazing since I wore Gore-Tex hiking boots, which tells you the depth of the puddle. Lucky for me traffic was moving slowly, so I didn't get hit with a tidal wave from cars driving by.

The drive home was a disaster. Normally here when it rains heavily it's not a big deal. Heck, it's Portland, it rains, we know that, city and building planners know that, so buildings and roads are developed accordingly for maximum drainage to avoid standing water. Today that didn't matter. Puddles deep enough to drown a duck were all over and I think I drove through 73 of them. You know that sound your car makes when you drive through too deep of a puddle and get something wet that shouldn't, the screeching from some belt or another? I heard that sound eight times in a forty-minute drive home.

Either that means it rained a lot, or I need to start avoiding the puddles instead of plowing through them like a little kid. Probably the former.

I stopped at the library to run in and get a book. That was about the same distance as to my car from the office, and resulted in two more drenchings.

On days like this Misaki doesn't even want to go outside. Considering she is a dog and for her outside is the bathroom, that can be a little problematic. Wednesday she went outside at 7am before I left for work and did her business. We trust her enough to let her tell us when it's time, but I took her out again at 7pm. At that point it wasn't raining, but all she did was sniff a bit and then come back in. At 10:30pm, just before bed, I tried to take her out again, this time during a downpour. Misaki approached the door to outside from the sunroom, which I had open for her, looked up at me, shook her head, and went back to the house.

I don't wanna go out there in that wet stuff! Huff!

"Dad," she said, "No way in hell."

For one, where did you learn to talk like that young lady? What? Me? Oh. Never mind...

Secondly, what's the plan? Apparently the plan was hold it. Thursday morning she went out at 7am despite the torrential downpour, but she was not happy about it at all. It had been 24 hours - and no, that's not a record. Her personal best is 29 hours. We started to get worried a bit but she finally relented to the force of Mother Nature.

Misaki is huffing at me as I write that.

Ruby never cared - she'd just go. Not Misaki, she has standards. There can be no water falling from the sky and the ground cannot be wet. There can be little wind (wait, that's my standard - when it's windy she spends all of her time in one place smelling the air rather than doing her business). And it sure can't be muddy, not that she would allow her paws dirty even if it were.

Does that give you a little better picture of our gorgeous Portland weather, our liquid sunshine as some people with way too much optimism like to call it? Have I done my job as a writer?

Maybe that class is paying off...

12/08/2010

Lilo Likes to be Squished

Have you ever tried to pick up a cat in your arms and squeeze it real tight?

If so, do you have the scars to prove it?

Most cats in my experience don't really liked to be picked up at all. When I was little our all-white kitty did not like to be picked up - he'd dig in with those back claws and push off whatever body part he could.

Lilo looking to get down.

I had a Siamese when I was older, and she only liked to be picked up when she was in the mood. She did not wear any kind of sign when she was in this mood, so it was really a crapshoot on whether I'd get purring or need to go get the Neosporin. My sister's cat, a black and white, usually didn't care.

Now, our Bengals, they are a whole different story.

Sera would prefer if you never take the initiative to pick her up. She will sit on your lap when it suits her, not on your whim. If you choose to go against this, you will bleed. I have the scars to prove it. I'd also like to say I've learned, but apparently I believe at some point she will mellow out and start acting like your normal, run-of-the-mill alley cat, and let me carry her as I wish. By definition this is insanity, expecting a different result than every time previous, but there it is.

Moochie is a mixed bag. Half of the time you will pick him up and he will push his way out of your arms and right back to the floor. Generally he is good about using muscle to do this rather than claws, but he has his moments. If he is willing to be held, there must be motion involved. If you stand in one place he will get down. If you carry him around the room in circles he's cool with that. Occasionally you may even get a light, ragged purr, but he's not one for big purrs in general.

Lilo is a completely different story. Then again, she's a little odd sometimes anyway.

Just chillin'.

Since she has no claws Lilo has learned she pretty much just has to roll with the punches. If her brother or sister or mom or dad want to pick her up or move her, she knows that's pretty much what's going to happen. I can pick her up just about anytime and she'll lay casually in my arms. I can even flip her over on her back, all four legs up in the air, and she'll lay there and let you rub on - even blow on - her belly.

The real crazy part is what happens when you squeeze her.

Unlike roughly every other feline on the planet, Lilo LIKES to be squished in your arms. She purrs purrs purrs like a crazy kitty. And the harder you squeeze, the louder she purrs.

