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.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Flying and Heights

A DelphiForums friend mentioned she's afraid of flying and would never go up in an airplane. That prompted this response of some of my own experience regarding flying and heights.

I can deal with flying. My first flying experience was with my father - we were both passengers - in a helicopter in the '60s that flew over Niagara Falls (slowly I turned, step by step - no wait...) in the days before they had to fly very high - we were probably 500 feet up. It was quite an experience.

In early '73 I flew in an old Convair 440 from Denver to Aspen when I worked for Aspen Airways, "the world's fastest ski lift." Going into Aspen, we circled once with the mountains below. The second circle was with the peaks above us and the airport runway still looked like a streak of grease on the snow. I was a gate agent on a day off and on the flight back they asked me to help run the metal detectors over the other passengers before they boarded. (One day in Denver I got to do that to New York's Mayor John Lindsay, who'd clomped through the detection gate carrying his ski boots with lots of metal. His bodyguard gave me the evil eye as I did my job. I was not impressed.)

My parents' house was about a mile as the DC-3 flies from the end of an airport in Massachusetts. I say DC-3 because they often flew quite low right over the house when Northeast Airlines had commercial flights into the airport. Being so close, I'd go to air shows they had in the '80s and once went up in a helicopter, one similar to the Niagara Falls (slowly...no, stop that!) whirlybird except this one had no side doors. I was strapped in front. I was careful, but I also used my video camera (strap wrapped firmly around my wrist) to tape the whole flight.

Another time a barnstorming pilot with his Ford Tri-Motor, the "Tin Goose," visited the airport. My father had ridden in one in 1928 or 1929. He definitely wanted to look inside, but, being a product of the Great Depression, wasn't about to spend money for a ride. I think it was $40 for both of us. Fortunately I had a credit card with me, so we went up.

I flew on airliners a number of times from 19995 to 2000, then again for a brief visit to New York last November.

For some reason, going up in aircraft doesn't bother me at all. But if I look at pictures like this one, my stomach does a little lurch:

Actually, this little version doesn't bother me much, but one place where I worked had it on a wall as a mural. Eeeesh! It's a 1932 photo taken during the construction of Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Then a few days ago someone on Facebook posted a picture of Julia Butterfly Hill, an environmental activist who spent 738 days in a 200-foot redwood tree in Northern California in a successful attempt to save it from loggers:

Even when I was her age (she was in her early 20s then) I never would've been able to do that! Cliffs, being in the open atop a tall building, stuff like that, no thanks! Or if I do get in someplace like that, I approach the edge very carefully. For instance, I did not go out on this rock overhang at Granite Point in Yosemite National Park, but I was at the location where the photographer got this picture:

There's a railing where the photographer and I stood (not together). It overlooks a drop straight to the valley floor about 3,000 feet below. I wished the railing had been maybe a foot higher, but I still looked over it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Going to Faerieworlds 2012

Faerieworlds is one of the world's largest festivals devoted to faeries and other mythical folk. It's a festival of music, art and imagination that started in Prescott, Arizona in 2002. After several evening/one-day events in various places in the Southwest, two of the three creators, Emilio and Kelly Miller-Lopez moved to Oregon. (Robert Gould, the third creator, hails from Los Angeles and also is in charge of Imaginosis, publisher of several books by world-famous faerie artist Brian Froud.) Faerieworlds 2004 took place at Hornung's Hideout west of Portland, as a two-day event.

From 2005 to 2008, Faerieworlds was held at the Secret House Winery in Veneta, Oregon, about a half-hour west of Eugene and very close to the site of the Oregon Country Fair but a couple of weeks later. It became a three-day event - Friday to Sunday - in 2008.

In 2009, the winery was sold and Faerieworlds moved on short notice to fields at the Mount Pisgah Arboretum, located southeast of Eugene and closer to I-5. July 27-29, 2012 will be Faerieworlds' fourth year at this site.

Music has always been the focus of Faerieworlds, with this year's artists including Donovan (yes, that Donovan - "Sunshine Superman," Mellow Yellow," "Atlantis" and more. Faerieworlds will mark, quite rightly, his new show, "The Living Crystal Faery Realm" on Sunday evening. Also appearing with be dub-step violinist Lindsey Stirling, Afro-Celtic group Baka Beyond, the Australian brothers of Brother, SJ Tucker and Tricky Pixie, Woodland and Treguenda (both featuring the Miller-Lopezes) and more.

