Archive for the ‘Urban Survival’ Category

Tips for Uncle Gus

I ride the MAX blue and red lines several times a day, from Pioneer Square to the SW ‘burbs. Even after years of riding with Trimet, I was incognizant to obvious tips that would make my daily trips more pleasant.

For example, I have caught the red line by accident and then been completely taken by surprise when I have had to switch trains (to blue line) to go further southwest. Whoops!.

My friend, Kim, offered these kind suggestions to me:

  • Take the red line to get out of the rain, heat, or cold.
  • Get off at Sunset because they have benches, and you are more likely to get a seat if you transfer because of all the people that get off.
  • If you get off at Washington Park, you are less likely to get a seat when getting back on the MAX, but it’s very cool underground when it’s hot outside.

For further reading, TriMet provides you the rules, how to, and winter weather ideas.

I found a cool site called TriMetiquette, run by local rider Christian Bullock. Some friendly, helpful observations from Mr. Amy Vanderbilt.

If you have an iPhone, be sure to download the free app for Portland bus and train times. It has helped (and amused me) a million times over.

Rainy Days

If you’ve been present this week, you know that it’s been raining. Like, soak your sneakers and turn your umbrella inside out –if you actually carry one– kind of rain. Don’t be discouraged, my fair-weather friend. I will share with you a quick list of what I will be partaking in this week.

There is tons more to do. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments. And remember: Keep your socks dry!

Have you ever had your fortune told?

I have once – many, many years ago. I was in New Orleans for a business conference. It was the early 90s when every trade show or conference event involved huge parties nightly for the attendees. This one was held on a casino riverboat and in addition to the free drinks, food and gambling – there was a tarot card reader, and I had her tell my fortune. What she said to me seemed pretty darned accurate at the time. Of course – what she said (and I don’t remember now exactly) had something to do with ‘my soul-mate, a man who was a friend and more than a friend…’ and probably was a pretty standard line for any single woman in their early-20s that showed up at her table. I’ll blame my gullibility on the free drinks.

So I’ve always seen fortune tellers, tarot card readers, palm readers – as just a fun party trick. But just recently I’ve noticed a number of signs all over Portland advertising palm reading or tarot cards…downtown, northeast, southeast – there are several on Broadway both in NE and over to SW. For a while there was a woman who regularly did readings at the New Old Lompoc over on trendy-third. Seeing the spaces in more downtrodden neighborhoods, places here rent is cheap and not many people go by doesn’t really surprise me. But to stay in some of the spaces I’ve seen – they have to be bringing in some decent business. Or they’re a front for some crazy gypsy scam.

I’m a bit of a cynic about this type of thing. Of course I also place hypnosis under that same cynical umbrella – and I have a friend who used to be terrified of fire – was hypnotized and says she no longer is – so who knows.

Portlanders always seems pretty intelligent to me – are there really that many out there who believe the lady with the scarves can really help them prepare for the future? Do they believe it’s actual ‘fortune telling’? Or is it treated more like a new age therapy session. ‘Cause that in Portland – I’d believe.

So my question is, have you ever had your fortune told? Did you do it just for fun, or were you truly looking for some guidance and enlightenment or hope for the future?

TriMet Fare Increases

Increases in TriMet fares take effect September first—that’s Monday. Details are available on TriMet’s website, but to sum it up: All-Zone fare is up 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for youth, while monthly passes are up $10 for adults and $2 for youth. They have added a new 14-day pass to the fare options. 14-day passes cost almost exactly half what monthly passes cost, and are good for—you guessed it—14 days.
A TriMet press release explains that fare increases are due to record high diesel prices. TriMet will nearly double it’s fuel budget for fiscal year 2009, expecting to spend $28.5 million on fuel. TriMet is taking a number of approaches to offsetting rising fuel prices, including many that have made it’s fleet one of the most efficient in the nation, but fare increases are still needed. General inflation has also contributed to the fare increase.

