Grosspop’s Theosophy

My grandfather (we called him by the German “Grosspop”) was an active Theosophist, and imparted wisdom from his readings to us boys every time we saw him. Theosophy was (is?) a sort of combined philosophy/religion that drew wisdom from all of the world’s religions, with a strong emphasis on reincarnation and positive thinking. “Ja Ja Scottie, every lifetime is just a stepping stone on the universal road – a thousand years is but a day of history” (read that to yourself in your thickest German immigrant voice).

Founded in 1875, it gained mild popularity in the U.S., and columns by theosophical writers appeared in pamphlets and newspapers all over the world. You don’t hear much about them anymore. We loved him dearly, though I think as kids we didn’t really know what to do with his musings.

On a recent visit to my parents’ house, my father handed down to me a scrapbook full of theosophical clippings Grosspop had gathered and saved over the years. I remember seeing Theosophy magazines around the house, but had never seen this scrapbook before. Honored to have this in the family; just wish I could have the opportunity to talk about Theosophy with him now, as an adult.


Miles’ First Poetry Slam

Felt so proud (and awed) by Miles at the New Years Day poetry slam when he pulled this out of his back pocket – not the usual kid/dada stuff he’s usually attracted to, but an honest-to-goodness heartfelt original poem, full of existential questioning. Forgot to record on NY day, so we re-created the reading at home yesterday so he could earn his Writer badge on

Mt. Tam Loop

Amazing day with family and friends, hiking a rigorous 6.5 mile loop through Mt. Tamalpais. Starting near Stinson Beach and working our way up to the (a) crest, through three distinct biomes (fern/rainforest/giant redwood, California Coastal, and dry rolling hills). Everyone worked for it, rewarded by more beautiful vistas around every corner. In the middle, a 15-foot ladder erected in the middle of Steep Ravine to accomplish the elevation. Kids talked and sung improvised songs and exhausted themselves and got stronger by the step. All of us appreciating yet another amazing trail in our own backyard.


Trail map

Flickr Set

diyorg is one of the best sites for keeping kids stimulated and engaged in the real world I’ve ever encountered. Beautifully designed and engineered, it breaks real-world maker skills into more than a hundred categories. When kids accomplish three tasks in a category, they get a virtual badge (you can purchase a real version of the badge for $5). This is the site I wish I had thought to build, dangit.

No idea what their monetization strategy is, but huge applause to the engineers and designers behind the project.

Miles (@Milezinator) is spending his Christmas break on a mad DIY badge quest (a blissful escape from Minecraft for us!).

Spinning Burning Steel Wool

We did it! Inspired by this Mashable series, and using this tutorial, I built a little rig for spinning burning steel wool today, then took it out to the local park with Amy and Miles after dinner. Amy shot the images while Miles and I took turns spinning. Not nearly as scary as I thought it would be, but we still wore a protective hoodie and goggles, and brought along a gallon of water just in case (none of it needed).

These are all 30-second exposures. The hardest part is getting the distance right – tough to know in advance how far away the subject needs to be, so the tops/sides of several of these are off. More practice needed. Would also like to figure out how to change the color of the sparks. Any chemists in the house?

Flickr set

Thanksgiving Time Lapse, Leaf Fight

Hosted 24 people (including kids) in our little house for Thanksgiving this year. Set up a GoPro in a corner of the room, set to take one shot every 30 seconds until the battery ran out. Stitched the stills together later at 7.5 fps for this quick glimpse. Too bad you can’t see the kid’s table off in the living room – that’s where half the fun was!

Earlier, raked up a big pile of leaves, predicting the kids would find it and dive in. Sure enough, they found their joy – dove in and showered themselves, me, and each other with a hundred thousand maple leaves.

Flickr set

Midsummer Night’s Dream – Urban Fairy Raps

So Miles was recently an “Urban Fairy” in his school’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The job of the fairies was to slip in at intervals and explain the more subtle plot points to the audience in contemporary language. With the raps still fresh in his head, we ended up video’ing all five of them in our back yard and in nearby woods on one of our hikes.

Here, for posterity, are raps #1-5:

Rap #1

Continue reading “Midsummer Night’s Dream – Urban Fairy Raps”

Icky Poo Poo

While hiking through pastures of cow patty last weekend, Miles and his friend started improvising this wonderful “Icky poo poo” song, and quickly found their own harmony. I just turned on Voice Recorder and held it above their heads as we walked. Sublime.

Weekend in the Sierras

Just celebrated my 49th birthday in the High Sierras with family – absolutely packed and wonderful weekend. Walked a bit of the Pacific Crest Trail, where the trail meets Highway 88 (dad works as a volunteer trail hand at the outpost). Then to Devil’s Ladder, where gold rush pioneers had to disassemble wagons/gear and haul everything up a 3/4-mile rocky outcropping by hand (more than 100,000 wagons and their families went through this arduous, sometimes fatal ordeal). Then stopped at Sorenson’s in the Tahoe Valley to soak in the autumn colors of changing Aspens set against evergreens, and had lunch amidst a small flotilla of 80-yr-old hand-made cabins.

Taylor's Creek - 23

Finally to Taylor Creek to watch the Kokanee salmon push their way up the shallow stream to finally die just after spawning.

Taylor's Creek - 03

Next day, helped dad roll large pine sections up a hill, drill holes into their sides and insert eye bolts, and haul them uphill. After hauling, Dad and I created a huge pile of firewood from a bunch of them with his pneumatic splitter (truly one of human-kind’s most efficient labor-saving devices).

Cutting wood / logs - 3

Good food, good company, amazing weather. Thanks all for a wonderful weekend.

View the Flickr Set.