Twas the Night Before Christmas 2013

Twas the night before Christmas
In my cabin made of stone
The only light glowing
was our "tree" which just shone

It's just a twig, really
A humble little bough
But with only 96 sq. ft.
It's all the space would allow

But it serves us supremely
Setting just the right tone
As we bustled about
Making the place feel like home.

We brought blankets, we brought pillows
We brought gifts, we brought food
We brought a generator and 2 heaters
Which did little good

We swept mouse poop, made the bed
With blankets piled high
We juggled and did crosswords
As the evening passed by

To say this place was cozy
Is a tad bit extreme
It's got a ways to go
To live up to that dream

A wood stove would be nice
To chase off the cold
It'd be drier, it'd be cozier
It'd keep down the mold

By next year perhaps,
Or sooner if I try hard
It'll be picture perfect
Straight from a Hallmark™ card

But now, at this moment
I can't really complain
It has all that I care for
And keeps out the rain

My sweetie is beside me
And the world is far away
It's as simple as that
What else can I say?

Some people want Elmos
And others want blenders
Big screens and jewelery
A new car w/ chrome fenders

For me, it's just simple
What makes this evening just so
It sits in the corner
Quietly aglow.

Yes the sweet little twig tree
Brings us plenty of joy
Just a simple little token
No need for the toys

So as our eyelids droop
Whether from sleep or from cold
It'll sign off as always
Lest these rhymes get too old

I wish you and your loved ones
The same joy as me
Happy Christmas to you
And may your New Year be merry.
Wednesday December 25 2013File under: holidays, poem

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FC 175 - Tis the Season


Can it be? Really? Well humdinger, it's a Friday Comic! How did I used to do this every week? Now I'm averaging 1 every six months. And this one wouldn't have come about if it weren't for some gentle coaxing from a few friends that, to my utter surprise, expressed missing these artistic atrocities. Well, for those few folks, here you go: an early Christmas present.

And since there have only been 2 comics this year, you've no doubt forgot about all those old ones. Why not check out the archive to track down your favorite or let randomness decide.

And while I'm sure it's a little late and a lot flat, I can't post a comic around x-mas without at least half-heartedly trying to sell you on one of my amazingly funny compilation books. Get them here: Volume 1, Volume 2.

(And for an extra Christmas bonus, Della did a comic too! Good times!)
Friday December 20 2013File under: comic

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Panama Pictures

Here are my leftover, didn't-make-the-blog-elsewhere-but-are-still-neat-and-I-want-to-share-them pictures. I attempted a creative way of showing them, like I have before (here, here, and here), but I'm afraid this country silhouette collage method falls a little short. So instead, why not go ahead and click on any tiny picture below (or here) and scroll through them using the good old fashion lightbox slideshow. Included is a little blurb about each picture. You could even think about it like 13 instagram posts in one! Enjoy!


Sunday December 15 2013File under: travel, Panama

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Chronicling Travel

When one returns from a wonderful trip, there are lots of memories that will stay for a life time. Then there are the other memories, the stories that get lost when recounting the adventure for family and friends, and after telling more or less the same account of the adventure, get lost even to yourself. So has been so many of my adventures; if it didn't make it to the blog*, it sometimes just slips away.

Since travelling with Della, she's instituted a great new travelling habit, one that I plan to implement on whatever adventure I am on from here on out: chronicling. At the end of each day, we record what we did that day. It's amazing how even little notes about the day can remind you of some story or adventure that didn't make it from short term memory to long term.

Here's a couple examples from this latest Panama trip (augmented with photos of course):
Day 8: Wednesday 20th
 - pancakes
 - awesome bike adventure, "¡somos los batidos!"
 - geocache, binocs, Trump tower, threw pennies in fountain
 - empenadas
 - taxi to parque metripolitano (opted out of paying, walked short trail then into long walk home)
 - long walk home (jugglers, Della's scary neighborhood, turned down ride from cops, cheap taxi home)
 - Batidos! and park
 - Dinner @ Mac n Cheese place (Tapas) Fue delicioso
 - Evening walk through pleasant neighborhoods
Day 6: Monday 18th
 - Eaten by bugs, poor sleep, hot, buggy, kind of miserable, full of bites
 - We like fry bread!
 - Ate ceviche in grass...Della tried it!
 - Our dude rode us across in his boat
 - Bussed to Porobello (tiny internet place)
 - Bussed to Colon (walked to train station, didn't get shot :)!)
 - Train w/ 27 Frenchies...oui oui!
 - Della saw a crocodile (or 2!)
 - Awesome train ride
 - Haggled w/ cab driver
 - Found awesome hostel (Luna Castle)
 - Crazy ass rain shower
 - Cheap ass dinner
 - Wren snored


As you can see, it pretty much covers the bases, sometimes a little too much. But having this record will be great in 25 years when we head down to Panama again. After all, it will be very important to remember "Somos los Batidos!"

(Note: Della has been doing her own blogging about our trip and it is totally worth checking out. But please pretend all the photos for this post weren't stolen from there. Thanks!)
Saturday December 7 2013File under: travel, Panama

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2013 Shop My Friends Buying Guide

Any glance at a newspaper, TV, or billboard will tell you we've now entered into that Buy! Buy! Buy! part of the year, when anyone who questions the consume, gift giving attitude is sourly looked down on as un-American*. Well, although Black Friday and even Shop Small Business Saturday aren't my thing, there is a branch of this gift buying tree that I can get behind.

I'm lucky enough to have some pretty freaking creative friends who make things, neat things. So not only would you be giving a neat thing with a story to that somebody on your list, you are supporting a good creative person. And if supporting good creative people isn't one of the best parts of consumerism, I don't know what is. So have a look at my 2013 Shop My Friends Buying Guide.

(Oh, and if you have something neat for sale, post a link in the comments!)
Path Puzzles: My buddy Rod created this awesome book of a type of puzzle I had never seen before. It's a little like Sudoku, a little like Ken Ken, and a little like nothing you've seen before. Great for that puzzle enthusiast on your list!
Baby sweater patterns: Got a do-it-yourselfer on your list? A baby sweater pattern (knit or crochet) with an awesome story might just be the thing. My friend Stef* is doing this awesome project. Check out the site for all the info, and for goodness sake, buy a pattern. Don't let the babies freeze. (She's also got some pretty awesome earrings over at her Etsy shop.)
Chair Dancing: Learn the sexiest dance of all time: I posted once about it here, but it's worth calling it out again. If you've ever seen the chair dance, this book is a hilarious companion. Or it can stand alone for anyone who appreciates satire, humor, and maybe a little bit of hair flipping.
Troothpicks: You know them! You love them! Now buy them! Get 'em for yourself to take to holiday potlucks*, give them to that foodie with a great sense of humor, or stuff them in any stocking you can find. And if nothing else, at least it's good for dental hygiene.
Dexter and Stray: If you've got a young person on your list, then check this out. My fellow juggler, Chautauquan, and beard enthusiast Zack writes young adult books featuring Dexter (Tinkerer, bicycle mechanical genius) and Stray (free spirited juggling acrobat*). The adventures are great not only for their creativity and wackiness, but also for their exaltation of circus!
Friday Comics: Remember those hilarious weekly comics that graced BdW every Friday for all those years? Well, they can be yours to own or give to friends to enrich their lives. No reasonable offer will be refused! Contact me to order yours today! (be reminded of the hilariousness here!
Custom hand-carved block prints of your pets: Bill (yes that Bill of Spoonshine* fame) does something pretty neat. He hand carves block prints of your pet from a photograph. What a unique, thoughtful gift that would sure to be loved.
Music:It seems you can't swing a dead cat in the northwest without hitting a wonderful musician. But no need to start searching dumpsters, because I've got a few musician type friends that have music for sale, no cat swinging necessary.
  • Pepperjill & Jack: With a blend of classical training, old-school rock 'n' roll, and odball quirkiness, they're having a hard time defining exactly what genre we're aiming for, but it's safe to say it falls somewhere within "fun".
  • Strangely:Lively accordion often with bold messages, this street performer/juggler/etc. put lots of energy into his album for you to enjoy.
  • Rattletrap Ruckus: Rattletrap Ruckus is a rollicking four-piece instrumental band from Bellingham, WA. They play fiddle tunes, ragtime, tango, paso dobles, various breeds of waltz, klezmer, polkas, and oh so much more. Fun fun fun!

Saturday November 30 2013File under: misc, holidays

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Tropical Waters Trifecta

While I'm not a beach person the way some people are beach people, I've been known to enjoy a good beach every now and again (as testified to in these previous posts: A Day at the Beach, My Kind of Beach, and Beach life (is the life)*). And since it seems somewhat of a sin to go to the tropics and not enjoy the beaches, I made it my goal to complete the Tropical Waters Trifecta*: Gulf of Mexcio, Caribbean, and the Pacific.