The newbie post

So it’s been about 2 months since I moved here. Things are starting to settle down and I’m getting to know my new city a bit better. I’m still learning streets and sections and all that, but I can get by.

In learning a new city, there’s a lot involved! First you have to remember which landmarks stand for north, south, east and west. Ok I’m pretty good with that and it’s sort of a no-brainer (kinda like the Asahi building in LA is North if you’re going towards Hollywood on La Brea). Then there’s the figuring out what’s where and what you like and how to get to it. Friends would be hard if I didn’t a) already have a few here and b) make friends easily. In that I feel that I have an unfair advantage. I think for most people that would be that hard part.

The hardest parts, however, have been finding a job and finding a place to live! MAN! Seriously…

So I’ve been pretty absent from here due to the looking for a job and looking for a place. Once the job aspect was settled, the main priority was looking for a place to call home. For as bad as the job market is, it felt like the rental market (is there really such a thing?) was just as bad. The boyo and I were joking in that we felt like we had to be on starter blocks to get ready to GO! as soon as anything was listed. Advice I heard from friends was that you have to a) apply, apply, apply! and b) bug landlords/ management properties. Somehow, something worked, and I’m still not sure what! I wish I had advice I could pass on to other newbies to the city… but aside from saying that I did just apply to all sorts of places and kept looking at places no matter how frustrated I was… well something paid off!

Persistence, I guess.

I’m trying… and I guess… I guess my message here is that… well, if you feel as stuck as I felt. Just keep plugging away and you’ll get what it is that you’re looking for eventually. Maybe there was something more I could have done, but I was not privy to that information. However, if I hear anything, I’ll pass it on.

HOV Lane Crackdown

According to the latest issue of the Portland Tribune, police are cracking down on single-passenger cars in the HOV lane. This is a good thing. Back in my ‘couve dwelling days, I can recall seeing way too many single passenger cars using the lane (for the curious – I used the C-Tran express or carpooled whenever possible. When not, I took my ungodly long commute in the non-HOV lanes in relative stride). Tickets are $242, so you might want to think twice.

Some people are grumbling, according to the article, that the lane has outlived its usefulness, and may be better served as a toll lane. I disagree. The lane is there to give those drivers who are doing their part on reducing single passenger commuting a break, and to remind those who are not that their commute could be a lot easier if they did. All a toll road does is allow people to buy their way out of traffic, and does nothing to address the real problem – too many people driving alone during peak hours.

As it stands, there are no plans to dismantle the lane, which is a good thing. In the meantime, it’s good to see tickets being handed out to the cheaters who don’t carpool but still feel entitled to use the lane.

Great Flying Flutag!

Last year we had Illume – this year the Flutag is BACK!

Teams from the all over the Northwest made up of Starbucks employees, dragon-boaters, Kells staff, computer geeks, and students built flying machines shaped like underwear, Chinese takeout boxes, a Winnebago, Godzilla…. and will launch themselves off a ramp into the Willamette tomorrow afternoon. And it appears that several of the teams also have “special moves” choreographed by members of the Blazers Dancers…hmmm…..

The first flight takes place at 1pm in Waterfront Park just south of the Hawthorne Bridge – but the gates open at 11am. The last time it was here in 2004 they say more than 50,000 people showed up – so go early if you want a good spot!

And after everyone has gotten wet – I’d recommend popping into Three Degrees – the bar in the Riverplace Hotel – for a drink and a snack – they have good stuff and a nice outdoor seating area – then you don’t have to fight traffic out of the area.


Tell the Tool Library How You Could Love Them More

We’ve raved here before about the North Portland Tool Library – a very cool place and an awesome concept – and this Sunday they’re having their second planning meeting to help them decide how they can improve their services, what YOU want from them, and how you – as a neighbor, member, volunteer, local business owner, or just interested person can help out.

