Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fall Report

Since it is Black Friday and raining outside I figured I would write a blog post. In this post I will highlight some of the things that I have been up to since my last post at the end of September.   

View of Mt. Hood one crisp fall morning from my office in downtown  Portland, OR
The first thing I have been up to is getting used to the change from summer to fall. As we hit October the temperatures started to cool somewhat. In addition to cooler temperatures, the rainy season began. This will last until June from what I hear from the locals. It may not have been good for plants, trees, and anything else depending on water but we went nearly 90 days without any significant rain. According to one story I saw, we had no measurable rain from July 21st to September 9th.  Starting in mid-October we started to make up for it. I enjoyed the period without rain from a bicycling perspective. It was nice to have to not worry about rain on my daily commute. I am prepared for the rain though and have experienced a few days of getting soaked. I have a cycling jacket, a pair of water proof warm weather pants, a water proof helmet cover, and water proof shoes.

Alethea in warm weather bike gear retrieving a free pizza for dinner
Speaking of cycling I am still riding to work on most days. It has to be raining pretty hard or I have to be experiencing a mechanical issue for me to miss a day. On some mornings it has been down in the 30’s but I am plenty warm with all my gear. When it gets below about 45 degrees I switch to my ski mask. Only problem with the ski mask is that  my cycling glasses fog up due to respiration being trapped and pushed up through the eye opening. Lately, I have been riding without the glasses which are only used to keep debris from getting into my eyes which has happened a few times.

My bike - the only set of wheels I own :-)
I have experienced a few mechanical issues over the last couple months. I suffered a flat during my work commute one morning. I ran over a large industrial sized staple. It punctured my rear tire. Luckily, I was only half mile from work and it was not raining. The bad news was that I was going in early for a biometric health screening. I got there just a little late and my pulse and heart rate were elevated due to the excitement. My other mechanical issue had to do with my front tube which was leaking at a fast rate. I decided to replace it and when I did I over inflated it causing it to explode. I then put on another tube and punctured it when putting the tire back on the rim with my bike levers so in went tube number three. This time I took the advice of my wife and did some online research looking for some new techniques and watched some YouTube videos. I had changed flats before and attended some fix a flat classes but the new techniques allow me to change a flat much quicker with better technique. I should be much better at this going forward. I did exchange our pump for another one at REI since the pressure gauge was off by quite a bit. It was still my fault for over inflating my tires though.

This staple resulted in a flat tire on the way to work one morning
I would say the highlight of the last couple months was when my mom and dad decided to pay us a visit. They were in town for week in the second half of October. We did our best to show them around. Alethea did a great job as our tour guide and navigator!

Alethea & mom @ Hopworks Urban Brewery - Portland, OR
We kept mom and dad busy each day. We wanted to make sure they slept well each night. The next paragraph is a synopsis of what we did while they were here.

Mom & Dad at Pier 39 in Astoria, OR
On the day they arrived Dad and I went to a Portland Trail Blazers pre-season game while Alethea and mom went to a modern dance performance downtown. On day two I had to work while Alethea took mom and dad around town. They took the Portland Streetcar around town, visited the Japanese Gardens, Pittock Mansion, and picked me up after work. We then went out to eat at one of our favorite pubs Hopworks Urban Brewery.  I took Friday off and we made a day of it completing the ocean loop as I like to call it. We drove to Astoria, Seaside, and Cannon Beach where we saw Haystack Rock. The weather was not great but we had a good time. The next day we went to the Portland Farmer’s Market (where mom & dad got a $45 parking ticket – sorry about that), David Hill Winery , Montinore Estate (winery) and then went to McMenamins Grand Lodge to watch Tennessee get whipped by Alabama. The next day we drove up a couple hours to the north to Mt. St. Helens where we spent the day. Visibility was not great but there was still plenty to see including some snow! The next day was a rest day for mom and dad. They did drive in for Alethea to prepare a healthy salmon dinner. The following day mom, dad, & Alethea visited the Columbia Gorge area and drove to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood where they encountered some more snow. We finished the day with some pizza at Apizza Scholls before calling it a night.

Mom & Dad on top of the Astoria Column
I believe mom and dad had a good time. The weather did not always cooperate and it was a lot of driving at times. I enjoyed spending time with them and getting to show them the greater Portland area that we enjoy so much.

Dad needed a pre-trip nap one day :-)
 Let’s see what else has been going on. I had an enjoyable time on my birthday. I will not go into too much detail since Alethea wrote a blog post about it that can be found by clicking here. We spent the day taking advantage of free things you can do on your birthday here in Portland.

Mom & Dad @ Haystack Rock - Cannon Beach, OR
I made quite a bit of progress selling things I no longer needed. Within the last month I have sold my iPod, computer speakers, external DVD drive, and my netbook. I use my iPhone for so much of my personal computing that I no longer needed those items. I made more money selling those items than what my iPhone cost!

The bathroom key is attached to a wine bottle @ Urban Decanter in Forest Grove, OR
We did get a little bit of bad news. Alethea found out earlier this month that she is going to have to surgery on her hip. It had been bothering her for some time. She saw a specialist and tried physical therapy for some time but that did not work. She had a MRI where they discovered a tear in her hip that will require surgery to repair. We do not have a date yet. It may happen in mid-December. I feel bad for her but at least we know the extent of the problem and what will hopefully fix it. She’ll be immobile for a period of time and will require months of physical therapy but hopefully in 6 months she’ll be back to  feeling 100%.

The north face of Mt. St. Helen's made a brief appearance @ the Johnston Ridge Observatory
Well that pretty much sums up what I’ve been up to over the last couple months. I plan on spending the remaining part of my 4 day weekend getting started with plotting out my goals for 2013. I plan on following the guidance of Dan Miller by establishing areas of achievement in seven key areas. I also plan to watch a little football and run a few errands before getting back to work.

Click here for the photo album of pics from Mom & Dad's visit to Oregon.

Video of Sea Lions in Astoria

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Catching Up

Well I didn’t plan on going three and a half months between posts. The chief culprit is not making blogging a priority. This happens when you work and keep plenty busy in your spare time. This post will be a catch up post highlighting what I have been up to over the last few months.


