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After an awesome September for fall surf and a mostly satisfying October, November brought a sort of doldrums of surf to southern Maine. With fewer sessions available, and decent swell seemingly more rare than a snow leopard, I have been hunting down 2' waves in 35mph offshore winds just to get on something - or so it has seemed.

Just before dinner on Sunday, December 3, my friend and colleague Matthew called to ask if I'm planning a session under the supermoon. I could see the moon through the trees across my street because I was out grilling at the time. But I quickly dismissed him: it was already quite dark and I was about to head in for the family Sunday dinner.

But over the course of dinner, the thought sat in the not-quite-back of my head. I hadn't caught a really good wave in more than a week, and the moon was, as our president might say, "YUGE!"

At the end of dinner, I pulled up the Wells Beach cam to see what - if anything - I might see. Not much. I pulled up a swell, wind, and tide report, and things looked semi-promising. After checking in with the family, I threw gear in the car and a board on the roof before driving to Wells on a semi-hope for a 3' wave. Was I ever rewarded.

It was hours after sunset when I arrived, of course, but the sea, sand, and sky were nicely lit by Supermoon. It was tough to gauge the size of the waves from the lot, but it was clear that I'd at least get on clean, 2' waves while bathing in moonlight and ocean temps in the mid-40s.

Supermoon over Wells Beach, December 3, 2017
Supermoon over Wells Beach, December 3, 2017

But it wasn't 2'; it was a solid, consistent 3-4'! And clean. It was a bit tough to really judge position and time the waves. While the moon carve a long, runway-like swath of bright light across the narrow band of the ocean, outside of that band it was really tough to see the incoming swell. When I dialed it in, though, the near-dark drops were exhilarating. I caught perhaps half a dozen rights and at least as many lefts. Partly owing to the vision penalty, I often struggled to get the most from the waves, and there was a bit of a rip where I was set up, which pulled me too far outside over and over. But also got my share of 10-second rides complete with cutbacks.

The hardest part of it all, I think, involved finding and maintaining trim position on the face. The supermoon lit the lip right up, leaving a really dark (practically black) face and trough, which made it really difficult to judge position on the face. Going left, especially, I found myself riding up the face (towards the lit lip) and even off the wave - even with some conscious efforts to avoid that problem. It was interesting - and weird.

I've been thinking about it, and I liken it to driving a car into a pronounced curve. If you look to the inside of the curve, you'll drive right in and round nicely. If you let yourself look to the outside of the curve, you find yourself battling an outward drift that can actually be dangerous. I think my eyes were drawn to the light of the lip, and the board just followed.

December 3, 2017: 1 hour of night surfing under the supermoon at Wells Beach, Maine.

Silver Pixel from GoogleI picked up a new-to-me Google Pixel to replace my aging, beloved Nexus 5. I grabbed it off Swappa, my first-ever use of this great little marketplace. The seller offered a great price on a pristine 128GB silver version, complete with all packaging and the Daydream VR headset and four cases.

I like the Nexus (or Nexi?), but Google abandoned the Nexus line of reasonably priced "pure" Android phones before rebranding its flagship phone as a Pixel. The Nexus phone had a run through "Nexus 6." (Bladerunner, anyone?) For me, it seemed that everything went all phablet after the Nexus 5, or so it seemed. I'm not interested in a two-hander that won't fit in my front pocket. This explains my choice of the Pixel over the XL version, even though the XL seems easier to acquire aftermarket. (It's hard to get ANY Pixel direct from Google; they have a production problem.)

All was wonderful with my purchase, until I found the phone had an unlocked bootloader, which threw up cautions when the phone booted up. Turning a problem into an opportunity, I took a couple hours to research the issue. The seller was also helpful.

No biggie. I just needed to install Android Studio on my computer, open a Terminal, hook up my Pixel, and lock it down. It was a little more complicated since I didn't know the commands. But the Internet came to the rescue - again. Obstacle one overcome.

And overcoming that obstacle forced me to do some things I've been wanting to try for years: install some tools on my Mac that will enable me to root a phone to put newer versions of Android on it. I think I'll try that with the Nexus 5 down the road.

Project Fi was on my radar for a while. I figured I'd free up some shared data for the kids and the cost would mostly be a wash in the move. (I could be on Fi for $30/month, I think.) But it turned out that moving my number off the family's plan to play with Fi would not save me money. (Funny. I was sure it would.) Curses!

 

Lil' House Pose.
After three days on Lil' House. From left: Roger, Michael and Nate.

Lil' House comes to life! It's taken a couple years of stop-and-go tinkering, but our lil' house on the Mousam is now habitable. It's certainly still a work-in-progress, but she's turning into a cool little hangout in the woods.

