disengage.ca a quest for the technomadic lifestyle

4Dec/121

Catching Up, Part 4: Return to La Paz

Ok! Part four of updates, and then hopefully I can return to a more regular style of blog posts. I know I keep saying that. *sigh*. Without further ado:

gorgeous weather in La Paz

gorgeous weather in La Paz

The summer brought some intense weather shifts, including some of the first rain we'd seen since our arrival in La Paz in February - I guess I should have been tipped off by the cactuses and tumbleweeds, but the amount of precipitation here still took me by surprise. Once the season shifted into high summer however, the heat of the day combined with the extremely warm water (sometimes it would be 38º outside and the water would be 23º, warmer than most swimming pools!) made for some crazy meteorological events. We were treated with regular lightning storms and sudden shifts in wind speed and direction, not to mention a couple of hurricanes that narrowly missed us.

In this photo, a storm cell is crossing nearby to the south. At the time this photo was taken, the wind was blowing briskly towards the cell, but about five minutes afterwards the wind abruptly died and then within two minutes was blowing probably 40kn in the opposite direction! We were caught unprepared, and several items blew off the deck and I had to dash out in the RIB to retrieve them.

 

*sigh*. pay attention to polarity, Drew.

*sigh*. pay attention to polarity, Drew.

 While I was in Canada, I ordered a low-power Fit-PC3 computer to build into the walls of the TIE Fighter. The Fit-PC3 is a 12v-native computer very light on power consumption - set up with an internal SSD drive, it draws only  6w (1/2 an amp) at idle. I paired it with a two-terabyte external drive that automatically spins itself down when not in use, and am quite happy with the results.

Unforutnately, when I went to install the machine I didn't pay close enough attention to the polarity of the power supply, and hooked the power connection up backwards. Immediately there was a flash and a pop and suddenly the air was filled with the acrid smell of burning electronics.

electronics repair on the new inboard computer

electronics repair on the new inboard computer

Fortunately I'm no stranger to electronics repair, and with a bit of research and an email to the manufacturers of the Fit-PC3, I learned that the component that had exploded was a simple ferrite bead, meant solely to keep stray radio-frequency energy out of the computer. This bead is just a failsafe, sort of like a fuse, and I could just 'jump' over the section with a bit of wire for the time being. An hour or so with the soldering iron, and the computer lives.

...of course, that computer also now lives in a cupboard with a strong radio. I still need to track down a replacement ferrite, as I've seen three crashes so far when I've keyed up the mic on the ham radio on certain frequencies.

 

a swarm of bees overtakes the TIE Fighter!

a swarm of bees overtakes the TIE Fighter!

One morning as we left the boat in the RIB to go for coffee, we realized we'd forgotten something at the main boat so we turned around. When we arrived at the TIE Fighter, we found the boat swarming with bees! We estimated around 10,000 honeybees in the air around the boat.

Not knowing what to do, we went for coffee and solicited opinions from a few other cruisers, who brought to light one very important point that we somehow hadn't thought of... if the bees were to get inside the boat, they might not want to leave! We had to return to the boat immediately to close up the doors and windows, hoping that they hadn't already moved in.

 

the bees, landed

the bees, landed

When we arrived back at the boat, the bees had landed... but outside. The internet tells us that this means the queen bee is somewhere in the middle of the literal pile of bees on the boat. We figure they were stacked six or seven deep in this photo! Fortunately, they decided that the boat wouldn't make a great spot for a new hive, and within an hour or two of this photo they'd all moved on.

 

Miya's dirty knees from painting the decks

Miya's dirty knees from painting the decks

While I went back to my day job schedule, Miya undertook the massive task of painting the TIE Fighter's decks with anti-skid paint. We had collected a large pail full of white sand from a nearby beach, and then sifted and washed it, allowing it to dry overnight in the boatyard on a clean sheet of plywood. In the end though we decided that we'd get a better-looking result from "marmolina"; fine crushed white marble available at the local fereterias for about $0.50/kg.

 

the lights of 16 de Septiembre

the lights of 16 de Septiembre

The celebration of 16 de Septiembre (Mexico's Independance Day) came along, and rather than hole up in our little box on the ocean, Miya and I decided to brave the crowds and go see the fireworks display. The display lacked a certain... safety standard? that we had grown accustomed to in North America - the main celebration was in a town square flanked on three sides with two-story buildings, and the fireworks were launched from the roofs of those buildings, exploding directly over the square!

 

more generator maintenance, this time cleaning the carburetor

more generator maintenance, this time cleaning the carburetor

Our Honda EU2000i generator has given us incredibly reliable service for the past four years or so, but apparently one should not leave it for a Mexican summer with a third of a tank of gasoline... when I went to start it up for the first time in many months, it would not start. I quickly realized what the problem must be, and using this very well-written step-by-step howto, I tore the generator apart and cleaned the carburetor. Just like that, the little Honda purred back to life.

 

Miya swimming with a school of something (sardines? herring?)

Miya swimming with a school of something (sardines? herring?)

The heat of the summer was intense and constant, and often we had to spend the hottest portions of the day in the water just to maintain our sanity! The underside of the TIE Fighter made for a convenient gathering space, and using a series of ropes and floating toys and platforms we created a place of refuge from the afternoon sun.

In this photo Miya is swimming with one of the schools of fish that regularly gathered under the boat. Actually, if I go looking I bet I have a video that might show the situation a little better:

Crazy how you can see them avoiding the anchor line! We'd like to identify the species of fish, and then see about catching some for grilling or pickling.

avoiding the heat under the TIE Fighter's wing

avoiding the heat under the TIE Fighter's wing

Miya found an inflatable toy at one of the swap meets; three inflatable bladders joined at the center by a square of mesh, forming a floating recliner. This, paired with a Canadian Tire 'Party Platform' that we picked up on clearance just before leaving Canada in September 2011, formed the seating portion of the underwing. You can also see my Traynor TVM-10 cordless rechargeable guitar amplifier in the nets above, hooked up to an iPhone and playing appropriately chilled house music down into the watery tunnel.

flips off the TIE Fighter

flips off the TIE Fighter

Of course, with freshly-added antiskid on the topsides, the boat herself - having a good meter of freeboard - made an excellent water toy. Miya had only really learned to swim in the last year or so, but managed to learn to dive in one day!

 

 

She was so impressed with her diving that she decided to try her first-ever backflip off the boat also... to a little less success.

 

Mal serenading us on his banjo

Mal serenading us on his banjo

One of my absolute favourite parts about the cruising lifestyle is the willingness of the participants to pick up new musical instruments and throw themselves into learning. Our friend and neighbor Malcolm, an Australian vagabond living on 'Wind Pirate', picked up a banjo in a trade with another boater and within days was plucking away.

 

driving the long, lonely highway from La Paz to San Diego

driving the long, lonely highway from La Paz to San Diego

When we heard about the Wasteland Weekend festival in California, the idea immediately spoke to both of us - a four-day party in the desert, sort of  like Burning Man but more Mad Max themed, if that even sounds possible. With our Wilderness First Responder first aid certifications, we figured if they were interested in having us on as volunteer medics we'd kill a few birds with one stone; go on a road trip, pick up some much-needed supplies from the states, get some practical medical experience and go to a rad party! We rented a car and prepared to head out... but of course, what with it being hurricane season, a tropical storm had formed south of the peninsula and was threatening La Paz. We couldn't leave the boat unattended until we were sure that it wouldn't turn into a hurricane.

Fortunately, the system weakened, but not before dumping rain on southern Baja - and if you haven't seen what a major rainstorm does to a desert, it's a crazy thing indeed!

In this video, we have been stopped by a washout - the road in front of us has been replaced by a river of brown water flowing at a pretty fast clip. We watched as a compact car was swept a few feet sideways - but in the true spirit of "drive 'er like a rental", we decided to take the risk and we crossed. If you watch closely you can see water come up over the hood of the car at one point!

 

Wasteland Weekend 2012

Wasteland Weekend 2012

We arrived late to Wasteland Weekend but wasted no time whatsoever getting into the groove of things. Having come internationally we had no weapons to defend ourselves from the mutant / zombie uprising, and so we decided that we were clearly 'wasteland aristocracy' and as such had no reason to carry large weaponry of our own.

 

meeting the Party Hard Corps, fellow wasteland nobility

meeting the Party Hard Corps, fellow wasteland nobility

With this thought in mind it wasn't long before we ran into some kindred spirits, fellow patricians of the aftermath, with whom we shared libations and cheer. The Party Hard Corps crew are a fascinating group of partiers, gamers and drinkers from the midwest, who like us traveled to the desert for a few days of debauchery.

 

winning the archery competition

winning the archery competition

There were many (semi-)organized events, including robot battles and jugger matches, but the one event I was most looking forward to taking part in was the archery competition. The rules were fairly simple - scoring was based on points awarded for your five arrows to a mannequin about thirty paces down a range. I was relieved to find they had bows available for loan, as I hadn't owned my own bow in many years.

There were three divisions, for different sorts of bows: recurve, compound and crossbow. I can say proudly that out of about forty or so competitors, not only did I win the recurve division, but I also had the highest score over all three divisions - 28 out of a possible 30. The prize was a little disappointing however; a large black t-shirt. Not my size and I refuse to wear cotton t-shirts. In retrospect I should have taken the shirt and re-gifted it to one of the Party Hard Corps guys or something.

