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Sun, Mar. 7th, 2010, 11:33 am
Manufacturing happiness

The "manufacturing" part is important. I'm grabbing the bull of life by the balls and making it my bitch, to put it one way. I am way, way happier now than I was when I moved here because I've taken matters into my own hands and jumped into things head-first.

I've spent the past three weeks or so working on my picture frame idea. Well, much of that time has been spent building, rebuilding, and buying tools so I can make frames quickly. Plan A is to make and sell high-end picture frames of local hardwoods. Plan A2 is to also do the custom matting and such with my frames. Plan B is to make just the moldings, meaning, turn boards into shaped/profiled pieces ready to be assembled, and sell them to framing shops. I've talked to only one framing place so far but it was encouraging. Dude said that all of their moldings and the ones that the other frame shops use come from China, are made of who-knows-what-kind of wood, and are pre-painted with who-knows-what-kind of paint.

I figured I wouldn't be able to compete with that and I'm probably right. Also, frame shops staple their frames together, which is vastly quicker than what I do. I glue the corners and when the glue is dry I bore a hole across the joint, glue in a piece of matching-size dowel, and then sand it flush (I read about the technique online). It makes for a very strong joint, and my miters are so much tighter than anything I've seen from framing places.

I've come to appreciate why custom framing is so expensive. Starting with a board and ending up with a fully assembled, framed/matted photo takes me 3-4 hours, which is a LOT of time. Making just the moldings takes about 45 minutes, so you can see why that's the avenue I want to pursue. I doubt that the market for my own custom hardwood frames and matting is very large, though I'm going to try. I'm sure that the market for custom hardwood molding is much greater and it takes a lot less time for me to do it so I'm going to aim for that. If the fully assembled custom frame market doesn't work out I can always just do that for my own photos for galleries.

Which leads me to the next good thing. I have three large-ish framed (using the aluminum frames I've had for too long) photos up at a local gallery! The owner of the place is a woodworker that I met at a meeting of the local woodworking society. I barely got in at the last minute and my name wasn't on the guide for the art walk but I'm just glad I got some stuff on the walls. I spent Friday night at the gallery for the First Friday Art Walk, Eugene's equivalent to Eureka's Arts Alive. I drank free beer and wine, talked to the locals who came by, and met a couple of other artists.

One dude, Tim, said that he admired my photos and really wants to learn how to shoot film. I told him that I admired his Photoshop skills that he applied to his photos, so we exchanged info and are going to teach each other. Sweet!

The gallery also has an infoshop/lending library. I picked up a flier there for the Eugene Free School. I know almost nothing about it but it looks like it's a group of people who teach various things for free/barter. They're having an intro to welding class that I'm going to take. I probably know a fair amount of it already but maybe not, as I haven't actually been taught what I'm doing.

The bartender for the night was this girl named Ashlee who works at the Cornbread Cafe, a tasty new vegan place run out of an RV next to the gallery building, owned by woodworker dude, his wife, and another business partner. Ashlee and I talked quite a bit throughout the night and I got a definite sense that she is interested in me in some way. I got her number and I'm going to call her this week. She smokes, not a lot I don't think, but still, that could be a deal-breaker, assuming we even get to that point. My approach these days is to not have an approach; I'm just talking to people and seeing what happens. Maybe I'll date Ashlee on a casual basis, maybe not, maybe nothing at all will happen, but I'll be happy regardless of any of those outcomes. It's a nice feeling. At the very least I'm hoping that she'll help me hone my skills as a people photographer (=I want her to model for me), as I've been getting back into that lately.

I took a bunch of photos of this totally awesome friend I've made named Dena. She and I get along REALLY well. One of her traits I like the most that she speaks her mind and doesn't sugar-coat things, just like me. She's very outgoing and spunky and fun to be around. I'm not expecting anything more than friendship to develop with her, but I'd be lying if I said that I don't feel an attraction to her. She's quite cute (including her brilliantly green hair) but a lot of what I find attractive about her is her personality. Anyway, I'm taking the same approach here: hang out and see what happens. At the very least we'll be great friends.

I'm meeting with a woman tomorrow who writes erotic short stories. I found her request for a photographer on Craigslist and we've been emailing back and forth for a couple of weeks. She wants an author photo, though not one with her face in it, as she also writes for a conservative crowd. I think she also wants a photo for the cover. Either way, I'm glad to oblige because I need more practice with people photos and doing the cover for a book would be really great.

