Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Exploring Our New Reality (Pass the Soma)

This weekend was the first ever trip to the Science Fiction Museum, located in the same building as the Experience Music Project, under the Needle. Evidently EMP is famous or something. The SciFi Museum is far cooler.

The building has some righteous architecture around it, most especially so the EMP building itself, with the monorail running straight into it. The building is in this bended liquid metal form, that can't really be described. It's a matrix.

Inside the SciFi Museum, well, there are no pictures allowed :-( What I could get was in the ticketing line- the bathroom signs, and a model of my dad when he was doing movie extra work in LA back in the day.
This just confused me.  Which one do I enter?

My dad.  I had a very troubled childhood.
After entering you're treated to everything that ever happened in the world of science fiction. Particularly impressive are a few videoglobes, with internal projectors showing an entire fictional or real planet or moon from all angles. I enjoyed one viewing window where you could see ships from many books and movies coming together, and compare their relative sizes. You haven't lived until you see the ship of Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind moving next to Rama, the Enterprise 1701, and the Millenium Falcon.

Models were everywhere, including ship models and the actual costumes worn by the TV Superman, Star Trek, Star Wars, and many others. I learned that the metal spacesuit that Bones wears in TOS is actually all fabric. And the unitard that 7 of 9 wears in STV totally doesn't look as good when it's just hanging there on a rack. Don't know why...

Throughout there was a detailed history of science fiction, with small cards discussing notable works of interest. I gathered tons of ideas for that next Science Fiction book on my list. (Why won't they stop writing books!? There are just too many of them already!)

Notably missing was 1) information on British series- they had the uniform of Cat from Red Dwarf, but that was about it; 2) anything Christian- saw one book of L'Engle's, but nothing of Lewis or Lawhead; and 3) that new burgening genre of Alternate History which often merges with SciFi- including the master, Turtledove. But the museum is continuously updating from it's rapidly changing genre, so there's hope for more inclusiveness in the future. Every year they add on new members to their Hall of Fame- those in SciFi who have contributed the most over the years.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Never really seen Portland.

I had the distinct pleasure this past weekend of being shown Portland and surrounding environs. I've long heard that Portland is an incredibly beautiful city, but except for a Debate camp at Lewis & Clark, I've only just driven through it, until now.

But as with all things wonderful, one must experience intense suffering before you get to it. You guessed it- Amtrak. There is only one route I will still take with this company. Thankfully this was a far cry better than last time. This time I only got a guy who really should have paid for two seats for he didn't fit into the one next to me, who had forgotten to bathe in the past year, but truly was gifted in the ability to snore. At least he wasn't pulling lice out of his hair.

Once I arrived, after being gratiously hosted by Steve & Julie, we were off to a whirlwind day. First to the Portland Saturday Market, the largest outdoor arts and crafts market in the US "in continuous operation". I was fascinated by one woman's exquisite underwater photographs. I was enamored enough with one close-up of opening coral polyps to grab a small picture.

Then on the local train that runs through the middle of the city cleanly and freely, to the sand sculptures. We have no idea how they keep them solid for over a day, but they had been voted on the previous day and were still there, in all the Portland heat. Sulley and Mike were there, as well as some representatives from Collin's new favorite movie, Surf's Up.

Surfs Up! PenguinThen to Powell's Books, the largest brick and mortar bookstore in the US, and the largest indepdent used & new bookstore in the world. Oh my. Wow. Rather unfair to be taken there, really. Kind of like taking an alcoholic to a bar. It was quite difficult to pull ourselves away from there- and impossible without buying a little somethin somethin.

Then Lebanese lunch, and on to one of the many rose gardens in the City of Roses.

Our next step was to leave the city, and see some of the beautiful Columbia Gorge. I've never stopped to look like woods in a snowy evening- I've always driven through, as on to the way to TriCities, the most boring spot in the U.S. (You think me unfair. Consider that their claim to fame is the tallest treeless mountain in the U.S. And they're proud of that. It's enough to make one want to do a little vandalism and plant a tree.)

