with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Lorelle’s Three Monitors and Desk Setup

I’ve been asked to explain my three monitor setup working with Windows 8.1 (or whatever is the latest version) and my desk, the almost ideal workspace for the writer, web developer, and web publisher.

Three monitors, one vertical, two horizontal, adore the desk of Lorelle VanFossen.

My desk was designed and custom built by my husband, Brent, to fit into our trailer. It was designed for life on the road with many features to keep it light-weight and versatile. It is made of mahogany and red oak. It is designed literally “around” me with a keyboard that moves under the desk when we were traveling, and a fold away keyboard table within perfect reach of my right hand. Any time I travel and work away from it, I miss it, it is that much a perfect fit.

The three monitors are set with two horizontal to the left and right, with the center monitor turned vertical. The two horizontal monitors are 24 inches wide and the center monitor is 27 inches “wide,” which is actually 27 inches high. The three sit on a fairly fixed three monitor single pole support with the two 24″ monitors glued to mounts I made as they weren’t designed to be supported off base. I simply removed the bases once mounted.

Windows 8’s operating system allows for easy shifting from horizontal to vertical, so no drivers or fussing was actually necessary. Just a visit to the desktop, right click, choose Screen Resolution and mess around with the screen you want to change.

Why a vertical screen? Why not? Seriously.

The web is a vertical world. Web pages are designed vertical and scroll vertically if well-made. Documents are vertical. The only things we use a computer for that require the horizontal are watching television shows and movies and working on spreadsheets. Really, if it isn’t your job, when was the last time you worked on a spreadsheet? If you don’t watch videos and such, then you have even less reason for a horizontal monitor, right? (more…)

Leaves Crackle Beneath My Feet

Foot stepping in dried fall leaves on ground - photography by Lorelle VanFossen.

Each summer, I live for the days when the leaves turn all shades of red, gold, and brown, and cascade from the trees. To be in the land of seasons again gives me no end of joy. I love to run around barefoot in the leaves and listen to their crackle.

Leaves to me is a sign of renewal, just as spring is to others. For me, it is the start of the next growth pattern, a time of sleep before awakening to stretch higher into the sky, reaching for the sun, sprouting luscious greenery again.

The Future of Photography

In “Where the Photo Industry is Going in Five Years,” Chris Gampat talks about the future of photography.

“The industry and the state of technology is evolving or developing so quickly I frankly cannot guess what will be five years from now. I am not certain if you’d asked me this during January 2014 I could have predicted the state of affairs today, Dec 1, 2014, just one year later.” stated Henry Posner, Director of Corporate Communications at B&H Photo Video Pro Audio in NYC.

Indeed, technology these days moves so fast that we’re not sure anyone would be able to tell. Not many could have expected that a product from Apple introduced around five years ago would have improved to the point where many use it as their main camera every day. Nor did we think that it would spur the creation of an app that allows a new breed of photographers to make a decent living off of shooting photos for advertisers.

True, today there is a camera in every pocket and purse, often rarely leaving the hand. We’ve become cyborg citizen journalists, capturing our lives, news, and events around us at every opportunity. This is the age of selfies, multiple generations preserved digitally forever – we hope.

Duane Hansen hides in camo in the trees behind his camera.The article interviews manufacturers and experts in the technology behind photography and comes to these conclusions: (more…)

Exploring Tokyo, Japan

Brent was in Japan for a work project this spring for a couple months. These are a few of the images from his trip.

I Hate It When He’s Right

Brent and Lorelle closeup photo by Deirdre Doan.Twenty years ago, I told Brent that I didn’t think I could ever be happier or more in love. I was terrified that the love wouldn’t last, that no one should have the right to be so happy for very long. It’s a rule in my family. There are no equal parts love and joy and pain and suffering. The majority of life is about pain and suffering with sprinkles of good stuff.

He told me that I was wrong. That it would get better, every day, and that we would love each other more as time passed, and experience even greater depths of joy.

Every year about this time, he reminds me and I tell him I hate it when he’s right.

He’s been reminding me for twenty years.

I really hate it when he’s right.

Brent and Lorelle Halloween.I can’t imagine the path my life would have taken if I hadn’t stopped my reckless, self-involved journey and paused to examine the man that fell from the sky into my world. I know that his life would have continued on its dull path, full of routine and consistency, working up the ladder at work slowly, pay increases on an annual basis, a house, maybe a wife and family, dog and cat, vacations twice a year, PTA meetings, church, a quiet and well-ordered life filled with meaning and significance, but a straight and narrow path.

Instead, he met me.