Tighter!

At first I thought maybe she didn't like it, and that's why she was purring. I remember reading - I wrote a thesis about human-cat communication in high school - that cats don't only purr when they are happy, but they purr during other instances of extreme emotion, such as fear or anger. The purring in those instances is in an effort to calm themselves down, to comfort themselves, in order to allow them to react to the situation calmly.

We are just about positive that's not the case with Lilo. If you stop squeezing her, she'll open her eyes and look at you, wondering why you stopped. Then you squeeze her again, she smiles, and purrs begin anew.

Lilo curling the paws.

One of her favorite things is to be in the middle of a hug. One of us will pick her up and then the other will give a huge with Lilo cuddled up in the middle, and she purrs loud enough to be heard across the room.

This isn't normal, right? I mean, who heard of a cat that likes the stuffing squeezed out of her?

12/07/2010

My Shiba Purrs...And Other Forms of Communication

All pets make cute sounds. Even the most mundane of sounds can become the foundation of all that is cute when they come from a smiling puppy. Like ours. Here's a short little tour through the wonderdom that is Misaki's avenues of communication.

Your silliness astounds me.

Huff: This is perhaps the most well-known of all sounds to Shiba owners. To make this sound Misaki will take in a deep breath and blow it out her mouth without opening her lips. Does it have meaning? Oh hell yes it does. She makes this one when her humans aren't doing whatever she deems they should be doing at that very moment. Are we taking too long to get ready for a walk? Huff. Is it 7:30pm and there is no food in her dish? Huff. Do we tell her to wait until a commercial before we take her out? Huff. Do we tease her for huffing at us? HUFF! The best part about this is she clearly understands the situation when this kind of sound is apt - we call it the Shiba equivalent of the eye roll in a teenager.

Purrrrrr.....

Purr: Yes, believe it or not Misaki does purr. Apparently it's not just a cat thing. She loves to get picked up, which is nice because we always want to pick her up. If I reach down and put my hands around her middle, she will jump up into them. Then, if you pull her tight and squeeze her a little bit, she starts making little purring sounds. It's not as smooth, loud, or consistent as a cat, but it's a very contented sound and goes with a very contented look on her face. Apparently this is not unique to Misaki - other Shibas on Twitter claim to also purr.

I'm warning you Moochie - Back the F up!

Growl: This one she saves for the cats. Misaki will usually leave them alone, sometimes even run around the house with them, but when they get a little too in her face - Moochie - she'll let loose a warning growl. Sera and Lilo pick up on the meaning of the growl and duly back off; Moochie, as I've mentioned before, does not understand social cues and will instead continue to rub on her face and talk into her ear. We've found it's best if we just distract him. What's nice is this usually resets her annoyance level - it doesn't seem to build over time.

Rrrrufff! So excited!

Bark: Sure, all dogs bark. Ours, though, does not bark at the doorbell, the mailman, thunder, fireworks, or really anything else most dogs bark at. Or anything Ruby barked at - a doorbell on TV could send her into a fit of barking and put her on edge for the next two hours. That got old. Not Misaki. She tends to bark while sitting all by herself and chewing on a toy. I have no idea what she is telling her toy, but she is adamant. And since she is so small her barks aren't deafening (like Ruby's), but she's big enough they aren't shrill either. Nothing is quite as cute as Misaki barking or growling at her toy in a room where she is the only one there.

A content pup. Sleep sounds, sleep sounds...

Snore: Don't tell her I'm saying this, but Misaki snores. All the time. She'll lay down on her chair in the office and be asleep and snoring in - not kidding - less than five minutes. We'll go to bed at night and before the light even goes off she'll be making light snoring sounds. It never gets too loud and in fact is pretty soothing - helps me fall asleep some nights.

You people bore me. I have to bring sandals over to entertain me.

Yawn/Stretch: This is a sound I couldn't recreate if I tried a thousand times. If you have pets, you've probably seen it. The animal will wake up from a nap, stretch the front paws forward as far as possible, and then yawn, letting out a long, low moan of a sound. Misaki, unlike some other pets we've had, never makes the same moaning sound twice. Sometimes it curls up at the end, sometimes it has more bass. Other times it tails off, or has more treble. She'll also turn this stretch into an elegant Sphinx position - after the stretch and yawn, her back legs drop to the floor, leaving her stretched out as long as she can be, ready to jump up at any moment. She will also look at you and yawn when you are clearly boring her. How sweet.