Let’s see what did I do back in June?.......My last post left off with our weekend trip to Bend, Oregon. The most significant activity for June was starting my new job. It was definitely a different type of first day. Nothing went wrong or awkward. What was different was that I got up at 5 am to run and then took public transportation to work. Back when I worked in an office I rarely if ever worked out before work and I know I had never taken any form of public transportation to work before. One great thing about my job is that my employer pays $80 of the $100 cost for an unlimited monthly public transportation pass so my transport cost to work which is only 3 miles should never be more than $20 a month!

Willamette River @ 5:30 in the morning on my bike ride to work
Despite not owning a car, having an unlimited public transportation pass, and bicycle I decided to get an Oregon driver’s license. The main reason was to establish residency since it appeared we were going to be staying in Oregon. It was a little bit of a humiliating experience. I only had to take the written test since I had a valid out of state driver’s license. I failed the written test the first time but passed it the second time. Good thing it only cost $5 to take the test. It was not an easy test. Many people have mentioned they had failed it too. I did study for it but apparently not well enough. I was relieved I passed on the second attempt. I also registered to vote too. I’m looking forward to voting by mail which is only method here in Oregon.

The other highlight was that Diane and Ronnie came out for a visit. I didn’t get to spend much time with them since I was starting a new job. Alethea played the role of tour guide for their visit. She was able to showcase our new hometown which I believe they enjoyed.


July was another busy month of activities. I started to settle into my job. I did spend one week in Salt Lake City, Utah meeting some of my other team members. I didn’t get to spend anytime sightseeing and from what I gather I didn’t miss much.

During July Alethea and I spent several nights at Living Room Theaters in downtown Portland. Alethea won a series of free movie tickets that we have used throughout the summer. We saw mostly documentary and independent films. Most of the films were pretty good. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the amenities of the theatre. They serve beer and have a small restaurant serving a limited food menu. They’ll even bring your order into the theater!

I also started to put the bike that I purchased at the end of May into full-time use by riding my bike to work on a regular basis. On July 4th Alethea and I went on a 30 mile ride along the Springwater Corridor that was long but enjoyable. 

We continued our volunteer work in the month of July. We volunteered at the Oregon Brewer’sFestival. It is the largest beer festival in North American with 80,000 attendees over the four day event. The festival is also where we spent our 1st wedding anniversary which was fitting since we both enjoy craft beer. We actually worked as supervisors for this event. We did volunteer at one non-beer event and that was at the Oregon Food Bank toward the later part of the month.  

Celebrating our 1st wedding anniversary at a beer festival!

One other last major event for July and that was Alethea and I both purchased new phones. We both purchased iPhones and combined our phone plans into one family plan. I really like my new phone. It has been a real time saver with some of the apps. I like it so well that I’m in the process of selling my old iPod and more than likely my netbook as I no longer need them anymore.


Moving on to August…. The highlight for me for me was having Brian and Colleen visit us for a few days. They spent a couple days with us during their week out in Oregon. We showed them our sites and tried to walk them to death one day (10 miles in one day). I am glad they got to visit.

Alethea pointing something out to Colleen 
Next event was that I ran in my first 5K as part of the Portland Parks & Recreation $5 for 5K Fun Runs. I finished 35th out of 115 with a time of 28:52. I even received a ribbon for finishing. I didn’t do it for the competition just for the experience. I enjoyed it. I could have done better though. I consider it the first step in eventually running half marathon.

The other main activity was surviving the heat without an air conditioner. We had multiple 90 degree days and a few around 100. Good thing is that it usually cooled off by night and the real hot days would never be more than a couple in a row.


September highlights consisted of taking a side trip to LA, work, and going on long bike rides.

During the second week of September Alethea and I took a side trip to visit my brother Doug and his girlfriend Alexis in Los Angeles. I had never been to L.A. outside of the airport. We visited Venice Beach, Griffith Park Observatory, and got to see a Dodgers game. Only bad part was that the heat from Portland followed us to L.A. The temps got up to the high 90’s. We enjoyed our quick visit though. Cannot say L.A. is a place I’d really want to live though. I would go nuts waiting in traffic or planning my life around the horrendous car traffic. LA has pretty good bus public transportation from what Doug mentioned but is in desperate need of a massive expansion of their rail system.

Doug wanting to know if he could take this home & cook it :-)

As I mentioned earlier the rest of the month's highlights involved getting on our bikes. We’ve been trying to maximize our riding time while the weather is good. We’ve gone on pub bike crawls throughout Portland visiting places that we haven’t gone too before. One of our rides included a journey up to Vancouver, WA over Labor Day. Vancouver is about 12 miles one way from where we live in. Only bad part was that I experienced a flat tire on the way up there. It took us about an hour to fix. I am glad I had already been to a REI hands on fix a flat class.

Mt. Hood from 50 miles away while crossing the I-5 bridge on our way to Vancouver, WA

What’s next?

This pretty much catches everyone up on what we’ve been up to for the last few months. I am looking forward to the fall here in the Northwest. We plan on getting in an as many bike rides as possible over the next few weekends. We’ll also be attending multiple plays and dance events as part of a prize package Alethea won. I make no promises on when my next post will be. I’ll write when I got something to say J. Everyone take care!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Trip to Bend, Oregon & other news

I'll pick up where my last blog post stopped. Alethea and I survived our last adventure. That adventure involved a 20 mile bike ride down to the Clackamas mall area and back. It was a fun trip that allowed us to check out a park that I plan on doing some running in (Lents Park) and do some necessary shopping. It also allowed for us to get plenty of exercise. Portland is such a bike friendly town. It was recently ranked by as the best bicycling city in the US for 2012 (story link). The title seems to go back and forth with Minneapolis, MN for some reason which I find somewhat amusing considering the weather in Minneapolis.

