Category: Archived

Emphasize the Flaws

A. I’m a pretty creative thinker. I’m not sure this blog really gets that point across very well, partly because:

B. Along with being creative, I have a terrible tendency to slavishly follow imaginary rules, protocols and etiquettes. Does this sound contradictory? Very well, I contradict myself. (See A, above.)

To break free from some of my own imaginary rules about what makes a blog good or useful  I decided to apply some Oblique Strategies. The strategy for this month (picked at random) was “Emphasize the Flaws.”

Certainly there are a lot of flaws here. One of the most glaring is that I am inconsistent in my posting. Over the past year I’ve posted about religion, politics, digital imaging, Ireland, Jeeping, etc. and etc. Lately I’ve come up with a theme and have been trying to be more consistently “outdoorsy” in my posting.

But to see if said Oblique Strategies can be helpful or useful, I think I must apply the strategy and see what happens. So expect more inconsistent and flawed posting for the rest of this month.

Yes, I’ve Got Monkeys in My Pants

According to Wend Blog a 23 year old Australian was apprehended while trying to smuggle a pair of pigeons into the country in his pants.

This man was clearly an amateur. In 2002 a California man was stopped at customs when a rare bird of paradise flew out of his carry-on luggage. He was also carrying orchids, three other exotic birds, and in his pants a pair of pygmy monkeys.

Or how about this man who tried to smuggle six endangered eggs in his underwear?

Or the woman who taped three live crocodiles to herself?

Finally there is a special kind of soul, a purist, who scoffs at money and engages in this type of endeavor for the sheer thrill. It’s called “ferret legging,” a competition where you see how long you can keep a pair of weasels in your pants.

I’d pay money to see someone do that with a couple of badgers.

On the Road Again


Muddy slough in Apache Canyon

Muddy slough in Apache Canyon

I had good intentions. As I wrote earlier, my plan was to follow Mr. Walsh as if I was following a seasoned trail guide and get my life in order. Purging my life of detritus and crap-ola would reveal my life’s true purpose.

Two weeks later I still believe that. But it’s harder than it sounds. Following Walsh’s advice I did a quick de-kruft and now I’m at the “ten minutes a day, two trash bags” stage. Unfortunately I started Twittering. (You can follow me on Twitter here.

Of course, if I’m going to use Twitter to post updates to my blog then I had better spruce it up a bit. I decided to bite the bullet and install the Woo Themes Papercut  premium theme because I wanted “works out of the box” goodness. It seemed to be worth real money to save some time and have something that just works, wham bam thank’y ma’am.

It turns out that “works out of the box” doesn’t mean that it works the way I want it to. For instance, the Woo Themes four button-ad widget doesn’t accomodate AdSense ads. Bummer.  You can insert the AdSense script into the sidebar php but you must disable the Papercut widgets…meaning that you have to code in your blogroll tags and other sidebar goodies and by that time you’re just pissing upside down. Feh.

I figured out that you can put your Adsense scripts in a Text widget and it kinda works. At least you have your widgets back. But there are other pitfalls. If you want a “leave a comment” link on your front page article you have to hunt down the Word Press tag for a comment link and then you have to crawl through more php code, and if you’re not a programmer (I’m certainly not) it means taking a shot in the dark and stabbing the code between to endif statements and seeing if the whole thing works. Double feh.

None of this is getting me any closer to “Ten minutes, two trash bags” and my ultimate purpose in life. Maybe this is my true purpose, to wander aimlessly past the gates of the great inferno. 

Do you love my new theme by the way? Leave a comment if you do.

By the way—if you used to follow me through an RSS feed you’ll probably have to update your subscription. I’m using Feedburner now because….well, Google made me do it.

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The Diaries of a Suburban Frontiersman


I can’t say for certain that Y Indian Guides made me any closer to my father. It did give us some shared experiences. At age 7 I was able to see my father use his amazing creative abilities. For examle, he taught me how to use the drill press so that we could put an actual Indian-style arrow complete with flint arrowhead through the head of our eagle totem.


More than anything else, Y Indian Guides made me want to become a real Indian. I longed to roam the plains in search of buffalo. Unfortunately my territory was limited to 77th on the north, 80th street on the south, Cowan Avenue on the east and McConnell Avenue on the west. On school days there was a seven block march to school. On alternate weekends I rode my Huffy the same distance to get my hair cut (Regular Boy’s), read the latest issue of the Green Lantern and then sneak into Shopper’s Mart to buy a nickel’s worth of Monster Cards. I have a hazy memory of taking the bus alone down South Sepulvada but I can’t recall the destination.

My greatest adventure was when Stewie persuaded me to follow rabbit trails with him in the hills above Bluff Creek Drive, the back lot above Hughes Aircraft. Stewie convinced me that it would be a fine thing to throw rocks down the hill at the cars in the Hughes parking lot. 

We were captured by Hughes Security. Stewie was handed over to his parents and I, for whatever reason, was allowed to go free. Perhaps the security guard could sense that I would have been murdered if my father ever found out what I had done.

At the tender age of 7 I began learning the skills a man needs to survive the Suburban Frontier. Don’t talk to strangers. Look both ways before crossing the street. Stand up to bullies. Always tip the barber.

I don’t know if kids these days are being coddled or not. It’s stunning that a woman earns the title “America’s Worst Mom” because she let her 9 year old son (that’s 4th grade) ride the subway home from the mall. Personally I think you might want to reserve that title for a mother who drives her children off the levee. But maybe I’m just old-fashioned that way.


NOTE: Some of these links are newer than others. I’m cleaning out my closet of starred RSS feeds.

Do it in the dirt: Wikipedia-style maps out off-road trails by state and region

Coffee has its perks: Moderate coffee usage reduces health risks

Buddy can you spare a dime? How to be a microlender

Low impact living: zero-carbon city…in the desert

Feckin’ brilliant: build your own Surefire tactical flashlight knock-off (tell me how it goes for you)

See You in the Funny Papers: When Newspapers Are Gone What Will You Miss ?

I’ll miss the comics. It’s the first section I turn to when I look at the newspaper. The experience of reading comics online just isn’t the same as it is in the newspaper.

Seth Godin poses the question When newspapers are gone, what will you miss? Godin’s answer is that he’ll miss “local news, investigative journalism and intelligent coverage of national news. Perhaps 2% of the cost of a typical paper.” True that. But I think there’s more to the story than depth of reportage.

For instance. Seth says that comics are better online. Perhaps that’s true for individual strips. But as far as I know you have to seek these out…and when you do that, you don’t encounter comic strips that challenge you. Like Family Circus.

Maybe that’s what I’ll miss most when newspapers are gone. Chance encounters with stuff I wasn’t really looking for. Truth is, since we canceled our subscription to the Ventura County Star (you might call this the Family Circus of local papers) because we were troubled by the waste stream, I no longer encounter stories from A3 or B2. I look at the headlines, usually stuff “above the fold.” Frankly, most of my news comes from my RSS feed and the various blogs that I subscribe to.

I’m always a little startled when I pick up a paper and flip through the back pages. There is a rich depth of reporting, unexplored worlds, hidden treasures that I simply don’t see in the online rags.

And for online local reportage. Like the Family Circus, it just sucks.

You and Your Junk Are One

“I know it sounds strange, but if you start by focusing on the clutter, you will never get organized. Getting truly organized is rarely about ‘the stuff.'” –Peter Walsh, It’s All Too Much

Reading these words I had the feeling that Mr. Walsh knew me, knew my struggle, knew my despair. After all, I’ve been trying wholeheartedly to get more organized. As a writer my career is all about organizing words and thoughts, and I’m pretty damn good at it. So why do I have such trouble in my physical space?

For some years I’ve felt that there must be some kind of Ariadne’s thread that could lead me out of the maze of confusion and crapitation that I’ve created for myself. After all, being uncluttered is pretty simple–when you’re done with something, put it away.

So why the persistence of chaos crapula and smeck in my life? Despite persistent efforts at GTD and the 15 Minute Clean Sweep?

