Money Map


Thanks to the time freed up by having all my work and adventures cancelled by quarantine, I've completed another long-overdue project! I've been dreaming and scheming of this money map for well over a decade. Every country I travel to*, I try to come home with one of each of the coins and bills under, say, $10. It's often the only souvenir I end up with. And over the past decade plus, I've built up quite a collection.

Before you ask, no, each country isn't made up only with coins from that country. I considered that, but logistically, it just doesn't make sense. Panama and Costa Rica together can only fit one small coin while Russia and China would have tons of repeat coins. It was hard enough deciding what to do with narrow land masses that were fractions of a coin wide. (Malay Peninsula, I'm sorry.)

It broke my heart to cut the paper money to make the shapes, but I consoled myself knowing that the money is either outdated, of so little value that it's no big deal, or that I won't likely return to the country to use to it*. Even so, there's well over the equivalent of $100 used which makes it maybe the most expensive piece of art I own.

This thing is not small, either. It is over 6 feet wide (obligatory artist with his creation shot for scale), partially to help deal with those pesky narrow land masses and small islands. And getting the coins to stick in place was a bear. I fully expect to awake to the plink plink of falling coins some night not too far off.

But overall, I'm inordinately pleased with how it turned out, and that I finally got around to completing a project that's been in my head for so long. Admiring at all the money while creating it and remembering the stories attached to each place was a great balance to the backache that came from being hunched over, gluing for hours at a time. Really, I don't think I could conceive of a piece of art better suited to my interest: travel and money. Sure, maybe I could throw in the equator made of gummi bears, but that's how you get ants.

What will the next long-overdue quarantine art project be? Check back in 5 months to find out!

P.S. If destroying money is illegal, I'm sorry. And I've got a lot of countries I better not show my face in again. Here's hoping the Governor of the Netherlands Antilles isn't an avid BdW reader.
Saturday September 5 2020File under: travel, misc

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This is 41

This week, I turned 41 years old. I celebrated the occasion with good food, a little adventure, and inevitable reflection. As to this last point, I thought I might record a bit of those reflections here so when age 81 rolls around (which I truly hope it does), I'll be able to look back and know what I was thinking (and see how not fat and not completely bald I once was.)

Notable occurances of this 41st trip around the sun were:
  • An wonderful trip to Indonesia etc. that, besides being a top notch adventure and thoroughly enjoyable time with my partner, also kept my number-of-countries-visited count higher than my age, a balance which I hope to maintain until I die.
  • The anticipated upward progress of our Wren and Della juggling brand was thoroughly twarted by COVID-19. The few gigs we've managed to get are sweet little birthday parties that do a lot to fill that place in my life for connecting with and making audiences smile but also remind me how much I like and miss my "job".
  • With the newly available time courtesy of the shutdown of basically all of my hobbies/jobs/interests, I re-learned how to run. While I can't quite yet say I enjoy it, I've impressed myself with both my stick-to-it-ive-ness and my progress—I'm doing 4 miles at a ~7:15 pace 3 times a week.* It also has kept me a fraction of a pound below 190, which I mention for data keeping's sake.
  • Regular albeit slow progress on a number of life goals: I continue to get an occasional crossword published*; I've racked up a couple more fun TV/film background extra appearances; I continue to apply for Jeopardy! at every opportunity with this year scoring my best yet on the qualifying test at ~39/50 (along with other random game show applications); maintaining good old Blog du Wren and its various data sets (sleeping around, jumping project, crossword resume, etc.)

What solar circumnavigation #42 has in store is more up in the air than ever before. I hope my custom tailored life stays pretty much the same, maybe just cranked up a tiny notch or two: slightly more adventurous adventures, slightly more successful successes, and slightly more noteable noteables. But we'll see what Dr. Fauci* has to say about that. But even if this life on pause continues until I'm 42, where I am at 41 is not a bad place to be paused: safe and comfortable home, wonderful partner, and diversions enough to keep things from getting too boring.

All in all, on the occasion of reflection, I'd say all is well: the reflection of my life I see makes me smile and what better birthday wish could a guy hope for?
Monday August 17 2020File under: misc

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My Homemade Quilt

Last night, Della and I got to sleep under my homemade quilt for the first time. Ten-ish years in the making*, I'm super stoked to have it completed. It incorporates T-shirts from many different aspects of my life and I'm excited to have it as a usable treasure for the rest of my life!

