Ecomotion's Fire Sale – Would You Buy an Electric Car for $1210?

April 9, 2009 3 comments
Zap Xebra PK Electric Car

Zap Xebra PK Electric Car

I’ve always fancied the idea of owning an electric car.  The idea of not ever having to fuel up at a gas station has always appealed to me. So when I saw that Ecomotion on NE Sandy Blvd. was running a going out of business fire sale I just HAD to check it out.

Ecomotion specializes in cars from Zap motors. They basically carry two cars, the Zap Xebra PK (a ‘pick up’)  and the Zap Xebra Sedan. Both of these cars are manufactured in China and are completely electric.

As I browsed through their selection of cars, the service director Al Ham set my expectations:  “Before you get into this car you need to vastly lower your expectations. If you’re looking for a Toyota, go buy a friggin Toyota. What these are, are Chinese cars made from the cheapest parts they can get away with and the quality level on them so low they vary wildly from car to car.” With those words in my head I gave the first of many Zap cars a spin.

The thing I noticed immediately was how much attention I got driving the car. I drove a big loop from the Ecomotion building to the traffic circle at NE 39th and back. Heads turned and people pointed, and at first driving it was a little bit of a thrill. But with each successive car I tried out I realized that they all had the same thing in common – they were all truly cheap crappy cars.

The story would have ended there, but the cars are a devil’s bargain.  A new 2006 model Zap Xebra PK sells there at $2,999.  Almost 10K off its initial list price.  You get a $1,500 Oregon energy tax credit and a $290 Federal Tax credit, bringing the cost (before license and fees) to $1209! Less cost than some configurations of a MacBook Pro! As I did the math on this over and over, I decided to give the car another spin.  How can you pass up a deal this good?

Upon my return Al gave me a ‘you again’ look and told me firmly, “at this price, you’re either going to buy it or not. I don’t get paid enough to actually sell these cars.” After handing me the key of another Zap Xebra PK and the dealer plate I was off.  With this second round I tested out four separate Zap cars, and even though I willed myself to try to like the car, I just couldn’t. Each one rattled, shook, and barely stopped. I never was able to get any of the cars past 35 mph and at least half struggled to get upa modest hill. At six feet I had to drive the ‘car’ with two feet as the steering column was so close to the seat I couldn’t move my foot from the gas to the brake.

Ultimately I decided that even at the ‘they’re practically giving them away’ price the Zap wasn’t for me.  I do hope someday to find a car that doesn’t burn gas, find a better more ecological way of getting around town, unfortunately that reality just isn’t there yet.

After making my decision, I realized my first test drive got caught on this news report from KATU news:

Here are some helpful links in case you want to tale the plunge:

Categories: Green Living Tags:

Spirit Mountain Casino Delivers a Knock Out to Sportfight

April 5, 2009 Comments off
Tyson Jefferies in Defeat Sportfight 25

Tyson Jefferies in Defeat Sportfight 25

“I knew we should have left earlier”, I said as I was gritting my teeth in bumper to bumper traffic on the 99W. I was on my way to Sportfight at the Spirit Mountain Casino and a supposed hour and forty five minute drive was looking to be a much longer and harder trip.

Sportfight previously held their events at the Rose Garden, a mere five minutes away from my home. I was now schlepping all the way to Grand Ronde, Oregon to catch the Mixed Martial Arts action. Would it be worth the trip?  As the traffic started thinning out around Sherwood my optimism began to return. All be told, the trip down to Spirit Mountain Casino wasn’t all that awful; a few tunes from a friend’s iPod and a sunny afternoon made sitting in the car a lot more bearable.

It had been a while since I had been to the Spirit Mountain Casino. Since my last trip they’ve expanded quite a bit, adding a hotel, gas station and event center. After the last Sportfight there were rumors that fans would have to wait until September for the next event. This April event at Spirit Mountain Casino was announced only a few weeks prior and almost everyone I spoke to indicated that it was pulled together fast.