I've also responded to another CL ad by a blogger who wants someone to do photos of her semi-strange ideas to put on her blog. She wants to model in strange places wearing mustaches and funky clothes and such. I think it's great, as I've been wanting to do something more "edgy" than my usual.

Oh, I talked to Tony, the woodworker who owns the gallery, about learning the craft from him. He's quite into the idea, so I'm going to spend some time at his shop watching and asking questions. He's a cool dude and I'm glad I've pursued this with him.

Last Wednesday I went to a meeting of Greenlane, which is an organization of businesses involved in all things "green" and sustainable and such. I had been meaning to go for a while but kept putting it off. It went very well. Before the guest speaker came on, each of us stood up and introduced ourselves. One guy at the end of the introductions said that he owns a solar business and "wants to talk to that young man over there", referring to me. I had talked to one of his employees who was eating at the same table as me who had said that they might have a need for someone to handle the incentive paperwork and explain the process to customers. I talked to the owner for a bit and I like him and he liked me. He didn't talk of a job specifically but he gave me his card and I'm going to contact him.

The big difference between the me of Eugene now and the me of Humboldt then is that I'm charging ahead with all of this and doing things the right way. I am FINALLY pursuing my photography as more than just a hobby that I do for myself and I am meeting people in various ways who can help me with that. I'm going to make a bunch of frames, put my photos in them, and get into as many galleries as possible. It turns out that I'm a damn good photographer; my photos are better than most of the ones in that gallery, but any time I feel like I'm exceptional all I have to do is look at what the real pros produce. I'm pursuing galleries to promote both my photography and my frames at the same time. I'm getting into the artist scene around here and I'm working on doing some free/barter photography to get myself started. In short, I'm a revitalized me and it's great. I knew I was stagnating in Humboldt and though it took some time for me to get my act together once I moved here, it's working.

I've also been dramatically ramping up my bike riding. I did three 21 mile rides this past week and my aim is to get up to doing that every week. My legs are getting pretty burly and I'm pushing myself harder than I have before. I splurged and got new pedals and shoes for my bike so I can clip in and actually attach myself to my bike the way real race people do. Tess was right, it makes a huge difference because I can now pedal on the upstroke as well as the down. I am getting frustrated, however, by my bike itself. It's a really nice mountain bike with high-end components but it isn't very good as a road/race bike, which is what I want. I've put the skinniest tires I can on it but they're still 3-4 times wider than road bike tires. Its gearing is too low and while it's light for a mountain bike, it's a bit heavy for a road bike. I'm hoping that my various ventures will produce enough income for me to buy a nice road bike on Craigslist. I figure $300-ish will get me something good.

I've been hemorrhaging money like crazy lately, adding over a grand to my credit card. At $50 per router bit, getting setup to make frames is expensive. I decided to ignore my former self and just jump in with both feet and go into debt to get started. That's how people do this sort of thing, I realized, and it also serves as a great motivation to really do this.

I'm still unemployed and I am more than a little nervous that my framing/molding idea won't pan out, but I'm trying my hardest to see that it does. I don't plan to make a full income doing this, but I figure it's something that can help, I enjoy doing it, and it'll get me by until I get a "real" job. The electric car place is still a possibility (and a spectacular one at that) but I'm not counting on it. Maybe this woodworking and photography stuff will really take off and I won't need to find a "real" job, but I'm being realistic and figuring that that may not be how things work out. Despite my incredible motivation, I have to remember that there are things beyond my control and I'm doing all of this in the worst economy in 80 years.

Life is great, mostly. Compared to where I was a year ago, I'm no better financially but incalculably better mentally and I'm putting a lot of irons in a lot of fires, so the financial side of things will improve too.

Wed, Feb. 24th, 2010, 04:25 pm
Extreme yes-ness!

Lots of other things I've been meaning to write here, but check this out: I got a nice old table saw on Craigslist for $100! It's somewhere in the vicinity of 20-30 years old, made of heavy cast iron, and it runs like a champ. Before I madly dashed off to buy it last night I did some quick Googling of the model (it's a Rockwell Model 10 Contractor's Saw) and all of the discussions were from people doing the same thing as me and all of the answers were along the lines of "it's a fantastic saw and BUY IT NOW!" One guy got one for $75 but most people paid $150-$250.

