Tag Archives: Recreation

What I’ve Learned from Dogs… It’s “a pack thing.”

By Antsy McLain
As I write this, a steady rain taps on the window to my left, and distant thunder promises more of the same for the day. A gray Schnauzer sits a few feet away as I write this. He’s 6 years old now, approaching mid life, and seems to be content to be anywhere I am, doing anything I want to do. This, I’m sure you agree, is not the kind of relationship we can have with other humans.
We’re about to go “bye bye” to the store on the corner, so I can’t write for long. I have already said the words bye bye, and therefore set him at his hyper alert state, giddy at my slightest movement, and ready to bolt toward the door. He just whined a little, his low mournful whine that sounds so human, I’m thinking this sentence may not even get finished before I have to leave. (There. A few Snausages. He’ll be fine for a few more paragraphs.)

As we drive to the store, I will crack the window and let him smell everything outside the car as we ride. His nose will add the tell tale streaks on the glass as he watches the world go by. I’ll see the streaks the next time I get in the car without him, and smile. I’ll tell myself I need to wash them off, but I know I won’t follow through with it.

I wrote the word ‘dog owner’ a few times above as way to describe myself, and it immediately felt awkward. It didn’t sound right because it’s inaccurate. Charlie found us, and we never “bought” him from anyone. I don’t think of myself as “owning” Charlie. He’s a part of the family, or more accurately, we belong to the same pack.

Our son Grant was playing outside our house with his friends, and Charlie strutted up to him, picked Grant out from all the other kids, and didn’t leave. The kids all played with him, but he hung out with Grant. It was the same later when he met the rest of the family.

He had a collar with a tag that said “Buddy,” and we called the number. He had gone missing three months earlier about 40 miles away. They told us they had already replaced him, and we could have him. They offered to mail us his papers — meaning his pedigree (they proudly announced he was AKC) — but never impressed with the papers or credentials of humans all that much, we didn’t see why having papers would make this good-hearted dog any more valuable to us than he already was, so we declined.

Grant renamed him Charlie. Being schooled in the art of incentives (at least in the human family), I set out to learn Charlies favorite things, and within days discovered Charlies’s incomparable talents as a ball retriever (only yellow tennis balls, I found out), singer, and cuddler. Like all dogs, he responds to treats and the imminent possibility of road travel. Come to think of it, my favorite people also hold travel and junk food in high regard, so maybe it is “a pack thing.”

I wrote the song with Charlie next to me. I thought of him in every verse. I’ve had many dogs in my 50 years, some of them very close to me, two of them were soul mates. When Moo Moo died, I cried in long, hard fits that left pieces of my soul in dregs along the backyard to where I buried her. Those pieces of me are still there.

But never have I connected to the soul of a dog like this moppy, gray haired barker at my feet. And never have I learned more from an animal.

But you know, they say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And maybe it’s me. Maybe I was getting in my way all along. Charlie was out there. Waiting. And when it seemed we were ready, he came loping up the street and made friends with Grant.

We thought he was just sniffing us out. But more likely he was saying, “Hey, let’s go on an adventure! With lotsa treats, tennis balls and road trips! It’ll be fun! And you just might learn something.”

OK, Charlie, ready to go “BYE BYE?” Oh, man. You should see him now. ha.


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This Creepy App Isn’t Just Stalking Women Without Their Knowledge, It’s A Wake-Up Call About Facebook Privacy [Update]

by John Brownlee

This Creepy App Isn’t Just Stalking Women Without Their Knowledge, It’s A Wake-Up Call About Facebook Privacy [Update]

This app is meant to all be in good fun, but it’s potentially a weapon in the hands of stalkers.

“Boy, you sure have a lot of apps on your phone.”

“Well, it’s my job.”

“What’s your favorite?”

“Oh, I couldn’t choose. But hey, want to see one to set your skin crawling?”

It was the flush end of a pleasurably hot day — 85 degrees in March — and we were all sipping bitter cocktails out in my friend’s backyard, which was both his smoking room, beer garden, viticetum, opossum parlor and barbecue pit. I was enjoying the warm dusk with a group of six of my best friends, all of whom seemed interested, except for my girlfriend… who immediately grimaced.

Girls Around Me? Again?” she scolded. “Don’t show them that.”

She turned to our friends, apologetically.

“He’s become obsessed with this app. It’s creepy.”