It must be that kruftitation reflects something that’s going on inside me. There’s not such a clear line between the stuff on the outside and the stuff on the inside, a notion that I first got by reading Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. “This eternally dualistic subject-object way of approaching the motorcycle sounds right to us because we’re used to it. But it’s not right. It’s always been an artificial intepretation superimposed on reality. It’s never been reality itself.”

I have only a casual grasp of what Pirsig must mean when he claims that there is a nondualistic relationship between the motorcycle and the rider, or in my case between me and my crap. I’d need a pocket philosopher to go any deeper than that.

Nevertheless I’m going to take Mr. Walsh at his word and shift my mind and my priorities toward decrapifying my life, in hopes that I’ll find a larger sense of purpose at the bottom of the pile.

“…from the clutter and disarray you are going to unearth those things that are most important in your life.” –Peter Walsh, It’s All Too Much

Stanza eReader for iPhone: “unable to parse NCX data from zip”

Typical view from my desk  



Typical view from my desk


Clutter is what I do best, by the looks of things. This morning I spent some time  doing a visualization exercise on my cluttered past and I came to the conclusion that I never got much guidance as a child in how to organize my belongings. OK, that was then. What am I going to do about this crapitation of clutter  today?

I know! I need a mentor! And what better place to find a mentor than in a book! Recalling something that Merlin wrote I decided to get It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff and follow the book as if I was following a human sensei. 

THEN I HAD A REAL FLASH OF BRILLIANCE. Since I have the free Stanza e-reader on my iPhone–which is supposedly a kick-ass reader but I don’t really know because I’ve never used it, but this is as good a time to start as any so–why not download the book? That would be a wicked-great way to start reducing clutter now. 

It takes a little fiddling to set up a Stanza account, and then set up a account, purchase a book and download it, but hey it’s all saving time and gasoline. UNTIL I TRY DOWNLOADING THE BOOK ON MY IPHONE AND GET THIS ERROR: “unable to parse NCX data from zip.” WTF?

By now I’m seriously on a yak-shaving expedition. 

The official Stanza explanation seems to be that Stanza can’t handle all books in the eReader .pdb format. Their solution: DOWNLOAD THE FREE eREADER APP AND USE THAT!!?! I suppose this has something to do with eReader DRM (which requires the original credit card # to unlock the file…I wonder where that credit card number is stored…in the ebook file? Yikes!)

(But wait, Stanza hints that an update is coming soon.)

Maybe “soon” means yesterday. Who knows. Let’s see if there’s an update available now. My iPhone says “no” but iTunes says “yes.”

So NOW I’M TRYING TO UPDATE STANZA. Might as well update my music selection while I’m at it, which means fiddling with Smart Playlists because my other playlists are too big (you know, I’ve got a lot of dups that I should clear out one of these days…) and causing a sync error which won’t let me update Stanza. 

This is painful. 

OK, screw the music. I selected “don’t update music” and onward we go.

BINGO! That did the trick! For some reason the App app on my iPhone hadn’t alerted me to the fact that there was a Stanza update available. 

Bottom line: Stanza 1.7 fixes the “unable to parse NCX data from zip” error. And now I have a very clean yak.

Font Agent Pro 4.0.3 Kills Font Activation in Classic

One of the cool things about Font Agent Pro is that you can manage fonts in BOTH Classic and OS X.  That convenience ends with the FAP 4.0.3 update. (Actually we have a couple of users who are cool with 4.0.3. But the update took out five production machines, so I’m calling it a problem.)

OK, this is all a little stone age, I know. But some of us still have big legacy workflows in Classic. 

Here’s the only fix that I’ve found so far: use the Uninstall Font Agent Pro application that comes in the Tools folder with the FAP 4.0.3 update. I don’t think the Uninstaller really does anything besides throw the app in the trash. 

Next, re-install 4.0.2…you did keep the package didn’t you? If not, you’re pretty well screwed. 

Finally, check the Activate Fonts in Classic tick box in the Activation panel of FAP Preferences, and then restart Classic. All should be rainbows and unicorns again.