Family Reunion in Des Moines

Interchallenge virtuouso Sara totally nailed it. Des Moines, Iowa was the secret location of the last blog post. Why was I in Des Moines, Iowa you ask. For the not even close to annual* Studer Family Reunion.

As you all probably know, my mom's family isn't small. Oodles of aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins-once-removed, and even a couple cousins-twice-removed necessitates some organizational efforts: color coded shirts, name tags, and an elaborate family tree. But in addition to spending some great times with rarely seen but dearly loved relatives, we had a little bit of nuclear time as well.

Family reunions sometimes get a bad rap. And I'll admit I was a little reticent heading into this one myself. But there was no need. I had a great time and look forward to a little less hectic time with such great people in the not as far away future.
Monday September 7 2009File under: travel, misc

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Where Am I

Ever since Andrew made that awesome "Where am I?" post* from some podunk South Dakotan town, I've always wanted to make one similar. I got close with that giant Paul Bunyan post earlier this year. Good times.

Anyway, while I realize my visual clues aren't nearly as good as Andrew's were, I thought I might still throw it out there for anyone looking for a good time waster (or immediately recognizes anything specific). Where am I? I'm only looking for city and state because these 4 photos were not taken at the exact same location (but all in the same city). Oh, and if I told you where I was headed beforehand, no fair "guessing".
Saturday September 5 2009File under: travel

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FC 79 - Please Place in the Overhead Bin

As promised, this week's comic again comes from a far away land. Sean took time from his push-ups and jogging (and probably some sort of military stuff) to put together this comic (both art and concept.) Along with the comic came this explanation: The military charters civilian aircraft from airlines and stuff like that to fly us to the Middle East. We have our rifles, and senior enlisted and officers also have pistols. But we have no ammo. It just seems kind of weird that they freak out over multi-tools and pocket knives and make us pack them in our checked baggage considering we're carrying rifles and pistols onto the plane.

In addition to the explanation, there was an invitation to make a few artistic tweaks. Since it has been almost 2 months since I've done any comicking, I couldn't help myself. See the untweaked comic here.

A big thanks to all four comic contributors from this past month. It has been fun seeing what ya'll come up with. If any royalties ever find their way to me*, I'll be sure to share.
Thursday September 3 2009File under: comic

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Upcoming! - Soapbox Derby

You all remember last year's Lookout Arts Center's Off-road Soapbox Derby, right? Of course you don't, because you weren't there. Well, don't let that happen again this year. Mark your calendars, set a blackberry reminder, train your dog to remind you: SEPTEMBER 12th, 2009. Besides the races (and I use that term lightly, judging from last year's competition), there will be circus-y stuff, swimming (at the best swimming hole in the county), and more. Get all the info here.

While I haven't technically started on my entry for this year, I've started gathering parts and working on ideas. Using the lessons learned from last year combined with a [hopefully] larger number of entries, I figure I've got a fighting change to not come in last place. And even if I do get last place, there are prizes for best style, spectaular crash, and there is even rumored to be a prize for "most sustainable materials used" or something (which I think means people who build their cars out of wood because they don't really know how to weld or anything, so it is obvious that their car won't win any speed competition.) Anyway, I hope to see you there!
Tuesday September 1 2009File under: events

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Custom Crosswords

On my last crossword post a couple of months ago, I mentioned the idea of custom crosswords. At the time, the idea was not so solid. Now, I'm pleased to say, it has come to fruition. I've done 3 custom crosswords for specific occasions and/or people. Some of them are generic enough that you don't need to be "in" to do them. Other ones might have a few clues that leave you stumped, but a good puzzler would be able to figure them out using the cross clues.

Making a custom crossword for a person or occasion makes me happy. It is a way of honoring something with my own twist. I wouldn't, of course, go and make a crossword puzzle for a crossword hater. Most of the fun for me is in seeing the person get excited about doing it. And since there are so few people in my life that are crossword lovers, I don't imagine I will be making too many custom crosswords again.

But if you are among those crossword lovers, give some of my creations a try. Then, when I am a famous published crossword puzzle creator*, you can say "I knew his puzzles back when he was doing them for free on his dinky little blog."
Monday August 31 2009File under: games

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FC 78 - Fashioning an Excuse

Third guest comic artist in as many comics, a big thanks to Horge (all the way from post-communism Bosnia) for this week's comic. He took my idea and did it up right. I did a little color tweaking and added a caption and what we've got is a top notch comic. (Horge, the color tweaks aren't a commentary on your creation. I just wanted to bring the man into focus a little more.)

