Tuesday, August 30, 2011

... i am still alive...

just because i haven't blogged, doesn't mean i'm dead. i've been reading, mostly, when i haven't been out traipsing around portland. and i've been doing a lot of traipsing. i have a few days' worth of traipsing to report on, actually, and i've been writing some stuff about that but to be honest, i'm a bit tired and not going to do it now. over the next couple of days i'll be entering some back-dated blog posts. it might look a little weird but i think it's the only way i'll be able to make sense of it in my head.

as for right now, i've left the guest house i was staying at, which actually turned out very well. i met some nice people there that i'll be hanging out with a bit later on next week. if i'd realised soon enough that it was going to be so convenient, i might have cancelled my booking here and then stayed there the rest of the time. if i come back here again, i'll definitely be contacting them to see if there's room. the hostel here is nice and all but i'm up in the belfry again and it's a bit rowdy.

good night.

Friday, August 26, 2011

... it's 9pm and i'm backdating this entry...

so. let's pretend that i'm writing this on friday, sometime around brunch. imagine me, having breakfasted and had a shower, dressed comfortably in shorts and a t-shirt while i slowly make my way through virtual history. then i think to myself, hey, i haven't blogged yet. i should do that now. let's pretend that's how this entry is coming about. in point of fact, description is not entirely wrong.

i have been spending inordinate amounts of time sitting outside reading and i feel much improved for it. that being said, i haven't been as diligent with my blogging as i would have liked and have a bit of catching up to do. happily, it's not overmuch of a problem.

yesterday, was last thursday. this happens at the end of each month along the alberta street shopping strip, from the corner of 15th avenue down to about 33rd. it all really gears up around 7pm and i had planned to go along with people from the guesthouse i've been staying at but i was in the mood for something to eat. i wandered up the road to the bus stop and thought i'd get some cheese to snack on while i made my way into the city. it wasn't until i'd bought some cheese and sat down to snack that i realised going into town would actually mean i'd likely fritter away my time in there and possibly miss going to alberta street.

i decided instead to just start walking along and watch people setting up their stalls. last thursday is a very ad hoc thing. there doesn't seem to be any kind of central organising committee liaising with anyone and if you want a particular spot along the strip then you better get there early and claim it. if you've been there before you get to know the regulars and there is an unspoken respect for those people who've made a spot their own.

what an amazing collection of stallholders. notwithstanding the shops, which are by and large pretty nifty on their own, the sheer variety of stuff on offer and to be seen and bought is wonderful. by comparison, the saturday markets by the waterfront are pretty ordinary and... slick. it doesn't really feel like a "market" if there's not a bunch of stalls sellings stuff off of blankets on the ground - that's definitely alberta street and not the saturday markets.

i stopped and talked to a few stallholders as they were setting up, as is my wont. the first thing i did, however, was stop for crepes. the crepe-maker was actually a french woman and it was great to be able to have a bit of a conversation in french for a while. the rest of her fellow stallholders were locals (inasmuch as anyone in portland is a local, given how many people here seem to have come from somewhere else) and non-francophone and seemed to be taking bets on where my accent is from. the crepe was packed full of nutella (her: "voulez-vous un peu de nutella ou en plus?" - me: "trop, s'il vous plait." - her: "trop? bien sur!" - me: "merci beaucoup!") and it was hot and delicious. my sister and i having spent many saturdays wandering around markets with sticky fingers from vienna peanuts, i knew better than to touch anything while i was eating my crepes.

i found a stall where everything looked like prints done on fabric but it turned out that what looked like prints were actually embroidered. the artist's name is jaclyn rose and i'll see her again at the first thursday art walk thing in the pearl district on the 1st. she has an etsy website called holidaytart and the stuff she does really is unique. some of it is very like pointillist work and quite intricate and very beautiful.

i bought some cards from a stall run by a couple of artists. it was the first time they'd done last thursday and i was their first sale of the day! i've written messages on the cards to send out and i need to go to the post office and get a clue about how much more postage to put on them to make sure they get home. at this stage it'll be interesting to see which gets home first - them or me.

there is a building that has multiple studios in it - something like the lady of shalott - and the various studios all have different artists making stuff. one artist, allie bentley, makes some amazing jewellery and metalwork. another person who came to portland for one reason and ended up staying for another.

i stopped at an ice cream place called salt & straw where i had some ice cream that had actually been made with local craft-brewed beer. each day for portland beer week they debuted a different flavour at their "scoop shop" on ne alberta. (they also have an ice-cream van and thought it was hilarious that we call our mobile ice-cream vans "mr whippy" vans...) i had some kind of chocolate ice cream made with stout. it was very nice.

of course, since i was eating again i couldn't go very far and touch things i was looking at so i stopped and looked at some hats being put up on some cyclone fencing in front of a building that was still under construction. raucous goods is another online etsy store and honest to goodness, the hats look like someone had gone on a killing spree on the set of the muppet show or sesame street! justa, the creator of this... headwear said that the biggest time of year for sales was right now - apparently they're huge at "burning man", the crazy art/music/lifestyle festival they have out in the desert.

as i moved further along i found a sign directing me to a "pop-up shop". i was curious - does it just pop up out of nowhere, like some kind of guerilla retailer? no, it was the name the various artists called their little zine and craft store. i picked up a zine called food stamp foodie #1 published by a vegan cartoonist called viriginia, who also has a blog here.

it's a real eye-opener to buy food here. compared to australia, food seems to be quite cheap, especially given that the amount of waste that is thrown away at the end of each day by restaurants and food places seems to be enough to feed a fairly healthy (?) freegan and dumpster-diving movement. the food carts are probably the best tasting food, using the freshest ingredients (i'm certain that many use ingredients grown in their own gardens at home) and are prepared pretty much on the spot.

buying food at a supermarket, on the other hand, is ghastly and looking at the ingredients panel on this stuff is buy turns surreal and terrifying. somewhere in the past someone decided that in america, each man should be his own physician and in that vein there is simply list of ingredients vomited from some company's public-relations wing onto the back of the packet you're buying. in my naivete, i assume that back in australia the people who can tell you what's in preservative 231 (or whatever number it is that makes the soft drink that it's in leave a furry aftertaste in your mouth) and that it's their job to give you that answer when you ask. i assume that they know how the preservative affects people as well as the food it preserves and that if it should come to pass that those effects were unsatisfactorily bad for you, then i also assume that they get the ball rolling in having in banned. like i said, i'm naive.

here, however, it seems that that's all up to you. it's the thinking that allows drug companies to market prescription drugs in the media to people. surely you shouldn't be creating a demand for a drug. i know some will say that they're informing and educating the public. i doubt that very much. advertising is about convincing people to make a choice. public service advertising is about encouraging people to make selfless choices - wear your seat belt; don't drink and drive; quit smoking so you can see your kids finish high school; vote; swim between the flags - but advertising drugs is about selling drugs. full stop.

