Get Rich Quick (or Gambling By Proxy)

I once again find myself in the Las Vegas area. "Who goes to Las Vegas in July on purpose?", you ask. Good question. In its defense, the weather has been quite exciting with thunder storms, flash floods, and temperatures that have more or less stayed below the 100 degree mark. But enough pleasantries; let's get down to business.

Last time I passed this way, I talked to a few people about my idea of gambling by proxy. This time, I want to make that dream a reality for us all. The concept is this: for all of you who aren't able to make it to casinos, whether because of time, geography, or overbearing spousal reasons, I offer you my time and location* so that together we might both become rich.

The rules go like this. You name the amount, game, and bet (e.g. $10 on roulette 15) and I will go place it. I'm thinking the games that lend themselves to this would be roulette, craps, slots (please be as specific as you like with the type of machine), and blackjack (although you would have to accept my decisions*. If you lose, you pay me the amount lost. Kind of like if you were here, but without having to deal with the crowds, stress, and heat. If you win, we split the winnings 75/25 (yes, the bigger amount is for you*).

The concept here is to allow anyone to be a part of the BdW experience, to participate in this adventure that I am on, to have a little innocent fun while on your government-mandated 15-minute coffee break at the office. The action and outcome will be documented here. And besides the excitement and fun this will create, you will be helping to support BdW (web hosting ain't free, ya know.) So get your bets in by Friday night and then leave the rest to me.
Wednesday July 25 2007File under: travel, misc

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On Open Letter to Greyhound

Dear Greyhound Inc.,

I've been a customer of yours for several years. You always come through in a pinch, even if it isn't the best deal or the most convenient travel experience. But a bad options is often better than no optional at all, and I appreciate the service you provide. In my years traveling, I've noticed a few things that I wanted to ask about and a few possible suggestions. I would love to see you become a viable travel option for everyone, not just the bums and winos.

My first question is this: How do you manager to get at least one crazy person or drunk on every bus? Do you focus your advertising campaigns at half-way houses and mental facilities? Is there some sort of discount that you don't offer the general public? Or maybe it is just the camaraderie they feel with the Greyhound employees. Do you keep a staff of these folks on call in case a legitimate crazy doesn't show up? If so, where can I find the application for this position. I do a great crazy.

That brings me to my next question: Do you offer performance benefits on an inversely proportional basis? There must be some incentive that gets your employees to be so indifferent. I've never seen people on duty be so unconcerned with getting the job done properly and in a timely fashion (besides road construction crews, of course). I know this may sound like a new idea, but it is actually well accepted in the business world today: reward employees for performance rather than the lack thereof. With this simple change in policy, you might find that buses will start being on time, facilities will start to resemble a place you wouldn't be afraid to take your mother, and people won't be so horribly belligerent from having been treated so poorly. Who knows, you might even become a company your stock holders wouldn't avoid like the plague.

With a little work and thought, I'm confident that you can be a company with the value and reliability that will compare with, say, Guatemala's bus transit systems. But I will say this: I've never seen a live chicken on any of your buses.

Tuesday July 24 2007File under: transportation, open letter

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Bike Portland!

Portland likes bikes. Or at least they recognize the value in accommodating and encouraging them. I've never seen a city that is as bike friendly as Portland is. There are bikes racks in front of most establishments, often overfilled. I even saw a neighborhood that blocked off a parallel parking spot and filled it with bike racks so the sidewalk wouldn't be clogged. In the space it takes to park one car, there was space for over a dozen bikes. There is space for bikes on the buses and the MAX (the light rail public transportation), also often filled. But what has impressed me most about the biking scene in Portland is the number and quality of bike routes.

In my short time in Portland, I've probably ridden over 50 miles. The difference riding on designated bike routes makes is huge. Often these routes are on lesser traveled residential streets so you don't have to contend with traffic. When the routes do follow major roads, there is a lane set aside for you, painted and everything. Every time the route makes a turn, there are signs pointing the way and updating the distance (and estimated time) to the major landmarks. And for people not terribly familiar with the area, there is even a route planner.

All the encouragement and accommodation seems to be working. You see bikers everywhere you go, ranging all the way from spandex clad aerodynamic racer types to little old ladies with their groceries. Seeing all these cyclists is so inspiring to me. Whether it is their intention or not, the positive environmental impact of pedaling across town instead of pedal-to-the-metalling across town is huge.

I count my miles bicycling among my favorite experiences here in Portland. It kept me in shape, showed me the city, and saved the planet all at the same time. Yes, I agree with sentiment often heard around the city, on billboards, bumber stickers, and store windows: Bike Portland!
Sunday July 22 2007File under: travel, transportation

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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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PDX Ultimate Examined

I've been playing a little thing called Ultimate Frisbee* for a number for years. Back in college, it was a serious affair with practice daily, jerseys, and tournaments. Since college, it has been with friends in the park once a week. In that time, our group has developed its own nuances, rules, etc. Within the bubble that is Anacortes Ultimate, I've somewhat lost touch with how our skill level compares, common styles of play, etc.

One of my big goals for my time here in Portland is to get a few games in. While my first attempt was thwarted by an improperly updated website, I got one in this evening. The whole time I kept noticing differences about the games here compared to the games up there. And for your viewing convenience, I offer you this chart.

 PortlandAnacortes Advantage
Location6 miles to playfields6 blocks to the playfieldsAnacortes
Frequency6-8 games a week1 game a weekPortland
Numbers7s with subs5s, maybe 6s if we're luckyPortland
Force1x: "Force home!"
6x: "OK"
1x: "Force home!"
1x: "OK"
2x: "What's a force?"
Todd: "Which way is home again?"
Portland
PunctualityStarts over an hour lateStarts more or less on time (except for Sherlock and Russ, of course)Anacortes
Skill levelReally goodPretty goodPortland
Group of folksInconsistent strangers with a few regularsFairly consistant regulars (except Herff, of course) with the occasional new comerAnacortes
Otter PopsNothing yetThere was that one time...Anacortes

It looks like it is too close to call. Higher level of play, but without the comforts of playing with friends using well adapted rules*. I had a great time and hope to get at least one more game in before I leave town, but I will be anxious for Tuesday night when I get home.
Thursday July 19 2007File under: Anacortes, 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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