Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Luggage - Almost Done

The Luggage turned out to be a much bigger project than I first imagined. With so many different things coming together that one might not expect to go together, it's meant a lot a making up things as I went along. I changed my mind about wheels, for instance, several times, but I'm happy I ended up with big ones. Just the way they handle the entry between my little deck and inside over the sliding door frame, I'm not expecting much trouble with the terrain at Faerieworlds.

In the past few days, after putting the teeth in, I've worked on getting the red webbing placed. I thought 10 yards of it would be more than enough, but I was wrong and just found that out this afternoon. I had to make a quick trip to Fabric Depot for two more yards and I also picked up two more packets of fabric nails. I probably should have gotten four packets or 96 in all because I still ran a little short. But I did find some leftovers from several years ago that aren't too different, so I did some filling in with them.

Next came the legs and feet, which I'd cut out over Sunday and Monday. I had gotten some black batting originally intended to be used with the black wizard robe to hide the wires for the lights, but I ended up using black Duck Tape. (That's its name - I know the stuff is really duct tape, but this brand comes in colors and patterns.) So I did some measuring and cutting. I couldn't put it all along the side because the front wheels turn out beyond the sides. So I cut the batting so it wouldn't get hit by the wheel in front. While placing the legs on with glue, I found that only four sets of legs instead of five would fit on the batting without overlapping. So I used the fifth set to see about attaching a partly cut photo to the front wheel. With some experimenting, cutting, and getting Super Glue on my fingers again, I was able to attach it. I hope it stays. I'm hoping all the feet survive the weekend.

I still have to put on the legs, feet and batting on the other side, but at least I did enough for the photo. After that, all it needs is something for towing around.

More costume work after posting this, and I hope I get everything done by late afternoon tomorrow so I can assemble everything for Thursday morning's loading.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Scaling back a little

I've been looking at the stuff to be done and frankly, there's more than I can do before I will have to gather everything together on Wednesday for loading the car Thursday morning. So I'm scaling back a bit. I'm not feeling disap-pointed, I'm just feeling realistic about the time left and my own procrastinating habits.

The Luggage is coming along nicely and I can finish it on time. I think it's going to look pretty good. I've got the feet and legs photos to put on, the red webbing, and something for the interior.

Photo by Suzanna Schneider
The costumes need a little tweaking, but they'll be done as well. I've already put one set of lights on the faerie/wizard hat I've worn for the past few years, and I've got some lights on the black wizard robe with more to come. I have four stovepipe hats to steampunkify and I'm sure I can get those done. They'll be simpler than the 4-clock hat I made a couple of years ago. Got all the parts, just need to bring them together.

Where I'm scaling back is the faerie vardos and houses. If I can get all the other stuff done and still have time for them, I might work more on them, but basically I think they'll be for the future. I'm concerned they're not developing well enough at this point to look saleable and might even detract from the Three Moons Emporium booth. I do not want to sell junk.

A fairy house from Fairy Woodland
I am definitely interested in keeping up with craft stuff after Faerieworlds. I did craft shows back in the '70s when I made clocks that incorporated string art designs. So for next year's Faerieworlds, I think I'll have something that looks like people would want to put in their homes or maybe outside in their yards.
More time was spent thinking than doing, but all the thinking will, I believe, bring results, just not in time for Faerieworlds. I have lots of ideas for faerie houses based on stuff I've seen, including the site The Enchanted World of Fairy Woodland, which is where the photo at left is from. I got their DVD last year and while I want to develop my own method of construction, there are lots of great ideas there. It would be nice to go to one of their workshops, but without a car I don't know if that's practical. It's very appealing, so perhaps I can find a way to attend one. Their main page features a fairy house with a clock. I'd love to make fairy houses with clocks.

Well, I still have lots to do, so I'd better get to it!


I have an HP "Photosmart" printer. It has worked very well for normal needs requiring 8 1/2" x 11" paper. One thing this printer called "Photosmart" isn't very good at is actually printing photos. First off, it won't print a 4x6 photo from the computer. It keeps claiming a size mismatch and jams. So I remembered from doing the 2FLOWR license plate I had to transfer the files to an SD card and put that card in the printer. With the license plate it worked well enough that after a few tries I got what I wanted.

This time, however, I wanted to print a pair of legs with the feet in colorful socks. Even after I remembered about putting the pics on the SD card, it still jammed several times running. Finally I decided to give it one last try. It actually printed, but cut off one heel and the toes on the other foot.

So I tried reducing the image a little bit and reprinting after remembering to put a white layer under the image because the canvas size was still 4x6 and transparancies print black which tends to be very thick and bleeds into the wanted image.

Nope, jam, jam, jam.

Forget it. Not being a particular fan of frustration, I decided to go up the street to Walgreens with my SD card. I needed bread and TP anyway.

Walgreens was a much better experience, at least so far. Their photo printing computer was very easy to use. I've never used it before but had very little trouble figuring it out. I ordered 10 of the two images in this post. Fortunately I had realized early in my planning that any image that went on one side would have to be reversed for the other if I wanted all the feet facing the right way.

The photos should be ready in about 15 minutes or so. Maybe I'll give it a little extra time. It cost me $5.80. I haven't decided whether I should cut the image out from the background or just leave the white there. I'll be mounting them in a piece of black cloth which will help hide the wheels a bit although not completely. The front wheels, being on rotating casters, stick out on one side or the other during turns.

Friday, July 20, 2012


I haven't been posting much on progress toward getting ready for Faerieworlds, partly because I've no amateur crastinator, I'm a pro. Also I've been doing a little of this, a little of that, but not, frankly, enough so far.

Today, at least has been different, as it had to be with only six days to get everything together. That's counting through Wednesday. Thursday morning I pick up the rental car, load up and head to Faerieworlds to help set up Three Moons Emporium's booth near the gate between the main field and the Inner Circle camping area.

Today was devoted to giving The Luggage it's teeth. As one of the little things I'd done earlier, I'd shaped a bunch of craft sticks by giving each end a point. The plan was to cut them in two later, so each stick = two teeth. They were very sharp, though, and I was concerned about installing them that way.

Today one of the first things I did was cut off and sand the points so I wouldn't impale myself (or some inquisitive kid) on the points. I'd figured out how to mount them, generally, and today worked out the specifics.

I'd bought six cheap covered wagon kits for the wheels for the faerie vardos. Left over were 18 pieces of wood for the wagon sides. I had just about enough to use four sets of two of them glued together to attach to the inside of The Luggage about an inch below the top of the front side. I also used four more wagon sides to glued to the top of the lid. I had discovered I would need to offset the teeth instead of just gluing them inside the lid because they'd hit the side when they came down. With the four small boards, the top teeth cleared the front nicely.

The bottom teeth needed the two small boards time four so the top teeth would overlap the bottom teeth. That worked nicely on the left side where I started gluing bottom teeth, but not so great on the right side. The lid alignment is off just enough to make the top and bottom teeth hit. I found that by gluing another craft stick between the eight right teeth and the two wagon sides, things worked much better. Guess that's to be expected with the inexact art of bodgering - the trunk was never meant to have teeth. Or wheels, either.

So there it is, with freshly-painted teeth done with antique white acrylic paint. That's a piece of 2x4 holding the lid up to show both sets of teeth. I think they came out nice and kind of ragged, which is what I was going for. The flash probably makes the teeth look a bit whiter than they really are.

Next I need to add the red webbing, then get something to use as a rope to pull it along.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Legend of the Map - Faerieworlds

Today on the Faerieworlds Facebook page, Sylver asked if there was a list of vendors for this year's event. I had just posted a link to that list along with a link to the map showing where vendors, stages, etc. will be located. So I meant to post the exhibitor list, but first posted the map link instead, that being the last URL I'd copied. I realized I hadn't posted the right answer, and was correcting it when Sylver posted another comment in the thread: "Is there a legend to that map?" After posting the exhibitor list, I got to thinking about his question in another sense than he meant it. This was the result:

The Legend of the Map

Many years ago, in the far-off land of Arizona, a group of fae folk known as Woodland made music. Being a sharing folk, they used arcane methods to put their music on a magical disk, The Disk of CeeDee. This magical Disk of CeeDee was called "Twilight" - a title later stolen by the scribing Witch of Forks for her stories about sparkling vampires.

