February 2015, in photos

I am blessed to live in the most beautiful corner of the planet. Here is a new monthly chronicle of the evidence of such.

Dale Perozzo hikes along the Goat Creek Trail about a mile west of Cathedral Falls.
Dale Perozzo hikes along the Goat Creek Trail about a mile west of Cathedral Falls.
Sea lions bark, bask in the sun and generally laze around in droves at the Port of Astoria Mooring Basin on Presidents' Day.
Sea lions bark, bask in the sun and generally laze around in droves at the Port of Astoria Mooring Basin on Presidents’ Day.
A wave receding into the Pacific Ocean near Gearhart, Oregon reveals a non-uniform yet somehow scintillating pattern.
A wave receding into the Pacific Ocean near Gearhart, Oregon reveals a non-uniform yet somehow scintillating pattern.
Cathedral Falls is seen on a gray Saturday in mid-February. The falls is probably one of Lewis County's best hidden gems.
Cathedral Falls is seen on a gray Saturday in mid-February. The falls is probably one of Lewis County’s best hidden gems.
The sun creates a lens flare effect as Trestle #5 is shown along the Willapa Hills Trail near Adna, Washington. Work crews recently beat back brush that had overgrown the wooden portion of the trestle.
The sun creates a lens flare effect as Trestle #5 is shown along the Willapa Hills Trail near Adna, Washington. Work crews recently beat back brush that had overgrown the wooden portion of the trestle.
The sun sets near Vader, Washington on Presidents' Day.
The sun sets near Vader, Washington on Presidents’ Day.

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Farewell to RadioShack, a last link to a golden age of electronics

As news comes forth of what appears to be RadioShack’s final days, I found myself today awash in a flood of memories from a time not many people know about: when I actually worked for the company.

I needed a job when I was 23 and new to the city of Springfield, Missouri. I signed on at the first place that would hire me, a RadioShack store on the southwest side of town.

I remember my time with the company quite well. It was short-lived, but it took place at a time of my life that I simply needed to find employment as I had just moved to Missouri to be closer to my family.

I don’t speak ill or well of my time there, but recognize it for what it was: a Bailey bridge across a chasm that separated two stints of employment in the journalism business.

The RadioShack I worked at was located in a bustling center of commercial activity on the south side of Springfield, Missouri, situated next door to the busiest Walmart in the city.

Generally, anyone visiting our RS location knew what they were looking for, wanted to buy it and get out. They didn’t want to be haggled with or bothered to buy a protection plan. They just wanted a set of resistors, a cordless phone, a pack of batteries — you name it, they got it and got out. While those interactions were the most pleasant, selling a $2.99 resistor didn’t really do much for a man trying to sell enough swag to reach a commission rate of $75 per hour for a bonus. More on that commission later.

A good number of the people who stopped in made you wonder if they got lost on their way to Walmart, which again was next door to us. Some of those people would just stop and talk to you about anything, with no regard for whether they knew you or not. I was fine with that, but some of my more introverted colleagues would have rather run in the back room and hidden.

Other customers would ask about items I didn’t know much about because most of our training was geared toward selling cell phones. Many times when I needed assistance from a co-worker, I was SOL because he or she was in the middle of a pitch to another customer who was on the fence about buying a cell phone or four.

If our store did not have much foot traffic and there were three of us behind the counter, we would routinely send a part-time employee home at about 7 p.m. That happened more times than I could count.

Any reason I can come up with for not liking to work there stemmed from a commission system that was very difficult to keep up with. I only remember making commission one month, and that was November. Most of the time, my sales pitches for cell phones or batteries turned into spending a good amount of time trying to simply help someone who needed it, knowing that trying to reach the sales goal was all but a lost cause.

I distinctly remember my manager, who I believe was a good person at the core, telling me that I needed to make my sales goal so he would get his Christmas bonus. At the time it seemed like a rotten thing for him to say, but when I look back at that moment I realize that he had a wife and baby, and he was just trying to exist. He was one of us.

I remember that we had several corporate-owned RadioShack stores in Springfield, and in several outlying communities the stores with RadioShack signage were franchised. There was a big difference there. Those franchise stores simply carried the RadioShack name, but seemed to cater more toward what I remember the stores being when I was a kid: a place for electronics geeks or those who needed spare parts for older equipment.

In southwest Missouri, farmers and weather spotters routinely visited those franchise stores for radio parts or resistors for electronics I didn’t know existed. Several who visited our corporate-owned store would leave, visibly and audibly frustrated that we no longer carried the part they needed.

