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.