Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Goodbye Facebook

I am pretty much done with Facebook.

As I continue to work to simplify my life, I am growing more and more frustrated with Facebook. I view Facebook as an internet drug. It lures me back day after day because of never ending curiosity. What are my friends, who are scattered all over the United States and Canada, doing. Yet I spend most of my time frustrated by what I am seeing. Honestly it is mostly friends of friends who are frustrating me, but nonetheless, I am frustrated.

I don't mind the kitten and puppy videos. The kids first day of school, or the myriad other random videos and pics people post. Many of my friends on Facebook are active in the outdoors, or work in the outdoors and it is nice to see what they are doing. I love knowing that Sarah (who I paddled the inside passage with) is now a competitive mountain biker. I love seeing updates from all the paddlers I know and all the amazing adventures that are happening every day. At any given moment, I can see experienced slackline/highliners, amazing kayakers, highly skilled mountain bikers and climbers. But to get to these amazing photos and videos I have to wade through a sea of crap.

It is the never ending clickbait links that people post without realizing (I hope!) that they are just feeding money a micro cent at a time to Facebook or some other entity. Any post that has a sentence like "you won't believe what happens next!" or a list post with a sentence like "wait until you see number 7!" These are designed solely to draw clicks, and clicks are money.

It is closed minds that think a red cup is an assault on their religion, instead of just a cup holding coffee. Really? You don't think there are more important things to be worried about? If you are insulted by something you see on Facebook, stay away from reddit or 4chan because your head might explode.

It is the never ending list of people who still think global climate change is a liberal media attack on big business, Planned parenthood sells baby parts, and that health care and good education aren't included on a list of peoples rights.

I stuck with Facebook for a long time, because I was hoping that it was driving traffic to my website, and then hopefully to my book. But I have known for quite sometime that it isn't driving traffic, primarily because no one can see it. Facebook dramatically limits who can see your posts.

There are a handful of wonderful people that I don't get to see - because they live hundreds or thousands of miles away - who I use can see on Facebook. I can see what they are up to, and how things are going. That is the only thing that keeps me using this site.

I am really starting to think that Instagram is the way to go. There is little to no spam. There is no click bait nonsense. People are limited to one photo or a 15 second video. But even this isn't perfect. It would be great if they would step into the 21st century and allow you to post from your computer, and as an iPad user I would really like an iPad native app that would allow pinch to zoom to work.

What I would really like is a cross between Facebook and Instagram with a bigger lean towards video. Maybe stretch the video length out to 30 seconds. Allow only user generated content. With an adventure sports theme. I would really like that. Maybe it could have "pools" of media you could follow, so you don't have to just follow people, but follow a kayak pool, or a climbing pool (think of pools as keywords I guess) That would be wonderful, I really need to learn how to code...

My instagram is about to break 100 followers - which is nothing! - If you are interested in seeing what I am up to, follow me there and I will follow you back.

So that is it. I am done with Facebook. PaddlingOtaku Facebook will still get updated with feeds from my website, and instagram. I am pushing to do more video content. I will probably poke my head into Facebook now and then. But for the most part, see ya.

(for the people that I normally contact via Facebook expect more calls and texts from me. )

Friday, November 13, 2015

Instagram, I am having fun

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I am not very happy with the Facebook experience. There is more about this coming, but for now, let it be known that my presence on Facebook is probably not going to continue much longer. (Just to be clear, I am referring to my personal Facebook page, not the PO page, which will stick around being fed by instagram, with the occasional post.)

However, I am really enjoying Instagram. I like the simplicity. So if you are interested in sticking with me on social media, your best bet is Instagram.

This weekend is kind of a big deal, I am teaching my last Wilderness First Aid class of the year, and it has been six months since I have taught one. In my opinion WFA classes are the hardest things to teach. You have relatively little time to teach a tremendous amount of information. You have to coordinate moving thirty students outdoors and indoors without losing time, and dealing with weather. You also have to balance all of this with another instructor. While I know the course will go just fine, it is a lot of teaching and I am feeling a little out of my normal grove. In January I teach (and precept a new instructor) another one. Then I have one in February in a location I haven't taught it before, which is another level of stress.

