In this twenty-sixth episode of the Not Dead Yet Show:
by Johnathan Pierce (Systems Administrator, Automation Geek)
Life is an adventure. When looking for some activities that would be adventurous for a birthday celebration we found tours offered of The Portland Underground.
When we arrived at Hobo’s restaurant in Portland we were taken to the back for an introduction and summary of what we were about to experience. The underground tunnels were very dark, musty and had low ceilings. We were told there could be some anomalous activity such as the feeling of someone tugging on your shirt or pant leg, smelling certain scents such as cigar smoke or perfume, or visually seeing haunting figures. They explained they don’t use trip wires or any entertainment value they are just there to present the history of Portland Underground Tunnels.
The tunnels are said to be one of the most haunted places in Portland.
The tour began at the front of the restaurant where there were metal doors that were opened with a staircase leading down. The guide explained he was doing the tour solo that day so one of the tour participants would have to be the brave one and go down first so that he could be the last one down and close the doors behind us. Looking at each other, I wanted to go but my wife wasn’t enthused by the idea.
The tunnels were discovered by a local Portlander and he’s created a nonprofit to help share the stories of Portland’s past.
We were instructed to walk down the hallway to the open room and wait for the tour guide. On the side of the hallway was a curtain that covered some storage space for the restaurant. Once we got to the end of the hallway and the guide arrived he showed us a room that was used for opium drug sellers. There was a bunk bed. It was explained that the bottom bed was the higher priced bed because it was a shorter fall to the ground. There was a hole in the floor covered by a rug. This was the area they used to hide their drugs. Police Officers would come down the tunnel and chase these patrons to the holding cell where they would be held until the next ship came in and sent on a voyage to Shanghai as slaves.
There was a string with cans on it that was used to alert intruders. It is very dark in the tunnels and noise was used to alert because of the absence of light.
Then we went to the holding cells. This is where the captured victims were held until a ship came in and the captain needed a specified number of people to work the ship. Outside of the holding cells were broken glass pieces. When they captured victims they would take their shoes so they couldn’t escape or if they did they’d leave a trail of blood.
After the holding cells we walked through an area that was used to hold female sex slaves. They would capture women and break their spirit and would remain in captivity for life. If the women had babies while in captivity they would raise the babies on the top floor of a nearby hotel until they were old enough to either become slaves or adopted.
The journey continued as we went through another twisted tunnel and entered a large room. This is where we smelled rose scented perfume. My wife smelled it asked me if I could smell it I said yes. Then the smell went away and returned just a few minutes later.
Then we proceeded and the next area there was an Indian statue. The story behind this statue was fascinating. It was a statue outside of a cigar store. One of the slave traders sold this to a ship captain for a high price. The victims were often unconscious or drugged so they wouldn’t rise until they were out at sea. The captains assumed there would be some casualties but that outnumbered the risk of aggression or escapees. Once out at sea the captain realized he had been sold a statue. He threw it overboard and eventually the statue washed back up to shore and has found its home in the Portland Underground Tunnels.
We were shown trap doors that were used in bars to capture patrons in an underground tunnel. The captured people were held until a ship came in and they were then sent on the ship for 2-3 years. When the voyage(s) were completed they were dropped wherever they were with no resources, many didn’t make it.
I can never look at Portland sidewalks the same. Now we walk by openings covered by metal doors all over the city and wonder what’s underneath.
by Nick Bridwell (Customer Service)
Spring is in the air and that means it’s time to hit the parks, beaches, and music festivals. Wherever you’re headed, it’s probably a good idea to gather up your Saddleback gear. Here are 5 pieces that are picture perfect for your Spring 2016:
This bad boy is custom designed for the wayfaring soul. Not only do you get the awesome convenience of a comfortable backpack, but you get three exterior pockets that are perfect for compartmentalizing your travels. Headed on a camping trip this spring? You’ll love having the ability to store essentials–clothes, hygiene products, a first aid kit, a reserve of your favorite spirit–all safely and separately in the Front Pocket Backpack’s main pack and pockets. Personally, I think this is great for day-trips into town, too. I can store my chargers, laptop, sketchpad, books, pens, and whatever else I decide to pick up once I get where I’m going.
Holy Moleskine, this thing is smooth. Our world runs on words and if you’re anything like me, your words are your life. If you use Moleskine notebooks, this Moleskine Cover is the one for you. Not only does it protect your musings, but it’s a quality piece of leather for your quality thoughts. Anyway, if I’m out and about in the spring, I like to throw my books in these covers so that a.) I have something a little heartier to write on and b.) I don’t leave the books lying around because, I mean hey, who is going to forget about this cover?
Taking that pup of yours for a nice walk in the park? Look, I’m not going to pussyfoot around here with you. You’re basically your dog’s wingman. He’s looking to meet the ladies and the competition is getting groomed and shampooed and all sorts of fancy stuff. Your alternative? The Saddleback Leather Dog Leash. Let your dog let his lady know that he has a rugged and refined taste. Oh, and if your dog IS a lady, the leash works just as well. She’ll want to look dapper for her walk about town. Just because your dog is a dog doesn’t mean he/she has to dress like some sort of animal.
