Foreign Travel, with kids

Recently returning from our trip to Japan with the kids, this was a fun read to compare “notes”.  Our trip had been my first with kids in a while, so it was frustrating after having been able to move through Singapore & Mt Fuji essentially by myself.

Some thoughts on the article:

  • You are going to need to pack less than you think you need to move easily.  A backpack seems like a good idea, but they are big and cumbersome on a train.  A well packed rolling duffel isn’t as bad as the author makes out.  But plan on leaving some underwear behind!
  • Slow is fast.  Or rather, if you want to enjoy the trip you’ll need stop far more frequently than you used to.  Parks, playgrounds & food are the cures to most traveling angst.
  • Three is to young to travel aboard.  I’ll just leave it at that.


Chuck Klosterman on Taylor Swift

I admit, 1989 has become a sort of guilty pleasure of mine.  We downloaded it after throughly enjoying the Shake It Off video dubbed to old workout videos.

I have always been a fan of Klosterman’s work, with my favorite being “Fargo Rock City”.

All this to lead up to say I really enjoyed his interview with her in GQ.  Enjoy! 

PS.  1989 by Ryan Adams is also very excellent.

Four key ingredients to a DIY Outdoor Movie Theatre

When our good friends moved, not only did they take with them our outlet to vent about the fun of raising two boys, they also took their LCD projector which they were known to setup in the driveway so we could all watch movies.

Well, knowing nothing pulls a neighborhood together like Han Solo projected on a garage door, I vowed to continue the tradition.

There are four major parts: The screen, the screen hanging, the sound & the light

The Screen

The easy part was the screen. While there are plenty of links about how to make an outdoor screen here, here or here I went super simple. By way of Target, I bought an extra wide curtain rod. This made it easy to just screw to small brackets into the flashing over the garage door that is otherwise unnoticed.

Screen hanging device

Next I needed something to hang from the curtain rod. Again, Target to the rescue. I bought the cheapest sheet I could find, in a dimension that matched the width of the curtain rod. A small incision in the top of the sheet (where you would normally pull it up to your chin) made for the perfect holder to slide the curtain rod through.

The last two parts were light & sound.


Originally I started with piping the HDMI output from the projector through my wife’s old 3 cd stereo (yes, we still have it). It worked absolutely fine, other than having to pick up and move the base unit and two speaker every time we watched a movie. Then for Father’s Day I treated myself to the UE Boom bluetooth speaker. Given how easy it is to pair the speaker between two different devices, I can bounce between my iPhone and Macbook with realitve ease. I now have a super simple (and small) speaker that throws just enough sound to make the movie heard but not so loud that it will bother the neighbors who don’t apprecaite Planes 2: Fire & Rescue. Plus I love that speaker for bouncing around the house and rocking out. Random dance parts have increased by a factor of 12 since I bought that. And really, you can’t have enough random dance parties with a three year old.


So a good friend recommended the following site for initial research on projectors. While the site was certainly thorough, I ultimately went back to relying on input from Lifehacker (cross referenced by Wirecutter). My constraints (at the time) were:

  •  Under $500
  • Able to reverse the image so I could rear project from the garage (interestingly I thought this was how I was going to set up my system. But having the garage door open and having our “audience” seeing all our bikes, etc, seemed like a less than professional method, so I just went with classic projection style).
  •  The most amount of features without going above the $500 threshold

I looked at a few different models but the one that popped out on top was the Optima H181X. Honestly, looking back, I can’t recall what pushed me one way or another as there appeared to be one or two from each of the leading manufacturers all within overlapping in the criteria. Being complete novices to this, I have to admit it appears we chose very well. The first time we watched a movie, CINCPACHOUSE was incredibly impressed by the resolution and picture quality.

Remaining to do:

I’d like to build a nice little storage box that all of the outdoor movie “stuff” lives in, but that’s a low priority right now. Currently the projector goes in and out of the box it was shipped in. Given the corrosive environment here, that seemed like the best place to keep it.

I’d like to also look into blackout cloth screens. We have a great fence in our backyard where we could do family (vice neighborhood) movies. However, in order not to annoy the folks behind us, I’d like to minimize light leakage that occurs with a standard sheet.

The hardest part of neighborhood movie night is picking the movie. When the audience ranges from 3 to 53, how do you pick a title that everyone’s going to like??? I tend to stay towards the “classic” Disney/Pixar/etc. I’d love to hear others thoughts & inputs on good movie night movies.

Other than that I’d say we are pretty darn happy with the setup we have. Now we just need to use it more!!