I wrote in my last post that I might have some interesting developments to report with the job search. Well I can report that I have found a job! I'll be working for Cambia Health Solutions. You can read more about what all Cambia does here at this link. I will be performing a similar role to my last job at Dell. My role will be a Problem Management Analyst in the IT department. I am excited but a little anxious about my new opportunity. I have been looking forward to going back to work full-time for awhile. Many people mind find that statement crazy but I actually do miss it and I am not just talking about the paycheck either which is always nice. I miss being productive on a regular basis. I enjoy solving problems and making things run (hopefully for the better). My understanding is I will be mostly working for home with the flexibility of working in an office if I so choose. The office is only located about 3 miles away from where we live. I can even take a short bus ride from right outside our apartment or bike to work which I plan on doing at some point. Don't worry, I don't plan on blogging about work. Most people would find what I'll be doing boring even if I find it quite interesting. I will just say again that I am exited and looking forward to it. Wish me luck!

Now that I landed a new job I figured it was about time to take a vacation! I am only half kidding. I had been wanting to take a little side trip for a few weeks. Since my start date wasn't going to be for a couple weeks we decided to take a mini-vacation. We briefly kicked around a few ideas but quickly decided we would venture to Bend, Oregon.

Deshutes River Trail in downtown Bend, Oregon
Bend is a little over 3 hours way from Portland in Central Oregon. We settled on Bend for a couple reasons. It is a part of Oregon we haven't been too and it is the home of 10 breweries (along with 2 distillers) despite having a population of only 82,000 people. They even have their own REI store. Knowing how we love craft beers and the outdoors it seemed like a great fit!

The craft beer portion of our trip consisted of completing the Bend AleTrail. The way the Ale Trail works is that you pick up a passport and get it stamped at each of the breweries. Once you get a stamp from each brewery you return your passport to the visitor's center to receive your prizes. The prizes are a commemorative patch and a Silipint flexible pint cup. In four days we visited the nine breweries located in Bend and trekked 20 miles outside of town to neighboring Sisters, Oregon to earn our extra credit stamp at Three Creek's Brewing. We also included a stop at Oregon Spirit Distillers where we met the owner, his wife, their dog, and one of the distillers. We went on a brief but informative tour and purchased a bottle of their bourbon whiskey which actually may have been my favorite alcoholic beverage of the trip. It is very smooth for a bourbon. I don't normally drink bourbon that much but it is something I would recommend trying out.

Alethea & I collecting our prizes for completing the Bend Ail Trail
I am not sure I could honestly say what my favorite beer was on the trip. Alethea notated in a recent Facebook post that we drank 23 pints, 42 samples, and 8 tasters on our trip (we also stopped at Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River, Oregon and Everybody's Brewing in White Salmon, Washington on the way home). Many of the beers have run together in my mind. I enjoyed most of them. Some beers were a little flat or bland while some were more favorable. I know I liked what I had at Cascade Lakes Brewing, Goodlife Brewing, Boneyard Brewing, and Deshutes Brewery. Deshutes is probably my favorite overall. There is no one brewery that is good at everything but I believe Deshutes makes more beers that I like than the other breweries based in Bend. I know my favorite is the Green Lakes Organic Ale. I only had a 4 oz sampler of it on our trip but have had it at pubs and purchased it here locally in Portland.

Alethea with the owner's dog @ Oregon Spirit Distillers
Drinking wasn't the only thing we did in Bend. We balanced our consumption by experiencing some of the beautiful scenery. On our first full day we spent several hours in the Deshutes National Forrest. We drove up Lava Butte where we could see mountains and forest land for several miles on a beautiful clear day. We then drove over to Lava Tube and attempted to hike it but didn't make too much progress hiking the 1 mile lava tube. It turns out that my headlamp flashlight batteries were weaker than I thought. I had replaced them last fall while in Ireland but have apparently worn them down again. It wasn't safe for only person to have a properly working headlamp in a pitch black cave. We then decided to drive out to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument about 25 miles away. While there we hiked on the Big Obsidian Lava Flow which was pretty neat. It is still mostly covered in snow despite it being the first of June. The altitude in this part of the park was around 6,500 feet. We also stopped at the two lakes located inside the 17 mile caldera.

Video from Lava Butte in the Deshutes National Forrest

The other two outdoors activities involved hiking. The first hike was to Tumalo Falls. Tumalo Falls is located 13 miles outside of Bend. The base of the waterfall is located right next to the parking lot. We stopped at the first observation point before walking a few tenths of a mile to the upper part of the falls. After a quick peak over the falls, we hiked about a mile or so out before returning. The other hike we did was in the city of Bend itself. We hiked the Deshute River Trail. It is in downtown Bend but is very scenic. For many parts of the trail you don't feel like you are in a city of 80,000 people.

Tumalo Falls 

In all it was a very good trip. It was nice to get out of town for a few days and partake in some of our favorite activities without spending a lot of money. We did have a budget for the trip. I believe we finished $6 under our estimate! I am sure we'll be back in Bend before too long. I heard on more than one occasion that there are 6 more breweries in the works plus we didn't even visit Mount Bachelor the 9,000 foot mountain that is 20 miles away. Bend is probably known more for its winter sports than anything else. I am looking forward to going skiing or snowboarding in the not so distant future.

Big Obsidian Lava Flow @ Newberry National Monument

That is all for this post. As far as what is next for us is concerned, we'll be volunteering at the Fruit Beer Festival this weekend. I'll be starting my new job next Thursday. Diane and Ronnie will be coming out for a visit and then we'll be volunteering at multiple other festivals in the month of July. Good thing we took a little break when we did. Hope everyone is doing well!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My First TV Appearance & Second Blog Post for May!

I committed in my last blog post to write more often so I thought I would sit down this evening and write a post. I was actually all set to write Thursday evening during my allocated time for blogging when Alethea prepared a treat for me. We each had a bowl of frozen yogurt courtesy of Ben & Jerry's. The sugar rush wore me out causing me to procrastinate until today. That is a pretty weak excuse isn't? It is rare that we have any type of snack with that much sugar in it though. I did enjoy it though.