Hey, the flowers are blooming, the songbirds are chirping, and the whole family is ready to barbeque. That means it’s picture time! For those of you fine folks who opt for the full-fledged camera instead of the cell phone, this bag is perfect. There’s enough room for camera and lens, plus extras. If you’re not a camera person, this makes a great lunchbox! Nom, nom, nom. Leather so nice people can eat out of it!
Some of those spring days are just straight up rainy. For those, you might want to sit back and play a classic game of wit and strategy. This game requires no screens, no batteries, no wires, and does not receive Facebook messages, Tweets, or Snapchats, BUT it’s perfect if you need to tuck under a gazebo to wait out an hour-long spring shower. It’s the simple things in life that sometimes bring us the most satisfaction. This leather chess set is one of those things.
Let us know what Saddleback Gear you love this Spring ‘16 by posting pics to our Twitter account @Saddlebackbags.
Nick is a writer and journalist, whose debut novel, The Ties That Bind, came out in 2014 and is available in paperback and as an eBook here: http://amzn.com/0990573702 .
by Sarah Farver (Public Relations)
Life is full of lessons. Some are sweet, and others are hard and raw, but when you see someone make choices to love someone sacrificially, it communicates volumes about that person. I have seen it in parents who feed and dress their 23 year old son day-in, day-out, after his car was broadsided and he suffered extreme brain damage. I have seen it in a faithful young husband who cares for his chronically ill bride. I have seen the loss of parents when they lose a child. Loss wears a lot of different faces.
When the right person hears a story, they want that story to impact others the way it impacted them. That’s where Joe comes in. Whatever story he sees, he tells in his own way. I have had people ask why Saddleback has a filmmaker-in-residence and why a leather company feels the need to tell stories. The truth is, stories shape us and cause us to evaluate what we hold as important. By telling stories, we are sharing a bit of what we value, and letting that shape our thinking.. Telling a story is something unique to humans and letting those stories move us and reevaluate what we hold dear is a significant part of their value.
Joe met Kwasa Liste and told his story in a film called Life After Death. Kwasa was on his mother’s back when she was killed in Rwanda’s genocide and his life has been a journey of figuring out his own response to that horror. It impacts the man he has become, all these years later. It’s a hard story, but there is beauty in it, too.
Later Joe tells the story of Grace and Patricia, who daily navigate life with Type 1 diabetes in Midnight,Three and Six. Patricia is Dave’s sister and Grace is his niece. It’s a story we know well here, but one thousands of people have to live with daily as diabetics. It’s an important story about a mother’s ferocious love.
Most recently, Joe got to know his fiancé’s grandparents. After being married for 63 years the husband faithfully goes to see his wife at an Alzheimer’s care facility and comb her hair. Because sometimes following through on a commitment of “til death do us part” looks like this, and it’s beautiful.
“My goal in making this film was to capture this simple act of love at the end of life, “ Joe said. “I believe one of the most basic acts of love is just to keep showing up, always and unconditionally. Sometimes the best you can do is to let somebody know they are loved, not alone, and not forgotten.” Check out Late December as featured by The New York Times.
Stories help us look at the world through someone else’s eyes. I think that’s part of why we love a good story– it moves us and stirs us in our core. Looking at all that is broken in the world today, maybe that’s something we could use a bit more of.
We took a trip down to the factory and this is what we saw. And Guanajuato.
We go car camping outside of the tents we live in and Suzette drinks straight vinegar.
by Nick Bridwell (Customer Service)
Congrats to my brother and sister-in-law. My kid brother will soon be having his second son. That’s TWO for him and ZERO for me. This got me thinking: What would a real Saddleback Leather aficionado want to name his/her baby? Here are 3 boy names and 3 girl names inspired by the people that inspire Saddleback Leather: Also, feel free to use them to name your SBL gear, too.
When my wife and I get around to having some little ones of our own, I know I’ll be doing a lot of soul searching. There’s a lot in a name. I might gift my son with the strength of Clark Kent, the poetic genius of Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas, the soulful conviction of Atticus Finch. I might bestow upon my daughter the pedigree of Eleanor of Aquitaine, or the class and allure of Audrey Hepburn. There are plenty of options, but we are given one name by our parents and it should probably be a good one.
By Herndon Hasty (Digital Performance Manager)
When people talk about the beauty of Shakespeare, it’s always about the language. The stories he told were usually someone else’s from antiquity or from just far enough away that no one would likely notice, and the twists he added weren’t especially groundbreaking.
But the way he told them, the turns of phrase he created and even the words he brought into existence were what marked him out for praise and high school hatred 500 years later.
Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall was good enough to win every literary prize in the UK it was up for for similar reasons. The story is one that many people are familiar with: Henry VIII’s quest for a male heir, Anne Boleyn’s rise, and the cast of characters around them. However, it does add an interesting twist as it centers around Thomas Cromwell, an individual who’s usually a side character during this saga – and a shifty, hated one at that. Bringing new biographical facts to light, the genius that allowed him to successfully navigate a tough situation in a very dangerous time is much more center stage. His background as a banker – a rare trade in that day – and merchant add a businesslike atmosphere to the proceedings.
