Weekend Wall Building

At one point in my life, I was a stone mason's assistant/landscaper guy*. The job mainly entailed carrying heavy rocks and shoveling gravel. As I worked my way up the not-at-all-corporate ladder, however, I got to get in on the actual building part. And while I never did a wall all by myself, I was involved in all the different parts of wall building, at least enough to get the general idea of things.

Fast forward 5 years. I got a chance to put those skills to use. My brother is now a homeowner, and as such, he is on a home improvement kick, as with most new homeowners. A layer of paint here, a new floor there, new gardens here, there, and everywhere. When he started talking about putting in a rock retaining wall/terrace, I couldn't help but give my two cents. To make a long story short, 2 cents became 2 tons over 2 days. This weekend, I went down and acted as director for the wall you see before you. Jule and Katy did the majority of the actual building (as my wrist has recently put in for its 2 weeks vacation for the year and refused to work). I stood by and imparted sage wisdom.

The results, IMHO, are spectacular. With the materials we had in the time we had, we created something pretty freaking nice. It felt good to be back out working with the rawest* of building materials, creating something from nothing. And with the way the wall turned out, I now have an even greater appreciation for those skills that I learned so many years ago, with a yoke on my shoulders, an ache in my back, but almost always a smile on my face.
Monday November 24 2008File under: work, misc

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Working Vacation

I'm currently camped out in the back of a FedEx/Kinko's in Washington, D.C. for the second morning in a row, using their [reasonable priced, but not free] internet. I don't suppose that I can rightly say that I am on vacation when I've been checking in with work and logging in to fix bugs every day since I've left, but that's okay. In fact, while there is definitely a downside to it, being the optimistic guy that I am, I see a side to the working vacation that I kind of like. Let me highlight a few.

1. When I am able to work from the road, I don't need to let what's going on with work affect my travel schedule. As long as wherever I am going has an internet connection, I can always carve out a couple of hours from sightseeing or napping to do a little work.

2. It lends some structure to my day, which I generally am in need of. If I didn't have to at least check in with work, I might lounge in bed until 11:00 or keep coming up with excuses on why not to change out of my jammies and leave the house.

3. Doing even just a little bit of work in a day lets me feel like I've accomplished something and that I've earned the 2 ice cream cones that I'm bound to eat in my daily roamings.

4. Being a contractor, logging a couple of hours also means that I've earned enough money to pay for those 2 ice cream cones, so I don't need to carve away at my savings too much while traveling.

5. Daily (or almost daily) exposure to work reminds me why vacation is so important, so when I logoff, I can more fully appreciate where I am and what I am choosing to do.

6. When my co-workers/bosses/project managers know that I am taking time out of my vacation to get done what needs to get done, they really appreciate it, and feeling appreciated is a good feeling.

I imagine the novelty will wear off soon and I will start griping about having to check in with work. But luckily, the busy time at work will also start to taper off, so it'll all balance out. Then I will have to come up with another excuse to get my daily computer fix. *cough*nerd*cough*
Friday October 17 2008File under: work, travel

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Web Project Olio

To keep myself sane in between periods of travel, I find myself getting involved in quite a number of computer/web projects. While I know not all of them are super exciting, I figured if I compiled them all into one post, it might pass muster on the interesting scale.

Firstly, I've just finalized creation of a website for Jai Guitars, a guitar refinishing project run by friend, frisbee great, and occasional BdW commenter Joe. I think the site turned out great and was a lot of fun to make. Check it out, and if you end up ordering a guitar, tell him you heard about it on BdW.

