January 26, 2006

It’s not enough to simply want trouble.

It’s raining in January. Do you hear me? It’s raining.

In January.

But whatever. I’m sure that stranger things have happened. Plague of frogs, for instance. How exciting that in a few short years, the phrase “plague of frogs” will be old and quaint, a product of a bygone era when these odd croaking beasts still wandered the hillsides, allied with raiders and gypsies who rode atop their slippery backs as they pillaged and plundered town after town, leaving nothing behind but a trail of ruin.

Like dragons and wildebeests and other mythical creatures, so too shall the time of the frogs come to pass. In a hundred years no one will even notice their loss, the old adage having long since given way to the more timely phrase, “plague of ninjas.” Ninjas always move in to fill a gap left by extinction.

But let us discuss subjects of far more gravity. Such as, when in the hell did they decide to take the DVD for Transformers — The Movie out of print, and why the crap wasn’t I informed?! I know that it was available a year ago, and I had banked the rest of my life on the assumption that it would still be around when I finally got my life in well-enough shape that I could order a copy. Well, that never happened, and it most assuredly won’t happen now that I can no longer cite Transformers — The Movie in my impetus for change.

Augh. Whatever. They probably buried it so in a few short years they could release Transformers — The Super Megacular Special Delicious Edition TO THE MAX Edition The Movie Edition at some later date. And when they do, I’ll be the first in line. With tears streaming down my face. Holding in my hands the heart of every person who was standing in line in front of me. And when the second season of Twin Peaks finally comes out I’ll be there, too. Or perhaps in prison. Or hopefully in jail, awaiting my trial. There are many ways to draw such things out.

Tomorrow Gargantua should arrive, my brand spankin’ new 24-inch dildo monitor. I’m rather excited for this, as this is the first monitor I’ve purchased in three years, and it’s obviously large enough that I can fill it up with water and swim around in it. I’m particularly excited for the swimming part.

Here is a list of every single Godzilla movie release, in case you are interested.

January 25, 2006


Sometimes the hardest part of overcoming inertia is, well, overcoming it. Ever notice how the first three miles of a run is always the hardest? After that you feel like you could coast, coast, coast… coast and run forever. That is, until you get down to the last quarter mile, at which point every second drags on for eternity. As in running, as in life.

I realize that I haven’t spent enough time writing of recent. I need to write. It feeds me. If a day comes to a close and I haven’t written anything, I feel like I have squandered my time. It doesn’t matter what I spent my waking hours doing. It could have been the most productive day on record, I could have relocated the state of Massachusetts to a suburb of Los Angeles, and still if words weren’t penned I feel awful.

The problem is there are far too many things besides writing that must be done on this great wide earth. There are bands to see and caves to explore and trails to hike and mountains to ski and books to read. There are friends, old and new, who are dispersed across the land enjoying their own adventures. The moments when we rejoin are far too few, but when we do track down one another we always enjoy epic nights of tomfoolery, filled with too much wine and wildly improbable stories and games of Oregon Trail and hootenannies that wake up the neighbors. Every time we trek across the country we leave so much behind, but always we find so much that is new and exciting.

There are a million things I want to do right now, all of which seem to be diametrically opposed to one another. I want to stay right where I am and move far, far away. I want to live in the middle of a bright city and scramble through the thickets of the universe. I want to sleep under the northern lights and rock out under palm trees. I want to snuggle in the warm embrace of technology and jam a knife deep into its ribs. I want home and I want the open road. I want to own a house and live out of my Subaru.

One thing I do not want is to buy the world a friggin’ Coke.

I keep trying to convince myself that there’s an underlying logic to all this, that somehow all these things are related in a unified theory of the soul. Honestly, there must be a thread of commonality between saunas, design, green tea, video games, stick shifts, garden gnomes, backpacking, indie rock, kiteboarding and pirates.

There must, as for years I have tried to reconcile these passions. With music I tried to throw everything I had in a single direction, but all it took was a new infatuation with snowboarding to break that spell. Perhaps balance is more desirable than reconciliation, as I may be incorrectly framing the dilemma by assuming that there is something that needs to be reconciled in the first place.

The problem is that there are so many things I want to do, and so much stuff I want to learn, that I always fear I have barely more than a passing grasp of any one subject. Whenever I compare myself to others in a particular area of inquiry, I always compare myself against the best of breed — the best rock climbers, the best musicians, the best web designers — and always walk away feeling bummed about my own abilities. I’m never satisfied with being “good enough”, but I am never interested enough in one particular subject to invest the time to get really fucking good at it.

Sure, I’ve done some mountaineering and I climbed Mount Adams with a friend, but there’s a kid out there who is five years younger than I am and has climbed the Seven Summits. I’m pretty good at web design and even wrote the design process for an entire web shop, but none of my designs are being used by millions of people right now, nor have I built a statistics package that is taking the world by storm.

I guess I’m a hack. A hack at just about anything, and I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing. History shows that many hacks who had a wide array of interests have gone on to do great things, invent countries for example.

So let’s hear it for hacks, and let’s see what it will take to send this one to Patagonia next year. If we’re lucky, he’ll even write about it for us. If he values his life he will, too.

January 20, 2006

my year in cities (and campsites)

Inspired by Kottke, I present my own year in cities. Each is a location where I spent one or more nights last year.

Given the nature of my life and where I tend to fall asleep, I have also included the lakes and campsites where I slumbered.

Bend, Oregon**

Hood River, Oregon**

Los Barriles, Baja California, Mexico*

A random campground, Townsend, Montana

Mina Lake Campground, Mina, South Dakota

Minneapolis, Minnesota**

Shell Lake, Wisconsin*

Madison, Wisconsin*

Duluth, Minnesota*

Burntside Lake, Minnesota*

Grand Marais, Minnesota

Bearskin Lake, Minnesota**

The Gravel Pit, Minnesota

Mystical Mountain, Minnesota

Paradise Beach, Minnesota*

A truck stop somewhere near Winnipeg, Manitoba

The Bloodvein ferry dock on Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba

A rest area somewhere near Thunder Bay, Ontario

Orlando, Florida

The Carnival Glory Cruise Ship*

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota

Saganaga Lake*

Devil’s Elbow

Gunflint Lake*

Rose Lake*

Mountain Lake

South Fowl Lake

Pine Lake

Moon Lake

Sea Gull Lake

Maraboeuf Lake

Pine River

South Lake*

Red Rock Lake

Ogishkemuncie Lake

Little Saganaga Lake

Bingshick Lake

Duncan Lake

Ham Lake

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Feldtmann Lake

Siskiwit Bay

Island Mine

Washington Creek

Lake Desor*

Hatchet Lake

McCargoe Cove

Todd Harbor

Huginnin Cove

* Denotes a location where I spent multiple nights, perhaps consecutively, perhaps not.

** Denotes a location that I called home for an extended period.

January 19, 2006

Unexpectedly Expected Expectations

Five things that Dane is incredibly pissed off with right now:

  1. The new version of QuickTime, which reports “The application QuickTime quit unexpectedly” every time I quit the program in a manner quite consistent with expectation.
  2. iMovie HD quitting unexpectedly every time I try to import an .avi file into a project. I know it didn’t used to do this. I know this because The World’s Hairiest Man Competition would never have been broadcast without this expected functionality.
  3. Mac Help. How come, half the time when I click on a Help Topic, instead of loading the topic it unexpectedly sends me back to the Mac Help home page, and the only way to escape this loop is to expectedly quit Mac Help altogether and restart it? Of all the things you would want to work properly in your operating system, you would think the help program would be pretty fucking high on the list.
  4. Midgets. Perhaps not incredibly pissed off, so much as incredibly amused.
  5. Taxes. I could kill you all.

