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Still Alive (Quick Notes)

first day hike
I survived my first Marillion Weekend. Not only did I survive, but I thrived to the point where I'm already looking forward to the next one in 2015.

Didn't get the job in Amsterdam, but I have some good feedback from the interview and have a plan and will be ready for the next attempt in 2014.

Came back to work to find that my password had expired. No problem except I can't change it unless I connect via VPN and you can't connect to VPN when your password has expired. This isn't the first time I've been bitten by IT not thinking through their process for remote users. Sigh.

Totally going to start writing up my stories from travel and music events and going to publish them as blog posts. People like my stories and why not have them written down. Who knows, maybe I'll get enough ad revenue to buy a CD or two a year.

I'm awesome?

compass
This morning someone said to me, "because you're not REALLY a dirty old man, you're an awesome person who just happens to like sexy things." Once again I have to wonder why people think I'm awesome. I have my fair share of faults and don't feel like I've done anything spectacular. Really, what have I done that's special? I travel and attend music festivals in other countries. I know several other people who do that. My career is stagnant but I do earn a good salary, so that's something I suppose, but again I know others who make as much or more than I do. Don't get me wrong, I think I'm pretty awesome, but why do other people?

After a lot of contemplation I think I have an idea. It seems to stem from the fact that I try to be decent to everyone around me. Everyone deserves to be treated like a person no matter their sexuality, gender, race or religion. I'm friendly to those around me and strike up conversations. I give hugs freely and will gladly return one. Basically I try to live by Wheaton's Law.

Is that what makes me awesome? That actually makes me a little sad. Just being a decent person raises me into a level considered awesome? It must have something to do with it because all of my friends are like me and I consider them awesome. Are we that rare? Rare enough that not being a dick makes us awesome? This shouldn't be the way, we shouldn't be awesome for just being decent. Though it is hard to be awesome and a dick at the same time.

My friends are awesome. Some make fantastic clothing. Others are crafty and creative. One builds amazing devices and machines. More than a few are outstanding musicians. Me? I'm just a kid from Kansas City.

Why participate?

Letter Month 2013
I've had a few people comment that they would love to receive a letter from my challenge but not to bother because they wouldn't write back. That isn't required. Sure, I would love a reply but the point is for me to write letters and just writing them to myself wouldn't be nearly as much fun. Also, this is open to anyone in any location. So it's not too late to comment on the original post if you want in on the action.

But why do it? Why hand write letters to people who might not reply? There are many reasons but the main ones are I want to do something crafty and making mail art is the route I've chosen to go. I spend most of my day staring at a computer screen for my job and found I was spending my time at home doing the same thing. So my letter writing and mail art hobbies will all be manual. From the address book, to the letters, to me walking to the mail box to post them. I will ask for recipients and journal my progress online but that's it. We're going old school baby.

A Month of Letters

Letter Month 2013
I'm doing the Month of Letters challenge this February. I will mail out a hand written letter to someone every mail day in the month of February. If you would like to be on my recipient list let me know and if I don't have your postal address please include it. I've screened comments so that only I will be able to see them.

Staying Around

first day hike
Well I guess people still read this and I think it would be nice to post some longer thoughts I've had here instead of on Facebook. Plus I like the fact that I can filter stuff out easier. So I'm staying.

Hello?

compass
Is anyone still reading this? Should I keep it up or delete it like I'm tempted to do?

Music & Travel

ahead full

Holy shit! I'm going to the Hague, by way of Amsterdam!

My friend Frans talked me into this crazy trip where we're flying to Amsterdam, taking the train to the Hague and spending a week at his brothers' place. We'll be seeing Nik Kershaw and Marillion on two different days and probably seeing what other kind of trouble we can get into while we're there.

Go me!

New Ink

cold miser

Thanks to the wonderful Mo I have the artwork for my next two tattoos. There was originally going to be one but a flash of inspiration between us led to the creation of two. Now I need to find the artist to ink my body. dakotaluna and dagard, and anyone else who has suggestions, where should I go? Who should I see?

Tags:

What are the odds?

first day hike

I promised to write about my adventure yesterday and so I am…

A few days ago my brother, ragnorokt, was invited to attend a housewarming for a fellow home brewer in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island. He asked if I would like to come along and having no objections I agreed. If you haven’t been lucky enough to have home brewers for friends or family let me tell you it’s a wonderful thing. They always brew more than they can drink and it’s up to folks like me to help them drink it all. Being a fan of beer I figured I would get to try some great brews and get some food.

We, my brother and I, are planning a trip to Germany and we thought it would be a good idea to stop by Rick Steves' travel store.  After all it’s not far from the ferry terminal in Edmonds, so after a bit of shopping we could hop on the ferry and make our way to the island.  Those of you who live in the Pacific Northwest might have noticed a slight flaw in my plan already, but hold for the fullness of my tale and don’t give it away to the others.

The travel store did not disappoint and while I didn’t learn much about Germany, the staff helped me get an idea of what sort of questions I need to answer for the trip.  As we left I noticed we had a few minutes to make the ferry in Edmonds.  So we rushed a bit and zipped aboard the boat with about a minute to spare.  We weren’t the last car on the the ferry but it was close.  I was actually feeling pretty good about myself as we made the crossing.  It was a beautiful sunny day as we drove along the road and I was having a good time until we passed a sign for Port Townsend.  Port Townsend?  I don’t remember PT being on Whidbey Island.  Nope, it is on the Olympic Peninsula and we had neatly made the wrong ferry.  Gah!  So much for being smug and ahead of the game.

This required a bit of consideration so ragnorokt and I pulled over and checked our maps.  We could turn around, take the ferry back to Edmonds, drive up to Mukilteo, take the ferry there to Whidbey and continue on our journey.  Our other option was to continue on to Port Townsend and take another ferry there across to Keystone, which is on the island, and make our way to the party.  As I mentioned it was a nice day so we chose the second option and drove on.  From prior experience I knew that the Port Townsend/Keystone ferry is small and it can fill up.  My brother got on his phone and tried to make us a reservation, but the web page wasn’t working.  So he got on the phone and worked on getting a reservation.  He was told that if we could make the next ferry there was plenty of room and we wouldn’t have a problem.  As we pulled in to the terminal I asked the woman taking the fares if this boat actually went to Whidbey.  She said yes, and then mentioned we took the wrong boat earlier.  “You must have taken the Edmonds/Kingston ferry,” she said.  I replied that we had to which she replied, “You want the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry.”  Thanks, this was information I could have used an hour ago…  We had a pleasant crossing and then drove up to Oak Harbor without further incident. 

Arriving at the housewarming a bit behind our planned time we joined the festivities in progress.  M & J have a nice home and there was plenty of homebrew to sample.  I wasted no time doing my part to relieve M of his overabundance of full bottles and replace them with empties so he would be able to pursue his hobby and fill them again.  I’m nice like that you know.

Drinking and conversing with the other guests was going well and I was in a good place.  Then I met J & T, a couple who are realtors on Whidbey Island.  We were talking about music and they mentioned going to a shanty concert the night before.  They were trying to tell me about a band they heard and I realized it was Pint and Dale, a local group.  We kept talking about music and were hitting it off when T asked me if I would like to go with them to the second night of the concerts.  Checking with my brother, who gave the ok to leave him at the party, I left with J & T and headed out to the show.

Riding along in the back of their car I realized that I had stepped into a classic horror movie setup.  I’m on an island, it’s dark outside and I’m riding along with a couple of people I met not an hour earlier.  It was quite a thrilling ride.  Was I going to listen to music or was I going to be cleansed in the finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and sealed in a treble milk chocolate envelope, and lovingly frosted with glucose before being fed to Constable Parrot.  As you can see I ended up listening to music as I am still here to tell this tale.

The show started off with the Shifty Sailors, a Whidbey Island group.  They sang songs about whales and whaling.  They were good and very entertaining.  I really liked a couple of the songs and I hope they were on one of the CDs I bought.  During their performance T leaned over to me and asked “What are the odds that you would go to a party and end up at a concert with a couple of strangers?”  Pretty high I guess, as I was sitting next to her at the show.  The next performer was a gentleman named J.W. Sparrow.  There was one great song he sang about a Japanese fishing vessel that had drifted around the ocean for a couple of years before being recovered here.  I will have to find a CD of his with the song so I can research the story more.  Next was the previously mentioned Pint & Dale, a favorite of mine for a few years now.  They did not disappoint in concert and I’m very happy to have seen them.  Finally we had Broadside & Cabin Boys a fun group that I enjoyed.  For some reason they had to shut down the venue at 10pm so all of the groups got back up and performed one last song together.  Then everyone put up their chairs to lend a hand with the cleanup.

J, T and I headed back to the car to head back to the party.  I had left my coat at the party because it wasn’t cold but coming out of the concert it was chilly.  Let me say that finding out that the back seats were also heated was a nice thing.  A nice thing that I enjoyed quite a bit on the drive back.  Back at the party I met up with my brother who had messaged me a few times, but the show was outside of the service area so I wasn’t receiving his messages until then.  It was now about 11pm and I had missed most of the food and the mead tasting, but I didn’t mind.  I scrounged a bit of dinner from the leftovers and talked with other folks at the party while making sure I was sober to drive.