Brian Froud (author/illustrator of Faeries, Goblins, Good Faeries/Bad Faeries and more) and Wendy Froud (dollmaker and creator of Star Wars' Yoda) serve as hosts of the event and also have their books prints, dolls, etc. for sale.

Numerous other vendors have all types of faerie, mythic and musical items for sale. One of the major features of Faerieworlds is the people who attend in their creative and ever-changing costumes. From infants to senior citizens, there's a wide array of faeries, goblins, wizards, steampunkers and just about anything else that might conceivable fit in.

There's camping for those who make a mini-vacation out of Faerieworlds and the local hotels fill up fast.

I'll be going this year to assist some vending friends who have a booth called Three Moons Emporium. I'll be going to the site on Thursday, July 28, to help set up and staying through until Monday, July 30 to get things packed up again. This allows me to get a vendor camping pass for much less than a regular camping pass. Other expenses will be for food and drink and most likely a car rental since I no longer have a car on the road. Living in the Portland area means I can get along without a car pretty well with some planning, but to geet all my stuff - tent, clothing and costumes, sleeping stuff, and probably a few hats I hope to sell, may make it hard to share a ride, although that hasn't been ruled out yet. Car rental is estimated at $125 to $175 based on what I've seen so far. Some of what I hope to raise will be used to get supplies for making the hats.

The hats, by the way, will be simplified versions of the one I made for the 2010 event (shown here). It has four battery-powered clocks, each set to a different time zone (Pacific, Eastern, Greenwich Mean Time and Sydney, Australia's time zone). I tore apart several windup clocks and stuck the gears all over. There's a brass sundial on the top and a sextant on the front brim, with a small Slinky, which looks steampunkish (to me, anyway) on the back brim. This year's hats will have one clock plus whatever else I think might work.

Any money above and beyond what I need for Faerieworlds fees, food, rentals, etc. will be used to keep my head above water as I try to restructure life and debt payments.

You might ask "Why not just skip Faerieworlds?" Well, strictly speaking, I could, but this one longish weekend will most likely be the one event I'll be going to this year. I've made a lot of friends there and I keep in touch with them on Facebook. It's like Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July and several Celtic festivals (it's held the weekend before Lugnasadh) rolled into one. The anticipation, the participation and the memories that follow help keep my spirits up for a long time. I need Faerieworlds!

If you'd like to help me get to Faerieworlds, click on the ChipIn widget at the top right corner of this blog. Any amount is truly appreciated.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"Come, Watson!"

"The game is a foot!"

The foot, famous for its appearances in Monty Python's Flying Circus, is from Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time painted by Agnolo Bronzino in 1545. Terry Gilliam flipped its orientation horizontally.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Rhododendrons Outside the Apartment

Each Spring for a brief time the rhododendron bushes in my apartment complex come into bloom. The ones right outside the window I sit near while on the computer have a whole lot of blossoms this year, so I went out on my tiny deck - I'm on the second floor - to get some photos:

 These were shot with my Canon PowerShot S3 IS. I used a tripod for most of the shots since I needed to zoom in. Some of the blossoms were about 15 feet away.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Updating Thunderbird Mail Client

A couple of years ago I decided to dump Windows - I was still using Windows XP at the time - and start using Linux. I decided on Linux Mint because it's pretty user-friendly. While I may be a bit geekier than your average person when it comes to computers, I'm also one who really likes things to just work without a whole lot of esoteric and convoluted messing around. Mint is a good choice for people like me.

Mostly when I want to install something new, I'll go to Mint's software manager in the main menu down in the lower right corner of the screen (where Start is located in Windows). I can look up stuff and install it if it's there. It's very handy to use, but it doesn't always have the latest versions. This is especially true for me because I am still using Linux Mint 11, not having updated to Mint 12 last November. I'll probably skip 12 altogether and go right to 13 when it comes out. I've never had any serious problems updating.

The update feature for Mint 11 only recently updated Thunderbird, Mozilla's popular email client that has been set up for Windows, Mac OS and Linux. The update was for Thunderbird 11. I decided I wanted to do a further upgrade to Thunderbird 12, so I went to Mozilla's site and downloaded it. Then I realized it comes as a .tar file and I'm not up on how to deal with those. So I decided to search for information on how to install a .tar file.