As I jockeyed around trying to get access to the event I discovered a very clear fact: Spirit Mountain Casino was running the show. Almost every aspect of the event aside from the guys in the ring had the touch of the casino.  In Las Vegas this would be a good thing, but here in Oregon it is something all together different. As I walked through the casino floor I was struck by two very clear realities: the room was smokier than hell, and not a single person had a drink in their hand. Spirit Mountain Casino is run more like a huge video poker and slot machine gallery than a casino. Casinos make their name on service and entertainment, two qualities unfortunately missing from Spirit Mountain.

As I met with James Buxman, PR manager for Spirit Mountain Casino, I asked him to give me the run down of the Casino. He look at me doe-eyed and said he had to run to take care of the fights. In an email exchange he explained that the casino was working to try to attract more people under 40. With a new sports bar planned for May, and night club, they hope to hip up their image. Unfortunately, their ambitions won’t be realized until they can genuinely understand their new target audience. A prime example of their cluelessness is apparent in the selection of bands for their big unveiling party for the new nightclub and sports bar: Kool and The Gang, a band  more likely to attract the parents of their target audience than the audience itself.

As fight time approached I was lead to my seat at the back of the arena. I realized then that the story of trying to get the story at Sportfight was going to be more interesting than the event itself. The press row was so far back from the action that trying to get a story, any sort of story, was going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.  How do you talk about a fighter’s ground game when you can’t really see the mat?  As I was bemoaning this fact to Matt Lindland, owner and founder of Sportfight, he threw up his arms and said “The casino is handling everything, you have to talk to them”.  My photographer, David Lawrence, opened up his camera bag and handed me his spare camera. “Geoff, you’re a photographer. Shoot this next to me at ringside.” As the announcer entered the ring a security guard came around and told all the photographers that they must kneel during the fights. This meant shooting the fights from a position which probably is now banned right next to water boarding in terrorist interrogations.

Press Sits in the Back at Sportfight 25

Press Sits in the Back at Sportfight 25

The event started with very little fanfair except for one of the most painful renditions of the Star Spangled Banner that I’ve heard in years.  Would a Las Vegas casino have a sixty year old dude in a bad toupee ham up the Star Spangled Banner? I doubt it. The first bout was notable because it featured Colt Toombs, son of professional wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper. Toombs fought at the previous Sportfight and his father proudly cheered him on from ringside. This time around, despite the promotion from the casino that he’d be there, he was seemingly absent. This first bout set the tone for the evening: a lightening quick fight with one fighter clearly dominating another. It wasn’t even close.  I barely had time to comment on this fact when Toombs smacked Shrout across the face right in the corner where I was taking photos showering me with blood spatter. Yeah, it was going to be that kind of night.

The first four bouts each lasted no longer than two or three minutes a piece. After the fifth round I realized that there was a distinct pattern to the evening –  ‘stand ’em up and knock him out’ with the winner of each fight belonging to Team Quest. Sportfight has long fought criticism that it rarely breaks out of being nothing more than a showcase for Team Quest. The last Sportfight seemed to be a solid step away from that with a strong presence from other rival gyms like Braveheart. This time around Team Quest owned the evening, even to the point of promoter Matt Lindlan cornering for at least one of the fights (something odd for a promoter to be doing). I spoke to one of the commissioners from the Oregon Athletic Commission and they commented that the event had come together “extremely fast”, and it really felt that way. One of the things I really value in MMA is how strong match ups often are, and here most of them weren’t very competitive.

Of the eleven fights of the evening only two made it past the first round (Tom Shrout v Colt Tombs went mere moments into round two and Marlo Meiranda and Tyson Jefferies went the longest – three full rounds). The only fight of the evening that felt like any sort of real competition was the Main Event between Meiranda and Jefferies, but even that bout was plagued with issues.  After a second kick to the groin in round two, Jeffries huddled in the corner where we were shooting.  “What the fuck!” he yelled as he held his groin. Lindland, who was also cornering Jefferies, advised him to take his time and clear his head; instead, Jefferies made the amateur move of winding himself up and then going to hard and too fast at Meiranda, who answered with one of the most punishing knees to the head that I’ve seen in a long time. This kind of bush league move isn’t something you’d expect from the main event of a professional fight, but none of the fights really had the mark of top caliber Mixed Martial Arts.