The Illustrious Brian of Froud
This magical Disk of CeeDee was made even more enchanted when Woodland entreated the illustrious faerie artist in the Land of Devon across the Great Ocean for the use of his faerie painting "The Faerie Who Was Kissed by the Pixies." Brian of Froud, being a kind and generous sort, granted this boon to Woodland.

The Woodland fae made it known to friends of faeries in their region of the land of Arizona that their magical Disk of CeeDee would be released unto the world on a certain date. On that momentous occasion, Robert of Gould, he of the City of Angeles and representative on this side of the Great Ocean for Brian of Froud, contacted Emilio of Miller-Lopez and his enchantress, Kelly, to enquire as to progress of the event.

"Robert!" Emilio cried, "There's over two hundred people in faerie costumes outside and I've never met any of them! Thus was the idea of a special celebration of fae folk and their friends born. This celebration came to be known far and wide as Faerieworlds.

The Musical Fae of Woodland
Not long after, the fae folk of Woodland left the land of Arizona for the land of much Winter rain and abundant Summer Sun known as Oregon. Faerieworlds opened the door between the Fae and the Humans in an enchanted place known to Humans as Horning's Hideout. The Faerieworlds door opened for two days in the year of 2004.

The next manifestation of Faerieworlds happened in the Summer of 2005 near another enchanted place, the site of the Oregon Country Fair, itself known for attracting magickal and fae folks. For four Summers, the Winery of the Secret House, which, despite it's name, was well-known among both Humans and Fae, was the site of the annual Faerieworlds celebration. It expanded to three days in 2008.

The Stone Circle of Faerieworlds
Alas, the Winery was unable to host the fae celebration in 2009, but with the cooperation of the good folk in the County of Lane, Faerieworlds swiftly relocated to the Enchanted Arboretum of Mount Pisgah, where revelers were able to erect their temporary domes of pleasure and rest for the three days of merry-making. In 2010, a Stone Circle consisting of eight Standing Stones, each representing a Celtic Feast Day, appeared in the field, signifying that the Fae and their Human friends intended to create their magickal world for three enchanting and entrancing day each glorious Summer.

The Great Map of Faerieworlds on the Tubes of Inter.
Through the magic of the Tubes of Inter, a Great Map of Faerieworlds was born to assist Humans in navigating their way amongst the purveyors of clothing, faerie art, and wondrous foodstuffs while magickal and enchanted performers of music, including Woodland, kept the spirits of the fae revelry alive.

The Fae and their Human friends will gather at the Enchanted Arboretum of Mount Pisgah near Eugene, Oregon from Friday the 27th of August through Sunday the 29th.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Where I'll Be at Faerieworlds 2012


I just did a bit of poking around on the Faerieworlds website to see if the site map had been updated (the actual layout of the area, not the website map). I found the 2012 map here - Three Moons Emporium is booth #2219. It's in the lower left corner of the magenta area on the left, putting it just outside the gate between the main area and Inner Circle camping. There should be a lot of people going back and forth by the booth, which is good as long as they stop by now and then. I'm not sure what the white square at the gate is for. I think at one time it was going to be the big pyramid, but I think that has been relocated.

In two weeks I'll be there and I still have a lot of stuff to do. Gotta get off the Intertoobs more and make stuff. I have got a couple of strings of battery-powered lights on my black wizard robe for wearing after sunset. It needs two more strings, one for each cuff (they're six feet around!) and a couple of strings for the wizard hat with all the faeries. They're excited about that! That's high on my agenda for today, along with a few modifications to the Sorting Hat and the Jedi robe for the Rincewind outfit. The bucket hat arrived last week and I've been wearing it when I go out. It's comfortable and keeps the Sun off my head.

Beca, the person in charge of Three Moons Emporium is from the Seattle area. She had thought until today that she'd be taking the train to Portland and a bus to Eugene. I'd offered to meet her at the train station in Portland. But friends of hers have room for her and her stuff, so I'll see her in the Realm two weeks from today. That will, of course, work out far better for her.

Since the booth is at a corner, I hope I'll have room for my tent fairly near to the booth. I got a 25' extension cord to run from the booth to the tent and I'll have colored lights strung on the tent.

I've been thinking beyond Faerieworlds for craft stuff - faerie houses, faerie vardos, steampunk hats, etc. I may put stuff up online if I get good results at FW.

Off for a bit more shopping. They're supposed to be turning off the water for a few hours around now, so it'll be prudent not to be here. I've never lived in a place where the water has been turned off so often, but then, I've lived here continuously longer than anywhere else since 1970.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Music for Celtic Faeries and Friends

Music for Celtic Faeries and Friends
A couple of weeks ago, one of my Facebook friends, Sylver, who is also a member of A Circle of Merry Folk, made a mix on MixCloud for folks to listen to as they make preparations for Faerieworlds. I thought about all the music I have and have written about and thought it might be fun to make my own mix. After all, I was once host of a couple of folk shows on WICN, a public radio station in Worcester, MA.

I've been busy with my own FW preparations, but I did join MixCloud back after I had listened to some of Sylver's "Crispy Crow Radio." Even without having uploaded a mix, I got four followers. Seemed like I should put together something and upload it. (The caption under the photo is a link to the results. Why not listen while you read?)

Fortunately, one of the programs MixCloud recommends for creating mixes is Audacity and it come in a Linux version. I didn't know a whole lot about it, but this morning I plunged in to put something together. It ended up taking most of the day. Choosing the music was the easiest part. Figuring out how to add stuff and arrange it so it didn't all play at once took a little learning. Quite frankly, Audacity's Help wasn't much help at all. I found myself searching the Intertoobs to get my questions answered. But I muddled through and learned how to timeshift selections and position them so they flow pretty evenly with no big gaps.

Some of the files I used were off of YouTube, including Chiftitelli by Adam Hurst, the resident Gypsy Cello player of Faerieworlds. It was only uploaded by Adam on June 18 and I really wanted to include it, so I had to find out about using YouTube sound. More learning.

Eventually I got 24 tracks of music from Faerieworlds performers and other Celtic performers I like. I thought I had everything in the right place, so then it was off to the Intertoobs again to figure out how to upload the results to MixCloud. Their Help wasn't very informative either, but I realized I had to convert the whole mix into one MP3 file. Once I figure out how to get that going, it looked like it was going to take nearly three hours. In the end, it took less time.

Ready to upload? Well, I thought so. So I uploaded the big file. While it was uploading, I created a list of the tracks. Now, if I really knew what I was doing, each track, while being played, would be highlighted. But the option of marking where one track ends and another starts later was offered, so I passed for now. With a few more bits of info filled in, and with the upload finished while I was creating the track list, I was ready to listen.

So, I sent a tweet about it, then used the link in it to start my first mix. The first few tracks went through just fine. Then suddenly there was this big silence. A really big silence. Then the next track started. To make matters worse, partway through that track, the track that was supposed to follow it started. Uh-oh.

I went back to Audacity and saw that those files I thought I'd so carefully arranged had gotten moved around. So I stopped the mix, deleted my tweet and the Facebook message the tweet had created and figured out how to delete the mix from MixCloud.

Back to Audacity, where I had to do quite a bit of timeshifting. I figured out how to select every track from the first misplaced one to the end and shifted the whole lot. The next time I found a misplaced track, I tried it again, but for some reason only the first file I wanted to move moved. I don't know why. From then on I moved them individually, attempting to place them so they'd flow pretty well. After I got them moved, I sampled the end of a selection with the beginning of the next all the way back to the beginning. To my old radio host ears, it wasn't bad although one of two transitions could've used improvement, but I'd been at it for hours and any gaps were small. Many tracks include a few seconds of silence at the end, and I got most of that overlapped with the next track. Then I saved the file and double-checked. Then it was time to upload the MP3 file again and recreate the track list, which went much easier the second time, of course.