how did i get onto food? oh, yes. the vegan food stamps zine. lots of vegan cooking zines around, although i love the fact that, checking out the associated wordpress blog (see the link above), there's actually a recipe included from a book called veganomicon. i love the title. i don't know that i could be a vegan - it would require a large number of conscious choices that i'm a little ashamed to say i'm happy to not make - but the title itself reminds me (deliberately, i'm sure) of the necronomicon, a device used by h.p. lovecraft in his cthulhu mythos as well as being the book that tries to eat bruce campbell in the evil dead series of movies.

another stand that i liked was run by a website called fashion mouse. several different designers trade under one room through a website maintained in such a way that all they have to do is supply the stock. not quite etsy but a lot less work for the designers. before i reached the end of the street's stalls, i came across one more stand, called skrappi. they sell things made from re-used material like kitchen mitts, around-the-home knicknacks, and - what caught my eye - childrens stuff. i was quite taken with the bath mitts and with a new niece in my family i thought it would be a very nifty thing to get. i didn't buy anythnig (i was saving my shekels for something later) but i grabbed a card and promised to blog a link.

i think that's enough for now. stay tuned for more exciting stuff.

... not much to say, really...

it's about thursday lunchtime as i write this and i know it'll say friday on the date stamp above this but that's because i'm usually where it would be friday right now. so there you go. i've only missed a couple of days.

so what have i been doing? well, actually, i've been doing bugger all. reading, mostly. i finished reading one day by david nicholls and i'm currently reading virtual history: alternatives and counterfactuals, which is edited by niall ferguson, a very earnest scotsman who also wrote such titles as empire and the ascent of money (which was made into a great television series, also available on dvd).

one day was great. i finished it off in a couple of days, although if i'd sat down in the morning i could have finished it in one day (hahaha). it made me laugh and it made me cry. some things were surprising and some things felt a bit inevitable, less because they were part of how a story should go and more because that's so often how life goes...

virtual history, on the other hand, is a rather demanding book. ferguson's introduction is a mammoth ninety pages, almost double the average length of the "counterfactuals" presented. in it he explains the lack of seriously investigated "what-if" scenarios presented by the history-researching community and how a few differently-thinking academics are poking these various messes with sticks.

it's already inspiriing me to read more history. i remember reading the penguin history of the u.s.a. and that was heavy going but i'm sure i've read other history stuff since. haven't i? oh well...

the thing is that most "historical alternatives" tend to be the bases of sf novels rather than seriously considered reflections. fatherland by robert harris was a bit like gorky park, i thought, set in a post wwii germany where hitler had actually won the war and the time of the story was on the twentieth (?) anniversary of said victory. most of the alternative history came from the details, although one side effect of hitler's success was the election of joe kennedy as president of the u.s.a.

one really interesting one i like wasd called romanitas by sophie macdougall (i think). it was a drama/thriller set in britain 2000 years after julius caesar... but where rome never fell. some early emperor had chosen to professionalise the army (instead of allowing them to pillage for their pay) and that in turn had enabled greater military loyalty to the imperial throne, more effective suppression of anti-roman activists, longer peace - which also led to exploration of africa and north america, contact with the far east and india, settlement of australia! there was a long history played out.

i think my favourite would be kim stanley robinson's book, the years of rice and salt. using the conceit of recurring characters being reincarnated and meeting up time and again in the bardo in between lives, he explores the development of a modern world where the black death had completely wiped out western europe; where tamburlaine's armies were halted by the fear that whatever had wiped out europe was also waiting for the mongol horde; where maghribi islam resettles western europe through al-andalus (spain); where a chinese fleet intent on attacking japan misses by that much and ends up discovering california and south america instead; where gunpowder and the industrial revolution emerge from a newly expansionist india.

the counterfactuals in virtual history aren't quite so colourful but they're not meant to be. what if charles i had managed to avoid the civil war in britain? what if britain had stood aside in the first world war? what if germany had defeated the soviet union? what if jfk had lived? what if gorbachev had not?

they are more painstakingly teased out, with greater reference to the "what-if" discussions of the day. charles defeating scotland in 1639 wasn't actually a pipe dream, it was a reasonable and pursuable possibility. what if the colonies had received representation with their taxation? with more reference to primary sources, diaries and letters of people considering the alternatives before them at the time the events were occurring, the writers of these "counterfactuals" show how things might have gone and maybe give us now some encouragement and inspiration with regards to how things might now go from here.

so yes, i've mostly been reading. and i did my washing this morning too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

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Monday, August 22, 2011

... quiet day

i spent most of today wandering around a shopping mall.

the lloyd center is in ne portland and has pretty much everything you'd expect in an australian shopping mall, although i was extremely surprised by how many shops were closed or vacant. closed is one thing - that's up to the trader and if they can afford to be closed on a sunday then that's a great problem to have! vacant, though? don't shopping malls usually have crazy high rents? i don't know. most places like westfield or even the queen victoria building seem to put up hoarding almost immediately, announcing in bold type that a new and exciting shop is being prepared for you! interesting that they do not do that here.

i went to imago dei for church this morning and learned a little more about how they do ministry and where they plan on going from here. there was a guest speaker there this morning (i think they've got guest speakers lined up for a few weeks until the big push at the beginning their fall programme) and i'll write about that tomorrow.

i did a lot of walking today under a fairly warm sun. it doesn't bake here the way it does back home...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

... why i don't crave adventure...

well, things have gone rather pear-shaped here.

i had planned my trip around my budget and staying in hostels while i was here in the u.s. and for the most part that's gone along swimmingly. it wasn't until leaving seattle and coming back to portland (instead of heading east into the great heat) that things have really become unstuck. (aside from the fact that it just took five attempts to correctly type the word "unstuck"!)

booking digs for when i came back to portland turned out to be trickier than expected when i was doing it in seattle. i had thought that i'd be able to split my remaining days between the portland northwest and portland hawthorne hostels, knowing that it was policy not to allow guests to stay longer than a week at a time. that was fine, i could get around that.

then i found out that that week was actually a week in four months! that i did not know about - that i had not planned for. nevertheless, i felt confident i could press on. there are more than two hostels in portland. i booked a hostel through a website called "hostelz.com" after looking at a whole bunch of hostelling websites for the area. it turns out that two of the other hostelling websites i looked at also funnel through this one group, "aae reservations", whose confirmation email to me had mutliple email addresses on it and who seemed content to let me completely book online without asking me how old i am.