I sputtered, I nevered, and I denied it, but it was true. I had become obsessed with Girls Around Me, an app that perfectly distills many of the most worrying issues related to social networking, privacy and the rise of the smartphone into a perfect case study that anyone can understand.

It’s an app that can be interpreted many ways. It is as innocent as it is insidious; it is just as likely to be reacted to with laughter as it is with tears; it is as much of a novelty as it has the potential to be used a tool for rapists and stalkers.

And more than anything, it’s a wake-up call about privacy.

The only way to really explain Girls Around Me to people is to load it up and show them how it works, so I did. I placed my iPhone on the table in front of everyone, and opened the app.

The splash screen elicited laughter all around. It’s such a bitmap paean to the tackiest and most self-parodying of baller “culture”; it might as well be an app Tom Haverford slapped together in Parks And Recreation. But it does, at a glance, sum up what Girls Around Me is all about: a radar overlaid on top of a Google Map, out of which throbs numerous holographic women posing like pole dancers in a perpetual state of undress.

“Okay, so here’s the way the app works,” I explained to my friends.

Girls Around Me is a standard geolocation based maps app, similar to any other app that attempts to alert you to things of interest in your immediate vicinity: whether it be parties, clubs, deals, or what have you. When you load it up, the first thing Girls Around Me does is figure out where you are and load up a Google Map centered around your location. The rest of the interface is very simple: in the top left corner, there’s a button that looks like a radar display, at the right corner, there’s a fuel meter (used to fund the app’s freemium model), and on the bottom left is a button that allows you to specify between whether you’re interested in women, men or both.

It’s when you push the radar button that Girls Around Me does what it says on the tin. I pressed the button for my friends. Immediately, Girls Around Me went into radar mode, and after just a few seconds, the map around us was filled with pictures of girls who were in the neighborhood. Since I was showing off the app on a Saturday night, there were dozens of girls out on the town in our local area.

This Creepy App Isn’t Just Stalking Women Without Their Knowledge, It’s A Wake-Up Call About Facebook Privacy [Update]

Girls Around Me’s splash screen (left) and geo-maps interface (right). Lots of girls around the MFA.

“Wait… what? Are these girls prostitutes?” one of my friends asked, which given the Matrix-like silhouettes posing on the splash screen was a pretty good question.

“Oh, no,” I replied. “These are just regular girls. See this girl? Her name’s Zoe. She lives on the same street as me and Brittany. She works at a coffee shop, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t moonlight picking up tricks.”

“How does it know where these girls are? Do you know all these girls? Is it plucking data from your address book or something?” another friend asked.

“Not at all. These are all girls with publicly visible Facebook profiles who have checked into these locations recently using Foursquare. Girls Around Me then shows you a map where all the girls in your area trackable by Foursquare area. If there’s more than one girl at a location, you see the number of girls there in a red bubble. Click on that, and you can see pictures of all the girls who are at that location at any given time. The pictures you are seeing are their social network profile pictures.”

“Okay, so they know that their data can be used like this for anyone to see? They’re okay with it? ”

“Probably not, actually. The settings determining how visible your Facebook and Foursquare data is are complicated, and tend to be meaningless to people who don’t really understand issues about privacy,” I explained. “Most privacy settings on social networks default to share everything with everyone, and since most people never change those… well, they end up getting sucked up into apps like this.”

“But they know they’ve checked in, right?”

“Again, not necessarily. Foursquare lets you check other people into a location. If you get checked into Foursquare by a friend without your knowledge and have a publicly visible Facebook profile, you could end up in here.” (Update: Apparently, I wasn’t correct about this. Foursquare does NOT allow you to check other people in with you without their knowledge; I was confusing Foursquare for Facebook, which does offer this functionality. Thanks for the correction, unknown8bit! – JRB)

One of my less computer-affable friends actually went pale, and kept on shooting her boyfriend looks for assurance. A Linux aficionado who was the only person in our group without a Facebook account (and one of the few people I’d ever met who actually endorsed Diaspora), the look he returned was one of comical smugness.

“But wait! It gets worse!” I said, ramping things up.

“So let’s say I’m a bro, looking to go out for a night on the town and pick someone up. Let’s say I’m going to the Independent around the corner, and checking it out ahead of time, I really like the look of this girl Zoe — she looks like a girl I might want to try to get with tonight — so I tap her picture for more information, see what I can find out about here.”