In case you're wondering, we did stop at an archery supply store in San Diego on the way back to Mexico, purchasing two bows so that we can practice on the beaches. At some point in our travels we met a guy who swore by iguana meat; as we get further south we're thinking maybe that might be a good source of free protein...

 

professional medical attention at Wasteland Weekend 2012

professional medical attention at Wasteland Weekend 2012

Our medical shift was Saturday night from 10pm until 4am - arguably the worst possible shift if your goal is solely to party, but we got enough of that in during the previous night and the Saturday afternoon, and as both the new jacks on the scene and late to the party to boot, we were happy to help out and glad to feel useful. We were surprised at how few emergencies there were, to be honest - the partygoers seemed to self-regulate very well, and aside from a few scalds from fire-show screwups and a few cuts and scrapes, we weren't actually very busy! There was always something going on, but we never felt overwhelmed.

 

Miya at the San Diego Zoo, riding an eagle.

Miya at the San Diego Zoo, riding an eagle.

After Wasteland Weekend, we had a couple of days to spend in San Diego - we slotted one of those days to provisioning and shopping, but the second day was spent touring the San Diego Zoo. This was something Miya had wanted to do ever since we left Vancouver but somehow we hadn't found the time during the two months we spent in San Diego back in December 2011. Many photos were taken, but surely if you'd like to see a photo of a giraffe you can find one on Google Image Search. 😉

 

Scott from s/v Sojourn displaying a feat of flexibility

Scott from s/v Sojourn displaying a feat of flexibility

After a long but uneventful drive back down the Baja Peninsula, we settled back into our routine by immediately having people over for another party. In this photo, Scott is demonstrating his ability to do a full split!

In the foreground of the photo, next to our friend Mike, is one of Miya's margueritas, made in the "proper Baja style". For a perfect Baja cruiser marguerita, combine:

  • one part decent tequila (100% agave only, José Cuervo is NOT acceptable!)
  • one part triple sec
  • one part freshly-squeezed lime juice

That's it; serve with ice cubes if you have them. Do not blend. Do not rim with salt. Do not use lime bar mix or Fresca. Do not add simple syrup. Mix and enjoy!

 

catching fish and shrimp in the party platform

catching fish and shrimp in the party platform

Whoops - we left the party platform deployed under the boat while we were in the states! When we pulled it up, the side-pockets were full of life. If you click on this photo, you can clearly see the large fish at the top, and several big, transparent, shrimp-like invertebrates swimming around in the captive pool.

 

the new addition to the family!

the new addition to the family!

There's a really sad story here - but before it was sad, it was a very happy story. We adopted a scraggly little Mexican street kitten and added her to our boat-gypsy family. I'll tell the story of little 'Alice' in another blog post.

 

zombie walk La Paz 2012

zombie walk La Paz 2012

It turns out that the 'Zombie Walk' phenomenon is wider-spread than we'd previously thought, and La Paz actually played host to an entire horror-themed film festival entitled 'Morbido La Paz'. There are few things that Miya and I like better than an excuse to get dressed up and silly, so we put together the best zombie costumes we could with our limited boat resources and shambled out into the town.

Best part: wandering around for at least an hour looking for the meet-up point for the zombie walk, soliciting help from the other boaters over the VHF radio and getting drastically contrasting reports of where to find the rest of the undead. Fortunately when we finally did find the other zombies, we found to our surprise that instead of the expected dozen or so fellow walkers/biters, we found a huge herd of probably two hundred! We moaned and shuffled our way through the night in search of cerebros...

 

Alice assisting with the refrigerator build project

Alice assisting with the refrigerator build project

One of the things we brought back to La Paz from San Diego was a long-coveted item - an icebox conversion kit which would turn our little built-in icebox into a proper refrigerator, complete with freezer! The kit cost an arm and a leg, and came as a box of parts and a series of cryptic instructions, including a bunch of crazy tool requirements. I had to track down someone in the boating community who would be willing to loan me an industrial vacuum pump and a set of refrigerator manifold gauges. As it turned out, none of the tools were far away and even though the build took much longer than expected, our friend Bill on s/v Wandering Puffin was a huge help in getting the system up and running.

Now, for the first time since moving aboard in 2009, we have the ability to store food for longer than a couple of days at a time! What a huge step forward... though admittedly so far my favourite use of the fridge is making ice cubes. Sill though - just because nothing in our world can ever be completely normal - the fact that our fridge is a top-loading icebox means that we're forced to use an expensive vertical ice cube tray.

going-away party at the Libertatia apartment

going-away party at the Libertatia apartment

One of the sad facts of cruising life is the realization that no matter how much you like your new friends, everyone is traveling, and sooner or later we all have to pull up the anchor and move on. This photo is of some of our friends from the summer; Malcolm and Lowell left on s/v Libertatia for California, arriving recently in San Francisco, and Mike and Nia left La Paz for Mazatlan in their boat s/v Azul, making it across the Sea of Cortez without incident... and without an engine!

Well, I think that pretty much brings us back up to current. More updates to come soon!

14Sep/090

Back from Burning Man

Well, I'm back to bobbing around in False Creek after a spectacular week in the Nevada Desert.  Actually I've been back for a week now, but I'm still trying to decompress - funny how the "default world" can seem so surreal.  I've held off on posting this so that I could edit it slowly as the memories came to me, and so that I could sort out some photos to go along with the anecdotes.

the_man

The Man: Just This Guy, You Know?

Rather than evangelize, let me just say this:  maybe you've planned go to Burning Man but something got in the way, or maybe you've seen images or TV shows about it and thought it sounded interesting.  Maybe you've just seen the deranged, happy looks in the eyes of folks who've recently returned from the desert, and noticed the lasting changes in the way they look at the world around them, and maybe that made you wonder just what the whole thing is all about.  Do yourself a favour and just get there.

It's not too difficult; the trick I've used to great success several times now is to get a ticket when they first go on sale in February, then stick it somewhere that you'll see it regularly, like on your fridge.  If you have the ticket and it turns out you can't go, you can easily bounce it on Craigslist pretty much right up until the day the event starts, for as much as you paid for it - so there's almost zero financial risk.  Drop the $250 when the tickets go on sale, and your life will mysteriously get out of the way and allow you to go to the desert.  However, if you tell yourself you're going but wait until August to buy your ticket, your life will conspire to prevent you from going, be it work-related problems, or financial or whatever.

Anyhow.  After a few frantic days of last-minute preparation (ok, I admit it, mostly costume shopping), Carrie and I loaded up her truck with a huge pile of camping equipment and headed down to Seattle to meet up with our three-RV convoy.  After being denied a border crossing back in February, I didn't want to take the chance of having our whole RV turned inside out - or worse yet, having the whole RV turned away - just because of a little black mark on my record.  We made it across with zero hassles, and spent the night in a Super-8 before reconnecting with the rest of the motley band at the Seattle REI.  Interesting fact(*): the Seattle REI is the second most visited tourist attraction in Seattle, after the Space Needle.

(*: by "fact" I mean that someone working the door at the REI told me this, so take it with a grain of salt.)

sunrise_carleigh_bayrock

Carleigh and Bayrock in the Monday sunrise

We drove looooong through the night and arrived at the Black Rock Desert at approximately 2am, where we had to wait in a long, dusty lineup of RVs, trucks and cars for the next three hours.  When we finally arrived at the Greeters Station, all the first-timers ("virgins") were pulled out of the RV to roll in the dust, ring the welcome gong, and receive a certificate good for one spanking at the Greeters Camp.  I thought the certificate was pretty lame, personally - in previous years the spanking was administered promptly and with great enthusiasm shown by both spanker and spankee, but apparently there have been complaints.  *sigh*.

Setting up camp while the sun rose was gorgeous, and went smoothly - we were all far too excited to sleep, so we broke out the costumes and ran giddily around the playa all day, hitting up bars and checking out art.  Most of the big sound stages weren't yet setup, so Monday night was by far the quietest of the week, but that didn't stop us from tracking down bar after bar and partying as hard as possible.

Tuesday was much of the same.  The first 'real' day of Burning Man; wake up, struggle into consciousness, clean up with babywipes, apply sunscreen, don your most fabulous, anticipated costume and stumble out into the blinding white desert in search of adventure.  Of course there was no shortage of adventure, and the day was mostly spent riding from art installation to art installation, making new friends at the Man, gathering and subsequently losing a posse, and drinking fabulous martinis at Martini Village.  Sleeper hit of the day: Lollipop Shot Camp, where we were served shots of Ketel One vodka and Tootsie Roll Pops in custom take-home glow-in-the-dark shot glasses, on lanyards for easy access of course.  The procedure - dunk the lollipop in the shot glass, twirl it around for a minute, take the shot, repeat - was both fun and dangerous, and we all agreed we needed to take a break from drinking shortly thereafter.

Drew and new friend 'Ja', at Lollipop Shot Camp

Drew and a new friend at Lollipop Shot Camp

By Tuesday night the Opulent Temple was up and running, and the throbbing house music could be heard from one end of the playa to the other.  Shortly after we met up with them the crew decided to head for the other side of the playa to catch DJ Dan at another stage, and Carrie mentioned being tired and planning to head back to camp.  When she left, I decided I'd had enough of house music and headed off to find some dubstep, eventually meeting some folks who told me that DJ Mimosa was playing at the Space Cowboys stage, so I took off like a shot to get there.  Mimosa was hands-down my favourite act from the Emrg-N-See festival in Oregon earlier this summer.

