Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On Not Selling Out to Big Businesses

Back in 1969, I got a job with State Mutual Life Assurance Company of America at their headquarters in Worcester, Massachusetts. The building was on a large tract of land facing Lincoln Street on the northeast side of the city. It had a large expanse of front lawn with a side street on either side. One thing I noticed was there were several houses still along one of the side streets breaking up the landscaped expanse. It was obvious the homeowners had resisted selling to the large insurance company. There were two or three houses, and they weren't all together. There was one empty landscaped lot between at least two of the houses.

I thought of that recently when I Stumbled Upon this:

Right where she was

The story is about a woman who refused to sell her home and lot, so the developer built a shopping center around her. In this case, she was considerably more hemmed in than the stubborn Worcester homeowners. At least they didn't have huge buildings only a few feet away from their homes, unlike the woman in the Ballard area of Seattle.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

America's Best Idea

This week I'm watching the Ken Burns series National Parks: America's Best Idea. Like all of his projects, it's great. It's got the standard Burns hallmarks: good music featuring folk musicians, lots of archival photos and old motion picture clips, famous people reading the words of people in the story, and absolutely gorgeous cinematography. It's something I hope everyone is watching.

I never visited a national park until 1972, the year my then-wife and I moved to Denver. We took a long day trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is northwest of Boulder. Up until that year, I'd lived almost all my life in New England, which only has one national park, Acadia on the coast of Maine, and my parents never vacationed in Maine. I did finally get to go to Acadia in the early '80s when I was with a young woman whose family had a cottage on a pond near Waterville, which was about a couple of hours' drive from Acadia. Both parks were very beautiful. In between, in '76 and again in '78 I visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. The '78 also included a drive through Shenandoah National Park along the Skyline Drive.

Between 1995 and 1998 I took several trips out to California and saw Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Sequoia and Redwood National Parks.

During my 9,000-mile drive around the eastern two-thirds of the country in September '98 I saw several parks. I visited Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Yellowstone in Wyoming and Montana, Grand Teton in Wyoming, Arches in Utah, Mesa Verde in Colorado, and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, then drove through Great Smoky Mountains about a week or so later.

Oregon only has one national park, Crater Lake, which I visited in 2001. Mount Rainier in Washington is closer, but I didn't get up there until this summer as part of a day trip that included seeing Mount St. Helens from the east side's Windy Ridge.

All of the parks have been well worth seeing, and I wish I'd spent more time in some of them. If there's a break in the weather, which is starting its shift into winter, I'd like to go directly up to Mount Rainier and spend more than just a few hours. That first trip was shorter than I would've liked since it took more time than I'd thought to get to Windy Ridge and then north up to the highway to Mount Rainier.

In the course of my travels, I've also visited a number of national monuments (Mount St. Helens is one) and Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras National Seashores.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Am Here

I was using StumbleUpon and came across a site where a guy figured out the size of one pixel on Google Earth seen from the height of one kilometer. He figured it's an 82 centimeter square. For those of us stuck with feet and inches, that's a tad over 32 inches square. He then created a piece of conceptual art by burning a square that size into some grass and calling it Dead Pixel in Google Earth.

I like Google Earth a lot. It's fun to look at places I've been or lived in. Every now and then I'll look at the house I used to live in back in Massachusetts. I've also used it to look at changes that have taken place in that area since I moved away.

Recently someone in the Circle of Merry Folk on started a thread asking people to add their location on a Google map. Several people did it, including me. Since I live in a major metropolitan area, Google maps and Google Earth show where I live in pretty good detail. My car shows up in the current photo. It's pretty blurry when you zoom in all the way, but I know it's my car. The color is right and I always park in the same spot unless someone else grabs it when I'm gone, and that only happens rarely.

With that level of detail, I figured when I put my locator on the map, I'd zoom in and place it as accurately as I could. So the little blue "pin" isn't just over my address. It isn't just over my apartment. I went all out and using the location of a bush outside next to the window I'm sitting next to, I placed it so it's right above my head as I sit here typing this. It turns out that it also shows up on Google Earth.

I also wrote down the latitude and longitude that shows exactly where I'm sitting, or at least as accurately as latitude and longitude can get. I am at 45ยบ31'20.85 N. (I won't post the longitude - you never know who's out there.) A line drawn along that would probably go through my car, bed, bathroom and kitchen sinks, me, my paper shredder and the porches of four apartments to my left.

It's nice knowing where you are.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Writer's Almanac

Using StumbleUpon, I rediscovered Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac. I'd heard it on the radio several years ago, but almost all my listening is done in the car. About the only radio I listen to while home is Fiona Ritchie's The Thistle & Shamrock on NPR on Saturday evenings. I don't recall if I'd seen the website for the almanac before, but I might've come across it. That would have been before I started using Bloglines, a site I use to keep track of sites I like to visit. When I came across The Writer's Almanac yesterday, I added it to Bloglines immediately.

I'm not really a big fan of poetry. I blame the lackluster public school education of a third-rate system in the '50s and '60s for that. But I like the idea of getting a poem a day read by Garrison Keillor. I've always liked the way he tells his stories.

