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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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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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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A Walk in the Woods

What a better way to celebrate rolling over the old odometer than heading out into the woods with some new friends. That's what I did this last week: a 5-day backpacking trip in Glacier Peak Wilderness.

The plan was to do a 35-mile loop from North Fork Sauk River up to White Pass, Red Pass, Kennedy Hot Springs, and Byrne Lake*. The first day, just at the beginning of the switchbacks*, the rain starts. By the time we reach camp that first night, we are soaked. The decision is made to take the next day off, at least from packing up camp, and do a day hike south on the Pacific Crest Trail. The weather somewhat clears on and off to allow for some great views*. The following night/morning, it rains again so we do a day hike north on the PCT. We all decide that hiking without crazy huge fully soaked packs is the best way to go anyway.

All in all, it was a great time. The good company, wildflowers, fresh abundant berries, vistas, escape, and nature greatly outweighed the weather*, bugs, and two flat tires. I might just have to try this backpacking thing again someday.
Friday August 14 2009File under: misc, pics

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Portland Happiness Pie Chart

Portland

I've been having too great a time in Portland these last couple weeks. I've been having so great a time, in fact, that I'm officially putting Portland on the list of places I would think about moving to if I ever decided to settle down, move out of the garage, etc. etc.

Why am I having such a great time? you ask. I've made up this handy little chart to help explain. Click on any wedge to get a brief description.

Sunday July 5 2009File under: misc

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Portland Timbers

Minor league sports are fun to attend. Soccer is a neat sport. Free stuff is good. Hence, getting free tickets to see Portland's minor league soccer team is doubleplusgood! Having spectacular weather didn't hurt either. Timbers won 4-0. Take that Canada!


Monday June 29 2009File under: misc

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Crafts Camp

Back when I was on that deserted island in the south pacific*, we used our spare time to make things (or in my case, attempt to make things). We called it Crafts Camp. While very little of what I worked on turned out to be cool, the process of sitting down and creating something semi-artistic felt good.

I had occasion to pursue that semi-artistic creative spirit again recently, this time a little less primitive than coconuts and shells. I tried my hand at stained glass. I had most of the tools around from an attempt I made 10 or so years ago. With a few trips to the hardware store and a little reminding from the woman* who owns Green Frog Glass in Bellingham, the project turned out a success. The whole thing was a great reminder that self-created art isn't out of reach of the everyday man and it is worth the time and effort.
Wednesday June 24 2009File under: misc

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PDX Pics Quickie Post

I've just started a couple week housesitting stint down here in Portland, and if the first few days are any indication, it is going to be a great time. I've greatly enjoyed Portland in the past and I look forward to getting to know it even better this time around. Included are a few of the interesting things I've seen around*. Click on each picture to get the mini-story.

Sunday June 21 2009File under: Portland, misc

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Best Swimmin Hole in the County

Summer weather has started early and in full force. For those BdW readers from the Northwest, I know you know. Beautiful summer weather serves to make this place more spectacular than ever and you can't help but notice. For those of you not from the Northwest, just imagine: not too hot, but hot enough and green everywhere you look.

With the just hot enough days of late, I've been hitting up my new favorite swimming spot frequently. I think anyone who has ever swam at the quarry will agree, it is hands down the best swimming spot in the county—cliffs for jumping, clear water, and, best of all, no chumps because it is on private land*. Throw in some good friends, inner tubes and a canoe, and the sense of possibility and inspiration that comes from the land and the project and you've got an afternoon that can't be beat. Oh, and if you're lucky, you might just come away with a dozen fresh* eggs.
Sunday June 14 2009File under: misc

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Salmonberries

Walking around in the woods recently, I was treated to a pleasant surprise: salmonberry season is in full swing and I happened upon a great patch. "What are salmonberries?" you ask. Similar to a raspberry in color and fruit structure, salmonberries are a sometimes slightly bitter wild-growing berry of the west coast. Every couple of years around this time, I usually seem to stumbled upon one or two berries, not quite remembering which of the lesser known edible but not awesome berries they are, but have a munch anyway. This time around, however, we found so many and engorged ourselves so much that I doubt I will be unsure in the future*.

While the taste of the berries wasn't awesome* (I like my berries with a lot of flavor and sweet), there is just something about a wild growing fruit that always gets me. It is one of the reasons I am so fond of blackberries (even though they are horribly invasive and can tear up a short-pants wearing leg in no time). I guess it reminds me of what it would have been like before agriculture, grocery stores, and imported Chilean fruit became standard. You just go out for a hike, happen upon some berries, eat them right off the bush, and then head back to your wigwam to blog about it.
Tuesday June 9 2009File under: misc, food

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