My Favorite California Lake

I have always been a lake guy. Lots of people prefer the ocean, but I’ll take a nice mountain lake any day. It’s in my blood, I suspect…

Once I had kids, I decided that it was my moral obligation to share this love of lakes with my family, so I started looking at California maps to find an appropriate lake within striking distance. Of course, I was well aware of Lake Tahoe, and had been there many times. And Lake Tahoe is incredibly beautiful, and has lots of fun stuff to do. But, my goodness, Tahoe is crowded, incredibly expensive… and has casinos. I envisioned a lake that had neither crowds nor casinos.

I got a big map of Northern California, and started looking for my lake. My gaze settled on Lake Almanor, a good sized, heart-shaped lake well north of the Tahoe madness, near Lassen National Park. As summer aAlmanorpproached, I talked Karen and the kids into taking a camping trip up that direction. We had a really nice time, and Karen started to swing towards my lake-oriented point of view. Lake Almanor was beautiful, nice for swimming and boating, with deer, grebes, big beautiful pine trees, and osprey everywhere.

After a few more camping trips, we rented a house a couple times, and started thinking about maybe getting a lake place of our own. Our requirements for a lake house were pretty simple. It needed to have a really good view of the lake (on the shore was out of the question, way out of the price range!), had to be usable year-round, and had to have good access to fun things to do. Above all, it had to be an inviting place for the family to spend time together.

Calm lake and puffy clouds.

Calm lake and puffy clouds.

Bill and Ines Haas, previous owners of 806 Lassen View.

Bill and Ines Haas, previous owners of 806 Lassen View.

We looked around for a while, and actually ended up buying a place. It was a little more than we were looking for, to be honest, but the view was spectacular and the retired couple that were selling the place were so sweet that we simply couldn’t resist! So, in September of 2003 we became the proud owners of 806 Lassen View Drive.

We’ve had lots of great times there over the years, as you can see from the few pictures I have posted below. Sad to say, with the boys growing up, it has been a couple years now since we have been there as a family. However, Karen and I still make it there when we can; it is still a wonderful place to visit on a long weekend, and the house itself is filled with great memories!

Sunset on the lake.

Sunset on the lake.

Winter provides epic toboggan runs!

Winter provides epic toboggan runs!

Fishing expedition. Didn't catch anything!

Fishing expedition. Didn’t catch anything!

A forlorn herding dog watching part of his flock.

A forlorn herding dog watching part of his flock.

Winter snowshoe expedition.

Winter snowshoe expedition.

Hors doerves on the porch, a nightly institution at the lake.

Sunset dinner on the porch, a nightly institution at the lake.

Winter wonderland.

Winter wonderland.

A dog and his boy.

A dog and his boy.

Lake Almanor, from a kayak's point of view.

Lake Almanor, from a kayak’s point of view.

Fun with Paint and Varnish

When Brian got back from college in early May, we moved the boat outside for painting, as the fumes are simply too unpleasant to allow painting indoors. I was determined to get the painting done in an expedient manner, but I did not have any illusions that it would be a quick process!

The painting and varnishing process is pretty simple – apply a coat of nasty smelling and messy stuff, let it dry overnight, sand it, clean it, then apply another coat. Keep repeating until you are satisfied with how it looks. If it is windy, or damp, or too hot, or too cool, or you have something else you need to do, then skip a day. Pretty straightforward!

The first step was to apply a clear sealer to the entire hull. The sealer basically protects against moisture, which is a good idea for a boat! I sealed the whole thing, and then sanded to a smooth finish with 80 and 120 grit sandpaper.

I decided as a next step to varnish the interior of the boat. Most of the small hydroplanes I have seen are varnished inside, and the clear varnish would allow me to view my workmanship over the passage of time and see if I improve with future efforts. I applied four coats of varnish, sanding thoroughly between coats with 220 grit sandpaper, and with 400 grit prior to the final coat.