My last two blog posts have been mostly about our participation in the NBC TV Show Grimm. This post will start off on the same topic. I have some good news to report. Alethea and I have both made appearances on TV! Yeah!!! We have appeared in each of the last two episodes. In each episode I make a brief appearance as a crime scene investigator. In the first episode that I appeared in I can be seen in the background talking to someone although you cannot see who I was talking too. I was actually pantomiming of fake talking since during filming we normally could not make any noises that could be picked up by the microphones. A few seconds after my first appearance I can be seen kneeling down going through my CSI kit. It actually had some real CSI stuff in it like gloves, evidence collection tubes, and finger print powder. In last week's episode I can technically be seen three times. However, there is only one scene where you can tell it is me. I am a CSI agent again taking pictures of a dead body just behind the main actors. It was a real camera but I wasn't taking actual pictures. It felt weird to be taking fake pictures but I faked it the best I could :-). The other two times you cannot really tell it was me. In one scene I am in the back of a library listening to a talk. In the other scene I'm running from bigfoot. The camera shows my backside as I and 50 or so other people run out of the lobby of a theatre.

Screen shot of me taking pictures as CSI Agent LaRowe on an episode of Grimm
Listed below are the links and details to the episodes. You can forward to the specific scenes to catch a glimpse of me. You probably will have to watch a few commercials that you cannot skip.

The first episode we are in is titled Happily Every Aftermath (Ep 120, Air Date 5/4/12).
I can be seen at about the 11 min 40 sec mark and then again 20 seconds later. These are the only scenes of the episode I am in. Here is the link from NBC's website. Happily Ever Aftermath

The second episode we are in is called Bigfeet (Ep 121, Air Date 5/11/12).
The only scene were you can really tell that is me is at about 28 min 37 sec & 28 min 42 sec. Alethea can be seen at 29 mins 0 sec and at 29 min 14 sec. Here is the link to this episode from NBC's website. Big Feet

If you are reading this before the season finale airs and you want to watch it then that is great but you will not see Alethea or myself. We didn't work on the last episode :-(. I still plan on watching it to see how it turns out. They haven't started to film season two yet. We haven't heard anything from the casting agency on whether or not we'll be working again as extras for next season. I don't expect we will hear anything for a few more weeks. This is probably the last Grimm related update for awhile. Regardless whether we work again on the show it was a good experience and I am glad we did it.

Next up on things we've been up to over the last couple weeks is bicycling. If you follow my wife's blog Smartt-Adeventures you will know that Alethea recently won a bicycle valued at $500. Last Sunday we put her bike to work at the Portland Sunday Parkways. Alethea wrote about this event in one of her recent posts which can be found here. The Sunday Parkways events occur throughout the summer. The city shuts down a section of streets to cars on a Sunday for a few hours. Last weekend's event was in Northeast Portland. I borrowed a bike from our landlord's daughter so I could join Alethea. I really enjoyed it. We biked over 3 miles to the area that was closed off and then biked most of the 8 mile loop before biking back to our apartment. The weather was beautiful. It was sunny and in the low 80's. Visibility was excellent. We could clearly see Mt. St. Helen's to the north. I really want to get my own bike that better suits me but will probably hold off until I get a regular full-time job although REI is currently having one of their big sales events at the moment. Alethea and I plan on looking at some bicycles this Saturday. I definitely think we'll be doing quite a bit of bike riding here in Portland over the next several months. It is such a bike friendly city.

Me @ the Portland Sunday Parkways event on 5/13

Mount St. Helens as viewed from NE Portland. It  is 50 miles to the north of Portland
Well that is about all from the Pacific Northwest. I'll have some update on the job search in my next post one way or the other. There could be some interesting developments that will play out before too long. I do have one other update. We received our new air mattress this week. This will make it a whole lot easier to host guests. It is a pretty nice air mattress. It is a queen size that is 22 inches off the ground. Time to get ready for bed. Saturday's adventure is going to take a lot of energy. Our plan is to bicycle out to the Clackamas area and visit a REI store, a Kohl's, and maybe a Target. The shortest path is 8 miles just to get there. Should be fun!

Our new air mattress! Bring on the guests!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What's been going on?

I never intended to go two whole months without a blog post but that is what has happened. The urge to write has come to the forefront within the last couple days so I thought I would write about a few things we have been up to over the last couple months.

Since my last post was about my experience working on Grimm, I'll start this post off on that subject. It has been somewhat interesting over the last two months. I believe we have worked on Grimm six or seven times since February. On some days we have only spent a few hours on set while others have been much longer. Sometimes we have been used quite a bit while other times we have not. On one occasion we were on set for eight hours and were not used at all. The crazy thing is we get paid the same regardless of how much we are used. The first episodes that we worked on have just now started to air. So far, we haven't been on TV. We have been in the background for a particular scene or two but haven't come that close to making an appearance. We have a much better chance to be on TV starting with the episode that airs on Friday, May 4th. These are the scenes we are in with the stars of the show.  We just walk or kneel down next to them. We are playing the parts of police officers or crime scene investigators depending on the scene or episode. It just depends on what footage they use whether we'll be seen or not. Sometimes scenes are cut out altogether plus they often shoot the same scene from different angles. They also do not show extras that frequently from what I have noticed. When I watch the show I pay almost more attention to how they show extras versus the actual show.

Officer LaRowe on the set of Grimm
Grimm is on hiatus for a few more weeks before they start filming season two sometime in late May. The last time we worked on the show was in mid-April. If we are not busy with other projects I think we will both make ourselves available to work on the show next season. Overall, I have enjoyed working on Grimm. The work isn't all that glamorous. What I enjoy most is being behind the scenes and seeing what all goes into the production of an episode. It is also kind of neat to watch a show on TV with a little bit of knowledge of what occurs before it airs. Despite working on the show we often don't know how the episode will play out.  We're only aware of just how a few scenes in a hour long episode will go.