I tapped on Zoe. Girls Around Me quickly loaded up a fullscreen render of her Facebook profile picture. The app then told me where Zoe had last been seen (The Independent) and when (15 minutes ago). A big green button at the bottom reading “Photos & Messaging” just begged to be tapped, and when I did, I was whisked away to Zoe’s Facebook profile.

“Okay, so here’s Zoe. Most of her information is visible, so I now know her full name. I can see at a glance that she’s single, that she is 24, that she went to Stoneham High School and Bunker Hill Community College, that she likes to travel, that her favorite book is Gone With The Wind and her favorite musician is Tori Amos, and that she’s a liberal. I can see the names of her family and friends. I can see her birthday.”

“All of that is visible on Facebook?” one of the other girls in our group asked.

“More, depending on how your privacy settings are configured! For example, I can also look at Zoe’s pictures.”

I tapped on the photo album, and a collection of hundreds of publicly visible photos loaded up. I quickly browsed them.

“Okay, so it looks like Zoe is my kind of girl. From her photo albums, I can see that she likes to party, and given the number of guys she takes photos with at bars and clubs at night, I can deduce that she’s frisky when she’s drunk, and her favorite drink is a frosty margarita. She appears to have recently been in Rome. Also, since her photo album contains pictures she took at the beach, I now know what Zoe looks like in a bikini… which, as it happens, is pretty damn good.”

My girlfriend scowled at me. I assured her Zoe in a bikini was no comparison, and moved on.

“So now I know everything to know about Zoe. I know where she is. I know what she looks like, both clothed and mostly disrobed. I know her full name, her parents’ full names, her brother’s full name. I know what she likes to drink. I know where she went to school. I know what she likes and dislikes. All I need to do now is go down to the Independent, ask her if she remembers me from Stoneham High, ask her how her brother Mike is doing, buy her a frosty margarita, and start waxing eloquently about that beautiful summer I spent in Roma.”

This Creepy App Isn’t Just Stalking Women Without Their Knowledge, It’s A Wake-Up Call About Facebook Privacy [Update]

The Girls of Girls Around Me. It’s doubtful any of these girls even know they are being tracked. Their names and locations have been obscured for privacy reasons.

Throughout this demonstration, my group of friends had been split pretty evenly along gender lines in their reactions. Across the board, the men either looked amused or (in the case of my beardo Diaspora friend) philosophically pleased with themselves about their existing opinions about social networking. The women, on the other hand, looked sick and horrified.

It was at this point, though, that the tendrils of the girls’ unease — their deeply empathic sense of someone being unsafe — seemed to creep through the entire group.

“And if that doesn’t work on Zoe,” I concluded, consulting the app one last time. “There are — let’s see — nine other girls at the Independent tonight.”

Often times, a writer uses tricks and exaggerations to convey to a reader the spirit — if not the precise truth — of what occurred. I just want to make clear that when I say that one of my friends was actually on the verge of tears, you understand that this is not such a trick. She was horrified to the point of crying.

“How can Apple let people download an app like this?” she asked. “And have you written about this?”

In answer to the first question, I replied that as sleazy as this app seemed, Girls Around Me wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. Sure, on the surface, it looks like a hook-up app like Grindr for potential stalkers and date rapists, but all that Girls Around Me is really doing is using public APIs from Google Maps, Facebook and Foursquare and mashing them all up together, so you could see who had checked-in at locations in your area, and learn more about them. Moreover, the girls (and men!) shown in Girls Around Me all had the power to opt out of this information being visible to strangers, but whether out of ignorance, apathy or laziness, they had all neglected to do so. This was all public information. Nothing Girls Around Me does violates any of Apple’s policies.

In fact, Girls Around Me wasn’t even the real problem.

“It’s not, really, that we’re all horrified by what this app does, is it?” I asked, finishing my drink. “It’s that we’re all horrified by how exposed these girls are, and how exposed services like Facebook and Foursquare let them be without their knowledge.”

But I didn’t have an easy answer ready for my friend’s last question. I’d been playing with the app for almost two months. Why hadn’t I written about it? None of the answers made me look good.

Part of it was because, like many tech professionals, I had taken for granted that people understood that their Facebook profiles and Foursquare data were publicly visible unless they explicitly said otherwise… and like my beardo Diaspora friend, I secretly believed that people who were exposed this way on the Internet without their knowledge were foolish.

