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Adventures in Nomadic Serendipity
Just because there is a beaten path, that doesn't mean you have to take it...
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24th-Aug-2010 11:55 pm - Urgent Cat Sitting Needed
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We had intended to have our friends in Sacramento cat sit for Kiki while we're at Burning Man. Previously, Kiki and their cats have gotten along fine. But they recently got a new third cat.. and he and Kiki are constantly fighting. Things are getting worse, not improving, in the past two days. We can't in good conscious leave Kiki here stressed out and literally cowering up at the top of a cat tree. It just isn't working out here.

So, we are scrambling to find other options. We would really prefer not to keep her locked up in a little cage at a boarding place for so long.. that seems likely to only stress her out further.

Is there anyone in the SF Bay Area, Sacramento or Reno area who might be able to take Kiki starting Thursday (tomorrow) through likely Sept 8th or so? We are not opposed to paying for cat sitting either.

Kiki has been especially skittish and stressed ever since her rattlesnake encounter, especially around other cats and animals. I think she may need to ideally stay in a cat-free environment. But in general she is a total sweetheart.

If not... we may need to cut back or curtail our plans for going to the burn this year. And considering we're bringing an art project and hosting a camp of almost a 100 folks, that would be a huge shame.

Help???
24th-Aug-2010 10:04 am - Most Useful??!!!
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This past weekend we attended the iOS Dev Camp, hosted at the PayPal HQ in San Jose, CA.

After so many years being involved in putting on developer events during my Palm/PalmSource and Rendition days, it was really fun to attend an event as an actual developer - spending an intense weekend head-down in code.

The DevCamp model is really a great one for this sort of event. It is volunteer run, only costs $50 to attend, and the schedule is very informal, done in an un-conference style. Yet the quality of attendees and presenters was absolutely fabulous, and thanks to the long-list of sponsors there was way more than $50 worth of free food and free beer (!!!) to be had. Yum!

PayPal was kind enough to give us permission to stay over in their lot, so we were literally "camping" at the DevCamp. It was awesome to be able to just step outside and into our house, and a lot of other attendees got a kick out of meeting us Nomads and hearing about our setup.

The focus of the event is the Hackathon - a contest for developers to show off something awesome, with a strong emphasis on things created primarily just over the weekend.

It is a recipe for some very intense late night work, and there was some awesome stuff on display at the demo session on Sunday. A lot of vey experienced developers created some very incredible things.

And... Much to our surprise, Cherie and I won the award for the "Most Useful" app created over the weekend!!!

We were blown away.

Over the course of just over 24 hours, we had created and entered into the Hackathon an application called "Coverage?" that is indeed extremely useful to technomadic travelers like us. Coverage? is an interactive tool that overlays coverage maps from all the major carriers, and lets you indicate whether you need at minimum a roaming, 2G, or 3G signal. You can then scout around to see if your route and the towns ahead are covered by the networks that matter to you.

It is simple in concept, but it was extremely difficult in execution. Cherie toiled for many painful hours creating the maps (there is no easy to work with data source for any of this information), and I worked late into the night writing a map overlay engine, wiring up the UI, and doing the image processing to turn the maps into tiles that could be zoomed and panned.

But in the end, it actually worked. Great teamwork paid off.

When we presented on stage during the Hackathon demo sessions, we capped our demo off by overlaying AT&T's 3G coverage with Verizon's. That got a great reaction from the crowd, and an audience member even tweeted: "Technomadia peeps, AT&T called, they'd like to buy your app (then kill it)". *laugh*

Here is a video that Cherie put together, telling the story behind Coverage?:


And then at the awards ceremony, they announced that we had been voted by the judges as the "Most Useful" - one of the top awards for the entire event. Wow.

Anyway - it was an intense weekend indeed. And now we are racing to get things ready for Burning Man... Afterwards, we will spend some time finishing off Coverage and polishing it up to get it into the app store. Though it took just a weekend to create, there is still a lot to do to make it worthy of public consumption.

Busy, fun, intense, exhausting, exhilarating...

Oh - and there are only a couple days left to vote for our SXSW Panel Proposal on Technomadic mobile living - if you haven't yet, it only takes a minute to register and give us a Thumbs Up. You can vote here: http://bit.ly/dhmfi

And now... Off to Burning Man!
12th-Aug-2010 09:47 am - Technomads @ SXSW 2011 - Vote For Us!
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The SXSW conference in Austin each spring is a grand convergence of the technology, film, and music industries.

This past year our travel schedule had us in the area at the right time, so we "un-attended" the conference, and we had a great time hanging out in Austin attending many meetups and events that were going on around the fringes of SXSW. We were thoroughly impressed by the SXSW vibe, and we set intentions to attend again in 2011.

We also kept hearing from people that we should do more than just attend, and that we would be a great fit as presenters at the conference.

So for 2011, we have decided to pitch a panel!

Title: Technomadism - Living and Working Full-Time on the Road
Why wait until retirement to explore the world?

A panel of experienced technomads will converge at SXSW 2011 to share their stories, offering up practical advice and insights to help others make the leap to a life of adventure and excitement without a fixed home base.

While technology is making it ever easier to work online and remotely, why limit yourself to sitting at home in your PJ's, or roving between coffee shops? Why not take the next step, take your home on the road, and really BE location independent?

Many are embracing a technomadic lifestyle, and many more are looking for inspiration and advice to help them take the leap, cut the cord, and leave the conventional definition of a fixed-place home and work-place behind.

Panel hosts Chris Dunphy & Cherie Ve Ard have been connecting with an ever growing community of others called to nomadism, and for SXSW 2011 they will bring together a diverse collection of other amazing technomads to share their unique experiences and unconventional life paths.

This panel will focus on practical tips on how to leave a fixed-place existence behind and explore a life of technomadism.

The panel selection process for SXSW starts nearly a year in advance. A week ago we heard that our proposal had been deemed "solid", and the panel committee selection sent us this note:
The subject of your panel proposal is one that I think speaks to many people in our core community and would encourage people to make changes that could improve their lives.

Nice!

The next step is getting community feedback and votes, and here we need help to stand out from the other 2,000+ proposed SXSW 2011 panels. So even if you don't think you'll be attending, we would really appreciate your quick "thumbs up" vote.

You can vote here until August 27th: panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/view/5496

Community support accounts for 30% of the selection process, so we would really appreciate any votes you can send our way. Thanks, and spread the word!
5th-Jul-2010 09:31 pm - Running
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Back in March Cherie told me about the Couch-to-5k interval training program, and that she had found a great iPhone app that would make it easy to run/walk to the intervals.

I've always hated running, so I wished her well and watched as she rocked through the first week of the training program.

But...

I was really craving some exercise... And I really liked that running didn't require any gear or fuss... And the trails at McKinney Falls State Park where we were staying near Austin were gorgeous... So...

I decided to give it a try.

I figured I would do the first week or two of the program, and then I would get bored, or my legs would hurt too much, or my feet would get sore.

But to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it!

I've kept up with the program in the months since, and I've discovered that running is a great (and lately much needed) stress relief. I've also been amazed to see just how much my endurance has increased.

Tonight I challenged myself to "graduate" from the Couch-to-5k program, and I ran a full 5k non-stop!

The details of my run (as logged by another great iPhone app - RunKeeper) was 3.15 miles in 39:48 minutes, with an average pace of 12:39 minutes/mile.

I don't think I've ever run that far non-stop in my life, even when I was playing various sports in High School.

Woohoo!

Now, what next?

I certainly am intending to keep at running, at least a few times a week. But now that I've managed to run 5k in 40 minutes, should my next goal be 10k in 90 minutes, or should I work on upping my speed to do 5k in 30 minutes?

Is it better to focus next on speed, or distance?

Who else out there has done much running? Any tips for a novice?

BTW - Here is the iPhone app we have been using to train - it is $2.99, and I highly recommend it: Couch to 5k - Felt Tip Inc. (iTunes Affiliate Link)
17th-May-2010 11:23 am - Introducing: State Lines for iPhone
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We just got word from Apple that our first iPhone app has gone live in the App Store!

