The Magical, Mythical Land of California

I’m in the middle of a 5-day trip to California to attend a specialized technology conference in San Diego. I’ve visited the Bay Area several times, but never southern California, which has always been this mythical land that I see in movies and tv.

Thursday afternoon, we actually got out and drove around the San Diego area some. We drove around the bay (and stopped for a drink at the Bali Hai, so I could add a real humdinger to my collection of tiki mugs!), and we also drove inland some. It was strange, almost like being in a tv show or movie.

I’m sure there’s some sort of insight about memory and Hollywood and travel and a sense of place, but I’m entirely too tired to pull it together right now. Maybe tomorrow.


For the last few months (since I started a new job that I love), I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz. For the first time in a long time, I work in an office where I can listen to whatever music I want at (more or less) any volume I want. It’s been fun. For about a week, I only listened to Daryl Hall and John Oates early-to-mid 80s songs. I’m a child of the 80s; what can I say?

But, I have been also listening to a lot of jazz, mostly bebop and cool jazz, mostly from the 50s and 60s. It’s my favorite era of jazz, though I do appreciate other subgenres and more contemporary jazz (for example, I love Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth project).

As a musician, I’ve always appreciated the technical sophistication of jazz, but I’ve never really learned to play it with any sort of facility. Most of that is because I don’t read music well, other than percussion music (since my years of band in school were all as a percussionist), and I have a pretty rudimentary grasp of music theory (again, the percussionist). My guitar and bass playing is by ear (and tab, etc.) and other than a few scales, I don’t know much.

But, listening to so much jazz lately has re-awakened in me the desire to play it, and specifically, to play jazz drums. I’ve been saving up for a drum kit, and I’ve got a practice pad and some sticks, and I’ve been working on my rudiments and stick control in preparation. It’s amazing how deeply ingrained those rudiments are (flam-a-diddle-diddle, anyone?).

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to a kit and really learn to be a jazz drummer, but I’ve been enjoying working on the rudiments. It’s nice to have something concrete to work on and practice. I’ve missed practicing something physical until I get it right.

Building a Cedar Strip Canoe

In addition to the spoons and sticks and flowers and other, smaller whittling and carving projects, I’ve also got some more grandiose woodcraft projects in mind. I’ve always wanted to build a strip canoe, and, being in possession of an giftcard, I ordered some books that will help me realize that project (or talk me out of it), even if it’s several years away yet.

First up is Building a Strip Canoe, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded: Full-Sized Plans and Instructions for Eight Easy-To-Build, Field Tested Canoes by Gil Gilpatrick. Gilpatrick was recently interviewed by of Wired’s GeekDad blog, and he sounds like a really interesting guy.

I also acquired his newly republished Building Outdoor Gear, 2nd Edition, Revised and Expanded: Easy-to-Make Projects for Camping, Fishing, Hunting and Canoeing (Canoe Paddle, Pack Frame, … Boxes, Bucksaw, Other Trail-Tested Projects), which I imagine I’ll be working through before the strip canoe book.

And speaking of canoe paddles, I also got Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide to Making Your Own by Graham Warren, which comes highly recommended.

I’m fascinated by paddles. There are plenty of makers out there making all sorts strong and light paddles out of carbon fiber and other space age materials, but I always like the feel of a wooden paddle. It also seems like a completely doable woodworking project. Also, it gives me a reason to acquire a crook knife.

In addition to the books above, there are numerous great articles on building strip canoes online. Here are a few:

Will we ever actually build any of this stuff? I don’t know. We’re pretty busy with all the things a 9-year-old boy is busy with, plus I’m active in Scouting, too (beyond what I do with The Boy), and I occasionally like to go fishing and/or canoeing with other grown-ups, plus I have other, non-outdoorsy hobbies I want to do more of, like playing D&D and making music. Hopefully, we’lll have a lot of time to work on something like this eventually. But, in the meantime, it’s fun to dream.

Another year goes by….

And just like that, over a year goes by without my posted a thing to this blog. Not surprising. My life’s been pretty busy and — to be honest — pretty rotten up until November of this year. But, things have turned around significantly with the landing of a great new job. I’m really looking forward to next year for the first time in a long time.

So, there’s going to be some changes around here. Yes, I know, I say that about, oh, once a year. But, this time, I really believe it myself. I’m going to be doing some intensive WordPress work at the new job, which will hopefully bleed over into this joint (on the backend, anyway). I doubt I’ll blog that stuff unless I think others would find it really useful. But, I have found a re-focus for this blog to document some things I’ve gotten interested in over the last year or so (or my whole lifetime, depending on how you look at it), and I’m going to focus on that. But I’m going to stop with that tease right now. I’ll launch that new focus content on January 1, 2012.

In the meantime, I’ll maybe post up some (hopefully modest) new year’s resolutions and some other cobweb cleaning things.

Stay tuned…

Losing and Finding

I am not, historically, one who loses things, especially when I’m in the outdoors hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing. That changed when we joined Cub Scouts last year, though. On every big campout, I have left behind something major. The weird thing is that I’ve recovered — eventually — everything I’ve left behind.

At our first Cub Scouts campount (Fall Cub Adventure 2009), we left behind our camp chairs. Luckily, someone grabbed them, and I got them back a couple of weeks later. At last summer’s Withrow Springs State Park campout, I again left the chairs behind. I managed to get them back, though they were picked up by two different people, and it took me a while to finally get the second one back (totally my fault, though).

More importantly, I “lost” the pocketknife (a Benchmade Mini Griptillian with a combo blade) I’d carried for the last four or five years. I looked through all my camping gear at least three times, but it never turned up. I kept putting off replacing it, thinking it would turn up eventually. About three days before the next camping trip, I finally broke down and bought another knife, a nearly identical Mini Griptillian (this time with the plain edge). At the campout (Fall Family Camp 2010), I was setting up my tent when I saw there was something in the inside tent pocket: my pocket knife! (There was also a headlamp I didn’t realize I had lost, too.)

Well, the latest installment of the saga played out this morning. At this year’s Fall Cub Adventure, I lost my multi-tool (a Leatherman Wave). Again, I tore through all my camping gear and my truck — multiple times — but never found it. This morning, Daniel found it when looking for some YuGiOh cards in a bag we had taken to the campout. I remembered putting it in there as soon as he told me where he found it.

I need to get better organized with my stuff when camping. I know I need to take less stuff camping. I’ve been reading “Woodcraft and Camping” by George W. “Nessmuk” Sears recently. He was an early advocate for carrying less gear when camping, and I think it’s sinking in a little bit, especially after losing those two important tools recently.

Nessmuk had a great many insightful things to say in that slim volume (and I’ll be writing about more of them in the days and weeks ahead), but this one really hits home with me and some changes I’ve been making lately:

We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed—with the necessity always present of being on time and up to our work; of providing for the dependent ones; of keeping up, catching up, or getting left.

More to come. It’s good to be back.