Once I was finished, I really liked the way it looked, in spite of the clearly visible filler, screwheads, nails, etc. So, I decided to spend a bit of extra sanding and clean-up time on the exterior of the cockpit cowl, and stain that as well. I thought the contrast of stain with adjacent paint would look pretty cool – you can be the judge later on as to whether this was a good move! I did consult Karen on this though, as her taste is far better than mine, and she concurred. Who knows, it might have even been her idea…

Next step was to mask off the varnished and previously painted areas, and apply the primer. This marine primer is the nastiest of the paints; white, thick, gummy, and toxic-smelling. It is the only stuff for which I wore a respirator while applying, even in the breezy outdoors. The primer helps improve paint adhesion, and also helps level out the wood grain and other imperfections so the final paint job looks nice and smooth.

Once the primer was applied, it was time to paint the decks. What color? Red. Bright red. Everyone knows that red vehicles are faster than vehicles of other colors.

Painting with bright red paint makes it very visibly obvious that paint gets everywhere, even when you are trying to be neat. I am now the proud possessor of red gloves, red doorknobs, red sinks, shoes with red specs, and red sanding dust everywhere. It’s worth it, though.

Applying the paint is fun, but a little challenging. You pick a couple square feet of the surface to be painted, roll on the paint in two directions (i.e. horizontally then vertically), then lightly drag a nearly dry brush over the area you rolled to smooth out the roller stipple. Move to an adjacent area and repeat, until you are done. Look at the surface from multiple angles to make sure you did not miss anything, then come through with needle nose pliers and gingerly remove the inevitable bug or two that landed on the wet paint.

I applied four coats, sanding with 220-grit after the first two, then just spot-sanding out the bugs and dog hairs that got stuck in the paint overnight before the final coat. Pretty happy with the result; far from perfect, but looks pretty good from an adequate distance! Now it is time to turn her over, repair the considerable damage I did to the paint on the upper hull while fairing the decks, and apply trim. Then we just need a motor, and we are good to go!

View from the rear. Transom will be white, with blue trim, and the motorboard will remain stained

View from the rear. Transom will be white, with blue trim, and the motorboard will remain stained

Side view. She'll get some blue trim between hull and deck

Side view. She’ll get some blue trim between hull and deck

Red paint with varnish; I like the look!

Red paint with varnish; I like the look!

Twenty-five Years, 25 Pictures

Wow, the milestones are coming hot and heavy around here! Not much more than a week ago, Tyler left home and set out on his own. Now, today, May 27, is our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. And, I certainly feel like I should write something to celebrate such an occasion! But, what?

I decided that if a picture is worth a thousand words, then twenty-five pictures would be infinitely more interesting than 25,000 words of my amateur prose. So, here are twenty-five pictures, in rough chronological order, of our life together. I hope y’all enjoy them!

Karen and I got our start sailing together. Here we are setting sail in Santa Cruz in 1987.

Karen and I got our start sailing together. Here we are setting sail in Santa Cruz in 1987.

Barely 3 months into our relationship, we took a trip to Spain together. I figured it would either make us or break us. Guess which?!?

Barely 3 months into our relationship, we took a trip to Spain together. I figured it would either make us or break us. Guess which ended up happening?!?

Cooking together has always been a favorite pastime. Making something around 1989, or so

Cooking together has always been a favorite pastime. Making something in, let’s say, 1989

Dressed for our rehearsal dinner, in our more stylish days

Dressed for our rehearsal dinner, in our more stylish days

Two kids getting married, 1990

Two kids getting married, 1990

Enjoying some cake at the wedding

Enjoying some cake at the wedding

Enjoying each other's company, probably in 1989 or so

Enjoying each other’s company, probably in 1991 or so

Pre-kids, I think, Karen could probably tell by the hair style

Pre-kids, I think, Karen could probably tell by the hair style

New parents, September 1992

New parents, September 1992

Almost a year later, in summer of 1993

Almost a year later, in summer of 1993

Time flies, and all the photos are of the kids, not the parents. Here we are again, finally, in September 1996

Time flies, and all the photos are of the kids, not the parents. Here we are again, finally, in September 1996

Again, why take pictures of the parents when there are babies around? We finally got into the same photo again in 1999

Again, why take pictures of the parents when there are babies around? We finally got into the same photo again in 1999

Selecting a Christmas tree in 2001

Selecting a Christmas tree in 2001

Camping in 2000. Looks like no one slept too well the night before!