See hovertext.

A waystation used by caravan travelers long ago making their way West.

Mt. St. Helens on a hazy day.

The fabulous Multnomah Falls- and other falls along the cascading cliffs.

The old and the new.I was most impressed by two items on this day. First, was a woman sharing over tapas how she had gotten over bitterness and learned to forgive. That really touched me. And secondly was my Portland guide's amazing faith, as she just trusts God to bring whatever he might have for her. It's often a surprise, but she seems to have no doubt that he will provide.

Friday, 13 July 2007

A Comedy of Errors

Well, I met for lunch with the IRS the other day. The Federal Building is a block away from where I work. Those there didn't know everything, but it would appear that the following is true:

  1. They had my Moroccan address wrong. Though I wrote it down correctly, they had things like "Zangat" instead of "Zanqat"- which might seem pretty minor, but that's the word for street, and so for a Moroccan mail carrier one would be a word and the other gibberish. They also left off part of the neighborhood name and the postal code. Explains why I got no notices from them. It also explains why they didn't get any returned mail, which they expected. Evidently they aren't familiar with the way 3rd world country mailing systems work.
  2. They had my American address wrong, though that, too was, written correctly on the original form. I lived in apt. 433, not 733. Explains why I got no notices from them in America. I can't explain why the USPS evidently didn't return any mail to the IRS. (Of course, at this point, I'm taking the IRS on their word that they sent out notices and got no returned mail.)
  3. They had no record of my 2555, the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion form. Without that, there wouldn't be any statement that I lived abroad, and so they would expect taxes to be paid, and wouldn't understand why I listed my salary in parenthesis, as the IRS website says to do when submitting the 2555. Of course, the 2555 was in the same envelope as the 1040.
  4. They had no record from GWA of Statement of Wages in Lieu of W-2. Without that there would only be my written record on the 1040 of how much I made. Of course, this, also, wa in the same envelope as the 1040.

So we're left with that I sent over everything, and something happened to it. As it stretches the limits of incredulity that the Postal Service, in Morocco or here, lost only part of the package and managed to deliver the rest, or someone nefarious went into my mail and stole out portions of my tax forms, I'm going with the IRS lost part of the forms I sent them. Not that I'll ever get them to admit that, or take responsibility.

A few days later things changed. They suddenly had a record of my W-2 and 2555. A couple weeks later I finally get a straight answer from the IRS- Yes, they received the forms intitially. Now I need to resend them in. Why? The IRS feels I had no right to a Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. Why? No one can tell me. No, they can't let me see a copy of my tax return without my paying them money. No, even if I paid, I won't see a copy of my 2555, because they don't have copies of the insert forms. Oh, yes, they did indeed receive a copy of it, and the person at the IRS who told me they didn't earlier was wrong. No, they don't have to prove it.

They're the IRS.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

A Voyage of Discovery

Had a lovely evening walk with Janette of GWA fame, through Discovery Park. Wow! This place is so huge, and so beautiful, and right here in a major American city, only just across the valley from my new place. Kudos to Seattle for not giving in to the money and taking advantage of what would be very profitable land development. As it is now, there is untold wealth of a different sort. (Embedded hovertext included.)
I believe the original sign said, 'Warning:  Quicksand.'

They're just the keenest terrestrial animal ever!

Pig wings- look close.

She's a brick...pig...

Yeah.  I have no idea...

Close up of a pig's best friend.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

More Pig Bling

How fitting, that on this, the most perfect of all days, 7/7/7, we should return again to that most perfect of all animals, with occasional hovertext...

Where's the pig??

Swinosaurus, in front of United Way.
My Office Pig, bought at an African store going out of business, for only $10!

In a bank, of course!

Close up of the Seapig.Produce Pig's got it's own bling!