Working at the University of Tokyo

Three robots at the JSK laboratory - S-Taro, Baxter, and HRP2

Three robots at the JSK laboratory – S-Taro, Baxter, and HRP2

S-Taro

S-Taro

In February I had the rare experience of working at a robotics lab for a month in Tokyo. It was a very interesting to work with a group of incredibly smart and talented Japanese researchers and to be the only American there. I worked on integrating this robotics software I work on called MoveIt! with their biped (leg walking) humanoids. There have been a number of prestigious roboticists from the United States over the decades who have similarly visited the JSK laboratory, such as James Kuffner, so it was an honor to somewhat follow in their footsteps.

On of the coolest robots they had there was S-Taro (pictured right), an incredibly powerful walking robot that requires a liquid cooling system to keep the electric servos from over heating. It was the early design version of SCHAFT – the robot that Google bought after it won the DRC Autonomous Grand Challenge.

The guys I worked with at JSK

The guys I worked with at JSK

I stayed at an AirBnB shared housing with a bunch of French interns and spent 30 minutes every day, each way, on Tokyo’s amazing subway system to get to work.

Tokyo Subway Experience - lots of adds and announcements I didn't understand

Tokyo Subway Experience – lots of adds and announcements I didn’t understand

Aside from work, I also enjoyed getting to know the Japanese culture, people, parks, and bouldering gyms. A guy I met while climbing in Thailand happened to live in Tokyo and he invited me to join him climbing a couple times in their indoor gyms – it was a sweet experience to see how a different culture does something I am so accustomed to – Bouldering isn’t exactly the same in Japan.

Bouldering in Tokyo

Bouldering in Tokyo

For one, they use shapes to mark routes, not colors. That was really hard to get used to. Their rating system goes backwards (1 is the harder than 2), and the style of routes was just harder for me – perhaps because they are made for shorter people.

I also got involved with Hashing again while in Japan – the drinking club with a running problem – and they were very welcoming and fun. On my last weekend, I finally got a chance to get out of Tokyo and go skiing with the Tokyo Snow Club. They were a blast to go with and we enjoyed two days of moderate skiing (not powder) at Hakuba Ski Resort.

Crazy Crew of Foreigner Skiiers

Crazy Crew of Foreigner Skiiers

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The Art of Slacklining

Slacklining in Yosemite Park

Slacklining in Yosemite Park

Slacklining was a big part of the culture in Tonsai and many climber-hippy type places. Its such a relaxed way to send off time with friends, hanging out and trying new tricks. I really enjoy it.

It started as a climber hobby with extra gear they had lying around way back in the early days of climbing, but it has since become a little sport of its own. They even have world championships now.

I learned while in Mexico camping on the beach near Puerto Vallarta, and I honed my skills at Homero’s campground in Potrero Chico.

The slackline where I learned - this Mexican dude was really good!

The slackline where I learned – this Mexican dude was really good!

Most recently I tried a water slackline in Thailand where tie the webbing between two large rocks over the water. The line was much longer, higher and it was windier than I had ever experienced before, but it was a great setup. The best part about it was at night when the bioluminescence was in the water – you would fall into a sea of lighting up plankton!

Slacklining in Washington Square Park, San Francisco where we got tips!

Slacklining in Washington Square Park, San Francisco where we got tips!

You really nice thing about slacklining is that its cheap to get into – you can build your own setup for less than $60, its easy to travel with – it packs into a small sized bag, and its a great way to meet people – everyone stops by at a park to chat and try it. I even went to Burning Man for the first time because of a random person I met while slacklining who had extra tickets!

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Climbing in Thailand

I spent an incredible month and a half in Tonsai, Thailand this winter, climbing world famous cliffs over the ocean and enjoying the relaxed beach life in an isolated village.

One of my best friends Quest on Burnt Offerings, 7a+, Tonsai, Thailand

One of my best friends Quest Henkart on Burnt Offerings, 7a+, Tonsai, Thailand

I chose not to travel around Asia, or even Thailand, but instead bunker down and really get to know one really cool spot – Tonsai. It’s a popular climbing destination that has managed to largely ward off mainstream tourism and development due to its lack of road access (or even electricity/water access).