We (and by we I mean my husband and our friends) have used the NPTL a few times in the last couple of years – doing a project in the house that required a very specialized piece of equipment that we didn’t have – and would probably never use again. Or something that we just didn’t have the room to store (I’d tell you what these things were, but I have no idea, I’m kind of construction dumb.)

And if you’re like me – they also offer some great classes to help you become less construction dumb!

From their Press Release – some subjects to consider for discussion:
• What can NPTL do better and how?
• What can NPTL do differently?
• How can we make the NPTL model more sustainable?
• How to best keep up with membership growth? Reduce lines? Keep costs low?
• Ideas about finding a new space to house the Tool Library?
• Sources of Stable funding (membership fees? Grant sources? Become a part of state bureaucracy like the library system? Funding drives, fundraising event ideas? Etc.)
• How can we better partner with other organizations in North Portland?
• Better and more: workshops, workshop leaders, tools, space?
• Other services you’d like to see?

When: Sun, Aug 3 – 9:30 am – 4:00 pm (but you don’t have to be there all day to participate – just as your schedule permits.) Coffee and bagels, then lunch are all provided.
Where: The Kenton Firehouse – 2209 N Schofield Street
RSVP at online or at 503-823-0209

The New I-5 Bridge – What to do?

It’s obvious that something’s gotta give. Anyone who’s made the drive from Vancouver in the morning or to Vancouver in the evening knows that. On bad days, it can take more than an hour to cross the span. It’s a headache for both commuters and trucks making shipments. But is a new bridge the answer? The problem is more complex than it looks.

First, while I most definitely sympathize with truckers just trying to get across the river to make their shipments and do their jobs, our neighbors up in the ‘couve haven’t really done much to try to solve the problem of having too many cars on the road. For well over a decade now, our neighbors to the north have given the finger to mass transit. They voted down a MAX connection. They refused to pay three cents out of every $10 spent to prevent major service cuts for C-Tran. And now there are rumblings that they might try to kill the light rail portion of the new bridge, essentially dooming the project. I know that our suburban readers get pissed about perceived “bashing”. Unfortunately, Vancouver readers, the shoe fits here so you’re gonna have to wear it.

Compounding the problem is that the new bridge might not be effective after all. As reported here and here, the new bridge might not be all that effective in reducing congestion, anyway. According to the “O”, right now it takes a driver 16 minutes to get from SR-500 to Columbia Blvd. With the new bridge, that same trip would take 19 minutes. The reason is that the current bridge reduces the flow of traffic into existing bottlenecks in the I-5 system – bottlenecks that will still exist, even with a new bridge. By way of contrast, doing nothing would result in the trip taking 19 minutes – two minutes shorter than if the bridge was built. With information like that, I think that the city should at least look at some alternatives before building this thing. The Merc has some listed here.

So, what do you think?

Why Summer Vacations?

There are only about 10 people in my office today – normally there are about 40. We have tomorrow off as well as Friday – so many people took advantage of using three days of PTO to get nine days off. I decided to work because my husband wouldn’t have the time off – nor would any of my friends, so I didn’t want to waste even 3 days of PTO to hang out at home alone and bored. A lot of the people gone though are using this time for their ‘big summer vacation.’ Heading out on camping trips, renting an RV and driving to Yellowstone, going to LA or San Fran or Chicago… it confuses me a bit.

Why do people feel compelled to take a summer vacation – when everyone else is doing so – prices are higher – it’s hot and sticky and gross outside? Now if you have school age kids it makes a little more sense – they’re already out of school. But I remember my parents taking us out of school for a week to go to Florida in November and things like that. A week out of school isn’t going to kill them.

Is it just so ingrained in us from childhood that summer means vacation that we have to do it? And especially 4th of July week or weekend – that’s just asking to end up with more people, longer lines and more hassles. Why not wait to camp next weekend? Go to the Grand Canyon in October. Hit Disneyland in November. Do Vegas in December. Or am I missing something? Is there really a compelling reason to do vacations in the summer?

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