Monday, December 31, 2012

That Whole Gun Thing

I'm sure that law-abiding and not insane Americans owning assault-type weapons would not be a threat to our society or our children.

(Though it's not clear to me why a non-insane person would feel the need to stockpile such weaponry. You don't need it for hunting. And no one needs a 30-round clip to protect their home, because even when the imminent zombie apocalypse happens, only a shotgun can stop them. Everyone knows that.)

It's the alienated and batshit-crazy who feel compelled to get their hands on enough deadly force to wipe out dozens and dozens of people.

Our culture is steeped in guns: guns as signs of masculinity, guns for control, guns as solutions. This is a big part of the dysfunction here.

So there's one rule I always apply: when picking a movie to watch, if the poster shows bristling guns, if the gun is the foreground object, I don't watch it.

Once you become aware of how prominent guns are in movie posters, you can't unnotice it.

Two More Sports Bars Considered

Sidelines is my favorite sports bar for a couple reasons: they have plenty of screens, the staff is friendly, the crowd is always enthusiastic and colorful, and since it's downtown, it's close to home. But it's not to everyone's liking. Mrs Elliott, for example, likes a more comfortable atmosphere; and others don't care for the noisy scene there.

I have been scouting around the other sports bars, checking out their offerings. The Phoenix, on the east side near 27th and Greenwood, is not really a sports bar. When a few of us went there to watch a game last month, we were pretty much the only ones who were giving it any attention. It's a longer haul for me than I like so I don't see a good reason to go there again.

Now that we are leading up to the Fiesta Bowl (Go Ducks!) I checked out a couple more places. On Monday I visited Cheerleaders Grill & Pub on north business 97. It's a small place with only a couple old-school pre-digital 27'' color TVs hung up high. Didn't impress me.

Two friends have recommended Boston's on south business 97 as a perfectly cromulent sports bar so I met one of them there yesterday afternoon to watch the 49ers and the Seahawks games. There are five big screens right above the bar they had those two games plus the Vikings/Packers game and maybe one other, I forget.

It's a good place to watch games, for sure, at least from the bar, not so much from the booths (I like having the screen in front of me, not to the side). The bartender was friendly, the place is well-lit, the patrons were enjoying the games in a low-key way, somewhere between Sidelines-raucous and Phoenix-disinterested. 

As far as food goes, Boston's makes some perfectly fine chicken wings. Their bacon-wrapped steak chunks are good but the blue cheese dressing that accompanies them had no discernible blue cheese taste, so I griped and they brought some salad dressing that tasted more of chemicals than anything I'd put on a salad. However, their grilled mushrooms in Alfredo sauce was really good -- Michael and I both liked that one.

There was a clown at the bar, emboldened by drink who decided he was far cleverer and charming than he really was and tried to chum up and talk our ears off. He was quite a nuisance. Fortunately (for me) my friend Michael was seated between me and the fellow, so Michael had to take the brunt of the guy's endless chitchat, bon mots, and sports trivia challenge questions. But this isn't a fault of the venue -- such fellows can be found anywhere. 

In Jack's opinion, Boston's is a good place, one well-suited to the man who just wants to watch a game without much distraction, while folk who enjoy a more party atmosphere might like the joie de vivre at Sidelines.

So because today's the eighth anniversary of our wedding, I'll get to Sidelines early on Thursday to grab a nice seat on the cushy sofa so Mrs Elliott can watch the Fiesta Bowl in comfort.

 It's just the kind of guy I am.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

It's That Time of the Year Again

As we approach the new year, the Webbernets seem to fill with "looking back at the year that was" articles. Such things are boring, Jack feels. Jack already lived through all of 2012 and doesn't need a recap of the year any more than he needs a summary of a film at the end of the film.

But what I would enjoy would be outtakes from the year.

IN OTHER NEWS, Bend won't have H. Bruce Miller to kick around anymore. At least not until May of 2013. He and his lovely wife and two dogs are migrating to one of the southwest's Stucco and Sand states for the winter.

They left this morning in their vintage '83 Wagon Queen Family Truckster (shown below).

Like new.

Friday, December 28, 2012

BendTel: GFCS (an endorsement)

Mrs Elliott's business is essentially that of a call center. Calls from across the country come to her office, and she represents dozens and dozens of 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organizations. Her phone needs are fairly complex, and if she misses a call from a donor, the charity will know about it and, even more importantly, a missed call from a donor may mean that the charity doesn't receive a donation.

The phone system is an arrangement comprised of several office-style desktop phones scattered around the home office, a bunch of fancy PBX equipment nailed to a board in the garage, and a whole bunch of wires stapled to the outside of the house which connect the phones to the garage equipment.

Mrs Elliott's business owns all the hardware on our property, but BendTel, here in Bend, is the service provider; they sold us the equipment and provide all that magic that brings dozens and dozens of 1-800 numbers to the phones in the house.