The dude said it made a weird loud noise when it ran, which I noticed, but said he'd just ignored it and it worked fine for the past 15 years. I was afraid that it was a bad bearing in the motor, which isn't a big deal, but still a bit of a pain. Turns out that the shaft on the motor (which is an enormous 1.5 horsepower monster) was missing the key and the crappy cast aluminum pulley was held on by only its set screw in the channel where the key should have been. I replaced both pulleys, put a key on the motor shaft, and replaced the belt with a link belt (fancy expensive thing that's worth the money) and now it runs like a champ, noise-free, and with a lot less vibration, thanks to the belt and, less so, the pulleys.

Tomorrow I'm going to sand the top to get rid of the surface rust, wax it, and celebrate by doing some more work on making picture frames to sell, which is one of the things I've been meaning to write about here.

I paid almost as much for the blade for the saw (that I got a year ago for a different saw) as I did for the saw itself! They do make saws of this quality still, but I would have paid $800+ to get one new.

The table saw is apparently the real workhorse of any woodworking shop, and I'm totally stoked to finally have one. I had figured it would be a long time before I got one, as the good ones aren't cheap and I hadn't seen any good deals on Craigslist. Now I can do almost all work myself, at home.

Let's hope I don't cut any fingers off. With my super nice 80 tooth blade, if I have my finger in it for only half a second, I'll have 2400 teeth pass through my body. Maybe I should make a sign of that and stick it on the saw...

Tue, Jan. 26th, 2010, 12:23 am
Email ridiculousness

My dad sent me another of his "I used to be smart but then I got older and more paranoid and now I'm a nutcase who can't think any more" emails. This one was a "global warming test" which of course said that it was scientific and not biased and not political.

Here it is: http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/GlobWarmTest/start.html

It was written by a MINING ENGINEER. In VIRGINIA. Where COAL comes from.

Anyway, I normally ignore my dad's stupidity, preferring to allow him to carry on unharried and watch his nuttiness develop as a sort of sick sideshow, but I had to say something this time.

Here is my response:
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I was waiting for the part where it admitted to being a joke, but to no avail. Written by a mining engineer in one of the most coal-centric parts of the country, I can't expect much. I mean, seriously, what kind of person makes the argument that adding CO2 to the air is a good idea because plants need it and we need plants? Plants also need sunlight, so let's make the hole in the ozone bigger so we can have better plants!

I shouldn't have to mention it, but you certainly didn't consider this, so I shall write it out here: yes, natural temperature variations are normal, but I am not aware of any evidence pointing to cavemen driving cars or burning coal for electricity. Converting fossil fuels into CO2 didn't happen until extremely, very, extremely recently, so comparing modern society's CO2 production to the historic trends in any way is absurd.

As a side note, if you (or anyone else) has to say that the information in a link I'm going to go to is scientific and not political, it's highly likely that the information in that link is not scientific but political. Information speaks for itself.

Call climate change a hoax, fine, but nobody can tell me that fossil fuels will be around into eternity without giving me cause to consider their sanity. When we have so many alternatives available (as you know), why even bother using the old, outdated dino juice? There is a mountain of money (yes, money, the motivation for all life) out there in the alternative energy business, and the ones who tap into it are the smart guys. The guys who insist that we need to hold onto fossil fuels for any reason other than entrenched financial interests/power are going to be laughed at the same way that we now laugh at Bill for saying we didn't need more than 640k. At nearly any level of consumption greater than zero, fossil fuel supplies are finite, period. That's why they're called fossil fuels. It doesn't matter if "peak oil" has or hasn't happened or won't happen for 300 years, we already have workable alternatives that depend on an energy source that is about as infinite as our brains can conceive.

And don't think I'm some hippie eco-groovy planet-loving people person. When it comes down to it, we don't need to "save" the planet for its sake, we need to "save" it because it supports our own life. It is selfish to compost or ride a bike instead of driving or heat your water with the sun. The planet will recover from anything we do to it, as it operates on a time scale far more vast than we can imagine. Drop a few nukes and kill everyone? Fine, in another fifty million years the radioactivity will be gone and it'll be business as usual, but will have stupidly eliminated ourselves. We are going to go extinct sooner or later. The point in being concerned with things that could potentially hurt our environment is that doing so could delay that extinction by a few hundred or a few thousand years. When you're looking at the survival of our species, even if global climate change is a complete hoax made up by those damned hippies to sell more patchouli, what is the harm in switching to other energy sources that already exist, especially when you consider the fact that we are going to have to make that change eventually? It's not like using the wind and the sun and whatever else we come up with is going to make things worse, is it? I hope my sense of logic doesn't evaporate when I turn 50.
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Yeah, it's a bitchslap of logic that I don't think my dad expected. Then again, he isn't used to visits from Logic these days.