"why would they ask you how old you are?" i hear you exclaim. well, it turns out that you can't book a hostel dorm with them if you're over 35 years old. i'd never heard of that kind of age limit outside of a con-tiki tour (and even con-tiki are happy to take your money if you're not 18-35, i think...) and when i was booking, i didn't see any sign blazing with lights that hostel bookings were limited to under-35s. so i didn't find this out until i arrived at the hostel.

the guy behind the counter was as surprised as i was that i'd booked something i couldn't technically book. he was very generous in not demanding i pay for my booking, or even my first night (which i thought he probably had a right to but didn't actually voice aloud) and when i asked him how long he'd been dealing with this booking agency, he answered, "not long, a few months". we agreed that i would probably not be the first disappointed person he would meet.

so i had no lodgings last night. God bless the zine community! in my hour of need, they leapt to my aid. i lobbed up to the iprc and they had a range of suggestions that i put into effect, including a "stranded in portland"-esque group on couchsurfing.org for just this kind of circumstance. as time ticked on, two people put their hands up to as being willing to house me, although i only knew about one at the time, and i stayed in hillsboro in outer sw portland last night.

after having a pretty good go of it writing while i was on the coast, i thought i might see about visiting seaside, which is a town i passed through on the way to astoria. or i might just go back to astoria. it's a bit of a circular trip but as a german guy commented while we were discussing our holidays at the hostel in seattle, plenty of people fly thousands of miles just to lie next to a swimming pool all day, even when they're at a beach resort! i've been getting out and about, at least, even if i've changed my plans a bit.

aside from being so unimpressed with seattle, this is about the only real hiccup. fingers crossed the rest of the trip will pan out more smoothly. if you're inclined to do so, please don't worry about me. i've every confidence that it will all work out fine.


as an addendum to this post, i wanted to let my dear readers know that God has provided me with a great place to stay. i followed up an advert on craigslist for a place that typically rents rooms out by the month, often to people who are coming to portland for work, as a way for them to establish themselves in their work before getting hung up on a lease they may have to break if the job goes south.

it's in northeast portland and as i was coming up here on the bus i saw a bunch of things that in daylight i might like to investigate further... although right now what i'm chiefly concerned with is how much will i actually perspire tonight? it's a bit muggy and the temperature here in portland at 23h26 on saturday night is 27 degrees celsius (almost 81 degrees fahrenheit), and you probably know what a huge fan i am of muggy. hmmm...

it's funny but i think that had i looked on craigslist yesterday, i would have missed this place. so God had a plan for me to be helped by a fellow zinester. maybe. maybe not. i looked and trusted that something would be provided and it was.

it also looks like i'll be able to stay here until my booking at the northwest hostel kicks in on the 29th. that's awesome too, because the rate we've agreed on for the nights that i'm here, and how i'll pay it, has worked out very neatly. it's good. praise God and thank you to all who were praying for me while the situation was worked through. i'll be thanking God myself tomorrow when i go back to visit imago dei for church. i don't know if i'll make the 9am service - although from what i can check out online, i probably will - and on that note i'll send one or two last emails and go to bed myself.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

... leaving seattle. meh.

i leave seattle in three hours. i can't believe i'm actually counting down the time but i really dislike this place. there have been people who have been nice enough - i bought the best tasting lemonade i've ever had in my entire life from an azerbaijani guy who emigrated to the u.s. twenty-six years ago. he's lived in seattle the entire time and says he likes it about as much as i do. he's established here and has a regular clientele whose seattle freeze has eventually thawed (somewhat) but as soon as it's time to take holidays him, his wife and his family, all disappear out of state for the whole time. sometimes to vancouver, canada, and sometimes to portland, oregon. they never stay here.

he was really cool, though, and we talked for about ten or fiften minutes about him and his business, how long he's been doing it for, his family, his hopes and dreams for them. he's very familiar with the seattle freeze and when i told him a definition for it that i'd read here he laughed and thought it was hilarious but unfortunately true. the quote:
but the dichotomy most fundamental to our collective civic character is this: polite but distant. have a nice day. somewhere else.
i found this even from people in starbucks! (yes, i went into starbucks. it was just the once and i promise i won't do it again. deal with it.) i'm so used to people working in coffee shops having maybe the most... focussed niceness (?) of people in the hospitality industry, knowing that if the coffee doesn't bring you back then the service might and coffee drinkers, once they have a routine, tend to be quite faithful to that routine. maybe it's the preponderance of coffee shops in seattle: maybe there's no particular fidelity on the part of coffee drinkers here... i don't know. i do know that since walking into a tully's coffee i haven't felt any great need to go elsewhere. the staff i've dealt with there have all been very nice. exceptions to the rule, i think.

the hostel is pretty good. the rooms are very small but the common area is set up quite well. i think the entire place was furnished by ikea! the bunks, mattresses, sheets, comforters, bedlamps, dining chairs, chill-out-room furnishings, cutlery, cooking utensils, towels... all ikea. there is wi-fi throughout, the showers are good (one of my benchmarks) and the toilets, well, they're not too bad either.

my biggest terror here in the states (and no, it's not being eaten by a bear, although from what i've been reading if mum's still in russia she's more likely to be eaten by a bear than me!) is the toilets. i don't understand why they (whoever they are) decided that having water fully halfway up the side of the bowl was a good thing!? it freaks me out that i feel like i have to lift my butt off the seat to wipe myself without risking dumping my hand in the toilet water. ewww. i'm not overly icky about things but that one seriously takes the cake.

so the toilets here haven't been too bad. every one i've seen or had occasion to use has had the water down to an almost australian level (i.e. pretty much right at the bottom of the bowl) and i've been able to relax completely when i've needed to relax... partially. it's nice. alas, portland's toilets weren't quite so consistently relaxing. astoria's weren't too bad. mind you, after visiting china back in 1993, i can suck it up enough to use pretty much whatever toilet i've had to.

you know, i don't think i've seen a cloud in seattle the whole time i've been here? i feel i've been gypped. i know it's the middle of summer but still... is one unseasonably miserable day too much to ask?

so, my train leaves at 14h20 and i need to be there half an hour earlier to check my luggage. so i think i'll check my luggage much earlier (say an hour) and then go up the street to tully's and have a cuppa. cheers.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

... bit of a walk...

while i've been in seattle i've been casting about for something to keep myself occupied. i've been doing some writing and might be able to get a couple of zines out of what i've been doing but i decided to walk from my hostel to the zapp zine archiving and publishing project.

the problem is that the streets of seattle try to be nice and logical but basically fail at it. imagine trying to lay a strict avenue/street grid onto the cbd of sydney. good luck. i often joke that you could possibly drive down a street in sydney, make no deliberate corner turns left or right and end up in the same spot, eventually.