Brent and Lorelle New Year's Part 2014Within less than two years of our wedding, we were traveling the road full-time in a 30 ft. fifth wheel, taking photographs and writing about our adventures. By our fifth wedding anniversary, we were in Israel, exploring the unholy land and Europe, broadening our horizons. By the tenth anniversary, we’d just left the war zone that Israel and the middle east had become and moved to the US southern Gulf Coast in time for ALL of the hurricanes to beat us into submission. By the fifteenth anniversary, we’d bought a house and left the RV life to travel in airplanes and cars to our destinations, getting their faster but without the true joy of the getting there. By our twentieth, both of us are working “normal” jobs in addition to our freelance work, still traveling, in a home without wheels surrounded by friends and our three cats, and living and loving together better than every before.

We are still best friends, sharing everything with each other, eagerly rushing home to tell each other about our day, working on projects together, cheering each other on through all of the ups and downs of life.

In retrospect, he was right. There is more love and joy year by year than the nasty stuff. It’s really a life filled with joy and love with sprinkles of the bad stuff.

Happy anniversary, my love, and thanks for being right…this time.

Still Alive. Can’t Think of Anything Else to Write.

The email was titled “STILL ALIVE” in capital letters. The email consisted of this single message:

Can’t think of anything else to write.

Earlier reports from my best friend in Israel described the two, one 90 and the other almost 80 years old and still active, getting short notice to get out of their buildings when the sirens go off as rockets coming out of the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip and landing in Tel Aviv and Rishion LeZion where they live over 65km away.

We had our morning wake-up call today. It was a rather odd one. The siren went off so we got up and I went out. My husband refused to get our of the bed during all of this, rarely leaving the apartment.

I was joined by our neighbour and we waited to hear the BOOM of the Iron Dome, but none came. We heard something in the distance and waited.

…Suddenly, the siren went again and there was a very nasty BOOM, which had nothing to do with the interceptors, and our neighbours said ‘Oh! That one fell somewhere.’ We heard the sirens in the neighbouring areas going off as well, and then some more booms in the distance, so they got the others that came over–presumably. Would know more if I turned on the TV, but simply cannot do it.

Yesterday was fairly quiet–only two or three sirens. ‘They’ said we were going to get it last night, but we didn’t, apart from one around 9:00pm.

And so it goes.

Word of a ceasefire gave everyone hope, to which she emailed:

Still here.

Don’t trust the bastards.

She was right. That morning, the news reports that Hamas fired 50 rockets into Israel and Israel responded with airstrikes. The rockets reached Gan Yavne, Tel Aviv, and Rishon LeZion. (more…)

Thinking Small Living on the Road

One of the biggest challenges of living in an RV on the road is space. Fitting it all in. Now that we are living in a home without wheels, space means something else, but every home is challenged with space issues.

A student of mine found a video showcasing modular and flexible furniture from Italy imported into the United States that features some of the most innovative uses of space. Wish I’d had some of these tricks up my sleeve in the trailer!

In Case of Emergency: Use Your Library Card

Example of dummy library cards to remind you to take your library card with in in case of an emergency.

My local library sent out a newsletter stating the following:

Making a personal emergency plan and kit does not need to be all consuming. Take it in manageable bits—add to it each month until you have all of the components assembled. There are many easy items to add from the outset to pack in your kit…

Library card, yes your library card will make it easy to contact friends/family or do business on-line at the library after an emergency

This is brilliant.

In addition to all the basic survival gear and paperwork, including identity and insurance cards tucked into a water tight zip lock bag, add your library card. Makes complete sense.

While a local library may be facing the same disaster circumstances you are, they might be among the earliest refugee and emergency shelter locations to be back up and running. With your library card, you can get online and communicate with friends and family, contact authorities and insurance agencies, but also research how to handle the situation.

Libraries are fantastic resources, so keep a copy of your library card in your emergency kit. You never know, and if you need to know, a library is the place to start learning.

September 11 – Twelve Years After

Israel newspaper front page news of the World Trade Center Attacks in New York.
It’s incredible to think that it has been 12 years since I published my experience of what has become known as 9/11, the day the World Trade Center towers and Pentagon was attacked by terrorist in the United States.

Three weeks after the attack, I wrote of the hope we all had for our future, a united future against terrorism and violence, and the reality of life on the ground in Israel, home of daily terrorist attacks.

How far we have not come since.

As I write this today, we are debating involvement in a civil war in Syria. Iran and Afghanistan are a mess from former President Bush’s attacks and blame for 9/11, to which little or no evidence has been found to support the original “proof” that both countries demanded international attacks.

We are a couple years past the hope of the “Arab Spring,” an uprising against the corrupt leaders in Tunisia which spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Syria, as well as other countries in the Middle East. The hope of that uprising and the resulting government overthrows shakes as governmental and military powers continue to control these countries, and the uprising became a civil war in Syria and elsewhere. It was a ripple of hope that will continue to weave in and out of a territory not known for peace.

Like the Arab Spring, the United States felt tremendous hope when a black President was elected. Obama’s election was a sign of change, change for the better, change for the good in all of us. The United States had come of age and finally had a non-white in power.