So to keep this weekend interesting, I am going to do my best to post a bunch of shots, and maybe some video on instagram. Want to see what a WFA course looks like, follow me there.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Things I have learned from Casey Neistat

I have spent the last month pouring over Casey Neistats Vlog - or video blog. I have been enjoying it tremendously, and have started to adopt some of his techniques. For those of you who are unaware, Casey is a film maker. Completely self made - meaning no film school and no traditional film jobs -  he is a firm believer that if you work non-stop producing films good things will come. He went from shooting videos on a point and shoot camera to making a documentary series on HBO.

Casey first came to prominence with a short film about the battery in the iPod and it's inability to be changed.

The video went viral and shortly after it did, Apple changed its battery policy, of course claiming it was unrelated to the film. He continued to make films and grew a following. I am sure I saw other films before this next one, but this was where I was like "hey, I know this guy!"


I love this commercial/film for Nike. I love how simple, yet captivating it is. But what really made me fall in love with this guys work, was this.

Live your dreams. He was asked to make a video about living your dreams for the release of the film the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. He told them he wanted take the budget and go to the Philippines and spend all the money getting food to the people affected typhoon Haiyan. He did, and made a great short film about it.

Once of the reasons I stopped working in the film industry was the tremendous waste of money I saw as we made television commercials, when the money could have done some really good work. So to see a film maker take his budget and do something wonderful with it really touched me.

So I spent the last month pouring over his films and his daily Vlog, and I realized some recurring themes. Here is what I learned from Casey Neistat.

1 - Keep shooting. Always have a camera, and keep shooting. I have started shooting a lot of things, with no plan to use them. The use will at some point present itself. I essentially want to become my own stock agency - meaning I want to have my own library of video to use when I edit a project. You can see some of the time lapse videos I have been making on instagram.

2 - The gear doesn't really matter. While I wish I had a second GoPro (I have had 2 in the past!) but I have a GoPro and a DSLR and an iPhone. I can shoot with all those things and edit at home on my iMac which is more film making power than most of last centuries greatest film makers.

3- Don't quit. Just keep plugging along, maybe somehow I will make a difference.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thoughts on Coffee, and Cups, and a Pack and Go! or Hell No!

I have been thinking a lot about coffee lately.

There is a piece making the rounds of Facebook - which I am this close (his fingers are very close together) to quitting completely - about the joy of bad coffee. Folders crystals and the like. When I think about bad coffee I think about a backpacking trip I did with my brother 20 years ago in the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. We were camped on the backside of Mount Washington in the Great Gulf Wilderness which is rarely visited, and makes a good base to do day trips to the summits of the range.  We made coffee by the liter each day, one for each of us. First we added the instant coffee, then a lot of sugar, and then the non-dairy creamy. We had a slush of powders in the bottom of our bottles. Then we added hot water, and it got, well,  palatable. We realized the best way to drink it was ice cold, achieved by submerging it in a stream. After many hours of hard hiking it tasted wonderful. But after many hours of hard hiking everything tastes wonderful.

The article about bad coffee goes on to talk about how we shouldn't be spending 20 minutes in the morning making coffee, when we could be doing something better with our time. It also claims that bad coffee is comforting, like certain foods. Both of these things are nonsense.

The ten minutes I take to make a pot of french press isn't doing me any harm, and bad coffee is about as comforting as that exam all of us late 40's kayakers have to have. You know the one I mean.

Add to this equation that I drink decaf coffee, which most coffee companies and baristas alike view as a waste of time. It is surprisingly hard to get a good cup of decaf coffee. I can't imagine how my father drank Sanka all those years. Most think decaf means we don't like the flavor or robustness of good coffee, which is untrue. I want good flavor, and a robust cup of coffee, I just don't want the caffeine. Yes, I know there is still some caffeine in my decaf.

I am careful how I spend my money, but one of the areas I most want quality is the food I eat. I don't mind spending money on good beans to use in my French Press. I don't eat processed foods, I don't eat fast food, I am certainly not drinking fast, processed coffee beans.

The other coffee related topic I have been thinking about is the cup. One of my paddling students works for a major coffee company. Once I got him on the water I traded him paddling knowledge for coffee knowledge. Did you know the most expensive part of a cup of coffee is the cup!? If I bring my own cup to Starbucks the deduct $.10 from the price of my coffee. The cup costs significantly more than that. The part that really gets to me about the cup though is how short its active life is. Paper is made and coated, which is then turned into a cup with a bottom, and a rolled lip. It is then shipped to a distributor that sends it off to your coffee shop. Then you order a cup of coffee, drink it for yen minutes and throw the cup away. It seems like a terrible waste.

