Saturday, September 13, 2008


Refunding Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 is going to be a pain in the ass. The store where I bought it, Staples, says they can't accept the product back once the packaging's been opened. Why? Because according to them, there's no way to know whether I downloaded the product and then brought the CD back, falsely claiming the installation didn't work. The manager I spoke with said I'd need to visit the Adobe website and follow their return procedure. So I went there today, and this is what it says (please note the paragraph in red):

Return an Adobe product purchased from a retail store

To return an Adobe product or support contract that you purchased from a retail store, you must first try to return the product to the store. [I did this.]

If the retail store won't accept the return, Adobe will refund the purchase of the product under the following circumstances:

  • You contact Adobe to request the return within 30 days of the purchase

  • You purchased the product from a store in North America

  • The store refused to accept the return

  • Note: Adobe doesn't refund shipping charges for products purchased from a retail store.

    Return a product for a refund

    To return a product purchased from a retail store, please do the following steps:

    1. Contact Adobe Customer Service with the following information:

  • The order number

  • Your name

  • The product being returned

  • The serial number, if applicable

  • The reason for the return

  • The name and location of the retail store

  • The reason the store provided for refusing to accept the return

  • A copy of the store receipt showing proof of purchase

  • 2. The Customer Service representative will request that you do one of the following:

  • If the purchase price of the product before tax is less than US$800 don't return the product to Adobe. Instead, print and complete a Letter of Software Destruction, and return it to the address or fax number listed on the letter. (Be sure to tell Customer Service if you prefer to receive a copy of the letter by mail or e-mail.)

  • If the purchase price of the product before tax is greater than US$800, Customer Service will provide you with a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) number so that you may return the product to Adobe.

  • Note: You have 30 days from the date that Adobe issues the RMA to return the product to the Adobe warehouse. RMAs remaining in Adobe's system past the 30-day limit are cancelled.

    If you think I'm hallucinating all this, here's the page. It appears I have to download and complete a letter, send the letter back by snail-mail or email, receive the refund (when??), and in the meantime I have to remove the software from my computer's system (that happened right away; the thing simply never finished downloading), and destroy the CD myself. Adobe, meanwhile, will take it on faith that I've done all this.

    Companies deliberately make it difficult to get refunds-- I realize that. But Dad just told me that his copy of Photoshop Elements is version 4, which I'm sure will work on this computer. I may as well give him version 6 as a gift so he and my brother David (the family computer guru) can make the proper updates.



    aha-- an ad for the upcoming Spirituali-Tea this Tuesday

    Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


    I went over to a convenience store close to campus to buy some lunch, and lo and behold-- at the cash register was another Korean lady! (cue tympani) We spoke in Korean about what I was doing; there wasn't time to ask her about her story, alas: there were too many customers, including one ancient lady who had spilled out the entire contents of her coupon bag onto the counter to look for, well, something. As the old lady fumbled and muttered, the cashier beckoned me forward.

    The cashier was cute-- which makes me want to shop there again-- but I got something of an ajumma vibe from her. I suspect she's married, even though I didn't see a ring.* Alas. Look but don't touch. Story of my life. (Of course, having written this, I can never tell her about this blog.)

    But I'll be back. Oh, yes, Precious... I'll be returning to that store!

    So now I've met three of the five Koreans supposedly living in Walla Walla. I'm beginning to suspect there are more than five** in the area; Walla Walla's downtown might be small, but the residential zone sprawls lazily in all directions. Koreans in the DC-Metro area tend to live in the suburbs around the nation's capital; why should it be any different here? Still, I imagine there can't be that many Koreans here; the lady from the terikaki-jip was probably right about that. By the time I leave Walla Walla, I'll have gathered all the census data there is about the local Korean populace.

    *Koreans in Korea sometimes go without their wedding rings. It's usually the men who do this, but sometimes the women do, too; reasons may vary from innocent to oh-so-naughty. Korean culture doesn't place the same emphasis on wedding rings as Western culture generally does, which is only natural; the use of a wedding ring is, from the Korean perspective, a Western convention-- an imported idea.

    **You'll recall that we're not counting Korean college students; for all intents and purposes, they're part of the transient population.


    lunch spot (Whitman College)

    Kinda looks like a spine gushing spinal fluid, doesn't it?

    Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

    Pioneer Park's edge (Alder St.)

    Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


    Sometime during the night, I acquired my twelfth blog "follower." Scroll way down the sidebar and take a look.

    So, my Twelve: are you up for some itinerant preaching, healing, and exorcism? My next stop is Milton-Freewater; will you join me?

    But more important: which one among you will betray me?