it took me quite a long time to find zapp, especially since i was using the force (and only occasionally resorting to google maps on my phone) but eventually find it i did. see below for my trip. it was about 4.6 miles altogether. i'm tired.

i tried to embed the map below but it was a bit faily. click on this link to see it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

... in seattle. meh.

i think that maybe it was built up a bit too much in my head. maybe that was it. i honestly can't think of why else i would be so disappointed with the place. you can't throw a stone without hitting a starbucks (which i find vexing in itself) and everyone wanders around like their dog just died. in portland you seem able to smile at just about anyone on the street and they'll smile back. unless someone here is already smiling, i haven't seen that many people - markedly few - return a smile.

something else i've noticed is this weird, "i might be moving slowly but i'm actually in a rush" attitude people seem to have. if they're behind someone on the street they seem very keen to pass them, only to move no more swiftly than they had prior to passing the slower person. drivers seem particularly prone to this, as well as ignoring people in crosswalks.

i think i could probably live in america for the rest of my life and never master the art of the crosswalk. cars are able to turn right at red lights but seem quite content to do so while there are already people using the crosswalk. crosswalks in the middle of a block (not at a corner) seem to be unnoticed for drivers unless someone steps out in faith, assuming that once they're using the crosswalk, people will stop, while trying to cross at a corner can mean someone who thinks you might want to cross (and someone looking up and turning in a circle would be someone who i thought clearly didn't know what they were going to do next) will stop a good car length from the line at the corner where they need to stop anyway and hold up a dozen cars behind them while you decided if you're going to cross or not.

my trip from astoria to seattle yesterday actually went off with nary a hitch. i was on the bus from astoria just after 10h05 and the ride over the astoria-megler bridge was actually pretty cool. the local transit connections from astoria were astoria-south bend, south bend-raymond, raymond-aberdeen, and it turned out that they weren't separate connecting buses, merely different route numbers for different legs of the one journey of a particular bus. that made things a lot more relaxed for me.

we stopped in raymond and the bus had to make a side loop so the driver effectively turfed us off the bus (there was a couple heading up to port angeles who were taking a similar approach as me). i used a nearby restroom, terrified i was going to propositioned for something, anything and relieved that i didn't see another soul until i returned to the bus stop.

raymond, were it not so creepy in a "last gas for sixty miles" kind of way, actually seems to have quite the burgeoning folk art community and the town has a tremendous variety of these rusted silhouette statues of people and pets all over the place. i snapped a pic of one standing beside my bus stop - she was even holding her purse behind her back in one hand...

the connection from aberdeen had a thirty-minute wait and the woman working the info booth at the transit centre was super-helpful, not only providing change for my fare (you need exact change everywhere on the bus) but also letting me put my gear in a bike locker while i ducked up the road to jack-in-the-box for lunch.

this was my first (!) encounter with sales tax. i picked out a particular combo (grilled chicken tenders, fries and drink) that was $5.99 and ended up paying $6.49. the sales tax, it turned out, was 9.25% but i later learned that it varies not only from state to state (oregon has no sales tax) but also from city to city. argh.

i can honestly say that the sales tax thing alone is enough to make me gald i'm only staying in seattle for a short time. once i've sorted out my amtrak ticket back to portland i'll be a lot happier. i was thinking i might actually go further down the rail line to sacramento but i've had so many people talk sacramento down to me that my thinking about my 50-20 quest is becoming rather bleak.

it's ironic that the seattle skyline is absolutely cloudless today. i took a photo, because it seems to be such a unique prospect. everyone's out wearing jeans or suits or dresses made chiefly from scarves and spaghetti straps. for such a sunny day, people seem singularly un-sunny. the longest conversation i had today was with another tourist.

the stop in aberdeen continued untroubled and the connection to olympia happened very smoothly. the transit in olympia was a bit longer - closer to fifty-five minutes and the cafe recommended to me by the transit centre, while providing delicious food, had lousy service, either relying on the food and drink for return business or caring for neither in equal measure.

olympia-tacoma was fine although the bus was chock-full of local government workers commuting to the bedroom communities around tacoma. the transit at tacoma went very smoothly and i enjoyed a long conversation with a couple who were on their way into seattle to see the seattle mariners play the toronto blue jays (baseball). bud (the husband) is something of a jazz musician and promised to put my name on the door of a gig this week but i forget which gig and when they got off the bus they farewelled me as "david". it's a mystery to me why i have a name at all, sometimes.

alighting the bus in seattle was easy as pie and the stop was a hair over a block away from the hostel. i've been walking around seattle today - right now i'm looking at an advert on the side of a bus which has a golfer (fred couples) on it and some grafitti artist has given him a toothbrush moustache. disturbing. the couple on the bus to seattle described seattle as a hilly portland. it feels more sydney. maybe that's why i don't like it very much.

i caught a cold in astoria and i'm now dosing myself up in equal measure with drugs, water and sunshine, and i'm going to sign off now and hoof it up-and-down to the hostel.

Monday, August 15, 2011

... lost in astoria...

my time here in astoria has been a bit of a haze. i've just been wandering around, looking at stuff, not doing a whole heck of a lot... deliberate. i had planned on visiting the maritime museum again but now... meh. i can't really be bothered. there's a tattooing exhibit there and i'm sure that'd be interesting - i know we took our youth group into the sydney cbd one weekend and checked out the police and justice museum at the same time as they had a tattooing exhibit there. very interesting. still, though, it's nice to just hang around and not do a great deal.

i'm also wondering if i haven't caught a bit of a cold. (two sneezes and i have just been offered benadryl by the lovely carly here at the three cups coffee house.

i spent some time here last visit (see here for more) and carly and leah remembered me! i don't know how much had to do with the fact that i made sure i brought a badge that i bought from here to help raise money for a local festival but i was remembered. which was nice. carly, since i was last here, has become the proud mother of a little girl named maggie mae (who has since replaced her mother's face on the badges) and we spent some time oohing and ahhing over the pictures i have in my phone of my new niece. maggie mae is cute but i think my nice is far cuter. (no bias - i sincerely believe my niece is the definition of cute. this may be amended in the future but who knows when?)

it's been very cool catching up with the staff here and finding out everything that's been going on in astoria since my last visit. the roasting here (if you follow the link above to the coffee house, you'll see it's part of the thundermuck coffee roasting... thing... operation - that's it!) has been going from strength to strength, which is great.

astoria suffered a bit of a blow with a fire that burned down a bunch of businesses down on the waterfront. i've been asking around and everyone seems to have their own theories. the general consensus seems to be that (a) the fire seems to have started as some kind of electrical fault in one of the food places, then spread to the building opposite on the same pier, and (b) there may have been some foul play, given that one of the business in the immediate area was in some financial difficulty and under threat of foreclosure.