The search led me to the Linux Mint forums, where a user new to Linux asked how to do what I wanted to do. Here was his reply from a forum moderator:

"If you have to ask how to do it then you shouldn't be doing it."

Gee, thanks for nothing! And this guy's a forum moderator?

I looked around a bit more and realized, y'know, maybe it is a bit complicated with all kinds of complex commands in Terminal. I use Terminal occasionally, but it's good to have the commands I need spelled out so I can plug stuff in without to much hassle. I'm at least geeky enough to deal with that now and then, but seldom enough that I don't always retain stuff from time to time.

So I tried another search "how to install thunderbird 12 in linux mint 11" and this was a little more rewarding. I found this site:

Ravi Saive - A Technology Blog for Newbies

 I looked it over and after a bit of scrolling, I found how to install Thunderbird with just three lines in Terminal (plus my password, which is always needed when installing stuff).

Look for this at the website:

Installing Thunderbird 12 on Ubuntu 12.04/11.10/11.04, Debian & Linux Mint

Here's the commands to copy into Terminal after closing Thunderbird if it's open on your machine:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mozillateam/thunderbird-stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install thunderbird 

Copy the first line with CTRL-C and paste it into Terminal at the command prompt.

CTRL-V won't work to paste it in. You have to click on Edit in Terminal's menu bar and select Paste.

(That's one of those little tricks that, working completely on my own, took me a while to discover. If you learned Linux in a class, the instructor probably pointed that out. Simple, but if you don't know, you spend a lot of time trying to accurately type long lines of code sometimes. Been there, done that, very frustrating!)

Enter your password and let Terminal do it's thing, i.e. access the site.

When you get to the next prompt, copy and paste the second line, let Terminal retrieve Thunderbird from the site.

Then copy and paste the third line when you get the next prompt. The installation will take a little bit of time, then you'll get your prompt again.

Type  thunderbird and it'll start. Once it's open, click on Help and then About Thunderbird. A splash screen should launch and you should see you're now running the latest Thunderbird with everything you had before (assuming you upgraded from an earlier version) is ready and waiting for you.

You can, as you probably do most of the time, start Thunderbird from the menu or from an icon on your desktop if you created one. You don't have to replace that desktop icon.

Like Firefox, also from Mozilla, there are addons you can plug into your Thunderbird. They're worth checking out if you want to do anything beyond just reading the mail that comes in and send out the occasional reply or original email. Also like Firefox, it's a great program at the price I like most: free.

So then, after doing all that and posting this blog entry, I noticed the shield down in the task bar indicated new stuff was available for updating my Linux 11. I clicked and naturally what was in the updates?

The files needed to update Thunderbird from 11 to 12, of course. Story of my life. Oh well, at least I did something a little different and learned a little.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Starting to List on Yardsellr.com

Not long ago I found out about Yardsellr.com (note the second "e" in "Yardseller" is dropped in the site name). It's billed as "eBay for Facebook." I've got some things I'd like to sell to help stave off financial disaster and also to help me get to Faeriworlds on the last weekend of July. I'll be posting more about these here, on Facebook and Twitter as I get them listed.

Today was a decent day weatherwise, so I took a comforter out onto my tiny deck and clipped it to the railing. With my camera mounted on a tripod, I took pictures of one of my bowed psalteries, one of my dulcimers (once owned by folk musician Sally Rogers) and the rare and/or signed Spider Robinson books, all of which I'd like to sell.

After renaming the photos so I could easily identify them, I went to Yardsellr and got one of the Spider Robinson books listed. It's a rare hardcover edition of Copyright Violation, 38 pages, leather-bound with a slipcase, one of 26 produced (lettered S on a back page) by Pulphouse Publishing, Eugene, Oregon.

I checked several websites, Abebooks.com for one, and saw it's going for $250. I also have two other copies, one bound in red leather and labeled "Red Staff" on a back page, and one of 300 with a dust jacket (No. 9). I'll get those listed very soon, along with the instruments..

Here's photos of the bowed psaltery (bought from Lark in the Morning when they had a store in Seattle near Pike Place) and the dulcimer: