|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.
|Saturday November 30 2013||File under: misc, holidays|
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|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 2013||File under: travel, Panama|
|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 2013||File under: travel, Panama|
|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 2013||File under: travel, cruise|
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|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 2013||File under: misc|
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|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!
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.
|Saturday November 2 2013||File under: travel|
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|I've been playing ultimate frisbee here in Anacortes for, gosh, over 10 years now? (Tuesdays 6:30 @ Smiley's bottom except in late Sept and Oct when we go up to Storvik for lights. Join us!) It is a great way to get out and get some exercise and it's a total hoot to boot!
For that last year or so, we've been trying to compile names for every possible combination of points in hopes of us being able to remember the score better between points. It all started with the Richard Nixon Point when the score was 2 to 2. From there, it just exploded. Here's is my attempt to preserve, for posterity, the official Anacortes Ultimate Frisbee points naming conventions. Hopefully they will get picked up internationally and beyond!
Oh, and it should go without saying that yes I realize these are incredible nerdy. Like uber nerdy. But I'm okay with that.
I might be forgetting a few, and I know new ones will crop up. If you feel so inclined, contribute below. Whoop!
|Tuesday October 22 2013||File under: Anacortes, games|
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|Almost 3 years ago, over a dozen dudes well versed in concrete work* got together to pour the floor for the warehouse out at the quarry. It was quite an event (covered here) with much fanfare. Well, last week, a considerably fewer number of fellas with considerably less concrete pouring knowledge poured the floor for the quarry warehouse expansion. The experience was both nostalgia and back-breaking*.
The expansion of the warehouse has been long in the works and when completed, it will include more dwelling units, a proper kitchen, showers, and FLUSH TOILETS! After much preparation of plumbing, insulation, radiant heating tubes, forms, and more, 20 yards of concrete arrived. The 5 or so of us did the best we could, and it turned out pretty nice. There was a blowout or two of forms and everything set up quicker than we wished leading to not the smoothest finish, but throw a rug on it and we're good to go.
In reading back over the last post, I laughed at the ever so naive last line: "Hopefully I'll have a post about putting up the warehouse in just a couple weeks!" Three months later was a post about putting up some of the first beams and 8 months later was a post about insulating the place. This time around, I understand that anything that resembles a building is still a long way off. But that doesn't mean it will be any less cool when it is complete! Yeehaw for progress!
|Thursday October 17 2013||File under: quarry|
|The sun is shining outside so I can happily play frisbee, bike to trivia*, or get in some outdoor juggling practice. But now I've got another reason to be happy that the sun is shining: it's making me money!
Through the exhaustive legwork and vision of a few very environmentally minded local folks, the Skagit County Community Solar project was born. The idea behind it is this: not everyone can put solar panels on their home (maybe they rent, live in a shaded area, or can't afford the cost of a whole system) but many want to support solar energy. So, if we all pool our money and find a well-lit spot, we can all share in a piece of the solar energy experience. The state of Washington encourages exactly this type of thing with a program called Community Solar. From their side, it encourages local jobs*, raises awareness of solar energy, and helps delay* building new power plants.
In short, the financial arrangement works like this: 20-30 folks bought "shares" to fund the purchase, install, and start a maintenance fund. Then, for the next 7 years, all governmental subsidies/payments get divvied up among the share holders. The money earned from selling our power back to the local power company goes to pay for the lease on the community roof we are using. Then, at the end of 7 years, we will sell the system to the Middle School (where the system is installed) and those profits, plus what is left out of the maintenance fund will be distributed among the shareholders. The idea is that shareholders will recoup their investment plus maybe 4%, depending on weather, maintenance, etc.
All in all, it's really an awesome kind of project to be involved in. We earn money, support the environment, and raise awareness about how others can support the environment as well. Win win win!
|Wednesday October 9 2013||File under: environment, Anacortes|
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|It feels like it's been a long while since I've done a good old ridiculous beard post. That doesn't mean I haven't been creating ridiculous beards, just that they all seem to be repeats of previous ridiculousness that have already been posted here on BdW. Well, this last time around, we* came up with a fun-ish one. The mark of a truly ridiculous beard, in my opinion, is whether one would wear said beard out in public. And while my adventurousness for wearing ridiculous beards in public has grown, it's not nearly to this point.
Speaking of required adventurousness, one's would have to be very high to wear this one out in public. Maybe someday. Maybe someday.
|Thursday October 3 2013||File under: beard|
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