My first boatman

My first boatman

Like everyone, I arrived by long tail boat. I chose to skip my planned night in Bangkok because of the increased violence surrounding the riots. After a long overnight train and various buses to Krabi, I was laid eyes on the paradise I would call my home for two full moon parties, Christmas, and New Years Eve. I traveled solo.

My bungalow at Jungle Hut Tonsai

My bungalow at Jungle Hut Tonsai

No sink in the bathroom?

No sink in the bathroom?

After searching/moving around for three days for a cheap place to stay, I finally settled on this sweet bungalow at Jungle Hut Tonsai. I highly recommend Jungle Hut, they are super friendly, helpful, and fun. I managed to get a really good deal, including a month-long discount, through my friendship with Quest (he’s famous there). I ended up paying about $250 per month, for my own space. It wasn’t the fanciest, but that’s not really what I was going for anyway. My only real gripe was there was no sink in the bathroom, just a mirror and a jarring place where a sink belonged.

One of my favorite places to eat: Momma's Chicken

One of my favorite places to eat: Momma’s Chicken

It was such a cool experience to become a regular at my favorite food stands and bar hangout spots. Some of the locals knew me and greeted me every day, the community was so small it was easy to get to know most everyone. I passed my days climbing of course, slacklining on the beach, swimming between islands, exploring caves and trails in the jungle, practicing yoga, and scuba diving. It was incredible!

Monkeys were everywhere in Tonsai

Monkeys were everywhere in Tonsai

My room complete with bug net

My room complete with bug net and hanging food bag

The monkeys were very aggressive in Tonsai, often swooping down during meals and attempting to steal your food. Locals would shoot at them with sling shots and throw rocks, they encouraged us to throw rocks too. One morning in my bungalow while I was still asleep I woke up to a monkey that had crawled through the crack between my roof and the walls. I opened my eyes to him staring at me, with one hand in a bags of bananas I had hanging from the ceiling. I had though hanging the bag from the ceiling would protect the food from animals, but it was a joke to the nimble monkeys. I jumped out of my bed and screamed at the monkey, while waving my arms, but the monkey did not budge. I then was a little intimidated at the monkey’s courage, so I grabbed my climbing helmet hanging on the wall and only when I started to swing at him did the monkey scurry out of the bungalow. I opened my front door to make sure he was gone, and to my shock, a entire gang of about 10 monkeys were outside my bungalow waiting on me. I took a step back in fear and quickly shut the door, knowing that I could probably be taken down by a gang that size. Luckily, they left me alone after that, and I no longer kept bananas in my bungalow.

Renting motorcycles and driving into town for supplies at Thai "costco"

Renting motorcycles and driving into town for supplies at Thai “costco”

To save money, I tried not to eat out every meal and I tried to purchase as much supplies from mainland as possible. Because Tonsai is not connected to the mainland, everything costs more to transit over, and the local businesses have price fixing schemes since there are so few shops. I was told they literally have a sheet that lays out the minimum they can charge for common goods. A beer in Al Nong, a 10 minute boat ride away, costed half as much as the beer in Tonsai. For this reason, I made two grocery runs while in Thailand. The first time my friend Simon guided me to the city, helping me rent my first motorbike and navigate the left-lane driving traffic. I loaded my backpacking backpack to the brim with food and beverages. I was a thrifty climbing bum in Thailand.

Climbing my first 5.12b

Climbing my first 5.12b

Climbing on the main beach in Tonsai

Climbing on the main beach in Tonsai

The climbing was superb, an unlimited amount of sport climbing of all grades from easy to impossible. They use the French grade system, which was a first for me. I really began to love working on “projects”, that is focusing on a specific route that is a little above my ability level and doing it over and over again until I can nail every move. I would typically climb 2 or 3 days on, then take a rest day to enjoy the island, let my muscles recover, and do some reading. Since I went a lone, I climbed with a multitude of different partners from throughout the world. I’d typically mosey over to one of two different gathering spots in the morning and ask around until I found someone who needed a partner. I didn’t like to make pre-morning plans because holding them was sometimes difficult. If I stayed out too late the night before I didn’t want to let someone down who was waiting on me.