Imagine the sound of teeth raking over plastic...

Chewing: All dogs chew on toys (or other things, if toys are absent). Misaki chews to make a point. If the huffing doesn't work she will grab her pink Nylabone and start chewing on it as loud as she can. She does this mostly when dinner is late or if she's feeling ignored. Sometimes if we are talking about her - and possibly not saying entirely flattering things - she'll grab the bone and chew chew chew chew. It's like she thinks if she chews loud enough whatever we are saying either won't matter or will never happen. Yes, Shibas are forever teenagers. Apparently.

Feed the Shiba...

Shiba Mind Control: This is real. Any Shiba owner will tell you it's real - and they talk about it all the time on Twitter. Shibas have this ability to get just about anything they want by staring at you super hard. They imprint their desires on your brain, and somehow you have no choice but to acquiesce. Those who don't know Shibas will take this for politeness, because Shibas use the mind control in place of explicit begging, either for food at home or treats and toys while out and about the town. People who have felt the affect of Shiba Mind Control will readily admit they don't know exactly why the Shiba ended up with the pizza crusts or why they inexplicably let their Shiba run off leash. And the older the Shiba the more developed this trait. Misaki is seven - we don't stand a chance.

It's interesting to me how different two dogs can be. Ruby barked a bit and yawned a little, growled occasionally, but she didn't seem to have quite the breadth of expression Misaki employs. Ruby, however, would give you the look of an abused dog every time you asked her to do something. Misaki just looks at you and huffs.

12/06/2010

The Most Absurd Thing I Have Ever Seen

Saturday Wifey and I trekked down to Corvallis for the Civil War between the Ducks and Beavers. The weather was great for a December afternoon, the company was good, the food plentiful, and the game went roughly as expected.

The drive home was anything but.

After grabbing a creme de menthe mocha from The Beanery to keep me awake - we got up at 6:30 to head down early for the 12:30 kickoff - we got in the car to head home. Our normal route is to get to 99E from the north end of campus, head up the rural highway to Highway 22 where we cut over to Salem, and then get on I-5 to head back to Portland. (By the way, this mocha was atrocious. Normally their drinks are pretty decent, but I'd avoid this one.)

As 99E approaches the small town of Monmouth (home of Western Oregon University) there is always a backup because there are a couple traffic lights, lights that have no concept of the fact thousands of cars are about to come through town in the span of an hour. Having heard there was an accident just east of the 99E/Highway 22 intersection backing up traffic, we planned to cut over east just before the town and drive through the small town of Independence.

Everything was going well. Traffic was moving along at a nice 60 miles an hour, but then just south of Monmouth we hit a dead stop. We were also just a few hundred feet short of Stapleton Road, the one we planned to turn east on to head into Independence and then up to Highway 22.

Normally this would be no big deal. We would wait the time for a light to change or two, the line of cars would move, and then we'd turn right and hit the gas. The unfortunate problem here is there was a car in the ditch between us and Stapleton, and another car blocking traffic. Apparently a car from Stapleton no longer wanted to wait for a break in the continuous post-game traffic pilgrimaging back north to Portland and decided to go anyway.

That was a poor decision. The gap they thought existed did not. The end result is that pilgrimage was now stopped dead. I think we were about seventh or eighth in line when the first fire truck arrived. This was quickly joined by an ambulance, multiple police cars, and another fire truck. Traffic coming south was being diverted off before the accident, so literally no one was getting through.

After sitting there another ten minutes or so, we decided to try something else. I flipped a U-turn, following a couple other cars, and headed south. About a mile away there was a road off to the left, headed east and ostensibly towards the same road leading to Independence. Other cars turned here, so I decided to follow.

About three hundred feet down the road it became all gravel. Seriously? Gravel? No warning? Awesome.

At least there wasn't a dead-end sign.

We followed this road, in the dark in an area where the concept of street lights doesn't exist, past several farms, twisting and turning along with their borders. I'm sure the people living in these houses had no clue why their sleepy little gravel road had suddenly become a thoroughfare, but at least there were no potholes.

And thankfully, eventually, this road did in fact lead to an intersection with the road leading into Independence - it just would have been nice to have some kind of warning, you know?

At this point I thought were home free. We'd head into the town, stop at the three-way stop in the heart of the old downtown, then hit the gas and speed out to Highway 22 and on our way home.

But that would be too easy.

