December 22, 2005

Nought Five in Review

Tomorrow we blast off to the Caribbean for a week aboard a ship at sea. Preliminary reports indicate that we will spend all our waking time eating, and we will probably stay up late and wake up early in an effort to increase the amount of eating we are able to do. Apparently, free midnight buffets are standard operating procedure on cruise ships. What’s also interesting is that our ship has multiple night clubs. I like this. I like the idea that I can be sitting in a club in the middle of the ocean, and turn to a friend and say, “You know what? This club sucks. Let’s go to that other club.”

This is to be a week of unrepentant gorging of the body and soul. In that, this trip will be exactly like all holidays of years past, only this time it will be eighty degrees warmer.

And so, in the continuing human tradition of talking about things that have come to pass, I present to ya’ll the year in review. 2005 has been monumental and surreal. Words are insufficient to do it justice, but they are all I have to work with and will have to do, at least until we invent a way to broadcast interpretive dance over the internet.

In January 2005 I left my job at Alpine, to much tears and thrown punches, to go forth into the world and find my glory. I had lived in Bend for over a year, which set a record for me staying in one spot since leaving my hometown five years ago. It was a difficult place to leave, certainly, but fortunately I was moving in on some familiar territory. Later that month I moved back to Hood River to work as a web developer for my windsurfing shop, semantically upgrading from my previous position as webmaster.

In February I took a two-week kiteboarding trip to the town of Los Barilles in Baja California. Here was where I stood in the surf, got attacked by my kiteboard, and received a three-inch gash to the back of my head. A ride into town on the four-wheeler revealed that the American clinic was closed and the Mexican clinic was on siesta. Fortunately, the doctor for the Mexican clinic was driving by at that very moment in his red Pontiac, saw our predicament, and cut his break short to stitch my head back together. His name was Roman Soria and he is my favorite person in the whole world.

It may be worth noting that in March 2004, not even a year prior, I broke my leg while snowboarding at Mount Bachelor. That being said, I insist that the correct way to describe my condition is active and not accident-prone. There is a difference.

In March I went snowshoeing for the first time in my life, learned from a doctor that I had a broken funny bone that would cause computers to ruin me for the rest of my life, and cared for my landlady’s chickens for a week while she was on vacation. Also, Joe and I planned on climbing Mount Hood. Instead I got really sick and we did nothing. This is the most uninteresting story ever.

I visited Bend in April, went snowboarding with my old roommate Shane, and threw back tallboys with the guys from Alpine. I also spent a good deal of April trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, and eventually gave up. I moved back to Minnesota in early May to much fanfare and rejoicing, and began catching up with friends who I hadn’t seen in years. By the end of May I was driving to the northern reaches of the state to start my month-long gauntlet of training, so I could guide wilderness trips for the summer.

By June I was deep in the wilderness, and I guided my first canoe trip. We almost lost all our gear to a freak 50 mph windstorm, which bend our tent poles at 90 degree angles. Afterwards we were treated to the most beautiful sunset ever. Meanwhile, my nephew Soren Dean Zenner was born in late June. It would be September before I would have a chance to see him for the first time.

I spent July guiding more trips, and driving to Lake Winnipeg to pick up some groups who had spent 20-some-odd days canoeing in the Canadian wilderness. In late July I fulfilled a lifelong goal, and spent 11 days and 100 miles guiding a group and backpacking across Isle Royale. We had an incident involving chocolate and a pocketknife, but I stopped the bleeding with a maxi pad.

I guided more trips throughout August, reveling in the fresh air and freedom of the wilds. Summer session came to a close at the end of August, and I took a week-long break from camp and returned to civilization. It was an awkward time of obsessing over ice, feeling uncomfortable around mirrors, and getting choked up over toothpaste. I was trying to come to grips with culture shock, and meanwhile hurricanes were slamming into the Gulf Coast and wiping cities off the map.

Convinced that reality had come completely unhinged, I was more than happy to return to camp and work into the fall. By the end of September I was ready to interact with the world again, and returned to Minneapolis to visit with friends, see tons of live music, and start a web design business. I also switched whole-hog over to the Mac platform, a move that I still find absolutely delightful. What’s more, I discovered an ergonomic solution that allowed me to use computers without being pitched into a universe of pain. This was key.

October came and went, and I never really got around to moving to Duluth. Maybe in the future, maybe not. As one insightful person put it, “Why would you move back to Duluth? All your friends are moving down here and buying cats.” In November I traveled down to Madison to hang out with my nephew (oh, and his parents too, I suppose) and catch some more music. I finally saw matt pond PA live, which is something I’ve wanted to do since 2002 but had never been in the cards until now.

