Gypsies in the Palace


For the past 18 or so months, this amazing mansion with beautifully manicured landscaping overlooking the Salish Sea has been our home. We've been housesitting here for amazing clients in a situation that can only be described as, well, amazing. We counted our blessing every day and even tried to catch a sunset from the amazing view every now and then. But all good things must come to an end. Alas.

So it's out of the good life and back to gypsy transience for Della and me, bopping from here to there which does great things for spicing up the Sleeping Around project, but makes owning a toaster somewhat difficult. But that's okay. And I'm actually excited for the opportunities it brings. Since the ousting, we've already slept in a casino parking lot, spent the weekend at Oregon Country Fair, and have plans for much more! And this has also served as a great excuse to give the trusty faithful Outback a bit of a facelift, by adding a new window and lofting the bed. And with Della overseeing as interior designer, it's going to look great!

Such a big transition out of top tier living to back alley living felt like it warranted commemoration so that when I'm an old man looking back on my life, I can remember when there was that brief period when I was living like a king (albeit in a eerily empty house). So I offer up this blog post (and commemorative photo) as the slightest token of the magic, luck, and wonder of this amazing experience. I truly felt like a gypsy in the palace.
Thursday July 13 2017File under: work

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Dude Camp 2017

Due to conflicts arising from my having so many "jobs", I was only able to join Team Dude Camp for half of its annual work adventure up to Mt. Rainier. But in that time, I still was able to check off most of the Dude Camp highlights and feel like I helped out.

As loyal BdW followers may know, Dude Camp is what I call an annual work trip I make down to a job site just outside of Mt. Rainier National Park. We work hard cleaning, building, restoring, planting, and manicuring the grounds of a private vacation home while using our free time to play horseshoes, frisbee golf, poker, watch dumb (but awesome) movies, eat steaks and as many M&Ms as is justifiable.

Though the name wasn't christened until quite recently, team Dude Camp has been working at the site for almost 30 years from it's humble beginnings until today's not so humble magnificence. It's always great hearing stories about when this was put in, why that was torn out, the year it sleeted non-stop for 2 weeks, etc. Having been along for 5 of the last 6 years, I feel I'm starting to be able to join in on telling the stories and being part of the lore, even if in only the smallest way. All in all, it's a great reminder in stepping back and looking at things on a longer scale and what intense periods of hard work can create over time.

And in the interest of posterity and record keeping, here's a photo of the year's other big project (done by Flip, with my only contribution of my standard lifting heavy rocks with my back.) It's about 7 feet tall and really stunning. It being the first attempt at anything like it, there were some blowouts and hiccups along the way, but miracles prevailed with it being finished in the perfect amount of time with not one rock or glob of concrete wasted.

Anyway, another Dude Camp down and hopefully many more to come!
Thursday May 11 2017File under: work

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Homemade EL Wire Glow Juggling Clubs

I was recently hired to do ambient juggling at an event at a Porsche dealership*. The theme of the event was "electric" so they were looking for glow props. In talking it through, we decided that the majority of the reasonably priced glow clubs on the market wouldn't be glow-y enough so I thought I'd take a crack at making my own using EL wire. For those interested in the making of the clubs, I've chronicled that at the end of the post.

In the end, while the clubs turned out pretty good, it was all for naught. The gig wasn't dark enough for the glow to show. I would have been better off just juggling my long-suffering renegades or really pushing for fire*. But whatevs. The party goers didn't notice the lack of glow and were duely impressed by the juggling in general, so it was all good. They were also treated to some super-dope poi-ing by Nick with way better glow props than myself. So glow was incorporated after all.

And although the glow clubs weren't a hit for their intended purpose, glow juggling props are perfect for long exposure photography. With Rod as the organizer and Thaddeus as photographer, we did an after-juggling club photo sesh that turned out some super fun shots.

Now, after all the eye candy, I bet you want to see my clubs in action! Well, never let it be said that I disappoint. Behold!*

For a base, I used Dubé airflite glow in the dark clubs*. I cut about 2cm off the top to allow access to the inner cavity to store the battery pack (2 AAs). Then I wrapped a 3m piece of white EL wire (starting at the center so as to have it lay out evenly), hot gluing the wire in place every 1/2 wrap or so. After the wire was glued in place, I took a 1-inch wide roll of saran wrap and wrapped it tightly to help secure the wire. I used a narrower piece so it could go on more wrinkly free.

Once the wire was secured to the club, I put the battery pack in the cavity sandwiched between 2 pieces of foam. Another piece of foam was put in to essentially cap the cavity, to keep the battery pack from flying out.

All this weight made the clubs quite end heavy. To combat that, I wrapped some lead wire at the knob end of the club and secured it with black athletic tape. I continued the black tape wrap all the way up the handle for looks. In retrospect, having black handles on juggling clubs you plan to juggle in the dark was a bit of an oversight, but it does make the clubs look cool.

In the end, the weight and counterweighting made for some dang heavy clubs. And the 1 of the 2 brands of battery packs I used flickers off if dropped (or caught abruptly). But all that said, they look pretty freaking awesome. It was a great experiment.

Oh, and here's the requisite self-portrait. Good times.
Thursday October 15 2015File under: juggling, work

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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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Amuze Cabaret at the Muse

In the vein of being super fancy professional juggler/performers*, Della and I find ourselves as a part of a dinner and variety show at the super awesome Conway Muse theater. The show runs 2 weekends (Sept 11-12, 18-20) and I think will be a lot of fun. I'm super excited for this and you should think about coming. Ticket info can be found by clicking on the poster below.

Tuesday September 8 2015File under: juggling, work

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Summer Juggling Pics

For Della and me, this summer has been jam packed with juggling gigs. It's been a whirlwind of festivals, fun, and getting our routine down pat. We're usually so busy, however, that I don't get a chance to take any photos. Luckily, there are helpful folks around that shoot and share.

Here are a few photos that have made their way to us via various forms of social media. They are from (in order) Tin-type photo from Stringband Jamboree, Kids Fest in Bellingham, neighborhood Night Out in Seattle, Food Truck Fridays in Bellingham, Stringband, Seattle Night Out, Polecat Anniversary show* and Anacortes Arts Fest.

A big thanks to all the photographers for sharing and all the audiences for enduring—er, I mean, watching.




Tuesday September 8 2015File under: juggling, work

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The Better Than What Was There Before Building Company

Over the years, I've picked up little bits of handyman know-how here and there—from jobs, volunteering, personal projects, etc. And I occasionally have reason to put said skillz to use (like in building my cabin*, for example). Practical application of a skill is always a satisfying endeavor for me, so this past week, when I was invited down to Portland to help in the construction of a garden shed, I was stoked.

Working in the 95°+ heat, Andrew and I turned a pile of lumber, gravel, and used doors and windows into something that looked pretty darn neat and will serve as a great place for storing garden tools and to do some spring time potting. The clear roofing material* and sun-exposed windows may even make the space usable as a little greenhouse.

Little miscalculations and inexact cuts, while hardly noticeable in the finished structure, left us joking that if I ever started a construction company, it wouldn't be called "Quality Building" or "Grade A Construction". Instead, we came up with "Wren's Better Than What Was There Before Construction Company - The results might not be perfect, but if you wanted perfection, you would have paid somebody". Hopefully Andrew and Fam find this garden shed better than what was there before. Luckily for me, it's not hard to outshine an uneven plot of gravelly sand!
Saturday July 4 2015File under: Portland, work

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Another Published Crossword

My march towards a "career" in crossword construction continues, albeit more slowly than I would like. My fourth published crossword came out this week, this time in The Uptown Puzzle Club, a subscription service "offering its members substance and quality with five original crossword puzzles per month." I was a member of the club way back for a couple years and then picked up again recently. It's nice to always have a high quality puzzle around.

The theme for this one is one of my more ambitious, and I was stoked when Patti accepted it. Constructing any [American standard]* crossword is a lot of work, but putting together a 21x21 is a real time investment. And as with any investment, it is nice to see it pay off [metaphorically, mostly. There's a pride in seeing a puzzle of one's own in print. And while there is a financial pay-off, and for UPC it is better than most, it rarely pays you enough for your time.]

I currently have a couple of puzzles into editors with the hopes of keeping on keeping on, but this is my last one scheduled for publication as of now. And with turn around times of sometimes 6 months or more (I remember working on edits of this puzzle while I was in DR bac in Dec.), it might be a while before my next ones hits the presses. Luckily this one should be enough to keep you busy for a while. If you want a copy and aren't a subscriber, let me know and I'll see what I can do.
Sunday May 31 2015File under: crosswords, work

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Dude Camp at Mt. Rainier

I've recently returned from a work trip up near Mt. Rainier National Park. It's my third time on the much fabled excusion (previously posted about here). When people ask about it, I have a hard time explaining it. There's the work side of it: lots of hours landscaping, manicuring, building, maintaining, and restoring the grounds of a nice mountain escape property. That's straight forward enough. But it doesn't even come close to capturing the feel. For that, I came up with the term Dude Camp.

Though not exclusively (Della was there for a few days last year), it is mostly dudes that make the trek to work the long hours in often inclement conditions*. As such, there is a very dude-y feel. Free time activities include playing poker, watching action movies, snoring, throwing horseshoes, and eating a lot. The dude food is a topic unto itself: steaks, beer, hamburgers, tequila, bacon, bourbon, brats, and more snacks than you could shake a Slim Jim® Meat Stick at. And I don't mean to imply that it's not awesome, because it is. Aside from the fact that I gain 7+ lbs in the 10 or so days, I'm in hog heaven.

This year's work projects included replacing an aging water feature with a very nice oriental inspired one. It was quite a bit less work than installing last year's basalt pentagon fountain. My project was extending the trail system that I worked on 3 years ago. The new sections complete a loop around the property that I mapped using GPS on my not-a-phone. I'll clean up the readings into a fancy trail map that we'll give to them. Good times.

Yes, I'd say Dude Camp was a success: jobs completed, fun had, and some money earned. If only all jobs included a once-a-day horseshoes break...
Wednesday May 6 2015File under: work

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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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