Harry Potter Mania

One of the big goals for my time in Portland was to visit the oft extolled Powell's Book. For some, this isn't just a must see when you visit Portland, but reason enough to make the trip in the first place. I chose to combine my required literary pilgrimage with the circus I knew would be taking place around the release of the new Harry Potter book.

Even in my wildest dreams I couldn't have imagined the spectacle that awaited me. The party was slated to start at 10pm with the books going on sale at 12:01am. I arrived at about 9:15 with the thought of grabbing a bite to eat and maybe finding myself a good used paperback before I gawked. From a block away, I could hear the festivities and see the commotion. The street was blocked off with t.v. vans with satellite dishes raised to the sky. There was a smoke machine and face painting tables. Then there was the line: hundreds of cape-clade, striped scarf wearing fans with their lawn chairs and coolers zigzagging and doubling back Disney-style to fully occupy the closed off street. Although I didn't ask, I'm sure many of them had been there all day.

While I don't consider myself a fan*, I've read a few of the books and know of the characters, many of whom I saw running around with wands, etc. Besides the slew of Harrys and Hermoines dressed in Hogwarts' attire, I saw a Dumbledore, a Prof. Sybill Trelawney*, and, my favorite, Hagrid, true to form towering 2 feet above everyone else. Among the non-Potter related, there were all manner of stilt walkers, a fire juggler, and some Scottish/Irish song and dance troupe that clacked sticks as they do-si-doed.

As I waited for transportation home (unfortunately the bus came before the magical train), the book-purchasing line overflowed its bounds of the block off street and wound halfway around the block, this at only 10:30. I can't only imagine how long the line got by midnight. The poor kids who had gone home to nap before the big event were relegated far from the excitement not to mention prolly not getting their copy until well after midnight. I guess that goes to show what it takes to be a true fan in this day and age.
Saturday July 21 2007File under: travel, events

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Peoples Guide to Anacortes


The People's Guide to Anacortes (originally named Anacortes for CheapOs) has been a project that I've been thinking about for quite some time now. The idea sprung from this post and the wonderful comments that it spawned. The more I thought about it, the more I wished this kind of thing existed for the places I travel to; a simple guide to the free, non-commercial activities a location has to offer. Anyone that has been to Anacortes knows that free activities abound here (hiking, swimming, parks, beaches, etc.)

My intended audience is essentially the younger, more adventurous, less affluent crowd (think heckers (my* oh so clever name for the folks that descend on Anacortes for the What The Heck Fest)), but there are activities for everyone, simply categorized with some fancy technology for syncing up the map with the description. Also available is a printable PDF.

I assume once some of my fellow Anacortians (Anacortisian?) have a look over the list, there will be suggestions for what I missed, etc. and I welcome that. Please pass those along via the comments or the contact page. I'll try to keep the list updated. Another thing you, dear readers, can do to help is to encourage people to check it out. If you have a friend that is going to be visiting Anacortes or the San Juan Islands, send them a link. Knowing that I've opened people's eyes to some of what Anacortes has to offer is the best form of payment I could get for a project like this*.
Wednesday July 18 2007File under: Anacortes, travel

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Angels Rest on the Columbia

Not too long ago, I got to experience the northern shore of the Columbia River courtesy of our friend Scoot Scoot, remember? Well, just this past weekend, I got a taste of the Oregon side of things. I think it is safe to say that the Columbia River from either vantage point is a worthy spectacle.

Although the weather was hot and humid beyond my comfort level, I couldn't pass up the chance to get out of the city for a hike with friends. When we reached the top, after significant elevation gain*, I could really see where it got its name from. If I were an angel, I think I would stop here and have a nice picnic. Besides the lovely view, the welcome breeze, the cheese and crackers*, I found this inspiration gem hidden off the trail a ways. After a group shot and more view admiring, we headed back to the city for a BBQ.

Good time abound here in Portland, I've decided.
Tuesday July 17 2007File under: travel, pics

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Sand in the City

While out meandering around the city the other day, I am came across a neat little exhibit in Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown. While a far cry from the sand castles of my youth, these sand sculptures were pretty neat. I even caught one in the process of being finished. All I know is that back in my days of sand sculpting, trowels, squirt bottles, and wooden frames were not part of the standard issue equipment.

Anyhoo, check out these dandy little pictures: Overview of the festivities (did I mention there was music and food going down as well?); Calvin and Hobbes lookalikes; reading brings the world alive unless there is a dragon under your bed unless, of course, he is a smiley dragon; and a Burgerville Display.

To check out the official Sand in the City site, click here.
Monday July 16 2007File under: pics, travel

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Now THAT is a Farmers Market

I don't have anything against the Anacortes Farmers Market; the bounty of the Skagit Valley, and access to it, is important to me; it is neat to see people behind the counter that I recognize; and Samish Bay cheese will always hold a special place in my heart. But compared to the Portland Farmers Market at PSU, it leaves much to be desired.

Yesterday, I journeyed downtown via my favorite form of public transportation (non-bus) to bask in all the local foods that NW Oregon has to provide. What did I see? Berries, cherries, buffalo meat, goat cheese, mushrooms, honey, walnuts, veggies, oysters, flowers, bread, and so much more. And there wasn't just one stand for each, but lots to choose from. The fruit stands alone were easily larger than the whole of the Anacortes Farmers Market. Although I ended up only coming away with cherries, a focaccia bread, and some chipotle cheddar, I could have easily spend about $200 dollars and had myself quite the little feast.