Now to segue into something related to that last paragraph, sorta...

I'm not very active in the political process because I know that my efforts would be futile. As a collective people we have made progress, via politics and in other ways, over the past few hundred/couple thousand years. Women can vote, we don't have lords and vassals and such, we aren't dying in the streets from diseases and malnutrition, etc. I can conclude from that observation that while the graph of human progress has its dips and dives, its trend is a line going up and to the right, which is good.

But then I think of how many good, useful, or just plain morally right things have not been allowed to happen because of politics and the quest for power. We would all be snuggling in big people-piles and eating ambrosia that comes from machines that convert our shit into food, and the machines themselves would be edible when they stopped working, if it weren't for politics and power.

To get to the point, the thought that I've had lately is that, though I consider myself a humanist, I have to conclude that progress will never be as fast as it should/can be and we will always be battling the privileged few to provide for the many. It's human nature, at least for part of the species, to lust for power and all that. Unfortunately for the rest of us, those few who feel that urge get to take what should rightfully go to all of everyone.

We will always have inequalities, riots, revolutions, and all that jazz. It's not going to be like the books and movies say, where there is some sea change in all paradigms that leads to a utopian, or at least far less screwed up society, than what we have now. There will be progress, but it will be slow. Very slow, as it always has been.

We are also going to always have war. We can strive for peace, as we should, but war is here to stay. Again, most of us don't want war, but there are people who love it, and they are the ones who get what they want. It's an animalistic, natural thing that probably almost every human has. Most of us keep it in check or vent it in good ways, but there are always going to be the assholes who love war.

In a sense, we are screwed, in that we will probably never live up to our potential, which I define as the progress we have made divided by the amount of time we have been around to make it. We are probably going to go extinct, for whatever reason, before we stop fighting and before we get all of these things that we should have already gotten. I mean, seriously, it's 2010 and we're still DEBATING gay marriage? What the hell is wrong with us?

I'm still optimistic though, as weird as that sounds. I see a lot of potential in our species and I think that some of our progress that we will make will be in our ability to make progress more quickly. I think most people are good, in the sense that they don't want to hurt each other.

Okay, my hands are hurting after all of this typing. Gotta head to bed.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010, 10:34 am
Oh yeah

There were a few chiropractors at the home show yesterday, one of whom had this fancy computer muscle analyzer thing. The dude was giving free demos of it so I gave it a try. As I understand it, it analyzes the tension of one's muscles for each vertebra using electrical stimulation (which I felt). It showed a line next to each vertebra as it was tested, the length and color of it denoting the degree of tension.

Well, not surprisingly, the muscles in my lower back showed up as very long red lines. I believe the upper limit of the "tension scale" is 255. The least tense of my lower back muscles registered 219, the most tense, 251. I was probably the worst case, as least for lower back tension, that he tested that day.

It's not like I need a computer to tell me how bad it is, but if anybody I know had been watching, they might get some idea as to why I'm always framing everything I do in the context of how much it will hurt.

Sat, Jan. 23rd, 2010, 09:41 pm
Speaking of good days

I went to the local hippie-groovy eco-sustainable home show thing today to talk up woodworkers, photographers, and other such folk. I also got this thing called a "back up" which touts itself as "the world's first frameless chair" and they're right. It's a back pad with straps that go over my knees, so my knees keep my back straight without having something to sit against. I was sold as soon as I tried it, and I'm using it as I type this. It even zips into its own carrying pouch.

I watched a presentation by a local cabinet/furniture maker and then talked to him afterward. He was as friendly as virtually all of the woodworkers I've talked to, which is to say extremely so. While he doesn't have any work for me (as I expected), he did tell me about Splinters, the local woodworker's guild/society/bomb-making group. I also talked to Angie, another woodworker. She and Jonathan, the other WW person, both pointed me in the direction of Seth. He owns a business doing woodworking and he salvages logs/trees and mills them into boards. Anyway, I talked to him for a bit and gave him the usual info about me looking for an "in" and after a bit he softened up and told me that one of his guys recently quit unexpectedly.