    (Curtis: what you must do, go and do quickly.)


    one thing that sucks

    It sucks to wake up and discover you've spent the night drooling onto your pillow. It sucks worse, though, when your pillow is a nonabsorbent, rolled-up foam pad full of ridges that hold the drool in place like tiny troughs.

    Troughs for minuscule, winged cow-demons to drink from in the dark.


    Friday, September 12, 2008

    it is accomplished

    I've updated the blogroll with old friends and new; I've added categories like "The Walk in the News" and "Followers" (two more followers and I'll have my twelve disciples! ROCK AND ROLL!); I've uploaded all the YouTube vids I have, a process that took an eon; I've acknowledged two out of three September birthdays (my brother David's birthday is the 14th)...

    ... and it seems we're now ready to start a-transcribin' in earnest.

    You can expect more blog posts, of course; I won't be spending my time only on transcription. But the current diarrhetic output will slow to a warm trickle. Let's hope that, within a week, I'll have a whole mess of transcripts up here for you.

    Oh, yes--in the next few minutes I'll add a link to the "Interactions" category: the partially transcripted conversation with Mr. Satpal Sidhu of the Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara in Lynden, Washington.

    And away we go.


    the blogroll lengthens

    I've added a long list of "old haunts" from a previous life to the sidebar using a new "blog list" function, another gadget offered by Blogger. The blogs at the top of the list are the ones most recently updated. Infrequently updated blogs will generally fall lower on the list. Where a blog appears on the list has, of course, no relation to its quality. In fact, when it comes to blogging, quantity and quality are usually inversely proportional to each other. Logorrhea doesn't always translate into Shakespearean eloquence.

    The list consists of Koreablogs, Japanblogs, Chinablogs, and other blogs reflecting all manner of interests and persuasions (religious, political, etc.). Go give them all a visit and get to know some fascinating people.

    NB: Some blogs on the list aren't equipped with feeds, which means you'll never know they've been updated. Because the blogroll is organized according to the "most recently updated" criterion, it's possible they'll fall to the bottom. Be sure to check those blogs periodically; their position at the bottom of the list doesn't mean they haven't been updated.

    One more list on the way-- blogs of people I've met on this Walk. After that, I can start to focus on transcription.


    in the news

    I've created a "The Walk in the News" category for the sidebar, and have added the links to the Daily Chronicle article by my friend Steve Honeywell, and the Hood River News article by Sue Ryan. If you haven't read those articles, go to it! Also, if you feel like a-donatin', please do. Money's tight.


    "How to Check the Back of Your Head" or "You'd Better Hope You Never Encounter THIS Fleshy Thing in a Dark Alley"

    Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


    As you saw in the previous photo, I've taken the plunge and have gotten my first haircut since Vancouver, WA, way back when. My thanks to Rachel (pictured earlier), who did a sterling job, and from whom I learned two things:

    1. The unsightly line that demarcates the boundary between what the electric razor has done and what the scissors have done is called, in salon parlance, a shelf. Rachel did a great job of minimizing this.

    2. An interreligious insight, and something I really haven't focused on: people of a given religious tradition often say things without thinking about how it might affect people of other traditions. This heedlessness, perhaps a function of incestuous amplification, is worth a post or two.

    Anyway, my scalp is happy to be less shaggy. I'm on my way to Whitman College. More in a bit.


    back to being a shorthair breed

    Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

    clockwise from top left: Rachel, Terra, and Vicki of Attitudez Salon

    Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

    housekeeping notes

    I have a few more cosmetic changes to take care of before I gird my loins and begin the formidable task of transcription. Two projects involve additions to the sidebar: (1) blogs I used to read in Korea, and (2) blogs of folks I've met along the way during this Walk. After I make those additions, I'll move on to transcription. Remember: 30 minutes of dialogue is roughly 7 hours of work! I had this formula pegged after spending a semester in Seoul transcribing sitcom episodes for a Content-based Instruction class.

    What lies ahead:

    1. Conversation with Brother Luke at St. Martin's University, Lacey, Washington: 1 hr, 15 min.

    2. Conversation with the group at Metanoia Peace House, Portland, Oregon: 1 hr, 34 min.

    3. Conversation with Bernice Harbaugh, who runs the Cascade Motel at Cascade Locks, Oregon: 31 minutes.

    4. Conversation with Sue Ryan, who at the time wrote for the Hood River News (I think she'd said she was moving on) and wrote an article about me. Elements of this conversation went into her article. 56 minutes.