Camping in 2002. Looks like no one slept too well the night before!

Enjoying a baseball game with Brian, 2005

Enjoying a baseball game with Brian, 2005

Hot chocolate in the mountains, 2006

Hot chocolate in the mountains with Judy, Karen’s mom, 2006

Enjoying some hot chocolate, with Roscoe this time, while hunting for a Christmas tree to cut in 2007

Enjoying some hot chocolate, with Roscoe this time, while hunting for a Christmas tree to cut in 2007

Trying out my dad's kayak in our front yard, 2008

Trying out my dad’s kayak in our front yard, 2008

Christmas, 2008

Christmas, 2008

At a cafe in France, Europe trip, 2010

At a cafe in France, Europe trip, 2010

Visiting our friend Mitch in Texas, 2011

Visiting our friend Mitch in Texas, 2011

College hunting in Chicago with Brian, late 2012

College hunting in Chicago with Brian, late 2012

Clowning with Tyler, 2013

Clowning with Tyler, 2013

Enjoying dinner on a sailboat in New Zealand, 2014

Enjoying dinner on a sailboat in New Zealand, 2014

Thanksgiving in Virginia, 2014

Thanksgiving in Virginia, 2014

On the waterfront, after a Giants game

On the waterfront, after a Giants game

Every day I am profoundly thankful that I chose Karen, and that Karen chose me. It has been twenty-five years of many, many wonderful times, and a handful of sad ones. And, looking back, I’d have to say that there is really nothing I would change, other than taking a few more pictures with both of us in the frame!

Some Musing about Tyler’s Graduation

We hit a major milestone this weekend — Tyler received his master’s degree on Monday from Wake Forest. He has a few weeks off, enough time to take care of logistics and for a two week trip to Europe, then he will be starting his career with Aon Hewitt, in Charlotte, North Carolina. So, he has officially flown the coop! He is now a man finding his way in the world, and Karen and I can claim one less dependent, both legally and emotionally.

IMGP2949

A chip off the old block… only bigger and smarter. And substantially burlier…

In the days since his graduation, I have spent some time scratching my head a bit, trying to discover how I really feel about this momentous occurrence. I figured if I started writing stuff down, perhaps it would help crystallize my thinking. So, here’s what I came up with…

I guess the main thing I feel is a thrill of excitement for him, tinged perhaps with a tiny bit of jealousy. My first few years out of college were some of the most interesting, rewarding, challenging, and fun years of my life, and I earnestly hope that he has the same experience. And, I know my boy pretty well, and I think he has the right attitudes and inclinations to have a similar experience to the one I had. Although many of our friends think we’re nuts, Karen and I are thrilled that he is starting his career a couple thousand miles away. It will be his world, he will by necessity be completely independent, we will be visitors there, and in my mind that is a great way for it to be.

I also feel a lot of satisfaction about a couple jobs well done. Successfully obtaining a BS and an MA from Wake Forest is a job well done by Tyler. And, when I observe the young man that Tyler has become, I have to give Karen and myself a pat on the back as well. We took parenting very seriously and put a lot of effort into raising our boys, and are very satisfied with the results of our labor – at least the portion that we can claim responsibility for.

Back at the start of the journey...

Back at the start of the journey…

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “pride” as “A feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” So, yes, I definitely feel proud of him for his achievement, and I trust that Tyler feels proud of himself, as well. I will have to say, though, that I am even more proud of him for his good decisions and solid values, and proud of the kind, intelligent, thoughtful, and personable adult man he has become.

Ready for Paint!

OK, I confess… I took an extended hiatus from boatbuilding during the winter. The reason (excuse?) for this is that I was fairly near to the point where I would be painting again, which needs to be done outside. And, since it was theoretically going to rain during the winter, I decided to wait until Spring. So, now Spring is here, and I am back at it.

At this point, there are really only a few assembly steps left. Add some pre-paint trim, some post-pain trim, and a floor. Then, once I find a motor, add the appropriate throttle and steering. The pre-paint trim is easy, just some moulding around the cockpit. I was able to knock this out in an afternoon.