Officer Alethea & Greg - My jacket was way too big :-)
What else have we been up to? For starters we have started the volunteering season. Volunteering for us means working at beer festivals! We both have an interest in craft beers and enjoy being involved in the local beer scene. It is also been a good way to meet new people here in Portland. So far we have volunteered at the Spring Beer and Wine Fest and the Cheers for Belgian Beers Festival. The Spring Beer and Wine Fest was held at the Oregon Convention Center which is only a few miles from our apartment. It was a two day festival featuring mostly local food and drink selections. We visited the festival on the first day just to check things out and use our drink tickets since we were working the closing shift on the second day. During our shifts we mostly poured beer for four hours. Alethea and I didn't work at the same booth however. I actually worked at a booth that served beers owned by the conglomerate InBev (Stella Artois, Leffe, Shock Top, etc) while Alethea worked at a booth for a brewery called Good Life Brewing.  I was surprised at how busy I was and how many repeat customers I had considering Oregon is know for its craft beers. A lot of people commented they weren't big beer drinkers or were looking for something familiar instead of something they haven't had before. Alethea and I are the opposite. We go to the festivals to try things that we haven't had before or cannot easily purchase in stores.

I served beer next to this car at the Spring Beer & Wine Fest
The Cheers for Beers Festival was a little different. It was located at the Metalworks Fabrication facility in north Portland. The crowd differed for this festival. Most of the people were there because they enjoy Belgian Beers. Alethea worked the main check-in area while I poured six different types of beers at two work stations. I was pretty busy. The time flew by for me. We did get free t-shirts, a drink glass, a free meal we weren't expecting, several samples of Belgian beer, and we also got to meet some new people. Alethea wrote more about these two events on her blog (Spring Beer and Wine Fest and Cheers for Belgian Beers).

Server row @ Cheer for Belgian Beers
These two festivals are just the start of the season for us. I believe we are signed up for four more additional festivals between now and the end of July. I am also signed up to volunteer at Chris Guillebeau's World Domination Summit in July. I'll write more about that event at a later date. I don't plan on just volunteering at beer festivals this summer either. Alethea and I are both passionate about the environment and will hopefully line something up in that area as well. I actually signed up to volunteer at a tree planting event sponsored by REI but it coincided with the Cheers for Belgian Beers Festival. Beer won out over the trees on that day :-).

My initial workstation @ Cheers for Belgian Beers
It hasn't all been fun and games out here on the west coast. I have been more active in the job search process over the last few weeks. I will not go in to too much detail because I plan on writing more about the process for future posts. I will highlight where I am at and what I have been doing. I have started with the basics. I've re-written my resume and written some basic cover letters. I've actually never written cover letters before. I do think they are helpful and necessary. Alethea has been a big help in the editing department. I created several opportunities for her to use her grammar editing skills :-).

The job search itself is going pretty slow which is kinda of what I expected. It has been awhile since I have actively looked for a job. I think it takes a little time to get in the right frame of mine which I think I am now in. Although a little frustrated I am still pretty positive and hopeful. I have been submitting applications and resumes. I am starting to lay networking foundations. I attended a networking event earlier this week. It was targeted more for people working in or promoting green business. I am interested in this industry but this isn't something I am necessarily looking for at this time. It was still nice to attend an event where I introduce myself and mingle with complete strangers in a city that I recently moved to. Ultimately, I think networking of some type is how I will find a job.  That is pretty much all on the job front for now.

Little surprised to see this truck in Portland. Thought I was back in  Tennessee for a minute :-)
That is all for this post. The goal was to highlight some of the things we have been up to over the last few weeks. I promise I don't plan on going another two months without posting. My challenge is getting started. I think I'll set aside some dedicated time to write on regular basis. I aim to post at least every two weeks. This sounds like a pretty good pace to me. Hope everyone is doing well!  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My experience being an extra on Grimm

I was scratching my head for new content on my blog last week when my weekly reminder email to write something hit my inbox. Nothing that interesting outside of normal every day life stuff had occurred since my last posting so I decided to wait until I had more to write about. That all changed last Friday around noon. I received a voice mail from one of the production assistants with the NBC TV show Grimm that is being filmed in Portland asking whether or not I was interested in being an extra. I called back within about 15 minutes and committed to doing it. This post will be about this experience.

Grimm  - airs on Friday's @ 9 pm central on NBC
I'll start off with how we got involved in this. Alethea randomly came across this opportunity a few weeks ago. She submitted her info along with pictures and was called back to be an extra. She wrote a blog post about here experience which can be found here. I was somewhat interested but didn't think there was much chance of getting called. I didn't submit my info until Alethea had already been contacted to be an extra which was only the day before she was needed. I didn't hear anything back and had forgot all about it. It was a complete surprise when they called on Friday. I jumped at the chance since I wanted to be a part of it for the experience.

1 of 2 extra photos I submitted to be an extra on Grimm - taken from our wedding last summer 
I received my email on Sunday detailing what I needed to do the following day. I was told to show up wearing jogging clothes and bring 3 changes of casual clothes for other scenes. My call time was 9:18 am. Yes, it was actually typed in the email as 9:18 am. Alethea had emailed the casting director after I had been called and mentioned we were a couple. She was then invited to come in as well but her call time wasn't until 11:18 am. To prepare for being an extra, which is something that I have never done before, I logged into a website Alethea has a membership with to learn about what to do and what not do. Most of it is common sense. It is pretty much don't bother anyone, do what they say, have a great attitude, and do what they say :-). I also went to Wikipedia and the NBC website (Grimm) to read up about the show since I had never watched an episode! The last thing I did was go to Hulu and watch an actual episode. I wanted to be somewhat familiar with the show and know who the stars were in case I interacted with them. It is definitely a different type show than I am used to but I found it interesting. I thought it was pretty neat that I recognized many of the locations here in Portland.

Second extra photo submitted for Grimm - taken at a pub in  Suzhou, China
The first part of the day turned out to actually be the most stressful part of the whole experience. Since we do not have a car I took the bus downtown to the location that I was supposed to check in at. I arrived a little more than 15 minutes early. It turns out I needed the spare time. The directions and location in the documentation that came with my email were not correct. I wandered around parking lots and buildings in downtown Portland asking people where to go. No one had a clue as to what I was talking about. The way I eventually located where I was supposed to go was because I remembered that in one of the email attachments it mentioned something about white shuttle vans shuffling people around from location to location. I happened to randomly see a white shuttle van stopped at a red light. There was no other traffic so I stepped out into the middle of the street to approach the van. As I got near it I saw a GRIMM placard in the dashboard. I knocked on the window scaring the driver half to death. She reluctantly rolled down the window and I asked her if she knew where Grimm extras were supposed to report. She at least pointed me in the general direction. I made my way over to where she said to go. It still wasn't marked clearly where to go. I ended up asking a police officer guarding some of the trailers in a parking lot. He was nice and helpful. He guided me over to a catering truck outside of a hotel that I had walked passed earlier that turned out to be the holding area where I needed to check in at. There were no signs anywhere to be seen. 