    5. Conversation with polymathic author Jay Ellis Ransom in The Dalles, Oregon: 1 hr, 26 min. (It was actually a lot longer than that, and it ranged all over, so I might strip this down to whatever material is relevant to religion.)

    6. Conversation with Pastor Bigger at Walla Walla University: 29 minutes.

    As you can see, that's a lot of work ahead of me-- roughly 6.25 hours' worth of material. That means, if we multiply by seven, that I've got about 43.75 hours of transcription ahead of me. If I put in 8-hour days, I can be done in about 5.5 days; we'll round that up to six. Whew. As always, keep your fingers and tentacles crossed.



    September 10 was my goddaughter's birthday; September 12 is my buddy Steve doCarmo's birthday. He's my age (born in 1969), so raise your glasses in solemn acknowledgement of the relentless march of time. Steve's got a book coming out sometime in the next year-- a somewhat revised version of his doctoral thesis, if I'm not mistaken. Congrats, man, and Happy Birthday.

    39. That's three 13s together. If you can survive this year, Steve, you can survive anything.

    (By the way, Dear Reader, Steve wrote a novel but chose to publish it online, so you get to read it for free. Enjoy... The Shaker.)



    The last video-- the one with some substance-- has been uploaded and linked to on the sidebar.

    Enjoy Religions Are As They Are Practiced.

    NB: I generally disable comments and ratings on YouTube videos, partly to keep the idiots away, and partly to direct traffic here. Apologies to friendly commenters who want to leave messages right on YouTube.


    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    I take it back

    I completely forgot that I'd already linked to the Amazon Wish List. Check the links under my sidebar image. While you do that, I'll pluck the extraneous link and whistle nonchalantly as I walk off, pretending I hadn't made such a mistake.


    my meeting with Pastor Bigger

    I woke up this morning around 6 or 6:30AM, which left me alone in Mechelle's house with her two animals, Pava the dog and Zinnia the cat, both female. Both animals are very friendly, and while Mechelle's a bit concerned about how Pava (apparently, this is Spanish for "turkey") might react should I come home while no one else is around, I feel quite comfortable with both pets, and they haven't bothered me at all.

    Ever since I reached Walla Walla, I've been dealing with major hay fever issues. As I get older, the list of things to which I'm allergic gets longer. Today was no exception; I woke with a stuffy, runny nose, but decided to tough it out and forgo the Claritin. The animals hung back in another part of the house while I shuffled about and prepped for my normal morning ritual.

    My goal was to leave by 8AM to give myself time to figure out the bus system and get to Walla Walla University in time for the 11AM appointment with Pastor Bigger. I walked out to Alder Street and stood at the bus stop just in front of an elementary school (my new digs are located close to the intersection of Alder and Sinclair; for privacy's sake, I won't say more). The bus came around 8:30 and sped me into town. A very helpful lady directed me to the next bus stop, which was on Main Street, close to the Subway sandwich shop where Chuck, Lori, and I ate this past Sunday. That bus arrived a little late, around 9:10AM. With help from the bus driver, I was able to get off at the first campus stop at 9:40 and walk the rest of the way to the Admin Building, where Pastor Bigger, a member of the Theology Department, keeps his office. Because I was so early, I hung outside and finished up that 9/11 entry before actually entering the building.

    The Admin Building looks brand new, and when the elevator doors opened onto the third floor, I was wowed by... well, not the opulence of the place, for it wasn't opulent, but by how well-appointed it was. Think: carpets, good wood, and cushy leather furniture, not scuffed walls and beat-up chairs made of plastic and metal. I had the chance to meet a few of the staffers, including the Theo Department's administrative assistant, before Pastor Bigger himself arrived; like me, he was early.*

    Pastor Bigger, who is, among other things, a retired Rear Admiral in the US Navy, briskly shook my hand and told me he would meet me at 11; I could tell he was a busy man. As it turned out, this day was particularly busy because he was involved in a few 9/11-related memorial events.

    We met again at 11 and went to the pastor's office. I broke out the recorder and received quite an education about the Seventh Day Adventist Church's history, polity, and theology. It wasn't until near the end of our half-hour talk that Pastor Bigger began to speak about his own beliefs as relates to the question of religious diversity. I asked him the "metaphor" question from my "Ten Religious Questions" list (see here, or click the link on the sidebar); his answer was quite interesting. You'll have to wait to see it.

    Pastor Bigger had invited me to a Rotary International meeting, so we went to his car and drove into town; the meeting was being held in a very large hotel ballroom/convention space. The pastor paid for my meal and signed me in as a guest; I donated a dollar to the Rotarians. The meal was buffet-style, and everyone I met was friendly and welcoming. I got my meal and sat down at one of the round tables beside my host; he introduced me to some of the folks at table with us.

