Orcas Island


Duuuuude the days have been stunning lately.

A couple weeks ago in Portland, Johnnyswim shared the inspiration for their song Drunks. Apparently there’s this bar in Nashville where all the hardcore soccer fans go. And during a match, things can get pretty nasty. One side yelling up a storm at the other. But there are these Irish folk songs that kick in after the game, and once they start, everyone sings. No matter who you were cheering for a minute ago.

Living in the USA right now feels like the country needs an Irish drinking song. This isn’t the first time of wild contentiousness, nor will it be the last, but a good time out would do wonders.

I used to think having the right facts could solve a lot of our problems. But if I doubted it before, this year has confirmed that people will gravitate towards “facts” that confirm what they already think is true and find ways to dismiss anything else. The right facts won’t change the world.

There’s something about beauty, though, that can still stop people in a single moment. For a new parent holding a tiny life in a maternity ward, the election is so far on the back burner it’s just white noise. For someone in the middle of this year’s most gorgeous weekend, next week need not come.

Our hearts were made to worship, and wonder still gets us where information fails us. Small fragments of starlight that can spell out true north.

One of the more frustrating things about grad school was the frequent feeling that it was keeping me from doing more to help others. Like, for the most part, being a student benefits me with knowledge, which, I guess in the long run can be used to help others. But I’m a hands-on type, and usually that’s a little too much connect-the-dots for me.

Especially in a divided and fear-driven world, I’ve been craving a more permanent community I could pour into, more resources to offer others, and channeling discontentment with the status quo into action.

I got small tastes of it over this term, though, and for that I’m grateful.

I got to teach a class on Contemporary Africa, the exact same class I taught a year ago. Except this time I got more chances to give lectures, and I feel at home in that setting. I got to talk about Masculinity in South Africa, got to help students process the day after the election, got to share stories about the helpers I’ve met.

So much of life feels like waiting, but I don’t think God wastes time. Even though my impatience for being done with grad school grew week by week, so did my appreciation for the time being.

Gray mornings call for a classic Irish Pub. Thank goodness for The Pint Pot. An Irish coffee and a full Irish breakfast are exactly in order.

Here are a couple other things making me pretty happy this week.

I discovered that Terrence Malick’s film To The Wonder was streaming for free on Prime, and I loved it even though it wasn’t the most accessible of movies. In typical Malick fashion, it was full of amazing visuals, cryptic layers of meaning hiding beneath simple-but-poetic dialogue, and Javier Bardem being a priest. The film itself was so beautifully shot, despite being set in mostly sterile, suburban environments… but I kinda think that was supposed to be the point.

And on the other end of the spectrum, there’s that YouTube video of a dog’s favorite Gumby chew toy being brought to life by it’s owner in a Gumby costume. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve watched it, I love it so.

And then there’s freaking baseball. What a game.

Happy Halloween my friends. We had a laid back dinner with friends kinda night, but I had some good reads to help me keep the day all spooky and such.

Also, we had zero trick or treaters! What’s going on, modern day children? I even heard some kids trick or treat at the door right across from us, never to come by.

Now I’m stuck with the dangerous prospect of endless fun size candies around the house.

I had a chance to go to the McKenzie Craft Beer and Cider Festival. If you saw my post about my startup project… market research! And that meant I got to do a lot of tasting.

After a pretty fun night, here were my favorite three beers/ciders.

Old Craig Ale by Ordnance Brewing – This beer definitely had an old vintage- tobacco-and-leather sort of quality, but in a good way! (I guess those typically don’t sound like good beverage flavors) Lots of spices and brown sugar left this tasting a lot like winter candy.

Nut Crusher Peanut Butter Porter by Wild Ride Brewing – If you like the taste of roast peanuts or peanut butter, this would be a great beer. They come on STRONG. But in a good way. And the brewery rep gave me a little garnish of a Reese’s cup to go with it.

Doc Fields Banana Mango Cider – I was suspicious over this this cider, I thought it might be a little too much like a fermented Jamba Juice. Turns out it was a pretty good cider and I’d love another taste.

Let’s talk about something a little more pleasant for most people- beer!