I could've done without having to basically recreate the file placement and uploading, but I did learn more stuff during that part. I've been listening to the results as I've been typing this. Nearly halfway through and so far so good.

I may not do any more mixes until after Faerieworlds, but at least I have something up on MixCloud.

Still More Stuff, More Bodgering

Craft Warehouse had coupons for Monday through Friday this week for 40% off one item each day and 50% off one item on Wednesday. The only day I didn't go was Tuesday. I've kept finding things, so it has been worth the trips. After yesterday, I thought it might be a while before I'd return, but with a change in plans, I made a trip today.

Earlier I had gotten two sets of small wheels at $2.97 a set to be used for the faerie vardos. Another alternative was to buy a small covered wagon kit for $2.99 each which included four spoked wheels. With a difference of $5.94 vs. $17.94, I went for the less expensive option. During the week Bill Cass, a puppeter from Washington state, uploaded some pictures of a wagon/vardo he'd made to serve as a mobile stage for Nymbolnuts, his main puppet character and his friends. It got me to thinking that the small wheels I'd gotten just weren't right. So late this morning I got the packages and went back to Craft Warehouse, where I returned them and instead got six covered wagon kits.

I'm mainly interested in the wheels, of course, but some of the other parts will be useful, if not on the faerie vardos then somewhere else. I'd gotten some 1/4" dowels for axles. I'd also gotten some decorative nails for use on The Luggage. Turns out that sticking them through the holes in the center of the wheels and then into the end of a piece of dowel works out great getting the wheels set up to attach to the vardo. The dowel/axle and the nail/hub don't rotate, but the wheels do. The fancy brass nail heads look pretty good on the spoked wheels, and they'll probably look better once the wheels get painted. I cut a couple of small pieces of the kit (the metal-handled knife is pointing at one in the picture) into two. I'll glue those to the axles and then to the bottom of the vardo.

I just did a little measuring on a couple of the faeries on the wizard hat and realized these faerie vardos are scaled just about right for them. I wonder if I'll be able to find any more of the same kind of faeries anywhere. It's been a few years since I got them. After some searching online, none of my faeries showed up, but of course there are probably thousands of different ones available.

[Much, much later] Sheesh! I wrote this on Saturday. Here it is late Sunday and I find I never published it. CRS at work.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Getting More Stuff

Some days start late for me and don't get moving very fast. Gotta work on overcoming that for the next three weeks if I expect to get the costumes modified, The Luggage done and faerie houses and vardos made. First I checked the mailbox. My Coleman air pump and bucket hat, each mailed separately had arrived together and a day earlier than Amazon estimated, so I went back to the apt. to drop them off, but decided to wear the hat to check it out. It's fine.

I set off again intending to get my Tri-Met pass from the MAX stop across the street (easily done), then walk to the bus stop about 1/4 mile south to go to Harbor Freight for tools to make faerie house windows, get a free flashlight, and cheap tarp and see what else I might find. I'd cut some coupons from the AARP Bulletin for this purpose. But as I approached the bus stop, at just a bit to far to try hurrying up to catch it, the eastbound bus went by. So I then decided I'd wait for the bus in the other direction to go to Home Depot to get the nuts and bolt. That bus didn't take long to come and I didn't spend a lot of time in HD. I found the nuts, the bolt and a couple of eye bolts to attach a rope for pulling The Luggage.

I went back up to catch the same bus line in the eastbound direction. Something must've happened to a bus because it took nearly half an hour of waiting before one came. Meanwhile I saw two buses for another line cross the intersection to the west and I'm pretty sure they run at the same frequency. The bus the eventually came was full as though that one bus was carrying the load of two. It's about a seven mile ride, so along with the wait, there was the time involved just getting out to Harbor Freight.

Once there, I got everything mentioned above plus a short 32-LED flashlight that I may try to see if I can mount on my staff between its top and the glass crystal I mounted atop it several years ago. The idea is to have the light shine up from the flat side and refract all over. I'll have to take things apart to see what the effect will be, then rig up some kind of lever to push on the button at the back of the light which will be against the top of the staff. It may take a bit of bodgering up.

Just for the exercise, I decided to walk the mile or so down to either another bus line or to the end of the MAX line. So I stopped in across the way at Burgerville, a local chain that is far superior to the national burger chains. I don't do that very often, but I hadn't eaten much so far and it was around 4:30, more than two hours since I'd started out.

When I got down to Division Street, I realized the bus would have to go into the Gresham Transit Center and then I'd have to pick up another bus of a different line to continue down Division Street heading west to Craft Warehouse to use a coupon for 40% off one item. So instead, I walked and it was a bit more walking than I thought it would be. Once there I got some acrylic gloss sealer for The Luggage and looked around a bit to see what I could get at similar discounts the rest of the week. Since the walk had taken quite a while, it was now 6 o'clock and they had a special of 20% off on the whole purchase from 6 to 8, so I got some foam brushes. I got more than I'd need just for Faerieworlds preparations since I'm thinking of continuing to do craft stuff beyond then.

So by the time I got back home, I was (and am) pretty tired. I made sure the nuts would work on the bolts, loosely spun them on and tightened a few, but the body isn't liking a lot of bending over right now.

Tomorrow I'll try to get an earlier start to things. I may go back to Craft Warehouse. I was a bit disappointed to realize that the moss sheets I thought I'd buy there are actually something sold at JoAnn's. I was hoping to pick up some at a nice discount, but no such luck, I guess.

Earlier to bed than usual tonight, although as always around the 4th, the neighborhood sounds like a war zone and probably will for at least a couple of hours.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

That's How The Luggage Rolls

After yesterday's rainy afternoon, thing have dried out, so I was able to make some more progress with The Luggage. The air was also drier, so the stain finally felt drier as well. The dewpoint doesn't get over 60 degrees much around here, but it did over the last couple of days, preceded by a day or so when it was nearly that high. With the dewpoint back in the lower 50s, working was easier.

My first job today was to reinforce the bottom of The Luggage with sections of the two 1 x 4s I'd gotten. So I cut four pieces (after measuring twice - I remember some bits of handyman advice at least) to fit lengthwise, using a powered jig saw I hadn't used since the '90s. I applied glue after making sure they all fit - some were a little tight, which was OK. Once the glued boards were in place, I put the wheels on top of them. Since they weigh five pounds each, I thought they'd hold the boards down. I didn't take a picture at that point, so this one to the right shows the boards after the next step.

After an hour or two, I got the new drill out, took out the wheels, marked the hole positions on the bottom of the overturned Luggage, then began drilling. Maybe I should have waited because getting the holes drilled through turned out to be tougher than I thought. It was probably the glue impeding the drilling, but eventually I got all the holes done.

I put the wheels in place and threaded the bolts down into the interior. They all went in, although a few took a bit of gentle coaxing with a lightly applied hammer, which did not damage the threads. I flipped The Luggage upright. As expected, a few bolts promptly fell out, but at least one or two for each wheel stayed put. Then I opened packages of wingnuts.

That's when I realized I hadn't allowed enough clearance between the bolts and the sides for the wingnuts to turn. Oops! But again, I was able to get at least two on per wheel. Looks like I'll be making another trip to Home Depot tomorrow to get some regular nuts. Also I'll need one more bolt because one turned out to be a size smaller than it should've been. As Roseanne Roseannadanna said, "It's always something. If it isn't one thing, it's another." At least this is easily corrected.

Why wingnuts? The idea was it would be easy to remove the wheels and put them inside The Luggage for transporting in a car. It'll still be possible, but I'll have to make sure I have the right sized wrench handy.

In spite of the rain in the afternoon, I still got something done earlier yesterday. Craft Warehouse had a two-day sale this weekend, so I got down there early to get some 60% off birdhouses that I want to turn into faerie houses. I got five different types and a couple of other things, then came back home. After checking stuff online, I decided to get them out of the bags.