it really is very sad when you hear of things like that happening. it's not like astoria is necessarily a booming hive of unstoppable activity: the canning has completely dried up and the town itself appears to be making a slow and stumbling transition to a tourism-based economy. for a place so rich in pioneering history - lewis and clark wintered nearby at fort clatsop after being despatched by president thomas jefferson to explore the new property acquired through the louisiana purchase, and the outpost known as astoria and named for john jacob astor, new york fur magnate and all-round business dynamo, was founded as the western end of astor's fur-trading empire, to name but two - there is a rich vein of history here to be mined.

for instance, one thing i've yet to do here - and i don't feel too bad about that, since i watched a parade yesterday next to a man who has lived in astoria for six years and he hasn't either - is go to see shanghaied in astoria. as well as being an enduring piece of local theatre that well depicts the history of a place (see windy gully for a slice of history from my home stomping grounds!), it seems to embody the stories that a place tells about itself that may not begin exactly true but have taken on the feeling of truth, until it's hard to distinguish between the two. i know that once i've seen the piece, i may have to completely rewrite those remarks - i have a sneaking suspicion i may not.

astoria is celebrating its bicentennial this year and that's part of why i wanted to come back and visit. reba mcentire (and i've consistently mispelled her name at pretty much every juncture until now) is singing at a concert here this weekend and while i had every intention of seeing here while i was here, dropping fifty shekels on a ticket for the cheap seats in a quaint local theatre was not what i was expecting. i had envisaged (and i don't know why i automatically had assumed it would be like this) some kind of country fair environment with a stage at one end with a bunch of local acts playing throughout a day-long gathering, all culminating in reba's performance for a slim ten bucks to get into the fair. mystery why i'd imagined that.

there was a parade yesterday because these weekend has been the annual astoria regatta - for those australians in the audience, that's "regatta" rhyming with "barter" (like "bah-tuh") not "regatta" rhyming with "batter" (like "batt-uh"). of all the words to lengthen an "a" sound in, i find it hilarious and a little bit charming that they do it with "regatta" and not "bath". but there you go.

i thought the parade was great. lots of local and regional involvement, along with military personnel from the oregon national guard, the coast guard, local naval station sailors, and what looked to me at first like rotc candidates from local high schools but were in fact navy junior cadets. most people stood up out of their seats when the military folk passed by and i could sense a tremendous amount of respect being shown these serving troops. whatever their personal politics, americans seem to accord their military incredible respect (not at all times but at these kinds of times, certainly) and i can't imagine the kind of public outcry at the way the military was deployed that would result in soldiers being booed or spat on. the scars left on the american public psyche by vietnam and the gulf wars are incomprehensible to me.

i took a gazillion photos of the parade and, after looking back on what i wrote two years ago, i'll be very surprised if i get off my butt and actually post any of them online. i'll look at them and maybe do something with ones i like but, yeah... probably nothing in particular. i also photographed the site of the shops and restaurants burned down last year. it saddens me every time i think about it.

i've been writing a lot. i'll show very little of it around but this trip has given me time and space to simply sit down and type. having my own room at my hostel has been super convenient in this regard and it's been so pleasant with the window open and the night air being so mild that i've been up very late writing. ideas are forming and maybe this year nanowrimo might actually be something i win for a change. (coming up to my third attempt!)

at this point i'm thinking more and more about my trip to seattle. i'm following a low-budget, heavy-time-investment route using local public transit marked out by an interesting fellow calling himself "busboy". i discussed my route with a guy at the astoria transit centre on friday and some of my concerns - especially that the initial leg over the astoria-megler bridge might derail my connections from the very outset due to construction works slowing down traffic entering the bridge fromt he oregon side. i was assured that my fears were unfounded, since the first three legs are in fact one long route, broken up by timing points where the route number on the front of the bus is changed but the bus is not. because of this, a late-arriving #50 over the bridge will become a late-departing #32 from south bend to raymond.

as an aside, i learned something rather weird about place names here in oregon/washington. there is a town called bend set roughly north of centre of the state of oregon. the town of south bend is on the washington state coast, further north than bend, at around eight o'clock if washington state were a clock face. finally, the town of north bend is also situated on the coast, this time in the southern oregon coast region of coos country, which is adjacent but one county to the oregon-california border. north bend is more southerly than bend; south bend is more northerly than bend.

i haven't investigated the possibilities of an east bend or west bend but i think west bend would possibly be sitting on the border with idaho and the east bend might be a coast guard vessel sitting off the coast several miles into the pacific!

so after i eventually get from astoria to aberdeen, i'll connect to another bus line to olympia, wa; thence to tacoma; finally connecting to seattle. all things going well, i should arrive in seattle about a block from my hostel and around 6pm. from the time i board the first bus in astoria, i will have been travelling for around eight hours. the entire trip will cost around $10.

i'm looking forward to seeing urban, suburban and inter-suburban/rural washington. i've been given to expect plenty of greenery and not quite so many hills as we go through on the way from portland to astoria. to take amtrak from astoria to seattle would mean going back to portland before boarding the cascades train to seattle. total one-way trip cost, $70. the thruway connection from astoria would depart at 8am and arrive in portland at 10h30; the train from portland leave 12h15 and arrives in seattle at 15h45. total travelling time about eight hours. assuming the cascades doesn't have to stop to let a freight train go past. ironic. i only hope that i won't be getting in the way of too many people with my luggage.

i think that if i won the lottery, i could do worse than buy a house here in astoria. it's a fairly sleepy little place - moments of excitement aside - while still being not terribly far from portland, and - clearly - seattle. if i were a driver, it would be more convenient still. the marvellously inexpensive cinema (i saw green lantern on friday night for $4) and bowling alley (two games and shoe hire last night cost me $10.25 and if i lived here i'm sure i'd join a league and get even cheaper bowling) definitely appeal and the sunday market is bursting with fresh fruit, vegetables and various preserves.

i'm glad that i visited astoria again this year and the next time i visit portland - if i do - i will be sure to visit astoria again.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

... i love the smell of... fish... in the... afternoon...

i managed to make the early bus to astoria with a minimum of fuss, although i did have to clean some poor washingtonian out of his one-dollar-bills for a fiver i had in my wallet. once i was on the bus into town, it was plain sailing the rest of the way in. i think that the coach to astoria had maybe ten people on it - including the driver.

so that was yesterday, effectively. i arrived just after noon, checked into the hostel where apparently my room was upgraded. i don't know how, since i seemed to get exactly what i'd booked, but that makes no nevermind. it's been nice to not have to lock up all my belongings when i leave the room and i slept particularly well last night in my double (gasp!) bed. much better than clambering up onto the bunk i was terrified i would fall through in the middle of the night. (not just me - the elderly english fellow on the bottom bunk was scared that would happen too!)