I’m in a MBA class on startup planning (Random, I know. Long story.) Our project right now revolves around beer deliveries and we need to do a little market research.

I’m hoping to conduct some interviews so if you’re a beer consumer- I’d love to hit you up with a few questions! No need to be the biggest hop head, but if you are, great! Message or comment or something and I’ll get in touch.

Also, I’m pretty sure Oakshire is taking over as my favorite brewer in town. We’ve got a lot of good ones but their seasonal stuff gets so creative!

So… that… just… happened. Not only did the Cubs break their 108 year old curse, but they also put on the most dramatic game I’ve seen. And I watch a lot of baseball.

I guess this means the apocalypse starts tomorrow, but that game was so much fun, it’ll have been worth it.

Deanna and I don’t have live TV so we went to go and watch at a nearby sports bar, and my what a great decision. I got to befriend several old-guy-pub-dwellers, one of whom called David Ross’ home run a second before it happened. (Not to be outdone, I called the camera panning to Bill Murray a second before that happened). The girls next to me had the best Jason Kipnis specific trash talk. And they’re right… he probably does smell like Axe body spray! We all came as strangers, and left as friends who all never got around to exchanging names.

The Phillies will always be my team, but like any good racism-hating, loveable-loser-lovin’ American, I wanted this year to be the Cubs’ year. (Especially since the Phils’ had a sliver of a percent chance of being any decent). Baseball will feel kinda weird without a mindblowingly win-deprived team, but I’m sure the Cubs fans don’t mind.

I screwed up my mail-in ballot… I left every single chad hanging (and it was a bubble sheet)! So I swung by the community center to set things right.

If you ask me, a lot of these decisions felt pretty obvious to me. But not everyone else feels the same way, so that’s why we have elections.

Voting is important. It’s very important. It’s one of those things that you totally take for granted if you’ve never experienced what happens in places without free and fair elections. It’s also a privilege that was hard earned.

So yeah, hooray for voting. I’m glad I cast my ballot today. It’s a big decision!

That said, it’s also one of millions of decisions you’ll make that shape the world we live in.

All of the people who have influenced me the most didn’t do it with their voting record. Who is in need of care and attention today that you have a chance to help? Who needs a well timed word of encouragement? Which friend is fundraising for something noble that you should perhaps pay attention to? Some of those decisions will have a much bigger impact than anything you or I bubbled in today, and I think these things are worthy of at least as much deliberation and energy.

Perhaps the reason why the election results were so surprising to a lot of people was that we forgot how much of a bubble most of us live in. No matter what results you were hoping for, roughly half the country feels differently.

The type of setting we grow up in, the sort of people we’re around, and all that have a huge impact on what lens through which we see the world. That’s not to say I don’t believe there’s usually a better choice and a worse choice at the end of the day. But it’s another thing to turn my conviction into an assumption that the country falls neatly into two halves of good guys and bad guys.

See, some of the best people I’ve ever met voted for things and people that make absolutely no sense to me. People who taught me everything I know about generosity voted for things I think contribute to inequality. People who taught me how to respect other people voted for candidates with a reputation for crudeness. And if you know enough people, you’ll know someone that this applies to. If not? Well, then that bubble is probably in effect.

One of the best interactions I’ve seen on Facebook was just that. Dad voted red. Daughter voted blue. Daughter was sad, and Dad acknowledged that this was okay. They grew up seeing different things in different times in different places– it was simple, but beautiful.

You don’t have to agree with everything I believe in. I don’t agree with all of your opinions. I’ll probably disagree with a few of them strongly. But I won’t assume the worst of you. I won’t defriend you. We’ll still have a lot to learn from each other.

It’s eerily quiet outside my window. I’m in a young urban area in a very blue state, so of course there’s an atmosphere of disappointment. But it’s also a gorgeous, crisp sunny day in November… and we don’t get too many of those. Disappointing day? Beautiful day? Perhaps both? There’s more than one way to see things and blessed are the eyes that can find both.

Orcas Island

Our Thanksgiving weekend was a blast– it was awesome getting to see so much family and so many friends over the past few days. And it was much needed. The timing of getting (most of) a week off right before my most insane week of grad school couldn’t be better.

