Category: Personal

Kids proclaim last weekend as “Best camping trip ever”

We had perfect weather for camping last weekend. It was a bit sketchy at first. As we pulled out of the garage the sky grew darker and darker, ultimately devolving into a downpour complete with minor hailstones. The kids were engrossed in a flick, but Christy was worried. She had visions of a weekend zipped inside our tent with nothing to entertain ourselves but non-stop Go Fish and hardcore potty humor from me and the kids. But, as often happens, the storm cleared as suddenly as it began and turned into one of the prettiest days I’ve seen in a while.

Mineral Wells State Park is one of our favorite weekend camping spots. It is close to Dallas but not too close. Our campsite was on a small bluff with the lake and surrounding hills visible through the trees.

We made it through the weekend without serious mishap, although one was narrowly avoided. My son and I found a trail that wound down from our camp site to the water. We sat on the rocks with our feet in the cool water and ultimately decided that it would be a travesty if we didn’t jump in and swim for a while.

The still water was cool and deep. And how refreshing it was to be at a lake that isn’t surrounded by development or infested with swarming jet skis or obnoxious ski boats.

I couldn’t talk him in to venturing too far from the rocky shore. Although accidental, he did manage to get in up to his chin. “What’s the difference between this and the swimming pool?” I asked. “This has no sides!” he replied, which I guess is a pretty good point.

He decided to stretch out on one of the warm rocks at the water’s edge like a long, lanky lizard. I thought that looked like a decent idea so I started to climb out. What happened next was over pretty quick but it was one of those moments that plays out in your mind in stop-motion. I lost my footing on the sharp, slimy rocks and fell backwards towards the water. I prepared myself for the unseen pointed stick or rock that would surely break my fall in a most unpleasant way. The anticipated pain never came. The drop-off was steep enough that I did not get impaled on anything. I came out of the water laughing my ass off, but then noticed how narrowly I had escaped disaster. The rock I snagged with my left hand on the way into the water had knocked my wedding ring off. Thanks to an amazing stroke of luck (and my cat-like reflexes) I had unconsciously managed to snag it with my fingertips, saving it from a permanent home at the bottom of the lake and saving myself from a very, very long ride home with Christy.

My son thought this whole thing was hilarious, particularly when I showed him the green algae skid mark down my left side.

Other than that everyone made it through unscathed although my daredevil daughter had a few wipe-outs on her bike. No matter how well you think you explain it, I guess the physics lesson involving excessive speed, bicycle tires, sharp turns, and gravel is just something she insists on learning for herself.

By the way, if you make it out to Mineral Wells State Park, check ahead of time to see if there will be a night hike and sign up. We learned all sorts of cool stuff on the walk led by the Park Naturalist. It’s hard to beat a walk through the woods at night with the Milky Way shining and the screech owls calling.

Great sailing today

My friend Brian, Dad, and I went out on Texoma today on Vampyrita as part of a revitalized “Buddy Sail” program. The Buddy Sail program was started by Jay at Texas Charters. The idea was that Jay would send out a note at the start of the week saying which boat was going to be taken out that coming weekend, and whomever wanted to show up could go sailing for $50 which paid for part of the day’s charter fee.

Jay closed down and moved to Key West to run a charter on a beautiful boat called the Freedom Won. But his old pal Greg is keeping the Buddy Sail tradition alive. Greg bought Jay’s Ranger 23, Vampyrita, and today we took her on the first voyage of the newly-revitalized Buddy Sail program.

The day threatened to be stormy but it was actually picture perfect. Dense cloud cover for most of the day kept the temperature down and the winds averaged about 15 knots but died down substantially around 2:00. We had a light shower every now-and-then but nothing terrible–we all agreed the sprinkles were refreshing and of course had the added benefit of bringing with it that sweet, after-rain smell.

If you are in the North Texas area and you are looking to spend an afternoon sailing but you don’t have a boat, check out Greg’s Buddy Sail Yahoo Group. I’ve been on several now and I’ve found them to be a fun, friendly, and cheap way to enjoy sailing.

Excellent sailing two weeks in-a-row

Dad and I had the second week of excellent sailing in-a-row. Last week we went out on a Hunter 34 named Vesper Light. We covered about 30 miles in the 5 hours or so while we were out. Today we went out on a Catalina 42 named Cakewalk. Both outings were part of a “buddy sail” program at Texas Charters (link not working when I checked it last) up at Lake Texoma. They send out an email during the week with the name and model of the boat going out that weekend and whomever is interested replies and then shows up. Unfortunately, Jay is shutting down the whole operation to concentrate on his charter business.

Music acquisitions

Trying to get caught up on non-biz-related blogging, here are my latest CD acquisitions…

Kicking Television: Live in Chicago, Wilco. Love it. If you are a fan of the newer Wilco stuff (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A Ghost is Born, etc.) you have to get this. There are even a couple of tracks from the Mermaid albums.

Live at Stubb’s, Matisyahu. Matisyahu is a reggae artist who happens to be a hacidic jew. Heard his single on a Paste compilation (Heights, I think) and liked it a lot. How can you go wrong with reggae?