I was a little frustrated and upset because there directions weren't close to being correct and that I actually arrived pretty much right on time. All of the documentation and research that I had done said do not be late. I don't like being late for anything to begin with. The documentation for this event said you should be there 15 minutes before your call time. I was worried once I got in the room someone was going to say something or I was going to be sent home. Luckily, there was only a few of us asked to come in early and only one other extra that had arrived before me. I discovered later that I wasn't alone. Most of the other extras I talked to had the same problem. Three other people used the same technique as me by knocking on the window of a random white shuttle van asking the driver where to go.

Once I arrived I sat in a hotel meeting room for about 15 minutes before the extra's casting director gave me some paper work to fill out. A wardrobe person then came over and looked at what I was wearing which was the running clothes outfit I was asked to wear. She told me I wouldn't be wearing those clothes until evening and wanted to see what else I had brought. I opened my carry on suite case that I brought with me which happened to contain almost all of the casual clothes I own since I have donated most of my clothes to charity after losing 60 pounds over the last two years. Once she selected my outfit I immediately changed clothes in a bathroom down the hall. I then returned to the holding area where I waited around for another ten minutes before the extra's casting director grabbed me along with the other extras and told us to follow him.

When I got to the set I was able to confirm what I had learned about being an extra. I am not supposed to go into detail about the scenes or even where we filmed. We did spend the next roughly 6 hours filming just a couple scenes a few blocks from our base camp. It was the same scenes over and over again shot from different angles. I wasn't selected to be in any of the first set of scenes. I actually didn't do anything for about 3 hours. I just chatted with other extras and observed what all was going on. I wasn't put to use until after Alethea had arrived and then it was pretty basic. I just walked back and forth on a sidewalk across the street from a crime scene. We pretty much did this until dinner which was around 4 pm. I was hungry by the time dinner was served since I had breakfast around 7 am with only a few snacks to hold me over.

The second half of the day was a little bit more interesting for me at least. First the dinner they served us was pretty good. I was advised we were eating better than normal extras since there weren't too many of us and we were eating with the crew including the stars of the show who were just a couple tables away. The humiliating part is that everyone other than the extras gets to eat first. It felt kind of awkward that everyone else was eating except us. About the time Alethea and I were finishing with our dinner the extra's casting director told us to change clothes for our evening scenes. I immediately stopped eating and went over to my suite case with the clothes in it and changed behind a sheet outside the main dining area. We waited a little bit, packed up our bags, and were shuttled over to another part of town where we filmed the evening scenes.

At the second location we spent the next 4 to 5 hours shooting a few scenes and doing quite a bit of waiting. I actually may have a shot of being on TV. In one scene me and another woman jog up to a point on an overpass where we stop and stare down at a dead body. If the camera pans up then it should include me in the shot along with some of the other extras. We filmed this scene multiple times. Alethea was positioned well off from the main scene. I am not sure she'll be in this scene but you never know what they might use. Alethea was used as a I believe a jogger in one more scene while I wasn't selected. Most of the rest of the evening was spent in the holding area or just off the set by a propane heater with the other extras. We wrapped around 9:45 pm and were checked out around 10 pm. Alethea and I then walked over to a nearby bus stop to catch a ride home. It turned out we were only a couple blocks away from the bus line that runs nearly in front of our apartment so it was pretty easy to get home.  We ending up getting in around 10:45 pm. It was a long day since I had left around 8:15 am that morning.

Overall I thought it was a very interesting experience. It went pretty much as I expected. It isn't really all that glamorous. What I enjoyed most was just watching how things are done. I was little frustrated at first with how the day started but I quickly adapted and had a good time. I enjoyed interacting with some of the other extras who live here in the Portland area. One of the most amusing things I saw was during breaks many of the police officer and crime scene investigator extras were taking pictures of each other in their costumes and posting them to Facebook. They looked pretty real in their costumes. Some people on the street came up to them asking questions as if they were real police officers. One other great thing about my experience was that I will get a paycheck out of it. I was paid by the hour from the time I showed up until the time we were checked out minus 30 minutes for lunch. I even got overtime pay after 8 hours. We get paid no matter how much they used us or not so I didn't really mind waiting around doing nothing but I would have liked to have had a better shot of being in an episode or just doing more in general. By the way the episode we might make an appearance in is number 18 and is due to air some time in May. I'll keep an eye out for it and post it on here and Facebook when it airs.

Alethea and I have communicated to the casting people that we would be interested in doing additional work at least through the end of March. I'll be glad to be an extra or a stand in. It is an interesting way to earn a little money while we look for more regular types of employment. We'll see if we get called back for any additional work. If anyone has any questions or comments feel free to post them on the blog or just email me. Take care!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Random Observations from Portland

This is going to be a different type of blog post than what I typically write. Normally, I sit down and make an outline. I then write about each topic or idea that I outlined. I usually have notes but sometimes I just recall it from memory. What I have done is make notes on thoughts or observations since my post on Friday, February 3rd. I decided to do this since I really don't have any exact adventures to describe like I normally do. Also, my goal is to write at least once a week which is something that I haven't been doing. This will depend if there is enough content that warrants a post or not. I plan writing on Wednesday's or Thursday's. Anyway, here it goes. Hope you all like it. Feel free to leave comments at the bottom of the post on the blog if you like this or not. These observations are random and not organized in any way and are not everything I have been thinking about or working on.