Our household is a little biased on this matter. As it turns out, he’s an ancestor of my wife, and as it turns out he famously had an ancestor of mine – Thomas Moore – beheaded during this time period. Thanks, Ancestry.com!
The unique perspective, though, is only a scant piece of the book’s brilliance. The approach is unusual – written in the same perspective as stage directions, it might take reading about 20 pages just to get a feel and momentum – well worth it, in order to get to the stark but rich language that Mantel brings to Wolf Hall and its sequel, Bring Up The Bodies. Out of respect . fear of copyright laws, I won’t pour out the full measure of quotes that I’d love to, but for a sampling, check out its Good Reads page.
Around this time last year, if you’re a person who even occasionally finds yourself on PBS, you probably started hearing about the TV series of the books. Much like a work on the opposite end of the spectrum, The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the true beauty and humor of the work is in how the story is told and what cannot be said, only described. You can watch the show, too. But do not miss the books.
So, in winter’s waning days when you still might have long stretches of staying in from the weather in front of you, I can’t recommend enough picking up Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies – if you start now, you’ll have time enough to get in a good, satisfactory second reading in time for its third installment The Mirror And The Light to arrive in 2017.
By Herndon Hasty (Digital Performance Manager)
My wife and I embarked last year on a renovation project at our house that, amongst other things, getting our home more energy efficient. Just passing it’s 60th year in existence, there were plenty of gaps that needed filling, window glass that needed to be replaced, and insulation that needed power-vacuuming in.
Now, we doubled the size of the house in the process, so the effects we saw on our energy usage were kind of tricky to determine – pro tip: your bills do not go down when you add that much new space.
But from what we could tell, I’m convinced that nothing had the effect that adding Nest thermostats did about a year and a half later.
We first heard about Nest in the kind of nerdy articles we read about home automation: Controlling things in your home via an app, getting appliances to talk to each other, and the most up-to-date ways to both make your home more efficient and confuse your pets. It could act as a first step to making things happen automatically by being the gauge of whether someone was home or not, which could in turn tell the lights to turn off (or on, if you needed to seem like someone was home), the security cameras to start rolling, and even the dryer to toss your clothes around every 15 minutes or so to keep them fresh.
The asides about it managing the temperature in your house to use less electricity seemed cool, but farfetched. We’re conscious of our electricity usage, we do what we can to keep the A/C from coming on when we don’t need it to, surely that’s all it takes, right?
As it turns out, nope. Taking about 20 minutes to add a temperature schedule to three thermostats, and telling them to hang loose whenever we’re out of the house was enough to drop our peak summer electricity bills by 20% in the first month. In boiling-hot Texas, that’s a fair bit of money back in your pocket.
But that’s when the gaming piece of Nest’s equation kicks in. It plays around with temperature levels by a degree or two to save electricity when you might not notice, and alerts you when adding a degree or two could result in big savings by rewarding you with a leaf on the screen. It automatically adjusts for high humidity days. You get a monthly email telling you not just how much electricity you saved, but compares it to everyone around you who’s also using a Nest. The rest of Fort Worth earned an average of eight energy efficient leaves this month? By God, I’m gonna earn ten next month! That’ll show ‘em!
Those triggers were enough to add another 10% after the first month – enough for them to pay for themselves easily in less than two years, and keeping a little more coal soot out of the air in the process.
At $200 – $250 apiece, they can make the most economic sense in places that have really hot summers, or if you have electric A/C and heating units in a more temperate space. If your goal is energy efficiency for efficiency’s sake, of course, it’ll still make a difference, but if you can do so without resorting to adding a semi-permanent Ramen Wednesday to your dinner plans, all the better.
You’ll also need to have them installed. While they do come with instructions, and Google claims that they can be installed by non-electricians in an hour, if you’re like me, I’ll happily tinker with a lot of things but electricity and an HVAC unit are not amongst them. I will, however, make great use of the nifty magnetic phillips + flat head screwdriver that comes with the thermostat.
You may need to poke around for electricians who will install a thermostat that they didn’t sell you, or you can use Amazon Home Services for installation services that are for situations exactly like this.
Once they’re installed, they can be made to communicate with other Nest products, other products specifically built to talk with Nest, or anything that can connect to a service like IFTTT, which can make a lot of things act based on changes seen at another thing, website, or online service.
The energy and money saved by going Nest has inspired us to get solar panels installed this Spring, and the automation we’ve enjoyed is going to extend to the smart plugs and home cameras that are on their way to the house as I type this. So, more adventures in electricity and home automation coming!
Dave recently interviewed Master Penman Jake Weidmann to get some insight into what makes this amazing artist tick. And if you have never seen any of Jake’s work stop reading, go to his site, and then come back to read the interview. Enjoy!
“The tools, materials and context of my work demand the utmost of my skill and attention. With hours of practice in between final pieces, I hardly find myself starting over. Mistakes are made, but part of my practice is knowing how to fix anything that might go wrong.”