Speak of feasts, not only was there fresh local produce etc., but there were food stands to beat the band: pizza by the slice, organic breakfast burritos, and plenty more that I would have loved to sampled. I decided on a spicy sausage with grilled onions and green peppers. I sat and enjoyed my lunch while listening to the [local, (I assume)] band rocking out on stage. Yep, the Portland Farmers Market is a good way to spend a day.
Sunday July 15 2007File under: food, travel

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PDX

(For all you uninitiated, "PDX" is what the cool kids call Portland, OR. Or at least that's what I am told. I sure hope another naming discussion stems from this one*. I'll just stick with it purely for convenience. PDX is easier to type than Portland*.)

Portland, Oregon is a city that is held in high regards by many Northwesterners. It isn't too large to be overwhelming. It is large enough to have all the culture you could hope for. And it is a well planned city with public transportation, city parks, and more. I've passed through here a couple of times before, but never really gotten a chance to really immerse myself in all that is PDX.

Well, in the continuing vein of the Year of Wren, things just seem to go my way. I've landed a 10 day housesitting gig in a gorgeous home in a lovely part of the city. Within being here only a couple of hours, I get treated to dinner with old friends at the 2007 Restaurant of the Year, Pok Pok*. Now, as a cool breeze flushes the house of the warmth built up through the day, thunder and lightening echo in the background really adding to the sense of adventure I'm anticipating for this lovely visit.

So any BdW readers in the area, let's get together! Let's do a movie in one of those famous McMenamin's pub/cinemas. Shall we check out the Farmers' Market? You must know a good swimming hole. Show me your favorite park*. Or if you were here but aren't now, drop a suggestion for what I simply mustn't miss.

Three cheers for a PDX adventure!
Thursday July 12 2007File under: travel, food

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A Day in the Couv

(I think popular consensus is that nobody calls Vancouver "the 'Couv". That's quite a pity, if you ask me. Anyhoo, it is a trend I'm looking to start, so I expect to hear you all saying it soon.)

Vancouver is a dang cool city. I know, because I've been (although not nearly as often as I should've). I've been reading much about it over the last year or so on Amanda's blog, so I got quite excited when I heard we were planning a family excursion up that way to visit an old* family friend.

To make a long story short*, the trip was awesome. We had a great visit with great friends in a great city. High points included an excellent "Malaysian Thai Fusion" meal, gorgeous weather for walking along the beach at English Bay (side note: I found it highly amusing how many folks were out sunbathing or swimming even though the temperature was no more than 74* with a not-so-warm breeze blowing off the water), the Frazier River countryside, and the little difference (we saw 2 smart cars, one of which was a convertible!). Low points included an unpleasantly long wait at the border crossing and our lunch park being closed for construction. (Where were you on that one, google maps?)

For further, less tangible musings, click here.
Monday July 9 2007File under: travel

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4000 Miles Video


Inspired by a video put together by a friend of some of his transportation experiences in SE Asia, I decided to put together a little video of my recent scooter trip. I've got a long way to go before expecting an Emmy nomination in the mail, but it ain't bad for having only a 5 year old digital still camera and free editing software that comes with windows. If the inline version doesn't work, click here to go directly to the YouTube page.

Oh, and for kicks, here are a couple pictures about the making of the video.
Monday June 11 2007File under: video, travel

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Two-wheeled Kin

To me, scooters are in a class of their own. They aren't beefy and macho like motorcycles, and they aren't efficient, sporty, and popular like bicycles. If you ride either a motorcycle or a bicycle, it is like you are a member of an instant club. Fellow cyclists will give you a nod or warn you of a rabid dog 2 blocks up. Motorcyclist will share specs, stories, and conversations about the latest and greatest gear with you. As a scooterist, I wasn't expecting to be accepted by either group. Luckily, I was quite wrong.

Motorcyclist have this hi-sign that they give to other motorcyclist as they zip by one another. While I saw many variations on it, it usually consists of a left hand extended below the handle bars with a few fingers out. At first, I thought it was a sign telling me to slow down or something until Dave explained it all to me. Then, on this trip, I got into the habit and really grew to like this welcoming sign of camaraderie. Besides including me in their group with the hi-sign, motorcyclist I met on the road were invariable interested in my scooter and my trip.

On the other end of the 2-wheeled spectrum, bicyclists, whom I thought might lump me in with the motorcyclist category, always gave me a smile as I scooted by. It was almost as if they were saying, "I acknowledge that you too are an outsider on this road made for high speed behemoths." When there weren't bicyclists around, I would frequently use their lane to inverse pass the cars that had built up behind me.

Without a metal box to separate you from those that you met on the road, it only seemed natural to acknowledge them with a hi-sign or a nod. It lent an unexpected friendliness to my time on the road.
Monday June 4 2007File under: travel, road trip

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Camera Obscura

Ever since I learned about them, camera obscuras (cameras obscura?) have captivated that neato-sciencey portion of my little ole brain. The most spectacular (and maybe the only) example of a camera obscura I have seen is at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Ten years ago, I passed through San Francisco and saw it. Since then, I've often thought of that dilapidated giant camera on the pier. This trip, I got a chance to return.

For those of you who don't know what a camera obscura is, think projector. If you ever saw the movie Addicted to Love, one features prominently in that. It is essentially a series of lenses and mirrors that project into a darkened space whatever it is on the other side of the lenses. Wikipedia does a better job of explaining it here.

Seeing a 10X magnified verion of what's going on outside projected in super-dooper HD quality (actually, there is no comparison to any digital format) for some reason just amazes me. The camera isn't aimed at anything particularly cool, but seeing just the waves crash or the sea gulls fly by is excitement enough. Perhaps it is seeing an image so crisp but having the sound muffled by the building walls that makes it such a surreal experience.

Anyhoo, camera obscuras are neat. If you are ever in San Fran, I definitely suggest you stop by this place and check it out.
Friday June 1 2007File under: travel, road trip

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