First stop, Venice Beach, Venice, Florida*. While initially reluctant to get in due to the overcast skies, I instead busied myself with searching for shells, walking the beach, and lounging. But just as we were starting to pack up, I felt inspired and dove in*. I'm so glad I did. Bobbing in the waves (and rinsing away 2 days of travel grime) was a great start to the trifecta.

Next, 1225 miles SSE, I tested out to the waters of Isla Grande, just east of Colon, Panama. The warmer water made entry much easier, but the best beach on the island charged a day rate we weren't into paying, so we grabbed a quick dip on various other corners of the island. On the plus side, while the beaches weren't great, we did manage to find a mini-beach all to ourselves at a closed down resort (which required crossing the island by foot through some pretty neat rain forest jungle). And since a deserted beach tops a beautiful beach for me most days, I greatly enjoyed phase 2 of the trifecta.

A quick hop across the isthmus, the last stop on my tropical waters trifecta was Isla Taboga, Island of the Flowers. We came to this island just to get a final day of beaching in and we weren't let down. Although I had to stay huddled in a tiny shade patch, I often popped down to the water for a quick soak. And since my shade patch was hammock ready*, my lazy beach day was perfect.

While none of the beaches I visited would be mistaken for the best each area has to offer, they were definitely good enough for me. Now just to figure out where the next beach trifecta will be...
Sunday November 24 2013File under: travel, Panama

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Coast to Coast By Train

Sometimes, when traveling, there are things that cost more than you want to spend but something tells you to just go for it. The trans-isthmus Panama Canal Railway definitely fell into this category for me. Although the cost was about 10 times what a bus to travel the same route would have been, I love riding on trains. So with the coaxing help of Ms. Della, we decided to do it....and boy was it awesome!

While the route doesn't exactly parallel the canal, as one might assume from the name, it goes through jungle, over swamp, and along the canal for a stint. We saw a crocodile(/alligator?), jumping fish, wild banana and other fruit trees, and some of the coolest terrain I've seen in a long time. We were constantly running from one side of the train to the other to take it all in.

And speaking of the train, it was gorgeous. With exotic wood paneling and dark stylish lighting in the passenger cars and a dome topped viewing/cafe car, it was meant to mimic the experience of riding the trains of yore, when train travel was more than just a means of transportation. Although a picture doesn't do it justice in the least, we tried. But despite the lavishness, Della and I mostly hung out outside to take all the scenery in.

When train travel combines with awesome scenery and some wicked interesting history, it makes for something really remarkable, something that's worth the extra money. Finding gems like these is a big part of what travel is all about.
Wednesday November 20 2013File under: travel, Panama

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Oops We Did It Again

Oops, we did it again. We went on another international, dirt cheap, one-way cruise. Two cruises in 6 months seems like it is setting a bit of a bad precedent. But what can I say? They are good fun and a good value.

This cruise was a 3-day Miami to Colon, Panama. Three days is hardly enough to even find your groove in the ships routine, but did our best. We ate good, watched some shows*, and generally had a great time.

Second time around, cruising lost a little of it's magic. Or perhaps it was just this cruise: the food wasn't as great, the shows weren't as fun, and the ship wasn't as awesome. But the second go also afforded some great chances for comparison* and also a head start on knowing the ropes*

But just because some of the magic was gone doesn't by any means mean that I didn't enjoy myself...because I totally did. Highlights included watching "Wizard of Oz" on a giant outdoor screen while in the hot tub, seeing Cuba off the starboard bow, watching the pilot disembark in high seas, and shuffleboard! And, to top it all off, I'm in Panama! (more on that soon)
Monday November 18 2013File under: travel, cruise

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Supporting Public Radio(ish)

I'm a big public radio guy. Three of my 6 car* radio buttons are dedicated to the different public radio stations around my area and their various translator stations. I enjoy being intellectually engaged, knowing what's happening in the world*, and being entertained.

But of late, NPR, esp. Morning Edition and All Things Considered, haven't been doing it for me. I started noticing last year that their political coverage esp. was becoming what I hate, why I can't stand to listen to CNN/Fox News/major network news. Since then, I've noticed it creeping into much of their "reporting" and find myself turning off the radio rather than listening to it.

I've been a contributing member of one NPR station or another since sophomore year in college*. I like what they offer and I'm happy to support. But lately, I'm less happy about supporting. When donating last year, I included a note with my check that explained why it was less than years past and I would love to see things change. They haven't.