the hostel here in astoria has improved considerably since the last time i stayed there. new carpet, the bathrooms are much cleaner and i think they've got new fittings and whatnot. the kitchen is still a bit messy and i have a sneaking suspicion that some of the... longer-term visitors are still treating it more like a halfway house than a hostel. that being said, these kinds of things are not solved overnight and the changes that are being made are solidly in the "one small step forward and no steps back" category.

i'm off for now but i'll write more later. dinner beckons.

oh, and the smell of fish? that's astoria...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

... omg - omsi...

today was a pretty ordinary day. except where i was abused by some semi-homeless looking guy in a take-out joint who then went on to have a long and involved political discussion with a trimet-uniformed bus driver, abused because i was sitting at what he, apparently felt was his own personal booth. clearly, i should have arrived later. alas.

the basic goal today was to visit omsi - the oregon museum of science and industry. after having been thoroughly through museums in australia like the powerhouse museum in sydney or questacon in canberra, i had rather high hopes for omsi. alas.

i think part of the issue was that right from the outset i felt like i was being stung. general admission to the museum was only $12, which wasn't too bad, but there were a few exhibits that cost an extra $8-plus, and if you wanted to see one of the fancy movies (omnimax) or go to the planetarium (and if you've seen the episode of south park just try thinking about visiting a planetarium of any sort with a straight face!), all of that cost extra as well. you could bundle it all up in one price if you wanted to, for certain combinations, but i really felt let down.

i had been led to believe - i felt led to believe that omsi was awesome. i think that if i were eight years old or the parent of an eight-year-old, then i would think omsi was pretty awesome. for anyone else, though, i think it just kind of misses the mark.

i will admit that the rather extensive exhibit on babies from conception to birth was fascinating. i've not seen so many real life embryos at different stages since i visited the museum of natural history in beijing back in 1993. the accompanying text was clear and informative, good for all levels of audience - age, reading, etc - but i did feel as if it were its best foot. having put that forward, i found everything else to be something of a letdown.

the palaeontology section was closed in favour of a narnia exhibit (costs extra); a bunch of exhibits on nanotechnology were clearly aimed at elementary-school level audiences; another section was very deliberately geared for the same audience; the game on 2.0 exhibit was a major drawcard but heaps of the games weren't working properly, wii handsets weren't tethered to their matching consoles, and the volume on a major presentation on arcade games was way too low to be heard. alas.

i was thoroughly prepared to spend upwards of four hours, seriously wandering around omsi - after all, i think i probably managed to spend about four hours at the maritime museum in astoria - actually it was only two and a bit hours but it felt a darn sight longer than that. (click here to read about that!)

so after this singularly disappointing experience, i wandered back into town and had a very delicious coffee milkshake at city coffee, the first coffee place i visited back when i was here in 2009. the staff are a bit more surly than i remember but they were very apologetic about not giving me a hazelnut latte when i'd ordered on (they gave me a plain one) and refused to take my filthy lucre when i offered to buy a plain latte that they could add hazelnut to in exchange.

i really am getting used to the portland street layout. i've worked out how to understand the avenues and the streets seem to be really a matter of familiarity, learning which ones are more northerly (even when you're in sw portland) and which ones are more southerly (even when you're in ne portland). visiting church on sunday proved to be an enlightening experience from an exploring-new-streets perspective and, now that i think about it, it was pretty much on the way to klickitat street, which has a park with statues featuring the characters from beverly cleary's books. i'd meant to go there last visit to portland - perhaps this time i'll make it.

i got my washing done yesterday. i've been reading zines today. some very funny stuff. lots of bavarder in the common area at the hostel tonight. reminiscing about films like gremlins, poltergeist, the blair witch project.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

... more on yesterday

i had a rather wide-ranging conversation with a fellow zinester yesterday afternoon, covering such topics as hypocrisy in religious faith and practice, violent crime in australia, and smelly people in portland. t. is training to become a unitarian minister, is currently a social worker and worked as a divorce lawyer for a while. i asked if all three were connected and she admitted that they probably were but given her heart for social justice, it's something of a chicken-and-egg question to ask.

it got me thinking about violent crime in australia and how much of it is gun-related. i tried hard to think about all those people we seem to feel ought to be able to own a gun or need it for their work - police, the military (former and active), farmers, some security professionals - and then think about the number of violent crimes committed with illegally acquired guns. bank robberies always seem to take place with sawn-off shotguns but i realised that i probably have a better idea of how guns move around the united states than in australia. we've always had guns here but there's always seemed to be this idea that you only need a gun if you actually need one. there is very little sense of needing one "just in case".

i wonder if maybe it's the high place of sports culture in australia that funnels our propensity for violence into a non-violent or otherwise-channelled fashion. it's not quite bread and circuses... or is it? we make such mighty contests of the trivial things that sports are - who can run faster than someone else, swim faster than someone else, lift a heavier object and put it down again than somebody else, plus variations - imbuing them with all manner of honourable virtues - leadership, teamwork, success in the face of personal struggle, and (that perennially australian favourite) seeing the underdog prevail. what's the quote? the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong... but that's the way to bet.

we do seem to have a strong bias towards domestic violence, though. it may be as "mild" as the "tough love" family of a smack on the bottom when children misbehave or the stern, urination-inspiring phrase "wait until your father comes home"; through to the life-draining and changing climate of emotional neglect by parents withholding love from one child or ignoring internecine conflict among children in a family or favouring one child over others; through to the ongoing tragedy of physical and sexual abuse by family members or close family friends; to the horrifying conclusion of a mother drowning her children, leaving an unwanted baby to die by exposure, or a father throwing his children from a bridge.

i can only compare it to my own upbringing, which i felt was always fairly normal, although i can probably point to a few things that i feel have made a lasting impact on my life for the worse and that i have struggled to overcome. it never occurred to me that physical discipline, in the form of a smack on the bum or maybe a pinched ear to accompany a scolding, could be a bad or unwarranted thing. i remember plenty of kids at school for whom a scolding would have made about as much impact as a bag of fairy floss on a freight train. by the time i reached high school, different kids would have been at the point where no kind of chastisement from an authority figure would have made much of a difference in our immediate circles of parents and teachers and coaches - when such figures are viewed with contempt, what kind of discipline can they impose? it is ceases to be discipline and becomes a battle of wills instead.

perhaps it is because i always felt that i was loved by my parents that it never occurred to me that physical discipline might be a bad thing. i don't think i was ever disciplined on the off chance that i needed it (like some people i know were) and i'm sure i was never disciplined because my parents took any kind of delight in it. i knew people who were made to stay out of the house after their mother had cleaned the house because she didn't want it dirtied or messed up again. others had a boisterous house filled with yelling at one another, a stormy exterior that despite everything concealed a very strong us-against-the-world feeling.