By December the whole Brainside Out Industries thing was pretty well established, and as the month progressed our business grew like crazy. Well, it didn’t grow as far as gobbling up smaller companies and opening up offices across the globe and stuff like that, but it grew substantially as far as clients go. You know, the kind of growth that actually matters. That being said, we took a well-deserved break from the daily grind and spent a long weekend snowboarding all over this great state, and got to kick around our old Duluth stomping grounds.

And now we go to the Caribbean. We’ve covered a lot of ground this year, and 2006 is shaping up to suggest no slackening of pace. What’s more, we’re proud to report that for the last couple months we’ve been keeping a tasty secret from ya’ll, which we shall reveal in the first week of nought six.

Until then, Brainside Out wishes you a safe and wonderful Christmas and New Year’s and Festivus and all that. Eat heartily, drink merrily, and keep your hands off your cousins.

December 18, 2005

Chuck Norris! Chuck Chuck Norris!

I have been snowboarding for the last three days straight, and though my flesh and bones ache like crazy I’m still sportin’ a perma-grin. If one was able to elope with a seasonal activity, I would drive to Vegas right now and marry snowboarding. By an ordained Elvis impersonator. With a shotgun in one hand and a microphone in the other. I would settle for no less.

We jammed to Duluth this weekend to ride at Spirit Mountain and caught up with a couple of friends from Ihduhapi. The whole Chuck Norris thing has absolutely consumed us, to the point where we all eat, sleep and dream in Chuck Norris. Right before we got to the mountain, Montana invented best and most delicious thing ever to help us shrug off the harsh cold of the north country. We went to a gas station and filled our jacket pockets with pound after pound of beef jerky, and totally mowed whenever we were riding the chair lift. We called it the Chuck Norris Pocket. Nothing shouts man quite like a jacket full of meat.

Duluth seems to be doing well for itself, even though there’s so much snow that the city has given up on plowing the streets. Most roads have been reduced to one lane, which makes oncoming traffic a rather awkward experience. You can’t get out of the way as there are snowbanks piled high on both sides of the road. You can’t drive into the snowbanks because they are filled with cars. This is where you park in Duluth, in snowbanks. You rev up the engine something fierce and shove your car into it, and pray that you can get it out in the morning. If not, you can always catch the Greyhound and come back to Duluth in the spring to reclaim your vehicle.

Then again, Chuck Norris could pick up your car in one hand and tear your heart out with the other, all while secretly shagging your girlfriend.

December 11, 2005

Red Bull is Not Your Friend

The week began in illness. This put me in quite the foul mood, as I just got over a cold that had me floored for the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving. I had pulled a 3AM design session, and it was right around the time I slammed my second Red Bull that I noticed my throat was feeling scratchy. I disregarded it at the time and gave all credit to the Red Bull, which had me so amped that I felt like I was going to simultaneously shake and rot the teeth right out of my skull.

“Nah,” I figured. “It’s just the Red Bull. It always burns the throat as it goes down. Everyone knows it’s 30 percent antifreeze, anyway.” I’m more of a Rockstar guy myself, but it was 12:30 in the morning and I couldn’t find a cold one anywhere at the luxe grocery store down the street.

In the coming days I got kicked, and I got kicked hard. Long after the Red Bull wore off I still couldn’t stop shaking. I took a shower, and it sapped just about all the energy I had. I was so cold. I was so hot. My skin was confused and tingly, and I felt like I had spent the day rolling around in fiberglass insulation. My glands were swollen to the size of grapefruits and my throat was crammed with all that stuff you get in your throat, like snot and frogs and stuff. The emptied contents of my sinuses resembled brilliant sunsets.

I daresay it is getting better, as I seem to be on the far side of this miserable thing. I spent the weekend hanging out with people who I haven’t seen in years, great friends from Ihduhapi and the Nerd Herd who live in Queens or sing charts from Sweeney Todd or paddle the Woodland Caribou or own cats or admit they find Fall Out Boy to be a guilty pleasure. It’s great to be back in this neighborhood amongst such great company. I don’t know how long I’ll be kickin’ around this part of town, as usual, but I do know that I’ll be living in this state at least until next September.

And then? We’ll just have to wait and see. I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants for more than two months, now, and as of yet there is no indication that I’m royally screwing anything up as a result. Nah, I’ll just let things keep unfolding at their own pace. Their own pace, accompanied by 3AM web design marathons, adverse reactions to Red Bull, fever dreams and violent chills, and fruit cocktails infused with vodka and nuclear fusion.

