Green Tree Gum

Longtime BdW friend and once Brothers Root blogger Andrew is involved in some pretty exciting stuff I wanted to share about. He and his buddy have started a natural gum company called Green Tree Gum Co. The gum is made without the sketchy ingredients in standard gum (sorbitol, butylated hydroxytoluene, baby seal tears, etc.), instead using all natural ingredients to achieve a cleaner, simpler chew.

And while the existence of such a product is exciting in its own right, what has really been interesting for me has been being privy to the process of starting a business and a product from the ground up. From packaging, distribution, branding, website, and everything else, hearing about what it takes to get an endeavor like this going is just plan neat.

What's that? You're sold. Now you just want to go buy some for yourself? Well far be it from me to stop you. Head on over to their online shop and get yourself some. Or, if you are in the Portland area, find some at your local retailer.

If you're looking to support this awesome endeavor more, you might even head on over to their facebook page and like them. But go buy some gum first. Tell him BdW sent you.
Saturday January 24 2015File under: misc, food

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Further Minor Media Mentions - Anacortes American


Click here for the rest of the story.

(Or if you want to view the online version, you can find that on goAnacortes.com, at least for the time being.)
Thursday November 6 2014File under: wheel, misc

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Minor Media Mentions - Anacortes American


It's less than a week now until I make my big national TV debut* and word is building. I've got my facebook invite* out, gchat status blaring it, and I'm constantly hounding friends and family to spread the word. The Anacortes American even did a story about it! It's a good story with only super minor factual errors. Yeehaw for hometown media!

And since I know the story won't be online forever (as opposed to this blog which will!), here's a scanned copy for posterity.
Saturday October 25 2014File under: wheel, misc

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Play On In Spokane

Last week, I headed over to Spokane to help Jule reassemble a kick-ass play toy that he scored for the low low price of lots of work. With a record low of swearing*, we got it assembled with nary a problem. All told, Soren loves it. And I loved it too. I sure do like being helpful.

Since the assembly went so quickly, there was lots of time for other fun. Jule and I played frolf a couple times. Due to the changing seasons, pretty much everywhere you looked was gorgeous, esp. this course along the river. We checked out the Spokane trivia scene, which was good times. And I got some good bonding time with Soren.

In between the work and the fun, it was just good times checking out Spokane, hanging with the fam, and just chillin'. Spokane ain't half bad, despite what people say, and I'm looking forward to heading over that way again once there's some ice skating to be had!
Saturday October 25 2014File under: family, misc

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Outback Renovation

After remaining extremely unchanged* for an almost depressingly long time, it was time to breath a little new life into the Outback, my wonderful garage home. With a bit of construction, a few yard sale furniture finds, and Della's eye for form in addition to function, we've got ourselves a nice new nest.

The two biggest changes were a new bed(!)* and a new wall dividing the space into 2 "rooms". It's amazing how interior walls can make a small space seem bigger actually. Now Della's got a place to permanently set up her sewing and still have room for a mini office.

Otherwise, the changes have been minor: curtains covering our junk shelves, boxes upon boxes of cast-offs to the Goodwill, and new wall adornments. Some of my favorites are my framed pride and joy and my first attempt at a trinkets shelf. Fun!

I imagine the process will continue to evolve, hopefully with clearing out even more stuff and learning the systems that allow us to work in a small space. But I think it's safe to say, this is a huge improvement!
Tuesday July 8 2014File under: misc

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My First Published Crossword

Just over six years ago, I made my first crossword (covered on BdW here). Creating it was something that was on my life goals list and I was pleased as punch to be able to cross it off my list. But in doing so, I added a new goal to the list: get a crossword published. I'm happy to say that I can now cross that off the list too! Sunday's* LA Times (along with 100+ papers elsewhere around the country and the world) carried my crossword! Knowing that so many people from all over are doing a crossword that I wrote feels huge and so so great.

The process of getting a crossword published was an interesting one. I got about 5 or so rejections before I submitted one that suited them, and even with that, they wanted one of the theme clues changed*. Then there was a little back and forth involving changing a few other squares (the editor actually suggested the changes rather than just telling me what answers needed to be rewritten) and then the long wait for publication (about 4 months from my original submission). It was only upon seeing it in print that I saw how much liberty an editor actually takes in changing clues. It bascially broke down like this: 25% unchanged, 25% changed very minorly (word order or capitalization/punctuation), 25% changed a bit (different wording but the concept stayed the same), and 25% changed significantly/rewritten. Many of the changes were warranted (for difficulty, availability to readers, consistancy, etc.), but some of the changes, however, I might have pushed back on*. Oh well.

And then there was publication day. After quite some time trying to figure out where we could find a physical copy of the LA Times*, Della and I drove all the way to Seattle only to be thwarted and buying a copy of the only local paper that carried it, the South Sound News Tribune. But crossword in print is a crossword in print, and it was still pretty neat. We also picked up a copy of the Peninsula Daily out of Port Angeles which carried the puzzle as well. (To find which papers carry it, check here* or do it online here).

Another really neat thing about having a puzzle published was watching the online community respond to it. There's a blog that follows each day's puzzle with answers and discussion. Reading what people had to say about mine was pretty neat, and insightful as to what areas gave people trouble.