One of the birdhouses has a curved roof. It's on the left in the picture to the right. As I took the birdhouses out and found places for them to sit, I took a look at the curved-roof one. Suddenly the word "vardo" came to me. Vardos, if you don't know, are the small wagons the Romani people travel in. I thought of Tricky Pixie's description of their CD Mythcreants - "Gypsy Celtic Folk Rock for Naughty Punk Faeries." Aha! Gypsy faeries!

With that in mind, I made another trip down to Craft Warehouse to see how many more of those birdhouses they had. At first I only found one and was a little disappointed. There were more with barn-style roofs, but I wasn't all that thrilled about them. Then I looked up and saw two more on a high shelf. I was just able to reach them. After that I saw there were two more behind the ones I'd just retrieved. There were some dowels handy, so I grabbed one, stuck it through the hole in each house and was able to move them forward so I could reach them. Now I have six future gypsy faerie vardos. And less than four weeks to get them ready, along with costume stuff and clock hats. Good thing I'm not working elsewhere for pay!

Next I asked a clerk if they had miniature wagon wheels. They did, but the spoked ones were rather pricey and I needed either 12 or 24 depending on whether the vardos would have two or four wheels. Then we spotted some slightly smaller wheels that came 12 to a package for $2.97. So I got two packages for 4-wheeled vardos. They're only 1 1/2" in diameter, but they'll look like wheels you might see on a modern vardo. This picture, from the Flickr page of Shirley Two Feathers, gives some idea of what I'm going for, although it won't be quite as fancy. Looking at images for vardos, I see my imagination can range quite freely in finishing each one off. Oh yeah, each one will have little Oregon license plates like the one I did for The Luggage. These should get done much faster now that I more or less know what I'm doing. Hmm ... maybe I should've waited until I did them before commenting!

The weather forecast is looking better from here on out, with only some early showers possible on Tuesday, otherwise it'll be partly cloudy or sunny every day. Looks like the Northwest saying of "It'll be dry by the Fourth of July is going to work again. That's good because I'd like to work out on the little deck more.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Luggage's License Plate

Since The Luggage will have wheels, it is appropriate to give it a license plate. I found an image of an Oregon plate with only two numbers on it that were not overlapping the land areas. It wasn't too hard to create that part using GIMP's clone tool, making sure the water shades matched, and changing the expiration year was pretty simple too.

Next I decided the plate needed a frame with custom wording on it. I found a frame image and blanked out some type in the middle. Then I had to look up how to make everything in the middle and the edges transparent. Once I got that, the edges of the transparent areas were a bit ragged, so I took some time with the eraser tool with the image blown up to 800 percent.

The next step was to cover up the existing words on the frame using the clone tool, again relatively simple, then adding my own words, getting the size and centering right.

I had to resize both images so when I put the license plate layer behind the frame layer, they would match up all right. That was a bit tricky and took some experimenting.

Next was printing, which turned into a real learning experience. To get better quality and also have the plate printed on something a bit better than plain paper, I decided to use photo paper. I put the paper in properly, but I could not get the file to print on anything but 8.5" x 11" paper. Also, the photo paper kept jamming. Eventually I looked at the printer manual, something I'd found while lifting the printer to get into the back to fish out a piece of photo paper.

It turned out the only thing the manual said for printing photos was to do it from an SD card like the one that goes in my camera. So I put the card in the computer slot and copied the file. I thought it was the right size, but it kept coming out too large even when the paper didn't jam or get stalled so half the paper remained white and the other part had only some of the image. After a lot of attempts, I finally realized I needed an image a lot smaller than I'd originally thought it would be and placed on a canvas size of 4 wide by 6 inches deep. The image itself had to be rotated 90 degrees because the photo paper only fits in the printer one way - portrait style instead of landscape.

Eventually I got the whole plate and frame image on one piece of photo paper. It took 16 tries with the printer - 11 partial images and 4 blank jammed pieces of photo paper.

Looking at it, you can probably see that the frame overlaps the plate a bit. I considered changing the size so it didn't, but then I realized I've seen a lot of real plates with frames where the frame covers edges a bit too much.

Someone with real experience with an image program like GIMP probably could've whipped something like this out in an hour or less. It's taken me closer to four hours, simply because much of the time I was doing stuff I've either never done or only do occasionally.

Just now I realized the weather is playing more tricks. The forecast called for showers early today. There were none here. Then the kids in the pool stopped screaming for a little bit and I realized I was hearing the faint sound of raindrops. I clicked on the Intellicast metro radar and saw that there was indeed a shower. Since The Luggage is still out on the deck drying - it's still a little tacky in spots - I got out my golf umbrella that I bought for extra shade at Faerieworlds '09 - the really hot year - and put it over The Luggage with a bit of moving TL itself. Of course, then the rain stopped and a breeze came up, knocking the umbrella off the porch. In order to get it, I had to go out my door and walk all the way around the building. I put it back and tied a rope to keep it from blowing away again

Finally, I realized the numerals and letters on a Crater Lake plate are supposed to be white, not the dark blue I'd originally used. I'd already flattened the image because .jpg files can't be saved in layers. Trying to just change the color left ragged blue edges all around, so I put another layer over the image and matched the font and size as best I could. There's a little bit of blue around the edges, but you do have to look closely. I think it makes the white type stand out a bit since it's mostly on a light blue background. Strictly speaking, there should be a CA beside the larger type with the C over the A, but GIMP doesn't allow for type condensing (if it does, I haven't discovered it), so it's not there. Probably nobody will notice.

I'd also saved an image of a slow-moving vehicle triangle which you may have seen on pictures of Amish buggies. That was quick to do in GIMP - no real manipulation required except a bit of resizing. It took three tries to print, though. It turns out that this "Photosmart" printer is really bad at printing photos on photo paper. Oh well, it was cheap when I bought it and I rarely print out photos.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Luggage Gets a Coat of Stain

Here's The Luggage, perched on top of my cooler, which made a nice platform for the job of staining. This is with one coat of stain, which was still wet when I took the picture. It feels good to have done something that begins the alteration of the unfinished trunk into The Luggage. I imagine the second coat will improve the appearance, making it a bit darker overall.

I had been thinking of just using an old T shirt to wipe the stain on, but after a trip down to Gresham Town Fair - originally just to get some bread and jam at the outlet bakery - I found some cheap brushes at JoAnn's. They had a pack of three for $1.99. In the picture on the left, you can see two of the brushes on top of the can of stain. The 2" wide one is inside the former potato salad container with some stain I'll use on the next coat. I knew I was saving all those containers for a reason, I just didn't know what at the time.

Pulling all the materials together has been a bit more involved than I thought it would be, with more than a few trips by MAX and bus to round stuff up.

I had intended to start the staining this morning, but first I wanted to take my change from several years of saving to a Coinstar machine to get an Amazon card. I wanted to get an AC-powered air pump for my air mattress and a bucket hat for the Twoflower outfit. I'd gone to one at Fred Meyers in Gateway the other day, but that machine was set so you could only get a coupon that had to be used that day in the store. Yesterday I went to the nearest Albertson's. That machine was full and store people said they were having trouble getting service from Coinstar. So this morning, after checking locations of machines that give out Amazon cards, I went to the Safeway store that's a couple of MAX stops and a brief walk away. That machine was working, but when I punched the button to get an Amazon card, it said they are temporarily unavailable. So I returned home and decided to order anyway, then later get the coins converted into a form I can either deposit or use for something else. After that I went to Gresham for the bread and stuff. That turned out to be a good experience because I bought two jars of strawberry jam and was able to get two loaves of bread from the $1 shelf for free.

I need to drill 16 holes to mount the big casters. I have a battery-powered Black & Decker drill which I haven't used in a few years - being in an apartment, there's not much call for one. So I plugged in the battery charger to charge the batteries. They didn't charge. So yesterday I made a trip to Home Depot, where I'd originally bought the drill. B&D isn't making tools for VersaPak batteries any more. Home Depot had only one battery and it was $24.97. Two would have cost more than I'd spent for the drill in the first place. The HD person mentioned Harbor Freight as an alternative, so I went there by bus.