Other projects I've been dinking with:
  • I'm helping out the Elect Bill Turner campaign by maintaining their website. It is my first involvement with a political campaign and I think it will prove to be eye opening*.
  • After it initially getting a fair amount of press, I'm continuing to update North Sound Transit Guide. Recently, I added Frequently Requested Routes (fully planned routes mostly between Seattle and major North Sound cities), a feature that I think should be very useful. I hope to be adding more features soon.
  • I threw together this little game for Luke (of Sponsor My Loans, Blog About Beer, and Real World Really)*. It's about as hokey as web browser games can get, but also kind of fun. I think he's putting it together for his boss or something, so if you happen to pass through Portland, Maine, don't go advertising it from rooftops.
  • I continue to work towards getting a crossword published. I've submitted two for publication but haven't heard back. If you want to check out the new ones, they can be found on the games page. (I'm told these latest ones are both better and easier than the first couple, so if you tried before and were dissuaded, think about having another look.)
I've got a few other projects in the works including adding a new product to troothpicks.com*, a face-lift/added feature set for BdW*, and maybe another small business website or two to add to my resume. If you've got some web related project you've been pondering, maybe I can help. Have your people call my people.
Thursday July 3 2008File under: work, coding

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Troothpicks

I'm happy to intoduce* troothpicks. Over 2 years have gone into developing a printing technique, phrases, logos, website, packaging, and more. I'm proud of the result. I think you will be impressed.

Troothpicks are essentially phrases (proverbs, fortunes, sayings) printed on toothpicks. The idea started as having something to fill the role of fortune cookies at non-Chinese restaurants and quickly blossomed into what it is today. Troothpicks are great for pre-dinner hors d'oeuvres, after dinner picking, and everything in between. They are also great for gifts, esp. for anyone you know who loves to entertain. You can get them for all occasions (birthday, holidays, graduations, etc.) or you can create your own custom picks with your business name on them or custom messages for your event. More information, photos, and how to order can be found at the website www.troothpicks.com.

For anyone who shares my enthusiasm for this product (and who couldn't?), I would love to have you tell your friends about the website. And if you have a non-themed* blog on which a post about a clever product that makes people smile might fit (Dave, Amanda, Andrew, Ryan, Myke, Blake, Saxtor*, I'm looking your way here), I would be ever so much appreciative if you found it in your hearts to maybe mention troothpicks in a post. I'd be happy to return the favor* if you ever have a word that needs spreading.
Wednesday October 3 2007File under: work, misc

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Choose Your Post

We all know you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose (whether you can pick your friend's nose is completely up to them), but I am now giving you the opportunity to pick your blog post. I have 3 blog posts here, none of which are fit for a post of their own (we do have some standards here at BdW). To a certain people, any of the three items could be of interest. Chances are, all of them won't be of interest to everyone. With that in mind, I allow you to choose one of the follow posts to read and enjoy.

Referrer URLs: A study in how people find BdW
A Year of Underemployment
Lost Images Found: Underwater pictures from la isla bonita

Choose wisely, my friends.

Wednesday September 12 2007File under: work, travel

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Wren Schultz, Professional Juggler

In my continued pursuit for a life of multiple income streams (as opposed to, say, getting a real job), I recently lined up a juggling gig at a local school. Now I am far from what one might think of when you thinks of a professional juggler. I don't have a standard routine, I don't wear a flashy costume, I don't have the obligatory audience participation bit, and I tell the occasional funny joke*. My "act" is more about building excitement and education, perfectly suited for the 10-18 year-old age group.

It turns out that there couldn't have been a better match between my "performance" style and these kids enthusiasm and learning style. They were attentive and duly impressed by my time on stage and asked lots of questions. When the education portion came around, they tried their hand at all my toys and each found his calling, more or less. There were "Hey, Wren! Check this out"s all around, which can't help but make any educator/coach smile.

Not only was the juggling experience great, but the visit to the school was great as well. The school is a live-in school on a nearby island, so the trip out was through the San Juans on calm seas with beautiful weather. How many people can say that they commute to work on a boat? The school grounds are very well kept and super conducive to playing outside, which is essentially what we did my whole time there.

This great experience was made all the greater in that it fits in with my ideal livelihood concept: getting paid for the many different things we have to offer and that we enjoy doing. So if anyone happens to need a juggler, housesitter, web developer, tutor, laborer, cheese tester*, public transportation coach, or environmental consultant, give me a call.
Wednesday June 27 2007File under: work, juggling

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Web Guy for Hire

Over the past 7 years or so, I've often dreamed of making a career of independent web work: contracting for a company here, creating small business websites there, working on my own projects in between. While the projects (and therefore income) have been far from steady, I've done some really fun projects. One recent project of note is Cardinal Points, a website for my neighbors' small business.