The community was so much fun to hang out with. You can learn so much from people of other backgrounds, countries, and view points. We danced, laughed, and threw fun costume parties:

A Fairy Tale-themed costume party at Sa-waa-dee bar

A Fairy Tale-themed costume party at Sa-waa-dee bar

Watching the first sunrise of 2014

Watching the first sunrise of 2014

It’s definitely one of my most memorable New Years, I built a fire on the beach and had lots of friends join. We then wandered between the various parties until sunrise. There’s something about watching the first sunrise of the year that is very special.

Its hard to explain how magical Tonsai is. Its so beautiful, its a never-never land. Time slows down.

Tonsai from Above

Tonsai from Above

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How Climbing Opened My Eyes to the World

Georgia Tech's indoor rock wall.

Our University’s average climbing wall

I’m not a super strong climber, nor am I obsessed to the point of always talking and thinking about climbing. But over the past 8 years of my life climbing has been my go-to main hobby and a major influencer in my life personally. Its kept me mentally awake, challenged, fit, and shown me spectacularly beautiful things. Even more, its opened my eyes to the world.

My freshman year of college was my first foray into climbing, where I regularly visited our University’s indoor wall. I was very poor, but it was free if you had your own gear. All I could afford were the cheapest shoes at REI so I only bouldered. I made my own chalk bag out of a zip lock bag and duct tape. I went on various day trips with our club into northern Georgia and Alabama and I learned my basic principles of knots and safety.

But my view of climbing as a “gym rat” was very narrow and I had no idea an entire community existed of climbing bums, travelers, and world experiences. 

Climbing day with the campers in Rocky Mountain National Park

My campers on a climbing day in Rocky Mountain National Park

Adventuring extrordinair Lauren celebrating finishing a route.

Adventuring extrordinair Lauren celebrating finishing a route.

I was trapped in the south, but I needed more rock to climb. I had just finished interning for an entire year as an contract engineer around the country and I was tired of being professional. The summer of 2009 I packed my car drove to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado to be a summer camp counselor at Camp Cheley. Among many other jobs, I took the kids out climbing once or twice a week. On my off days, I climbed with this badass chick named Lauren Foster who taught me how to lead climb. I explored the beauty of Colorado both by rope and hiking, falling in love to the point that I would eventually move there. That summer I learned that a high paying job wasn’t everything

Still, I hadn’t fully grasped exactly what the “climbing community” was yet. Then I met Sean Kolk. He was the president of our climbing club and for spring break one year back in the south he led us on a trip, to Red River Gorge, Kentucky, that changed my life.

Sean and Jhung sharing a moment at Red River Gorge 2010

Sean Kolk and Jhung sharing a moment at Red River Gorge 2010

Miguel's Pizza

Miguel’s Pizza, a real climber’s campground

The Red is a unique place not only for its endless sandstone cliffs of climbing, but also for its community of year around climbers who camp for days, weeks, even months on end. Everyone camps at the same spot: Miguel’s Pizza. This pizza shop-turned camp ground is famous the world around for the climber-centric community that lives in Miguel’s backyard. I was fascinated with these hair-dreaded weirdos who spent all their climbing and never showered, and I wanted to know more. We had an incredible time eating sub-par canned food over a camp stove, bleeding our fingers off from climbing, playing board games, and sitting around a fire at night. It was there I slacklined for the first time. I learned that you could have an incredible time for very little money.

A Mexican boy visiting from the city climbed for the first time with us.

A Mexican boy visiting from Monterrey climbed for the first time with Hunter and I.

It was also there with Sean that I overheard people talking about this sweet climbing spot in Mexico called Potrero Chico. The beer was cheap, the sport climbing routes long, and the weather perfect in the winter. It sounded ripe for adventure.

Snott Girlz with Bjorn

Me on Snott Girlz with Bjorn

Mexico changed me. I had just finished 5 years of grueling engineering studies at an prestigious university, and I was burnt out. After a second summer in Colorado working at the camp, I would end up spending an additional 6 months in Potrero Chico, learning to speak decently fluent Spanish, climbing a ton, and even building the locals a non-profit climbing tourism website (that is now the first hit on Google and linked to by  National Geographic). I slowed down in Mexico, I enjoyed making amazing friends with the locals, and I gained a revealing perspective of the United States from the other side of the border. I learned that you can be happy no matter what country or situation you find yourself in, and I learned what it felt like to go broke.