  • Alethea and scouted out places to watch the Super Bowl and discovered there weren't that many places within a relatively short distance that had it on. We ended up going to a place only two blocks away called  Bazi Bierbrasserie to watch it on a 114 in HD screen. Bazi is a Belgian beer bar. We enjoyed it & both rooted for the Giants.

    114 inch HD screen @ Bazi's we watched the Super Bowl on
  • When I updated my cell phone address to Portland, Oregon my cell phone bill went down 10% a month due to lower taxes. Oregon charges a small percentage based tax to fund their 911 call centers where Tennessee charges a flat fee at the state and county level that is more expensive.
  • Our apartment is in a Sprint cell phone dead zone. I'm primarily using my Google Voice number on my laptop to make phone calls.
  • I am somewhat acclimating to the cooler temperatures. Being outdoors everyday helps quite a bit.

    Alethea bundling up for our morning walk to the gym
  • I often thinking about how much easier it is to eat healthier in Portland versus many other places in the US. Lost of fresh, local, organic foods in grocery stores and restaurants.
  • Oregon has a 5 cent bottle deposit recycling system. Numerous studies have shown these programs are the most effective for improving recycling rates. One change since we were here last was that you can take any bottle to any bottle recycling center whereas when we were here last you could only take bottles back to a store that sold that type of bottle. 
  • It easy to recycle here. Portland has curb side pick up of glass, plastic, paper, and composting. Garbage is only picked up every other week. If you need to have it picked up sooner you have to call and pay ~$5 per bag. Portland's recycling rate is around 70%. As a comparison the last time I saw numbers for Nashville it was around 27%. The national average is around 30%. 90% of residents participate in some form of recycling.
  • On some days it can be quite windy – 20-30 mph the whole day long.
  • Our Fred Meyer has free paper shredding.
  • The computer monitor that we purchased lasted 5 minutes. It broke when I plugged in the 3.5 mm audio jack. We decided to return it to Target and just do without.
  • Been working out at our new gym for the last two weeks. Feeling pretty good. I like the new gym which is called The Green Microgym .
  • Due to the cooler weather I had Alethea cut my hair with a 2 blade instead of a 1 but that isn't close enough. I'm switching back to 1 blade with my next cut. 
  • Met one of the people we share our building with. His name is Dirk. The other person's name is Chris but we haven't seen or met him. I know he exists because he is responsible for taking out the trash and the containers usually get taken out and eventually put back up.
  • Ordered an external USB DVD player for my laptop using leftover money from an Amazon gift card. Not sure we'll keep it. Primary reason for getting it is because it is cheaper to rent movies from Redbox than download them from Apple or other places.
  • I love Alethea's cooking but not enjoying the time it takes to wash the dishes. We don't have a dish washer. Over/under for length that I can tolerate is 20 minutes. I usually listen to podcast while I wash.

    another one of Alethea's wonderfully prepare meals (lamb, beans, & greens)
  • Excited that I weighed in at the gym at 180lbs. I am still down 51 lbs from what I weighed in March of 2009 when I got serious about losing weight. 75% of people who lose more than 20 pounds regain it back within 12 months. Not me :-).
  • Enjoy listening to podcast when working out.
  • Bough a Groupon or maybe Living Social for a Zip Car membership. We have two months to activate it. If we stay in Portland we should hardly ever need a car. The membership can be transferred to other cities that have Zip Cars. 
  • Had a lot of problems with browsers on my laptop due to issues with Shockwave which allows you to play video. Can't wait until HTML 5 becomes more mainstream.
  • Took and passed the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) test which allows me to sell or serve alcohol in the state of Oregon. Primary reason for getting this is so we can get better volunteer jobs at beer festivals. License is valid for 5 years. Alethea and I both got an 98% on the test. I was hoping to beat her but didn't :-)
  • Took the online course and passed for my Oregon Food Handler's Card. It is mandatory that you have this if you handle food. We got this to help out at the festivals. I studied and read the prep guide and got 2 questions wrong. Alethea didn't study and only got 1 question wrong :-(. This is good for 3 years.
  • In order to keep track of Happy Hour deals for food and drink we've created a shared calendar on Google. Happy hour is a big deal around here. Nearly every restaurant has some type of deal. We are only tracking the best ones and not everyone.
  • Spent a couple hours and cleaned up all my old Twitter & Facebook lists.
  • Checked out and read in one day The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau. Good book. He actually lives here in Portland. His blog is interesting. He is trying to travel to every country in the world before he is 35. The last country he will go to is Norway which I've already been too. Chris's blog can be found here.
  • Toured a couple distilleries one day and bought some vodka called Portland Vodka 88 and a coffee liquor from House Spirits. Both are made here in Portland. Portland is getting noticed for its Vodka making abilities.
  • Spent some time researching living in Vancouver, Washington which is just across the river from Portland. Washington has no income tax and Portland has the 5th highest state income tax in the US but no sales tax. Public transportation via bus reaches Portland from Vancouver. Housing is also cheaper there too.
  • Went on an adventure one day to three grocery stores to research the price of bananas before buying some.
  • Saw a woman walking a cat on a leash. I didn't have my cell phone or camera out and couldn't get a picture. The only other time I have seen this before was in Oslo, Norway.
  • Alethea was selected to be an extra on the NBC show Grimm. She wrote about it in this post on her blog. I thought it was way cool. 
  • Valentine's Day dinner was at the Cha Cha Cha Mexican Restaurant during happy hour that was only a couple blocks away. Also, went to a local bar named Proof that had pints for only $2.75.

    Valentine's Day pint @ Proof, only $2.75!
  • Still trying to get our health insurance transferred to Oregon. Blue Cross Blue Shield of TN is dragging their feet.
  • Researched getting an Oregon's driver's license. I have all the documentation and I don't have to take the driver's test just the written knowledge test. Total cost is $65 cash.
  • Do not miss not having a TV. We stream TV shows and sporting events to our laptops.
  • Was nominate for Portland's Yelp Elite team which could include some freebies at various events over the course of a year. Alethea had Elite statue in 2010 (& technically 2011). We were able to go to some events only for Elite Yelpers. 
  • Signed up for Grammar Girl's weekly podcast to help improve my grammar.
That's all for now. Hope to post again in another week or so!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Getting Started in Portland

It has been a little over a week since we have moved to Portland so it is time for a blog post! Our time has pretty much been spent settling in to our apartment and doing some exploring. We have also incorporated visits to some of our favorite places. I'll go over what we have been up to and what some of my initial impressions have been.