Five things that Dane is madly in love with right now:

  1. Vasque Hiking Boots. You, my comfortable friends, are the chosen ones. You shall accompany me to the ends of the earth and beyond.
  2. Of Montreal. I don’t even have an album by them, but I am a man obsessed.
  3. The Areas of My Expertise, by John Hodgman. Funniest damn book ever. If you ever wonder what it sounds like inside my brain, have someone read this book to you as quickly as they can, all while the Hampster Dance song loops in the background.
  4. Hoboes. But this goes without saying.
  5. Saunas. I love you.

What are your lists?

January 13, 2006


We are the doldrums of winter. At least the sun has bothered to poke through the grey for a couple seconds this past week, but sadly the weather in Minnesota has been far too warm this month. The snow is rotting away, and with it my enthusiasm.

Now, I love winter. It’s probably one of my top three favorite seasons. I just wish there was a switch where I could turn it on and off at will. Or, ideally, I wish there was a way to have both winter and 16 hours of daylight simultaneously. Lord knows this planet was able to accomplish such a thing 25,000 years ago, but I doubt anyone is eager to relinquish their backyards to the glaciers again. Nah, it was smart of ’em to retreat to the highest reaches of the highest peaks. Ya’ll just hold out right up there. We’ll call ya down when we’ve got some mountain ranges we want ground down again.

As if. The last thing this world needs is fewer mountains. I say bring on global warming, give those glaciers a good ol’ scare. We need to print bumper stickers, slap them on all the suburban assault vehicles drivin’ around. I’m just doing my part to save the mountains from the endless cycle of violence propogated by glaciers, erosion, and their bloodthirsty kin. That may be a bit long-winded for a bumper sticker. I’m sure that with a bit more thought we can come up with a slogan of some economy.

Anywho, it’s a lame time of the year. Everything feels stale. I’m tired of the interweb, and I visit bookstores just to look at the spines of all the tech books discussing languages and concepts that I will probably never understand. I work out at the Y three days a week, and I busy myself on the treadmill by pretending that with every footfall I am crushing the skull of one of my adversaries (of which there are three, all well-crushed by this point). My music collection irritates me in its utter blandness, which is ironic considering that during my past summer of wilderness guidery, I would’ve killed to hear even one song from it.

Ahh yes, summer. No matter where we are, we yearn for where we are not. No matter what we have, we yearn for what we have not. Perhaps it is worth noting that it is official, that I will indeed be guiding a 20-day backpacking trip to the backcountry of Yellowstone this coming summer. That there, that there is some pretty rugged country when you meander beyond the highway. There are grizzlies. There are valleys and rivers named after grizzlies, through which we will be hiking. The maps I have in my possession include advice on what to do when you’re hanging around with a carcass (do not hang around with a carcass).

It shall be quite the epic summer, all told, and a vast departure from our current state of absolute web nerdery. But the extremes are what we live for, and without them we might as well curl up and die in a cave or a storm drain or a cubicle. For perhaps the first time in my life I’m planning things not just days, not just months, but years in advance. In my soul there are embers that consume the body when fanned. It is upon these muttering coals that I place the kindling and timbers necessary to ignite the wildfires of existence for which I live.

Operating under the maxim that all speculations must change in a million different ways before they unfold in utterly unpredictable manners, we can offer some insight as to what the next couple years may offer. Yellowstone ’tis only the beginning of a beautiful adventure that will, perchance, be followed the next summer by thirty days in the Wind River Range, and culminate the following summer in a grand 50-day quest to the heart of Alaska.

We would love to wedge a NOLS mountaineering trip somewhere in there, but the question remains whether we wish to spend 40 days in Patagonia or 40 days the Himalayas. Fortunately, we have the unconditional financial backing of a particular organization, which was founded in October 2005 for the sole purpose of financing such great bouts of lunacy as this.

And speaking of that organization, it has spent quite a bit of its time over the last couple months learning a thing or two about its practice. Frustrated with the churlish nature of FTP, it has learned how to tarball vast directories and files, upload them to a web server, and expand them at will. In this manner the organization has already migrated two sites from one webhost to another, and it hopes to do more. Oh so much more.

The organization has also made unprecedented headway in teaching itself PHP. Included in its efforts have been a small website bootstrapping/templating system, a web form that updates a mySQL database, and a form that will upload a file to a web server. At this point the scripts offer little more than gaping security holes for the organization in question, but they are valid proof-of-concepts that nevertheless make it proud.