There's a choice on the website of reading the text, listening to Keillor, or both. On the site, the poem is at the top of the page followed by other information about birthdays of noteable people which sometimes includes the author of the presented poem. The order is different when you listen. The poem is read after the other information. Also, what's written on the page differs from what Keillor says. There's usually a bit more detail in the writing. That's probably because the spoken version has to fit into a fixed time.

I'm finding that I'd rather listen than read at first, then pick up some of the details from the page after listening. There's also an email newsletter which I just signed up to get.

All in all, this was a good find.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Getting Back to Blogging

It's been four months since my last post. I got the feeling I was mostly talking/writing to myself with this blog. That may be, but this evening a friend in the Circle of Merry Folk on posted about a site called National Blog Posting Month. I checked it out and decided to join and start blogging again. Maybe I'll still be talking/writing mostly to myself, maybe not. We'll see (or I'll see if it turns out I really am only talking/writing to myself).

Briefly, here's a little of what I've done over the past few months:

I made a couple of additional trips to the International Rose Test Garden. I've put up quite a few items featuring photos from all the trips on Zazzle, so you might want to check out my Zazzle store by clicking the link over there on the left.

I finally decided to camp out at Faerieworlds this year and got a camping ticket just before prices went up a bit. I think they only went up about $5, but why pay more? I found out about the Circle of Merry Folk (COMF) on and joined. It was a good move. I got to know some folks online, then met them at Faerieworlds.

Faerieworlds turned into quite a big deal this time around. They changed the location of the event from Secret House Winery in Veneta to the Mount Pisgah Arboretum just southeast of Eugene. It's much closer to I-5 and much easier to get to. I took a trip in early July to the new location and got some photos and shot a short video where I stood at the edge of the main event field and panned from left to right. The COMFy folks appreciated it. I signed up for a storytelling workshop with Mark Lewis, one of the emcees at FW. Then I volunteered so I could camp a day early rather than drive down for the workshop, drive home, then drive back the next day (cheaper than a motel, but a lot of driving).

It was extremely hot during the days before Faerieworlds, and still very hot during the event. I ended up making an extra trip because I got to the site Thursday morning (July 30) and just before I would have been able to go in and set up camp, I realized I'd left my two wizard robes at home. So I made the extra trip after all, but still got back to Eugene in time for the workshop.

I also got involved in an independent film project started by a woman from New York who was inspired by Faerieworlds. I had a small part as a wizard, and since I use Spoonerisms as part of my persona at Faerieworlds, that was incorporated into the script. I only had a few lines. It was a very interesting thing to do, but I ended up missing almost all the daytime events on Saturday.

It was great to have folks to talk to during my time at Faerieworlds. There was a COMFy kitchen area set up. I contributed a bunch of paper plates to the effort, so I didn't end up spending much on food at the event itself. I ended up sharing my chair with Jason from Los Angeles, another new COMFy person. It was his first time at any kind of festival and he really liked it. On Friday I shot pictures of the opening spiral dance by getting right inside it, so I got lots of good shots.

Other events included a new Renaissance faire, Canterbury, in Silverton, about an hour south of here. I went for one day each of the two weekends and took pictures, including a bunch of Alexander James Adams. After Faerieworlds I went to the Washington Renaissance and Fantasy Faire in Buckley, WA east of Tacoma. That faire got cancelled last year due to local politics in Mason County, WA. The new location is in Pierce County where the faire was formerly held, although the site is not that near the old site. This past weekend, the 19th & 20th, I went to the Portland Pirate Festival both days and met up with a few COMFy folk. On Sunday I was part of the setting of a new Guinness World Record for the most people gathered in one place dressed as pirates. There were 1,651 people who registered.

I also took a few day trips. I went up to Mount St. Helens and the Johnston Ridge Observatory, then I took another drive up to Windy Ridge on the east side of the mountain another day. That trip was combined with a drive up to Mount Rainier, which isn't that far away, but I'd never been before. It was kind of a brief trip there because going up to Windy Ridge took longer than I'd planned. Another trip took me down to Sisters, Oregon and then over the McKenzie Pass along a back road that goes through a lava field from an eruption that took place about 1,000 years ago.

During July I pretty much stopped doing stuff on Squidoo, although I did create a couple of Faerieworlds-related lenses. After over a year and a half, I realized I'd put a lot of time and energy into it, but I certainly wasn't making much money. I have literally thousands of links to and, plus a bunch of links to CD Baby, on those lenses and results have been really disappointing. I never made more than $40 in any one month, and most months it's been a lot less. Making all the lenses was interesting, and I did make them on subjects I'm genuinely interested in. I just thought with all that there'd be more activity. The lousy economy may have something to do with it, but still, it hasn't been terribly rewarding. It doesn't help that I really suck at promoting stuff.

So, I'm back to blogging. I'll try to post something every day, even if it's just something I've seen online using StumbleUpon. Usually there's something interesting seen using that.