Line Them up and Then Knock Them Out - Sportfight 25

Line Them up and Then Knock Them Out - Sportfight 25

Even mediocre fights can be enjoyable with a good crowd, and even though the Spirit Mountain Casino event center was filled to capacity (at just over 2000 seats), there wasn’t much energy to the crowd.  Rather than cheering I often heard people yell obscenities at the fighter they were rooting against or even a spattering of boos if they didn’t think the action was moving fast enough (insane considering how short the bouts were).

After the fights were over we tried to find somewhere to crash and decompress for a little bit before driving back to Portland. After kneeling for two and a half hours my entire body ached. The only lounge in the casino had a line out the door and there was no casual place to go and just sit with a beer. I grabbed a bottled juice from one of the ‘food’ stands at the casino and then we were on our way back to Portland.

I’m a big fan of Mixed Martial Arts and I really think that an event like Sportfight in Oregon could get some real traction and be something significant, but there are no short cuts. Throwing together an event run by a casino who knows nothing about MMA or really entertainment isn’t going to further the cause. If Sportfight is ever going to be relevant they’ll need good match ups with fighters beyond Team Quest and put together an evening of real entertainment (there’s no excuse to not even having fighter intro music). Although it’s on a much smaller scale I think the Rumble at The Roseland, which is considered amateur MMA, is much more successful and relevant. Next time around I’ll save myself the long drive and just head down the street to the Roseland because I can’t see how anything at Spirit Mountain is going to be worth the trip.

Here’s a video of the bout between Tom Shrout and Colt Toombs, it gives you an idea of how one sided most of the evening was:

More Sportfight Info:

India Oven – Location, Location, Location

March 19, 2009 5 comments

India Oven Now on SE Belmont

I always had a love hate relationship with Kinta Restaurant.  I really valued having a vegetarian restaurant in my neighborhood with spicy ethnic food and an ever changing array of fresh vegetable choices.  Unfortunately the idea of Kinta always seemed better than the reality.  Frequently messed up orders and lack of a clear vision plagued Kinta, combined with the hefty competition with a flood of nearby Thai restaurants spelled the end for this local eatery.

Kinta’s loss has been India Oven‘s gain.  Previously located in the dungeon that is the Hawthorne Theater, India Oven moved from SE Hawthorne to SE Belmont into its ideal new location. Even though I am a fan of India food I hadn’t visited India Oven in its previous location. The Hawthorne Theater seems like a dump from the outside, so it was hard to imagine enjoying a meal inside.

Days after their move to SE Belmont, I made a point to give India Oven a try. Even though they had completely relocated their business, I found the service and food at India Oven to be right on the mark.  My meal consisted on Vegetable Pakoras, Papadams, Dahl, Vegetable Byrani and Aloo Gobi (which I think is one of the dishes that is a true barometer of a good Indian restaurant).  All the dishes were well spiced with medium portion sizes. Of the three I enjoyed the Dahl the most with perfectly cooked lentils with nice balanced flavor. The Aloo Gobi was solid, not the best I’ve ever had, but well balanced and tasty.  The Pakoras were a nice mix of vegetables deeply fried and absolutely delicious. I also quite enjoyed the Vegetable Byrani which was the largest portion of the dishes. The final bill was in line with many of the medium priced local businesses but notably higher than going out for local Thai.

The best thing going for India Oven is its new location. Perfectly placed in the heart of the Belmont Business District India Oven should find success where Kinta failed. Even though they had only been open a few days the restaurant was fuller than I had ever seen Kinta.