Then there is what this place did....

Yes, 160,000,000 coffee cups a day end up in land fill. But wait, how many of them get recycled you ask? None. None of them get recycled. You can't recycle a paper hot cup because of the coating on the inside. So bring a reusable cup with you, I leave one in my car. A nice one.

This brings us to the Pack and go or Hell NO! for today. I recently bought a new insulated coffee cup. I have owned many over the years. Sometimes they break, sometimes they get lost. Sometimes the disappear into the void of missing gear. This is what I got recently.

I know everyone is going Yeti crazy. Yes, they are very expensive. Yes, they are heavy. But their products work extremely well. I used a 45 liter yeti cooler on a beach trip a few months ago and was extremely impressed with how well it kept ice from melting. It was also amazingly heavy.  I purchased this Yeti Rambler mug because it was recommended to me by a serious gear nerd.

I paid $30.00 for a coffee mug. I'm going to let that settle in for a bit. Thirty Dollars. That is 300 ten cent savings (for bringing my own cup) to Starbucks. Which is about 8 months of coffee. That is a lot of money for a cup. This is also a ridiculously over engineered cup. Here is why it is worth $30. It works. It works really well. It works like burning your tongue and lips 2 hours after you put your coffee in it. It is a double wall vacuum insulated, stainless steel coffee cup, and is ridiculously priced and worth every penny.

My only complaint is that the lid doesn't have a way to seal the sip hole. Other than that, perfect. This is without a doubt a Pack and Go! Situation. Okay, because It won't seal completely I won't actually take it on a backpacking or kayaking trip. But car camping? Hell yes. Daily commute? Absolutely. This is a sensational product.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Minimalist November

It seems November is the month I feel the biggest urge to go minimal. It is probably because of the pending period of gluttony starting on the third Thursday of this month. This year though it wasn't even my doing. A friend of mine suggested a group November minimalist game. You remember the one I did last year. 1st day you get rid of one thing, second day two, until the last day when you are getting rid of thirty things. I told her I would play but I wasn't sure I could get though a whole month.

I am already scanning the house looking for things to give up. It is exciting.

The other aspect to minimalist November is my diet, or more directly, how much I spend on food. My wife and I spend a lot of money on food. When I say a lot, I mean we probably spend what a family of four spends.

The problem isn't quantity. We don't eat a lot of food, but we work very hard to eat good food. When friends ask if we miss living in New York - we both lived in Manhattan - we say the only thing we miss is the food. Living in a small city in North Carolina means the food options are somewhat limited, and we don't get the cutting edge cuisine that we had access to in New York.

I am reminded of this daily when I see my friends Instagram feed. He is a big deal in the food photography world, and he gets to eat at some of the best restaurants in the world. The things we miss are really pretty simple. Real New York Pizza, a good bagel. I barely eat meat, but would kill for Kat'z corned beef. It is having the ability to decide at 2 in the morning that you want any kind of food delivered, and it is possible. Anything.

This isn't to say there isn't good food in North Carolina. There is. But let's be honest. All the food the south is famous for is bad for you. Donuts. Fried Chicken. Barbecue. Sweet tea.

So we work really hard to eat well, and healthy, and it is a challenge. Ill give you an example. We don't eat a lot of meat, but we do eat fish. But I refuse to buy farmed fish. It is bad for you, the fish and the environment. But wild caught Salmon can cost as much as $20 a pound. that is on the high end, but I haven't been able to buy fish for under $10 a pound in years. I am okay with that. I want to support real fisherman, and I will make that sacrifice. But at the end of the month it adds up.

Every week we get a box delivered to our house. It has locally sourced produce. It costs us 30 dollars a month (give or take). It is great produce. but it is expensive.

I also don't eat fast food. Slow food is expensive. My supermarket has a club that saves you money, you give them your phone number when you checkout and when they give you the receipt they tell you how much you saved that day. I never save more than a dollar or two - when some save $10 or $20 dollars - because I am not buying junk food. I am buying produce. Junk food is cheap to make, higher profit margin, so they can offer a great discount. Produce? Not so much.

So my goal for the month is to purge a lot of items, and spend as little as possible on food. No eating out. Make meals go further. Let's see how it goes....