Heavy Ornamentals, The Gourds. My favorite Gourds album in a while but may still not be as good as Cow, Fish, Fowl, or Pig. This one somehow seems a little less “out there” than previous Gourds albums–I can’t put my finger on it.

dither, moe. I seem to be on a “jam band” kick lately. This is my first moe. album. (Yes, there’s a period there–not sure why). It’s a little less funky and maybe even less jam-y than I hat expected/wanted. A couple of the tracks could actually get airplay on mainstream radio.

Pizza Deliverance, Drive By Truckers. I like this album a lot. It is a remaster of some old stuff by DBT. It’s much more than their later “70’s stadium rock” releases.

One Step Closer, The String Cheese Incident. First taste of these guys. I like it and I’ll keep buying their albums but I don’t play this one over and over. Maybe my problem is that I tend to compare all of these jam band albums to Phish which leaves me feeling a little disappointed.

There will be a Light, Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama. I’m not a fan of gospel by any stretch of the imagination but I love Ben Harper and this is a great album. Ben’s got a new one coming out March 21.

Okemah and the Melody of Riot, Son Volt. Son Volt is back and I couldn’t be happier. I do like Jay’s solo stuff but the straight rock-and-roll sound of Son Volt is my preference. Go for the “dual disc” option to get music on one side and a documentary on the other.

Get Behind Me Satan, The White Stripes. If you liked the previous White Stripes albums you’ll like this one because it is very much the same. But hey, it works.

Recent reads

Ship it! A Practical Guide to Successful Software Projects, Jared Richardson, William Gwaltney. A short book and an extremely quick read. The book is a set of tips for practical improvements software development teams can make to their project execution. The general tips are no-brainers: use automated builds, source code control, bug tracking, etc. But the specific advice on how to implement these is very good. The authors provide tips for getting started as well as how to know when you’re doing it right. Even though our practice is doing pretty good on most of this stuff I still found several good nuggets worth implementing. We’ve ordered copies for the whole practice.

Go To: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists and Iconoclasts–The Programmers Who Created the Software Revolution, Steve Lohr. The title says it all. This book reads like a collection of magazine articles arranged in rough chronological order on topics starting with Fortran and eventually making its way to the Open Source movement. This book can be enjoyed by readers with or without technical backgrounds. Those in the tech industry will probably find some of the stories insightful but you’ll have to put up with the occassional explanation for the non-techies in the audience (like what WYSIWYG stands for or the broad brush description of object-oriented programming).

I am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe. This was the first time I’d read Tom Wolfe. I loved it. He’s got quite a unique and engaging style of writing. The novel is about a small town girl who graduates at the top of her class and learns a lot about the real world at college (major understatement). The secondary characters–a basketball player, an intellectual elitist, and a fraternity member–have stories that are intertwined with Charlotte’s. I found that those archetypes ran pretty true to life. The book is sort of like the movie Crash–there’s something not to like about each of the characters. It’s a long book but quite a page turner. Unlike some books that sort of fizzle out at the end, this one left me really keyed up–I was really frustrated. Not with the writing or the ending per se but with the characters. It’s not often I read something that makes me want to strangle one or more of the characters. That’s a good thing.

Recent reads

Hey Ranger! : True Tales of Humor & Misadventure from America’s National Parks, by Jim Burnett. A quick and humorous read about the crazy things that happen to park rangers. The author’s sense of humour is pretty corny but entertaining. The first half of the book is better than the last half. The last half feels a little bit like filler.

Alone at Sea: The Adventures of Joshua Slocum, by Ann Spencer. This is a biography of Joshua Slocum. Joshua is a legendary sailor who had to learn how to find meaning in his life as the age of clipper ships gave way to steam. He refurbished an old oyster boat and sailed around the world single-handed. This was an informative book that got me excited about learning more about Slocum and reading some of his books. My only complaint was that the story seemed to jump around a bit instead of being strictly chronological. Reading this gave me an appreciation for how someone like Bernard Moitessier might come to idolize Slocum.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, by David Sedaris. I think David Sedaris is hilarious. This collection of essays is similar to his other material in that it focuses on his childhood, his family, and the mundane details of life, in general. The first half of the book seems funnier than the last half. By the end the essays left me feeling a bit sorry for the guy. His family strikes me as full of people who are funny as hell to read about but that you might not want to spend much time with.

Recent reads

Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe, by Bill Bryson. One of his earlier works. Not as funny as his others but still good, particularly if you’ve ever travelled to Europe.

South: The Endurance Expedition, by Ernest Shackleton. The author’s first-hand account of the expedition. Actually, I’m horrified to admit that I found this a bit hard to get through. I’ve already read and re-read the story so slogging through the details of being ice-bound in Antarctica was trying at times.

A Voyage for Madmen, by Peter Nichols. Very, very good. It is the story of the first successful solo circumnavigation and, simultaneously, the first round-the-world race. If you have never read Moitessier’s Long Way, read it as well. This one doesn’t get you into Moitessier’s zen-like mindset.