Friday, September 28, 2007

family from Iowa

Last Friday Wah-Wah's dad and step mom came to visit us for the week. This was a pretty big treat since they are the first and probably only family that has came out to visit us from the Midwest (with the exception of my sister who is making her second visit to Portland in a few weeks). Wah-Wah and I decided to take most of the week off and show them around Portland and the coast of Oregon. The kids were delighted to see their other grandparents. We thought of some of the best places we've been that best represented life in the Pacific Northwest. Luckily the weather was great and they just missed the start of the rainy season.

We spent a day in Tillamook and showed around the Tillamook Cheese Factory and my favorite winery-the Blue Heron. Here's Wah-Wah feeding the goats in the Winery's petting zoo with the Grandparents waiting for the perfect camera shot.

No trip to Portland is complete without visiting the Columbia Gorge's Historic Highway. Three major waterfalls are along the highway. Here everyone is at Multnomah Falls-the most spectacular of all of them.

We took the Grandparents to Newport since we know it so well. We all spent the night in my parents house on the beach in their downstairs apartment. Incidently, we saw all the expansion my parents have done to their home including an extra bedroom, storage, another bedroom, a wood shop and a little auto showroom. Anyway, my parents volunteer at the Oregon Coast Aquarium and got everyone free tickets. I always have to take eveyones picture in this mammoth shark's mouth at the end of the tour. It's tradition.

This picture is back outside the Tillamook Cheese Factory. I know it sounds boring to watch cheese be made, but it is worth it to get all the free samples. Tillamook also makes legendary ice cream which is available. Oregon Strawberry is best strawberry ice cream I've had.

Here Woogy is with Grandma at the tide pools at Yaquina head lighthouse (another place my dad volunteers to tell visitors about the local sea bird population). Our timing was good to see the tide pools because it was low tide.

Our last day in Newport, we were on beach below my parents house when I noticed this would make a great picture of Yaquina Head Lighthouse. You can see the ocean is starting to pick up before the storm season hits.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Editors vs Smashing Pumpkins

The Editors

Smashing Pumpkins

Recently I had an opportunity some great live music. Within a week I got to see Over the Rhine (already posted on that), Editors, and the Smashing Pumpkins. Between all of them, I would say I enjoyed the Editors best. Here are a few comparisons I have made between the Editors , and fresh band out of England, and Smashing Pumpkins, an old alternative band past their heyday.
Editors Strong new material that sounds great live from their latest album An End Has A Start
Smashing Pumpkins Weaker new material that kind of all sounds the same. Have to rely on older hits like Tonight, Tonight and Bullet with Butterfly Wings to get the crowd off their seats
Editors Led singer Tom Smith pulls his hair back after every song.
Smashing Pumpkins Led singer Billy Corgan has no hair.
Editors Lead singer is jumping up and down and does yoga stretches while he sings.
Smashing Pumpkins Lead singer just stands there.
Editors played a set full of catchy icy tone, glass hard, guitar shard sounding songs. Short, sweet and to the point.
Smashing Pumpkins played long drawn out arena rock that got boring to listen to after 10 mins of the same song.
Editors great potential. Chance to join the rock pantheons of bands like Coldplay and U2
Smashing Pumpkins Over the hill.
Editors $15 bucks to see.
Smashing Pumpkins $60 bucks per ticket.
Editors $20 T-shirt (reasonable by concert standards)
Smashing Pumpkins $40 T-shirt (No way would I pay that for a picture of Billy Corgan on my shirt)
In short, I conclude you don't have to pay the big bucks to see a great band

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Still Employed

I'm breathing a little easier now, but I still feel horrible about what is going on at work. Last week I posted on my company, Trillium's financial problems and my job being in jeopardy. It's been a rough week with rumors flying all over the place on who might get laid off. It's hard to do your job when you are worried if you are going to have one next week.
On Weds, my team sat down with our boss to talk about what is happening. It turns out that nearly 100 people are getting laid off through out the agency which is all most 500 people. Do the math and that means one and five people are leaving. That's big for any company. Nobody from my program, the foster care program will be leaving thank goodness. This is because we are deemed a core program and about the only one that is bringing in money. The situation is pretty bad and it explains why one of my medical claims was denied a few weeks ago--because Trillium hadn't paid.
Programs throughout Oregon are being cut. We lost a pioneering foster grand parent program that was helping out kids who have never had a grand parent. On top of that, we lost a foster care program in Bend and a residential care facility down south. We also lost Children's outpatient services in our building. Worst of all, we lost our cleaning lady, a sweet woman named Cora who has been with Trillium for 26 years. Moral is shot to hell and emotions at work are running high.
I started thinking " so who is going to clean up after us now?" before I realized that our building is closing. My boss confirmed that we are moving to the residential campus right up the road. It is now rumored that we will have to join the union on that campus. Until now, I never realized that there was a mental health union, but apparently there is one and have actually gone on strike before. I would think this would generate some ethical problems. I might have to one day say to a foster child "Sorry kid, I'd love to help you, but I'm on strike."
I will hand it too Trillium, they did accept a lot of the responsibility for the financial crisis, but a lot of the problem is with the system. Basically, this managed health care system isn't working too well and federal funding has been cut (I wonder were it went?).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Over the Rhine in Portland

