Saturday, October 22, 2011

Some Recent Projects

Taking a break from financial topics, here are a few photos of other projects I've been working on the past few months.

Since I've spent very little time in front of a computer screen the past few months, I thought I'd share a few of the other projects I've been working on. Even when traveling, I seem to end up building stuff....

We went hiking around the Hetch-Hetchy reservoir with our brother-in-law:

Here's a view of the valley's secondary waterfall:

Turns out there was a little project needed on his family homestead in Gold Country--rebuilding a deck:

The old beam had to be re-leveled and "adjusted," and then new joists installed. The final product was considerably stronger than the rotted mess we took down. I tend to put a crown in these kinds of decks to counter eventual settling.

Naturally, working this hard in Gold Country sun works up an appetite, so here's one home-cooked meal we enjoyed: steak with fresh salsa, black beans with hominy and of course beer (not shown): (note the partially healed cut on my forearm--just the usual damage.)

I do go ocean swimming when we're in Hawaii, of course; here's a favorite spot:

But we also painted my mother-in-law's house, which had last been painted in the early 90s:

As you know, preparation is 90% of a good paint job, so here I am, scrubbing off the mildew/mold from fascia boards:

All that toil works up an appetite, so here's one of our grindz at our friends' home: poi, fresh ahi, fresh corn, poke, stir-fried veggies from the garden, chips and home-made guacamole and of course beer (not shown):

It is legal to collect limited quantities of wild ohelo berries, and here's part of our harvest:

Playing tourist is OK but the real fun in France was helping my brother with some projects around his house. Here I am wearing my little brother's nail belt while we install a somewhat tricky corregated ceiling to a deck to turn it into a watertight carport underneath:

The following day we built a raised-bed garden box and filled it with their accumulated composted yard debris and then added some store-bought manure and compost for the top layer:

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, however, so my brother took me to Montpelier on his "moto," a very fast and relatively comfortable BMW. We rode a 350 cc single-piston Matchless as teens (anyone ever heard of a Matchless, or ridden one?) plus an assortment of 2-cycle 250s and similar bikes. My brother has ridden motos his entire adult life, from ramshackle Triumphs in India to racing Ducatis that scared the living daylights out of me.

Since 130 Kilometers per hour (80 miles per hour) is normal on this machine, my brother rigged me up with proper gear; here I am with his bike:

My brother parking the bike in Montpelier:

A typical boulangerie we stopped in for a quick lunch:

I won't bore you with touristy photos of France or Paris, but here's a few snapshots of meals/food. Empanadas prepared by our sister-in-law's daughter:

A typical meal at my brother's/sister-in-law's home: homemade soup, bread from the village bakery, a selection of cheese (brobi, chevre, and brie at this meal), fresh veggies, fresh salad with vinigrette dressing and an outstanding wine:

Here is a fancy dessert we enjoyed in Paris: the chocolate is the exact shape and size of the bolts that fasten the Eiffel Tower:

As I note below, most of my time is spent pursuing the sort of self-reliance that I promote on the weblog and in my books. What sort of message is given if someone promoting a path doesn't actually live the life being recommended to others? This is why my time online is strictly limited; I do my best to maintain correspondence and write useful things in those few hours, but it's impossible to keep up with everything digital and fulfill one's goals in the real world. The balance/trade-off is a difficult one, as you no doubt know, a ceaseless juggling act.

To me, the time I have spent with family and friends is my "wealth," and the application of tradecraft skills in the real world my "net worth" and source of satisfaction.

I also squeezed in another project: recording a song I wrote with an old friend and musical mentor. It's titled My Big Island Girl (MP3), and yes, it was recorded on the Big Island.

Here are the liner notes about the song:

We are longtime friends who have played together for over 30 years. One of us (Coconut Charlie) has been a professional musician for almost 20 years who decided to give up gigging for the joys of recording. The other (CHS) just tries not to embarrass himself on guitar. Both of us write songs. CC's work tends to instrumental rock/jazz, CHS tends to write pop songs like "My Big Island Girl," which was inspired by CHS's wife, who is, yes, a Big Island girl. We recorded the song as "live" as possible: rhythm guitar (CHS) in two takes, bass and lead guitar (CC) in one take each, vocal in 3 takes (CHS) and background vocals in a couple takes. The song references a beach known to Hilo, Hawaii natives, and the name we chose for the band (Polihua) reflects CHS's long history in Hawaii. The song was written as a contemporary entry in the venerable "hapa-haole" Hawaiian style: words in English, Hawaiian themes/references. CHS thinks CC's guitar solo is a mini-symphony of roughly 30 seconds. The song is short by the usual standards but we think it is "long enough," i.e. it captures everything we wanted to communicate in words and music. We had great fun recording it and we hope you enjoy it.

If you want to give the guitar players an unmatchable thrill, you can buy (gasp) an official MP3 for 99 cents from (also, and My Big Island Girl ( MP3 download)

The song will be available on iTunes in a few weeks, according to the distributor.

Though I am a hopelessly mediocre musician, CC's brilliant improvisation more than compensates for the inadequacies of my voice and guitar work. Have a listen, it's only 1:50 minutes long.

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