Additionally, the organization has spent a lot of time experimenting with such programs as WordPress, Textpattern, Movable Type and Expression Engine, as it pursues an ideal tool for providing content management to clients. In case one is interested, the organization finds that WordPress is probably the best solution, however it may side with the frightening complexity of Movable Type, given its years of experience with that particular program.

sIFR has been another pursuit of this organization, as it seeks clever ways of enhancing its typography online. Futhermore, the future will no-doubt see work with Prototype, Scripaculous and Behaviour, as the organization broadens its knowledge of AJAX and DOM manipulation.

Particular members of the organization are frequenty dismayed by the vast scope and breadth of knowledge required to work effectively in its industry, and these members would abandon all hope if not for the dramatic world undertakings that depended so unconditionally on its success. Both sides are absolutely necessary, as one feeds on the other in a relationship of mutually assured existence.

In the meantime, there is still a winter to be slogged through. We shall weather this storm by traveling to Duluth for a weekend of snowboarding, in anticipation of our trip to Utah that is still three weeks away.

January 9, 2006

The Hairest Man Competition

The Hairiest Man Competition, aboard the Carnival Glory Cruise Ship, December 2005

I present to you the second coolest movie you will ever see ever. This was shot live on the Carnival Glory, in an undisclosed corner of the Caribbean Sea. What you see here is the final dance-off for the World’s Hairiest Man Competition.

For your own safety, I have made the video available in two resolutions. May I recommend the low-resolution video first, so you can check whether you think you can handle it at a higher resolution?

The Hairiest Man Competition (3.2MB, low resolution)

The Hairiest Man Competition (7.6MB, high resolution)

January 6, 2006

Life on a Cruise Ship

The Carnival Glory cruise ship docked at St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Winter 2005

We are recently returned from our first trip aboard a cruise ship. We sailed on the Carnival Glory, a ship that is 1,000 feet, 110,000 tons, and $500 million worth of floating Vegas. The architecture and design was incredibly ornate, with everything done up in chrome and such, and the attention to detail in decorating the ship was absolutely staggering.

On the Glory every room is color-coordinated, with such names and styles as the Club Crimson, the Golden Restaurant, and the Bar Blue. The Amber Palace was a theater that spanned three decks and featured a giant chandelier. My six-month-old nephew had such a grand time looking at all the chromed surfaces and the ceilings that changed color, that he’s probably bored to tears now that he’s back home. No mirrored ceilings? What a drag!

One of my early fears of the cruise was that I was going to be out-classed by the other patrons. I have my own tuxedo, but I consider myself far from a classy person. My hair is too long and I spend my summers growing wild beards and getting dirt under my nails and in my mouth. When you see an ad for a cruise, the patrons aboard seem to be a strange breed of superpeople, who have skin crafted from precious metal and teeth carved from ivory. I looked at these images in dismay, fearing that I would be clapped in irons and sent to the engine room for the duration of the cruise, lest my hideous visage disturb the beautiful people aboard.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. People on cruise ships are ugly. Like, professionally ugly. Between martinis we were frequently bored, and we entertained ourselves by watching people on the uppermost deck of the ship. Sometimes we would count the number of men wearing muscle shirts and wife-beaters, using tattoos as a reference to avoid inadvertently counting the same person twice. Other times we’d count Harley Davidson shirts, or hold contests for who could find the best mustache.

One particular specimen held our attention for nearly an hour. This was a overweight middle-aged man, crammed into a bright blue Speedo, with more hair on his back than on his head. He was sporting a different watch on each wrist, one of which was the size of a squirrel and had an antenna. We found him lounging in a deck chair, sunning himself and reading a book about estate planning.