When we bought our home, it came with this tiny, turn-of-the-century cottage on the back of the lot, in the woods. Mostly, the cottage was slowly rotting away and turning to mulch. Rotting trim and broken windows were letting rain and snow slowly decay the floorboards in the back left corner, and the cool brick chimney (boarded up) leaked, further compounding the problems. But it had charm.

Originally towed from some property in Wells sometime in the mid- or late-80s, the cottage sat precariously balanced on the two pressure-treated 4x4s used as a sled for transport. Under those beams were three old-style railroad ties. Back in 2013, Nate and I spent a day moving and leveling the cottage, then I used plastic sheeting to help slow the onslaught of water damage. But every time I went inside, I was turned away by the sheer magnitude of the interior project, the desire not to spend money on a tiny shack, and confusion about handling the built-in cabinetry. Do I try to salvage and reinstall it? Do I just toss it?

In early summer 2015, at a time when I needed to swing a hammer at something, I took a sledge hammer to the interior walls of Lil' House and attempted to pull the cabinetry without damaging it. I half succeeded, put all the woodwork under a big tarp, loaded up all the debris for the dump, then let the house sit for another year.

Lil' House picture. Interior
Interior of Lil' House. Gutted. Skylight openings cut.

Then in August, my son Nate, my father-in-law Roger, and I got a bit busy on the cottage. We stripped the moss-encrusted, leaking asphalt roof, found two cheap skylights at the Habitat for Humanity Re-store store and some shingles. We cut two 2'x2' holes in the roof, installed the skylights, and re-roofed Lil' House. Nate took a small sledge to the chimney, which we removed.

Lil' House under construction.
Old windows are out, rotting wood is being cut away, old roof is on the tarp, skylight holes are in, and chimney hole (on left) is covered.

I had been collecting old, vertical sash windows from the side of the road for a couple years, knowing that I did NOT want to spend much money on this project. I mostly hoarded them in Lil' House, waiting for the day when I would actually put some windows in. But salvaged windows aren't uniform, and they typically don't match.

We made the best of it by greatly expanding the glass area of the house. Including the skylights, there is easily more than 24 square feet of glass in this tiny, 10x9 cottage. We kept just one window - itself a replacement, vertical-sash frame from an old double-hung - and put in four additional, fairly large windows. Two open in, suspended from the rafters. Two open out. And one is fixed.

Roofing Lil' House.
Skylights are in, shingles are on. All that's left is the ridge cap.

I salvaged screen material and built fixed screens for the windows that open. Where Lil' House was once a dark, dank shack with low ceilings, boarded up, missing, and broken windows, she is now a small room with tons of light, a breeze, and a view of the woods.

It made little sense to try to reinstall the built-in cabinet: it took up about 25% of the square footage and a good portion of the wood was damaged in the removal. Instead, I committed to re-using it where I could. It became exterior trim board, replacement sill plating and structural beams, and more.

And I decided to use the biggest "counter" piece to make a built-in, drop-down desk/table. While the desktop is way overbuilt, coming in around 50 pounds, it gives me a good feeling to keep it. It folds down and out of the way, helping to maximize the 90 square feet of floor space, but then it pops right back up to become a five-foot-long desktop.

Lil' House Interior.
Looking in on Lil' House from the front door, floor view. Notice all the light.

Next came some wiring. There's nothing fancy here because I'm delivering power via extension cord. I picked up a couple interior wall sconces and wired them together and to a plug. I even found a free front porch light that I mounted right outside.

I had picked up a stereo receiver/tuner and a CD changer from the transfer station Treasure Chest a couple months ago. And last year I picked up a couple bookshelf Realistic speakers at Treasure Chest. I built a small shelf in the corner and above the desk, where I put the stereo system. I mounted the speakers up in the peak. This little cottage is coming along!

Lil' House.
View from the back side, with outward swinging windows.

Much of the site is still a construction zone, with tools in boxes in the cottage and piles of debris scattered about. And she still looks just awful from the exterior because I need to get busy on some sanding and painting. She's all trimmed up on the outside now, though I still need to replace a couple rotting trim boards around the doorway. But this Lil' House is now a legitimate cottage. I could bring a cot out and easily use it as a three-season shelter.

 

 

In a moment of wild enthusiasm, I decided to develop a surf wax brand: Humanism's Surf Wax. It's a great wax for New England, and it has a history dating back to the gods and titans.

Humanism's Surf Wax image.

The Legend of Humanism's Surf Wax:

Invented by Hephaestus, god of fire and woodstoves, this wax helped Poseidon surf the ancient seas. Stolen from Olympus by Prometheus, the formula contributed to human flourishing for millenia. Its loss ushered in the Dark Ages. But fortune favors the curious, and Renaissance scholars found the lost formula while translating Homer's third epic, Kymatistá. This wax - now forged in New Hampshire for those strong in spirit, free in thought, and sound in body - may have failed Icarus. But it is perfect for New England. Enjoy!