so how does discipline in love become abuse? why would parents neglect one child among several, or turn a blind eye to the abuse of one child by another, or actively abuse one or more children themselves? is it because they themselves were so abused or neglected? is it because they feel disconnected from other parents of a similar generation, such that there is no mutual accountability for how they raise their children, be they friends or family? (how true here would be the saying, "it takes a village to raise a child"?) is it because life demands so much from parents in terms of work that they have no energy left to put into the (highly) energy-costly effort of loving children that sometimes you might wish in exasperation to give back? is it because exasperation finally becomes some kind of poisonous envy and parents then inflict their own internal pains upon their children?

i don't understand it but i have my suspicions. i feel very sure that the cost of living today, coupled with the sense of responsibility to provide materially for family in a manner superior to that which parents themselves received as children, can easily produce a family environment skewed towards prizing (academic or sporting) achievement over inherent worth as part of the family. in a western world world paradigm where the family has shifted from being a source of value to the state to being a source of value to industry, i suppose this is a natural suspicion to have. my concern, however, is what will replace this corporate-rule paradigm? and will it treat family as valuable in itself or continue to see it as fuel for some bigger fire?

talking with t. about these things has really switched my brain into thinking a lot more about it. she has achieved a tremendous amount with her life, given her struggles. she has managed to turn the (what shouldn't be but still practically are) drawbacks of being a woman, coming from an immigrant background, and being physically disabled, into strengths and incentives to drive her to work harder and more solidly than others might without such issues to deal with. her family background seems to be one where she was solidly valued, even when her parents were given every opportunity to divest themselves of an infant who would clearly struggle in life and who would be a greater burden on family for a long time. she is a vibrant, humourous, intelligent woman who seems to be held back by others far more than she holds herself back.

her involvement with the unitarian church she admits stems much from their deliberate inclusiveness. without researching it more, it seems that their touchstone of practice is to deliberately and actively sharing the love of God, which seems to work itself out in a very public social justice position. it reminds me quite a bit of the uniting church in australia, to be honest, at least as far as its social justice stance.

even here, however, human fallibility and pride (in terms of saying, "we are right" and "it's not my fault" and "it's not my problem") continue to resurface. t. was selected as a delegate to the church's national assembly, held at some convention centre interstate. she was not the only delegate using a kind of wheelchair or scooter - almost five dozen others were in a similar boat - but a lack of foresight and planning meant that the main hall used for the assembly's discussion had only one elevator to provide disabled access. that's a tight bottleneck for the amount of traffic.

she continues to confront these issues as she seeks formal training to become a unitarian minister. the colleges that are specifically associated with the unitarian church remain disabled-unfriendly and while the unitarian church has passed resolutions to make every effort to make church institutions fully accessible to all church members wanting to use them, the funds needed to make those resolutions a reality have not yet eventuated. i am assured that this is not a poor denomination; its very inclusiveness means that groups who feel shunned or ignored by other denominations (theologically liberal; disabled; sexually alternative) bring a great deal of energy and resources to grow and energise a church that accepts them as they are.

t. is seeking to pursue theological studies at another institution which will meet the criteria laid down by the unitarian church for their ministers. from what she says, it's not usual but it's allowable. another small barrier which she rolls over (leaping isn't really an option) with much aplomb. it sounds like the places t. is considering studying at are all theologically more conservative than the unitarian seminaries and i can't help but feel that this is not such a bad thing. t. sees clearly the limitations of taking a social justice stance without the will to make that stance a stride and now is wrestling with the question of how to inspire the flesh of her church to work the will of its spirit.

t. remarked that she knows many unitarian ministers who do not use the Bible in their ministries. she recognises that this is deeply flawed and incongruous in a denomination that associates itself with the Christian church generally; i am encouraged that it's not something she is willing to let slide for herself. studying theology in a seminary that places a higher value on God's word (despite how they may value other aspects of ministry) will serve her well, i think, and wherever she ends up, either in lay ministry or formally pastoring a congregation somewhere, it will serve those she ministers to as well.

my prayer for her, as well as for myself, is that by being steeped more deeply in the Bible, there will be a corresponding maturity in love and willingness to serve sacrificially, with a shepherd and servant heart. the apostle paul says, "whatever gain i had, i counted as loss for the sake of Christ. indeed, i count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." he goes on to say, "not that i have already obtained this or am already perfect, but i press on to make it" [becoming like Jesus in his death and attaining the resurrection from the dead] "my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." [philippians 3]

like so many other people God has brought into my life, t. reminds me that the Christian faith is not a sprint but a marathon, which we are not called to win ahead of others but to complete together, helping those weaker and encouraged by those greater than ourselves. the wisdom is see in some inspires me to spend more time in the Bible; the selflessness i see displayed in the lives of others inspires me to work out the love of God more in my own life. i am not the worst of all sinners (i think paul claims that one for himself too!) but nor am i the best. i think i am fairly mundane, which is perhaps most frightening of all. i have no desire to be spat out of the mouth of the Living One in a laodicean fashion; i want to be salty and flavourful, hot and spicy, cool and refreshing. God has blessed me by changing me from wanting to want this to actually wanting it and i praise him for that.

Monday, August 08, 2011

... marooned in portland

not me. someone else. n. is a californian who has been systematically marooned by her friends in one city after another, friends disppearing one after another like layers on an ogre, from vancouver (canada), through seattle and portland to san francisco. she just got a message from a friend saying she'd just arrived in san francisco. alas. n. is is unflustered by this. she's going to hang out in stumptown for a while and make her own fun. good on her, i say. yet another entertaining acquaintance made on my trip to the city of roses.

day two of the zine symposium went well. while i didn't feel energetic enough to go to the after-party at a place in north portland, i was comfortably sidetracked into eating at a local burger establishment called burgerville. it was actually pretty nice food, except for the part where you receipt tells you how much of your daily required intake of calories, etc. were in the meal you just ordered. when i order junk food, i don't ask to be told how bad it is for me. i take it on faith that as bad as it may be for me, if i don't know how bad it is, it can't be that bad.

last night after the symposium there was a zinester-feud (a la family feud) and karaoke night at floating world comics in ne portland. that was nice. several of the zinesters showed themselves to be quite the karaoke superstars and while i felt too tired to join in, i was very entertained by one person's rendition of the tina turner/james bond classic, goldeneye. marvellous.