HF didn't have the batteries either, but they had a 3/8" drill for $19.99. I thought I had a 3/8" bit at home, so I didn't get one there. I did pick up a 25' extension cord and a couple of small LED flashlights, though. Of course, I got home and discovered, no, I didn't have a 3/8" drill bit. So back out again, this time to an Ace Hardware store reached by a MAX and bus trip. It was nearly $6, so I'm spending about $26 for 16 3/8" holes. Well, I'll probably need to drill more to mount something for the rope to pull The Luggage around, and I may add some wood screws to make the bottom, which I'll reinforce with pieces of the boards I got a few days back, more secure. Turns out the bottom of the trunk is much thinner than the sides.

I took a break from typing this post to go out and give The Luggage another coat of stain. This pic, like the first one, is a flash pic shot from just inside the sliding door to the deck. It is darker, although not too much darker.

The local weather radar was showing some showers moving through, but other than some light sprinkles, not much reached the ground. I waited a bit to start the staining, but things didn't get wetter. From the radar, it looks like that's over and done with, so I can leave The Luggage out to dry rather than bring it in and smell stain all night. Fingers crossed on that.

While there are morning showers in the forecast for tomorrow, I'm hoping I'll be able to do some cutting up of boards to reinforce The Luggage's bottom, drill the holes and mount the casters. I might have to get some wood screws even though I'm gluing the boards to the bottom on the inside. I'll also have to prop the lid open to stain the edges of it and the sides. I may line the inside with fabric or just stain it. Then I need to make, paint and mount the teeth. They'll be made out of craft sticks (they look a lot like popsicle sticks, although these are wider. I bought some antique white paint, an off-white color, at Craft Warehouse, because I doubt The Luggage brushes. I've got some mangled butterfly wings to stick in the teeth. There will be fangs!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Luggage: Casting and Swiveling

I've finally, I think, got what I needed in the first place for wheels for The Luggage. While I initially thought the wheels from a stroller I bought would save lots of money, when I started buying stuff to attach them to The Luggage, things began adding up. Nuts and bolts, washers, braces, etc. that I bought the other day cost almost as much as the caster wheels I'd originally considered getting at Harbor Freight. Add in the stroller and it was pretty much the same.

I got stuff during a trip to Home Depot after lots of looking around, asking questions, thinking, etc. But once I got home, some braces I thought were going to be a tight fit turned out to be a bit loose. It got me thinking that whatever I bodged up just wasn't going to stand up to The Luggage being hauled over the ground of what is, for most of the year, a pasture. Plus I began to think I was doing something I have a tendency to do with some projects - overthinking stuff.

So, going for simplicity, I decided to abandon the stroller and consider the money paid for it as chalked up to experience, with most of the hardware to be returned unopened to Home Depot. So I went down to the bus and took another trip out to Harbor Freight.

Once there, I picked out two 5" swivel casters and two 5" fixed casters. But I couldn't shake the feeling that they might not be great on the rough ground. They're a bit smaller than the stroller wheels, which are 6". So I looked a bit more at other wheels on nearby shelves. They have wheels, some more like 8" but needing axles and hardware to hold them on.

Then a bit further down the row I saw some bigger casters. They're inflatable 8" wheels with swivels at $11.69 each (at right) and fixed ones for $9.99.  $43 and change - more than the basic unfinished trunk cost, but really not all that much more than I would've otherwise spent, and these wheels should handle the terrain. They'd better. They not only cost more, they're probably heavier than the trunk itself with all the metal. I put them on the bathroom scale and the four of them come to just shy of 22 pounds. Also, according to the receipt, each wheel was on sale at $5.00 and $5.30 off.

I'll add a couple of 1" x 4" boards to the underside of the trunk for reinforcement and that should make things sturdy enough. Hiding the wheels will be some kind of skirting - cloth or wood to be determined, but whichever, I'll have pictures of lots of feet.

Although Harbor Freight sells all kinds of tools and accessories, they don't sell stuff like nuts and bolts. I'll have to make a trip back to Home Depot for those, but I've got to go anyway to return stuff.

When I was originally thinking of making The Luggage mobile, I thought of just getting a small Radio Flyer-type wagon. That would've been so simple. Then I saw how much even the small ones cost these days, even on eBay.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

More Costuming & The Luggage

I'd been checking around to see about getting a red wizard robe for the Rincewind costume, but wasn't coming up with much. Too bad I don't sew, at least not enough to want to tackle making a whole robe. I was also looking into getting fabric dye or paint to color and existing grey robe I got in 2007 for my second time at Faerieworlds and my first as a wizard. I was also considering dyeing or coloring the Harry Potter Sorting Hat red.

It turns out the old robe is 100% polyester, and from what I was seeing on dye packages, that material comes out light. The hat is also mostly polyester. After a trip down to the Craft Warehouse and Jo-Ann's in Gresham earlier, during which I got a few things - X-Acto knife, blades, gold glitter glue to spell out WIZZARD on the hat (yep, the ZZ is not a typo), and some glow-in-the-dark stars, I got on the internet to look up robes.

I first spotted the Jedi robe shown above on a page Yahoo pulled up. The price was $46 and change. Might've been shipping involved too. So then I checked on Amazon. Their price was $38.53 with free shipping (not super saver - their supplier ships free). This time I was smart enough to remember to order through one of my Squidoo lenses where I split commission with Squidoo. That'll save me about $1.63 (better than nothing). I also used reward points connected to my Amazon credit card, saving another $6.96. So the robe will end up costing me just shy of $30 - not bad. If I'd bought both dye and fabric paint, I might've ended up spending about half of that, so I'm ending up with probably a much better robe, a lot less work, but Rincewind will be clad in brown instead of red. The robe should arrive in about a week.

As for The Luggage, I haven't actually started work on modifications, but I have gotten more material. The best thing for transporting The Luggage on the uneven ground of the Faerieworlds Realm is wheels, preferably bigger wheels than found on typical luggage.

Getting the wheels was more of an adventure than I thought it would be. I checked Harbor Freight, where the website showed a store within easy walking distance of the end of the MAX line in Gresham. Except, the store moved several years ago but they never updated the website. I did a lot of walking several days ago, but there was no store where the website indicated. That was frustrating.

Later I remembered there was a store about a mile or more North of where I'd looked, so I took a bus to the shopping area where the store is really located. On the way to Harbor Freight, where I was contemplating getting four 5" caster wheels at $5.99 each, I had to pass a Salvation Army store. I thought I should check inside for tropical shirts for when I dress as Twoflower, the Discworld's first tourist and original owner of The Luggage.

I found a couple of shirts, then started checking around to see what they had that might have wheels on it. Tucked away in a small hidden section I found a few strollers. One looked quite promising. Instead of just having four wheels, there were four sets of two wheels. The front wheels are on casters so it's steered much like a grocery cart. The wheels were 5", just about right. The stroller was $7.49, far less than the $23.96 I would've paid at Harbor Freight for caster wheels. The shirts were only $7 for both. I did go next door to Harbor Freight, but all I needed was a hacksaw to attack the stroller for the wheels. That was only $3.99.

I also recently made a trip to Fabric Depot where I wanted to see if they had webbing similar to what's used for duffel bag handles. There was some red 1 1/2" webbing on the shelf, but not enough. I asked if they had any more in stock. The clerk came out with a fresh roll of 10 yards. She said if I wanted the whole roll, I could get it at the wholesale price of 40% off the $1.59/yd. or about 95 cents a yard. Considering how I plan to use the webbing, I'll need enough so getting the whole roll at wholesale is a good deal. I also got some decorative upholstery nails.