As the company fades into what seem to be its final days, I’ll remember RadioShack not for the company I worked for, but what it was when I would visit the store at the Triangle Mall in Longview, Washington (the mall itself is long dead). To me, in the 1980s and 1990s, it was this cool store that had a bunch of electronic gadgets, whizbangs and scanners that would stimulate the mind of any young kid with an affinity for technology.

But when I worked for it at the age of 23, it didn’t resemble anything close to that. Maybe that’s the reason my tenure as an employee there was disappointing. For me, it was less about money than it was sentimental reasons.

Not only has the Internet put a lot of brick-and-mortar stores in serious trouble, but the reduced quality of electronics overall has really changed the game. Nowadays people are more apt to chuck a piece of non-working equipment instead of taking the time and finding the knowledge and equipment to fix it themselves.

It’s with that in mind that I say farewell to a company that seems like the last great link to the 20th century, a connection to a past that was simply trying to feel out the future. The future is here and it’s much different than any of us could have ever imagined.…

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To the kid that saved my Christmas, a sincere thank you

I have to admit that the amount of Christmas spirit I have this year has been slim to none.

There is no Christmas tree in my house, and Christmas music does not ring out from my sound system. I pass by my neighbors’ Christmas displays and feel nothing.

I am mentally exhausted. The patented headaches I suffer from have increased in frequency and intensity. I find myself wanting to withdraw from people more now than at any point in my life, and I can’t figure out why.

I am 30 years old and facing the prospect that I may very well not find my future wife in the area in which I currently live. I am bombarded on social media with posts and photos of friends and their significant others enjoying the holiday season. I try to be happy for them, but largely cannot.

Many other circumstances have led to this Christmas season becoming one I would rather pass by. It all culminated yesterday when I had to force myself to participate in our town’s Christmas parade.

It is easy to temporarily hide the exhaustion, put on a smile and go out in public. I did just that, knowing I would go back home right afterward and things would be the way they were before.

Our group in the parade passed hand warmers to people in the crowd. Several received them with enthusiasm, especially young kids who probably thought the bag contained a ridiculously large piece of candy.

I came across a boy who was shivering somewhat in the cool weather. I asked him if he wanted one, and he paused for a second before replying, “That’s okay. Give one to someone who needs it more than I do.”

As the parade went on, my mind kept going back to the boy and his words that shined more brightly than any lights on the parade entries. I returned to my car after the event ended and sat there for a couple minutes to reflect.

“…someone who needs it more than I do.”

Those words made me realize a central truth: even through my own struggles, there are people in this world struggling with entirely more stark situations. Some have lost loved ones, others are seeking employment, and still others are about to miss a rent payment because they had to choose between sustenance and shelter.

I looked back on my own problems and realized they seem pretty trivial after that. I began to pray that the Lord would bring his joy back to me and enable me to share it with others, and immediately after that prayer something stirred within me.

I don’t know who that kid was, and I don’t even much remember what he looked like. Maybe that is the way it should be, because after all, his words indicated that his gesture wasn’t about him in the first place.

That kid very well saved my Christmas and made me focus on what really matters. I am thankful to God for such a simple, perspective-changing encounter that served as a catalyst to truly enjoy this holiday season.

Merry Christmas to everyone out there, and today I can say that and truly mean it.…

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A letter to Oma, eleven years after an untimely day

Dear Oma,

It’s been eleven years, but it doesn’t seem that long.

I don’t know if you’ve been getting the yearly letters I write to you, but as always I wanted to fill you in on how things have been down here. I’d be remiss if I didn’t continue this tradition.

Thanksgiving nears once again, and it’s probably going to be my favorite holiday this year simply because the year has been so good.

I moved back to Centralia after two years in Missouri. I know, I know — it seems like I was waffling back and forth, but there really wasn’t much green grass in Springfield, and the opportunity arose for me to get my old job back. So here I am, back at the newspaper, at the church I used to attend and living life in Lewis County once again. I’d venture to say it’s even better this time around because I am closer to my old friends than I was before, and I’ve made some tremendous new friends.

I’m still unmarried. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news in that sense, but hey — it’s alright with me for now.

Just the other day, I thought of you as the anniversary of the day you left us approached. I vividly remember the times that you would sing hymns as you were performing some task such as bringing wood in to stoke the fire or checking the oven to see if your apple cake was done. In fact, I can remember the words you would sing as if I just heard them an hour ago: Rescue the perishing, care for the dying — and then you’d put your own spin on it — Jesus is powerful — and you’d pause for a second, as if to increase the impact…

Jesus will save.

To this day, the quiet faith in Christ I saw you live continues to inspire me. Even if you did watch TBN a bit much, you had a heart for the Lord and I appreciated that. I still do.

