Archive for the ‘outdoors’ Category

Recent polar surges have pushed snowy owls southward in the last month. The mammals they feed on burrow in and enter a torpid state when it’s freezing out, so snowy owls are forced to fly to where they can find food. A few snowy owls have been spotted in the DC area the past few weeks, and I was finally able to see one downtown at 15th & L Streets NW:
Snowy Owl
He was there for a few hours, not 30′ above the street. He seemed unfazed by the crowds watching him. I was glad city folk got to see this unusual sighting. It’s interesting that I saw a whole parliament of snowy owls almost a year ago in Oregon.

I was on my way to the community clinic to get my nasty sinuses taken care of. I got a cold around New Year’s Eve which persisted and turned into a sinus infection and possibly bronchitis. Having no income nor health insurance, I avoided getting it taken care of as long as possible. But it got so painful and just malingering I finally broke down and went to the community clinic. Turns out the experience wasn’t so bad, nor expensive and I got some antibiotics. I’m also signed up for “Obamacare,” we’ll see how affordable that actually is. Anyway, I got a snowy owl selfie pic taken of me. I am grimacing because my molars and sinuses hurt:
Snowy Owl Selfie
It was also really cold out so that might account for some of the grimace as well.

Trimming the beard for the job interview earlier this week was somewhat of a relief. I was getting tired of the overgrown ’stache doubling as a coffee/soup strainer. That and this sinus cold I’ve had since NYE made boogers and beards problematic:

That said, I still love having a fur-bearing mammal attached to my face. I’ll admit the shorter beard looks better, but as y’all know, I like big beards and I cannot lie. It will grow back again.

The interview went well. It was a basic first-round interview at an institute of higher learning where I worked many years ago. I recognized many of the people on the 7-person interview committee, and recognized the questions since I had been on several similar committees. And by now I know how to answer them the best I can. We’ll see how it goes. There’s a few other irons in the fire, and things have picked up in the job department as I expected they would now that the holidays are over. And with the government passing some budget, more opportunities may come up as organizations become confident they can afford to hire.

My room has dried up from the flood for the most part but I think the cold snap broke the heat exchanger outside. I’m not quite sure what it is for, but it doesn’t always work now and the house seems colder than usual. Anyway my cheap-ass computer desk did get some water damage, and my renter’s insurance is paying for a replacement. I put the soaked rugs outside in the two days of rain that followed, dried them out and put some carpet freshener on them and they seem fine. They may rot later, we’ll see. But like I said before most of it is crap anyway and is no great loss.

typical DC streetscape in winterIt happened like clockwork after the daylight savings time change earlier this month. My mood dropped, it was an effort to get motivated, and I noted an increasing reluctance to go out. The temperature changes didn’t help either, but I’m aware of these mood changes this time of year and work to recognize these mood changes. I do things to go against these urges like work out, ride my bike, and make sure I get out to socialize. These things help a lot.

This has always been a challenge for me in DC. I often explain to others that our winters are like the scenes from the Sleepy Hollow animated feature and movie. It’s worth noting I didn’t feel this way this time of year in Portland. I was warned that their winters were miserable in a different way. Granted, I wasn’t working and was able to go out in the day to get some amount of UV through the cloud cover. But Portland was somewhat warmer despite being drippier with all the rain. I think the tipping point for me is the colder temperatures in DC.

The other thing comparing winters between the two cities was that I noticed that not everyone in Portland did proactive things to combat the winter blahs. Not everyone in DC does either, but considering the reputation of the winters in the Pacific Northwest, you would think more people would do things to actively combat the blahs. Anyway my conclusion from all of this is that DC doesn’t have the reputation for having horrid winter blahs, but should. It is just as bad here as in the Pacific Northwest, but not as rainy. Just cold and dark.

looking?The other way DC is much like Sleepy Hollow is that we have a lot of headless torsos running around. I mean like people not showing their faces on mobile apps like Scruff. We have far more headless horsemen in DC than in Portland. I attribute this to some sort of cultural thing having to do with remnants of Puritanism or Southern propriety. And despite being recently hailed by the New York Times as one of the gayest places in America, there are still a lot of closet cases – or maybe people who think being seen on an app is indicative of their whorishness. This wasn’t the case in Portland, where people didn’t give a shit and showed their faces.