At one point the man got up to visit the buffet, his estate sufficiently planned, and he produced a yellow fanny pack that he strapped to his waist. We damn near lost it as he fiddled with the pack for a couple minutes, trying to find the best way to wear it. "Should it ride in the back, in the front, or shall I cock it rakishly to the side?" In the end, he went rakish. As he turned away from us and toward the buffet, we shuddered in anticipation of what we were about to see. Fortunately, the tag from his Speedo was sticking straight up, covering up his crack. Every single person on our side of the ship heaved a sigh of relief. It nearly blew us off course.

Here’s something you probably know. Cruise ships move. All told our seven-day trip covered 2,400 miles, burning approximately 50 gallons of diesel a mile. To cover those vast distances our ship sailed day in and day out, to the tune of modest rocking and rolling for those of us aboard. The motion is subtle but is still quite noticeable, especially when you’re out in the deep waters. My father could tell you all about the swell frequencies, how the wave period was approximately seven seconds, which is the same as that for a skyscraper moving in the wind, but his lousy son chose a life of music and liberal arts and has a better grasp of verbiage than physics.

Sometimes you will have one too many martinis and you will ask yourself, "Is that me or the boat?" Sometimes you will ask other people too, who will tell you it’s just the boat and buy you another drink. Some people on the ship get seasick, either from the ship or from the martinis, and you can identify these people by the tiny patches they wear behind their ears.

Everyone aboard the ship, however, adjusts their walking patterns to compensate for the rocking of the ship. Again, the movement is subtle and you get used to it, and pretty soon you wonder what you would do if the ground wasn’t moving and lurching all the time. What would you do then?

Fortunately for you, the ground is always moving and lurching. Even when you go ashore and are traipsing about the island of St. Maarten, the ground moves. The ground even moves when your cruise is over and you have checked into the airport and are walking to your terminal. I spent a moment in the airport bookstore in Orlando, and actually had to leave because the shop was swaying so much.

Even in Minnesota, a place one would think is far from the influence of rolling oceans and cruise ships, you stumble as you walk. The only cure for this is more time or more martinis, the latter being less of a cure and more of an excuse.

The service aboard the Glory was absolutely incredible. The staff would make up your stateroom multiple times a day, and fold your towels into elaborate animals like elephants and pigs and spider monkeys. Even if they were angry with you for some reason they would still make you a snake. Everywhere you would go on the ship, someone was sweeping, polishing or cleaning something.

The legends of the midnight buffet and the 24-hour pizzeria are all true. Aboard a cruise ship, there is never a moment when you can’t be eating, and since all food is already included in your fare, there is no reason you shouldn’t be eating. Plus, there’s even a gym and spa and such, so if you feel guilty you can go ahead and kick your own ass, you little masochist, you. Running on a treadmill on a moving ship is an incredibly disorienting experience, and one that I heartily recommend at least once.

The staff comes from all over the world, and they work long hours and long months away from their families. One of our servers was from Myanmar, the other was from the Philippines. Our bartender was from Estonia. Our karaoke hostess was beautiful. Everyone working aboard the ship had an accent, and even the American staff members spoke in strange, indiscernible tongues. This I can only attribute to something I call The Hook Effect.

When I worked for my windsurfing shop I was a gear tech for our lessons department, and I helped out with rigs and equipment at our windsurfing school down on the Hook in Hood River. At the Hook we had a diverse staff from all over the place, including British Columbia, Sweden, Florida, Oregon, Minnesota, and of course, the Yooper.

After a summer of listening to ourselves talk we had adopted each other’s accents and speech mannerisms, such that we had invented a completely new dialect specific to our crew. Other people could barely understand us, and certainly couldn’t place our region or country of origin. I assume that the very same thing happens on a cruise ship, only on a far grander scale.

It was nice to see that Carnival made every attempt to point out that if the cruise was enjoyable, it was entirely due to the efforts of these hardworking folk. Their service was spectacular, and they totally deserve mad props.

January 3, 2006

Welcome to Siskiwit

Siskiwit Lake, as seen from the Greenstone Ridge near Mount Siskiwit, Isle Royale

It looks like the DNS mayhem is finally settling down, so perhaps it is time to discuss some of the details of this fine young website. As some may no doubt recall, the last design was known affectionately as Wounded Knee, after the amazing Primus song of the same name. This here design is known as Siskiwit, named after the fine Siskiwit Lake on Isle Royale in Lake Superior.