Even now, writing this post, I can get lost in all the memories represented: Key Club, juggling festivals, Palmyra, my dad's cafe, high school dances, family reunions, college, travels, long-past musical obsessions, and so much more. I had been holding onto these shirts, not knowing what to do with them but not wanting to throw them away. It [very] eventually turned into this project and I'm so glad it did.

I am not a master at the sewing machine. I don't think this quilt will be winning any bees any time soon. With all that I learned during the process, a second attempt would be much quicker and better. Seam allowances, accurate cutting, and actual planning, things one may think are obvious, are now finally obvious to me. Enough notable shirts didn't make it into this version that a second project isn't out of the questions (though how many quilts does one need?). But even with its imperfections, this quilt keeps us warm and makes me smile so I'm pleased as punch.

I hesitate to call this a "quarantine project", as so much of the thought and work went into it before outside life went into hibernation. But I also am pleased that there will forever been this association between this project I hope to have until I die with this crazy time in history. It will help remind me what one can do with time and ideas and how to make the best out of any situation.

But in the end, I really just wanted to show you my quilt that I'm really proud of.

Friday May 29 2020File under: misc

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An Eating Contest Champion I Am Not

I feel like there's a saying that you should try everything once. Despite the obvious counter-examples*, it's an adage worth considering. With that (and a free meal) in mind, Della and I signed up for the XXXL Challenge at the casino.

The contest was to eat a Fatburger XXXL burger (3 1/2 lb patties with all the fixings) as fast as possible. The initial plan was to simply take our time and enjoy the free burger, but then our competitive sides kicked in. I finished last in my heat at 8 minutes 20 seconds (which, it turned out, was better than average). If there's anything that takes the fun out of eating, it's trying to cram it down my maw as fast as possible. But there is pride in accomplishment, and I did it. Della finished with the fastest female time at 12 minutes 55 seconds.

I now have no doubt that competitive eating is truly a skill, and a skill I don't have. But I'm okay with that. Does this mean that I won't sign up for another eating contest in my life? Probably not. I'm just too much of a sucker for free food. But if I do, I hope I remember the discomfort that comes with such an affront to nature.
Monday Aug 26 2019File under: misc

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2018 Year End Letter

I wish Della and I were on it enough to put out an end of the year letter to send to friends and family every year. We love it when we receive updates from others (even if we have gotten bits and pieces from social media.) We put one out back in 2013 and again in 2015. Well, we got it together enough to do it again for 2018! Most of the info is probably old news, but not everybody is so good about staying updated on BdW* as you! Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday January 15 2019File under: misc

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2015 Year End Letter

A couple years ago, I did an end of the year letter that I sent out to folks I don't cross paths with digitally very often (or ever). It was a "this is what's up in my life" letter, akin to Christmas letters that people often do. (You can read it here.) Well, it was fun then so I thought I'd try it again, this time with me and Della's year in review. It turned out pretty fun (in no small part because we have pretty fun lives, IMHO) so I wanted to share. I'm guessing that none of this will be news to you, as you probably read about it all on the blog (which is probably why I didn't send you a paper copy), but hopefully you'll enjoy it nonetheless.


Monday February 22 2016File under: misc

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Summer Stone Projects


Above is a picture of the bottom terrace wall that I built this summer at the Quarry. Someday we hope to have the whole hillside terraced, but it turns out that building big rock walls is hard work, so the most I could get done this year was 1 wall. I'm shooting for one per year and soon enough, we'll have ourselves a nice little amphitheater! But since the picture above doesn't really do the wall justice, here's a few more. (It's a really nice wall)

Speaking of rock work, check out this patio I made behind Mom's house in Anacortes, also this summer. It is an extension of the patio that has been there since around 1995. Back then, Flip built it. In the 20 intervening years, I've learned all Flip has to teach* and put it into effect (-ish). The fountain is based, in part, on one don't at Mt. Rainier I helped erect (during Dude Camp 2014).

Yep, I like playing with rock—I mean, working with rock. Totally working.
Thursday October 8 2015File under: work, misc

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The e.g.

File under "My Life Is Awesome": I recently had the great opportunity to attend the e.g. Conference in Monterey, California. It was 3 days full of inspiration, ideas, schmoozing, high class living, and, of course, a little juggling.