Compiled after over 4 years of full time RV road-tripping across the USA, and after many hours of research on state specific information, State Lines is an indispensable traveler’s guidebook to highly variable state regulations.

Currently State Lines tracks 43 pieces of travel relevant information for each of the 50 states; including vehicle gun carry laws, state sales tax, time zones, towing & RV specific laws, gas/diesel taxes, rest area overnight parking rules, default speed limits, alcohol sales laws, smoking bans, open container laws, state park camping entrance fees, pet leash laws, bicycle and motorcycle helmet laws, cell phone & texting bans, left hand turn rules, and more.

State Lines is location aware, so it can automatically show you information about nearby states. The entire State Lines database is integrated into the application, so State Lines works even when you are out of cellular or WiFi coverage.

Here is our Technomadia blog post with more details: link
And here is the link to State Lines in the App Store: link

It has been fun spending the past few months diving into application development, and we've got a lot of other projects in the pipeline. But it is particularly exciting to get the first one out the door.

Woohoo!
14th-May-2010 11:27 pm - Surrendering to the GMail Borg...
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I am contemplating switching my primary @radven.net email to be hosted by Google Apps, and no longer relying on Dreamhost's IMAP service.

The upsides: push email to iPad/iPhone, a great webmail interface with fast search, continued IMAP support for Mail.App, and now at last GMail supports real folder hierarchies (nested labels) to keep things semi-organized....

Are there any downsides?

For years I have forwarded a copy of all email to Google so that I have a backup emergency archive for the times that Dreamhost has gone down. So I guess I've already surrendered on the privacy front...

A few years ago I caught GMail red-handed losing messages, so I am not sure I totally trust Google with preserving my data. Is Google doing any better now, or is that still a risk? Data preservation is MUCH more important than privacy, IMHO.

Thoughts and wisdom from lurking geeks appreciated...
15th-Apr-2010 02:51 pm - Google Earth + NYC = WOW!
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Google Earth in New York City has just been enhanced with vastly more detailed models and textures.

Watch this preview video, and be amazed:

Wow. My jaw is on the floor.

(The music rocks too...)
1st-Apr-2010 12:42 pm - My Four Year Nomadiversary
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Today is my 4th Nomadiversary.

It is hard to believe that I've been on the road for 4 years now. And still there is no end in sight.

To mark the occasion, I've posted my favorite secret to nomadic life over at www.technomadia.com.

Looking back, here are links to my third nomadiversary retrospective, and here is my photo-filled look at my first year on the road.

On this day last year I was doing work on a beach in Malibu California, watching the waves crash. Today I am doing iPhone development in a Texas State Park, staring out upon a field of blooming wild flowers.

Outdoor Office

My office view. Notice how I am using an iPhone as a "second monitor" to bring up reference material while developing. Very handy!

I love the variety in my life. I love not knowing where I will be this time next year.

Life is good.
*grin*
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I've been spending a lot of digging into iPhone / iPad development lately.

The hardware is phenomenal, and the SDK is incredibly clever.

It sometimes seems as if you can make it do almost anything.

But until now, I had not even imagined using an iPhone like this...



Or this...


Egads.

*laugh*
16th-Mar-2010 12:19 pm - Mobile Data Roaming: $10,000/hour
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Can you imagine getting hit with a $10,609.27 bill for spending an hour catching up online?

That's how much AT&T charged my former boss Michael Mace's colleague Nilofer recently for using her datacard while waiting to catch a flight in Toronto.

For more details, read Michael's retelling of the the horror story, and our advice on how to protect yourself.

It could happen to you.

Marking up mobile data rates 300x while roaming?!? No wonder that people tend to think that phone companies are evil. Egads!
26th-Feb-2010 11:45 pm - Movie Review: Tortilla Soup
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Tortilla Soup is a Mexican-American remake of the Taiwanese film Eat Drink Man Woman.

This is a simple feel-good story about three sisters finding their place in life, and about their widower father who happens to be a genius chef who has lost his ability to taste and smell.

The story is utterly formulaic and predictable, but well cast and well acted and ultimately enjoyable.

But what this movie is really about is food porn. There are so many exquisite close up shots of fabulously delicious mexican dishes being prepared that watching Tortilla Soup literally left my mouth watering.

Yummm.

Rating: 3 stars.
26th-Feb-2010 11:40 pm - Movie Review: Waltz with Bashir
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I never would have expected this.

Waltz with Bashir is an animated documentary film from Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman about his personal quest to recover his lost memories from his service in the 1982 Lebanon War.

It is also one of the most powerful and "real" war movies I have ever seen. It has more emotional impact than a dozen hollywood war films combined.

The animation style is absolutely unique, and visually riveting. The movie was put together using Adobe Flash, and I have never seen this style of animation used this way in a feature film before. The musical soundtrack is driven. The story (told via flashbacks as Ari recovers his memory) is utterly compelling.

And the ending really brings it home.

This is an emotionally powerful, visually unique, and absolutely intense movie. Very well worth seeing, even if you are not usually a fan of foreign films with subtitles, animation, documentaries, or war films.

Waltz with Bashir is unlike anything else you have ever seen.

Rating: 4+ stars!
26th-Feb-2010 11:12 pm - Movie Review: Up
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It really sometimes seems that Pixar can do no wrong. As expected, Up is yet another masterpiece.

Some of the awesome elements you'll find in this work of art:

Two old men, each on a very different quest for meaning in their lives.
A talking (SQUIRREL!) dog.
The most amazing airship ever. (This would be my ultimate fantasy flying RV...)
A house held aloft by a million balloons.
And some of the best and most expressive animation that you will ever see.

The animation in Up is indeed beautiful, and once again pushes the state of the art. The characters are refreshingly real and utterly original. And the story is so moving that I dare you to make it through without shedding at least a few tears.

If you haven't seen this yet, do it. If you have, see it again.

Up is absolutely one of the best films of the past year.

Rating: 5 stars! (and a million balloons!!!)
26th-Feb-2010 10:43 pm - Movie Review: Seven Pounds
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Seven Pounds seems like it has everything going for it.

It stars Will Smith, one of my favorite actors.

It is directed by Gabriele Muccino -- who together with Will Smith had made the delightful film The Pursuit of Happyness that I absolutely loved.

It has a powerful core story focused around a man's quest for redemption.

But...

The movie gets so wrapped up in trying to play out the mystery of what the title means and what Will's character is doing that the deeper emotional core of the film gets lost. It is as if the director set out to make a murder mystery whodunit with hints building up to a final reveal.... But.... This isn't that kind of story, and playing it out this way I feel actually diminishes the film.

I can't say much more without delving into spoiler territory.

All I can say is that this is a rather decent movie, but without the forced backwards storytelling it could have been solidly good, or even great.

Rating: 3 stars.
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Zack and Miri Make a Porno explores what might happen if two long-time platonic friends and roommates become convinced that the best way to make enough money to pay the rent and keep from being evicted is to make a porno together.

Take that already pretty absurd concept, and filter it through the middle-school mentality of writer / director Kevin Smith and you almost end up with a recipe for disaster.

Fortunately, Kevin Smith has a knack for taking disaster and pushing right through to the other side - embracing embarrassment and humiliation to find the humor that no one else would even dare film.

The two leads, Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, are well cast. There is actually a sweet love story here lurking beneath the sex jokes and absurd situations.

What there is not much of is titillation. The only skin you'll see in this movie is a naked Jason Mewes demonstrating a double dutch rudder. And trust me, that is not erotic in the least.

But overall, Zack and Miri Make a Porno is an enjoyable if fairly typical Kevin Smith film.

Rating: 3 stars.

PS: I just discovered that Netflix refuses to allow you to use the word "porno" when writing reviews. Uhm... It is in the TITLE of the movie!?!? *laugh*
26th-Feb-2010 09:47 pm - Movie Review: Charlie Wilson's War
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We've seen some good movies over the past few weeks, and some not-so-good ones as well. I'm challenging myself to see how quickly I can crank out reviews of all of them.

First up - Charlie Wilson's War.