As we drove into town I saw more flashing lights just past the three-way stop. And about two blocks before we reached the intersection traffic stopped moving. We sat there for a couple minutes, listening to occasional screams of the police siren, thinking to ourselves how this drive had become a serious logistical nightmare. Independence is laid out on a grid scheme, so I figured I could follow the string of cars and turn left, head up a block, turn right, go past whatever the disturbance was, and then finally get a move on.

So we tried.

We turned left, headed up a block and turned right, kitty corner from the town's cinema. This street has railroad tracks inserted into the asphalt, of which I have no idea if they are still used or not. What I can tell you is the quality of the paved road was much worse than the gravel one I'd spent way too much time on just a short time earlier.

Ahead was a stop sign. The road we would have to cross leads all the way back to Monmouth and is another common artery north after a football game (accident in Monmouth or not), so traffic was heavy. At the same time, for some inexplicable reason we stopped moving again. And not just us sitting at the stop sign, but traffic in all directions.

What the hell now?

The next thing we saw I can only describe as the most fucking ridiculous sight I have ever seen.

Keep in mind the setting here. It's a small town, it's Saturday about 5:30pm, it's dark. It's early December, so that means temperatures in the thirties. The town is experiencing high traffic levels - much, much higher than normal - due to the postgame traffic of Civil War, which shouldn't be a surprise because 90% of the attendees of Oregon and Oregon State football games live in the Portland area.

Apparently none of that matters in Independence.

In Independence, this is when some organization - could be the town itself, not sure - decides it's a good time to plan a Christmas parade.

Seriously?

As we sat at this stop sign, a golf cart came around the corner from the direction of the three-way stop, led by a police car with flashing lights. This was followed by a four-wheeler pulling a basket on wheels, and inside this basket was a Charlie Brown-quality Christmas tree. The tree was decorated with lights and tinsel, all seven branches of it. Next came another police officer, this time on a motorcycle, also decorated for the holidays. A couple younger boys followed with a banner with the name of their Boy Scout group on it.

I'm flabbergasted. First the entire setting seems a little surreal. Second, the timing of it is plain horrible. Third, Misaki would like us to come home and let her out from her crate, where she stayed while we drove two hours each way for a four-hour football game.

Then traffic starts moving a little bit. Apparently the streets are not actually blocked off, but because the parade is moving at will and cutting in front of all the traffic from Monmouth, we can sneak off to the right and go towards Salem. Mind you, this is also parallel to the parade moving the opposite direction. This involves driving two blocks through the downtown section of Independence, so I turn right to get this over with.

And I'm stunned again. The road is lined on either side with what can only be residents of Independence, cheering in the dark and the cold for this parade. Next to me an old bus goes the other way, part of the parade and decorated with haphazard care, and on top of this bus is a man in some costume I can't identify dancing to music I'm guessing only he hears. Is this a Christmas parade or some pagan ritual? I'm beginning to wonder.

From a window in the lower level of this bus-like vehicle someone is handing out cups of something, which I hope were apple cider or hot chocolate or something along those lines. Multiple small children almost die running in front of my car to grab a cup of this stuff. One of them stops in front of me, taking orders from his family on the sidewalk, oblivious to the fact there is a three-thousand-pound car who really wants to get the hell out of there just inches from his body.

The whole thing gives me the creeps.

There is more to this parade, but traffic finally starts to get moving, so I'm able to get to the intersection, finally, and head out towards Highway 22.

From there the drive was fairly normal, but the accident and the parade cost us an extra 45-60 minutes on our drive home. That, and it freaked me out.

Is this normal? Is a Christmas parade at night normal in small towns? I've never lived in one so couldn't tell you. Also, wouldn't it be a good idea to understand the traffic pattern of your own town before planning such a thing, and realizing there might be a conflict if the parade starts right about the time some of the heaviest traffic of the year will be passing through?

By the time we got home both of us were exhausted from the drive home. Sometimes life hands you a big box of crazy and you just have to deal with it I guess. Given our fuzzy kids, I should be used to it.

12/02/2010

November Eating/Drinking Notes

It was a relatively light month out for us in November. With the Thanksgiving holiday and us having various study requirements, we actually stayed home a lot.