I also continue to appreciate the legacy you left my family. Mom told me the story again a few months ago of how you would ride your bike to work at Tollycraft in Kelso so you could support four kids. Shortly after she told me that, I rode the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic — 204 miles in two days — and each time I found the going to be difficult or felt my energy falter, I remembered that story and it provided me a psychological boost.

For that, I dedicated my entire STP tour to you. I figured it would be the best way I knew how to honor the sacrifice you made for the family in keeping them together.

When I’m reminded of the time and effort you spent trying to create a better life for Mom and the others, I’m incredibly grateful because I know that resourceful mindset was passed on to her, and she did a tremendous job passing it on to Jason and I.

Speaking of Jason, he is in seminary now. He’s back in Missouri and loves it there. You would be proud of him.

Remember those old apartments in Longview you used to live in just northwest of the Civic Circle, by the college? The college built a new science center and needed a parking lot, so they decided to tear down Maple Terrace and put the lot there. Pity, because I really enjoyed watching LCC baseball games from your living room window when I was a kid.

Other than that, Longview hasn’t changed too terribly much. Lake Sacajawea is still as beautiful as ever, it’s still surreal to see that the Triangle Mall is no more, and the city in general feels smaller each time I visit.

The old church on Walnut Street in Kelso still stands, and you’d be pleased to know the cross on the front of the building still radiates that glorious symbol of hope to the neighborhood I derisively used to call Felony Flats. I haven’t attended a service there in years, but I pass by every now and then and take a look just to remind myself of my roots.

I have to say it again: I can’t believe it’s been eleven years. I turned 30 in July, and if you were able to see me again, you’d see a few flecks of gray in a beard that still can’t grow properly. I still have all my hair on top of my head though, and I haven’t started to lose it as you famously predicted I would.

Anyway, my time here draws short, but rest assured I’ll visit soon. Keep taking care of a few of my friends up there, and tell them I say hello as well.

Missing you as always. Ich liebe dich.

Chris…

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I bought an iPhone 6 Plus, and here’s my review of it

Confession: I’ve been an Android guy through and through for about the past few years.

I tend to go through phones a lot, and with me having AT&T service without a contract, why not? I had gone through such phones as the HTC One M7 and even the OnePlus One, trying the latest in cutting-edge Android technology when it came out earlier this year.

As awesome and customizable as Android is, there is one thing I felt was lacking in all of the Android phones I owned: the ability for the phones to take truly awesome photos. None of them inspired me to set down my Canon Digital Rebel T2i for multiple hiking trips and opt for something more compact.

Apple announced the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in early September, and I watched as millions of people ordered the phones. Reviews praised the camera quality, especially that of the Plus, and when I spoke to two photographers I know who swore by the Plus and said they could ditch their point-and-shoot cameras, the idea of buying one began to turn a wheel in my head.

I knew I’d have to go back to contract service, but I took the plunge and bought the iPhone 6 Plus. Now after a week with it in my possession, I feel I am qualified to write a review of it.…

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Caught in the middle of an intense cloudburst

It rained a bit yesterday and then IT RAINED, while I was on the road, no less.

I was driving down to Portland after church when I came upon an intense cloudburst that dumped mass amounts of water and hail upon Woodland, Washington at about 1:30 p.m. I don’t think I’ve seen a rainstorm that intense in the Northwest in years — I’ve seen many in the Midwest like this, and the storms were usually severe in nature, but we just don’t get this type of stuff often in the Northwest.

Conditions were awful for driving, so naturally, I took out my iPhone 6 Plus and shot video of the phenomenon.

It was LOUD in real life, especially when the hail began knocking all over the windshield. The hail wasn’t large, but the National Weather Service ended up receiving a storm report that showed .75″ of hail hitting Battle Ground, a town just to the south and east.

Note that the speed limit in the area is 70, and going 35 while this storm hit was the prudent and reasonable thing to do.

All told, I’m really glad no major traffic incidents came out of this, from what I heard.…

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Epiphany #83

Sometimes God brings people into our lives forever, sometimes it is for a few years, sometimes it’s a season and sometimes it’s a month.

I don’t know why God works the way He does. But I can say this: He knows what we need, and I can say with certainty that He knows how to cross our paths with others so all may mutually benefit.

Thank You, Lord.…

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The most disturbing thing about Oregon’s loss to Arizona

I wasn't particularly happy to see Arizona Wildcats players celebrating on the Autzen Stadium field.
I wasn’t particularly happy to see Arizona Wildcats players celebrating on the Autzen Stadium field.