Let’s Focus Traffic Enforcement on Dangerous Behaviors, Not Minor Bike Violations — Medium

Let’s Focus Traffic Enforcement on Dangerous Behaviors, Not Minor Bike Violations — Medium

As someone who has been detained by slow rolling a stop sign, I could not agree more. While bike riders share some of the burden, we are far less dangerous then the people oblivous to us.

The Voyage Of Uncle Dan – LST 696

So my wife’s family recently discovered the deck log & other interesting tid-bits of their Uncle’s voyage during World War II.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to continue playing with Google Maps Engine.

This is a first draft, but I like where it is heading. Next steps will be to:

  • Correct the coord’s so that the voyage ends in San Francisco, not the middle of the ocean
  • Break up the voyage into segments (probably by color) to indicate when Uncle Dan was onboard
  • Some arrows to indicate which way the ship was heading
  • Some sort of visual time delineation to understand the overall progression of the voyage
  • Possibly a fly over, but I can’t really see how that would be interesting

By the way, this site was an awesome tool to convert the spreadsheet to a KML file that had “track lines” for all the various ports of call.

A link to the map here:

Some thoughts about photo management on your Mac

This started as an email to some friends, but it is a good reference to have & update as time goes along.


iPhoto, is best used with a yearly library. You can hold down the option key when you start it, and it will ask you if you want to open the default, or create a new library. After a year I have found that iPhoto becomes to big and cumbersome to use quickly/nimbly and you start to find work arounds which derails your whole photo workflow.


Know what photos are coming in so you can create a workflow, and stick with it. Are you just importing Nikon photos or are you capturing your iPhone photos as well? There are some great apps that can automate that process, or you can just set a workflow for yourself.

Knowing what you have

If you don’t know what you have, and need to clean up the duplicates, I’ve used this app, PhotoSweeper with pretty good success. You need to approach it systematically or else you will be overwhelmed, and again I can’t stress enough you need to have a process/workflow of where you want the photos to end up. The e-book i mention below can help a lot with that.

What are you doing with the photos?

Know what/where your photos go out. Are you just holding on to them? Are you doing much post-processing? There are a lot of great photo sharing apps, etc, make sure you are taking advantage of them to share those great photos. The ones we use the most are:

Photo Stream – All the grandparents have iDevices, so it is the quickest way to share those iPhone snapshots
Posterino – What we use to display the photos taken over the course of the year. We got the idea here (the how to is no longer active, but you can see the general idea) and then a few years later found posterino which makes it immensely easier.

Additionally, Costco has top quality/industry standard photo printer. I just send the electrons to Costco and pick the photos up while I’m getting 12 pounds of nutmeg.

Sources on the internet

I certainly didn’t learn all of this myself. Some great writers/blogs that helped me along are:

Learning to Love Photo Management: So this isn’t a blog as much as it was an e-book. I thought it was crazy to spend $2.99 on how to keep things organized on your mac, but if you are feeling overwhelmed it provides a great approach to get things under control. Take a look at my copy while you are over, I’d loan it to you but can’t really loan an iPad!

Mac Power Users Photo Management episode: So this is a podcast I follow fairly regularly that keeps me in the know about all things mac. It may be a little geeky to jump right into, but there are some good links to tools and apps. Btw, MPU is where I first learned of Photosweeper

Dr Drang’s blog: If you are feeling really adventurous, then this blog has some scripts that can help you sort through all of your photos into folders, etc (in accordance with Bradley Chambers’ book, yes, these are all somewhat circular)

Federico’s Workflow: If you are feeling international, Federico runs a great blog out of Italy on all things mac. He talks a lot about his workflows, and his photos workflow is worth a read. It doesn’t work for me for a variety of reasons, but there is some good info there.

Backpacking Trip Bucket List

We all have them. Here’s mine. Want to join?

San Juan Forest, CO
Originally discovered in the train from Durango to Silverton by a group of Scouts who got off mid ride, those mountains, valleys and gorges have been calling me ever since.

John Muir Trail, CA
One of the all time greats.  I admit, my interest was piqued in hiking more in the western US after reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I found that this book,  John Muir Trail: The Essential Guide to Hiking America’s Most Famous Trail was a really good reference to start planning a trip.

Mt Fuji, Japan
Okay, not really a “backpacking” trip in the classics sense.  More like a day trip.  But after seeing a co-worker with a branded hiking stick of all the stations, I vowed to knock that one off the list while I am close. But if I do go, I’m getting this to commemorate.