December 7, 2005

Sixteen Lashings

Life is good. Business is good. Well, business is really good, as I’m already having difficulty keeping my head screwed on tight. I wasn’t expecting things to ramp up as quickly as they have, and I’m amazed by the breakneck pacing of this thing. It’s been busy here at Brainside Out for the last couple weeks, a good kinda busy with the hustle and bustle of creaking oars and kettle drums and the occasional whip cracking across a scarred back. My boss is kind of a jerk, and I say that only because I know he’s a tough old lot who can take whatever I can dish out.

Things have been exciting. After a couple months of work we relaunched a client’s website the other day, to much fanfare and rejoicing. Response has been positive, as evidenced by improved network statistics and the general absence of letters stamped with anthrax. We’ve also been practicing some database judo for another client, which has been opening the doors to all sorts of dreamy possibilities.

Speaking of dreams, we finally secured ourselves a couple gigabytes at the oft-recommended web hosting company Dreamhost. Brainside Out is still hosted by Pair, so at this point I’m just playing the field. That being said, lest mine eyes deceive me, $7.95 a month gets you a killer setup at Dreamhost, one that trounces the pants off the $17.95 deal at Pair. I can’t see that it’s missing anything, and if I’m still happy after tinkering with it a little bit, there’s a good chance I’ll move the site over to Dreamhost. I mean, I’ve been happy with Pair since the beginning (even though they have no plans of upgrading Ruby on their servers, barring me from ever implementing a Rails framework), but there’s a good chance that pure economics will overcome inertia in this regard.

I turned in my registration for SXSW Interactive and I grabbed a hotel room while I was at it. This last bit was no small feat, as hotel rooms during that week in Austin are sellin’ like hot cakes. My hotel isn’t all that close to the Convention Center, unfortunately, and I’ve got a bit of a walk to the event site. Oh well. I’ll just refer to it as my one kilometer “fun run” and be done with it. Plus, I’ll probably find myself commuting in a wheelbarrow more than once, so it really won’t seem all that bad in the end.

Geez, we leave for our Caribbean cruise in just over two weeks. It looks like Nassau can offer some pretty good kiteboarding conditions, and I’m still debating over how much of my gear to bring. The breeze seems to hang in the mid-teens this time of year, which is darn light for my biggest kite. If I could add a 16 meter to my quiver I think I’d be golden.

It may be about time to send out another invoice.

December 1, 2005

What’s with all this talk about drinking?

Hoo-boy, we’re doin’ it. SXSW, the legendary drunken web nerd geek-fest, is bein’ thrown down next March and we’re gonna close the doors and book it for Texas.

Ahh, Texas. I’m gonna rope me a tumbleweed and ride it through downtown Austin. I hope there’s as much sand as my imagination says there is. I have a vivid picture of what Texas should look like, fueled by cartoons and DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS bumper stickers, and this trip may do irreversible damage to that mental image. Preliminary reports indicate this trip will do irreversible damage to my liver as well, but we’re not so concerned about that.

I remember one San Francisco night last November, we gathered at Lefty O’Doul’s after Doug Bowman’s Redesigning Blogger workshop. We had free drink tokens and surprisingly few people showed up, so those of us in attendance reveled in a healthy abundance of free drink tokens. At some point a bunch of us poured out into the street in search of food. I followed Matt and a couple others to a confusing eating establishment that looked like a shady casino on the outside and a Greco-Roman Chinese restaurant on the inside. It sold ham and cheese sandwiches. Grilled.


The last couple nights I’ve been up late with a fussy database that must be teething or something. I’ve found that you get a heck of a lot of stuff done when your workday is the bigger slice of a 9 – 2 schedule.

I’ve noticed that Gothic fonts are extremely popular in chic urban settings. Patina has a logo set in Copperplate Gothic, while Chipotle sets a lot of their supporting texts in Bank Gothic. I must have crossed some terrible and irreversible threshold into font nerdhood, as lately I find myself able to pick fonts out of thin air.

I love saunas. I’ve taken three in the last week.

I want a pair of cowboy boots and I want to learn how to spit out the side of my mouth. I also want to polish off a bottle of whiskey and drive down to Chicago, cuz there are some people down there who I swear to god need their heads put straight. It’s easier to make a point when you can gesture with an empty bottle of Wild Turkey. At least it feels that way.

What exactly are men’s low-ride jeans supposed to ride on?