The best way I can describe e.g. is that it is a lot like TED. In fact, it is held at the same place TED was started, and there is much overlap between the organizers, attendees, and concept: get really interesting people and have them talk about what they are doing. The presenters ranged from photographers and film makers to adventurers to scientists to artists to even YouTube stars. The presentations were well prepared (with slide shows and hitting time points uncannily) and always interesting.

On top of just being interesting, I was familiar with a lot of the presenters' work, which made it so much more engaging. There was the artist who makes snow art with just his footprints, the youTube science guy whose demonstration on spools kept us debating for a good hour on the drive home, the adventurer and photographer whose journey across Australia I had just seen a movie about, an author whose books I've read many of, and Adam Savage of TV's Mythbusters. Adam did a fun talk on juggling(!) which was totally awesome. A bunch of us jugglers found him in the lobby to talk juggling with him afterwards. I even got to show him a trick!

The conference was relatively small with only maybe 400 attendees and presenters, which gave it a great intimate feeling. And besides the presenters being super interesting, all the attendees seemed to be top of their field or have something super interesting to add. It was lots of fun striking up comversations with whomever and realizing that they were an exec, inventor, or previous e.g. presenter.

Another interesting aspect of the conference for me was the aura of money. Tickets to the event were $4000, so most of the attendees weren't likely to be found behind me in line at the local taco truck. Many of the adventures or pursuits presented about were not something I could head off on tomorrow (the guy that drove one Mercedes-Benz SUV 500,000 miles around the world, the guy that replicated a float plane his father took to Brazil and retraced that journey, the guy that flew drones around volcanoes to get spectacular footage). It was a bit of a glimpse into how life can be with lots of money, which triggered as many thoughts and ideas as the presentations themselves.

The e.g. is something I am still processing and will probably for some time to come. The inspiration and ideas, the rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, and the great community time with Chautauqua* made the event something that I won't soon forget. Now it's time to start scheming how to find an invite to next year's e.g.!
Tuesday May 19 2015File under: misc

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Cards of Business For a Man of Business

Back in the beginning of my professional career, I remember seeing my friends get their business cards and hand them out with a sense of pride. It's like having a business card meant you had made it, you were a productive member of society almost. Well, my professional career was a short-lived one and I never got around to having a job with business cards. But every now and again, someone asks me for my card and I wish I had one to give them.

So I went and made my own! I've been toying with the layout in my head for quite a while and all it took was grinding it out*. While some of the "titles" aren't ones that I foresee ever gaining me much business per se (e.g. "Supertaster"), I thought this might give whomever receives it a better idea of who I am and what I could do for them.

I don't think I'll ever be in the habit of plopping these bad boys in the drawing for 15% off happy hour margaritas at the local drinking hole (they are a bit too tedious to make for that), but I look forward to the time when someone asks me for my card and I can say "here you go!" Professional career #2, here I come!

This is what it looks like close up, more or less

Saturday March 21 2015File under: work, misc

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My Wild Wheel Ride Winds Down

Yesterday (103 days after air date, 17 days ahead of schedule) I got my check from Wheel of Fortune. After California State income tax (7%) and deducting the "value"* of the Hawaii trip (including $1000 spending money to cover meals*, etc.), the grand total came to $37,689. More taxes will be deducted when I file for 2015, but the amount is yet to be seen.

Don't let my focus on the details lead you astray: I'm pumped. This is huge. And while the lasting impression of my whole Wheel experience will be one of the excitement, etc., the money means a lot as well. We're talking 3 years' salary, give or take. So please don't think I'm not stoked.

But there is some bitter-sweetness to it all. This check represents one of the last things to be delivered from this experience of a lifetime which has spanned almost a whole year. There was the invitation to try out, then the tryout, then hearing I got on, then waiting for my taping date, then doing the taping, then the air date, then getting my Hawaii trip dates, then getting my Hawaii spending money check, and now the big check. All that's left is the trip to Hawaii (Della and I leave next week.) It's been one exciting thing after another and now it is all coming to an end.

So what did I do to celebrate my nouveau riche status? After considering splurging on a fancy lunch out, I remember I had ramen and cereal at home so did that instead. I guess I'm a man of simple tastes. I'm sure Della and I will do something fun to celebrate (can anyone say Red Lobster?), but for now, the check went in the bank* and life continues as normal—that is to say awesomely.
Wednesday February 11 2015File under: wheel, misc

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