My amazing Mexican friends who adopted me.

My amazing Mexican friends who adopted me, at Dios de los Puentes

After months of camping in the desert in Mexico, I had met hundreds of world traveling climbers passing through the famous sport climbing paradise. I had heard enthralling stories of other climbing spots in the world, epic climbing tales, and alternative views on what we make our priority in life. Climbing had opened my mind.

The winners of the World Sport Climbing Competition 2011, in Boulder, Colorado

The winners of the World Sport Climbing Competition 2011, in Boulder, Colorado

After that adventure, I moved to Boulder, Colorado, where I was drawn in by the promise of outdoor climbing minutes away (and winter skiing when it got too cold to climb). Boulder is one of the climbing capitals in the world, many of the strongest climbers live there. For instance, I attended both the national and world sport climbing competitions at my local climbing gym the first two years I was there. Boulder is a relaxed, small town where, despite having the largest number of PhD’s per capital, everyone loves the outdoors and truly values a work-life balance.

From Colorado, all of the west was open for exploring. I climbed the majestic Devils Tower in Wyoming, Indian Creek in Utah, Yosemite National Park in California, and Red Rocks Canyon in Nevada. Most recently, it brought me to the tropical, world-famous climbing mecca in Tonsai, Thailand.

Red Rocks, Nevada

The brilliant Red Rocks, Nevada

My love for climbing brought me to learning ice climbing, mountaineering, and slacklining. I’ve camped, hiked, and made incredible memories on climbing trips. Its given me adrenaline rushes, and it refuels me in life. Its gotten me off the couch, out of my comfort city, and into the great outdoors.

The beach of Tonsai, Thaa

The beach of Tonsai, Thailand

I’ve come to understand people better. As a climber who travels, you put your life in the hands of the new people you meet who belay you. I’ve gotten to know and trust wonderful people from countries all over the world. After a long and tiring day of climbing, its a such a great feeling to share the day’s adventures and stories with other tired climbers at camp.

My world was much smaller before I became a climber.

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A Day in an Ashram in Malaysia

An old family portrait from Ashanya's parents house in Malaysia.

An old family portrait from Ashanya’s parents house in Malaysia.

One of my good friends and past housemates in San Francisco, Ashanya Indralingam, happens to be Malaysian. When I told her I was going to spend some time in Thailand, she insisted I visited her parents in Kuala Lumpur. I was skeptical going to hang out with two “old people” I’d never met before, but it turns out that side trip was one of highlights during my two months in Asia.

A classy party at a Banker's house in Kuala Lumpur.

A classy party at a Banker’s house in Kuala Lumpur.

 

 

 

Asha’s parents Ronni and Indra were fantastic hosts and gave me a really local experience of the city. I tagged along to a high society party they attended on Saturday night, where I met the rich and powerful of Kuala Lumpur and danced 80’s music with them. But I digress in this post’s subject… Ronnie and Indra mentioned in passing of an ashram down the street from their house. Although they do not attend there, they said it would probably be ok to stop by. From various books I’ve read about Hinduism, I was very curious to actually experience an ashram, though I had no idea what to expect.

The main alter at the ISKCON Kuala Lumpur ashram.

The main alter at the ISKCON Kuala Lumpur ashram.

The ashram was a gated compound that is easy to miss amid a regular neighborhood in the suburbs on Kuala Lumpur. A service was apparently just ended when I wandered in around noon on a Sunday. Turns out they have hours similar to Protestant churches.

Despite being the only westerner there the entire day, no one was particularly fazed by my presence. I received some smiles of acknowledgment and greetings, so I cautiously walked into the main room. There in the middle of the room was a holy dude meditating.

some guru

A wax model of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada at the ashram I visited.

The room was empty except for me and him. I starred at him, waiting for him to acknowledge me. It seemed like his eyes were following me as I cautiously walked across the other side of the room. His eyes were just barely open, where you couldn’t tell if he was meditating or not. I was convinced for at least an hour that this guy was real, until someone later mentioned he was just a wax model of the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

The God Krishna in two forms.

The God Krishna in two forms.