Re-elected again, a clear win against a ridiculous opponent, Obama is proof that such hope doesn’t mean much when there is little or no follow through or support for such an intransigent government.

Like 9-11 and the Arab Spring, it was hope. Hope dashed, but hope all the same.

How far has the world come since 9-11? Not far enough.

How far have I come since that fateful day when I stood shell-shocked before dozens of televisions in a store in Tel Aviv?

We left Israel just as Arafat was finally declared dead in Paris, weeks after he was really dead, his wife, 34 years younger than him, holding his body hostage for more money, security, and control from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Arab governments for her quiet and cooperation.

We survived the terrors and wars of the Middle East to land in Mobile, Alabama, and be greeted by one hurricane after another. We survived them all, from A through W and K wasn’t much fun, death and destruction around us.

In 2006, I brought my father to stay with us in the warm winter and he died the end of that year. A month or so later we moved in snow to Gaston, Oregon, and today, we live not many miles from there in a permanent home, a fixed residence as full-time travelers call it, in North Plains, Oregon, just 30 minutes from downtown Portland.

I joke that after surviving the human terrorism of the Middle East, mother nature terrorism on the Gulf Coast of the US, it’s nice to be in a place where the local terrorism consists of earthquakes and traffic jams, and the occasional flood.

As I look back on September 11, I see now that our lives were already broken by violence in Israel, only complicated by September 11 and its aftermath of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hurricane Katrina and the other storms smashed our spirits but we survived.

We always survive. All of us. Humans are famous for that. In spite of terror, in spite of violence, in spite of ourselves, we survive.

I’m actually rather proud of that – and us.

The Art of a Moth

Moth on pine needles on ground, photography by Brent VanFossen.

Brent has a beautiful eye for capturing the essence of a photograph. This moth is perfectly framed on the pine needled covered ground at Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park.

Moths are amazing. There are over 160,000 species of months, nearly ten times the number of butterflies, so sayeth Wikipedia.

We love photographing moths. Their colorful and extremely diverse wing patterns, the soft fuzzy heads, all the sizes. They can be mesmerizing – and pests at the same time.

The Attacus atlas moth is the largest in the world, their wing span reaching to over 10 inches – the size of birds.

The Bombyx mori is a silkworm moth which makes the silk we so love wearing. Wikipedia states that as of 2002, these months produce over 130 million kilograms of raw silk a year. About 2,000 to 3,000 cocoons are required to make a pound of silk. That’s incredible. How did someone come up with that as a clothing idea?

In the Pacific Northwest, there are thousands of moths. We have a moth identification book just for this area. As I dig into what type of moth this is, just enjoy the image.

Photography Technique

Brent used a tripod and 200mm lens with an extension tube to capture this moth. It remained still enough that he could bounce some light into the dense forest floor area with a gold reflector, adding warmth to it as well.

The camera equipment was Nikon.

Visiting the Doctor Who Shop Vicariously

My new friend, Janet of Janet’s Notebook’s, visited The Isle of Wight and the Doctor Who store there recently and sent me scrapbook virtual postcards of her trip. Please forgive the indulgence as I share them with you and preserve them here so I can look at them forever!

As a major Doctor Who fan, I’m so jealous of her trip.

Doctor Who Store virtual postcard sent by Janet Williams to Lorelle VanFossen - picture set 1.

The Spider That Thinks He’s a Flower

Yellow Crab Spider sits in the center of lupine leaves, awaiting dinner. Photography by Brent VanFossen.

Many years ago, Brent VanFossen was hiking around the Olympic National Park in our favorite area of Hurricane Ridge during the beautiful alpine wild flower season. He spotted this plumb yellow crab spider poised perfectly in the middle of lupine leaves like the yellow center of a flower.

It’s arms were outstretched, waiting for dinner to appear, and as he watched, so it did. A bee showed up to collect the lovely pollen it thought it would get from such a flower, only to be caught in the clutches of the awaiting attack spider.

Nature in all its glory and intricacies never fails to impress me.

Photography Technique

To capture this closeup, macro photography moment of the spider in the lupine, Brent had his 200mm lens on a tripod pointed down at the spider.

The foreground area was distracting with ground clutter, so he leaned a blooming lupine into the foreground close to the front of the lens so it would be out of focus, masking the distractions. This also helped put the focus on the spider, making it appear to be lurking, awaiting its prey.

The camera equipment was Nikon. No flash was used, just ambient light with a little bounce from a gold reflector.

My Father Helps Me Fill in the Blanks of Our Story

In going through stacks of papers from my father’s home more than a year after his death, I found a manila envelope with my name on it. Inside were printed copies of emails I’d sent out in 1996 onward before we had an easily-updated website.