India Oven is located at 3450 SE Belmont St.

Categories: Food, Vegan Tags:

On Portland Resumes

March 12, 2009 Comments off
Spring Arrives in Portland

Spring Arrives in Portland

As many of you may have noticed I’ve taken a short hiatus from On Portland. I felt like I needed to step back for a while and make sure I was moving the site in the right direction. There are so many great Portland sites that I don’t want On Portland to just be another voice in the same chorus.

To me the definitive “What to do in Portland this weekend?” site is PDXPipeline. They cover more events and goings on than anyone. As much as I enjoy covering the occasional event I just don’t see On Portland being an event site.

In terms of neighborhood coverage there is nothing that even comes close to neighborhood notes.  If it’s happening in Portland, anywhere in Portland then neighborhood notes has it covered.

Beyond those there are great Portland news sites like Oregonlive (whose Oregon Reddit I use as a key source to keep my finger on the pulse of the city)  the Examiner and my topix feed which catches most news sources in the city.

So I keep asking myself, where does On Portland fit in?  The answer keeps coming back to the reason why I started this site. I think living, working and playing in the city of Portland is something really extraordinary. Having traveled through most of the states in the union and lived on both coasts I can say that Portland offers things that other cities simply don’t. It’s unique in the truest sense of the word.

So as I go forward with this site I intend to try to capture what is special about living in this city.  The people, places and experiences that make this a place that I call home.  It’s a journey and I’m glad you’re following me as I go on it.

Today was one of those true Portland moments for me – sitting up at one of the tables behind the Starbucks at Pioneer Courthouse Square, eating Indian food from The Real Taste of India, soaking up some of the first rays of spring and watching the world go by.

Categories: Portland Tags:

Girls Rock The Movie – Rock N' Roll Camp for Girls on DVD

January 24, 2009 Comments off
Girls Rock! The Move on DVD January 27

Girls Rock! The Move on DVD January 27

Portland is home to the internationally renowned Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls.  Each summer, groups of girls come together in the camp’s North Portland facility and form rock bands. Over the course of a week they learn, write, practice and perfect their songs. The finale of the week long camp is a performance in front of over 700 people at the Bagdad Theater.

This Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls experience was captured in the documentary Girls Rock! The Movie which follows a group of girls through a week at the camp in 2007. What’s so amazing about the documentary (and the camp) is how transformed the campers are after just one week.  On day one there are girls who you never could imagine getting up in front of anyone to sing who belt it out in front of hundreds of fans.

I was fortunate enough to see Girls Rock! The Movie during its festival run with my daughter. It made such a huge impression on her, she applied to the next session of Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls (their application goes online each year at 12:01 new years eve, a new family new years tradition).

My daughter attended the camp camp in 2008 and had a blast. Her band The Lightening Girls, made a huge impression on her and boosted her self confidence immeasurably. She also came away from the camp knowing how to defend herself as the camp spends an entire afternoon dealing with self defense.  She’s already signed up to come back for the summer of 2009.

Girls Rock! The Movie is an exceptional documentary about an extraordinary place.  If you weren’t aware of the Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls you’ll be amazed that such a phenomenal organization is right here in your back yard.

Buy Girls Rock! The Movie on DVD and pply to attend Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls.

Categories: Family, Movies, Music Tags:

How Clean is That Portland Restaurant?

January 19, 2009 Comments off
Find Out How Clean it Really Is

Find Out How Clean it Really Is

In the past month I’ve had the unfortunate luck of getting sick after eating at a local restaurant (Bangkok Restaurant).  As I was feeling quite under the weather I spent some time searching the Internet for some site or resource that could have clued me in to the less than clean kitchen that my meal must have come from.

I finally found the Multnomah County Health Department Establishment Inspection Database a fantastic resource that lets you peek into the kitchen and see just how clean everything is.