The lingering question is, does coffee and/or alcohol count as "eating out"?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Gear Improv - The handler

A few months ago I found myself at the beach playing in the surf. For years I have been doing this and simply holding my GoPro in my hand. It has always made me a little nervous, and I thought about buying myself the GoPro Handler.

This is the Handler. It is a floating handgrip for GoPro cameras, If you play in the water it is a great little product. It's $29.99. So I found myself at the beach in need of one of these. But there was no place to pick one up. Then I noticed that the cap to a 20 ounce coke bottle was about the same size as the old non-quick release tripod mount. I found a screw in my car that was the right size - 3/8ths inch I believe is standard tripod size, total dumb luck - and combined these parts.

The only part that was tricky was making a hole in the bottle cap with my knife. There was a good chance that I would cut myself, fortunately it didn't occur.

Here is what the "rig" looks like, incredibly simple. In the future I might change the bolt so it is stainless, and add a small rubber gasket to insure that there is no leaking - though in my use it didn't. I did a google search and found that there are a lot of options for handler-like devices, but I didn't see anyone do something like this. Maybe I actually invented something.

It floats incredible well. In fact if you let go of it in the water, the whole thing inverts with the bottle sticking straight out of the water, and the camera below - a great way to shoot underwater I suppose. If you want it less buoyant, just add some water to the bottle. Even with the bottle full of water it floats. Total cost? $8 for the tripod adapter, $1.79 for the coke, and pennies for the screw.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Behind the Scenes

A lot is going on with 'On the Rocks', which is the title of the AGAP movie.

The film is about half way through the editing process, and it is currently stopped. We have run into a science problem. I don't want to get into the details right now, but I am not sure what the final outcome of this project is going to be.

If it dies, the footage will be used in some way shape or form, and the photos - which are amazing - will be available soon.

But in the mean time, here is a look behind the scenes at the normal goings on in camp.

behind the scenes from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

Stay tunes for more AGAP information. it's coming soon. I promise.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pack and Go! or Hell NO!: Seal line Deluxe Bailing Sponge

I want to start doing more gear reviews. I use a lot of gear, and when teaching, get to put things through tests in harder conditions than most. So, let’s call this the first official gear review. There have been others in the past, but I think I am starting something new...

Is the reviewed piece of gear ready to "Pack and Go!" or "Hell No!"

This should have been an excellent product, from a company that makes excellent products. The Deluxe Bailing Sponge is a regular sponge that is wrapped in super absorbent "pack towel"  material and It does absorb a tremendous amount of water. 

A sponge is important to have for various reasons. You use it after bailing out your boat to get the last of the water that your bilge pump can't get to. For me, this is particularly important because I teach so much in the summertime. If my boat isn't dry when I put it away it is downright stinky for my next class. It is kind of like putting on a damp wetsuit. That's no fun for anybody. So it is particularly important for me to keep my boat clean and dry. I have gone through many sponges, most only cost a few dollars, so it is no big deal when they fall apart. I finally made the move to spend nearly $15 for this Seal Line sponge and expected it to be wonderful. I purchased it in January in prep for the pending teaching season. (In February I start working on my skills, in March I start working with other instructors, in April the season generally starts) My kayaking instruction season officially came to a close last week and this is what my sponge looks like after one season of use. 

I know about proper sponge care and maintenance: never put it under a bungie and store it dry. (The bungie will cut it in half over time.) This sponge lived in my cockpit and was occasionally left in the sun to dry out completely. I am not sure how the first rip started but it didn't take long for it to spread.

Now, I have to stress, it took a lot of use and it worked beautifully before it fell apart. I am tempted to try another one next season and see if the same thing happens. Between my paddling for fun and work it might have seen 90 wet days. But I still feel like it should have held up better than this. ( I don't know, is my 90 days the equivalent of 3 or 4 years of normal paddler use?) I should also point out that I use many 'pack towel' like products and I have never had one get torn. Before this sponge I was using one daily in my cockpit. So I am not sure what caused this failure. But I am disappointed.

So the verdict is: HELL NO! Stay tuned, maybe I will buy another one and see if it does better. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tiny house Not tiny enough?

I have a knack for picking trends. Unfortunately I am not good at recognizing that I have picked an up and coming trend, and somehow capitalizing on it. I started rock climbing before there were indoor rock gyms, and before most people knew it was a thing. Somewhere I have a list of things like that, but a big one is the Tiny house craze. I have been following that movement since the only option for tiny houses was Tumbleweed, I currently know two people under construction on tiny's and a third who is thinking about it.