Emails I sent out about our early travels kept for many years by my father - Lorelle VanFossen.When we left my father’s driveway in Marysville, Washington, I was saying goodbye to more than my ancestral home in the Pacific Northwest. I was telling both of my parents, especially my father, that they were going to have to do some growing up and get along without me for a while. It was my time to walk by myself.

This is a bit dramatic, yet looking back, this is part of my experience.

It would be six years before I saw my father again.

For many years I knew my father cared about me, but his caring manifested by pushing and shoving, bad jokes, and tiny moments of appreciation with the occasional grasping hug and push back, as if it hadn’t happened. He wasn’t a man to hold your hand, though I have many pictures of him doing just that when I was tiny. As a grown-up, he struggled with emotions and appropriate behavior when it came to expressing love. I knew that. I understood that. Intellectually.

In my heart, intellectual understanding didn’t hold you close and tell you it would be okay when you cried yourself to sleep.

Finding the stack of emails was amazing, and delightful. Over the years of hard drive crashes, email accounts shut down or changed, servers crashed, and viral hacks of our websites, data has been lost. The stories of our first adventures on the road had evaporated. I had pieces, but not the whole story.

Here in my hands were most of the lost emails. I wondered what happened to them and asked one of my father’s friends.

“Those emails. He’d be so proud. He’d bring them into the pancake house and read them to us, laughing at all the crazy things you two had been up to.” The pancake house was our euphemism for the breakfast cafe my father and his cronies hung out at daily, a second home, or first home for many of the guys who were retired, out of work, and near to living on the streets. “If a guy really liked one of the stories, your old man’d give him the pages.”

That is just like my father. That explained the missing pieces, but there was enough for me to work with.

I released “Journal: December 18, 1996 – Friday the 13th The Journey Begins” and recently edited it again as I continue to work on our autobiography, thanks to the holes filled in by my dad.

As I go through the stories and journal entries of those early years, long before we had an easy-to-update website like this, I wonder what else got lost along the way.

The older I get the more I think that life is a journey of discovery and rediscovery.

Flying, Driving, Walking: Changing Our Perspectives on Traveling

Pair of Arctic Terns on beach, photography by Brent VanFossen.

The Arctic Tern has been found to have the longest annual migration of any animals in the world, traveling 44,000 miles in ten months, the equivalent of three round trips to the moon from earth in its lifetime of about 30+ years.

When I think about how much and how far we’ve traveled, the Tern ain’t got anything on us.

We kept track of the miles for the first few years on the road full-time. I think we got to around 100,000 miles in the first two to three years.

Driving miles, not flying miles.

Driving miles are more torturous than flying miles, at least for humans. I’m sure the Terns face horrible obstacles on their flying treks around the globe from pole to pole. Still ain’t nothing to a serious case of Mississippi back-breaking pot holes and a bad case of truck butt.

Living in Europe and the Middle East, we walked just about everywhere. A mile hike through town to get to an event or a meeting was a nothing for us. We slogged many miles pounding pavement as we traveled around, leaving the car parked for weeks on end.

Back in the states, I was stunned to be in the car with someone who pulled into the front parking spot of a store, went in, got what she needed, got into the car, backed up, moved over three parking spots to park again, get out, and go into the store immediately next door to the first one. The entrance was maybe 40 feet from the first.

Now that we live “in the woods” as many describe it, we tell people we are thirty minutes from downtown Portland, Oregon.

“Oh, that’s too far!”

This same person thinks nothing of taking a bus or the train for 45 minutes to get from one part of Portland to the other, or sitting in traffic for an hour to drive 6 or 8 miles from home to work or an event.

It amazes me how “travel” can mean such different things to so many people, as well as to myself. Now that I’m in the states, walking that mile or driving it, I choose to drive.

I think about the Terns and the ease at which they flit through the air. Flying looks easy when it’s sport. If your life depends upon it, you might want to drive instead of fly.

Example of File Gallery WordPress Plugin

Cell phone on desk next to coffee mug with Doctor Who logo - photography by Lorelle VanFossen.

The following is a demonstration post for the PDX WordPress Meetup Plugin Ignite Presentation. I will be demonstrating the File Gallery WordPress Plugin. The lorem ipsum text is courtesty of Fillerama: A Filler Text Generator, the Doctor Who version. This post is a tribute, in its own twisted way, to the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who.

The Pandorica Opens

doctor who - river song - hitlerYou know how I sometimes have really brilliant ideas? You hate me; you want to kill me! Well, go on! Kill me! KILL ME! It’s art! A statement on modern society, ‘Oh Ain’t Modern Society Awful?’! I’m nobody’s taxi service; I’m not gonna be there to catch you every time you feel like jumping out of a spaceship. Did I mention we have comfy chairs? It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezes are cool.

World War Three

Saving the world with meals on wheels. You hit me with a cricket bat. Heh-haa! Super squeaky bum time!