The next step was not so easy. The decks are attached with boat nails, probably a couple hundred of them. Each one needs to be countersunk into the deck, which is only 1/8 inch thick. This looked like it was going to be extremely tedious, so I build myself a little fixture to ease the process. It was STILL tedious, though, and if I was a patient man I could have done a better job. I think the job I did was adequate, though, and I managed to preserve my sanity.

Once the nails were countersunk, hull assembly was essentially complete. Now comes the final fairing prior to painting. This means sanding, filling all the countersunk holes, sanding again, repairing defects, and sanding again.

Sanding tools, complete with high-tech shop-vac dust collection

Sanding tools, complete with high-tech shop-vac dust collection

Having already faired the bottom of the hull, I had a much better idea about how to tackle the topside. Lots of stuff to work on, though. Good think I have plenty of fairing compound!

Gaps between panels...

Gaps between panels…

Deck cut a little too small...

Deck cut a little too small…

Messy transom...

Messy transom…

I felt like I did an OK job with the fairing, but certainly not perfect. We will call it workmanship rather than craftsmanship, and hope that the paint obscures the flaws, rather than accentuating them! So, at this point, she is all faired and ready for paint, Which, weather willing, I will probably start applying next week.

Top view

Top view

Transom, all cleaned up and faired

Transom, all cleaned up and faired

Cockpit close-up

Cockpit close-up

Glimpses of the Past

1cropDuring a trip home for Christmas of 1987, my younger brother Bobby confided to me that he had tested positive for HIV. By the end of the following January he was struck with his first bout of pneumonia, and it was clear to him and to the rest of the family that he was indeed suffering from AIDS. Once he recovered from the pneumonia, he started on AZT, and his T-cell counts began to recover. As he began to regain his health, one of the first things he did was to start planning a trip to Europe, over the obvious concerns of the rest of us. He was determined, though, and would not be denied.

One of the places that Bobby was eager to visit was Prague, which was at that time behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia. Although to me this sounded very complicated and unlikely, Bobby was very resourceful about this sort of thing, and somehow got the necessary visas. My memory is hazy on the exact logistics, but I believe he somehow rented a car and visited on his own, rather than as part of any sort of group.

In any event, shortly after he entered Czechoslovakia, he discovered that he had no film for his camera. After some searching around Prague, he managed to secure a couple rolls of 35mm black-and-white film, which we nicknamed his “communist film”. Everything about the film was odd… the cans it came in, the way it fit into the camera, the color of the undeveloped film itself. When he got the pictures developed, the resulting prints had a very unique quality, looking almost painted.

As I was going through a box of old photos, I came across the negatives from the “communist film”. I took them to Rayko in San Francisco, with the idea of making some prints to hang in my office. The guys at Rayko scanned the negatives, marveled at how unusual they were, and made some prints. The results are pretty unique and kind of cool, so I thought I would post the scans here. Click on the pictures for a better view of the unique grain to the film. I hope you enjoy them!

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

The Ballad of Yellowbeard

MikeA good friend of mine, Mike Clements, died suddenly last Wednesday. I was granted the privilege of saying some words in his honor at his memorial service on Sunday. As many of Mike’s friends did not know much about his Yellowbeard alter-ego, I thought I would publish my tribute here.

It’s tough to know where to start when talking about Mike, so I might as well start at the beginning. About nine years ago or so, my company, Corsair, had a problem on our hands. Lots of our customers spent a lot of time online talking about our products and our company, and it was clear that many of them needed help. And, occasionally, discussions would erupt into flame wars, where everything would get completely crazy and out of control.

I talked with my tech support manager about this, and asked him if he knew of anyone on the forums who might be able to help us. He gave me a few names, but told me that his recommendation would be one of our frequent forum visitors, some ex-cop from Georgia known as “specmike”.

At first, I’ll have to say that I was skeptical. But, I spent some time on our forum, checking this guy out to see what kind of stuff he was posting. And, I was really encouraged by what I saw. Really intelligent, informed responses, with a very calm communication style. I decided it was worth giving the guy a call and interviewing him.