The wizard hat I've been wearing since 2007 will get some new butterflies, the Flitter Faerie and the Wendy Froud faerie along with little lights. I hadn't planned on taking a picture of the hat, but when the faeries saw me taking other pictures, they were rather insistent that they get their picture taken as well. You may notice there aren't too many butterflies on the hat just now. They kind of got smooshed last November on the flight back from New York. Wendy's faerie is perched atop the Star Trek shuttle model/radio with new butterflies almost covering her up, and the Flitter faerie is in front of a couple of the new butterflies. The hat sits right behind me when I'm at the computer, so the faeries keep an eye on stuff.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Luggage 1: Acquisition

The skies looked pretty threatening today, the the weather radar wasn't showing any rain, so I ventured out with my two-wheeled hand truck to get the unfinished trunk which will become The Luggage (see the previous post if you don't know what I mean). If I still had an operating car, I would've just jumped in, gone down to the Craft Warehouse at Gresham Town Fair and put it in the car for the trip home.

Instead, I got the hand truck, a bit of rope and a stretchy cord with hooks and hopped on the MAX. Although the trunk isn't all that heavy, it is bulky, so just trying to carry it by the handles would've been difficult.

One I got the trunk and paid for it, I secured it to the hand truck while outside the store, then stopped into the bakery outlet next door that sells Orowheat bread for half or less than what regular stores charge. Got a couple of loaves and a couple of jars of strawberry jam, which went in my backpack. The trip home was no trouble at all.

These pictures show what The Luggage looks like before any modification. It's not the sturdiest trunk in the world, but it's a prop, not something for traveling by tramp steamer and on into the dark interior jungles of Borneo. Still, there is a good deal of room in it, so I'll probably pack some light stuff for the trip to Faerieworlds and perhaps use it for carrying around snacks, costume changes, etc.

The next thing I want is a set of casters to mount on the bottom. The casters should have big wheels. I'm thinking 5" wheels will make it easier to maneuver over the rough ground of The Realm. 6" casters would be better, but 5" casters cost $5.99 each and 6" casters are around $14.99 each at the Harbor Freight store. I checked Amazon, but Harbor Freight is cheaper.

The trunk is 25 1/2" wide by 15 1/2" deep by 17 1/2" in height including the lid. Knock off an inch for inside measurements, except the depth from the bottom to the top of the box, minus the lid, is 13 1/2".

As this project develops, I'll try to remember to take pictures to show how things are coming along.

Rincewind and The Luggage

I headed out to Gresham Town Fair this afternoon, intending to see if JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts had little bird houses for a buck apiece. I had thoughts of buying a bunch to make into faerie houses - rather small faerie houses. They were still being sold for a buck. I looked around a bit more there to get ideas for stuff needed for modifications, but I wanted to check out Michael's and a Dollar Store down near the end of the MAX line. Also on the way to the MAX I stopped into the Craft Warehouse in the Town Fair.

Originally I intended just to get some more tiny light strings for the steampunk top hats I need to finish. I got the lights and a few doodads to add to the hats. Meanwhile, outside, a downpour had begun, so I took my time. I looked around for more materials ideas and while doing that, spotted some unfinished trunks for $29.99 and $35.99. Suddenly I realized what the Rincewind persona I've decided on needed: The Luggage! That's it (to the left) in the lower part of the cover of Terry Pratchett's first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic. The Luggage first belonged to Twoflower, Discworld's first tourist, then later it became Rincewind's. The Luggage is made of sapient pearwood and moves about on lots of little legs. It's very loyal to its owner and can be very dangerous to anyone trying to harm said owner - as in devouring the offender.

I also had the thought that with The Luggage, I could wear Bermuda shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and a floppy hat and be Twoflower. I've got the shorts and hat, so I'd only need a Hawaiian shirt or something similar. I can modify a book into a "phrase book" which I can pull out, open, and ask questions in a somewhat loud and carefully enunciated voice. Of course, it would be fun to say slightly, or maybe not so slightly, wrong things as in the Monty Python sketch where the "Hungarian" (John Cleese) would say things such as, "My hovercraft is full of eels."

Tomorrow (this was written late on Friday and now I see the next day I forgot to send it), and for several days after, the weather is supposed to be drier, so I'll probably get a lot of material-foraging done. I've been discovering lots of places to buy materials down in the Gresham area since I opened the credit union account.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Waiting for the Personperson

The Sorting Hat, webcam, computer & monitor.
"The personperson" is the nonsexist way to say "mailman," as in "the personperson delivered the person to my personbox."

So I was expecting to get my remaining stuff from Amazon - the Harry Potter Sorting Hat, the liner for the shopping/laundry cart (the came yesterday via UPS) and Brian Froud's The Dark Crystal Creation Myths, Vol. 1.

I can see the personboxes, (OK, mailboxes) for the apartment complex from the window next to my computer, but only if I get up and look. Sometimes I get so involved in the computer that I forget to look, like yesterday when I never noticed the mailman's visit. So I decided to get a bit high-tech about it. In hooking things up, I probably expended more energy than just getting up and looking every so often, just in case you think I was being lazy.

I have one Windows machine, which I don't really turn on all that often. It had been sitting on top of the computer desk hutch opposite the Linux machine I use most often, and it was hooked into the same monitor. The Linux machine connects with DVI, the Windows machine connected with VGA, so all I had to do was push a button to on the monitor to switch that, but I also had to unplug the USB cables from one machine and plug them into another.

So I switched the Windows machine to the computer cart to my left and next to the window and put another Linux box up on the hutch. Whatever machine is on the cart has its own keyboard, mouse and monitor. I needed to have the Windows machine next to the, um, window because my Logitech 9000 webcam works on Windows but I never got geeky enough to make it work with Linux.

With the physical switches done, I fired up the Windows machine, downloaded the Logitech software, installed it and bingo, the webcam worked right off the bat. So I put it on the windowsill, propped up a bit, and pointed it toward the person, um, mailboxes and zoomed in. I tested it before dark last night, then fired it all up again this morning. I tried using a mirror so I wouldn't have to remember to turn my head, but that wasn't comfortable, so I just resolved to keep looking at the monitor off to my left.

Sure enough, before too long I spotted the mail truck next to the boxes. I got up to look and noticed the mailman and the on-site manager talking, then they began heading in what looked like my direction. They had to go around the other end of the building I'm in to the locked door. My view of the boxes is out a West-facing window while the locked door that gives access to four apartments is on the East side. I went downstairs and intercepted them at the door.

Rincewind by Paul Kidby.
The Sorting Hat is actually pretty neat. It looks a bit beat up, which is just what I wanted, except I'll need to change the color from brown to red. It also has some lighter brown "patches" that I may remove to apply instead to a pair of pants. It has wire in the brim so it can have an uneven, worn look.

My version of Rincewind may look more like Sir David Jason's portrayal in the movie The Colour of Magic than like Paul Kidby's illustration. The robe may look different also. The old grey one I have has faux fur trim. Since it isn't new, I won't mind making it look a bit worse for wear. I'll have to look around to see if I can find some appropriate appliques to put on it. But I think I may have a yellow butterfly to add to the hat.

One thing I noticed about the hat. It looks basically similar to the wizard hat I've been wearing for several years now. There's a good reason for it. They're both made by Elope. I ended up paying less for the new hat than the older one, plus the HP version just looks cooler in its natural state than the faerie-covered grey hat looked before I started adding stuff to it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Getting Deliveries

With the idea firmly in mind that any charges put on a credit card must be paid in full before the due date, I ordered some things from Amazon, mostly related to Faerieworlds. I ordered Brian Froud's The Goblin Companion: A Field Guide to Goblins with Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. That arrived either last Saturday or this Monday (I might not have checked the mail on Saturday) from a third-party Amazon seller via snail mail - speedy snail!

I also ordered a red shopping/laundry cart which was shipped by UPS and was scheduled to arrive today.

And, since I am assembling a new wizard costume - Rincewind from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, I ordered a Harry Potter Sorting Hat, also from Amazon. That may arrive tomorrow via snail mail. The hat only comes in brown, and I want to use fabric spray paint to make it red. I will not mind if it looks a bit grungy since Rincewind was no fashion plate. Gotta get some glitter glue to write "WIZZARD" on it. Yep, that's right: two Zs. I have an older wizard robe I used the second and third years I went to Faerieworlds, so I'll want to make that red as well, and again, it's fine if it looks a bit worse for wear.