It's kind of a funny thing that I am so extremely proud of this thing that to anyone outside of the crossword community is barely a blip of an accomplishment. But I am and I'm okay with that. And it has been so fun that I'm going to try to do it again, this time maybe shooting for a different publication.
Tuesday May 6 2014File under: games, misc

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End of an Era

Sometime around May 2000, I tied a little piece of seine twine around my wrist in the nautical knot known as a turk's head. At various times throughout high school, it was the hip thing to do given our towns nautical leanings. I was only 3 or so years late to the fad. Some 14 years later*, that same knot sits in place, never having been removed, not for a minute. Over the years, constant exposure to anything and everything took its toll: the color has faded, the strands have frayed, and the once 3 turn braid lost at least one wrap. But I still wore it proudly.

But all good things must come to an end sometime. So with a bit of nostalgia, I snipped it away. Without it, my wrist looked bare and frail. But I was ready with a new one at hand. With some help from Della in tightening and straightening this not so simple know, I was back in business.

It will take some time for the new knot to settle in to that perfect state of that which it replaces; where I might not notice its presence, but I surely would notice its absence. But once it does, I trust it will stay in place for another 14 years or more. Yay for continuity!!
Saturday April 19 2014File under: misc

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2014 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

The microcultures that exist in the world can be such a neat thing. Some phenomenon that, in general culture quietly hides in the background, when a large groups of its devotee gather, it takes center stage and becomes something entirely different. Such was the case of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, held this weekend in Brooklyn, NY. I was lucky enough to attend.

As with any microculture, there were celebrities, traditions, history, and more. To begin to glimpse into that was so much fun. There was a talent show, talks on the history of crosswords and computers' roles in creation, shaping, and solving, merch*, inside jokes, and more. Then, of course, there were the puzzles.

Even for a gotta-have-a-puzzle-with-me-at-all-times guy like myself, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of puzzles around, lying on the tables for anyone to take free. I think I've got my cereal reading library stoked for a while to come. But the reason we were all there, ostensibly, was to do the tournament puzzles: 8 puzzles varying in difficulty, size, and time allotment. The format was basically this: 3 puzzle Saturday morning, 3 Saturday afternoon, 1 Sunday morning, and one for the finalists to do on stage. We were scored first on accuracy then on speed. And the speed with which the top competitors solved them was incredible. The puzzles used were of high caliber* and would be even greater fun to solve not under the gun of the big bad clock.

As for my performance, I did alright. In terms of accuracy, I aced 3 of the 7 and got 1 square wrong on two others*. The puzzle that was my demise was the notoriously difficult Puzzle 5. And while everyone has a hard time with it, my showing was even worse than most. But in the end, I finished 369th out of 580, not bad for a first attempt. Out of the rookies, my rank was 38 of 99. Breakdown of my scores can be seen here*.

But seeing the microculture and how I stacked up against the heavy hitters wasn't the only reason I chose to attend. I wanted to network and glad hand. Getting a crossword published is a life goal of mine and while I'm making some progress on my construction through sheer brute force, chatting with other constructors, introducing myself to prominent editors, and getting to know the market should help me on the way to that dream.

A skeptical person might ask with incredulity "You came all the way across the country to do some crosswords?!?" and they would have a point. But with the wonderful experience and knowledge I gained at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, there's no question that it was worth it. I might just have to come back next year.
Sunday March 9 2014File under: games, misc

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Sheep To Shawl

Last summer, I got a call from a friend asking for some help shearing her sheep and alpaca. In the mood for an adventure, I hustled on over. And while I didn't do any of the actual shearing (quite a specialized skill), I did help round them up, hold them down, keep them happy (at least attempt to as some man was going at them with a buzzer), and be an extra pair of hands. In exchange, I received a nice lesson on farm life and a big sack of unprocessed wool. What a deal!

Summer passed and winter fell, as it tends to do, and I found myself feeling a little bit crafty. Enter: wool sack. I first tried my hand at carding and spinning. It's hard. Like really hard to get things nice and even. Ten hours of carding, spinning, and knitting just to make a 4"x8" 'shawl' is enough to make a person really gain appreciation for industrialization. But I know as I do it more, I'll get better. The end goal is to knit myself a new hat (as this one is getting a little ragged) having completed the process start to finish, or "sheep to shawl" as they say.

Another craft endeavor I tried with the raw wool was felting. Using youtube tutorials, I had a couple goes at it. While a bit faster than spinning and knitting, it still isn't fast or easy. But I'm excited about the products of my first attempt and look forward to dialing it in a bit. If I end up with a nice felt hand-made hat, I would be stoked beyond belief. So many crafts, so little time.
Monday February 10 2014File under: crafts, misc

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Taking Troothpicks To the Next Level

Interest, both mine and the world at large's, in troothpicks tends to wax and wane. Someimtes I'll go 10 months without thinking or hearing about it at all. Other times, there's seems to be something exciting happen with them every other week. Some recent excitement was inclusion in Nomad, a travelling trailer full of indy art, based out of Bellingham and some long overdue internet sales!

So keeping in form with this latest wave of interest, I've decided to step it up to the next level. I've open up a troothpicks store on Etsy! My hope is that the wider marketplace will bring troothpicks happiness to more people making the world a better place...and maybe putting a few bucks in my pocket*.

I've heard a number of Etsy success stories recently, including Della's! She makes awesome juggling bags and has sold out in just the last week on her Etsy store. You should go check it out yourself and get a pre-order in before demand drives the price through the roof*!

Anyway, it's my hope that this new move puts troothpicks where it deserves to be: on the verge of making me a million dollars! If you felt so inclined, I'd love help spreading the word. Tell your friends, 'favorite' my etsy shop, --heck, maybe even buy a package for yourself or a friend.
Saturday February 1 2014File under: misc

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