As I arrived at the stage, I rolled up on my bike at a reasonable clip.  I wove in and out of the hundreds of bicycles lying on the street, aiming to drop mine as close to the stage as I could to make it a more undesirable target for a bike thief, should any be around, and managed to make it within about twenty feet.  As I approached what looked like a good spot, I swung my leg up over the bike and rode on a single pedal, unravelling my long skirt and adjusting my hat while riding with one hand, and then gingerly stepped off as the bike reached the drop spot, allowing the bike to fall gently to the ground.  A nearby group of three girls, unnoticed until that moment, began a round of polite applause.

"That was the best dismount I've seen this year!", said one.

I took my top hat in hand and bowed low in acknowledgement, and at the lowest point of the bow I was startled to see that I had dropped my bike directly next to Carrie's - nearly on top of her bike, in fact.  I guess great music is universal; I spent the next half-hour tracking her down in the massive crowd, letting her know that it was just one of those quirky Burning Man coincidences, and that I wasn't in fact stalking her.

My custom-built Rad Playa Cruiser™

My custom-built Rad Playa Cruiser™

Wednesday I parted ways with my crew to meet up with Miya, whom I hadn't seen in a few months, and we spent the day riding double on my Rad Playa Cruiser™ which I had equipped with stunt pegs for exactly such an opportunity.  In four years of Burning Man I have yet to see a single other bicycle with stunt pegs, which confuses me somewhat - mine cost me a grand total of $6, and have come in handy numerous times each year.  What better way to meet cute girls?

"You're looking for Root Society, hey?  Hop on, I'm heading that way now..!"

Just as an aside, my Rad Playa Cruiser™ has now seen three Burning Man expeditions, and currently resides with my friend Dan Ross as his primary bicycle.  She began life as a $25 junk store bicycle and underwent massive reworking to become the jewel that she is today - please click here for a photo of her in the "before" state.

Rocking 'Hair of the Dog' with an impromptu band

Rocking 'Hair of the Dog' with an impromptu band

Miya and I ended up bouncing from bar to bar, eventually finding ourselves drinking at 'Hair of the Dog', an open-mic bar a block or so from Center Camp.  Miya noticed a whiteboard behind the bar, listing things the bar could use as donations, such as orange juice, tequila, baby wipes and... "little people".  Apparently one of the bartenders had a thing for dwarves and/or midgets, but this entry spawned a furious row ending with Miya standing on a barstool and berating the bartenders mercilessly, arguing that her 5'4" frame certainly qualified her as "little".  She was quite convincing, and soon found herself working behind the bar helping random burners take the edge off the day.  I seized this opportunity to take the stage, and played and sang several songs with an impromptu band.  We were pretty bad, but considering none of us had ever met before, much less played together, we weren't terrible and the crowd was quite appreciative.

Thursday was much quieter during the day than the previous days, spending most of the time taking it easy and recovering from the past three days of lunacy.  Most of our camp napped intermittantly, and I had an excellent guitar and mandolin jam with Glyn and a few random folks that wandered under our shade structure throughout the afternoon.  Thursday night on the other hand, Carrie and I got into our most dressy costumes and headed out for a night of dancing.  We made our way to the enormous Root Society dome to see Bassnectar, which was apparently also the plan of about seven or eight thousand other burners.  The dome was packed wall-to-wall, and they'd configured soundsystems outside as well, with spillover crowds extending well out into the streets.  The bass could be felt from blocks away!  We danced well into the night, and I didn't get to bed until well after sunrise.

Miya attempting to make breakfast crêpes

Miya attempting to make breakfast crêpes

Friday I met up with Miya again, who had had a very rough morning dealing with a medical emergency involving a member of her camp.  We spent the afternoon and evening just talking and wandering around from art installations to bars, spending an hour or so watching a terrible italian caveman soft-porn flick in the Bad Ideas Theatre and eating popcorn.  We ended up crashing reasonably early, in preparation for the festivities of Saturday.

Saturday, the day of the burn, felt like it arrived far too quickly.  Our camp, 'Team Gong Show' (a subset of the 'First Republic of Slacking') had planned a three-hour party in the afternoon and I had been elected bar manager.  In preparation for this, we had stopped at the Rite-Aid pharmacy in Alturas, California to purchase alcohol - the ridiculous prices of booze in the states never cease to astound me.  We purchased a grand total of twelve gallons of vodka and rum for just over $120, and in three hours of serving heavily-sauced smoothies to a crowd of about a hundred or so we went through it all.  The theme of the party was, unsurprisingly, "The Gong Show" and after buttering up the crowd with drinks and house music for an hour or so, the gonging began.  I went up to play and sing A-Ha's 'Take On Me' with my mandolin, to much acclaim, though I was gonged when I returned to the stage an hour later to perform Britney Spears' 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' on the acoustic guitar.