That made Girls Around Me a funny curio, a titillating novelty app, the kind of thing you pulled out with your buddies at the bar to laugh about… and maybe secretly wish had been around when you were younger and single and trying to pull some action. And if I’d written a post about it a month ago, it would have probably been from that angle. The headline might well have been: “No More Sausage Fests With Girls Around Me [Humor]”

It was in just this spirit that I’d shown off the app to my friends in the first place. It was getting late, we were all drunk or on the verge of getting there, and it had been a perfect day. It would have been so nice to finish things with a laugh. But now, as six intelligent, sophisticated friends from a variety of backgrounds surrounded me — some looking sick, some looking angry, and some with genuine fear in their faces — I didn’t think Girls Around Me was so funny. It had cast a pall across a beautiful day, and it had made people I loved feel scared… not just for the people they loved, but for complete strangers.

So I’m writing about it now. Not because Girls Around Me is an evil app that should be pulled from the iOS App Store, or because the company that makes it — Moscow-based i-Free — is filled with villains. I still don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with what this app is doing, and the guys at i-Free are super nice, and certainly don’t mean for this app to be anything beyond a diversion. So, the reason I’m writing about Girls Around Me is because I finally know what to say about it, and what it means in the greater picture.

Girls Around Me isn’t an app you should use to pick up girls, or guys for that matter. This is an app you should download to teach the people you care about that privacy issues are real, that social networks like Facebook and Foursquare expose you and the ones you love, and that if you do not know exactly how much you are sharing, you are as easily preyed upon as if you were naked. I can think of no better way to get a person to realize that they should understand their Facebook privacy settings then pulling out this app.

That’s why I hope you’ll go download Girls Around Me on your iPhone or iPad. It’s free to download. Show it to someone. Give them the same demo I gave to my friends. Then, when they ask how it’s done and how they can prevent an app like Girls Around Me from tracking them, educate them about privacy.

Here’s a good place to start.

Update: In response to this story, Foursquare has killed Girls Around Me’s API access to their data, effectively knocking the app out of commission. For more details and a statement from Foursquare, read here.

Update 2: As of Saturday evening, Girls Around Me has been yanked from the iOS App Store.

Update 3: Girls Around Me developer i-Free has released a full statement on the app, in which they say they’ve done nothing wrong and been made a scapegoat for privacy issues. You can read their response — and ours — here.

Update 4: Think this issue’s dead now that Girls Around Me has been killed? It’s not at all. In fact, it’s very possible Girls Around Me could come back with its core functionality intact.

Update 5: We’ve written a guide on cutting apps like Foursquare and Facebook off from tracking your data. Read it here.

Update 6: Girls Around Me’s developer gave Cult of Mac an interview, in which they said that the app wasn’t for stalking girls without their knowledge, but for avoiding women who are ugly.


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5 Things You Can Do To Make Wild Animals Hate You (That You Never Knew Were Cruel)

Most people love wild animals, especially when they visit your yard and let you have a flash of the wild from the comfort of your porch.

Unfortunately, a lot of the things that we do can end up hurting animals, even though we have the very best of intentions. Check out these five ways that you are being cruel when you try to be kind.

Feed Them (and Then Stop)

While feeding wild animals might seem like the best thing you can do to keep them happy and healthy, you need to remember that you are taking on a big responsibility. The animals may come to rely on you as a source of food, meaning that if you stop feeding them, they may have nowhere else to turn. This is especially harmful if the increased food supply has led to them having more babies than normal.

Use a Humane Trap (At the Wrong Time of Year)

Humane traps, such as those used in skunk relocation, are certainly a kind way to deal with nuisance animals, but only if you make sure not to use them during breeding seasons. If you time it wrong you could end up trapping a nursing mother. Even if you release her without moving her, the time that she spent in the trap and away from her babies could be a death sentence if they are very young. If you’re going to try skunk relocation, learn how to trap a skunk humanely first.

‘Rescue’ a Baby (When it Was Perfectly Fine)

Baby birds are piteous little creatures, and the sight of one out of its nest tugs at the heartstrings. The problem is, they often don’t need rescuing.

Baby birds leave the nest when they are learning to fly, and their parents continue to feed them while they are on the ground. When you ‘rescue’ the baby, all you are doing is moving it away from where the parents are coming to feed it. If the area is dangerous it is fine to move the bird onto a wall or under a bush, but otherwise, if the bird has feathers leave it alone. Birds that are obviously young can be put back in the nest if you can find it.