Now, I don’t know if all y’all southerners know this, but us Yankees have some pretty well established stereotypes of southern law enforcement personnel. So, when I placed my call to specmike, I was fully expecting to hear Buford T Justice himself on the other end of the line. Instead, what I heard was this incredibly soft-spoken, ultra-polite, gentle-sounding character. I tried to picture him making an arrest, and all I could hear was, “Hey, y’all wouldn’t mind putting those hands up in the air, would y’all?”

Anyhow, the call went really well, and we both decided it was a match. He told me his “real” name was Mike Clements, and I told him he was hired. Back in those pre-facebook days, no one used their real name online, so I suggested to Mike that he pick his favorite pirate to use as a handle. Mike picked Yellowbeard, a Monty Python creation. And I think this perhaps gave me my first inkling about what sort of character we were bringing on board.

Yellowbeard had two jobs to do. The first was pretty simple – hang out on the forums, look for people who need help, and assist them. The second was to look for any discussions about Corsair that were turning into conflicts, and defuse the situation. My guess is, no one in this room would be surprised to hear that Mike was a natural in this new job. I think for him it was basically like police work for geeks. Mike clearly loved it, was a complete pro at it, and over time Yellowbeard became legendary. People would ask for him by name, and would beg him to get involved in any touchy issue.

I know you guys probably would take my word for this, but I want you to hear from just a small sample of some of the people Mike helped over the years, who are mourning his loss on the forums and on Facebook. So here we go…

“Corsair Mike has been a fixture in several places for a long time , one of the most helpful guys I’ve ever dealt with , the pc world will be a lesser place without him.
   or…
“Count me as another who has been personally helped by Mike. He is a big part of why I go to corsair for my memory.
   and…
“Mike was everywhere. He was at most of the computer shows, was at many gaming lan parties, on many forums. Not many people like him. He was one in a million.
   also…
“The community, the industry and technology-friend is missing someone that moved mountains and achieved more than most will ever be able to do.”
    and finally…
“Very sad to hear this news…Mikey… hope you’re going off HUGE dirt kickers in BMX heaven brother. One of the nicest, coolest guys I’ve EVER met period.”

Dozens and dozens of tributes like this have come in, not only from America but from all five continents.

Mike joined Corsair following a very difficult and lengthy recovery from a neck injury that he incurred in his police work. It was a time of great uncertainty for him, and several times he told me very frankly and directly how grateful he was to Corsair for the element of stability and security that the company provided. I was always very moved by his honesty and humility, and even more moved by how he translated this sentiment into actions. There was no problem that I could throw his way that he wouldn’t beat his head against until everything was under control. And everyone at Corsair knew Mike as someone who would go the extra mile to help out in almost every situation. This, combined with his demeanor, his sense of humor, his expertise, and yes, his general goofiness, made him a very popular guy at Corsair. I know that all of us here would agree that Mike was a true character, a real one-of-a-kind guy. And, to Californians who don’t get much exposure to his brand of Georgia craziness, he was truly larger than life.

I worked directly with Mike for over eight years. During that time we spoke several times per week, and during this or that crisis it was many times per day. We didn’t just talk about work, as you might imagine. Very quickly, it became work, cars, bikes and biking, music, politics, insomnia, fatherhood, working out, or his latest insane injury. I felt a strong bond with Mike, and I am afraid that his loss leaves a wound that will take a long time to heal.

Like most of us, Mike grew up from childhood to become a responsible adult. But unlike most of us, Mike seems not to have grown out of his childhood. He never lost that joy and enthusiasm that you have when you are a kid. I mean, what sane 46-year-old adult rides a BMX bike? Especially mere weeks after blowing up his knee on that same BMX bike? Or puts on a wig and face paint to go to a party? Or finds himself a job that requires him to be an expert on computer games? Mike, that’s who. And we were all infused by this spirit of his, and are much the better for it.

Mike was a good teammate, a good friend, and a good man. It is really, really difficult for my brain to process the fact that he is gone. It just doesn’t seem possible. I loved Mike, and am proud that he was my friend. I know that his memory will always be with me, and I am looking forward to the day when the smiles that his memory invariably brings to my face will displace the ache in my heart that his loss has caused.

Mike leaves a strong legacy of the hundreds of others he helped both as a police officer and as Yellowbeard, as well as of the smiles he brought to the faces of the many people who loved him.