in the Deep Playa, surveying the land

in the Deep Playa, surveying the land

The burning of the man was spectacular, with phenomenal fireworks and a huge fireball erupting from the base of the man to start the blaze.  The man himself was particularly well built this year, and it was a solid forty minutes or so before he finally fell.  I had plans to meet up with Miya at midnight, but I took a short nap after the burn which turned into a three-hour stretch, and I woke up at 1:45am, groggy and faded from the day's heavy partying.  Fortunately, I subscribe to the theory that every Burning Man meetup plan should have at least one backup plan, and so I had also made a plan to meet her at 2am at Center Camp should we miss out on the midnight meetup.  I raced over to Center Camp, losing my third set of goggles of the week on the way, and waited - but she never showed.  When I made my way back to her camp to see if she was there, I found her fast asleep in her tent - it turned out she had also partied way too hard during the day, and had slept right through the meetup times as well.  We ended up napping for another few hours, intending to wake up for sunrise, but we even missed that by about an hour.  The early morning was spent riding around in the deep playa, checking out the furthest-flung art installations, talking and enjoying the morning sunlight.

Overall?  Amazing.  Very much a different experience from the previous two years, but that's pretty much always how it is - you go in with expectations of how things are going to be, but you can never really predict what will happen or how it will affect you.  I was a lot more 'crew'-oriented this year, instead of heading out solo like the previous years, and I stayed a lot more sober.

I will most certainly go again.

11Aug/091

Long Overdue Update!

Wow.  Three of the craziest, busiest, happiest months of my life.  How to compress them into one post?  WHY compress them into one post?  This seems silly, but I think the best way to re-jumpstart my blogging is to get this all out of the way in one post, and then go back to more regular updates.  *sigh*.

At my last major post, I was about to speak at the Open Web Vancouver conference at the Vancouver Conference Center.  My talk went pretty well, I guess - I mean, I definitely didn't win any awards, but nobody walked out either.  I met some great new folks and had a good experience overall.  I know now that speaking at tech conferences is almost exactly like doing live-pa techno in front of a big audience - the more prepared you are, the easier it is to let go and just be yourself.

Since then, there's been... God.  Seriously, where to start?!

I've had repeated, profound musical experiences on the boat, jamming with friends.  Picture if you will a mirror-smooth False Creek, with the boat anchored about fifty feet offshore.  Dan Ross playing guitar and singing, Chad Taylor playing muted trumpet and providing some percussive backup and myself on mandolin and backup vocals - folks walking past, double-taking and sitting down on the seawall to listen, applauding between songs.  Making music on the boat with friends has given me far more joy than I ever imagined it could.  Actually, making music on the boat at all - I've been spending on average about eight to ten hours per week sitting on my deck, playing my guitar and singing.  If there is a greater peace than playing music on the water, I haven't found it yet.

Yarrrr!

Yarrrr!

I've gone on three epic sailing adventures, the third of which is still ongoing - as of this writing I am anchored in this lovely little bay, surrounded by million-dollar waterfront houses and a beautiful cliff infested with rock climbers.  More on that in future posts - but suffice to say this ongoing solo-sailing adventure is not without its trials and tribulations.

The first of the three epic sailing adventures was with a beautiful woman named Miya who I met at Burning Man in 2008, and who had come to visit me several times over the past year.  Her confidence in my sailing ability was appreciated, though perhaps unwarranted, as we left Vancouver and immediately ran into eight-foot breaking swells just off Point Atkinson, enroute to the Sunshine Coast.  The sailing got a lot better after the first day, but we still had to spend a few days on Bowen Island with engine trouble - mostly waiting around for a mechanic, until we tackled the problem head-on with the manual and some elbow grease, finally solving it ourselves and getting the engine back up and running.  We then cruised up the coast to Secret Cove and Smuggler Cove, where we spent a night before returning to Vancouver.  It was an amazing trip; the ocean opened my eyes and put a good fear into me, and the company was exquisite.  The parting of ways at the end was wistful to say the least.

Drew and Laurel spinning fire on Tie Fighter

Drew and Laurel spinning fire on the boat at Diversity

The second sailing adventure was with yet another beautiful woman, Carrie, who joined me on a trip to the Diversity Festival on Texada Island.  Technically we were supposed to sail with a crew of six, but Vancouver being the city of flailers that it is, the crew slowly called in to cancel until it was just the two of us.  The winds were against us the whole way there and back, forcing us to motor around 90% of the tip, so it's debatable whether or not we actually saved any money travelling by "sailboat".  We did get the sails up once or twice, but not nearly as much as I would have liked.  The festival itself was excellent, with us arriving in full pirate regalia to great fanfare, spending a weekend surrounded by beautiful people and great music, and rolling out again on Monday with a grand exit.  Sunday was a bit crazy, as the wind suddenly went from 5kn up to 25-30kn, and Tie Fighter danced in four-foot swells for the night - I now have a lot more faith in my anchor than before.  Another boat nearby actually did slip their anchor, and came within a few feet of hitting us, but we held steady and Monday was much calmer.  Another thing learned: rowing a dinghy in calm waters is one thing, rowing through four-foot waves as they break on the beach is another thing entirely!  I made very good use of the drybags my sister gave me for my birthday.