And yet, here are some of the things making me happy this week.
On Saturday, we got to see Moana in Sacramento and it was a fun flick! I was prepared for something a little bit more metaphorical, a la Zootopia or Big Hero 6. It was a much simpler story than those, but still fun, and a gorgeous film art-wise.

I spent much of our time on the road reading Shoe Dog, which I wrote about last morning. It was a much more interesting and intriguing book than what I was expecting, and that’s a good thing.

Andddd, Mark Helfrich is fired! Okay, it’s not a “good thing” that a guy got fired per se, and I don’t even think he’s necessarily as terrible as this past season made it look, but I also don’t think he’s as good as his first season-point-five made him look and I’d love for us to get there again. Yay for that door being open.

Seemed like a good weekend for some perspective on how meager human accomplishments look next to creation, so I hopped on a ferry headed for one place I’ve always wanted to go.

Orcas Island is just a little off the Puget Sound, accessible only by ferry or personal jet, and boasts all of the natural beauty you might expect from a northwestern island. It’s got a pretty tight community of island dwellers too.

Looking forward to getting cozy on this floating patch of dirt that whales seem to love. I feel like I’ll have a good understanding of why after this weekend.

“This is precisely the time artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

–Toni Morrison

How did a mostly West Coast kid growing up in suburban comforts come to appreciate the plights and concerns of refugees, of inner cities, and of the oppressed? I was never persuaded by thought provoking arguments and exposés. I was won by art and beauty.

The Roots took me to a different side of Philadelphia than the one I grew up in. Khaled Hosseni brought me to Afghanistan. A chef in Brooklyn helped me gain a further appreciation for having a hyphenated cultural identity.

It’s my belief that you can’t argue a heart into desiring justice any more than you can make a person fall in love with you through a PowerPoint presentation of all the reasons you’re great. If you want other people to join you in making a better world, create a sample taste of how good it can be.

Beauty works wonders over logic and reason. If you’re a creator in any way, shape, or form- whether your work is a song, a dinner, a healthy family, or somebody’s financial bookkeeping, now is a time that you’re needed.

Beignet: I give Orcas Island two thumbs WAY up!

Here are some good things from the week that was:

I had an amazing time on Orcas Island. I’d been wanting to get there for such a long time that I’m glad the opportunity finally came. Such a cozy place.

Found a tiny little Indonesian Café in Seattle on the way back. That’s one cuisine that’s way underrated. Way to do your thing, Indo Café.

Finally, I’ve been getting caught up on backlogging stuff into my Goodreads account that I’ve read over the past year. I discovered so many little Easter eggs on their site that show stats about what I’ve been reading. I can’t wait to have it be able to track complete info.

I love that in a world full of Christmas impatience, Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday.

I love that the best way to convince her to go on a trip somewhere new is to compare it to Hobbit geography.

We came for the view, and hiked for miles to get it.

We arrived in a wall of fog.

So we waited, and waited and waited. And soon enough, our reward was revealed.

Ever see the movie ‘The Fog?’ A decade ago, I had a weird fondness for it… and not even the John Carpenter classic, but the terrible 2005 remake. Not much about that movie was good, but there was one thing I was entranced by: the setting.
The movie was set on this small island in the Northwest. I loved the setting of trees and forests and rain, coupled with the idea of a small, tight community where most people know each other by virtue of being cut off from the mainland.
Of course it doesn’t end too well because of some cursed mystical fog, but I still loved the setting. And I figured Orcas Island would provide something close to it. I was right, making this one of the weirdest things to raise my interest about visiting somewhere.

I’ve mostly been focused in on Portland or SoCal as mine and Deanna’s next home. Wherever it ends up being, we hope it can be a little more permanent of a place. No more of this every-two-years business.

Going back to SoCal has one big obvious appeal, and that is family. And that’s pretty huge. I have some relatives who are getting older who I really want to spend as much time as possible with the next few years, not to mention others who are at a similar stage of life as Deanna and I, and it’s exciting to hit milestones together. Plus I still have the majority of my friends back there and community will be one of the biggest draws. I don’t really like the cost of living, or the lack of seasons, but people are a big deal.