Feed Them (The Wrong Food)

Even if you only feed wild animals a small amount very occasionally, you can cause big problems if you feed them the wrong food. For example, bread and milk is definitely not suitable for hedgehogs and can make them quite sick. If you are going to feed wild animals make sure that you are leaving out something that will agree with their digestion.

Own a Cat (and Let it Outside)

Cats are hunters. It isn’t their fault, but it is in their nature. Cats kill countless birds, rodents and other small animals every day and have been implicated in the decline of songbird populations. At the very least, make sure your cat has a bell on its collar to give the animals the chance to get away.

Now that you know the effects of these practices, you can make sure that the effect that you have on your wild visitors is the one that you intended from the start.

Your next step should probably be learning more about skunk relocation or how to keep rabbits out of the garden humanely and safely, now that you know about wild animals. Post written by guest blogger Mike Ishman.


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What the Flickr You Talking About?

If there is one thing that bugs the flick out of most of us “social media” folks it is a scam.  I know that Flickr has been around for a while, and although it never crossed my mind to use it, there was an opportunity to try it out.

We had just come from a huge wonderful family reunion in of all places “New Harmony Utah” and the urge to share all of the wonderful photographs that were downloaded on my computer on the way back home from my daughter, my wife, and my two cameras (one $3,000 Canon and one iPhone) was tremendously overwhelming and I thought that Flickr would be a cool thing to try out to share.   Now how was that for a completely run-on sentence that reminded me of one of my teenage daughters , although they are no longer teen age and it must have been the mocha carp-a-chino that has invaded my brain and making me think like, no not talk like but I feel the same frenzy, a valley girl. Yikes!  (I thought I owed you a short sentence after that entire dribble).

Being the diligent follower of technology I logged into my Flickr account and began the usually intuitive process of uploading photos.  Having been a professional photographer for some 35 years, I have become an aficionado of the digital age, as most have.  There is no longer the constraint of the 36 exposure “roll” of “film” rather the limitations of your memory card.  The result of this is that where in the ‘70’s I would have been restricted to the several cans of film that would have been loaded from my 100 foot reel of bulk film, there are now virtually limitless exposures available to anyone with the temerity to invest in extra “memory.”  The result of my current process is that it is a rare occasion indeed when my “picture count” is not in excess of the many hundreds, particularly when the event is a hugely family oriented thing, and one can be relatively certain that everyone involved is interested in seeing themselves represented.  I.E. I had lots of images to upload.

Flickr is most enticing in that every move that I made was well received.  There were no questions as to the length or breadth of my photographic content. There were no admonitions of an impending limit other than the broadcast “300Meg” maximum.  After I had uploaded roughly half of my images, at a cost to me of roughly a half of an hour, the little mother Flickr declared that I would need to “upgrade” in order for any but my last 200 uploaded images to appear on my “page.”

Well, Flick you!  I have subsequently uploaded the entirety of the family reunion onto WebShots, a website that is not run by Yahoo but still seems to remain solvent without deception.  I offer this only for those who might be similarly seduced into thinking that most people are actually trying to offer a decent service on the web, and let their excellence entice the payment out of respect.  Apparently Flickr doesn’t think they have to play that game.

I wish you well.


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Gone in 60 Seconds No More

In the year 2000, Nicholas Cage made a film about a master car thief trying to save his brother by stealing 50 cars in three days. The implication is that Cage’s character is such an excellent car thief that, if he sets his eyes on your vehicle, it will be be “gone in 60 seconds.” While the film’s premise strained credibility even when it was released, a decade later the idea that any car thief, no matter how skilled, could have such an easy time making off with a car would not only be unlikely, it would be very nearly impossible.

In the decade since that movie came out, car theft is down by over 60%. This is due in large part to advances in technology meant to make it more difficult for thieves to have their way with a car unless they have a degree in automotive engineering or computer science.

The first obstacle is that modern cars are basically impossible to start unless you have the key. A car’s key is now electronically encoded so that its computer will not start the vehicle until it confirms that they key is in the ignition and has been properly turned. In fact, many thieves are now resorting to home break-ins simply to steal car key. Indeed, statistics suggest that this is the motivation for as many as 1/5 of such break-ins.