Maki - buta kaku (braised pork belly), gyoza, Philadelphia roll, ten don donburi: This little izakaya in Tigard is a neat little find. Very clean, modern lines inside and the service was very good. The braised pork belly was nicely tender with not too much fat and the Philadelphia roll - which they claim to hold close to their heart - was quite tasty. The gyoza was a new flavor for me, filled with shrimp and nira. Nira is like green onion but different, if that makes sense. A Japanese-English dictionary will tell you it's green onion; a native Japanese person will tell you it's different. Either way this was yummy. The ten don donburi had all sorts of items: onion, shrimp, carrot, potato, kabocha (squash), lotus root...and a hot pepper. That was unexpected. There should be some kind of warning... We'd absolutely go back, they have a very extensive menu.

Little Big Burger - cheeseburger with cheddar, cheeseburger with bleu cheese, fries: LBB, as the foodies in the know refer to it, serves up a pretty good burger. It's a good size, perfect for a meal on the go without filling you up. The fries were excellent, the service was quick, the burger cooked and seasoned well, the toppings fresh, and the bun perfect. Now, all of that said...I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to head to the Pearl District just to hit up LBB, like I might other places. If I was down there and wanted a quick bite, this would make me happy. If the rumors are true and Micah Camden does open one out in Beaverton, we'll probably hit it up every so often, since Beaverton is a culinary wasteland. Camden's ketchup, which will be available in stores in early spring, was interesting. At first I didn't like it all that much with the sweetness and alternating spicy kick, but it grows on you fast. They sell it at the shop, and if it's in stores the next time I need ketchup I might get it instead of Heinz. I can't believe I'm saying that.

Ate-Oh-Ate - Korean chicken: Went back to Ate Oh Ate with my dad and sister for lunch. This time I opted for the Korean fried chicken, which is deep-fried hot wings slathered with a spicy sauce. It actually was excellent, better than I thought it would be. Unfortunately I ate the entire plate and that probably wasn't the best of choices. By the way, this dish is quite messy - plan accordingly if you want to order it. Sister got the teriyaki steak which she thought was salty; after a taste I had to agree. Dad had no complaints about his teriyaki chicken, and both really liked the macaroni salad. While I liked what I ate, I don't necessarily think Ate-Oh-Ate is a place I'll be going to back to super often...though I do still want the loco moco.

Bunk Bar - meatball parmigiano hero, fries: Wifey and I were in the area, hungry, and wanted fries. We had heard they had fantastic fries, so we popped in and got them and the hero to go. Now, the fries were fantastic - I'd put them ahead of LBB - but if you eat in you get gravy and cheese on them (poutine! but not called that). To go we didn't get that - sad. Still, excellent fries, the meatball hero was awesome as always, and we will be going back - and eating in - very soon.

Public Domain Coffee - mocha, Kona "Cloud Forest" pourover: Wifey and I had some time to kill downtown last weekend so we stopped by here. I've been wanting to check it out for awhile. It's a very clean, bright, modern space, but not necessarily comfortable. This is a coffee shop that doesn't really seem to encourage you to linger. The mocha wasn't anything to write home about, but the Kona was good. Might have to go back and buy a bag of these beans, but probably won't get any more drinks there.

Blue Kangaroo Coffee - mocha: This little shop in Sellwood, by contrast, begs to be lingered in. Not that I did, but it seems like the kind of place I could sit down and do some writing. Unfortunately the mocha was not pleasing at all. It had cinnamon in it - or, as Wifey said, something that tasted more like Red Hots - which simply isn't acceptable to me at all. Mochas with that flavor in them better come with a warning, so I know not to get them. Honestly, it's a little nauseating when you are expecting chocolatey goodness.

Jade Tea House and Patisserie - raspberry and white chocolate/sea salt macaroons, Vietnamese wedding cake, barbecue pork bahn mi: I stopped here after a haircut to get the cake, which thankfully they had. If you have never had this cake, you need to head over there and get some. Now. The green pandan cake is light and fluffy with wonderfully crunchy layers mixed in. The macaroons were pretty good, but not as good as ones we've had from Pix Patisserie here in Portland or Bakery Nouveau in West Seattle. Then again, at $1.25 each compared to $2 at Pix, maybe it's a good tradeoff. The bahn mi was fantastic. Most of the ones I've had around town the content of the sandwich is pretty weak, but this one had think cuts of tender, juicy barbecue pork and fresh veggies. At $7 it's the most expensive bahn mi I've had, but well worth the price. The bread, which I believe Jade bakes themselves, was much better than many of the others I've had.