I spotted another new Brian Froud book, The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths, Vol. 1 and added that. It should arrive tomorrow also along with the sorting hat and a shopping/laundry cart liner. I thought I'd missed seeing that book over the years, but it was just published last December and the volumes to follow (two, I think) haven't been published yet.

UPS did deliver the cart today. Usually I've seen UPS show up in the early afternoon, but today it was just after 5 before I got it. Now, there are a lot of days that I don't go out at all, and who knows, today might've been one of them. But because I was expecting a delivery, I didn't go out and felt kind of stuck. Tomorrow I'll have to wait again, but the mail usually comes earlier - around noon to 1, I think. I was watching for the mail truck, but I must've missed it because I did have something in the box today.

I want to assemble the cart either tonight or early tomorrow because I have mountains of laundry to do. If I do laundry, I'll have to use the dryers because it's supposed to rain tomorrow (Thursday). Naturally, today was one of the driest and sunniest days we've had in at least a week. Murphy, my guardian idiot, has been keeping an eye on me lately.

The battery-operated little lights I got for the wizard (one z) hat with all the faeries should work out nicely, along with the sets for my black wizard robe. I might even get more lights for the grey wizard robe, which has a hood, I got to replace the older one. I just noticed the butterflies on the hat really took a beating during the New York/New Jersey trip last November. Guess I'll need some new ones. That seems to happen each year. Maybe I'll have fewer butterflies because of the lights. One of the faerie figurines suffered damage on the trip and I got it repaired today. I may give it a couple of glitter-glue armbands to cover the breaks.

Also I checked out my multicolored plugin lights which I'll be taking along to decorate the tent. Since I'll be tenting behind the Three Moons Emporium booth where I'll be assisting (possibly also selling a few steampunk tophats with clocks and maybe little lights), electricity will be available.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Banks - Bleargh!

Having gotten the credit cards taken care of, I've been able to do something I've wanted to do for quite some time - get my account out of Chase. After a short time with Wells Fargo following my move to Oregon in 2000, I switched my checking to Washington Mutual, which had branches all over and in more convenient locations. That was fine until a few years ago when Chase used some of the money it got from the government because it was "too big to fail" to buy up WaMu.

That wasn't something I liked, not only because Chase used bailout money to buy up another bank, but also because it put my checking account in the same bank as my Amazon-linked credit card. I've always felt that was a bad idea.

So just before the Memorial Day weekend, I opened an account with a credit union that has a branch right near a MAX stop about the same distance in the other direction from the nearest Chase branch. I was able to do it online, transferring money from Chase, mostly to checking and a little to savings (I heard today that it's the savings account that makes one a member of the credit union). Simple enough, and I even went to the credit union in person to get my debit card.

Of course, Chase took the money out of my account within a very short time on Friday - or at least they made it unavailable to me. But they didn't transfer the money out until last Wednesday, the 30th, five days (but only three business days) after I'd done the transaction. Also, it didn't show up in my online activity page until Thursday.

On Thursday I decided to deposit a check I'd gotten. I took it to the credit union and was asked if I wanted to put $5 in savings. Turned out the money from Chase wasn't in my account. I was surprised since it was an electronic transfer and I thought it would have been in the account since Tuesday, two days before I took in the check.

So I kept looking at my account online and the money from Chase simply wasn't showing up. On Monday I called the credit union and they did some looking. I even went in so I wouldn't have to use up TracFone minutes. The woman I spoke to did some research and what she came up with was they needed the routing number that Chase had used to send the money.

Today I went into Chase. I'd been up in the middle of the night and had checked my balance in the credit union, which still wasn't reflecting the money from Chase. A very nice woman who also spoke Russian started researching. She discovered the money had been sent to a bank in California, but that wasn't a mistake. The California bank is a clearinghouse. She really did a lot of research, calling various places including the California bank. Eventually she asked if I'd checked my credit union account today. Well, I had during the wee hours, but not before I'd gone to Chase.

So she turned her computer screen toward me and moved the keyboard so I could log in to the credit union. I was asked a security question since I wasn't using my own computer. As soon as I saw my balances, I realized finally, easily six business days after my online transaction, the money was in the account.

So if you think online transactions are quicker, consider this: Each bank, Chase and First National in California, held my money for three business days before I had use of it again. Why? Well, in banking, there's something called "the float." It consists of money that's not available to the person initiating the transaction or the person receiving the money - both being me in this case. While that money is unavailable to people like you and me, it exists and banks use this float money, which even in small banks can be a sizeable amount, to make money through short-term loans.

Back in the '70s I worked at a bank in Worcester, MA. One of my jobs each day was to figure out if the bank had more than enough money to satisfy the minimum amount they have to hold in reserve or less. If more, I would compute how much more, get it approved by the comptroller whom I reported to, and sell the extra money to the government by calling other banks that could receive the money on behalf of Uncle Sam. Or if the bank didn't have enough, I'd make calls to those banks to buy money to meet the reserve. At that time, nearly 40 years ago, interest rates were in the double digits, so the bank could make or spend thousands of dollars a day. It all came down to the figures computed by one low-paid clerk and approved by the comptroller and it probably took me an hour or so. That's one of the things banks can do with the money that's not mine any more but not yet yours.

So if you're expecting money to move from your account to some other account (yours or someone else's) really quickly because you did it online, think again.

After I visited Chase, I went home, then looked up a Chase branch near the credit union. I went to the Chase outdoor ATM about a mile away from the credit union, took out as much as I could in one transaction in cash, then deposited it with the credit union, where it was reflected in my balance online when I got home.

It's not all I did on that trip. I also checked out a few stores in the area and got a few sets of battery-operated light strings for my wizard robe and wizard hat. I ended up doing a lot of walking. I need to get in shape for all the roaming around I'll be doing at Faerieworlds.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Visiting National Parks & Monuments

Now that I don't have a car to drive any more, the only way I can get to places like Mount St. Helens is to either rent a car or go with someone who drives. A Senior Pass will admit me and three adults to Mount St. Helens, for instance. Without a pass, it's $8 per person to visit Johnston Ridge Observatory, the best place to view the mountain, the crater and the damage done back in 1980.

So if anyone wants to visit Mt. St. Helens and save some money, contact me. Facebook might be the best way to get in touch, especially if you already know my name there - Rick Wales. I haven't been since the 30th anniversary back in May 2010. I live near a MAX stop on the East side, so I could hop on to meet someone at a convenient point.

I know a fair amount about the mountain, having been interested in it even before I moved to the Portland area in 2000. I visited almost annually, sometimes several times a year, at both Johnston Ridge and Windy Ridge. Those two locations aren't all that far apart if you're a crow, but humans have to drive for several hours to get from one site to the other. Active hikers could probably cover the distance overland in the time it would take to drive.

Here's my Squidoo lens about Mount St. Helens. It features many of the sites to stop off along the way either going to or coming back from Johnston Ridge. Going straight from my place to Johnston Ridge is about 100 miles and two hours driving time.

The Mount St. Helens Institute contacted me in late 2010 about one of the photos on the Squidoo lens. They asked if they could use it for a sign that's located across the plaza from the Johnston Ridge Observatory. I checked around in my photos and came up with a better one, shown here. Since I didn't get up there last year, I haven't seen it on the sign yet.

Longer trips that are doable in a day are to Mount Rainier, where there's a $15 per car entrance fee that would be waived using my Senior Pass, or Crater Lake, where there's a $10 per car fee.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Forbear Obnubilation

Forbear Obnubilation T ShirtThanks to Dick Ford selecting an obscure word from the Oxford English Dictionary for Punday on Facebook, I decided to create a new Zazzle T-shirt.

It's sort of a variant on "Eschew Obfuscation" with both essentially meaning "Keep it simple" or "Never use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice."