The back story involves a trip to a local surf shop and discovery of the option for surf wax custom branding options out of New Hampshire.

I reached out to Jim at Jimbo's Surf Wax to get a case of "private label" Cold Water wax and got busy with a design. Along the way, I got a bit overzealous and ended up designing three distinct private labels (Lil' Crippsy Surf Wax and Ma Em's Noogis Surf Wax are the others) and getting Jimbo to put his special blend in my wrappers. Fun stuff.

To put it mildly, I won't be wanting for wax anytime soon!

The inspiration for my "legend" is the legend that appears on every carton of Newman's Roadside Virgin Lemonade, a great lemonade that pairs well with brewed tea in the Maine summer.

After living for more than 20 years without cable, I was "forced" to sign on with Time Warner when I relocated to Maine. I'm exaggerating about the lack of cable: I spent years with Dish Network, and later adopted AT&T's uVerse service when it hit my neighborhood and bundling meant a savings fo $50/month.

It's funny, but I loved the Dish UI, and the uVerse UI was also reasonably decent. (Where Dish simply hid unsubscribed channels, uVerse gave me visual cues that showed channels I didn't get.) TWC's UI is just awful! They tease you by showing you the entire package of programs, and many of them are not really available without significant subscription charges. And, oddly, the entire system has a time lag in the UI - try scrolling through a channels menu and the system can't keep up. This from a company that advertises super high speeds.  (My guess is that Dish and AT&T DL channel menus to a HDD, but TWC prefers to serve it all up over and over.

Anyway, I've just completed my one year "teaser" rate on the bundled TV, Phone, Internet service.  (It's really about the only game in town, or in the woods where I live.) When I called to secure a continued discount I learned that I'd be getting the "step" rate. I get a discount over full retail pricing, but it's less than the teaser.  This is like getting the second bag of dope at half price. Why the discount? To lock you even longer so you really feel the pain of loss (withdrawal?) should you cancel.

So we're cutting the cable! Think cold turkey.  OK, not quite.  I'm implementing a hodgepodge setup for media.  Netflix streaming and a DVD plan, something we've had for nearly a decade.  I've spent a whopping $79 on the refurbished high end Roku box, with the bonus of a HD Netflix stream that far exceeds the quality we've been getting through our Wii.  And now I'm working up a set of channels on the Roku that will get us some of what we'll lose by cutting cable. Plex is going to be an awesome way to stream our own media to the TV without putting a computer in the room. And I'm likely to subscribe to Hulu Plus to get some network programming.  For the networks, I'm toying with the OTA HD reception we can pull in from the Portland stations.  That's a project, but I can already see it working reasonably well.We'll end up saving about $40/month, so it will take a couple months to recoup the Roku investment. And a decent HD antenna will run me close to $100.  Of course, that's all equipment I get to keep, unlike that cable box I rent for about $100/year.

We'll lose Disney, and the kids do watch 2-3 of their shows pretty regularly. And Cartoon Network is a favorite for the Clone Wars animated series.  I'm working on solutions for those challenges. I'm hoping that I might use Plex, iTunes, and possibly Hulu Plus to assist here. And I don't have a DVR solution in the mix - yet.

And we're also talking about dropping the landline for another $30 savings.  I'm still feeling too old fashioned to be without a phone, but we're already getting a VOIP phone setup through TWC. We don't get the old phone system that works in power outages anyway, making the security of a landline a kind a mental fiction. There's no reason I can't implement a third party VOIP solution at a fraction of the TWC price, and I've looked into it. My real hesitation: TWC has my number and won't allow another VOIP provider to port it out.  We'd need to get a new phone number! Local calling only is my fall back option here. Save money, but keep the phone number. Our cell plan could easily handle our national calling, particularly if mostly restricted to cell-to-cell and evening calling.

 

 

1971 Iverson Road Runner

Over the weekend I picked up a complete, original 1971 Iverson Road Runner, a classic rat rod bike style that brought me right back to my childhood days on a banana seat Schwinn my dad repainted and named "The Streaker."

This Maine barn find is the coolest thing. Stickers on the double-crown fork give it the look of a sprung front suspension. Ape hanger bars are each mounted in their own posts, affording maximum flexibility in positioning the bars. The chainguard is in great shape, and both fenders are solid, original, and nearly perfect.

Sure there's rust all over the chromed bars, the rims, and even the chainring. And the foam in the seat is, well, nonexistent. But the seat has no tears in it and the tires held air when we got it home and pumped them up for a test ride.

Why did I get this thing? Over a couple weeks, I had been eyeballing it beside a barn during my commute. It looked like it was going to the trash, but I couldn't tell for sure. Jess could tell that it pained me to see it out in the weather. When I saw the homeowner outside, I pulled over, made some inquiries, and loaded up the bike (and one more that isn't nearly as cool).