Coffeehouse Northwest - egg nog latte: Yes, this is still my favorite coffee place in Portland, and no, nothing has changed. Well, not really. Since it's the holiday season Coffeehouse NW has their egg nog lattes which are just plain awesome. Others try to make them, but once you've had this one nothing else will ever be good enough again. Get it. Thank me later.

Way late update...

After looking at the blog posts for November, it wasn't that light at all. We actually ate out a few more times... Here are some places that merited their own single posts:

Japanese food at Shigezo Izakaya.

Japanese curry at Kale, which I can't recommend highly enough.

Must have been Japanese food month, because we also hit Biwa's late-night menu.

And we tried a highly anticipated Hawaiian place, Ate-Oh-Ate.

Any food goes well with a 2010 Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.

12/01/2010

Pac-10 Week 14: Rivalry Week

It's rivalry week in the Pac-10 in Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Los Angeles. They say you can throw out the records in these games, but is that really true? And will I do better in my picks than the 3-2 I put up last week to put me at 54-18 on the season?

I've been to a few Civil Wars, both in Eugene and Corvallis, and some have lived up to they hype (like in 2000, 2007, and 2009. Others in recent history, not so much, like blowouts in 2004, 2005, and 2008.

This year's game has a different feel. Both teams have something to play for - Oregon wins and they go to the national championship game, Oregon State wins and they go to a bowl game - and rarely do teams blow each other out in this series. That said...these are two teams on completely different levels. Oregon, outside of the California game, has kept tabs on their opponents in the first half and blown them out in the second. Oregon State, the games they do play well, start faster and tend to trail off in the second half.

This is not good news for Corvallis.

You know what I want to see? I want to see the team Oregon State is capable of being to come out and give the Ducks everything they can handle. I want it to be entertaining, a game the fans can walk away from - even if Oregon wins - and agree the Beavers left it all on the field. They may be up and down and we may not really have any idea just what the Beavers are in 2010, but I'm willing to bet Coach Mike Riley will have his team ready to play.

The real question is if Oregon State plays a perfect game - if they get the running game going and Ryan Katz doesn't make any mistakes, if their defense can fill the holes and show they are capable of catching a running quarterback like Darron Thomas, if they execute on special teams, if they can force a couple turnovers - will it be enough? Is a perfect game from OSU enough to destroy Oregon's dreams?

THE TIERS

Tier 1 - Oregon

Tier 2 - Stanford

Tier 3 - Arizona, USC

Tier 4 - Oregon State, Washington

Tier 5 - Arizona State, Washington State, California, UCLA

This week the tiers are pretty clear. Oregon could play for the national championship. Stanford is going to a BCS game. Arizona and USC have enough wins to be bowl-eligible (of course SC can't go). Oregon State and Washington can become bowl-eligible with wins. The other four are playing only for pride, except for Cal, which already lost that.

WEEK 14 SCHEDULE

On to this week's schedule - one game on Thursday this week. As always, all game times are Pacific time, followed by the network and the pick. Also, the network and whether or not it's on TV is for Portland - some games may be televised regionally, so if you live in a home market, check your local listings. Rankings are in parentheses (AP, USA Today).

THURSDAY

5pm - Arizona State at Arizona (26, 26) ESPN - ARIZONA

SATURDAY

12:30pm - Oregon (1, 1) at Oregon State, ABC - OREGON
4pm - Washington at Washington State, Versus - WASHINGTON
7:30pm - USC at UCLA, Fox Sports Northwest - USC

Cal and Stanford (5, 5) have finished their seasons.
 
Probably not a lot of surprise here. I will say, I won't be shocked with a Cougars win in Pullman, and if the Zona game was in Tempe I might have picked the Sun Devils.
 
UNDEFEATED WATCH
 
After Boise State unexpectedly loss to Nevada (gotta congratulate them on a fantastic comeback), only TCU and Auburn remain undefeated besides Oregon. TCU needs a loss by Auburn or Oregon to make it to the title game, otherwise they likely go to the Rose Bowl.
 
Auburn plays South Carolina in Atlanta at 1pm on CBS in the SEC championship game. While it should be a very good game, anything less than an Auburn victory would have to be considered a shocking upset.
 
TCU's season is over. They did their part to make it to the title game, going 12-0, but they still need help. It says here they should prepare for Pasadena.
 
MISAKI and SERA
 
It's rivalry week here at home too. Misaki has been cheering for her Beavers all season long, and she's not about to stop now.

 
But Sera has a certain glimmer in her eye...
 
 
Now kids, no fighting. May the best native Oregon animal win!