Friday, July 31, 2015

U.S. debt ceiling visualized in $100 bills

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. How about $16.394 trillion of them?

Here's a fascinating link showing what the current U.S. economy is, using $100 bills to illustrate.

"United States owes a lot of money," says the article. "As of 2012, U.S. debt is larger than the size of the economy. The debt ceiling is currently set at $16.394 trillion and approaching rapidly."

Here's ten thousand dollars:

Here's a million dollars:

And a billion.

See this link for the full impact of the visuals. And this, my friends, is our current debt ceiling, $16.394 trillion. I had to seriously shrink the illustration in order to get a screen capture of it, but suffice it to say each of those stacks towering over the Statue of Liberty consists of dense cubes, each cube of which is a billion dollars.

This is not good.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Extraordinary people

Reader Debra sent this. Thank you!

The trip home

I'll conclude this Portland trip by documenting my trip home. After that, it's on to other stuff.

A trip to Portland isn't complete without my annual trip to Powell's bookstore, the four-story "city of books" that takes up an entire city block. It's a book lover's paradise.

Except the part about parking. That's not so great. Their micro-sized parking garage was full, so I was tasked with finding other parking. This proved so frustrating I nearly gave up and just started the drive home.

However while circling a nearby block, I came across a public parking garage, so on impulse I pulled in. It proved to be a vast and bewilderingly full underground facility three stories deep -- who knew it was there? -- so I found a spot and parked.

Powell's is an amazing, astounding place. It would be a dangerous place (for me) if I lived in Portland, that's all I can say. I'd be eternally broke.

I was (ahem) frugal in my book purchases, however, in light of our not-so-stellar tankard sales over the run of the show. When I finally descended to the first floor to the checkout, I was surprised to see this sign:

I learned Mr. Carter was due at the store in four hours.

At the cash register, I saw bumper sticks with the city's unofficial motto.

Re-emerging from the underground parking garage and waiting to turn onto Burnside, I saw this narrow corner building, which I thought was architecturally interesting.

Then it was time to face the mind-numbingly long drive home. The first part through the lush portions of the Columbia River Gorge was gorgeous.

I flirted with the idea of stopping at Multnomah Falls, but signs indicated the parking lot was full so I bypassed it.

The lush portions of the highway slid away, and I passed through the endless dry desert-y parts of eastern Oregon.

The massive scree slopes on the opposite side of the river are a marvel. If you look carefully, you'll see a little white dot near the bottom left center of the photo. That's an 18-wheeler semi truck. It gives perspective to the photo.

Most rivers zigzag. The Columbia just zigzags, well, bigly.

After several hours, I finally looped left onto Hwy. 82.

Then, because the thought of facing that long slog on boring Hwy. 395 was too daunting, I decided to take an alternate route home. I turned right at Umatilla and went through Walla Walla. I had never been there.

Rather than crossing the Columbia, I paralleled it for many miles.

Walla Walla turned out to be a charming little city, full of sturdy brick buildings, impressive churches, and gracious homes.

Everywhere I went, I saw people selling the famous Walla Walla sweet onions.

Then I launched myself into the endless Palouse hills of wheat that make up this extreme southeast corner of Washington.

Massive windmills dominated this landscape.

Whatever your opinion of these massive turbines, they are staggering for sheer size close up.

It was as sparsely-populated a landscape as I have ever seen.

Tumbleweed crossed the highway at intervals.

So did deer, including this handsome buck on the heels of two does.

Eventually I crossed the Snake River.

More endless fields of wheat, with a little rain thrown in. But I'm getting closer to home.

At last I got into Colfax and on to familiar ground. The Walla Walla route took longer than I thought it would and I probably won't take it again, but I was glad to see was it was like.

No kidding, just as I finally crossed into Idaho...

...a rainbow appeared and followed me much of the rest of the trip.

I was never so glad to see home.

Because let's face it, there's no place like home.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fifth day of sales

Sorry for the silence of the last couple days -- I've been busy! I'm currently safe and sound back home, so let me catch you up on the last day of sales at the event.

We sold 17 pieces on Sunday -- a very respectable amount for the last day. I find it ironic it was the same amount as Saturday, but there you go.

This function draws people from all over the world, and I like how they encourage people to show where they're from.

Case in point.

Europe was heavily represented, as was Asia.

I met a fair smattering of folks from Australia and New Zealand.

All states were represented. Lots of east coasters.

A decent showing from the Inland Empire.

I'm fairly confident these pins did not represent actual residents of these remote areas, LOL.

On Sunday morning, one of the massive drawbridges spanning the river opened to allow a sailboat to go underneath. I never fail to be enthralled by this sight and glad I was able to watch. I find it to be an engineering marvel.

But it did make me wonder -- how much did it cost the sail boat owner to arrange to have the bridge raised? Is there a fee for disrupting traffic?

My booth assistant Mike and I both loved this woman's bag -- lines from famous books.

Interesting advertising -- people dressed as beer bottles.

I'm so used to seeing everyone sporting massive tattoos that it took me a few minutes to realize this woman's arms are NOT tattooed -- she's wearing a blouse with filmy printed sleeves.

I'm not normally a fan of small dogs, but there's was something adorable and endearing about this critter. He "smiled" everywhere he went. I must say, Portlanders love their dogs.

T-shirts du jour. I saw a man sporting this startling statement. I didn't ask what it meant. Sometimes I just don't want to know

Okay, Trekkies -- who said this?

Beats wearing the real thing.

Another irreverent T-shirt. The wearer said they're very common in Belize, where she got it.

Some amazing dredlocks.

I thought this little girl's hairstyle was lovely.

The last band of the day was this Reggae-folk band who simply called themselves "World's Finest," and let me tell you there were absolutely awesome. After so many days of hideous grunge rock, these musicians had everyone -- and I mean everyone -- dancing. People were bopping in the aisles. Tired vendors were tapping their feet.

The energy they created was something to see -- people were whirling and jumping and swinging and dancing.

But about 2/3 of the way through the set, we looked up and saw this.

Mike called up the weather on his smart phone and it showed we were target-zero for a big cell.

The timing was amazing. The band finished playing, gave their "thank you" speech, and then the rain poured down.

Within seconds everyone had fled underneath the bigtop tents.

It poured poured POURED. We pulled the shelving units under the tent but couldn't pack down because the boxes were in the car and the car was parked elsewhere.

So we stood and watched people making dashes for it.

Had a few gusts of wind too.

The water quickly backed up into our neighbor's booth four inches deep.

It backed into ours as well, but not as bad.

Without trying to sound a downer, somehow it seemed a fitting end to the weekend.

The event staff let vendors pull their vehicles in early, which was very nice of them.

Mike and I packed the largest box with tankards, and then I sent him on his way with grateful thanks for his help over the weekend. Unfortunately after he left, I realized there was no way I could fit everything into the vehicle with that large box taking up so much space (remember, I had shipped two large boxes of stock in advance; now I had to fit everything into the rental car for the trip home).

So, wearily, I emptied the car, repacked the stock into smaller boxes, and tried it again. This time everything fit, but I was wiped by the time the car was packed.

It certainly wasn't my most triumphant trip to Portland, but on the upside I met many lovely people, found a new friend in my booth assistant Mike, and got to stay with my dear friend Wendy, so it wasn't all rain and poor sales.

Nonetheless, I'm glad to be home.