Now that the Friday Comic ball is up and rolling again, I'm already getting ready for next week's. It's going to be ANOTHER(!) guest comic artist, again from a far far away land. (Had I know outsourcing overseas was going to be so successful, I might have started pursuing that road earlier.) But don't worry (or possibly be worried, depending on how you look at it), I will be back behind the pixels soon enough. I'm excited to try out my new computer-ette in the realm of image manipulation on a few new ideas that have struck me in my summer adventures. Yay for Friday Comics!
Thursday August 27 2009File under: comic

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Compost Experiment Results

About a year ago, I put together a little experiment testing the claim of a plastic cup to be "compostable" (see original post here). From what I had heard and read, I suspected this claim to be misleading in that it takes more than a home compost bin to break down the corn-plastic, but I didn't want to start spreading disinformation without having looked into it myself.

Well, after digging around through soil, worms, eggs shells, and more soil*, the results are in: the plastic of the cup is in just as good shape as it was the day it was served to me. If it wasn't for being crushed with additional compost material, it would still be able to be drank from. (And for the record, our compost bin is awesome and gets really hot and breaks down everything else just fine.)

The moral of this story? If your gut tells you an advertising claim might be a little too good to be true, look into it. I see green claims thrown around these days that are a blatant misstating of the truth*. Now I've got a little empirical evidence to back me up, at least on this one.

(Thanks to everyone who has kept asking about this. Knowing that the things that make me curious make you curious as well is great inspiration to keep on posting!)
Wednesday August 26 2009File under: environment, misc

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Local Food Party 2009

This year's Local Foods Party* was again a great success. Like in years past, there was homemade salt, garden grown veggies, and oodles of fresh berries. Like in years past, there were new and creative additions to the menu (some of which worked and some of which did not.) And like in years past, we had a great group of people gathered together to celebrate the bounty and abundance of northwest Washington's local foodscape.

Some highlights for me (besides being surrounded with good people): smoked bison, pizza*, a gorgeous nicoise salad, crab(!), and peaches and cream. As with the first year, there was also a little entertainment (esp. enjoyed by the kids)

A couple of the foodie experiments that I was hoping to contribute didn't turn out as well as I hoped (but were still lots of fun to do). An attempt to make sugar from beets ended up as taffy so instead went to sweeten blackberry popsicles. The critics commented "I like the first taste, but not the last one that it leaves in your mouth". Also, I made another attempt at tortillas, which I was sure I had pegged. After rendering some fat into lard, finding a local flour source, and drying, storing, and grinding corn into cornmeal, I thought I had all the ingredients, but something just wasn't right. They turned out more like tostadas rather than tortillas. Alas.

Thinking, planning, and talking about the challenges* and rewards of local foods is always a great way to remind me of what we as a culture so often take for granted. Having a meal dedicated to not taking that stuff for granted makes me very happy. Having good friends around to share it with makes it that much better.
Sunday August 23 2009File under: food, events

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FC 77 - The Devil Is In the Details

Huzzah huzzah for adding another to the list of Friday Comic contributors. Chris from over at IHJ found time between ferreting out military secrets and reading his kids 34 books per night to heed my call for new comic submissions. Not only did he take on the role of drawing, he also conceived of and wrote this one himself. All I did was clean up a little artifacting caused by a filetype error (example) and it was ready to go.

It should be noted that the comic has somewhat nerdier leanings, but we are all nerds here . Anyhoo, enjoy and Happy Friday!

(Next week I've got another new guest contributor to Friday Comics that I am really excited about. More people, more styles, more funny, more fun!0
Thursday August 20 2009File under: comic

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Sleeping Around

Where a person lays his/her head says a whole lot about his/her life, I think. If you look at this data over time, you get an idea of a person's routines, travel habits, and maybe even relationships. Whenever I heard a traveling salesman or musician say "I spend 200 nights a year on the road" or whatever, it would always make me wonder: where did they spend their nights, in what size chunks was that time spent, etc. It also spurred the question for me: how many nights a year do I spend on the road? It wasn't one that I could readily answer (at least with any accuracy) so about a year ago, I started keeping track.

Now I have over a year's worth of data on where I slept. I've put it together in this [visually pleasing] interface to share with you (so specifics have been omitted), but mostly for myself in getting a picture of what the last year of my life has looked like. Some interesting things I've realized: I haven't spent more than 11 nights in a row at home; nights at home vs. nights housesitting are almost equal; I've spent a month's worth of nights in a tent, 12 in a wheeled vehicle of some sort, 16 on a boat, and 2 on a plane.

Not only has this exercise served as a great way to quantitatively describe my lifestyle (or at least as much as you feel is represented in this data), it also serves as a great log. In 20 years when I wonder what it was like to be young* and free, I can see how I spent my time. This whole thing has been so fun and informative for me, I'm hoping to continue keeping track for years to come. I only wish that I had been doing it for the last 10 years as well.
Wednesday August 19 2009File under: travel, misc

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