The next weekend after Diversity was the Emrg-N-See Festival just outside of Salem, Oregon.  I went to this festival with Trent last year, and it was probably the best festival I'd been to to date - it was as though someone had sent a personal invitation to every single gorgeous, blonde, dreadlocked, dubstep-loving yoga instructor on the west coast.  I cannot express how many times I had to stop and shake my head at the sheer beauty surrounding me.  This year was similar, though somewhat diluted, as though every guy who went last year went home and explained the situation to every guy he knew.  I know I did, which is why I was surprised that the crew going down fron Vancouver was much smaller this year.  Regardless, I definitely got my fill of amazing dubstep and bassline music, on very excellent soundsystems.  I also got to take a tablespoon of dancefloor dirt out of my nose every morning, which I am choosing to look at as preparation for this year's Burning Man expedition.

The weekend after Emrg-N-See was Sequential Circus 5, an electronic music event that I guess I'm sort of in charge of.  I say that with some reservation, because the show couldn't happen without every one of the seriously talented and driven people involved - we've got the whole thing pretty much down to a science now, and even with six live acts on a small stage, we continue to be efficient and competent, and we still have a good time doing it.  This SeqCirc was probably the best music to date, though we were up against some very stiff competition.  The capacity of the venue is about 180 people, and we had about 100 people, so while it was never packed, it never felt empty, and nearly everyone who was there at midnight was still there at 3am when we turned the lights on, so I count that as a win.  The next Sequential Circus, SeqCircSix, will be in January.

After recovering from SeqCirc, having a few sailing missions out and around English Bay, and basically settling down and focusing on dayjob work for a while, I took off on my first big solo-sailing trip, headed for Victoria...

25May/090

Monday, Again

Ok, five days since the last post. Wheeeeere to start.

I survived the rains of last week without incident. Actually, the rains are a really good thing, as they help by pointing out any spots where the cabin still leaks. I *think* I've got them all now, and it's almost time to start painting! I have to admit, the boat is looking better and better and better - I mean it goddamned well better be, given the amount of hours and money I've been pouring into her. Still, I needed a good project and every hour that I work on her she becomes more "mine".

I spent the whole weekend working on her, again - third weekend in a row of two solid eight-to-fourteen-hour days fixing, upgrading, grinding, fiberglassing, sanding, sanding and sanding. I'm starting to run out of things to fix which is a really, really good sign.

Thursday was a bit odd though - I basically wore out my Mastercraft random-orbit sander. The bearings just "went"... I went back to Canadian Tire to see what they could do about it, and they said not much without a receipt or at least a transaction number. Of course, I can't remember when I actually bought the sander, I think it was around two months ago. Two lessons learned: keep your receipts, and don't buy the cheapest power tool just because it's on sale. A hundred dollars later, I have a new DeWalt sander.

When I returned from the store with the new sander, I arrived at my rowboat and looked out to see a large, shiny, expensive fishing boat tied to mine! Obviously I jumped right in my boat and rowed out as fast as I could to find out what was going on. Apparently the guy lost one of his two transmissions, and wasn't able to get his boat out of 'forward' to steer back into his marina properly, so he quickly dropped anchor and called his mechanic - but apparently where he dropped anchor wasn't the best place, so he drifted right over into my boat. He put out his fenders so there wasn't any damage, but he was still bumped right up against me. He explained the situation

"So," he said, "I thought I'd just tie off to you for a while until my mechanic got here..."

Which he had - his docklines were now tied to my boat, and my docklines had been untied and lay on my deck. Now, I'm a pretty friendly and gracious guy, so I didn't lay into him - still, I'm pretty sure that boarding someone else's vessel without permission is considered a hostile act under maritime law, so at the very least it was very poor manners. I glowered at him some and hurried him along until he realized that he was utterly unwelcome to stay tied to my boat for any longer than absolutely necessary. He made some noises early on about leaving his boat there overnight, but I think my derisive snort got my point across.

To top it off, my anchoring permit, with my cellphone number written on it in sharpie with a message saying "IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, PLEASE CALL:" wasright there, posted in the nearest window. If running into someone's boat and having to tie off to it isn't an emergency, I'm not sure what is.

Anyhow. Within an hour his mechanic got there, and they got the boat untied and moved along - I'm not sure if he was fixed or if the mechanic was just a better pilot, but whatever. Barely a thank you, and no hint of an apology. I don't know whether he was just a newbie boater, or didn't consider live-aboard squatters to have the same rights as people from an expensive marina, or if he was just utterly oblivious. Still, I have half a mind to borrow an RV from someone and go park on his lawn for a couple of hours with 'engine trouble'.