This is the fascinating true story of Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson (played by Tom Hanks), telling how he worked the system to fund the "largest covert operation in history" -- the CIA's support of the Afghan Mujahideen in their war against the invading Soviets during the 1980's.

Thanks to Charlie Wilson's work, the covert funding flowing into Afghanistan went from a paltry few million a year to a sizable billion or so -- including training and weapons that gave the Mujahideen a fighting chance against the vastly superior Soviet forces.

Some historians argue that the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan lead to the end of the cold war, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. And other historians would argue that the sorry state we left Afghanistan in lead to the rise of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden.

It is a complex story, and Charlie Wilson was at the center of it. And yet, before the movie (and the book it is based upon), few people knew of his role in turning the tides of history.

Watching Charlie Wilson's War inspired me to do deeper reading into the history of Operation Cyclone. It is clear that the movie vastly simplified and dramatized a rather complex and very multi-sided story, and over-amplified Charlie's role in the center of it all. But it would have been hard for a 2hr dramatic movie to do otherwise. Writer Aaron Sorkin and director Mike Nichols do a great job with such a complex topic, and the cast (including Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman) is fabulous.

Overall, this was a fascinating glimpse into a little known piece of history.

Rating: 4 stars.

PS: Charlie Wilson passed away a week or so ago. I didn't learn about the death of this significant historical figure from the news media, but rather via a tweet from bicyclist Lance Armstrong. The "news" is covering celebrity scandals like Tiger Woods, and I am getting real news via celebrities twittering. Hmmmm....
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If you've paid any attention to the movie reviews I occasionally post here on LiveJournal, you might have noticed that I often link to and quote famed critic Roger Ebert. While I may not always agree with him, I have grown to have an immense respect for him, his insight, and his love of film.

He is my favorite film critic, and an amazingly talented writer.

He is also someone whom I find personally inspiring.

Not many people realize that Roger Ebert barely survived a fight with thyroid cancer, and he lost his jaw, his voice, and his ability to eat and drink in the battle. He hasn't spoken a word since 2006. I only realized how extensive his loss was when I read his blog post "Nil By Mouth" last month.
So that's what's sad about not eating. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. It may be personal, but for, unless I'm alone, it doesn't involve dinner if it doesn't involve talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss. Sentences beginning with the words, "Remember that time?" I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to break out in a poetry recitation at any time. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it's sad. Maybe that's why I enjoy this blog. You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now.

Through his blog, his eloquence as a writer shines through, and has only grown. And he has become one of the most engaged and interactive "celebrities" on the entire net. I love reading his blog posts, his movie reviews, and his tweets.

Chris Jones at Esquire Magazine recently spent a few days shadowing Roger Ebert, and his profile of Roger is one of the most compelling pieces of biography I have read. It is riveting journalism.

(And also see Roger's comments on the interview too...)

From the profile:
"I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out." - Roger Ebert

My rating of Roger...

Rating: 5 stars & two thumbs up.
19th-Feb-2010 01:00 pm - Nautical Nomadia
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The last week has been all about boats.

Meeting some fellow nomads who are also planning to eventually relocate to water had Cherie and I thinking about our someday plans to take our nomadic adventuring out to sea. Then we discovered that one of the largest boat shows in the world was happening this past weekend in Miami - and we couldn't ignore the nomadic serendipity of it all.

We spent the weekend at the boat show, and then we went down to the keys to check out some used boats.

While we aren't anywhere close to being ready to switch from land to sea, we are starting to get a better idea of what we want when the time is right. And since there are so many great deals to be had in the used boat market, we are now keeping our radar up just in case the perfect boat comes along.

If all goes well, maybe by this time next year, we will be living on the water...

Reposted from Technomadia, here is what we are looking for in a future home afloat.

Any comments, wisdom, leads, or advice from the LiveJournal crowd???

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Only a week ago, the thought of Cherie and I sailing off into the sunset was a "certainly, but someday" sort of thing.

But after spending some time at the Miami International Boat Show & Strictly Sailing event, the idea of relocating at least part of the year onto a liveaboard is starting to seem more real.