I want to point this out for a number of reasons. For one, in the vast spider web of links on the internet, search engines reward those sites that are linked to. Also, there's something to be said for promoting local business. (Anybody need a water maker installed on their boat?) Finally, I wanted to use this as an example of the fine work I am capable of. (You knew there was going to be a plug in there somewhere.)

Do you or someone you know need a website: small business, blog, photo gallery, event announcement? Perhaps just a touch up on your current site, or adding a bit of that fancy Web 2.0 functionality? I'd love to help. I charge about half of what you'll find elsewhere (thanks, in part, to my low overhead*), but have the experience and skillz* that rival the best. I won't go into more of a pitch here (because, let's face it, 98% of BdW readers have as much need for my services as Saxtor has need for a blog (ZING!)), but if you have any interest at all, contact me and I'll answer all your questions.

( * hover over for additional ramblings)
Tuesday April 10 2007File under: work, coding

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Sunday

As I mentioned before, the concept of a weekend is somewhat lost on me, at least in practice. Well, I'm happy to report, I now get it! Starting last week, I am again a member of the working world. While only temporary, it is real, honest to goodness, start at 8:30, end at 4:30, make-you-tired-by-the-end-of-the-day work. The work mostly consists of lifting heavy things, for which I like to consider myself more than qualified. There is also some shoveling sand and mixing concrete thrown in for good measure.

"What do I care if your lazy bones finally got some work?" you say. Well, that means slightly less frequent blog posts. While I have a few projects brewing that I am anxious to post about, I'm afraid the days of playing at the computer full time are on hold. But have no fear: I foresee my foray into the working world somewhat temporary, at least this time around. Hopefully, I will be back to doing blog worthy things in no time.
Sunday March 25 2007File under: work

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I love public transportation!

For the past 2.5 year, I have been doing what some call a crazy commute. On average, it is about two and a half hours each way. I rarely have done more than 3 or 4 commutes a week, but that is plenty. When people ask how I can stand it, it is easy. I love public transportation. It is cheaper (usually), you don't have to deal with the stress of driving, you can sleep/read a book/space out, you don't have to worry about parking, it is better for the environment, you have an excuse to leave work early, etc. etc. I'm grateful for this opportunity to have learned the ins and outs of greater Seattle's public transportation. I consider myself an expert, so let me know if I can help plan a trip for you.

Here are some links I've found helpful:
*Metro Transit Serving mostly local Seattle routes, also going to the airport from downtown.
*Community Transit Serving Snohomish County. Route #422 from Stanwood to Seattle has been a good friend of mine.
*Sound Transit Mainly a link from the suburbs into Seattle. The train to/from Everett is quite easily the nicest way to commute to downtown.
*SKAT What has been a somewhat cumbersome experience in the past keeps getting better with the addition of new routes and more convienient ways to pay. The Everett Connector has esp. been a great edition. This website also has a link to the County Connector, which connects Mount Vernon, Bellingham, Anacortes, and Oak Harbor
* Island Transit Although I rarely go down to Oak Harbor or Coupville, Island stops at Marches Point park and ride, and runs to Mount Vernon Transit station, connecting with both the Everett and Bellingham connectors. And best of all, it is fare free!

I hope you found some of these helpful. Three cheers for public transportation!


Monday September 4 2006File under: travel, work

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Two Weeks' Notice

"A lawyer decides that she's used too much like a nanny by her boss, so she walks out on him." Oh that Sandra Bullock. Can she *make* a bad movie? I mean, really. And I just can't get enough of Hugh Grant. So despite the bad grammar in the movie's title, Two Weeks Notice is the way to go.

But on a completely separate note, I've tendered my resignation to Photoworks and bought a one way ticket to Thailand. The plan is to meet up with Andrew, Per, and Myke. After that, the world is my oyster. I leave in 2 weeks with an estimated return sometime in December. Keep it tuned to BdW for the latest.
Friday September 1 2006File under: travel, work

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