Yessiree Bob, you read that right. That’s a lake on an island in a lake. What’s more, Siskiwit Lake has an island known as Ryan Island, which is the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake… IN THE WORLD! The recursion alone is enough to make a mind explode, but our fearless group hiked the entire island for eleven days this past summer and suffered no cerebral hemorrhaging!

With Siskiwit we finally jettisoned pixel-based font sizes, in favor of relative sizes that scale with ease. Go ahead and increase or decrease the default font size in your browser, and watch as the design magically scales to accommodate the new sizes! (note: aside from a smattering of elf guts, actual magic use is limited). Props go to Dan Cederholm of SimpleBits for Bulletproof Web Design, a book that is both sexy and informative. Needless to say, all the code for Siskiwit is standards-based XHTML/CSS, with a dash of PHP thrown in to automate task drudgery.

As always, the Weblog, Sundries and Photolog portions of this website purr along with Movable Type, riding atop a MySQL database. With moving to a new webhost and all we had to do a fresh install of MT, but the import/export function seamlessly plopped all our existing content down into the new system.

Oh, and that’s another thing. Brainside Out is now hosted by Dreamhost, a relationship which so far has been delightful and cost-effective to boot. Even their least expensive hosting option is packed with 4.8GB of disk space, 120GB of bandwidth, unlimited MySQL databases, and support for more programming languages than you can shake a stick at. And seriously, any webhost whose home page features a fat kid passed out on a sofa is alright by me. Their blog is quite the riot, too. I swear the people who work there are nuts, which is probably why we get along so well.

A number of months ago we finally installed Shaun Inman’s Shortstat to see what all the fuss was about, and were blown away by the stark (and beautiful!) simplicity of this tiny statistics app. Well, Shortstat spun itself a chrysalis for a long time and recently reemerged as Mint. We installed it here yesterday, and it honestly knocks the socks off Shortstat. Mint is the most elegant analytics package you will find, and one that is immune to referrer spam and other tricks that horribly skew many site statistics. If you want to see it in action, you can dive right into the real-life Mint installation for Designologue.

So anyway, this is what we’ve been doing for the last couple months. We’ve covered a lot of ground and learned a lot of new things, but in all honesty we’re just getting started. We hope that 2006 will see the true emergence of our life philosophy of constantly kicking ass without bothering to take names.

*UPDATE: Dreamhost just quadrupled the amount of disk storage and octupled the amount of bandwidth you get. That means you can have 20GB of disk space and 1000GB of bandwidth for $8 a month. Plus, disk storage for your plan automatically increases 120MB a week, and bandwidth increases by 8GB.


January 2, 2006


Hello. Welcome to 2006, and welcome to the new face of Brainside Out Industries. A couple months of tireless labor and sleepless nights have resulted in this new slice of hotness. The site has been completely rebuilt from the ground up and migrated to a new server, so it’s possible there are still a couple glitches sitting in the wings. Feel free to have a look around, kick the tires, and shout real loud at the top of your lungs. I’m really excited for this year, as my gut tells me some rather tremendous things are afoot.

Aside from toying with the very fabric of spacetime, there’s little we can do but sit back and wait for it all to happen. However, I do not discount the endless possibilities that could be allowed by the subtle twisting of physical law. Bending reality to my will is just the way of things.

Anyway, we are back from our Caribbean cruise, which I must say was The Weirdest Thing I Have Ever Done Ever. Our ship had thirteen bars and a three-story waterslide. Every night we ate luxurious meals of roast duckling and lobster and veal. I heard the Jackson Five version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town no less than one hundred times. My brother-in-law won a solid gold plastic ship-on-a-stick for his synchronized swimming act. One night I threw down my James Brown karaoke bit and the entire bar erupted in a standing ovation. A three-year-old gave me the most precious gift ever. I bore witness to the Hairiest Chest Contest.

I’ll let you in on all the details before too long.