In the few days since the boat show, we've both shown signs of 'boat fever' - surfing boat listings and dreaming of life on the water. We even managed to route from Miami to Orlando by way of the Florida Keys (only a slight detour) to spend an afternoon checking out a rather sweet used Gemini 3000 catamaran. And yesterday, thanks to an introduction from an online friend, we further detoured to Stuart Florida to meet up with Cindy & Gray of Cindy's Island to tour their boat and hear stories of their past few years on the water.

We've been soaking up insight, experience, and advice - and over a beer at a dockside bar a few nights ago Cherie and I started working on our first draft of the things that we are looking for in our ideal home afloat. Thoughts and feedback appreciated:

Boat Size & Type:

  • Sail! -- We both a drawn to sailboats. Even the nicest motor-cruiser isn't really that interesting to us. Whatever we get, it must have a mast!

  • Monohull or Catamaran? -- A week ago we were feeling strongly drawn toward catamarans. But after seeing some really nice monohull cabin layouts (like the sweet Catalina 375), now it really is a tossup.

  • Sailing Optimized / Light Wind Capable -- We want a boat that is fun to sail, and which is not overly dependent upon its engine. Too many sailboats seem to spend way too much of their time cruising under power. We are not all that concerned about going fast, but would like a boat that can sail (slowly) even in light wind.

  • Cruising Area -- It would be nice to get a boat that would be capable of setting off to circumnavigate the world, but at the very least we want a boat that can handle coastal cruising up both coasts of North America. We want to be able to sail the Pacific Northwest, San Francisco Bay, Baja, the Caribbean, Florida, the Atlantic Coast, and all points in between - including through the Panama Canal.

  • "Thin Water" Capable -- All catamarans can handle shallow water exploration. But if we get a monohull, I don't want to be confined to deeper waters. A "Shoal Draft" capable monohull that draws less than 5' would be great. Less than 4' would be even better. Less than 3' would be amazing. And less than 2' is incredible. But... To get shallow water capability, we do not want to sacrifice too much stability in the process. Finding the sweet spot will be key.

  • Length -- It seems like 30' - 40' is the sweet spot for a liveaboard cruiser. The Gemini 3000 (30') we saw on Monday is definitely a livable size for a catamaran, and the 37' Catalina we toured at the boat show was a great size for a monohull. Whatever size we get, we want it to be sailable singlehandedly by one person.

  • Width -- It would be nice to be able to fit into a standard slip. But what size is considered "standard" in most marinas? The Gemini 3000 is 14' wide and seems a practical width. Many other catamarans are probably too wide to avoid extra marina fees.

  • Mast Height -- In addition to coastal offshore cruising, we want to be able to cruise the Intercoastal Waterway (55' - 65' mast height limit), the "Great Loop", and maybe even explore the Okeechobee Waterway (49' mast height limit) across Florida. To do the inland sections of the Great Loop we will have to be able to drop the mast to clear a 19' bridge near Chicago. If our above water height can be reduced to less than 15', we can cruise the entire Erie canal!

  • Strong Bones -- We want a solid boat that is built to last. An older used boat with a proven pedigree is preferable to a shiny newer boat that will be falling apart in just a few years.

  • Photogenic -- A sailboat is a work of art. We are photographers and travel bloggers. Of course we want a boat that will look good in pictures... *grin*


Layout, Comfort, & Storage:

  • Cabins -- A lot of boats seem designed for the charter market, with three or four or even more small cabins and space overall to sleep twelve or more. We want a boat designed for a couple, with one large and comfy master cabin, and just one private guest cabin so that we can have space to take on a friend for an extended stay as crew. If the boat has more than two cabins, the surplus will be converted into storage or geekery.

  • Heads -- Again because of the charter market, a lot of boats seem to have two or even three bathrooms. We only want one. Any extras are just wasted space and something extra to clean.

  • Headroom -- We will need at least 6' headroom in all the primary interior spaces. I don't want to live in a home where I have to spend a lot of time hunched over.

  • Dry Inside -- Some boats leak a little. Others are known for being "wet" on the inside. Considering how important our electronics and our comfort are, we want a boat the excels at keeping the interior space cozy and dry.

