Friday, July 13, 2012

W00tstock 4.0 Has Come and Gone

The now-annual San Diego ComiCon variety-show companion, W00tstock, has come and gone. As with years past, I went from excited anticipation, to reveling in the warmth of being surrounded by "people like me", to a sudden post-holiday like depression.

I remember some of my friends trying to explain to me what their youthful Church-going experience was like, and I find myself now using the same phrases and adjectives when I try to explain W00tstock to others.  It is very difficult to describe to someone who doesn't get it, except you can say it's a place where you feel safe, everyone laughs at the same jokes you do, and you relish the chance to be surprised and amused in a world where that happens all too infrequently.

Thanks much to the key players who've make this great experience happen for multiple years now:

I can't even begin to list all the Luminaries of Geekdom who made appearances last night, but I will say that the surprise appearance of Molly Lewis during Marian Call's last song made my night.  I'd have sorely missed her if she'd not made an appearance!

Planning for next year's show must begin: NOW!

Friday, April 20, 2012

New Foodie Blog

I've been spending an inordinate amount of time thinking and talking about food lately. Mostly amongst foodie friends and family, but also with non-foodie friends as I try to once-again emphasize Moderation in my eating habits.  More importantly, I'm hoping to strike a balance between eating-what-I-want and not-eating-too-much.  Since the majority of my readers are friends, family, or people who care about the latest camper project or robot hack, and the minority are foodies, I'll be taking the food stuff over to a different blog:  Herbie Eats...

It'll be strictly food-centric, a mix of my fun eating experiences, amateur reviews, recipes, and any thoughts I have as I try to reduce the quantity of what I eat while maintaining (and improving) the quality.  Hope you'll follow me there! Read More...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

SoCal Desert Rendezvous 2012

After a long gap in posts, it's time to catch up on the Astrolander camper project. After the winter Science Olympiad season (whereupon the author loses all momentum on this and all other projects while he coaches high-school kids through some overly-complicated machine or robot construction), I finally got back in the saddle and started prepping the van for the next adventure.

A random visit to the Reserve America site had revealed an open three day slot at the San Elijo State Beach campground for the 4th weekend in March, so I grabbed it on instinct. Of course, just a few days later the planned date for the Expedition Portal forum SoCal Desert Rendevous was announced and guess what? Same weekend. After some discussion and in deference to familial harmony, we decided to aim for the beach camp. However as the date neared and the weather fouled, we finally decided that cold weather + impending rain + beach didn't mix and made a last-minute switch to attend the Rendezvous after all. It all worked out and we had a great adventure!

From ExPo Desert Rendezvous 2012

The setup for the Rendezvous was that just prior to the weekend, participants would be given only the GPS coordinates to a starting Checkpoint - further instructions would then follow.  We arrived late enough on Friday afternoon that the Checkpoint was no longer manned, but fortunately I'd been able to score the final coordinates a bit earlier and knew where to go.  It worked out for everyone because upon arrival at checkpoint we made some new friends who followed us in after everyone aired-down their tires.

From ExPo Desert Rendezvous 2012
Annika was glad to have a few minutes out of her carseat and took the time to explore the desert, the tracks for the railroad that serves the nearby Gypsum mine, and to make a new friend.  More on that later.

The dirt track into the main camp area was eight or ten miles of mixed surface.  Some dirt road, some washboard road, and some very deep silt beds.  Probably not much of an adventure for most of the attendees, but this was some of the first real off-roading in our van, and Kimberley was not digging the journey, especially the parts where I had to get somewhat off-camber to stay out of the deepest silt ruts or change to another track.  I was glad I'd read-up and watched some videos on driving in these conditions so I'd known what to expect, but more importantly I was glad to have finally fitted good front and rear recovery points and that I'd brought along some Maxtrax traction mats.  Ended up not needing either, but "Be Prepared" is stamped on my bones decades after the scouts.  After all the silt, the van ended up looking like a powdered doughnut:
From ExPo Desert Rendezvous 2012

After the adventure of getting to the Rendezvous camp, the rest of the weekend was relaxed and fun. There were somewhere around 60-70 rigs throughout the weekend, representing everything from Jeeps with trailers, Sportsmobiles, 4x4 trucks and Subarus.  There was even a 2wd Sprinter and someone managed to drag a pop-up tent trailer that didn't look like it had much ground clearance, so clearly the off-roading part wasn't THAT hard.  The guys from Overland Gourmet make their usual huge impression with a catered meal on Saturday, and the Desert Challenge and trash-cleanup events went pretty well (although our area was unexpectedly clean). I was able to get my kite photography rig up for a little while, although the wind was very inconsistent.

From ExPo Desert Rendezvous 2012

This one ended up being one of my favorites:
From ExPo Desert Rendezvous 2012

But if you ask Annika what her favorite part of the trip was, it was making a new friend:
From ExPo Desert Rendezvous 2012
We met Joe and his Dad at Checkpoint 1. I was a bit more confident in my GPS and where I was going (since I'd been able to scout the route somewhat via Google Earth), so I lead them into camp. They were only around for Friday evening and Saturday morning, but long enough to make a huge impression on Annika - she's been talking about Joe non-stop since then!

Please click on any of the album-links in the above photos to see full-size images and a few more pictures from the week-end.

UPDATE: Two more can't-miss images from other forum members Tim and Bryon:
From ExPo Desert Rendezvous 2012

From ExPo Desert Rendezvous 2012