Over the Rhine played in Portland on Saturday to a sold out show at the Doug Fir. Fortunately, I bought Wah-Wah and I tickets on line, so we hired a our babysitter to come over and watch the kids while we saw this amazing show. I wanted to get some pictures and maybe a few short clips, but my camera broke again earlier that afternoon on a hike (I think this is my third camera this year, hopefully it is repairable (for the record, I didn't do anything to it).
The Doug Fir is a small venue, but it draws a lot of first class acts. Every artist I've seen there digs the log cabin feel to the place has. The walls are panelled with fake logs making good acoustics. Over the Rhine referred to it as "Grizzly Adam's home."
Griffin House opened the show. Usually I get annoyed by opening acts, but Griffin House was a pleasant surprise. Griffin House is a solo artist, not a band. He came out and did some acoustic- lyrically clever and spiritual songs. I was pretty touched by his canter and honesty.
Over the Rhine took the stage about an hour later with "I Don't Wanna Waste Your Time" from their new album "The Trumpet Child." Linford Detweiler told most of the stories this evening referring back to his roots and inspirations in music. Most of the material they played came from "The Trumpet Child" with "Born" the only song from "Drunkard's Prayer." They also played a few covers like "Fever" and a Gillian Welsh song. They threw in a couple of songs from "Snow Angels" their X-mas album as a surprise. They ended the evening with "Latter Days" from "Good Dog, Bad Dog."
Despite not hearing a lot of my older favorites, the show was great. Over the Rhine is a band that enjoys their instruments and it shows when they go off into a 10 min keyboard or bass solo. Typically this also annoys me when some bands do that, but Over the Rhine did it with taste. Best part came with a 5 min drum solo that ended with the drummer knocking down the cymbals.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Work problems

Today at work, we got a bomb dropped on us from our CEO. Due to financial difficulties (2 million in the hole), drastic changes will be coming down the pipe line. What that means, nobody knows (but him), but it has gotten a lot of people worried. I'm trying to take comfort in the fact that my program, foster care, is one of the few programs that is actually making money for the agency and is deemed a core program. The CEO said that most of the core programs, he wants to invest in, but it is still gets people worried when the chopping block comes out.
I feel better knowing too that I'm not in middle management either (one good thing about not being too ambitious). Our program already phased out two management positions. My experience with middle management wasn't very pleasant when cuts where made.
I love helping people and working with troubled kids. It seems to be what I'm set out for, but I can't say I've ever worked for a financially sound mental health agency. Right before I left Comprehensive Mental Health in KC, the agency was having big problems too. Not only was our mileage repaid at a criminally low rate, but our reimbursements for buying our clients things was completely cut. That meant, if we took one of our clients out for a burger, it would come out of our own pocket. When I interviewed here in Oregon at Trillium, they said that financially the work that I would be doing is secure. It took a little while, but it seems the financial problems of mental health finally caught up to Oregon and everyone is changing the way they do business to stay afloat.
I believe that a lot of the problem is that states have cut funding, and clinical people are having to learn how to do business. Basically, psychiatrist and social workers don't know the first thing about running a business. The second problem we see happening is with billing. Since everything is privatized, mental health services is sold out to local HMOs who all have different billing practices and pay at a different rate.
That's mental health in a nut shell. On my level, it's bad enough to put up with high burn rates and low raises, but now job security begins to come into question. I guess it's too late to join the army. You would always have job security there.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

August's music

Here on the CDs I got this month. I also downloaded my first video from Itunes. U2's Sweetest Thing is my first video to watch on my ipod. Personally, I think it's U2's best video with a cameo from Bono's wife as he tries to apologize to her (for what, is anyone's guess). It's a humorous video.
Over the Rhine Trumpet Child wow this is a great album. The album covers a lot of genres but weights heavy in jazz and Cabernet. The songs are more playful and fun and even takes some political jab with If a Song Could be President. This is a great album to relax and lounge around with. At first, I wasn't sure what to make of it, but I listened to it over and over on the band's web site and soon came to the realization that this is genius. I also love reading the message that song writer Linford Detwiler always writes in the CD. He always gives you an idea of where he and Karen (his wife and singer) get their inspirations from and what was going on in their lives. Over the Rhine will be in Portland this month so Wah-Wah and I are planning on going. Can't wait.

Eisley Combinations I heard Eisley described once as fairy tale rock. The DuPree sisters do harmonize beautifully, almost sounding the way you think a band of pixies would sound. Their new album is more ambitious than their last as the band continues to evolve sounding more darker and even a little angst ridden.

Innocence Mission Small Planes Lately I've been getting into a lot of the quieter acoustic stuff such as Innocence Mission, Rosie Thomas, and Over the Rhine. Maybe I'm just getting older. I've also been fascinated with those husband and wife bands (such as Innocence Mission and Over the Rhine). I think there is something cool about two people who love each other and become one creative force. Often the creative process in music splits people apart, but these bands remain true to them selves and the music. Small Planes is not a proper Innocence Mission album. Apparently it is made up of left over material, which is a little strange seeing how the quality of songs here surpasses some (not all) of their proper albums. I find it to be a little more introspective than other albums but it flows with the same gentle and pure sound you would expect from the Innocence Mission.
Keane Little Broken Words Ok, this is not a official album. It's a B-side album floating out on the Internet. Keane is like other great British bands and release great B-sides that are as good, if not better than their albums. This makes crazy music fans like myself, look high and low for their unreleased material. The songs from this album are taken before and during the release of their first album Hopes and Fears. There are a few fun covers such as the 70's "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore", Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" and Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road". If you like Keane's albums, this is like an extra slice of cake.
Stars In Our Bedroom After the War Stars label decided to release the new album months before store release to prevent illegally downloads from getting out. I think I like this one more than their previous album Set Yourself On Fire. It's that good! It's got a lot of the vocal arrangement swapping between male and female that see a lot of in Stars.