Big Sur, California
Based on a great write up in Outside, I feel a little more comfortable heading that direction.


Kalalau Trail – Day 2

After listening to the rain all night long, day 2 brought a fair amount of anxiety.  The day previously, we ran into folks on the trail who were heading back.  They said that the trail was unpassable ahead.  Our research prior to the trip told us that mile 7 was the worst part, a sheer rock face with only the slightest trail.  We agreed that it was at least worth hiking out to verify the conditions, and worst case we could always return to this spot.

The hike out of Hankoa valley was hot. Hot and muggy.  Since we got an early jump on the trail, there were no winds yet, so all the rain and moisture that had been trapped in the valley was just sweltering.  We also saw pretty aggressive signs of animals on the trail, but no actual animals.

As we approached mile 7, we were surprised to find that the rain had made the down hill section of the trail leading into the ledge extremely difficult to navigate.  We spaced out to avoid the domino effect if one slipped, and managed to descend the 200+ feet of elevation without much issue.

After the ledge crossing we all started picking up the pace because we knew the end was near.  What was a bit misleading was at about mile 9.5 you see the sign welcoming you into the Kalalau Valley.  Sadly, there still is about 1.5 miles or so to go till you find the campgrounds.  For us, we went to the last campsites before the waterfall, so it was probably closer to 2.5 miles.


We did take some go pro footage as we crossed.

Kalalau Trail – Day 1

We started the journey on the first Hawaiian Airlines flight out of Oahau.  The first struggle of the trip was the question: “Do you have any backpacking stoves in your bag?”  I’m not really sure what the right answer to that one is.  What I did learn is that apparently now you can carry lighters (but not matches) through airport screening.  Missed that change.

When we arrived we oped to get a rental car to drive us to the trailhead.  We picked up gas canisters for our backpacking stoves (we brought a jet boil and two MSR pocket rockets).  They were $6 at the local True Hardware that opens at 7am.  Given the timing between flights, rental cars and hardware stores opening you may want to stop a quick bite to eat at McDonalds.

For the first day, we agreed that we didn’t want to try to make a push straight to Kalalau.  The plan was to explore the Hankakapai’ai Falls upstream from Hanakapai’ai beach.  We would then regain the trail and head to Hanakoa stream and call it a night.  Breaking it up like this was two fold:

1) This was the first time the group had hiked any distance together, so it allowed a gradual pace to get used to one another

2) It allowed us to handle the bulk of the major elevation changes the first day, leaving us to just plodded through the second day (after crossing the ledge)

This ended up being a very good decision for us, as the weather was less than ideal for most of the first day.

The first section of the day was fairly uneventful.  We were all getting used to the full loads on our shoulders, taking a few photos at the scenic overlooks and chatting with the early riser hikers heading out to Hankapaki’ai beach & stream.  It is roughly 2 miles from the trail head to the first stream/beach.  Since it had been raining fairly recently Hankakapai’ai stream was up a bit, but nothing impassable like it had been earlier in the year.  After drying off our feet, we head off into the forest searching for the Hankakapai’ai falls.  We stashed our backs along the trail in the roots of a grove of  trees and had no issues finding them when came back.

A first for me at that point was sampling the guava that is in abundence along the Kalalau Trail.  Bright yellow in color, you’ll know it is there when you see them split open all over the trail in front of you.  While they are a bit pulpy & seedy, they were an awesome natural sugar boost on the trail.  We worked our way in the valley, noting that it was getting cooler and rainier the further away from the beach we headed.  Imagine our surprise when we finally made it to the falls and were actually cold due to the spray from the falls and the wind.

After a quick stop at the falls, we headed out the way we came in.  We picked up our packs that we had stashed in the woods while we took the side trek to the falls, and head back onto the trail towards Kalalau.  At this point you separate from the bulk of the day trip hikers since beyond the Hankakapai’ai beach is much more vertical terrain.

We plugged along, knocking out the two significant climbs (roughly 800ft) and passing through space rock.  It certainly feels like a portal into Jurassic Park, so we of course stopped for a photo.  You can tell by the photo that it was a bit rainy that day.  After space rock, the trail was pretty much down hill until we reached Hanakoa.

Hanakoa made for a great first day stop, only because we had taken the side trip up to Hankakapai’ai falls.  The campsites were well spread out and not clearly marked.  We found a few spots to pitch our tents, and cook a quick dinner.  Since it was raining, we ended up all turning in early for the day.

So here are some photos from the trail that day

Trail Head

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First Water crossing

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Space Rock

Day 1 Kalalau - 15


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First Camp

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