Then there’s Portland. I’ve loved it forever and it’ll feel somewhat like a jip to have lived so close for two years but never actually in it. The seasons, the outdoors, and the culture are all very much to my liking, and I have an increasing amount of friends slowly migrating there. It doesn’t have family, which is a big absence, but when I think of the family I hope to raise someday, I’m much more intrigued by raising a kid in the Northwest instead of the Freeway Jungles of SoCal. They need to experience falling down from trees and all that. Plus, I’ve been good at gently swaying more than a couple people to move up here.

I’ll probably just take whichever job is higher paying. Cause whichever spot wins out, I’m gonna want a whole lot of plane tickets to the other one.

I managed to perfectly recreate that Kermit the Frog meme.

But that’s none of my business.

“And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should… with all its sham, drudgergy and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

–Max Ehrmann, Disiderata

There’s a lot of stuff to be upset about, and I recognize how legitimate those things are. But I think the sort of rebellion we need is a counterintuitive one. In a contentious, divided world, joy and peace are rebellious. Beauty is subversive when put up next to brutality. I think it’s a better time than ever to be anchored in a joy that can’t be taken, a community of infectious acceptance, and a stubborn memory of the people we were meant to be.

These are crazy days, my friends. But they’re still extremely beautiful ones. To paraphrase Calvin and Hobbes, if we got out to look at the stars more often, we wouldn’t argue about half the stuff that we get worked up over.

While spending the weekend at Orcas, we got in a night at this sweet little inn. It felt like we weren’t in the inn itself for very long but that’s cause we got some real good sleep that night we were there.

The room itself was only a small part of what I really liked about this place. They had a fenced lawn across the street with such an excellent view of the islands.

And their restaurant. Awesome French onion soup and blue marlin carpaccio. Best of all they have some shared tables where they’ll sit you down at a table alongside strangers, and you’ll be able to leave with new friends- or at least some memorable encounters. We enjoyed the company of a couple older seniors out on a date. They shared stories of his late wife and her ex-husband. At times sad but also moving to see two hopeful people not willing to throw in the towel just yet.

Weekend at home project- making some Kahlua.

Looks okay so far, so now we wait a few weeks for our results.


Passing through the In N Out in Medford means one surefire thing… we’re going to (or coming from) Cali.

Thankful that this pit stop is right off the freeway.

We can act like we didn’t spend most of the drive taking selfies with Beignet. Or we can own it.

Thankful this one is a road tripper.

Our wedding cake has been sitting in my in-laws’ freezer for the year-and-a-half that we’ve been married.

Not any more.

We didn’t get (too) sick.

This weekend, when the nephews and the furry one finally came face to face.

Hope your day was as fun and tasty as ours.

Here’s to a much needed weekend of hanging out with family and not doing much else. The next two weeks are gonna be such a power sprint that some time off like this is exactly the right thing.

There’s a first time for everything.

This is my first time eating at a restaurant with both a B safety rating and a James Beard award.

“The future is built with the present moment and how we take care of it. If you are fearful, the future will be fearful. If you are uncooperative, the future will be divisive. This is very important.

The future is not something that will come to us; the future is built by us, by how we speak and what we do in the present moment.

Community practice is crucial at this time. It’s crucial not to be alone in front of the computer, reading media. That makes the world dark for you. Find flesh. There are still wonderful things happening.”

–Phap Dung

Grad School Winds Down

During my undergraduate college days, I signed up for the most eccentric classes I could. Middle Eastern Cooking. Japanese Horror Movies. Leadership and Team Building. Thanks to that I got a bunch of pretty neat experiences and learned some fun things.

Grad school makes it harder to go off the beaten path, but not impossible, and during my two years going for a Masters’ I’ve still wound up studying and gaining some knowledge in some things I never would’ve expected.

When I started, I was surprised to find I’d have to learn another language. I speak about five to some degree, but because I haven’t learned many of them in a classroom setting, I don’t have them on my transcripts. So, on a whim, I signed up to learn Hindi/Urdu. I can’t say I speak very good Hindi, or much at all, but I learned a bit about how to read the script and can utter some really basic phrases.