    Having never been to a Rotary International meeting before, I was curious as to how it would proceed. After people had had some time to eat, there was an opening prayer, a recital of the Pledge of Allegiance, a brief speech or two, and then a presentation. If I'm not mistaken, today's speaker hailed from Canada, and she spoke about a project called Rotaplast, a two-week event in which medical experts volunteer pro bono services to help children and adults with cleft lips and palates. The speaker spoke mainly about a recent Rotaplast event in Peru (see here), and she encouraged people to provide funding or to volunteer their time and effort for one of the next projects, which will take place in Nepal (see the mission calendar here).

    Visiting Rotarians and guests of Rotarians were introduced, so Pastor Bigger stood up when it was his turn and told the crowd a little about who I was and what I was doing. The agenda moved to something called "Happy Bucks," which I didn't quite understand at first but which turned out to be a sort of fundraising moment in which people would stand, take a microphone, describe a reason to be happy (daughter made the soccer team, etc.), and attach a small dollar amount to it, actually giving cash to a person assigned to collect the Happy Bucks. Most memorable comment: "I've got seven Happy Bucks for the seven years we haven't been attacked since 2001."

    While I failed to network and grab part-time employment opportunities, I might have another person to talk religion with while in Walla Walla: Mike T., a local businessman and strong advocate of the Seventh Day Adventist way of life. I should also note that, while I was rolling along Alder Street this morning, I saw my first synagogue, a place called Beth Israel. I'll have to talk with those folks before I leave the city.

    The Rotarian meeting ended with some closing remarks, and Pastor Bigger very kindly drove me to Whitman College's library, which is where I've been all day. I'm about to go out and hunt down some dinner; I'm quite happy with how productive today was, and thankful that the Rear Admiral took time out of his busy schedule to meet and talk shop with me.

    *I'm rarely early to anything, being most punctual when there's a high fear factor-- first day of the semester, first time meeting someone of importance, being the church liturgist, etc.


    new additions to the YouTube family

    Check out the sidebar for five new videos: three in French, one in Korean, one in English. The Korean's pretty horrible; the French came out OK except for one major prepositional error (travailler bon marché is how it's generally said, not travailler POUR bon marché), and the English was, astonishingly enough, picture perfect.

    I still haven't uploaded the biggest video of them all, though God knows I've tried. I might have to upload it from Mechelle's house, assuming I get a stable WiFi connection there. That, or I might just download Picasa 3 (recommended by a commenter) and use the software to reduce the file size of the video, then try again tomorrow from the 'brary.

    The problem at this library is that I have to re-sign in every 30 minutes, which is OK for most of what I do, but a real pain for uploading large YouTube files, which upload about as quickly as molasses in January thanks to the narrow pipeline of the WiFi connection. An interruption in the data flow translates to a "server error" message and a stoppage of the upload.

    Anyway, that's not your concern. If I have to, I'll even stoop so low as to visit a Starbuck's (also listed as a WiFi hot spot in Walla Walla) in order to complete this upload. It'll happen. Meanwhile, enjoy the new YouTube clips. That pretty much catches me up on videos.


    l'arrivée du pape... mais personne ne le connaît

    I surfed over to L'Express just a few minutes ago and found this cute "interview on the street" clip in which average Janes and Joes were asked about Pope Benedict XVI, who was scheduled to arrive in France the following day.

    Paragraph above the video clip:

    A la veille de l’arrivée du pape Benoît XVI en France, est allé à la rencontre des parisiens pour tester leurs connaissances et savoir ce qu’ils pensent du leader spirituel… Petit rappel : Joseph Alois Ratzinger est né le 16 avril 1927 en Allemagne. Il est le 265e pape élu de l’Eglise catholique romaine. Le 19 avril 2005, il a choisi le nom de Benoît XVI pour succéder à Jean-Paul II.

    On the eve of the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in France, L'Express sought out Parisians to test their knowledge and discover what they think of the spiritual leader. Quick reminder: Joseph Alois Ratzinger was born on April 16, 1927 in Germany. He is the 265th pope elected by the Roman Catholic Church. On April 19, 2005, he chose the name of Benedict XVI to succeed John Paul II.

    Video transcript:

    Caption: September 11, 2008, Paris; arrival of Pope Benedict XVI: one day before arrival.

    Question Card: Do you know who is arriving tomorrow?

    Woman 1: Yes! The Dalai Lama!

    Woman 2: Uh, I think it's the Pope.

    Man 1: No Pope today-- tomorrow!