I am an Oregon Ducks fan and apologist to the core, and scenes such as the one pictured are seared into my memory because they have happened all too often in recent years. Or have they?

In 2010, Oregon lost the national title game.

In 2011, Oregon lost at home to USC when they had a legitimate shot to become the #2 team in the nation.

In 2012, Oregon lost at home to Stanford when they were the #2 team in the nation and had a clear shot at the national title.

Last year, Oregon lost to both Stanford and Arizona away from home, taking them out of the running for a fifth straight BCS bowl game.

Oregon Ducks fans have endured our fair share of heartbreak over the past few years, being a few plays away from a run at possible multiple national titles. With the exception of the blowout loss to Arizona last year, the Ducks had a good three and a half-year run of playing every team close when it mattered most.

Look at the past five years of Oregon Ducks football: 10-3, 12-1, 12-2, 12-1 and 11-2. Only five conference losses in that entire timespan. That’s a pretty good record.

It’s also grounds for fans being spoiled. We enjoyed the best stretch of success in Ducks history beginning with Mike Bellotti’s last year in 2008, through Chip Kelly’s four years, and to a large degree Mark Helfrich’s first year. The team is 4-1 this year with a narrow loss to Arizona, a game that I attended that was frustrating for me on multiple fronts.

Yes, the team didn’t perform up to expectations, but I’m a bit more upset with the Oregon fan base. I’ve been to a few Ducks games at Autzen and I’ve never seen a worse atmosphere among the fans than I did last Thursday.

The crowd threw out a few boos and I admit I was among them, but that was for several questionable referee calls that, looking back, equally screwed both teams. But to persistently boo a team because they haven’t scored 40 or 50 points in this game? Heaven forbid.

About the only thing I agreed with any fans on was that defensive coordinator Don Pellum’s schemes have not worked for the second week in a row. I am quite scared for the Ducks because the defense has been like a sieve the past two games, nearly giving up yards as if they are donating to The Salvation Army.

Here’s the worst part of Thursday’s game, and it wasn’t on the field. It was a palpable sense of entitlement among the fans, a feeling that we as a collective fan base have become spoiled in seeing consistent blowouts over lesser opponents and don’t know how to stomach adversity. Even worse, there was a pervasive feeling that being a Ducks fan in recent years was okay because it looked cool or is somehow a fashion statement.

Speaking of fashion, the comment an older man at the stadium made that I overheard on my way out after the loss summed it all up: “They weren’t even wearing our school colors.”

I thought about that for awhile and realized the man had a point. The Ducks wore black and pink in honor of breast cancer awareness. That’s noble and all, but to the die-hards and the purists, those that have been Oregon Ducks fans since the days in which three wins were considered a success, uniform schemes like the one foisted upon the public Thursday (it looked atrocious, I thought) seem to be sending a message that the team is more about style and flash than substance.

When it comes to what happens on the field, Oregon ran such an innovative offense over the past few seasons that other teams began to emulate it. Arizona did on Thursday with a wrinkle, and it worked to perfection as they upset the Ducks in Eugene. From my perspective, that win seemed to show me that the innovation has run out on the Ducks’ end — and that’s not a good sign.

If your success is emulated and replicated, you continue to innovate to remain a step ahead, and I don’t know if the Ducks have done that.

Again, that hearkens back to the fact the Ducks have had a tremendous five-year and nearly six-year run. Coach Mark Helfrich is in an unenviable position having to follow Chip Kelly. Heck, I wouldn’t even want to follow Chip into a grocery store because he’d probably be so successful in his shopping endeavors.

Maybe the cold hard truth is the run of success is over. If it is, are the fans going to be okay with it? It would suck, but I know I would be.

In the grander scheme of things, I have begun to get a feeling over the past couple years that people tie their self-worth in way too much with how the sports teams they root for are doing. I love the Ducks and I want them to win a national championship, and maybe the fact the losses are so deflating are a product of a system in which you basically have to run the table to be the champion. Regardless, I’m the same guy whether the Ducks go 1-12 or 12-1 (or in a perfect world, 13-0).

The rest of the Ducks’ season isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, and to that I say hang on because it’s going to cause all the bandwagon fans to fall off. And that’s okay with me.

Go Ducks, even if they don’t win another game this year.…

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Time-lapse view of the sun setting over Astoria

A friend and I visited Astoria, Oregon yesterday. We took in the sunset from the Astoria Column and saw this. It was awesome and wonderful.

The entire sunset sequence took about a half-hour, but I’ve created a two-minute time-lapse of it. The backing track is John Beltran’s “Inexorably Tied to You,” from his album “Amazing Things” released in 2012 on Delsin Records.…

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