I went back outside and was offered to join them in their Sunday lunch. I had some amazing Indian food and talked to various followers. I was surprised everyone spoke good English. Until that point I had never heard of the “International Society for Krishna Consciousness” but it was really cool to hear their stories about how they try to “dedicate their thoughts and actions towards pleasing the Supreme Lord, Krishna.” Everyone was super friendly.

Most people were going home so I went back inside to try meditating on my own. My only experience with meditation has been Buddhist, where for beginners it is suggested you sit in a straight up posture, eyes open, and focus on deep steady breathing. As it was explained to me, the Hare Krishnas meditate by chanting/singing the Hare Krishna mantra:

Guru

“He held various positions in ISKCON and served Srila Prabhupada in various countries notably the United Kingdom, Africa, Malaysia, Europe, Philippines and New Zealand. His Holiness Janananda Maharaj is a very exalted devotee, travelling and preaching all over the world, the main driving force behind the World Holy Name initiative and various other wonderful projects in ISKCON.”

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

I wasn’t sure about the matra deal, so didn’t try it myself. While sitting there, an old man in an orange guru-like robe sat down and began asking me about my life journey and beliefs. Janananda Gosvami was very knowledgable about the world’s religions, very grounded in agnostic western society, and was an all around friendly guy. He cracked some jokes but also asked serious, deep questions. I learned a lot from him about Hinduism, and he recommended I read their main book of teachings.

It turns out, Janananda is one of the world leaders of the ISKCon Krishna movement! As he was talking to me one of his assistants informed him it was time for him to go to the airport. He thanked the guy and continued talking to me for another 20 minutes! Finally, his assistant returned and insisted it was time for him to go. Janananda gave me his email address and wished me luck.

As the afternoon wore on, I sat and read the book recommended to me – the Bhagavad Gita. Its essentially their Bible, originating from sometime around the 2nd century BC. Another, much younger ISKCon follower joined me and starting retelling the many past stories of Hinduism. He was fully of energy and excitement as he told the tales; his eyes widened in enthusiasm and he never stopped smiling. I was starting to somewhat understand the history and duality of Krishna and the miracles performed by him while on earth in human form. I was surprised at the many parallels of their monotheistic interpretation of Hinduism with the Christian views I was brought up with.

Turns out the Beatles, particularly George Harrison, were Hare Krishna followers.

Turns out the Beatles, particularly George Harrison, were Hare Krishna followers.

Finally, it was evening and I realized I’d been at the ashram for over 5 hours without checking in with my hosts I was staying with. Right as I was saying my good byes Asha’s Dad arrived, looking for me. They had started to get worried me about me, it was so kind of them.

Despite having no plans on becoming Hindu, I’m extremely fascinated by their beliefs, outward happiness, and kind hearts. I have since read some criticisms about some “cult-like” aspects of the movement, and it is surprising to note that it started in New York and is now headquartered in LA. They have ashrams around the world but have made great inroads into western culture, for instance being mentioned in several Beatles songs back in the 70s.

Still, cult fears aside, I really enjoyed my experience at a Malaysian ashram for a day.

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The Coleman Brothers in Taiwan

Two of the Coleman brothers at the Coleman camping gear store in Taipei.

Two of the Coleman brothers at the Coleman camping gear store in Taipei.

My brother Rob is on an awesome adventure in a small city in Taiwan teaching English for a year, together with his girlfriend Brittany. Because he wasn’t going to make it to Christmas or Thanksgiving with the family in Alabama this year, and because he’s visited me in my travels, I decided it was time to visit him instead.

Note the white board says "He is my brother," which is like, ironic.

Note the white board says “He is my brother,” which is like, ironic.

I stayed at his house in the city of Changuah and had an awesome Thanksgiving week as part of the start of my Asian adventures. It was really nice to stay with family who “knew” the area longer than just a traveling backpacker, and I benefited from the experience he had acquired over his few months living there.

A religious festival we happened upon in front of a really old temple. In other words, we don't really know what was going on.

A religious festival we happened upon in front of a really old temple. In other words, we don’t really know what was going on.

A hodgepodge of food that formed our Thanksgiving feast.

A hodgepodge of food that formed our Thanksgiving feast.