And I'm here to tell you that their service is exemplary. Here are two examples, both from within the past two weeks:

1. The office is moving to another space downstairs. This because I closed my business earlier this year, and the space I was formerly taking up is now available. Moving Mrs Elliott's staff and furniture into the vacated space will free up two rooms downstairs which we can reclaim for "home space" -- mainly, a man cave where I can put up pictures of dogs playing poker and invite my friends over for alcohol, cigars, and high jinks. But my point is that BendTel sent out a crew to bring the wires to the new office phone jacks (stringing even more wires around the house*), tested their work, and showed me how to bridge the new jacks to the old on the PBX board when the phones are actually moved.

2. This afternoon, one of Mrs Elliott's client charities called to say that she could not send a fax to us. We dialed the fax number and it went to voice mail. That's no good. I called Justin at BendTel and within 1/2 hour, their wizard guy (the Brad) determined that (a), for some reason, the fax line was set up to go to voice mail if unanswered, and (2), we may have turned off the "auto-answer" function on the fax machine. Um, it is with some embarrassment that I must confess that the "auto-answer" lamp was indeed dark on the machine, and it took one (1) touch of a button to turn it back on.**

But my point is that BendTel does good work. They provide GFCS -- Great F*#king Customer Service.

Jack recommends them.

* This house is wrapped with so many cables that if someone were to set off a bomb inside it, the house would merely expand for a moment.

** We have posted a note on the machine directing us to make sure that the "auto answer" light is on.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

An Overlooked Hell?

Mrs Elliott and I just re-financed our house. We got a new loan at 3.125%, which is pretty darn good. 

We signed the documents this afternoon. I can't count how many times I've found myself in a title company office, signing my name over and over. It's a tedious and fussy affair, one that seems to go on forever. 

This time, it occurred to me that Messrs. Kafka and Dante completely missed a (respectively) subject for a short story about soul-crushing bureaucracy or a typically gruesome circle of hell for Christian sinners: The loan docs signing hell.

An eternity of sitting at a desk across from a loan officer who takes from a stack of papers a document to be signed and dated here here and here; she describes its intent and function with great attention to accuracy and detail. It is never, ever interesting.

You sign and initial it here here and here, she inspects it for errors then places it atop a stack of previously signed documents. No matter how many uncountable thousands and millions of papers you sign, the stack they are placed on never grows any taller.

The next document to be signed in taken from the top of another stack which never grows smaller and slid to you to be signed and initialed here here and here. 

Wash, rinse, repeat. Forever. 

We lowered our monthly payment by $300. Which is not chicken feed.

Friday, December 21, 2012

But I'm a Guy!

So Mrs Elliott is out and about Bend, doing all her last-minute shopping. I'm home, discussing how we're going to rewire the new office space downstairs with Joe Hawkins, the electrician, and Justin of BendTel, the office's phone service provider. I get a call from Mrs Elliott--she wants me to take a look at an oil painting of her parents that she commissioned from local artist Vicki Shuck.

She's at the framing store and needs me to look at the painting and tell her what color matte to get for it.

So I go into the kitchen and take a look at the picture and it sure has a whole lot of colors on it.

"Beige?" she asks.

The picture looks like it would look good with beige, so I say sure.

"Or how about tan," she says.

"Honey, I'm a guy! Beige and tan are the same color!"


"How about taupe?"

"Taupe," she says. "Okay."

"Wait--I was joking. I don't know the difference between taupe, beige and tan!"

The following courtesy of

Monday, December 17, 2012

We're #4!

A friend sends me this link from the Wall Street Journal's, showing Bend in the #4 position of Ten U.S. Cities Where Crime is Soaring. They write, "Based on data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the metropolitan areas with the highest increase in violent crime between 2006 and 2011. These are the 10 metropolitan areas where violent crime is soaring."

About Bend, they say that
There were 528 violent crimes in the Bend area in 2011, up from 313 in 2006. Experts often cite economic distress as a reason for increased crime, and Bend’s population was certainly hit hard by the recession. The unemployment rate in Bend was 14.1% in 2010 and 12.4% in 2011, both significantly above national figures of 9.6% and 8.9%, for the respective years. But the metro’s property crime rate between 2006 and 2011 actually decreased by more than 13%, including a 26% decrease in the burglary rate and a more than 58% decrease in the motor vehicle theft rate. Officials in 2010 told The Oregonian newspaper that much of the property crime decline could be attributed to a crackdown on methamphetamine.
So why did violent crime go up? Anyone from the Bend PD care to comment?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cleopatra's Pushpin

Over on the corner of NW Portland Ave and NW 4th Street, quite close to the house of Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Bob Woodward, is a small concrete obelisk, resembling nothing quite so much as a miniature Cleopatra's Needle.

Here's one of the three so-called Cleopatra's Needle, this one in London:

And here's the one on Portland Avenue:
It's considerably younger than the 3,500 year-old Ancient Egyptian monuments, and lacks about 87 feet of height to fully compete with the real deals. It's also not covered with hieroglyphics and is made of ferroconcrete, not red granite.

But it's otherwise quite the spitting image.

I don't have any idea about its history or age. The concrete is eroded in places on the backside, exposing the rebar skeleton. 

The vintage "Officer's Quarters" apartments are across the street--maybe this little guy was tossed up at the same time. 

Anyone know anything about it? Are there any more like it in the neighborhood?

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