1908 Triplex in Portland where we are renting a room
First, I'll highlight the move experience. Although you can call it a move it actually felt more like one of our travel adventures. We decided that we were just going to fly out to Portland with checked luggage and move any remaining items at a later date.  We each took three pieces of checked baggage plus two carry ons. Most of what we brought in our checked baggage were clothes. We brought other miscellaneous items such as bacon in one of my carry ons :-). Alethea carried her personal safe as a carry on which I thought was hilarious. She surprisingly made it through security without even having to open it although it was scanned twice at the security checkpoint in Nashville. She ended up gate checking one of her carry on bags so she could carry the safe all the way to Portland. I didn't get questions for the bacon or anything else.

Alethea carrying her safe through the DFW airport
In all our day of traveling was pretty smooth. We spent the morning running a few last minute errands. To get to the airport we had to get a ride from Alethea's neighbors since they had a van that could hold all of our luggage! Our day of traveling consisted of two flights on American Airlines. Our first flight of the day was a 2 hour flight from Nashville to Dallas-Ft. Worth that left at 2 pm. The flight was a little choppy but uneventful. We had about a 90 minute layover in DFW before our flight to Portland. Our flight to Portland was just over 4 hours. Best part about our flights is that we were in business class and we were actually served a full meal on our DFW to Portland flight. We also enjoyed the free alcohol too. It was the first time I have flown first class on American. I do like flying in first class although it rarely happens and I don't think the extra cost justifies it. Once we arrived in Portland we had to rent a couple of carts for $4 a piece to take our luggage out to the taxi queue where we boarded a taxi van. After a 10 mile $42 (with tip) taxi ride with a few twists and turns, we arrived at a our apartment. We met the daughter of the owner of our place who lives a close by. She showed us around and took our rent check.

me enjoying a meal in 1st class on our flight from DFW to PDX
As I mentioned earlier we've spent most of our time getting settled with a little bit of exploring. I'll now touch on some of things I have liked so far. The thing I like the most so far is our apartment which is a good thing since we have committed to staying here for at least 3 months. Our apartment is a triplex house built in 1908. The owner estimated the size of our unit at a little over 825 square feet. I think it may be a little bigger. We have a bedroom, living room, kitchen, kitchen area, office, bathroom with tub, and a basement with our own washer and dryer. I am relieved that it has turned out to be a place we both like since we rented it sight unseen. We viewed pictures online and Alethea spoke to the owner at length.

pic of our living room 
In addition to our apartment I really like the neighborhood we are in. It is called the Hawthorne area. We are within walking distance of two grocery stores (the 3rd, a Safeway is being remodeled). There are several restaurants, shops, a library, & a main bus line all withing a very short distance. Our place is also pretty quiet. We are located a couple blocks off the main road in a residential neighborhood.

The weather has been another aspect that I am enjoying. The Pacific Northwest has a reputation for being gray and rainy but since we've been here it has been mostly sunny with highs in the low 50's. It has only rained a couple times. The locals have been a little surprised with a few telling us that it has been unusually sunny.

Alethea walking back in the sunny Portland January weather 
I am also enjoying the public transportation which was to be expected. We've covered quite a bit of ground in our short time here. We've made a couple trips to Target and Bed, Bath, and Beyond to purchase some things for our apartment since that is where we have a few gift cards. It is nice to be able to get around without the use and expense of a car. Hopefully, we'll keep this up for awhile. 

I guess the final thing I'll mention as a favorite is all the excellent beer. Portland now has about 40 micro brews to chose from. The local super markets have so many choices of beer that it can be overwhelming at times. We have already visited some of our favorites bars from our previous stay in Portland. My favorite so far was a visit to Serratto's in NW Portland. They have by far the best hamburger in Portland that I have tasted to date.

The Painted Hills Burger from Serratto's - best in Portland
I was actually going to include a section here about some of things that I am not liking since we have arrived in Portland but I cannot really think of anything worth mentioning. Alethea has been a little banged up and under the weather which isn't fun. We have decided to purchase a few things for our apartment that I wasn't necessarily expecting but that is more about tailoring our apartment to our tastes. So far we purchased a coffee maker which I know is ironic since I recently sold one and Alethea gave one away shortly before we moved. Our apartment came with a Melitta type pot but this is something we're not accustom to. We also purchased a space heater for our room. Our room is a little cold but small. We decided to purchase a space heater for ~$30  a Target versus cranking the heat up to heat the entire apartment. It seems more efficient this way. Our room is very toasty now. We also purchased a computer monitor. Why a computer monitor? Our apartment didn't come with a TV which we knew and are completely fine with. However, if we want to stream something on TV or watch a movie together we thought it would be best if we got a monitor. One other last item we purchased was a microwave. We bought a small 700 watt used one for $20 on Craigslist from someone who lives just a few blocks away. We have a real nice gas stove for cooking but a microwave is just too handy for heating up leftovers and popcorn!

only half of the beer selection @ the local Fred Meyer's - they also sell wine at this location which is illegal in TN
That pretty wraps up this post. I think we are pretty much settled in. Before too long we will shift in to job searching mode which will probably end up being a series of blog posts. I'm grateful that we decided to save up or at least put enough money aside so we didn't have to rush to get a job after our travels. It was part of our RTW trip planning to do this. It makes things a lot less stressful. I'm looking forward to getting back to work and getting into somewhat of a routine. Speaking of a routine Alethea and I joined a gym today. Our membership actually starts Monday the 6th. Figured I would wait until after football season is over with. The gym is about a half mile from our apartment. One cool thing about it is that we can earn gift cards by working out on treadmills and elliptical machines that produce electricity and feed it back to the grid. I believe their website says they generate over 30% of their electricity this way. Should be fun! Hope everyone is doing well.

Link to a temporary album I created that has a few interior picks of our apartment: