Sunday, November 23, 2014

i102fly for real!

This was a few weeks back, but whatever. My friend Olga is one of the most quality people I know, add to that fact, she flies planes which pretty much makes her a superwoman. I got to go up with her as she accompanied a Spanish guy getting his flight hours.

Flight plans and maps. Charted destination: the desert no San Luis Obispo or Santa Maria no San Luis. Kind of amazed how easy it is to switch up the route as we sit here on the couch in the Van Nuys Airport office a gigantic tub of pretzels passed between us.

The plane is finally ready. Olga supervises the checks. Pol fills out the paper work. We cuddle up in the cockpit...

.. all 2 square feet of it.

me super excited to take off.

My first time in a cessna and I have to say it was pretty intense when we took off. I got real butterflies as we rattled this tiny thing down the runway, the end of the airport fast approaching and this itty little box starting to hover off the ground. And as we ascended the first hundred feet or so, it felt like we could drop off any second. flight


...cockpit group photo. 
Relaxing and doing no work back there, while the pilots drop us down into  Santa Maria.

This is a climbing location that I frequent from the sky! Stoney Point. This will tell you all you need to know about this legendary location.  

Highlight as we come in high - Olga says, "Don't worry these things drop like a sack of potatoes!" Great confidence as we come down for the landing.

So where are we going next?

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Some nights when I'm arm deep in web design, I'll put on a documentary in the background and zone out to the blare of scientific studies and talking heads. In the moment, nothing shines the dullness of computer work, like some food for thought.

The other night I found something random on reincarnation - one of my favorite topics.

There are some really compelling cases out there that suggest the existence of reincarnation. These are the ones that I liked:

A fire chief from Connecticut was checking out some historic Civil War sites.
He had a complete and uncharacteristic breakdown for no reason in a ditch along the road. 
Later he found a booklet with a Civil War general's picture that looked just like him. 
Then he found out the general was shot right in the ditch where he'd collapsed.

 (She looks a lot like her, dont you think?)

 As a child in Sweden, Barbro Kalen had nightmares with soldiers and 
uniforms terrified her. She though her name was Anne and 
remembered details about this past life even though the Diaries of Anne Frank 
had not been published in Sweden at the time.  At 10 she visited Amsterdam 
with her parents and knew her way around the neighborhood without a map. 
She pointed out changes that were made to the Anne Frank house 
when it was converted to a museum. Barbo had a knack for writing. 
She had her first book published at the age of 12. 
Anne Frank's cousin in Switzerland met Barbro 
and even he believed her to be AF's reincarnation.

I just got a book from the library on the topic. It makes me wonder if I've had a past life or if you have? Sometimes there are strange tendencies, affinities or the opposite that make you think, hmm I must've encountered this before.

For example, I'm not afraid of heights; I'm not afraid of animals or a tragic death or stabbing or buglers. But I can easily conceive of drowning. When I'm at the bottom of a pool swimming around with two lungs full of air, it doesn't matter; I feel like I'm one moment away from watching it all fade away. I can easily imagine the diluted sky above waffling out in a blur. There's no good explanation. I grew up at the lake; I've been swimming all my life without any incident. It's just a gut reaction.

If you are reading, do you have any assumptions about a past life?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

the art of ice climbing

see that double entendre there.

With the season change, I keep thinking about getting back up to the mountains. Before the leaves are gone, we must get one more camp, one more cold morning around the campfire.

Ice climbing season is coming too; time will tell how warm of a winter it is, but if the falls are frozen, we are going to strap up. Maybe these sketches will get you inspired for some cold weather adventures. What is endearingly called: a suffer-fest!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

maps, polar exploration, and scurvy

I've been back at my map series, just finishing my latest on polar exploration after reading: Albanov's journey, Shackleton's voyage (even though it was the Antarctic), Nansen, and seems like there was one more. This map is lightly based on those journeys on foot around the polar areas of Franz Josef Land, Svalbard, Novaya Zemlya in the Barents Sea.

I posted this picture on instagram and got linked back to all of these awesome maps! Map heaven. Indulge me.

From left to right: @jenmfarrell_, @patriciacrowther78, @all_about_them_books, @seannasbooks,, @lilyandbooks, @travel_books_life, @bookswithdylan, @ughfiction

Thursday, September 25, 2014


This is a ode to Dan ™ Wang.

The web is a place for pretenses, pretty things, and the shiny side of life, especially blogs. Bringing reality into focus is maybe not something we turn to the web for, but reality it is. Shit has certainly reigned. Two weeks ago, we lost a great friend; and at the risk of being too personal, forthright, whatever, I'd like to take a minute to immortalize him on the web.

Ro and I met Dan at a birthday party four or five years ago. He was awkwardly standing around, and when the dancing started, he awkwardly danced along. His gumption to join in the dancing while being so painfully self-aware made him instantly likable and highly relate-able. As we began to see him at numerous social occasions, it became clear that despite his discomfort in social situations, Dan was quite possibly the most social person we'd ever met. He was always leaving the party/movie premiere/New Years celebration/dinner to run to another function. We enjoyed giving him a hard time whenever he tried to make an exit. 

He was a part of innumerable, and I do mean innumerable, social and environmental activist groups.  The Occupy Movement, Non-GMO advocacy, the community garden, city beautification, the yoga center, Burning Man, the list has no end. I have no idea how he was able to be involved in so many diverse projects.... But he was a doer and a believer in community. He was always frustrated by the complacency and isolation of those around him.  Whether he knew it or not, he had a huge community; people came out en masse for him at the memorial held at the garden last weekend.  

The crowd was as diverse as his range of interests. Any given topic would take steroids when he entered the conversation. Chatting could take an abrupt left turn and end up considering web-savvy Afghan weavers who listen to rockabilly or anarchist post punk (that was a real conversation).  He worked in computers, so Ro and he often splintered off into riveting conversations about Linux and remote servers. His embrace of all things nerdy, computer software, Simpsons, Burn Notice clashed well with his ride: a loud, but Eco-friendly motorcycle. 

Coming out of the memorial I was inspired by two strongly positive thoughts. First, it is hard not to take notice of  Dan's vigilance and consistency. In millions of small ways, he worked to make his community and the world a better place, one parking lot, one sign, one label at a time. Secondly, as we all traded stories and stepped back to see him from this twisted perspective, I was again inspired by his sometimes comical, but always constant individuality. How many bread-baking Led Zeppelin and acid metal rocking, pothead Chinese-American, environmental biker activists gardeners do you know... only one. 

You are free to be who you are. Dan lights the way.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

one little cloud

Death ends a chapter or begins another, it's never just a text-heavy page. For how much time people spend thinking about dying, it might as well be an errand to run or a TiVo episode to watch. Probably yet another reason why, when it happens, expected or not, it's always shocking.  

Its presence dominates the psyche like a master ninja, striking hard and retreating to invisibility. The aftermath is a tornado of loose thoughts, unchained emotions, and shifting perspectives. Expressing grief (or not) is as disorienting. 

Memories start to playback on a constant reel. Alone or together, so many details come to the surface. Taking stock of all those quirks, th  important and the nonsense on equal ground, is cathartic and seems honorable, sending off a soul with respect and recognition of all that happened here. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Landscape Art Print on Society6

I had some requests, so I finally got some of my travel landscapes up on Society6. As far as frame + print goes, the price cant be beat. Most of these are from last summer when I put almost 6000 miles on my car(s), stretched my vagabond muscle, got real intimate with cruise control.

My brother came to visit, and I gave him the grand tour of California including Yosemite, Big Sur and the Californian coast. Then my friend Mie and I drove from Virginia to back to California mapping a ton of locales I'd always wanted to see, including Colorado, New Orleans, and Utah.

These landscape squares would look super chic in your bathroom!

Thursday, August 14, 2014



"All of nature in its awful vastness and incomprehensible complexity is in the end interrelated - worlds within worlds within worlds: the seen and the unseen - the physical and the immaterial are all connected - each exerting influence on the next - bound, as it were, by chains of analogy - magnetic chains. Every decision, every action mirrors, ripples, reflects and echoes throughout the whole of creation. The world is indeed bound with secret knots."

~Thomas P. Kelley


Monday, August 11, 2014

Saturday, August 9, 2014

no trespassing

Highway 395 hugs the eastern foot of the Sierras. Along the entire stretch of the Southern Sierras for hundreds of miles, it's just you and those giant mountains. Here and there a tiny one market town, here and there an abandoned trailer park. You never stop because the dust is flying and the semis flank your car. But maybe these ghosts deserve some attention. What life used to exist here?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

in the dust

Pulvis et umbra sumus. (We are but dust and shadow.)

It was after 7pm; the sun was low behind the mountains. Wind was fiercely rolling through the barren valley; we got tired of the swerving18 wheelers and pulled off into Manzanar. Loud whooshes of sand and dust pummeled our car as we inched along the cracked roads, branches and dead weeds flying. We made our way back to the monument.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Nacimiento in English means the origin

Perhaps the worst situations are just clearing the way for magic

Crummy camp spots were taken from Monterrey all of the way down to San Luis Obispo. We were stuck south of Big Sur without a dirt path to lay our heads, the sun set, and a dwindling tank of gas. With no idea what to do, we found a stray road and instead of heading north or south, we timidly went vertical. Climbing nearly two thousand feet in elevation, we came to a large curve in the road where some fellow stragglers were parked. We stopped and basked in the most etheric view possible. Silver clouds ebbed out over the water a thousand feet down, two oceans lain on top of each other. It was a full moon. 

We felt like aliens.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Shibat recited this prayer poem as we sat out on the porch one summer evening:

Let me walk in beauty
And make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
And my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand
The things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have
Hidden in every leaf and rock.

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,
But to fight my greatest enemy
~ myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
With clean hands and straight eyes.

Appreciate it

The streets of Leesburg, Virginia right after an afternoon rain. We ate at a Jamaican cafe where I got a tattoo to wear to the wedding because it was customer appreciation day.

Storm rolls in over the lake where we spent a relaxed afternoon playing water Fribee with local kids, eating Little Debbies, and driving around the entire lake with all of the windows open. Perfect days; my father says we should spread his ashes here. I hope he never dies.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

north carolina

Scoped out some extremely good rock in North Carolina. It was the perfect place to top rope and share the love of climbing with my family. My brother, mom and dad, cousin and even grandmother came out to the crag! That's how we Virginians do it

Friday, May 9, 2014

Rodrigo y Gabriela - 'Tamacun'

Wednesday concert at the Palladium, some pretty epic guitar duos from Rodrigo y Gabriela

Monday, May 5, 2014

Art workshops & a day in the park

After staying up all night in a heated debate with friends about marriage on Saturday, I got to chill out with a bunch of kids by the water side and make paper flowers on Sunday.
The Waldorf community in Long Beach hosted the event for May Day. There were all sorts of other earthy things happening, crafts, music, tea-tasting. My favorite moment came when a little boy started lingering behind the group of girls making flowers. It was obvious he wanted to get into the mix. I kept asking if he wanted to join, but he was shaking his head, balking at the idea of making pretty flowers. I said, "Okay, then. I have a challenge for you then. I've never seen it done, but I think you might know how to make it happen. 3d cactus out of paper. WITH thorns." His enthusiasm was so cute; he got right to business, engineering this little cactus with tiny little flowers. He worked on diligently despite all of his friends pestering him to play tag.

A sample of the paper flowers, pretty simple, but very nice, especially when there are a ton all piled together.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ladies take to the Hills

“We are now in the mountains
and they are in us,
kindling enthusiasm,
filling every pore and cell of us.”               
        - John Muir

“Mountains are not Stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve,
they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.”             
       - Anatoli Boukreev

Under the shadow of the high sierras at home in the mountains. Here are a few photos from our recent trip into the playground that is Alabama Hills at the feet of some of the tallest mountains in the 48. Mount Williamson and Whitney loomed over our campground like sleeping buffalo. We actually had wild buffalo outside of our camp in Africa which was not quite as pleasant or comforting. I couldn't sleep, imagining all night a stampede charging my tent. Fortunately this weekend, we had Darwin the terrier to take care of any hostile threats.

Girl climbing weekend was a solid idea. We were preceded by a fresh snow in the hills that stayed only long enough to dust the mountains. By the time we got there, things were warming up. Even though it was chilly, we got away with pretty ideal camping weather. My camp mates might argue with me, but forties are not bad when camping in spring. I've stayed in this area and had frozen water by morning, so we got off easy this time.

Being the legitimate campers that we are, we performed the staples of outdoor living: fire, smores and esoteric stories of ghost, aliens, and coincidences. Stories must be told. And mountains must be climbed.

This is the Shark's Fin. It looks tiny from the road, but it is actually somewhere between 40 and 50 feet.. and look at the backdrop. Never gets old.
My first solo rappel.
Second climbing locale, still easy one pitch but from the top the view was outstanding. Then we got burnt, or at least I did.
one half of the view, looking east
Darwin; Ruthie took good care of him in the back seat. He was a pretty fierce guard dog, but has some emotional issues; I'll leave it at that. Leang's first time camping; and she's still alive.
Nupur drinks beer for breakfast. That's how she sends. And Leang eats 16 egg whites.
Signature stuffed pepper, not camping without them.
Darwin and his tongue. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

This African book

Slice of life from the sketchbook I kept on Kilimanjaro. Don't carry a sketchbook up the mountain, that was stupid.

Monday, April 21, 2014

nugget of pessimistic optimism

Kurt Vonnegut's MO, somehow he manages to be simultaneously jaded and giddy at the same time. He's just light-heartedly chuckling about the hopelessness of the human race. You know, that's all..

I read Cat's Cradle recently in which he makes up a whole religion that doubles back on itself. The first tenant being: “All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies." I walked away with his point being that the lies of religion make people happier than the truth derived from science. 

I wouldn't say I agree, but I still think it is a sound argument. I see it like trying a case without a weapon, DNA, or witnesses. You put together the pieces as best you can, and it seems to make sense with what you have in front of you. But you are working with a short deck. There's this great book with thought-provoking ideas and reasonable assumptions based on a narrow scope of humanity, its actions and effects. Given what society works with, these ideas about religion and science sadly seem to make sense and I can appreciate the casework. But I do think the real picture is a much bigger mystery, outside of the scope of the duality of these two constantly warring sides - religion and science. The unseen knots that bind us, quantum physics, galaxies beyond ours, wave particle paradox and observer effect, the brain, memory, love. None of it can be explained away in terms of science or conventional religion for that matter. Though there may be answers in both, and answers enough for the individual, which is all that matters sometimes, especially if you think that we are only working with one lifetime. Those answers might be enough. For me though, there is comfort in all the questions. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

words from the past live on

He wrote this poem back in the seventies, when gang life was prevalent, drugs abundant and communities falling apart. I always thought that the most valuable thing Victor ever taught me was related to acupuncture and energetics. But there are stories he'd tell sitting around dinner or in his living room about the Civil Rights Movement that were so captivating and inspiring, I feel as if I was there.
Really miss those times.

And I miss these ideals.

As life moves on, the battle to live freely becomes increasingly more difficult. Responsibility, expectation and ambition wear away that lightness of being. You need people around you who see the world this way, who push you on when everything around you is defying your convictions...and that's yet another reason why Victor being gone is a huge terrible hole.

Gonna go eat some sushi tonight with his old buddies to soften the edges.2 years.