So this year, I decided to try something new. I decided to support the shows I enjoy rather than the station (although I did contribute a little to my favorite station, Northwest Public Radio, as well). This concept of cutting out the middle man reflects how my listening has evolved; I'm downloading podcasts of my favorite shows (radiolab and freakonomics for example) rather than planning my radio time around them.

It feels good to know that my meager contribution is going directly to what I enjoy. The feeling is very much like those first couple years of donating to Maine Public Radio. So while I hope the news programs that I once really enjoyed find their way back from the icky mass media scene, in the meantime, bring on the podcasts.

(Are you a public radio fan? Do you contribute? If not, you should consider it. It feels great and is the right thing to do.)
Monday November 4 2013File under: misc

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Travel Lists

I'm a bit of a list keeper, as anyone who has spent any time on my blog knows. I have a list of books I've read, of places I've slept, of states and countries I've geocached in, and more. So it's only natural that I keep travel lists. I was prompted the other day to review a few of my travel lists and I thought they might be fun to share here.

First off, my countries/territories visited. Why "countries/territories"? Well, it's a funny thing. Should Tahiti be the same thing as France? Or how about Hong Kong and China? Political designations are complicated. So instead of categorizing them myself, I'm using a list from the Travelers Century Club, a group dedicated to this kind of thing, of which I hope to someday be a member. While I may not agree with 100% of territory distinctions (Turkey in Europe vs. Turkey in Asia, e.g.), it is a somewhat official and current list that is easy.

My current count is 47, which ain't bad if I do say so myself. I look forward to seeing it continue to go up over the years. Maybe when I hit 100, I'll have a party!

Countries/Territories
  • * Alaska
  • * Albania
  • * Belize
  • * Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • * Cambodia
  • * Canada
  • * Canary Islands
  • * China
  • * Crete
  • * Croatia
  • * Denmark
  • * Ecuador
  • * England
  • * France
  • * French Polynesia
  • * Galapagos Islands
  • * Germany
  • * Greece
  • * Grenada
  • * Guetamala
  • * Hawaiian Islands
  • * Hong Kong
  • * Italy
  • * Japan
  • * Korea, south
  • * Kosovo
  • * Line/Phoenix Islands
  • * Macau
  • * Mexico
  • * Montenegro
  • * Morroco, Kingdom
  • * Morocco, Spanish
  • * Netherlands
  • * New Zealand
  • * Peru
  • * Portugal
  • * Puerto Rico
  • * Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa)
  • * Spain
  • * St. Maarten
  • * Taiwan
  • * Thailand
  • * Turkey in Asia
  • * Turkey in Europe
  • * United States
  • * Vatican City
  • * Vietnam


The other travel list that I very much enjoy keeping is one I've posted about before. It's Hillman's Top 100 Wonders of the World, a list of some dude's best places in the world. The list includes most of what you would expect from a "wonders" list: pyramids, Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, etc. There are also some lesser knowns. I check out this list before I go anywhere just to make sure I'm not missing anything.

My count of Hillman's wonders is at 39, having added only 13 in the 6.5 years since I last posted about it. I guess I'll have to step up pursuit of that one, a challenge that I'm happy to pursue. Anyway, here's my list. As with last post, feel free to post your list/numbers in the comments below.

Hillman's Top 100 Wonders of the World
  • 2 Great Wall of China
  • 5 Galapagos Islands
  • 6 Grand Canyon
  • 7 Machu Picchu
  • 11 Amazon Rainforest (ish)
  • 14 Angkor Wat
  • 16 Forbidden City
  • 21 Bora Bora
  • 22 Acropolis
  • 25 TerraCotta Warriors
  • 26 Chichen Itza
  • 30 Cappadocia
  • 31 Colosseum of Rome
  • 33 St Peter's Basilica
  • 37 Hong Kong
  • 38 Sistine Chapel
  • 40 Alhambra
  • 41 Louvre Museum
  • 42 Canals of Venice
  • 43 Versailles
  • 47 Metropolitan Museum
  • 49 Temple Emerald Buddha
  • 50 Hagia Sophia
  • 60 Dubrovnik
  • 61 Uffizi Gallery
  • 63 Golden Pavilion
  • 67 St. Mark's Basilica
  • 68 Florence Cityscape
  • 71 Li River Cruise
  • 73 Sahara Desert
  • 81 Yellowstone NP
  • 82 Santorini
  • 85 Marrakesh
  • 86 Eiffel Tower
  • 88 Niagara Falls
  • 89 British Museum?
  • 91 Yangtze River Cruise
  • 99 San Francisco

Saturday November 2 2013File under: travel

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