We spent the first two days in Taipei then just hung out at his house most of the rest of the time. I cooked an awesome apple pie from scratch for Thanksgiving, and Rob and Brittany hosted a large gathering of Westerners and locals to celebrate America’s holiday of gratitude. Our various foreign and local guests who joined us for Thanksgiving brought all kinds of random food, including sushi, pizza, guacamole, and potato chips.

In all, it was a relaxing hangout with my brother in a very foreign country that involved a little sightseeing both mostly just catching up on life.

Posing with the largest Buddha status in Taiwan.

Posing with the largest Buddha status in Taiwan, located in the city where my brother lives.

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Boulder 2013 Floods

A few roads from my house in Boulder.

A few roads from my house in Boulder. Photo by Brittany Hoefener

My evacuated room with water

My evacuated room with water. Image by Brittany Hoefener.

My home in Boulder, CO had some crazy floods in September, getting 15-20 inches of rain within a short couple days, far exceeding the normal annual rainfall received by Boulder. It was a crazy unusual incident:

The National Weather Service’s Hydrometeorological Design Studies Center stated in a document that the annual exceedance probability (AEP) for the entire rainfall event was as low as 1/1000 (0.1%) in places.

I happen to live in the basement of our house, so my room was flooded along with many other rooms in our house. Some of my stuff was ruined, though I managed to move most of it to higher ground before it was destroyed.

Outside our house, trying to keep the water at bay

Outside our house, trying to keep the water at bay

My roommates and I had to dig some trenches outside of the house to divert the water away from the basement windows, and we built some burns to further prevent the windows from flooding any further than they already had.

My house fort room for a month and a half!

My house fort room for a month and a half!

My favorite reminder not to care about flood damange

My favorite reminder not to care about flood damange

In the end, I ended up living on the upstairs living room couch for a month and a half! I was really bummed about it, until one of my roommates Brittany suggested we take some of the extra mattresses and box springs and build a make-shift wall in the living room to provide some privacy.

It was a stressful time for all of us in the house and in Boulder, and many people had it much worse than we did, no doubt. Overall, I was not much affected by the flood, but not having a room for nearly 45 days was still a bummer.

My cozy little house fort - a bed in the living room that I lived on!

My cozy little house fort – a bed in the living room that I lived on!

Still, we named my room the “house fort” and I was pretty proud of it. I really moved into it and got settled. It wasn’t half bad :)

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Building a Dome, and Burning Man 2013

This year was my second at Burning Man, and even more incredible than the first. I wanted to give back more this year by taking more leadership in our camp and helping build something, since I’m an engineer and all. This came in the form of a dome.

First build day for Burning Man dome

First build day for Burning Man dome

My camp this year consisted of a group of awesome friends in San Francisco who I spent the whole summer with going on adventures outside of the city as well as in. My roommate and friend Triston originally spearheaded the dome project, but I sort of took over the engineering logistics and we co-lead it over the course of 3 Sundays preceding the 10 day festival in the desert.

Dome building day 2

Dome building day 2

It was a lot of work buying electrical conduit from Home Depot and cutting them to the appropriate sizes, smashing the ends, cutting exact-length holes, and painting the ends to color code the different sizes, but with a lot of hands we managed to make the necessary parts for the dome. We used a very useful Desert Domes website that has a calculator for figuring out the necessary sizes of all the poles. We followed a 3V design.

Finished dome poles
Finished dome poles

We had a test build day in a park in San Francisco, the weekend before Burning Man. Everyone was nervous we had mis-measured some of the lengths or had forgotten some of the parts, but somehow it all came together. Triston purchased a used parachute from Craigslist that fit perfectly snug on top of the dome for shade protection in the intense desert heat.

Dome building test in a San Francisco park.

Dome building test in a San Francisco park.

Everything was ready and we headed to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Our camp of nearly 40 people gathered over the course of several days and we assembled the masterpiece in the much harsher climate; again, it worked!

finished dome 2

We added a camp sign to indicate we were “Camp Gilligan’s Highland” and proceeded to have an amazing week at the burn :)

Finishing Touches

Finishing Touches

It was really cool seeing all the friends I had spent hanging out in San Francisco for the summer together in a different, harsher environment.

Most of our camp!

Most of our camp!

As a final aside, Quest’s awesome girlfriend Jordan braided my hair into some crazy dreads that I never dreamed would belong to me. What a weird dude I can be…

Jordan's masterpiece on my head, complete with beads.