Turns out he needs a woodworker/welder/photographer, three of my various useful skills! We both agreed that this was a serendipitous meeting and he said I should email him. I'm afraid of the amount of physical labor that may be involved, depending on exactly what the job entails, but if it isn't too much (my back couldn't take me hauling logs around), I'll probably go for it. Sure, ideally I'd have a job doing R&D on some snazzy new thing, but then again, I also like welding/photography/woodworking and I've really been wanting to get my foot in the WW door, so this might be ideal. We'll see.

So that was a good day, though my back is totally thrashed from standing up and walking around so much, which I expected. I wanted to go to the barn dance tonight but I probably wouldn't be able to move tomorrow if I did. Besides, I met some cool folks today that I'll be seeing at the next Splinters meeting, so I got some people-meeting needs taken care of anyway.

Thu, Jan. 21st, 2010, 01:19 am

I just got back from an awesome end to a good day. I'll start from the end and work backwards.

I've decided that on the 1-2 times a week I'm allowing myself to have a beer, I have to ride my bike to whatever bar/pub/watering hole to get it, thereby accomplishing the beer-quisition and getting some exercise in. Not knowing of any places other than Sam Bond's and Tiny Tavern (which are right next to each other), I looked online and found a place called The Blind Pig. I rode the 5 miles out there, got a beer, and within 15 minutes started talking to the guy, Dave, next to me.

I talked to him and this guy Jim for a while, then Dave left and Aven came in (cool name). He grew up in Arcata! That happens all the time, me running into people who are either from Arcata or have been there a few times. Anyway, the big deal is that I talked with these guys continuously for about two hours and got some leads on where to look for jobs. Just before I left Jim said "you seem like a hell of a nice guy, and very intelligent too" which was nice. Turns out that Aven worked at the same place as Joe (from the electric car place) and knows him; we both agreed that Joe is a great guy. Small-town syndrome, again, not that I mind.

The guys all said the same thing: the job market here is seriously bad but such is the case in most places it seems. I told them that Humboldt is worse, which is saying something, unless you're a grower or know the son of the CEO or something.

Earlier today I decided to completely change my tack on this job search voyage. Looking at job listings is now a secondary task; networking is first priority. I knew all along that I probably wasn't going to get a great job just by looking at listings but I didn't do much about it. Today I felt great knowing that what I'm pursuing now is more correct. I want to meet people and make friends and I need to network to find a job and I want to get more connected with phellow photographers and sell some photos. All of this led to the obvious conclusion that networking is more important than anything. I'm also going to look at listings, of course, and I'm going to just show up at businesses and talk myself up, but my main focus will be talking to everyone in sight and telling them about myself and what I'm looking for.

That's why tonight was so good: it was a confirmation that this is how I should be approaching the situation. Normally I'd just shoot the proverbial shit with bar folk and maybe pursue hanging out in the future, but tonight I made a point of talking about my situation and asking about job opportunities here. It worked marvelously. Dave recommended that I talk to Fish and Game about building their birdhouses or whatever they're called. I never would have thought of that! We exchanged numbers and as he was leaving he said "we're going to find you a job!" Aven and Jim made some recommendations too and we all got along great. I talked to the bartender a bit too, just to get to know folks.

I found the local photographer's society and I'm going to go to their meeting next week. I also found the "Oregon Newcomer's Club" and I'll probably give that a shot too. Tomorrow I'm going to see what I can find in the way of woodworking groups.

This is why I needed to move out of Humboldt: I was more or less avoiding meeting people and becoming involved in the community because I was fed up with the place for various reasons.

All of the depressed, upset anger-y feelings I've had lately, with regard to the job search, pretty much evaporated today. One reason is that I finally have a place to live. Another is that I've combined making friends, looking for a job, and FINALLY promoting myself as a photographer into one activity.

Speaking of photography, I got a decent light table, much better than the crappy one I made years ago, for $5! Thank you Craigslist/professional photographer guy! I've been looking at the slides from my trip and I'm still awe-struck that I took such good photos. I normally like maybe 10% of the photos I take but these rolls are more like 80%!