We finally left Oak Harbor about midnight and instead of taking our chances with the Washington State Ferry System again we drove through Deception Pass and made our way back south on I-5.  We finally got home around 2:30am where I thankfully sank into bed and tried to sleep with memories of this day, ferry boats, shanty songs and good beer in my head.  It was…  Quite an evening.

Orienteering

compass

Yesterday I went to Priest Point Park down in Olympia to participate in Cascade Orienteering Club's O' Series #5 orienteering event. (What is orienteering?) My brother came with me and here's an overview of our day. The event started at 10am but we had a few things we wanted to pick up as the weather called for cold, rain and possibly snow. So we left the house at 8am to stop by storage and grab some of the colder weather gear. Then we headed down I-5 to make our way to the event.

It was easy to find the starting area as the COC had placed many helpful signs to guide us along the way. They could have used a few starting area pointing to the registration table and which line we needed to use for registration. There was a public event and a Washington Interscholastic Orienteering League event. The first registration person kept asking us questions using terminology that I didn't understand. Once I explained we were complete beginners she pointed us to the other table who quickly got us registered and then setup with an "e-punch," which is an electronic gadget to record each point we find.

Next we asked around to find the person who was giving out beginner instructions. We found Patrick who gave us the rundown of the how to run the course, how to read the map and how to use a compass. On his recommendation we switched from Course #1 to Course #3 as the #1 course was short and setup for elementary school children. In the end I think his suggestion was a good one as the course we ran wasn't too challenging but did test our skills in a few places but wasn't so hard as to be frustrating. In fact the only real problem on with the course was some of the elevation gain for this out of shape hiker.

After our instruction we headed for the starting gate, got in line and when it was our turn to start headed out and punched in at the starting marker. The first marker was easy to find as it happened to be in plain sight and I found it when using the restroom before starting the course. The next two went pretty quickly. We got turned around and it took a bit to find point #4. Point #5 was another quick one. I misread a bit of the map (more on that later) and we took a bit to find point #6. Point #7 was a challenge because we both struggled with the elevation drop and gain in the ravine we had to pass across to get to it. We missed the point and I had to backtrack a bit to find it, hidden under some greenery. Point #8 was hidden out of sight and well off the trail. ragnorokt found it by being smart and noticing some trampled leaves that led off the trail. Points #9, #10, #11 and #12 weren't too much trouble though there was a long distance between #9 and #10.

Point #13 was literally my downfall. Twice. First we I was making my way down a steep trail and I started to feel my boot slip on the ground. With that warning I just laid back and slid down the hill instead of trying to save myself from the fall and hurting myself. I ended up covered in mud but uninjured. I had gotten pretty good at reading the clues on the map and had a good idea where the marker was hidden. As I stepped over what I thought was few branches and leaves my foot caught on what was the remains of a wall and I fell forward into the ruin and wrenched my ankle, back and landed pretty hard on my hip. Still there was the checkpoint so I tagged it and made my way back up the trail. During this adventure ragnorokt had found a different way to the marker and didn't fall where I had.

The final marker (#14) was another easy find and just a short distance from the finish line. So I tagged the stop marker and then we went through the registration booth where our results were read from the e-punch and we were presented with a printout that showed our course time and that we finished in 6th place out of eight. However the course is timed from your start to your finish so the final result showing us in 8th place out of 10 with the last two being disqualified as they didn't complete the course. I'm happy with the result as while I might have been last I did finish the course.

In the end I had a lot of fun and will be going out again. I learned a few key things and here they are for you all:

  • Don't panic. Orienteering was a fun walk in the woods and we only used the compass a couple of times to orient the map to the landscape.
  • Bring a map key. The basic map uses all the familiar symbols for the terrain but uses a specific set of symbols to finding the checkpoints which weren't included on the map. I'm sure once I have a few events under my belt I won't need it but for now it would help.
  • The map scale is much smaller (?) than I'm used to reading. The map was a 1:7,500 scale with contours every five meters. As such we walked farther than we should have a few times as I didn't realize we had reached the turn until we had passed it.

Finally I need to get some better trail gear for the colder weather. My coat, while warm enough was very bulky and during part of the course I was so hot I removed it. That hindered me as it wouldn't fit in my pack and kept getting in my way. I know what I need and now that I know I'll use it I need to go out and buy some.

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first day hike
hollyking
Brendan Leber

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