Jordan’s masterpiece on my head, complete with beads.

 

 

 

 

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Guys With Fancy Lady Hair

I never thought of myself as a model, or a hair model. But when my friend Triston told me about a casting call on Facebook for guys with long hair who are awesome, I was intrigued. I emailed them two shots and this message:

It has come to my attention you need a qualified man for TBI. I don’t know what this story is about, but I’m pretty awesome.

Audition2My audition photo for the piece

A writer for The Bold Italic magazine responded:

So, the idea behind this (hopefully funny) photo essay is that I’m taking 8 or so guys with long hair, having a stylist style said hair into a prom style updo, and then taking a few portraits (front and back) for the piece on TBI. (To be clear, there’s no cutting, no makeup, just you and your normal style except with fancy lady hair.)

I was told to meet at an upscale hair salon in the downtown financial district of San Francisco. I brought a lady friend Abby with me and prepared for the unknown. I knew a few other guys were going to be there, too, but I was surprised by their scruffiness. They mostly all had huge beards and looked nerdy. Then again, I suppose I am too. I noted that while I had made sure to have some face stubble, I certainly was the most clean shaven of the bunch.

They gave me some wine (my only real payment for the whole ordeal) and after a quick wait a hair stylist asked me what kind of prom hair I wanted. Really? They expected me to know what style I preferred? I believe it was Abby who instructed to go with a huge bun type thing, so that is what I got. The process looked something like this:

GettinDoneUp2 GettinDoneUp

It was fun and painless, though when they asked me to pose with a serious face for the camera it was a little hard. I had a bazillion pins, flowers, a white slap bracelet, curlers, and lots of hair spray on my head.

Anyway, the finished product looked like this:

LadyHair

But even more surprisingly, the whole piece with all the other guys when VIRAL.

fancy

It was all over the web and Facebook and people from all over my past contacted me asking if that was really me. It was on:

On Sept 1st I was on the homepage of Imgur for the day!

On Sept 1st I was on the homepage of Imgur for the day!

And people seemed to take it really seriously, saying things like:

In the interest of gender equality, a handful of long-haired guys put themselves at the mercy of a hair stylist.

Which is totally not what I was thinking about. It just sounded fun and I like attention.

In an interview with the visual producer Jessica Saia, she was asked “where the men good sports?”

I don’t know if it’s a San Francisco thing, where even the dude-iest of men are just more open to this kind of experiment, or if these guys had just been growing their hair out and wanted to show it off. Only one guy (Mormon Prom), actually wore the hair style out of the salon. Sadly, I didn’t get to see any of the reactions as he went about his day.

I went and hung out with a bunch of friends afterwards and they loved it!

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Learning to Sail in San Francisco

Epic Sailing

This summer my good friend Sean Kolk bought a 25ft (7.6m) sailboat for $400. That’s crazy cheap, but he’s the kinda guy who just knows people. I helped him clean it up some, scraping off barnacles from the hull and working on its crappy engine. I was one of the lucky ones to be on its maiden voyage, though on that voyage the gas tank, which was actually a simple disposable plastic water bottle with a hose stuck into it, had the starter battery fall on it and puncture a leak. Gas leaked into the engine compartment and the engine stopped working, so we had to dock the boat on sail power only, which is fairly difficult.

Seans Boat

Still, she’s a wonderful boat that can sleep 5 comfortably and something like 9 if needed. It’s always a fun night to tie up to other boats, crack open the beers, and hang out with other sailers.

A typical raft up party by day.

A typical raft up party by day.

These sailing kids get up to all kinds of high jinks, like attaching a trampoline to some floating barrels of air. This actually didn’t work very well and it was hard to get any appreciable air while jumping because the water absorbed all the bounce, but it was still lots of fun!

Me with my hair down, trying to get some air on a water trampoline.

Me with my hair down, trying to get some air on a water trampoline.

It was a great summer sailing with Sean, Shanee, Lizzie, and many others. My brother even came on a trip one day when he and his girlfriend visited.

Rob

And I wrapped up my summer of learning how to sail and captain a boat with watching the America’s Cup live in San Francisco, when America beat New Zealand:

New Zealand's boat in America's Cup

New Zealand’s boat in America’s Cup

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