What REALLY SUCKS and PISSES ME OFF is that I can't do anything with those slides because my expensive slide scanner just up and decided to stop working. I've had it for 3 years and made maybe 100 scans with it so it's virtually unused, yet now it won't show up on any computer I plug it into. I am SO pissed about this. I saw a post online from a guy who had the same problem and he ended up giving Nikon $315 to replace the main board to make it work again. That's half of what the scanner cost in the first place! What the fuck Nikon?! I mailed mine off the other day (the postage alone was $40) to have them tell me what's wrong. I know what's wrong: they made a great scanner with a shitty USB connection and I'm going to be stuck with it unless I shovel even more money at them. They're going to get a very nasty letter from me if I have to pay that kind of money to get this fixed. I literally did nothing to the scanner but plug it in and now it doesn't work.

Grrrr.... Well, in other news, I bought an EOS-3 film camera with power winder/vertical shutter release on Ebay. I spent more on it than I probably needed to, but it's basically unused and in mint condition, so it's worth it. This is going to be awesome: it's rainproof (all buttons and openings have gaskets), loaded with features like Eye Control focus (I just look at where I want it to focus and it follows my eye), and it has a much better viewfinder with interchangeable screens. It's Canon's second-best camera they made and it'll be my first truly professional one.

For all the digital SLR people out there, let's compare. My 8.2 megapixel dSLR with battery grip cost $1,700. I got this 22 megapixel-equivalent film camera with battery grip for $250 AND it's waterproof and has a better viewfinder. That $1,450 difference would buy a shit ton of film which, when scanned, yields images with three times the resolution of my dSLR and better color. Also, slides are future-proof in that they can be re-scanned with technology that doesn't exist yet and get even more resolution and they're immune to viruses and hard drive crashes. And one shouldn't forget that my dSLR was outdated almost as soon as it was released but the EOS-3 is 10 years old and will go another 30 before it just wears out, since film technology doesn't really change.

I'm really hoping that they keep making slide film for a while or I'm going to cry. All right, enough with the shop talk.

Yes, today was good, and so shall tomorrow be.

Fri, Jan. 15th, 2010, 12:29 am
Lots

There is an enormous pile of stuff I can write about on here, but I'll just put down two things.

1. I am typing this from my new room! Yep, I'm officially not moved in at all in any sense but I did arrive back in Eugene a few hours ago and I have a place to live. This is good.

2. I just looked at the 7 rolls of slides and 2 rolls of infrared film I shot on my trip. HOLY SHIT! Normally I'm glad to get 2-4 photos per roll that I consider to be decent, but almost every one on each roll looks incredible. Granted, slides always look stunning before I look at them on the light table or scan them, but even so, wow! I guess it's a good thing that two of the three people I know here are going to be gone, 'cause I have 300 film photos to go through, and it looks like I'll be scanning quite a few of them which takes forever. Also, it looks like I've really gotten good at shooting slides, which are pretty unforgiving as far as exposure is concerned. I bracketed like crazy, taking three photos (with different shutter/aperture settings) for each shot and it looks like I may not have to do so much in the future.

I'm going to spend some of my Christmas money on a camera. While it's possible to get great photos with the lens I have, the cheap piece of shit body I'm using with it (for film) is, well, a piece of shit. It doesn't have a depth-of-field preview button, it's difficult to change the aperture because it lacks a dial on the back, its low-light performance is piss-poor, the autofocus and viewfinder are a joke, and so on. Anyway, I'm going to get an EOS-3, the 2nd best camera Canon made, and a truly professional one with weather sealing and all. They're pretty cheap on Ebay too, especially compared to the 1v, the top of the line ridiculous ultimate camera they made. That one is several years old and they still go for $600!

This was the best winter trip I've had. More details on it later, but I'll say here now that the Saline Valley hot springs experience was borderline cosmic/religious.

Sun, Jan. 3rd, 2010, 10:01 am
Heading: back

I've had a weird semi-kinda cold for three days now but I think I'm getting better. The first day was the worst, what with the feeling exhausted and all (I took 3 hours of naps!) but even then I have had only a slight sore throat, a slightly stuffed-up nose, no coughing, hardly any funky yellow stuff, and I just haven't really been too sick in general. My mom has this too, though she's mainly just feeling tired instead of having the throat and such.

I'm leaving for socal tomorrow regardless, figuring that if this is all this is going to do, I should be totally fine by tomorrow or the next day. I'm going to do the dad thing, stay with my brother, and then get the hell out of that evil place and high-tail it to death valley with the most expedient of expeditiousness.