It wasn't hard to create. I searched for an appropriate image that's in the public domain. It's a portrait of Matthew Arnold, a Victoria-era British poet and social critic.

Simple, right? Yeah, except for one thing: It seems the older I get, the more prone I am to making typos. You can probably see this coming.

First I spelled it "omnibulation." When I realized that, I had to delete the item from my Zazzle store and create it with the correct spelling. Then, even though the spelling was right on the shirt (or so I thought), I misspelled it in the product title, so the URL had it wrong, even after I corrected the product title. So I created it for the third time, making sure ALL the spelling was correct.

Except it wasn't.

Hours later I discovered I still got it wrong, so I've had to do it over for a fourth time. This is getting ridiculous. At least Dick Ford spelled it right in his Punday post, so I copied and pasted "OBNUBILATE" from his post and changed the final "e" to "ion." I have no idea why this word has posed such problems for me. I think what's happening is that for so many years I typed quite accurately - I spent 18 years doing typesetting and pagination - and could cope with obscure spellings and such. I'll just have to proofread everything far more thoroughly especially if I'm expecting to sell stuff with words on it.

After all that, I realized the URL for this post still had the incorrect spelling, so I had to copy the picture and text, delete the post, then post it again. Will this never end?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Moby Is No Longer Broke

I've been putting off posting for a bit because some big changes were in the works.

First off, thanks to folks who helped me out a few weeks ago. I was able to keep current on bills as a result, so it was greatly appreciated.

I had talked to a credit counselor late last month, but the option of using the service, while it would've gotten me out of debt quicker than trying to just do it on my own, had the drawback of requiring a first payment I didn't have money to make and the monthly payments would only have been a bit lower than what I'd been paying. I'd been worried for some time about keeping payments current on the individual cards and this would have meant continued worry through the end of 2016.

So I bit the bullet and called my sister. She and I have joint ownership in the house my parents bought in 1952. (They died in '93 and '95.) It wasn't an easy call to make. She's much better at looking after her money than I've ever been at looking after mine (I seem to have the habit of waving bye-bye as it flies away). But I had to admit things were bleak.

We discussed a few options and she wanted to talk to her financial advisor. The upshot was we agreed that I would trade a fair chunk of my ownership in the house for getting the credit cards paid off. Between the 18th and the 22nd, the payments went through.

So, even though I didn't need to go through the credit counselor (one of several recommended by my bank) it did get me off the dime and working toward the solution. As for reduced ownership in the house, I'm definitely OK with it. Perhaps one of the reasons I got in this fix in the first place was that my sister had talked about selling the house, but that's a hard thing to do, even if the economy hadn't been trashed by the banksters.

Needless to say I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my sister! Fortunately, it's a debt that doesn't require big payments of cash each month. This was a one-time thing, but that's all it had to be. Also, she let me know that if I ever had to give up living here in the Pacific Northwest, I'm always welcome back at the place that still is home. If only it didn't come with New England winters! But, better to put up with them than live under a bridge or in some hidden place in the bush in a tent, as I've seen people doing in the Greater Portland area.

I worked out what I really need to cover expenses once the debt was cleared up, typed it up, printed it out and also shared it with my sister. Living cheaply, as I've gotten used to recently, I've got enough to get by even without a job. With a job, I'd be even better off, but jobs aren't easy to come by when you're 66.

I'll be able to get to Faerieworlds, what with saving money by assisting some vendors (camping for $40 instead of the current $115 rate which goes up pretty soon). If needed, I can rent a car to haul myself and my stuff to the site.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Faerieworlds Tent & Sleeping Arrangement

Last year before Faerieworlds I got a 10x12 tent for just under $80 at Sears. I don't need so much floor space for just myself, but what I was after was an affordable tent with enough room to stand up in. The Coleman Oasis 6-person tent fills that bill. The "6-person" part is, as always with tents, optimistic. There wouldn't be very much space for anything else after six narrow air mattresses and/or sleeping bags were arranged in it. It would have to be a very close group of six to hack a night in that tent. Three people, four in a pinch, maybe.

It worked out pretty well, but I wasn't crazy about getting up once or twice at night to pull on clothes and footwear to make my way across wet grass to the porta-potties. I'd thought that was the end of camping for me. But this year's finances are still tight, and I'm able to get a $40 vendor camping pass, plus the weather should be much drier at the end of July instead of in mid-June. So, I'm camping again, getting more use out of a tent that's only been pitched once and slept in four nights.

There was a problem last year I didn't fully consider. I have a nice twin-size air mattress, also Coleman, that's 38 inches wide. I also have a cot I bought way beck in the '80s or perhaps early '90s. But the cot is only 25 inches wide. So I decided I'd use the two together and just keep to one side. That side was with the cot near the back of the tent and the overhanging air mattress part also near the back so I could get up off the cot and be near where the headroom was.

There was one problem with that. I think it was the second night when I turned and rolled too far toward the back of the tent. Suddenly I was on the floor of the tent between the back wall, in my sleeping bag, with the mattress on its side and the cot on its side. Now what? Would I have to call out to get help?

No, after a minute or so I realized I could get the bag unzipped because the zipper was on the up side of the bag. Once I did that, I was able to sit up, reach over the mattress to the cot and move it over enough, then move the mattress, scramble out of the small space and get things rearranged.

Did I feel stupid? Yes, but fortunately nobody else saw what happened.

This year, I looked into wider cots, but they're a bit pricey. Then I had an idea. I opened up the cot and measured the distance between the floor and the top of the cot. I have one plastic milk crate I'd bought years ago. I measured that while it was on its longer side. Top to bottom was very close to the same distance from floor to top of the cot.

Next stop, the Internet and a search engine. I typed in "plastic milk crate" and began comparing them while also trying to find measurements. Eventually I found Target sells them. They're made by Sterilite in Townsend, MA (I once dated a woman who worked in the office there) and best of all, they were only $3.99. I would need five.

So I hopped on the MAX to head for the nearest Target. I haven't driven since December, so I didn't know in the meantime that Target had closed. I walked a few blocks from the MAX, then into the shopping area past Safeway and a few stores before I realized the Target was no longer open I couldn't really see it because of the angle from which I approached it. Not recalling there's another one not all that far away, I just did some shopping a couple of more stops down the line and came home. The next day I headed for the now-nearest Target which, I'd found, was the only one in the area stocking the crates.

Today I decided to put things to the test. I inflated the mattress, set up the cot in the living room, and got the crates. They're now serving as T-shirt storage, but for once a year they'll do duty as mattress support.

I got everything together and it's working just fine. The crates are a bit higher than the canvas of the cot, but not by too much. One refinement I made was to put a blanket under the mattress to prevent it from making squeaking noises whenever I move. I may even leave things set up and sleep in the living room tonight.

Could I have gotten a wider cot? Probably, but the crates cost only $19.99 and I can use them year-round. A cot that's wide enough runs around $75.

One more refinement I'm thinking of is extra support in the three middle crates which will bear most of my weight. Just so happens that not long after moving from Massachusetts, I got interested in playing a didgeridoo. A friend from Australia actually hauled one that had belonged to her late husband to St. Louis where we met at a Callahan's Saloon (a Delphi Forum) Gathering in 2000. I'd read it was easy to make a didge out of PVC pipe and beeswax for the mouthpiece, so I got a length of it from Home Depot. Not wanting a 10-foot didge, I cut off four feet and used that.  The other six feet of pipe have stood in a closet ever since. The supports need to be exactly one foot long. So I'll cut up the pipe and use two pieces for the middle three crates. I'll use duct tape to keep them in place, then after Faerieworlds I'll just take out the supports until next year.

If I'm gonna camp, I don't have to completely rough it. The cot is really necessary because at my age I have found it much harder to get up off the floor or ground than I used to be able to do ten years ago. With the cot and a tent I can stand in, things are far easier to deal with for probably 1/6 the cost of a motel for four nights. I'll just have to deal with the porta-potties instead of a flush toilet right near a bed. I'll live.