    Sullen Teen Dude: Yeah, I read he wanted to come, and that's why he was already there.

    [Kevin's note: The Sullen Teen's utterance sounded like nonsense to me. What I think I heard was: "Ouais, j'ai lu ça, qu'il voulait venir, et c'est pour ça qu'il était déjà là." I could have misheard that. Anyone got a better ear?]

    Question Card: What's his name?

    Two Old Guys: [silence]

    Woman 1: Benedict?

    Woman 3: Yes, uh, Pope Benedict XVI.

    Woman 4: It ends in "-ger," but I don't really care.

    Sullen Teen Dude: Uh, Ratzinger?

    Question Card: Do you know his nationality?

    Woman 5: Uh, Austrian?

    Happy Teen Guy: I don't remember... Eastern Europe, right?

    Man 2: Uh, I know that he's Polish.

    Woman 2: Uh, I think German.

    Woman 4: Uh, German.

    Sullen Teen Dude: German.

    Question Card: One adjective to describe the Pope...

    Sullen Teen Dude: With one adjective? Rigorous.

    Woman 4: Austere.

    Woman 1: Dignified, severe.

    Woman 5: He's ugly!

    Happy Teen Guy: He's old.

    Man 3: No, I don't have one. I'm not in a position to say.

    Man 1: He's a holy man.

    Question Card: Is the Pope charismatic?

    Woman 1: No, not so much.

    Sullen Teen Dude: Not at all.

    Woman 5: No, not really, but, uh...

    Man 1: Yeah, I think so. To be the pope, you have to be, I think.

    Woman 2: Of course! Because he was called, he got the call, so he has his charisma, yes.

    Man 3: I can tell you that... in his own way. But it's not like with John Paul II.

    Question Card: What does the Pope represent for you?

    Happy Teen Guy: Dunno, religion, uh, uh...

    Woman 2: The Pope represents many things that are moral, ethical...

    Woman 4: For me, nothing at all.

    Sullen Teen Dude: Many bad things.

    Man 3: For me, he represents a lot because I'm Catholic. Because he's my leader, like in all religions-- I don't know which religion you are-- in all religions there's a leader, so my leader, for me, is...



    day of remembrance

    While I'm waiting for my bus to Walla Walla University (navigation proved to be pretty easy, Becky-- thanks), I thought I'd write a bit about September 11. Some folks say they don't want to "dwell" on that date, and I can understand that. I'd rather not dwell on it, either, but like it or not, it now stands alongside December 7 as "a day that will live in infamy."

    On that day in 2001, I was in DC, a grad student in the Master's program of the School of Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America. I had stepped out of a morning Messianism and Redemption class and entered the nearby Mullen Library when I heard some of the front desk staffers saying something about the Twin Towers collapsing.

    It wasn't long after that that DC was plunged into chaos: the Pentagon, almost literally down the street from National Airport where my father worked, had been hit, and the buzz was that the White House and/or the Capitol were likely targets as well. My mother worked at an office within sight of the Capitol; with both my parents so close to harm's way, I called them and found out they were fine.

    Mom noted, though, that getting out of DC was going to be a problem. We found out later, with the rest of the country, that DC's disaster plans-- the ones for evacuating the city in a crisis-- hadn't been updated since the 1970s. The few bridges that connected DC to Virginia across the Potomac River instantly became choke points that day. The whole city was in gridlock, especially southbound traffic. How much worse this all could have been had terrorists decided to destroy the bridges!

    I was lucky: no friends or relatives were directly involved in any of the tragedies that unfolded on that beautiful morning. But even those of us not directly touched by the events of that day remember it as a day of suffering, anguish, and great, smoldering anger.

    The issues that came to dominate the American consciousness after 2001 spanned all categories-- political, religious, cultural, philosophical, artistic, and scientific. Should we consider ourselves at war? Was this a return of the old "Islamdom versus Christendom" paradigm? Is it morally consistent for us to insist on a blind respect for all cultures when it's clear that certain other cultures have no interest in showing the same respect to ours? Is it possible to prosecute a "just war"? When does art cross the line into something politically inflammatory, or culturally insensitive, or religiously bigoted? What technologies need to be developed to respond to situations that are either similar to or corollaries of the events of 9/11?

    Seven years on, we have a multitude of such questions, and an even greater number of often conflicting answers. To be honest, I wouldn't want it any other way: diversity is one of our culture's greatest strengths; there's nothing to stop us from working multiple angles.