I've decided to do the crazy thing and go to the Saline Valley hot spring there again, only this time I'm going via one of the more backwoodsy roads. That's saying something, as the "normal" road to the springs is 3 hours of tooth-rattling washboarded curvy roads. I'm going to go to The Racetrack again and then head east through Lost Burro Gap and follow that dirt road down to Hunter Mountain. The road is 55 miles of winding, canyon-following awesomeness, but my concern, other than the remoteness, is that it's at 5300 feet and probably has its share of snow. I am of course prepared for such a thing, but it would be vastly better on my nerves if I didn't have to deal with that. Everything I've read about the road is along the lines of "spectacular scenery, great drive, very remote, make sure you have another vehicle with you."

Then, after getting to the end of that road, where it joins with Saline Valley Rd., I'm in the valley, 3 hours away from the edge of the park. My plan is to head to the hot springs and post up for a full day for once. No more of this drive in and soak and leave the next day business, I'm going to stay the night, wake up, spend the whole day soaking in the various springs, stay the night, and leave the next day. I'll be able to take a shower there thanks to the hot and cold running water that comes out of the ground and is literally piped to a shower, so that will be nice.

After three days of Death Valley, I shall then head north to more snow and springs and such, assuming I don't get stuck in the pass in the Panamints. I'm going to try damn hard to get to Buckeye, a hot spring near Bridgeport. I tried the last two years but the road is gnarly and very snow-laden, so this year I've got snowshoes and determination. And if that does fail, there's always Travertine hot spring a few miles away.

Eventually I'll end up in Humboldt on the 12th and stay with a friend there for a couple of days. Best of all, when I head back to Eugene I will be moving into my new place! I'm sending off the rental/lease agreement today, after a great deal of pestering to get the paperwork. This is good in many ways, not the least of which is that I can drive right up there like I live there ('cause I do) and unpack my truck right into the garage! Sweet!

Yeah, I'm a little nervous about the Death Valley wing of my trip, but that's much of the point of doing it: one does not overcome fear or learn new things by avoiding them.

And now I shall get to work on the many things to do before I leave tomorrow. Those Jerry cans aren't going to re-seal themselves, I've discovered.

Fri, Dec. 25th, 2009, 10:51 pm
Pretty cool!

My brother mentioned this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Mayall

It's the Wikipedia entry for my grandfather, and it's much more comprehensive than I imagined. It also refers to this entry for the big-ass telescope named after him:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayall_4m_telescope


Speaking of that telescope, I'm going to be getting a private tour by the director of Kitt Peak on Sunday, along with my brother. I had such a tour in 2000 but didn't realize at the time that no, non-family people do not get to walk around the floor of the 300-ton scope or go in the control room. I shall make sure to take many photos. My earliest memory of the telescope was when I was maybe 6 and we got to walk on the catwalk around the circumference of the structure, which scared my brother to death (it's maybe 80 feet off the ground) but I enjoyed. It had a hell of a view.

Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009, 08:40 pm
Them's some big bytes (boring dorky technical time)

I'm cleaning up my largest-capacity external hard drive right now and I took a look at my film scans directory (or "folder" for you non-former-DOS folks). It is 26 gigs in size but has only 225 photos! To put that in perspective, my directory of all of the photos from my digital SLR and such is twice the size but has 13,000 photos in it!

In other words, film scans are enormous, about a hundred times larger than images from my digital camera. To get that same resolution in a digital camera I'd have to spend $3,000 minimum but the film camera I've been using to take those enormous pictures is literally the cheapest one Canon ever made; a used Rebel X can be found for around $40.

I like to refer to this as my avoidance of the "digital arms race". The slide film I'm using is not too different from the stuff that was being produced in 1950, yet a digital SLR made today will be outdated in a year.

I also prefer shooting slides because A. I like the "Christmas" effect of not seeing my shots until they're developed and B. there is a lot to be said for holding a physical manifestation of a photo in my hands instead of looking at it on a screen. I'm pretty sure that a good digital SLR can produce photos of quality equivalent to that of slide film, though I may be wrong.

And yes, I realize that film costs money and digital files more or less don't, but the $3000 for that fancy-pants digital SLR would buy me about 300 rolls of slide film, including processing.

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