I tried to convince my wife we should do a tiny house, but she says a tiny house with two 40 pound bull terrier puppies is a recipe for disaster. She may be right (and in fact she usually is). But recently I have become enamored with "van life". Now you can't help but think about living in a van without this coming to mind.

It isn't like that anymore. There is an amazing van culture - primarily VW vans - being displayed on instagram. just do a search for #vanlife and you will be amazed by both the culture of van life and the quality of photography. My wife is enamored by the VW bus, and ICON 4x4 just rebuilt and updated one.

I prefer the Mercedes/Freightliner Sprinter Vans, and I was walking through a parking lot the other day and came across this.

There was a small crowd standing around it talking, and as I approached they were all disappointed that I wasn't the owner - as was I - and as I stood there and other people arrived to look at it and take pictures I felt the same disappointment that they weren't the owners. The van you are looking at is the extended length with the high roof, and it is also four wheel drive, which is pretty incredible. We finally found the owners and they were a retired couple who were just starting their life on the road. They were coming back from the outer banks, after a week of rain with hurricane joaquin. My biggest problem if how would I get two kayaks on the roof of a very tall van? Hullivator? Time will tell, I still have to convince the wife. 

Ill let you think about this, while you watch the rest of that amazing Chris Farley SNL bit. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tips for aspiring GoPro Film Makers (updated)

I watch a lot of videos. In part to find good things to show here, but also because I just like watching a well crafted video. Well crafted being the key, there is nothing that upsets me more than watching a poorly crafted video that has a great premise.

I recently watched two videos shot on GoPros - I am not going to show them here - One was summiting a mountain, a big mountain. The other was a commute to work. Both should have been great videos, but at the end of the day they had some problems. Let me stress, I love both of the people who created these videos, and they are great in concept, but they made a few mistakes that took great concepts, and winning ideas and killed them. So what follows are some tips for making your GoPro videos better.

#1 - Time. You have a max of about 4 minutes to get your idea across. People watching videos online have a very short attention span. I try and make my short films between 3 and 5 minutes. If your video is 7, 8, 10, 15 minutes... people aren't going to commit to that kind of watching time, unless it is spectacular. If it is ten minutes all from the same camera position you don't have a prayer - unless you happen to be in an f-15 dogfighting aliens. Don't for a second think that your footage is so great none of it can be cut.

#2 - Multiple Camera Positions - I mentioned camera positions, you need a lot of them. You need to be constantly moving the camera to a new shot, a new position. Some static, some moving. This is an utter pain in the bottom, because it takes time to keep moving the camera around. You need to stop, move the camera and then go again... and then stop, move the camera, repeat. This is where having multiple cameras comes in handy.

#3 - 4 seconds! - You are going to use those camera positions to give yourself something to cut to. Looking forward off your chest, then you need a reverse angle looking back at yourself, then it would be good to have the camera on an obstacle as you move past it. Each of these shots should be under 4 seconds.

#4 - Have a plan - Go into your shoot with a plan of what the final piece is going to look like. Don't forget that you are telling a story, and a story has a beginning a middle and an end. You have to have all three. If you have a plan, and know the shots your are going to need, it makes editing much easier, and faster. If I am going kayaking I always include a driving shot with the boat on the roof, and an unloading the boat shot.

#5 - No filler - There are no filler shots. Every shot is contributing to the story or the action. If you are adding shot to fill time, you are making a mistake.

#6 - Good Audio - Don't forget the audio. If someone is speaking, it needs to be loud and clear. Frequently I will record the audio separately, and sync them up when I am editing.

#7 - Be a rule breaker - There are always times to break the above rules. Just be sure you know why you are doing it.

If you watch the above video, and start counting seconds every time they cut you will see that they rarely go over 4 seconds.

21 minutes, all the same view. No good.

Paddle North (teaser trailer) from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.


It doesn't get any better than Devin Supertramp, and yes he only occasionally uses GoPro, but he makes excellent concept videos like this one. And while he may not plan every shot, he is creating an environment were great shots present themselves.

The biggest tip I can give, Keep shooting, keep making videos, and be constantly watching other videos and think about what makes them great.


Like Casey Neistat was reading my mind!