I think there were just as many open relationships in Portland as there are in DC. But again they were simply honest about their open status in Portland, which was very refreshing. In DC relationship statuses in online profiles are often left blank, where I simply assume they are in a relationship, open, and they think they are being sneaky about it. I much prefer to be fully disclosed on someone’s relationship status, then we can both go from there with all cards on the table. I don’t care if you’re an online whore or in an open relationship, I just want to be informed that you have a boyfriend. It helps interactions go much smoother. And believe me gurl, if you think I won’t find out you have a boyfriend at home, think again. My agents are everywhere.

Good news: while things are still rolling for a permanent job, I secured a short-term contracting gig that could possibly turn into a very lucrative long-term gig. It’s helping to write a proposal to assist as a contractor with the agency I formerly worked for. It’s the next best thing to actually getting right back with my former workplace. So right now it’s just helping to write a proposal as a “subject matter expert.” It’s nice to be recognized for my expertise after a year and a month of esteem-crushing joblessness. The irony is that they found me and actively recruited me without me having contacted them at all. This is after applying to 100+ jobs and networking my ass off for a year. I can’t complain, I guess this is how things work out. Now to turn on my UV lamp and get my happy self to work on Monday.

I’m mostly settled in to my new place and have started the job search in earnest. There are already a wealth of job opportunities to apply to, sometimes one each day that I’m genuinely interested in and qualified for. And networking has been off the hook as well, although the shutdown had slowed things down a bit. We’re also approaching the period where not a lot of government work gets done (late November though early January) which concerns me. So I’m focusing more on the nonprofit sector rather than federal employment, even though the latter is what I’d like to return to.

The neighborhood has changed radically in the year I’ve been away. Some blocks are completely unrecognizable. Tons of new restaurants and office buildings with more construction on the way. The crane is the state bird of the District of Columbia.

Between running around getting stuff for the house and meeting up with people to reacquaint and network, I haven’t had a minute to get on my bike for a good ride. I did manage to get out to the Shenandoah National Park to hike Old Rag Mountain with a group of new and old friends. It was a gloomy grey day but the fall colors were in full effect, and the hike was challenging with good views all around:
Dark Shenandoah 3
Anywhere Goes Guys
Old Rag Hikers
I have a temp gig with an old blogger friend in Baltimore on Friday and Monday. The pay is pretty good and the boss is a hoot.

Hello from Holmen, Wisconsin! This time it only took three days to get here from Portland because I was a cruel slave driver, waking up at 7 every day and covering far more than I did on the way to Portland. We didn’t stop much for anything, and drove like the devil was at our backs. Well, that storm in Portland was behind us and turns out it was pretty bad. Anyway, here are some travel pics in no particular order:
Prairie Dog
The prairie dogs near the Badlands were unaffected by the government shutdown. Begging for handouts like the entitled Americans they are.

When we crossed the continental divide, it had already snowed quite a bit. Winter Is Coming:
Winter Is Coming
These black angus cattle near Sheridan, Wyoming were lowing in the fields:
Black Angus Cattle
Here’s me being an anti-Obama, deregulatin’, rootin’-tootin’ Ummerican Live Free Or Die Tebagger near the Black Hills around Sturgis, South Dakota the day the government shut down on October 1st:
guvurnmint shutdown!
The windmills of southern Minnesota are a socialist plot to take away your freedoms and put you in FEMA death camps:

My landlord in DC tells me my place is ready. I’m eager to get there.

Weather was crazy here today, making the truck loading a wet business. Seems like some sort of tropical storm remnant that knocked out the power for a few hours today. But the truck is ready:
Oh what a bad machine.
All the nasty blobs on the radar are right along my route. Fortunately it’s kind of a warm rain, and I don’t see any icy conditions on the way over the mountains:
Sept. 29, 2013 weather
That’s about all I got to say. It’s gonna be a long drive. A couple days in Wisconsin with the family if we get there in good time. To keep you busy, here’s woofy Ben Cohen dancing. He’s a little stiff in the waist but can jump and I’m sure he can lift:

Last outdoor hurrah in the Pacific Northwest, a trip to Silver Falls State Park and a nearby Oktoberfest with friends:
Silver Falls State Park
The park had many more waterfalls to view, but my legs were still a mess after my hike earlier in the week. I was fine just seeing the one shown above. It also appears that I can no longer sleep soundly in a tent, despite having recently purchased a deluxe inflatable sleeping pad. I keep waking up all through the night and can’t get back to sleep. I’m chalking it up to being older. I will have to review my approach to the outdoors it seems now that I have upgraded all my gear.