I'm not sure what I want to do with the bike.  It's an excellent resto candidate since it is, quite literally, complete. But I almost think it's just more fun the way it is. For now, it's just really cool to see my own kids taking a spin on the kind of bike I rode back in the day.

Oh, the Price? Free!

 

This summer we finally made the move to Maine. After a year of weekly 500-mile commutes, we threw in the towel on selling the house, rented it out and made the move up to Maine. It's a wonderful thing!

One of the first things our daughter Emma wanted to do was make jam with the berries growing all around the property. She and I collected about a half gallon of black raspberries one morning. The next morning we got up early and started cooking. Amazingly delicious stuff!

Then Will wanted to do the same thing with the wild Maine blueberries around the house. Those are harder to collect because they're so small, but the jam he and I made is just as tasty

What a simple, yet pleasant experience. Walk around the yard with a bucket, pluck ripe fruit, boil it down and add sugar, seal it in jars, and spread on a good toast.

We're about done on the blueberries since the season is almost over. But the raspberries look like they'll be ripening for a couple more weeks. Perhaps another batch is in order. And we'll need it since the kids insist that we mail a bunch out to family.

Ski Butternut
Butternut, January 2011

We took a couple days last week to ski Butternut in the Berkshires. Butternut is a nice little mountain, a little larger than Mohawk, our normal ski stop. We had two days of great weather, and since we went during the week we avoided most of the crowds.

I found myself wondering why we hadn't driven the extra 30 minutes to hit Butternut before now. The terrain isn't particularly challenging, and so the kids can ski the entire mountain without any difficulty. We'll definitely drive up again this season. And with Will in 5th grade, he skis for free every time we go.

One highlight: There's a cool little concrete snowman on one of the trails. But he was missing one of his stick arms. We stopped to help him out and Nate added the missing arm to make him complete.

I found another nice set of bike trails in the area.  Mt. Agamenticus is a cool mountain in York at the heart of "one of the largest remaining expanses of undeveloped forests in coastal New England" (http://www.agamenticus.org/index.html). On Sunday I rode the trails that head to the mountain peak. It's only about 30 minutes away from my place, making it fairly easy to ride.

I rode Ring and Fisher on the way up, and Witch Hazel, Ring, Chestnut Oak, Porcupine, Rocky Road, and Ring on the way down.  I missed the turn to hit Chestnut Oak, ending up on a nice, technical ride down Goosefoot.  But Goosefoot dropped me at Cedar, a trail that ran off my trail map.  I had to climb that same technical hill back up to catch the Chestnut Oak trail. (Oops.)

Perhaps the coolest thing about this ride is the bonus view from the top of Mt. Agamenticus.  A lookout on the north end of the mountain offers views of the hills and valleys of Maine and New Hampshire, and I could see the Presidential Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the distance.  (A panoramic sketch of the mountain silhouette helped me locate those mountains, taking me back to the days when I used to hike those mountains all the time.) And from the southeast side of the peak I could see the Atlantic ocean. This will be a great place to ride as the leaves turn, and as they drop and the views just open up. This is a great place for hiking as well.  On the summit, at the ranger station, there's a wonderful nature exhibit, with hawk wings, pelts, and plants that introduce visitors to the wildlife of the region. I'll bring the family here soon!

It was such a nice ride that I headed back for more on Monday evening.  I met Rob, a local Ogunquit bike shop owner, at the trail head.  He offered to show me some of the trails I hadn't yet explored.  We had a really nice, quiet evening ride as I explored the northeast end of this conservation area.  After running around Ring and out around Second Hill, we rode straight up the north side of Agamenticus on Sweet Fern.  We hit the summit just as the sun was setting over the mountains to the west.  Gorgeous! I don't normally ride with a partner these days, unless I'm riding with my kids.  It was great to have someone to ride with and I'll be sure to try to ride with Rob again.

Apparently, there's another network of trails in a water district conservation area just across Mountain Road.  Rob and I agreed that it would be nice to explore that area some other time.

I have a really cool space in Kennebunk, inside a historic Masonic Hall. With 15' tin ceilings, massive windows, and an open layout, the space just breathes. After wrapping up my second week with the Masons, I'm starting to feel at home. It's a very quiet area, though the construction on Main St. starts at about 6 AM. (Good thing I'm an early riser!) And the people in the area are so friendly and helpful.

Masonic Hall
Masonic Hall - Main St., Kennebunk

I met one of the individuals running the cafe downstairs (Jason), and took a brief bike ride around the Kennebunk neighborhoods to check out housing in the area. I was even able to unpack some research and do some writing. I'm feeling like this is going to be a great place to live, at least for now.