The weekend was mostly calm, with twenty-odd hours of hard work in the sun putting a new layer on my tan. I got a tonne of work done on the deck, spent way too much money at the marine store again, and finally installed my LED lighting system. I had gone to Ikea mid-week last week to find the fixtures, and managed to find the perfect fixtures - these ones to be precise, in white plastic. They have a fixture-mounted switch, they accept the LED bulbs perfectly, they have a long cable, and they're mostly plastic so they're ideal for the marine environment. I am incredibly pleased with these lights! I had purchased five, with the intention of putting two in the salon, one over the navigation table, one in the bathroom and one over my bed - but instead I installed all five in the salon and will have to purchase more. WOW though - I do not at all regret the purchase, nor the decision. In one step, the salon at night has changed from "camping" to "home". The light is warm and pleasant, and the difference in the general "feel" of the place is staggering. I will be purchasing another five of these lights, at least. The best part is that even with ten lights installed, I will still only be drawing a total of 30w of electricity to light the entire boat - just about half the draw of a *single* regular lightbulb!

Today, it's back to the grind. We've committed to having one of the gossip sites live and launched in the Amazon cloud by Wednesday. Just in time, the weather has turned sour, and later today and tonight it promises to rain. I've still got a few holes in the front of the boat, so I'll need to cover those with garbage bags or something for Tuesday, but then Wednesday and on through the weekend is supposed to be bright and sunny, so I should be able to get that job finished this coming weekend.

Just in time, too - coming up, I have a speaking gig on cloud computing at the Open Web Vancouver conference, an open offer of a live-pa set in Victoria, a possible second live-pa set at a music festival out on Texada Island (plus I can sail there!), and a third offer of an acoustic live set over on Vancouver Island. Furthermore I have a lovely young lady coming up from Michigan for a ten-day epic sailing adventure in June, a hacker conference in Washington the weekend after that, and I am putting together a live electronic music show on the only weekend in July without a three-day outdoor festival to go to. It never stops!

I have to pick and choose between the musical bookings, because I frankly don't know how much free time I'll have to practice up between then and now - but it's all very flattering nonetheless. 🙂 Public appearances come with a thrill of adventure, but also with a dark sense of foreboding which drives me to work much harder on my music and performance so that I don't suck. It's one thing to play badly in your living room, it's another thing entirely to play badly in front of hundreds of people!

17Sep/080

hmm.

Well, judging by the fact that it's been a month since my last post, combined with the fact that I'm only blogging when I'm working outside the home, it would seem that my quest is not going quite as well as I'd have liked. Turns out it's actually very difficult to get motivated to leave the house in the morning when you don't technically have to...

Well - I guess I can't really count it as a full month, seeing as eight (of a possible 20) working days were spent travelling to, partying in and returning from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Burning Man was amazing, as expected - really it was far, far more than that, but as our travelling crew decided on the way home, trying to describe the experience to someone who hasn't been there is pretty much futile - you come off sounding like a cross between a religious zealot and a Pigeon Park loony. The closest I could come up with was "the universe constantly astounding me with how spectacularly beautiful it can be". See? Loony.

Returning from my epic adventures, I seem to have slipped into a routine that isn't at all what I was trying to achieve - in fact, I'm a lot less productive than I was in New Brunswick. This is serving to reinforce my belief that working in an office is better than working at home simply because it's a different environment. Lately I've been getting up in the morning, making breakfast and coffee, and sitting at my desk for the next eight to ten hours, getting perhaps four to six hours of work done. This is wasting both my time and what remains of the beautiful Vancouver summer weather we've been having. There'll be plenty of time to slack at home once the rains set in. So why can't I seem to get motivated to get out and ride my bike to a coffee shop somewhere?

I guess the question becomes - is an office more productive because it's an environment tailored to (or mentally associated with) working, or is it more productive simply because it's not home? I find myself constantly distracted in my home "office", due in no small part to my being surrounded by my favourite things.

The most productive working environment so far was working in an unused meeting room in my father's law office in New Brunswick - basically a featureless white room. I mean, there were a few unremarkable paintings on the wall, but apart from that it was a table, a few chairs, and that's it.

Anyhow - today I'm splitting tasks - I spent a few hours this morning working from my desk in my apartment, then showered, shaved, and responded to an emergency tech support housecall from a girl I've been seeing. Sweet! An actual excuse to get off my ass and get out of the house - and you know what? It's not so bad. I'm writing this from a Blendz coffee shop (note to self: Blendz has free wireless) on Robson Street. Robson isn't exactly the most calm, quiet street in the city, so it's been somewhat difficult to maintain focus - but at least I'm out of the house. 🙂