The results are pretty eyeopening.  On the good side some of my favorites Dove Vivi,Vita Cafe , Kuhn Pics Thai, La Bonita, Vegetarian House and Paradox Cafe all scoring in the high 90’s or getting perfect 100.  On the bad side a number of places I eat didn’t fair so well.  Nicholas Restaurant had a pretty long list of issues and a paltry 77 score, Pad Thai Kitchen 61,  and places like Laughing Planet and Opposable Thumb Gallery Cafe seemed to have the very common issue of employees NOT washing their hands when they should.

Of course this database is just a peek at one point in time in the life of a restaurant, but it’s a good starting point to see just how clean the places you’re eating at really are.

Categories: Food, Portland Tags:

Portland Author Devon Monk – Magic To The Bone

December 24, 2008 1 comment
Magic To The Bone by Devon Monk

Magic To The Bone by Devon Monk

One upside to being snowed in for almost a week is that I’ve had the opportunity to catch up on some of my reading.  My latest read comes from Portland author Devon Monk.

Magic to the Bone uses Portland (especially St. Johns) as the backdrop for a story of magic and mystery.  Magic “hounder “(essentially a magic detective) Allie is in over her head.  Allie’s use of magic continues to have strong side effects including acute memory loss, which is not helpful when she’s hot on the trail of a magical murder.  Soon Allie gets caught up in the very case she’s investigating with a conspiracy that reaches far deeper than she’d ever imagined.

Magic to the Bone reads like a union of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series and Jim Butcher’s Dreseden Files, however it’s not an imitator. Devon Monk has original ideas about magic, its use and how it impacts people. Her style is  incredibly readable and it has the essential elements key to a blockbuster series. Monk’s characters are well drawn and engaging.  The love interest is dark and mysterious (ala Stephanie Plum) but with enough depth to make him more than wallpaper.

What I loved the most about Magic to the Bone was how it painted St. Johns as a gritty and rough part of town, avoided by most, but with a special something for the people who inhabit it.  It’s the kind of love note to St. Johns that Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys is to Pittsburgh.

With the next installment in this new series, Magic In the Blood, slated for May of 2009, Devon Monk has a real shot at building a best selling franchise series. Hopefully readers in her home town can provide the base from which she can really launch that career.

More info:

Categories: Books Tags:

Chris Botti Delivers a Love Note to Jazz and Portland

December 21, 2008 3 comments
Chris Botti

Chris Botti with The Oregon Symphony

The Oregon Symphony does not crap around: at exactly seven thirty, not a moment after conductor Gregory Vajda took the podium and started off the evening of music. I’ve been to a lot of performances and concerts in my time and I’ve never been to one that started exactly, precisely, absolutely on time. Vajda didn’t want to waste a minute, he knew he only had two hours with his symphony and he wanted to use every last minute of that time performing.

The first act of the evening was a brisk 30 minute set by the symphony sans Chris Botti. Many conductors could have seen this as being sort of an ‘opening band’ to the main performer, but Vadja took the reigns and delivered a blockbuster set.  Mixing traditional Christmas carols with seasonal tunes Vadja lead the symphony through a wide range of tempos and styles, seamlessly transitioning from one to the next. The set came to its apex with the crescendo for “Farandole”  (from Suite No. 2 from L’Arlésienne) which flirted with an ovation from the audience.

The first act was capped with an extremely uptempo and frisky rendition of Frosty The Snowman arranged by Vadja himself. Think 50’s lounge version done with a wide orchestra, it was certainly unique. In just thirty minutes of performing Gregory Vajda showed what a phenomenal and dynamic conductor he is. This was the first performance of the Oregon Symphony with Gregory Vajda conducting that I’ve attended and it left me wanting to see more.

After a brief intermission Chris Botti took the stage. Botti is backed by a very talented band, each accomplished individually but chose to tour extensively with Botti.  Starting out with fairly traditional light jazz, the evening seemed like it was going to be an evening of Botti’s Greatest Hits.  The Oregon Symphony was pretty light in their accompaniment with  conductor Gregory Vajda doing  more head bobbing along with the music than conducting. But Botti quickly transitioned from light jazz to pure jazz and traversed a musical journey as diverse and enjoyable as the evening’s opening set.