i spent some time going around the tables today, trading my own zine for some and buying others. i managed to find some choice reads, along with things i thought might make nice gifts for people. (my housemate, if you're reading this (and i hope you are) i've also bought a couple of pint glasses on sale from rogue brewery for $2 a pop and a growler as well! we'll be able to get that filled at slow beer, no problems, i reckon!)

i visited a church this morning that was recommended to me by some online contacts i made prior to this trip. imago dei was a very pleasant experience, although i must admit that while i was warmly conversed with, it was more in response and i wasn't proactively addressed by anyone at the church. the speaker was a visiting pastor who had left the church some six months earlier with thirty-odd others to start a church plant in salt lake city (of all places!). he spoke of encouraging starts, followed by committed followings-up, and slow growth. he spoke on exodus 20, and how the giving of the law came after God's gracious salvation from the hands of the egyptians. it was a warm, encouraging message but felt a bit like a pot of tea at a chinese restaurant - filling enough at the time but not really satisfying by itself. the music and songs were good and i took notes on a couple of verses - hopefully enough to find out what they were and to see if we could maybe sing them at my own church. maybe.

holy communion was shared as well. this was a slightly odd process but novel and really made me think back to the gospels, where Jesus is asked by john (at the apostles' behest) who would betray him to the authorities and Jesus says that the one to whom he gives the bread dipped in the wine - which was judas iscariot. for the Lord's supper, then, we stepped up and were given space to pray as we wished, and then we dipped our pieces of bread into the glass of wine (or juice) adjacent to the bread bowls, then ate. i found it a quite thought-provoking activity and i have to say it did give me pause as i've not had in some time, feeling very much taken back to the last supper, far more than i can easily remember being before.

of course, the other good thing about this communion service was the lack of concord (i had thought this was "imperial") grape juice. the last time i took holy communion while on holiday in the u.s. was in ithaca when i was visiting there. while it was fantastic to be visiting with my friend, i was startled (a little euphemistically) when i tasted grape juice that seemed to me more like hubba-bubba bubble gum than the grape juice i was used to at home. i used the wine this time, although i suppose that without going back and comparing the two, i'll never know if they were offering the hubba-bubba grape juice.

(i just explained all this to a nice, clean-cut young fellow from minnesota who is on a road-trip of his own, having driven from minnesota to montana, thence to portland, from whence he plans on going to california, nevada, colorado and back home again. a trained vocal musician with experience in catering and a fresh, go-getting attitude that is so classically american, i truly think the world is this young man's oyster. good luck to him, i say.)

and now, i'm off to bedfordshire. tomorrow i hope to report interesting things from omsi, the oregon museum of science and industry. (i think.) there's an exhibition of old - sorry: classic - arcade games there. and you can play them. how cool is that? i'll have to make sure i leave that section for last. can't have dessert before i eat my greens.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

... yo yo yo coming to you live...

good morning world! i'm coming to you somewhat live and direct from the portland zine symposium. my shift on the info table starts in an hour or so and i'm kind of mooching around out the back (so to speak) and availing myself of the free wi-fi.

i'm already finding stuff about portland that has changed since the last time i was here. probably the most alarming thing was the demolition of the safeway near the hostel i'm staying at. there's a fred meyer store down the road but after checking that out last night i'm a little concerned that i'm not going to find anything that i really want to eat for breakfast. i'm going to check around for some kind of organic food store (should be too hard here, i would have thought) - i just want to find something to eat for breakfast that doesn't list more adjectives than nouns in the ingredients list! once i get home i'll be looking with a gimlet eye over the stuff i eat at the moment.

i didn't get much sleep last night, what with the early start and all, but i'm hopeful that i will get some reasonable amounts of sleep soon. the symposium finishes tomorrow and i can only hope that there'll be a debrief about how this one goes within about a month. it's something they've tried to do in the past but once things are finished for one year, the last thing anyone wants to do is think about next year! i asked one of the organisers if any work had been done on a procedural manual for the symposium but there have been good intentions of making one but without much progress.

one of the biggest issues seems to be organising the tables. the next biggest thing seems to be finding a venue. organising tables is a perennial problem and i'm sure if there were a magic bullet for it, some wedding reception place somewhere would be taking a percentage for it. the fine details of table organising seem to hinge on the layout and facilities of the venue and finding a venue far enough in advance does seem to be a problem as well. the symposium had things very good for a very long time and now that things are more complicated and expensive, it's all getting a bit tricky. this space seems okay but bumping in this morning only a couple of hours after the gigs from last night finished (almost) bumping out added a bit of a challenge.

logistics aside, this is an awesomely exciting place to be. i would love to see sticky institute do a table but it's a big ask. maybe someday.

i'm going to head off and have a sticky(beak) of my own.

Friday, August 05, 2011

... well, here we are again...

the trip from melbourne was actually pretty good. i was up at a reasonable, showered, breakfasted and dressed, and all by 7.30-ish. time enough to go out to the tram stop, miss the tram by seconds, then decide to walk to the station anyway.

when i reached the station, i found an express train was due in a few minutes and almost faster than you could say, "jack robinson", i was at southern cross. return ticket to the airport was $26 and it doesn't expire until november. (fear not, dear reader, i expect to return to our fair antipodean shores far sooner than that!)

melbourne to sydney goes a lot faster in an international-route-flying plane and i think i could safely say that i spent longer checking in and going through international departures than i actually did on the plane from tullamarine to kingsford smith.

the trip to san francisco started well enough but i never sleep on these long-haul flights. the best i can manage is a kind of doze and so, like a shark, i'm not quite asleep and i'm not quite awake. we made great time, leaving sydney a mite early and arriving in san francisco almost half an hour early... only to find there was no room for us at the gates and we had to wait until we were expected to arrive! there was a lot of cloud cover and some fog, i think, and so, for whatever reason, almost every connecting domestic flight out of sf was late. my theory, which seemed to be borne out by the announcements that were being made, was that the weather was making it hard for aircraft to land, hence none to make the return trips.

once i was on the plane to portland, however, things went along fine. i bought a weekly ticket with no fuss and that will cover me until i head off to astoria on the 11th.

unsurprisingly, i met heaps of aussies and kiwis on the flights over but even once i was here i kept running into more. it's a bit frightening.

anyway, i'm going to sign off now. i'm exhausted.

Monday, August 01, 2011

... my bags are packed...

i'm almost ready to go! i decided to do a trial pack tonight and it turned into just a straight-out pack. I've got a change of clothes in my carry-on and everything else pretty much packed into my check luggage. only a few things left to add to that - i've not quite kitted out my toiletries bag and i'm taking laundry detergent with me - but otherwise i'm pretty much good to go. the clothes i'm wearing the rest of this week i'll wash later on this week so they'll be ready to go when i get home. no pressure to get my washing done as soon as i land.

right now i'm pretty tired. good night.