The two-week countdown to leaving Portland begins. I’m filled with many conflicting emotions, regret being the least of them. A friend texted to me, “Look back on all you were able to do in this year and then move forward. It all happens for a reason; it just wasn’t Portland’s time.” That’s a good one to live by and I will try to remember those words. But returning to DC will mean immediately having to start working, with a liveable wage to cover rent. Playtime is over and couchsurfing is no longer an option. Plus I have been craving normalcy for quite some time now and want to get the show back on the road. I’m exploring temp work options remotely already – I will have to land on my feet and start sprinting right away.

I reached out to my former landlord and the unit below the one I used to live in may be available. He liked me and even offered a lower rent because I “take care of the place.” That would be wonderful for many reasons. It’s Metro-accessible, it’s a familiar address, it’s near all the spots I love, and it would be great to not have to run around looking for places to live when I get there. I haven’t gotten a solid confirmation back from him yet but it’s looking positive. I will need a roommate, but that should be easy to do once I get settled.

Oh, and JOB LEADS. Temp, contract, full-time, long-term, whatever. Preferably Metro-accessible. Send ‘em to me if you have them. Communications and public affairs stuff and of course blogging and social media. But hell I’ll dust your office if I have to.
>; )

By the time I got close to my hiking destination, I was seeing Smurfs walking around these amanita mushrooms:
I should have paid closer attention to the “difficult” rating of the Cool Creek trail. As it was I didn’t even make it to the lookout tower at Devil’s peak even though the trail was a mere 3+ miles. I quit hiking out of sheer exhaustion about 400m before the endpoint:
Devil's Peak Lookout
I took the above photo of the Devil’s Peak fire lookout the next day when I was able to hike a little bit more without a backpack. The incline never quit, and it worked muscles I haven’t used in a long time both going up and going down. I’m still sore as hell today but glad I quit a day early, as it got very hot the next couple of days. But the view the morning I left was unbeatable (click to embiggen):
Cascade Panorama
If you look closely you can see (from left to right) Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and the big one is Mt. Hood.

Today three of my toenails are purple, and expected to die in a few days. Next time I will make sure upcoming hikes are rated “easy” or “moderate.”

I’m going hiking today through Wednesday to Devil’s Peak Lookout on the Cool Creek Trail in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness Area, Mt Hood National Forest, in the Zigzag Ranger District. It’s somewhere to the right of this photo:

Columbia Gorge seen from Rooster Rock beach

A view of the Columbia Gorge from Rooster Rock beach.

I hope to get some good photos, but it’s expected to be very warm. That’ll prep me for my return to swampy DC.

I woke up the other day and realized I hadn’t picked on BrettCajun in a while. There was an emptiness in my soul for having neglected Darth Sugarbakker for so long. Then I went back to bed and slept in until 11 or so because I had been playing Civilization V so late the night before.

Anyway, I’ve been keeping busy. As I fast approach the date at which I arrived in Portland, I’ve tapered down the job applications around here. There were a slew that I applied to a few weeks ago where I actually have contacts in the places where the job is, so we’ll see. But I’m not holding my breath, and have applied to some jobs back in DC. Around here familiarity trumps experience and Portland businesses hire who they know, not for what they know. That and the economy still stinks here.

Anyway, me and the househosts went to see hunky Matt Alber perform outdoors earlier this month. He was really good and was all hairy and sweaty in the summer heat, which was an added plus to the performance.

My garden plot is doing well but dry as a bone in the rainless Portland summer. I water the plants frequently:

My mom got me a wildlife camera for Christmas but I hadn’t used it since then. I finally got around to putting batteries and a memory card in it and put it outside for a test run:
I had recently spotted a baby raccoon out back and hoped to capture a photo of it walking on the fence. Or maybe get a pic of one of the pretty Steller’s Jays I see around here. But all I got was this stalker, who couldn’t even be bothered to stalk properly as he was caught on CritterCam taking a selfie of himself. Of course:

If there’s a camera and the potential for more Internet fame, she’s in front of the lens.