I’ve also learned a ton about local governance, especially when it comes to public finance and budgets. That’s thanks to my nonprofit classes being taught closely alongside public management classes. If it sounds dry, it kind of is, but I actually feel like I understand local government and things like tax considerations way better. I can also empathize with different opinions way better, and that’s always a good thing.

Also, by teaching a course on Africa twice, I’ve gotten quite familiar with some of the topics we’ve covered. One of these includes life in Mali. As a country, it doesn’t get many visitors, and I don’t envision myself being able to make it there any time soon. Glad I could learn a little bit through the process of teaching.

Another week in the bags and another step closer to the finish line. Just some paperwork and a couple assignments left to go. Then what? We’ll find out soon.

No surprise, this has been a terse week around campus. Some are quick to say that today’s student lives in a cocoon of hyper sensitivity- and at times I get why people would think that. But lots of students feel unsafe- and for good reason. We’ve had random people and even a professor (?!) around in blackface. Ugh! That’s really not okay.

I’m often impatient with the end of grad school but this week I’ll thankful for my role as a TA that has allowed me to speak and share some things I’ve seen and experienced that I find helpful in an unpredictable and tense world. And I love reminding anyone that a lot of times the best thing they can do is focus on what changes there are to be made right in front of them, and to give it everything.

The thing I’m looking forward to the most about being done with my program isn’t the absence of school, it’ll be the opportunity to build something.

The ability to commit to something for a long time without my schedule changing itself every few months is something that’s eluded me the past few years. Now I’m looking forward to dinners that become traditions, becoming a part of things around whatever community we end up in, and forming some more bonds.

Now seems like a good and important time to be building community up and getting connected. I’m ready to dig in.

So close to the end! And to make things even better, this week barely counts since I’ll be in California staring Tuesday night.

So that’s one thing making me happy. What else?

That Ducks win versus Utah was so, so satisfying. Nobody saw it coming, even after it already came. Our season has been a ship that has been long sunk, but getting the win against a pretty good Utah team was just perfect. Our loss to them last year, in my mind, was the start of dark days for Ducks fans.

Oh, and a couple of my good friends gave birth to their son tonight. Welcome to the world, Mathis! See you when I get back.

This week has been utterly ridiculous- in the past 48 hours I’ve had to present the City of Albany with a proposed budget, pitch a startup business idea, and knock out a 15 page paper.

Thankfully, I get a weekend to turn things down a notch before one last week of this finish line sprint. My first true day out of grad school is gonna be such a napfest.

Just a little over a week left to go… you can put up with almost anything for a week! Though this week is going to really put that idea to the test.

Two major projects are running full throttle right now. Simultaneously, I have twenty pages of research to write and one exam to get ready for, all within the next nine days.

Grad school really wants to make sure that I don’t miss it too much, I guess.

Grad school: where if you keep responding to enough emails, eventually somebody gives you a degree. This time next week, I’ll be looking at an empty inbox.

In the meantime, I get to enjoy a weekend with my favorites. We were gonna go visit Santa at PetSmart, but then somebody found a very muddy dog park, and you can’t show up to Santa lookin’ like that.

“I find students today much smarter and more competent than in my time, I also find them far more pessimistic. Occassionally they ask in dismay: Where is the U.S. going? Where is the world going? Or: Where are the new entrepreneurs? Or: Are we doomed as a society to a worse future for our children?

I tell them about the devastated Japan I saw in 1962. I tell them about the rubble and ruins that somehow gave birth to wise men… I tell them about the untapped resources, natural and human, that the world has at its disposal, the abundant ways and means to solve its many crises. All we have to do, I tell the sthudents, is work and study, study and work, hard as we can.

Put another way: we must all be professors of the jungle.”

–Phil Knight

Got to meet my friends’ baby for the first time. His snores were adorable.

Welcome to the world, Mathis. I hope you like it.

Eugene’s looking a little Scandinavian today. A couple more tomorrows and we’re done.

One essay, the last two finals I plan to ever take, and grading exams for fifty students.

Alright, let’s do this.