  • No Carpet Headliner -- One of the things we most disliked about the Casita travel trailer was its use of a fuzzy carpet headliner. Carpet gets musty over time, and it is near impossible to clean. In contrast, we really love the bright and low maintenance fiberglass gelcoat interior of our Oliver. We want something just as durable and easy to keep clean in a boat.

  • Comfortable "Boondocking" at Anchor -- A lot of cruising boats seem designed for marina hopping, always ending each day plugged into shore power at the next marina. Bah. While RV'ing we prefer extended boondocking, and while sailing we would like a boat that is happy to spend extended periods of time away from dock.

  • Inside / Outside Dining -- Seating for six would be great - it would be nice to have space to actually entertain guests. Being able to entertain both inside and outside is important too.

  • Screens & Shade -- Having a way to shade and screen the deck would be great. Bugs - not so great.

  • Workspace With A View -- We will continue to spend a lot of time every day working on our computers - and we want the view from our workspace to be inspiring. A lot of monohulls seem to be overly dark inside with not enough windows to let in light or a view. No matter what, we want to have a great view from our main workspace without needing to bring our laptops up on deck!

  • A View To Movies -- We will want to be able to mount at least a 24" screen (and appropriate speakers) for movie watching. Having the screen on a swing arm so that it can be position for use with our laptops as well is great.

  • Storage -- Onboard we will want a place to store a decent dingy, two foldable bikes, and eventually some dive gear as well. And of course, we want enough food and clothing storage to be able to last a while without needing to wash or restock.

  • Cat Friendly -- We will need a place to tuck Kiki's litter box that is both out of the way and accessible for cleaning.

  • Climate Control -- Will we want an air conditioner while at dock? What about some sort of heater when anchored out on cold nights? A good set of ventilation fans and hatches is a must, of course.

  • Paper Towel Holder -- Cherie reminds me that there must be a good place to keep paper towels handy - something all too often overlooked.


Geekery, Systems & Electronics:

  • Solar Power -- We will need space to mount 250-500 watts of solar panels where they will get minimal shade from the boom or mast, and a MPPT capable charge controller. A wind power generator might make a nice addition too.

  • Battery Capacity -- We will need space for at least 200-600 amp hours of AGM storage batteries.

  • Battery Charging -- We will want a large enough alternator on the engine to quickly charge the batteries, and/or a generator that can handle the job. We will also want a nice sized sine wave inverter / charger on board.

  • Water -- We will want space to someday add a water maker, and large enough fresh water tanks to last a while without. And of course, we will need a hot water heater and a filtration system for our drinking water.

  • Antennas -- We will eventually want antennas in the mast for SSB radio, long range WiFi, a cell phone booster, and television reception. Having space to eventually add radar is probably a good idea too.

  • Space For Geekery -- We will need space to mount a chart plotter, various radios, and all sorts of other technology. The more accessible and easy to work with the wiring spaces are, the better.

  • Easy Maintenance & Upgrades -- Too many boats seem to be incredibly poorly designed when it comes to doing maintenance and upgrades. The engine should be easily accessible. Wiring should be accessible, well labeled, and with space for new runs. Plumbing and tanks should be reachable, and well labeled. And so on... You shouldn't have to destroy pretty woodwork to get at the internal systems. I'd rather leave off the "pretty" entirely, and instead focus on intelligent functionality and easy access.


That's the list we came up with - the ideal. Now we need to start debating the tradeoffs, and figuring out where we are willing to compromise and where we are not.

And of course, we want it at all as affordably as possible to maintain our current debt-free lifestyle. Fortunately we've heard plenty of stories lately of great used boats selling for a fraction of what the same aged boat would have sold for a few years ago.

A new boat on the other hand probably does not make any financial sense.

Any thoughts? Things we are missing? Suggested additions or deletions?

And most importantly - please point us towards any boats that come close to meeting our needs!

Anyone who helps us find our perfect cruising home will get a "finders fee" of a nice bottle of rum, and an invitation on board to sail with us.

Ahoy, anyone?
3rd-Feb-2010 03:00 pm - Subtle Treasons
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The other day I was talking with a highly educated, well read, and very proud Navy veteran.