Botti is extremely charismatic and talented but he uses the spotlight sparingly instead opting to share the stage with the other talented musicians he plays with. Botti’s extremely humble approach is refreshing and it’s reflected in his playing.  One high moment of the evening came from the performance of Miles Davis‘s Flamenco Sketches from Kind of Blue where the Oregon Symphony connected with the song in a phenomenal way.  It may seem like a near impossibility for a Symphony to play jazz, but the Oregon Symphony came as close as you can get with one of the more ambitious conducting tasks of the night.

There were a lot of high points to Botti’s performance including a haunting duet between Chris Botti and guitarist Mark Whitfield on Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah. The performance captured all the nuances of Buckley’s arrangement while imbuing it with Botti’s own signature style.  American Idol backup singer Sy Smith took the stage for a brilliantly jazzy rendition of The Look of Love. The chemistry between Smith and Botti’s band was so good I could have watched an entire evening of them.

The absolute high point of the evening was when violinist Lucia Micarelli joined Botti to play the theme song from Cinema Paradiso.  Lucia Micarelli is mind blowingly talented and perhaps the best violinist I’ve heard. Together with Botti, Micarelli elevated the evening to a height so far above the rest of the performance. The two only played two songs together and as with Sy Smith I could have easily listened to an entire evening of the two playing together.

Botti finished the evening by turning off his mics and doing an ‘un-plugged’ version of Frank Sinatra’s favorite lounge act closing song. It was refreshing to hear Botti’s trumpet in its unamplified state, it presented a different perspective on his work and talent and was a great way to close the evening.

Chris Botti is an extremely talented and hard working musician who continues to have the ability to make each performance feel fresh and unique. Botti continues to surround himself with talented performers who deliver world class music at every outing. Chris Botti: Home for the Holidays was an excellent showcase of that talent as well as a love note to Jazz and the town where he learned his craft.

More info:

Categories: Music Tags: ,

Portland Snow

December 18, 2008 Comments off
On Portland Snow
On Portland Snow

We’ve had a good amount of snow lately, but today’s snow storm was one of the prettiest I’ve seen in Portland.

Here’s some video I snapped while walking in the snow:

Categories: Pictures of Portland Tags:

@PortlandRain Storms Twitter

December 12, 2008 Comments off

When I first saw @PortlandRain I was skeptical. I thought it was some sort of Twitter marketing ploy by one of the firms in town that specializes in Social Media Marketing. But the more I’ve followed @PortlandRain the more I’ve realized that it’s not marketer, but some sort of artist or poet using Twitter as their canvas.

Just check out some of these recent @PortlandRain tweets:

Believe it or not, PotlandRain isn’t at home. Please leave a message at the bee-eep. I must be out, or You would be we t. Where could I be?
Had a long night. Taking a few hours off this morning.

Only one day of rain and @PortlandSun is back! Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue

I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining. Because I’m free (&Thankful), Nothing worrying me

@PortlandRain has been getting a fair amount of attention lately, first with an interview with the Oregon Red Cross Blog and then one with the Portland Water Bureau@PortlandRain was even mentioned on a recent episode of 7 Live @ The Square.

However, @PortlandRain really hit its tipping point today as a rain storm blanketed Portland  and @PortlandRain stormed twitter.  I think I saw as many references today to @PortlandRain as I have to #bacon this whole week. @PortlandRain even seemed to trump the highly anticipated release of WordPress 2.7.

Since the launch of @PortlandRain there have been a lot of other weather related twitters (including @PortlandSun and @PortlandSnow), but none seem to have the level of whit and character as @PortlandRain. Portland has long been known for its rain, so it’ll be interesting to see if @PortlandRain finds national prominence.

Categories: Portland, Technology Tags: