Sleeping Around 2019-2020

I've always viewed the data collection project I call Sleeping Around as being a great way to quantitatively encapsulate my life. Where I spend my nights seems to summarize my life for any given period pretty well. And with 12 years of data, I can make comparisons and see trends that I might not otherwise be able to do. And, in 20 years from now, I can look back and see what my 2019-2020 Sleeping Around analysis said—in short, what a strange year.

Needless to say, COVID-19 and its accompanying quarantine is the reason this year's data is so different. Cancelled housesitting, cancelled travel, and cancelled gigs all make for a pretty bland data set. In the 12 years I've been keeping data, I've never spent more than twenty-odd nights in a row at home, with anything over a week being a rarity. This year, I've only slept away from the Outback three nights in 5 months, with a solid 3-month uninterrupted at home chunk in middle of all that.

Nights at home vs. housesitting

And while I know comparisons are basically moot, I'm a creature of habit, so here's a table of data:
# of housesitting houses6Even before COVID, housesitting was down a little. Being gone for 2 months in prime season didn't help either.
# of states (other than WA)2OR, OK (definitely lowest ever)
# of countries (other than US)3Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, which goes a long way towards keeping up on my '# of countries visited > my age' goal
Longest stretch at home99 daysI hope this a record that is not beaten for a long long time
Longest stretch away from home59Two months feels like real time away
# in car (/airplane/train)25Mostly in the van, but a couple plane/train nights
# in hotel/hostel50At an average price of $17


Other observations and thoughts:
  • It's nice seeing a few Boat Nights again! A sailboat, a ferry, and an exotic Klotok!
  • The absence of adventures that have become regular on my yearly calendar noticeably change the data (really missing Dude Camp, Crossword Tournament, fairs and festivals)
  • Will these numbers ever return to "normal"? While Della and I very much realize how lucky we are to have the living situation we do and it has been very nice as far as places to quarantine, I do hope the housesitting, travelling, and work adventures return soon!

This yearly recap always makes me nostalgic, contemplative, and excited for the future, this year maybe more than ever. And with so much around me different and upside down, it is nice to have the warm consoling arms of data to make things feel just a little bit normal.
Sunday August 2 2020File under: stats

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Sunday Universal Crossword By Me!

This past Sunday, you might have seen a crossword puzzle created by yours truly run in your local paper. Well, let's be honest, you probably didn't because 1) who gets papers anymore? 2) the Universal Sunday puzzle doesn't run in that many papers anyway, with the NYT and LAT being far more common and 3) even if you get the paper and your paper runs the Universal, you probably didn't look at the creator anyway. That's why I'm posting about it here...though the readership of BdW is probably about as high as the number of people that noticed that I wrote the puzzle, i.e. fewer than the number of skittles in a fun size pack. But I digress....

Having a crossword come out is always an exciting event for me. Even though this puzzle is my 35th published puzzle(!), I still get a twinge of excitement knowing that someone out there is cursing my name—I mean, enjoying my work. The Universal, besides having an editor that I really like working with, has some prestige and even ranks high enough to get reviewed. And, refreshingly, this one got a not bad review: "Pleasant theme and grid. Four stars."

Besides skimming the reviews, one of my publication-day routines is to try and find a copy of said puzzle. The published version always differs enough from my submitted version (mostly in the cluing) that I feel like I need to grab a copy for posterity (and to add to my resume). This hunt sometimes takes me to interesting places. This time around, before I drove up to Alger to grab a paper copy and after a thorough tour of medium-size town's newspaper websites*, I found myself buying a digital copy of the Scranton Times-Tribune for the above image. There went all my profit...

Crossword construction has been a great diversion for me as all of our juggling gigs have evaporated this Spring and Summer. I've made some puzzles that I think are pretty dang neat. And a few of them have been accepted for publication to boot! Stay tuned for more crossword action here on BdW.
Wednesday July 15 2020File under: crossword

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Minor Media Mentions - AMPulance Tour


In my continuing Minor Media Mentions series, Della and I made it to this week's Anacortes American! The article was about the recent event we did with the Anacortes Music Project where we went around to 6 different neighborhoods and did a short show (half circus, half music). The event went really well, and despite us being sorely out of performing shape*, we had a great time.

So far, 2020 is shaping up to be a pretty slow year for Della and me, juggling-wise. Almost all of our events have been cancelled or seriously scaled back. A few new gigs have trickled in (a birthday party here, a mini-celebration there), but all the biggies—festivals, library shows, fairs—are a no go. While it is hard to have the momentum of our career derailed, or at least put on hold, we know it could be worse. We're trying to use the downtime to stay practiced, rework acts, and even come up with a bit of new material. (Check out our instagram (@WrenAndDella) for the beginnings of our new chicken act!*)

In knowing 2020 is going to be so slow, it is nice to get this little nod from the local paper. And additionally, our good friend and AMAZING photographer Thadeus Hink, snapped some great shots!

Saturday June 20 2020File under: media, juggling

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Walking Every Trail in ACFL

We here in Anacortes are blessed with an amazing resource right out our back door. The Anacortes Community Forest Lands has over 50 miles of trails that offer an amazing range of vistas, terrain, and secluded little spots. I've been hiking these trails for going on 30 years and I had imagined, with all my wandering, I had probably covered them all. But with a need for a quarantine project, I decided I needed to do it up properly.

All it took was 19 hikes, spread out over about a month, averaging about 1.5 hours for me to systematically check off all the trails. I could have probably picked a more efficient route to knock them all off, though some backtracking couldn't be avoided. But hey, it's quarantine—what else was I going to do?

I was surprised to find a few trails I didn't recognize and also be reminded of a few favorite spots. But the greatest thing about the project was that it got me out of the house (in a time that it was much needed*). I got some exercise, I got to be surrounded by the calming beauty of nature, and I fully caught up on my all podcasts. The dozens of miles hiked (along with all the biking it took to get there) didn't, however, help shed those COVID-15, but so it goes.

Now that things are starting to open back up, I plan on turning me eyes to trails further afield, trails that I haven't hiked on umpteen times (yesterday, I hiked up to Cow Heaven and got to frolic in the snow!) But it's nice to know that I'll always have a wonderful trail right in my backyard the next time the need arises.


Saturday June 6 2020File under: Anacortes

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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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Best Extra-ing Ever - Three Busy Debras

Being an extra in TVs and movies has been a goal of mine for some time now (previously covered on BdW here, here, and here). I dream about it, I tell everyone I know about it (in hopes they've got an inside connection), and I meticulously capture each appearance. While progress toward my ultimate goal is moving at a pace slower than I'd originally hoped, I'm at least making some headway.

Of the dozen or so times I've gotten the opportunity to be a part of various commercials, shows, and movies, my time on Three Busy Debras is easily the most fun I've had! Some sets are a lot of waiting, less-than-ideal conditions, and , in the end, very little (if any*) screen time*. This time around, it was different: Della got to be there for 2 of the 4 days of filming, we got to do cartwheels(!), all the other extras were super fun, and the show is a genuine hoot! Top that off with lots of great screen time in the finished product, it feels like a total win.

Often, when the show finally comes out, I meticulously watch for myself only to catch a far away glimpse in the far background (or even less). It's a weird kind of craps shoot—putting in long, inconvenient days with a chance that all of your footage might end up on the cutting room floor. So when you see yourself not just in the far off background, but in the mid-background, and *gasp* foreground, it is really really fun. Top that off with the fact that the show itself is super entertaining and it feels like a perfect combo.

I plan to continue working towards my goal*. I've got a clip or two still in the pipeline. And my agent is still working hard on my behalf*. But after 4+ years in the biz, I realize that waiting around probably isn't going to make me a background star. I need to get out there and work for it! But whatever happens, of course you'll hear all about it here.
Monday April 27 2020File under: extra, video

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My Circus Valentine 2020 Act

The My Circus Valentine show at the Bellingham Circus Guild is one of the not-to-be-missed events of the year. I've had the privilege being part of the show the last bunch of years and I always like to share what Della and I came up with for an act. This year, we decided on Star Wars* as our theme (only partially as an excuse to buy $1000 worth of fancy juggling clubs).

The act turned out great, if a little high difficultly level. The moment when the lights go down, the beat kicks up, and the clubs start to blink really brought the energy out of the crowd. This video, captured by the David and his awesome team at Access Bellingham, was during the first official run of the show and we dropped our hardest trick (back-to-backs). But hopefully it gives you an idea of the act. If nothing else, at least it is captured here for posterity*.


And here are a few pictures for fun. The photo booth run by Jeff Lefferts produces some of Della's and my favorite photos of the year.

Wednesday March 18 2020File under: juggling, holidays

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Financial Recap of Singapore-Malaysia-Indonesia

At the end of any travel adventure, after the stacks of mail have been dealt with, the clothes have been washed, and the tans start to fade, Della and I like to recap how the money side of the trip panned out to a) help contextualize it b) log it away to help inform the next trip and c) to bask in the awesome memories a little bit longer. This trip to Singapore/Malaysia/Indonesia was the longest, most ambitious, and most expensive trip we've taken, which in my eyes just means MORE DATA!

After transferring the data from our travel journal to a spreadsheet and categorizing it, this is what it looks like.

TotalPer DayNotes
Hotel$1008$17.38Our hotels ranged from on the beach with pool, AC, and free breakfast to a tiny room with no windows up a stuffy staircase. We never stayed in dorms, always having a room to ourselves.
Transportation$2651$45.70This includes all transportation for both of us, from the flights to get us there to scooter rental and everything in between. If you exclude the getting there and back, the numbers would be $1481 ($25/day), about half of which was in interisland flights (Kuala Lumpur->Semarang: $238, Semarang->Pangalan Buun:$127, Yogyatkart->Bali:$98, Bali->Singapore:$159, Singapore->Bali:$159)
Entertainment$640$11.04We didn't do every thing we could. We didn't pay to go up the Petronas towers or pay to go snorkeling*, but we didn't not do stuff just to be cheap. We did high class stuff like pay big money to see big temples and low class stuff like get the fancy seats at the cinema—pretty much anything we did to fill the time and had to pay for*. The biggest chunk was from our klotok adventure seeing orangutans.
Food and misc.$1275$21.97Smoothie bowls, corn & bean sno-cones, never ending quest for dumplings—we ate well and often but meals rarely came to over $10 combined. Examples of misc. things might be postcards, luggage storage, or clip-on fish-eye camera lens
Overall Total$5598$96.52


A few random money observations along the way:
  • The klotok orangutan trip was a huge expense, running to almost $900 when you take into account getting to there and back. It was definitely the splurge of the trip.
  • Hotel hunting is actually a fine and very annoying art. We found crazy good deals because online warehousers (priceline, etc.) were having sales. And while we always tried to give the money directly to the business instead of doing it online, they often didn't want to match the online prices. It was one of the bummers of modern travels for me—putting a layer of internet between me and the place I am.
  • We like to travel cheap. More days than not, we had $0 entertainment costs, instead opting to do free things like walk around, see public art, find hidden neighborhoods, enjoy sunsets, and way more.
  • Due to a lack of planning and miscommunication on entry into Indonesia, we had to make a visa run to Singapore. The flights, travel to airport, luggage storage, etc. added an unneeded $400 or more. Visiting Singapore a second time was fun, but the hassle as well as the extra expenditure was a bit of a bummer.
I know money isn't the be-all end-all of travel. Sometimes you gotta spend money to experience what you came to the country for in the first place. And I think Della and I walk that line very well. In looking back on the trip, there's nothing I think we would have done different money-wise. We had an amazing trip and did so at a cost that is just about what life back home costs. I can't wait to do it again in some other exciting, adventurous place soon!
Sunday March 15 2020File under: travel

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Grab and Gojek - A Ray of Light in the Otherwise Dismal Transportation Scene in Bali

Transportation in Bali, at least from the perspective of this budget traveler, is severely broken. Compared to the trains, subways, public buses, ferries, and more of the rest of our trip, travel was so much of a bummer that for mostly this reason, we will have a hard time recommending Bali to prospective travelers.

Don't get me wrong: we saw some really cool stuff. There were oodles of seclude waterfalls, myriad gorgeous rice terraces, innumerable friendly people, countless cute monkeys, delicious food and drink, a really really tall statue, and more. But getting to each of said places was a challenge (and not the good kind of challenge where you feel like you accomplished something afterward, but more like the kind of challenge you might euphemistically call talking to your Trump-supporting uncle about politics.)

Bali's epic fail of a transportation scene is an open secret. The roads are overcrowded and sometimes downright scary due to poor infrastructure investment; the public transportation system that was once in place has pretty much ceased due to all locals now owning their own scooter; the taxi system has been called a "mafia" where prices are monopolistically high and the aggressiveness of the drivers is nerve-rattling; and renting a scooter, while an attractive option, comes with a risk of playing into police bribery*. Most travel guides suggest hiring a driver and private car to take you around to the various sites, but besides costing more than our total daily budget, this option felt just too chauffer-ish.

Enter Grab and Gojek, Asia's answer to Uber and Lyft. Prices are very reasonable and clearly communicated, the drivers never once failed to be friendly, miscommunication is rare since you select destination via the app, and the cars were all airconditioned*. While private ride-share takes away from the travel experience, separating us off in our own little bubble, it was pretty nice when it worked. But many areas ban Grab and Gojek* while others were so remote, there weren't any drivers around.

So what do you do in the absence of good transportation options? We got creative. We rented bikes and took to the back roads. We bummed a ride with the every so friendly locals. We walked...a lot. And, unfortunately, we did less than we would have otherwise. Temples went unseen, beaches went unswam, and chocolate plantations went ungrazed.

If we get a chance to tell you about our epic 2-month Singapore/Malaysia/Indonesia celebration trip, you'll hear about tons of the awesome stuff we saw and did, but you'll also probably hear about why it ended on a bit of a less than positive note all because of Bali's bummer of a transportation scene. So it goes.
Saturday February 1 2020File under: travel, indonesia

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The Photo Not Taken

One of the main tourist attractions in Bali seems to be instagrammable photo ops. The roadside is littered with colorful signs to pose under, [albeit beautifully] woven hearts and nests, and swings galore. Never, however, was this photo-in-lieu-of-actual-culture made more apparent than today at the Handara Gate.

Due to a series of circumstances too convoluted to get into, Della and I hired a private taxi for the day to take us to some sights and drop us off at a somewhat off the beaten path mountain town. Sights included UNESCO World Heritage rice fields (which were pretty magical), a temple on a lake and surrounding gardens (which felt a little like Disneyland, i.e. contrived for tourists but still kind of nice), and the Handara Gate (actually a gate to a golf course resort).

The scene at the gates epitomized the it's-all-about-Instragram phenomenon that we can't help but sometimes feel overwhelmed by. You had to pay $3 and stand in line for 20+ minutes to get your photo op. And that's it. You never got a chance to actually admire the gate, since there was always someone posing there. There wasn't anything else there (unless you wanted to get in a quick 9). These hoards of people drove to this spot to stand in a line to get the photo and leave. But we weren't going to become one of them. We hopped back in our taxi (much to our driver's surprise) and were on our way.

The gates are beautiful. And we understand the draw for sure. And if we pass by again when the line is shorter or we don't have a complicated situation with a taxi driver, maybe we'll join the masses. But at the moment, we couldn't bring ourselves to do it. So instead, I thought I'd Photoshop myself a nice little picture. So I cropped myself out of a jumper from earlier in the day, and badabinga: you can't hardly tell*.

Pictures are a part of travel for sure. It's a great way to remember a place and a time. I cherish some of my travel selfies and look forward to taking many many more. But I hope that the next time I find myself lining up to get a picture in front of a faux cultural icon, I stop and take a moment to reflect. And then probably go post it on Instagram.
Monday January 20 2020File under: travel, indonesia

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Recent Comments:
*Horge on Minor Media Mentions - AMPulance Tour

Recent Content:
*Sleeping Around 2019-2020
*Sunday Universal Crossword By Me!
*Minor Media Mentions - AMPulance Tour
*Walking Every Trail in ACFL
*My Homemade Quilt
*Best Extra-ing Ever - Three Busy Debras
*Ghostbusters Halloween Circus Act
*My Circus Valentine 2020 Act
*Financial Recap of Singapore-Malaysia-Indonesia
*Grab and Gojek - A Ray of Light in the Otherwise Dismal Transportation Scene in Bali

Websites du Friends:
* Wren and Della
Della and my juggling website
* The Real Food Show
A circus-inspired elementary assembly show to teach kids about healthy eating
* Della Moustachella
Della's performance website
* The Fun Bags
Della and Sadye's Performance Troupe


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