    What Americans need to remember, however, is that we are, at least in theory, united by certain core values. Rediscovering that unity, fleshing out its nature so that those values remain meaningful for the twenty-first century, is essential for our culture's survival. As things stand, there's a real chance that we may undo ourselves from within. Diversity undergirded by unity is not the same as brokenness and Balkanization, and I think we're currently skewing toward the latter.

    Some people reject the above way of thinking as too primitive, too "bunker" style, too focused on boundaries and separation. While I'd agree that most of our social, political, cultural, and even physical boundaries are in constant flux, we can't pretend that we live in a world without boundaries.* It's all well and good to say, as many do, that we need to destroy the boundaries that hold us back from each other, but such people, usually well-fed and somewhat isolated from reality, have never visited a homeless shelter or talked to the folks in it. Those folks can tell you what life without boundaries is like-- no privacy, your possessions always at risk of being stolen, no walls to spare you from the screams, the fights, and the filth. In such a world, it's hard to find peace. Peace isn't necessarily what results from dropping all boundaries.

    I apologize if the above comes off as too abstract, but one of the great mistakes we make as a nation of 300 million very different people is to believe that a handful of simple formulae, developed by people at the top and allowed to trickle down to the rest of us, will solve current problems. It's not for me to write this nation's prescription, nor is it the exclusive job of any single person. In this age, we are, all of us, called to be the healers. Together.

    In memory of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives seven years ago, and of those who felt their loss most keenly.

    *People often make the same mistake when approaching the process metaphysics of Buddhism: they focus on flux at the expense of continuity. Things do change, but change is often gradual.

    Imagine living in a body that morphed into different animal shapes every five seconds. How could you eat your dinner if your hand became a claw, then a tentacle, then a paw? Change and continuity go together; you can't talk about one without implying the other.

    And just as it's rational for you to eat and exercise to maintain your body, it's rational for a given nation or culture to think about its own maintenance and self-preservation.


    Walla Walla's totem: the sweet onion in effigy (you can find these all around downtown)

    Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

    before the day ends...

    It's already after midnight on the east coast (and remember: this blog's date/time stamps are all set to Eastern time), but it's only 9:20PM as I write this:


    I sent a card to you, honey, but I don't know whether it's gotten there yet. I hope you have a great party (I'm assuming it'll be on the weekend, right?) and get tons of presents.




    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    tomorrow's meet-up

    Tomorrow (Thursday), I'll be meeting up with Pastor Darold Bigger of Walla Walla University. His writeup is here.

    As I still haven't mastered the public transportation system in Walla Walla, I'll be leaving early tomorrow morning and arriving-- I hope-- way ahead of schedule, not only to give myself time to find Pastor Bigger's office, but also to give my knee's screams a chance to subside, on the assumption that I'll still end up doing a good bit of walking. WWU lies outside of Walla Walla proper; you'll recall that I passed the entrance road on my way into town on August 31st.

    One thing I hope to take away from tomorrow's encounter, which includes a visit to a Rotary International meeting (read about the Rotarians here), is a better understanding of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and where they stand on interreligious issues. I predict that SDAers probably aren't monolithic in their approach to other religions or to the question of religious diversity in general. I'll be curious to discover more.


    selfishness upon selfishness

    I've put my wish list on the sidebar. Feel free to browse it and see whether your tastes match mine. In all seriousness, you probably shouldn't buy anything on there for me: when you're walking across the country, it's not a good idea to be too weighed down with stuff.

    Can't remember whether I included that sensual massage manual...


    housekeeping update

    Check out the blog's sidebar: I've created direct links to the YouTube videos I had added the other day, so you can now zap over to each video without having to visit my YouTube channel's main page. If you prefer a bird's-eye view of my videos, you can always hit my YouTube main page by clicking the "On YouTube" link under my unshaven image on the sidebar.

    I also used the "help" function to try to figure out what to do about my screen resolution, and that's how I learned about the "advanced" setup. Unfortunately, even after I did a "show all modes" command and saw what screen settings are possible, I discovered that I would have to choose between having (1) low resolution with thousands of colors or (2) high resolution with only 256 colors. This is nuts. I know that 2002-era computers already had a "millions of colors" option available to them-- my ancient Mac (1999-era) has such a setting! I'm beginning to wonder whether I need to buy the appropriate system software for this thing, just so I can have the best of both worlds: high resolution and millions of colors (unless the monitor itself can't run all those colors).

    I've still got about 90 minutes before I leave here; I'll spend the rest of my time loading vids, photos, and audio onto the laptop's hard drive. Adios.


    back on (for now)

    I got kicked off by the wireless network here at the library, but was able to sign right back on. I have no idea whether that's normal, but here I am.