Though he had voted for Obama, he wanted to let me know that he was personally disappointed that Obama was the first president in 110 years to skip attending the Army / Navy Football game.

During the same conversation, he also mentioned that Obama was the first president ever to not attend Christmas Eve church services - and that a lot of people were upset about that as well.

Both claims sounded kinda fishy to me. They reminded me of the many mostly false or half true memes we had to deal with daily when we were working on the campaign.

So I looked it up.

And indeed - my instincts were right.

Snopes.com and Factcheck.org each have an article thoroughly debunking the "UNHOLY and ANTI-AMERICAN TRIFECTA" email that has apparently been making the rounds this month.

The claim about Obama being the first president in 110 years to miss the Army / Navy Game is complete and total BS. Though presidents do occasionally attend the game - ceremonially switching from the home to the away team's side during halftime - there is no long and unbroken tradition of presidents doing so. Reagan and Bush #1 never once attended the game, and Bush #2 only went to the game three times out of his eight years in office.

There is more here in an article on the history of the game:
"When President William J. Clinton watched Army defeat Navy 28-24 in 1996, he was the first president in attendance in 22 years. President George W. Bush watched the game twice in his first term, performing the coin-toss and crossing midfield at halftime."

The "first president not to attend church on Christmas" claim is pretty suspect too. A little bit of research reveals that Obama has so far taken the same stance as Reagan of making it a general policy not to attend public church services because of how disruptive the security requirements would be on others trying to attend. I imagine he would get slammed just as badly for "ruining Christmas" if he had subjected everyone at a church to background checks and x-rays on Christmas Eve. Reagan in his entire eight years never attended a public or private Christmas church service, and the Bush family every year went to a private service at Camp David. Only the Clintons in the past 30 years regularly attended a public Christmas service.

Not that it really should matter to anyone, but when I checked a bit further into the "Godless Obama never goes to church!" claims online, only a little research was necessary to discover that while Obama has yet to join a public church in DC, he does currently go to services semi-regularly at the non-denomination chapel at Camp David - exactly the same as Bush #2.


There will always be plenty of legitimate things to criticize our past and present leaders about. But these sorts of easily disproved yet even more easily propagated attacks are not fair and reasonable criticism - they are essentially a treasonous email virus.

Unsourced emails like this are almost always false, and usually it is clear that they have been intentionally and maliciously fabricated. Whoever started this meme must have known it was a lie, but one that would be readily believed without question by many. These memes then spread rapidly, passed on by people who are too eager to believe they have found evidence to confirm their biases and fears.

Hardly anyone ever bothers to dig deeper, and the truth usually ends up lost in the shuffle.

*sigh*

Really - if you think about it, these sorts of emails are actually maliciously crafted attacks against our nation. Yet even some of the most intelligent and well read end up being duped enough to not just believe, but propagate the attack.

A subtle treason indeed.
31st-Jan-2010 11:36 pm - Movie Review: The Island
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The Island is a movie that ponders some big questions...

What does it mean to be human? What dark future may come from unrestrained advances in biotechnology? Should clones have rights?

And most importantly - what would happen if you unloaded a moving flatbed truck full of giant steel train wheels into pursuing freeway traffic?

The Island has all the right raw material to be a fabulous and thought provoking dystopian sci-fi thriller, or a modern Logan's Run. And it is also packed with enough crazy over the top nonscensical action sequences to be a typical forgettable but fun blockbuster.

But unlike a movie like Terminator 2 where the action and the plot are intrinsically intertwined, watching The Island feels like you are witnessing two completely separate movies that barely tie in to each other.

This quote from the special effect "making of" featurette I think explains it:
"We don't read the script, we just show up with the toys."

Clearly. And it shows.

I wasn't surprised to discover that director Michael Bay went on to make the Transformers movies. At least when he was making The Island he hadn't given up entirely on having some elements of a coherent plot.

The Island does have some stylistically cool bits, some fun big 'boom' bits, a great chase scene, and even some genuinely thought provoking bits.

If only it had more of the glue to tie it all together...

Rating: 3 stars
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