Furthermore, old methods of hot-wiring cars are now untenable. With cars made earlier than the 90’s, a thief could simply remove the dash and fiddle with the various parts down there until something fired up – it was actually laughably easy, even for someone who didn’t know how to do it beforehand. This problem was solved by putting those components in a place where they could not be so readily accessed by someone who should not be touching them. Of course, since these components may need to be looked at for purposes of repair, they are accessible by some means. But getting to them without proper knowledge is extremely difficult, and even then there are other safeguards in place.

There have also been advances in the less electronically-oriented areas of preventing auto theft. Cars made in the last decade have locks with harder steel than those of previous models, and as such are harder break open with a simple tool like a screwdriver. The glass in contemporary cars is also considerably harder to break, and many cars are now programmed not to unlock from the inside when the owner is away. This means the thief has to actually climb in over the glass he has broken in order to get to the steering wheel, which is often enough to make a would-be thief simply move on.

With all the safety measures in place, petty criminals are have much less incentive to even try stealing cars. Organized crime may be able to amass the resources to steal some modern cars, but since they are much more likely to target very high-end luxury cars, the average car owner need not give them much worry.

Are you looking for the cheapest rates on Alberta auto insurance for your vehicle? If you fill out a quote at Kanetix, you will be able to see which insurance providers offer the most competitive rates in just a matter of minutes after filling out some basic information.


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Parting With an Old Friend – Part One

Since I was a young, single, just out of business school, full of piss and vinegar, strapping young buck I have owned a boat.  There is a forest service lake just north east of Marysville that I have been going to for the past 28 years religiously up till last year.

Every Fourth of July about 100 of us would descend on the lake and camp in the old loggers’ camp at the far end of the lake. It was rustic.  We brought our chemicals and toilet paper and dug our own latrine.  There were a couple of tree stumps fashioned into benches, a few more into tables, and a huge fire pit surrounded by those benches and huge boulders. There was no gas on the lake, only dirt roads into it and nobody but us at it.  Mine would be one of 5 or 6 boats, and always Pete’s power dog (Dodge truck) with a 55 gallon barrel of gasoline on the back.  Those were wild and crazy days.  We used to ski all day long, and party all night long, playing our instruments and singing old classic rock songs around the campfire.  I remember one stellar evening of serious intoxication that someone had put a full 4 x 8” panel of plywood in the fire (yes, the pit was THAT big).  In the middle of one of our favorite songs “Secret Agent Man” I jumped onto the plywood and was “shooting” all my friends with my flute as the flames surrounded me and began to melt my boots.  Good times.

Then after a few years people began to lose their wild oats, find mates and settle down.  I fell in love and started bringing my girlfriend to the lake and taught her how to water-ski.  John and Jan Pellizzer (called the fuzzzy’s because, well, they were) were the first to sport a baby but many more followed.  My first, Kayla, was born in December so she was just 6 months old when she had her first trip to the lake, sleeping under the bow cover as her mom and I took turns skiing and teaching our friends.  I guess in all the years I probably taught over a hundred people how to ski for the first time in my boat.

Gradually the number of friends started to diminish and the number of families increased.  Over the years we had various combinations of in-laws (my wife came from a big family), families from our church, and just good friends that we had known since the “good old days.”  The constant was the lake, and the boat.  Serious waterskiing gave way to floating on the lake with the sisters, nieces and nephews, dogs and other critters.

One year when my second water baby (Kelsey) was just 5 months old, we had a fuel mishap and the boat burned down to the water line.  It was a bit dodgy as mom and I were alone in the boat with Kayla.  I told mom to jump in and handed her a seat cover to float on and the baby.  Thankfully Kelsey was on shore with the rest of the families.  A fishing boat picked us up, and another boat kept my burning flotilla from igniting the forest by driving around in circles and swamping it.  That boat was replaced immediately upon my return home.  The thought of not having one never entered my mind.

As the kids grew and started to make their own friends, several of them started to join us.  We had great nature walks and camping trips, all revolving around at least 6 hours a day in the boat.  I was the driver for most of it, so the passengers came in shifts or waves but I rarely got off of my ship.  There were all sorts of waterfalls and rock slides to explore, rope swings, and beaches.  The kids sometimes took kayaks off to faraway beaches and set up their own camp for the day.  We were always summoned via walky-talky to come and rescue them in the late afternoon when the junk food ran out and the wind picked up in their faces, making the paddle back to base beach quite unattractive.