    A few days back, I received an email from a gentleman named Jack, who apparently found my blog via the Marmot's Hole. Jack and I had an amicable email exchange, and at one point I mentioned that I've blogged about some pretty personal stuff-- namely, pooping in the open. I just went looking for that post via Google, and found it.

    This is for you, Jack. The rest of you might want to avoid that link. The post starts off normally enough, but things go downhill fast. Enjoy.


    wirelessly waiting for Godot

    So here I am in Whitman College's Penrose Library, blogging away using WiFi! Unfortunately, I had to log in as a guest, and that means my access is limited to thirty minutes.

    So far, the laptop has proved to be functional, though it does have some kinks that need to be worked out. One problem is that I can't adjust my screen resolution, so everything from icons to text appears huge on my screen, necessitating a lot of annoying scroll bar usage. Does anyone know why no other screen resolutions are available to me? Inquiring minds want to know.

    So everything works except for Photoshop Elements, which is simply too much for his six-year-old system. I might not have time today, but perhaps tomorrow, after I've had my meeting with Pastor Bigger at Walla Walla U, I'll go and return Photoshop for a refund, and ask the folks to send their older copy of Elements to me. That, or I can try to find a cheap copy of, say, Elements 2 (the version I've used for years) on Amazon.

    I'm going to load a bunch of audio, video, and photo files onto the laptop. Once I've got a proper Photoshop, I'll be able to blog more naturally. The laptop is something of a long-term investment: I'm guaranteed a chase car all the way into Boise, then I'll be wintering in Boise. That takes me from now until sometime next March-- at least six months. Plenty of time to earn money, and maybe to buy a better, faster, smaller laptop. This clunker is heavy. But at least it's working.

    Gotta run. I don't know how much longer I have on here before the library system kicks me off.


    quick update on the laptop front

    I'm checking out of the hotel today and moving over to Mechelle's abode this afternoon. Meantime, I'll be walking over to the library with my gear and waiting for her there; she'll pick me up around 4PM.

    I purchased the laptop for $200 plus tax-- a total of $216. The price wasn't $275 as I'd been told; it was $229 plus tax, so haggling down to $200 didn't take much effort.

    The computer didn't come with much, not even a charger, so I walked over to a Radio Shack and bought a few extras-- a carrying case, a WiFi attachment, a mouse, and a network cord; I then moved to the Staples next door and bought some software: a scaled-down version of MS Office and Photoshop Elements 6.

    The guy who helped me at Radio Shack printed out a writeup about my laptop, which is a 2002 Dell Inspiron with freshly installed Windows XP.

    "How much did you pay for this?" the guy asked when I told him about the pawnshop.

    "$200 plus tax," I said.

    He frowned: "You should've gone for $150. You know that that pawnshop guy didn't pay more than $50 for this." Ouch.

    I walked away from Radio Shack and Staples, armed with my computer and new supplies, but a few hundred dollars poorer. Had dinner at a local Chinese restaurant (again, kinda disappointing) and went back to the motel to do as much setup as I could.

    The good news: despite the USB1 ports on the computer, the USB2 attachments (mouse, WiFi) seem to work just fine. Also, I successfully installed MS Office, which must mean that the CD-ROM is in good order.

    The bad news: Photoshop Elements 6 has system requirements that proved to be too much for the Dell. I'm going to have to take the program back and find an older version. (My family might have one, actually; I could ask them to expedite it to me.)

    So I'm packing and moving over to Whitman's campus to wait for Mechelle. The Whitman College Penrose Library is listed as a WiFi hotspot, information I'll shortly be putting to the test. It's also got power sockets, which is important since the laptop's battery is ancient and needs to be replaced.

    Gotta run. More news as it happens.


    Tuesday, September 9, 2008

    wish me luck

    Today, a different member of the housekeeping staff knocked on my door. Instead of the usual nice lady, it was an equally nice guy named Josh. I told him a bit about my ongoing trans-American story ("So you're the guy!"), then mentioned that I was thinking about getting a cheap laptop, and asked where I might shop for one in town.

    "There's one on sale right now at the local pawn shop for about $275," Josh said. "I'm off work around 2:30 or so; I could give you a ride there."

    Incredible. Simple as that.

    I'm about to call the pawn shop to find out more (sometimes you should look a gift horse in the mouth), but if the laptop does all the basic stuff I want it to do, I'm grabbing it today. The result for you, Dear Reader, will be transcripts galore, as well as new photos and CafePress products.


    North Korea on the brink?

    I've been following the spate of rumors-- some of them apparently old-- that North Korea's Dear Leader Kim Jong Il may be either very sick... or already dead for several years. Proponents of the second rumor claim that KJI's doubles have been filling in for him ever since he died years ago, which brings up the question of who's doing the actual ruling.

    It's an interesting theory, but you'll pardon me if I remain cautiously skeptical. My own feeling is that, if a true power vacuum did indeed open at the highest level, we'd be hearing more noise and seeing more activity from North Korea's generals-- the guys most likely to step in if the government unexpectedly imploded.

    While KJI may have a son or two already groomed for succession, I suspect that those sons may be too young to have much pull in an increasingly frail and teetering political infrastructure.

    Most North Korea experts feel that, with the regime as tightly controlled as it's been since 1953, any significant tear in the governmental fabric would result in a catastrophic failure. It's a nightmare scenario for South Korea, which doesn't really want to deal with the chaos that might result from a North Korean collapse-- the grim possibility of war, the southward flood of NK refugees, the long-term attempt at economic stabilization of the peninsula, the likely involvement of China (which might use the collapse as cover for a land grab, sending in troops to help "stabilize" the region), etc. South Korea carried on a policy of appeasement under its previous three presidents; I have no idea whether the country is truly ready to face a major crisis to its north.

    Of course, North Korea has pulled a rabbit out of its hat many times before; rumors of its impending doom are often greatly exaggerated. I guess we'll just have to sit back and wait.


    lost in digital hell

    Last night, I had written a post that recounted Monday's adventures-- (1) talking with Adam Kirtley, Coordinator of Religious and Spiritual Life at Whitman College, about doing a talk at the first of Adam's "SpiritualiTea" events for this semester; (2) meeting with my new CouchSurfing host Mechelle, who drove me to her place to show me my digs; (3) meeting Some Random Dude on Whitman's campus grounds and asking him about the pull-along bike stroller he was using (cost = approx. $500); (4) finalizing arrangements with Pastor Bigger, the Walla Walla U. pastor I'll be meeting on Thursday...

    ...but the post was eaten by the ravenous hellhounds of cyberspace, and that's why you're getting the stripped-down version of it this morning.


    Monday, September 8, 2008


    I'm at the public library. Over the course of the next 90 minutes, you'll likely notice some changes to the blog's sidebar. The "followers" gadget will be moved down, for example, and some links for new YouTube videos ought to appear. This latter operation might not be successful; the library's security software makes everything I need to do rather difficult. I'm not even able to right-click here.

    Stand by.

    UPDATE: I'm about to run out of time. I have all but five of the new videos up; most of the videos are short fluff pieces; one is of substance (it's about one of my cherished convictions: religions are as they are practiced), and that one ought to be available on YouTube before I leave here. I won't be able to put up links to the uploaded videos until next time. Meantime, the sidebar has a link to my YouTube "channel," so you can access all the videos, new and old, that way.

    UPDATE 2: The big video might not be uploadable because of a 100MB upload limit on YouTube. Nuts.

    UPDATE 3: The proprietary software at Whitman College's Penrose Library won't allow upload of any sort, so I'm gonna limp on back to my motel room. Later today, I'll be meeting my new CouchSurfing host, Mechelle [sic]. On Wednesday, I'll be moving over to Mechelle's place until the end of the month; on Thursday, I'll be meeting up with a pastor from Walla Walla University with whom Becky put me in contact. Wish me luck.


    Sunday, September 7, 2008

    bikers and subs

    Chuck and Lori roared into Walla Walla today; I met them at the motel lobby and we wandered from place to place, looking for an open restaurant. Both Sweet Basil Pizzeria and the teriyaki-jip were closed, so we ended up at that old faithful, Subway, on Main Street. One of the sandwich-makers lit up when he saw Chuck and Lori in their biker gear; he'd just seen some sort of History Channel documentary about bikers, and was delighted to have two them in his shop.

    After we'd massacred our sandwiches, we adjourned to my hotel room, hung out, and talked a bit. Chuck and Lori were planning to visit some friends in town, so after an all-too-brief time, we said our goodbyes and they roared off.

    I'm watching "Live Free or Die Hard" right now; I'd hoped to hit the public library today, but it's closed. Tomorrow, perhaps.


    lunchtime visitation

    If I'm not mistaken, Chuck will be Harleying his way over here today (with Lori?) in time for lunch. We're two large, hungry guys, Chuck and I, and if Walla Walla isn't a smoking wasteland by the time we finish demolishing our meals, it'll be a miracle. Don't be surprised if you see the results of our lunch on the news-- half-eaten buildings and pets, chunks of asphalt littering manicured lawns... and every motorcycle polished and tuned to perfection.