As the years past the logging camp was gated, the road paved, and the campground expanded to accommodate trailers, RV’s and the eventual onslaught of personal watercraft and mini-bikes.  What was once our serene personal getaway became everyone else’s too.  People that we had shared our sacred find with began to bring up their own groups and word inevitably got out to the masses.   Mostly it was a friendly bunch, and as we went up the same time every year we became pretty good friends with many of the campers and boaters.  There was kind of an unwritten code that if one boat went into
“skier’s cove” for that early morning “glass” the next boat would go the other way down the lake to avoid interfering.

My good friend Martin, who came up with his family for 6 or 7 years, named the place “Shangri-la.”  It fit.  The kids went to church together, we had lunch together every Sunday, and I played softball with them every Sunday afternoon for years.  There is a world full of memories with those friends, but none as special as camping, the lake, and the boat.

To be continued…


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Timing rewards

by Seth Godin

We can agree that promising a three-year old a new car when she graduates from college is probably an ineffective way to get her to stop sucking her thumb.

As we mature, it gets easier to trade satisfaction now for a prize later. However, the more risk involved in getting the prize, the less we value it. Frequent flyer miles, for example, began with the promise that if you flew an airline regularly for months (or even years) you’d get a free flight. The airlines oversold the miles and undelivered on the free flights, though, so the reward started to lose its perceived value–too much risk that you wouldn’t get the prize you wanted. Many of the frequent flyers I know have ceased to ‘save up’ and now use their miles for upgrades, moving the benefit closer in time.

One of the many things the web is changing is our focus on now. It’s increasing. Offering a reward in three months just isn’t going to cut it. If you want me to get out of bed or brush my teeth or click on your link, there better be something waiting for me on the other side.


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Note to self; don’t try to get through security in SFO with a 9mm Glock in your backpack

Everybody is a little absent minded upon occasion. It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned traveler, worked for a corporate travel management company for years, security clearance… anyone can make the honest mistake of going through security screening with a gun in one’s backpack. Honestly, anyone. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I have a nice front porch that I built from scratch. It gives me much pleasure and satisfaction. I like to sit and read with a beverage at the end of a long day. You know, kick my feet up and relax. Upon occasion that pleasure is disturbed by the neighborhood Crows cawing in nearby trees. A quick B.B or two from my little air pistol is sufficient to send them to a tree farther away and less offensive to my tranquility (I never hit the birds, just the branches near them).

So as not to inflame the neighbors, I stow the little pistol (which is a replica of a 9mm Glock) in my day pack. FYI – apparently this last bit, the looking like a Glock, is not OK with the TSA folk. Off to visit the relatives in Denver we arrive at the airport, pay our $500 to check one bag at United, and proceed to security. The wife makes it through fine, but when I get to the end and start pulling up my pants and putting my belt on, the ashen faced security agent says “please have a seat here and do not make any attempt to retrieve your bag.” I’m thinking that I left a water bottle in the thing, happens all the time – the memory goes with age you know. “Roger, come here, you gotta see this.” O.K. I think to myself, was it one of those little tequila bottles from the Mexico trip? His friend looks in the pack and starts to back up.

Then I am informed of the discovery and immediately start laughing hysterically. This causes hands to approach the heretofore un-drawn firearms that are beginning to congregate in my general vicinity. My wife, behind me, utters a “What the fork?!?” half in disbelief and the other half in abject disgust. Around that time I feel that an explanation to all is in order. Relating the saga of the porch readings, the intrusion of the Black Crows, and the senility with which I packed for the trip, the tension at the gate 94 security booth is gradually assuaged.

The SF police are called in to review the situation and do so with amazing dispatch. The Kevlar Klad Kombatants are relatively amused by the situation, ask me a few questions related to national security and go on their merry way. They are obviously thinking of ways to have more than one good laugh at my expense.

Next up is a Federal Marshall. She is far more serious until I relate the aforementioned Crow saga then says something like “Are you out of your freeking mind? For someone who had the security clearance to escort (then Governor) President Bush through City Team in 1999 you sure are dumb.” I am asked far more pressing questions regarding my political affiliations, sports favorites, former residences, etc. She has obviously pulled up a rather large file on me, and wants to make damn sure that I am the genuine article before releasing me to the unshaven masses.

Upon verification of my DNA, blood type, rectal scan, finger prints, and first girlfriend’s dog’s middle name, we are released. My wife and I are again on speaking terms and the crowd is dispersing.

We board our plane with only a cursory visual pat-down by the flight staff, and have a wonderful trip. Other than that, it is a pretty uneventful flight.


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