#88: Ben – Speak at a Conference

Speaking at conferences is one of my favorite things. It gives me an excuse to travel, I get to practice something that’s scary and thrilling, I get to meet and talk to really interesting people, and learn new things about subjects I care about.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Here’s the full list. Click on the photos for a closer look!

This conference was called Codemotion Amsterdam. It was two days long, had around 700 attendees from all parts of the software industry across Europe, and was held in an old shipyard building on the north side of Amsterdam. Becky and I both made the trip, and extended our stay before and after for some sightseeing.

Our Airbnb flat came with a couple of bicycles, so I made a point to ride across town to get to the conference on the second day. It’s an experience I’ll not soon forget; the Dutch ride bicycles like New Yorkers drive.

I ended up giving my talk twice on the second day of the conference – once for the Codemotion attendees, and one for a Digital Ocean meetup at a local development agency that evening. Both crowds were a lot of fun and pretty interactive, and I feel like I did pretty well with my talk; people laughed at all the right places, and I even saw some taking photos of my slides, which is always a good thing.

This conference was a joy. The organizers operate like a well-oiled machine, and it’s hard to come up with a way they could have run the event better. I may or may not have already submitted proposals for some of their other events.

#10: Visit a New Country (Netherlands)

We’ve really missed international travel. It’s been a while since we’ve gone anywhere but Albuquerque. Don’t get me wrong, New Mexico is beautiful, but 2012 was chock full of passport stamps and new vistas, and we’ve discovered that’s kind of our thing.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Here’s the full list. Click on the photos for a closer look!

So when I was accepted to give a presentation at a conference in Amsterdam, we started planning and researching and getting excited all over again. We love this stuff, and it’s been a long time.

We realize this isn’t technically a new country for us; we visited Rotterdam and Delft two years ago. However, since these are our rules, and that whole trip was clouded with grief at losing our dog Jackson, we decided to count it anyways, and have a great time.

Part 1: Amsterdam

Travel to Europe always takes two days; you leave around noon on one day, and land around noon the next. Ordinarily we like to then fight off jet-lag by staying up until it’s something kind of like bedtime where we land, but Becky just couldn’t do it; she had come down with a cold just before we left, and its effects fully set in during the flight. So I quietly partook of the bounty our Airbnb hosts had left for breakfast, and went for an aimless walk while she napped. I discovered interesting architecture, and a branch of my favorite Belgian pub. I came back after an hour or so and woke Becky up, went back out again for dinner, and we rounded off our first “day” of travel with a walk around town.

We made as much of the next couple of days as energy and illness would allow. We had a book full of walking maps, so we got to know the old part of town pretty well, and an Internet full of eating recommendations, so we kept our bellies full of delicious food. We visited the Blumenmarkt, a cheese museum, and our jaws dropped at the multi-level bike-parking garage at Centraal train station.

Then came two days where I was working my conference, and Becky made good use of her time alone. She visited several museums (including the Dutch Resistance Museum), did tons more walking, and ate some great food, but also made a conscious effort to rest and recuperate. Becky is the most energetic and don’t-waste-my-time traveller I know, but the flu would just not let her go, and she suffered all week. If you can call those poffertjes and that mango-lemongrass milkshake suffering.

Part 2: Zandvoort

Once the conference was over, we wanted to get to know a bit more of the country. So off we went to Zandvoort-aan-Zee (sand-fort on sea), kind of like what Seaside is to Portland. We were looking for kind of a taste of how locals get to the beach on a weekend. Here we finally ate raw pickled herring with onions, an Amsterdam tradition. It was slimy, but pretty good. We went for a nice long walk on the beach, making sure to actually touch the North Sea, then missed our train back, and waited for the next one.

Part 3: Haarlem

On our way back from Zandvoort, we stopped for a couple of hours in Haarlem, and liked it enough to come back the next day. This is kind of like a smaller, quieter, less-crazy Amsterdam, with much of the same history, but fewer tourists. Walking into Teylers Museum is like stepping back into the early 19th century, or onto a really well-done period-piece film set. We climbed to the top of a reconstructed windmill (complete with grindstone!), had a taste of Britain at Bij Babette, toured the Corrie Ten Boom house (a family that hid jews during WWII), and walked the narrow, winding alleyways through the old town. Lovely.

Completing the unexpected WWII-resistance theme of the trip, on our way back from Haarlem, we also managed to be one of the last admitted to the Anne Frank Museum, which was also amazing and humbling. The next day we packed up and headed home, talking much of the way, trying to make sense of all we had seen and done. We celebrated our 5-year anniversary on the plane home, and couldn’t think of any way we’d rather spend it.

This trip was really challenging because Becky was sick. Instead of spending all our energy doing “the things you do in the place you do them,” we had to dedicate half to recuperating and self-care. That’s not a bad thing, it’s how she managed to survive the week, but we had to adjust our plans several times to allow it to happen, and we’re not used to that.

Anyways, now we feel like we’ve really gotten to know (and like!) this country, so now it’s officially counted, and we won’t be able to call it a “new” country again.

April Misc Round Up

In April we went to the biggest Easter party we’ve ever been to. A large fraction of Lucy’s classmates and their families were there, and the egg hunt was huge – we personally hid 72 eggs, and at least six other families hid eggs after we finished.

Last fall, a bee swarm made a hive on the grounds of Lucy’s school. They weren’t really in a good place, though, so they went to stay with a beekeeper over the winter until a real home could be prepared. In March, everything was ready, and the whole school turned up in bee costumes to celebrate the homecoming of the bees on Earth Day. There was also a march for science, with all the kids and lots of parents participating. Becky was in Victoria at the time, so I was one of the official photographers for the event.

For the rest of that same weekend, Lucy and I drove up to Renton to spend time with the Eppersons (whose matriarch had spirited Becky away to Canada). Our tiny-house lodging even had an intricate and fully-furnished Victorian dollhouse!

Lucy went to a rug-hooking event, with Margaret’s aunt, mother, and grandmother, and where Anne was presented a huge award; we were in the paper for making blessing bags at school; Becky dared Lucy to stick her nose in some mud; Becky’s starting training for our big Ireland hike; Lucy went to her final Trackers day of the season, and loves to accessorize; we decided we had enough of door-to-door salespeople.

C U T E   P U P P Y   T I M E

#24: Lucy Outfit Challenge

Lucy is super into fashion and color and pairing. She loves shopping at Goodwill, and often spends her own money to pick up new items of clothing and jewelry. We like to encourage her to follow things she’s really into, so we set her a challenge. The mission: to wear every single article of clothing and jewelry that she owns. The timeframe: one school year. The reward: we go to Target and buy a brand new outfit!

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Here’s the full list. Click on the photos for a closer look!

This isn’t actually a totally new idea; Will and Lucy both did this exact thing over the 2015-2016 school year. (We also thought this might give her something to focus on besides her nervousness at starting a new school. It totally worked.)

Lucy started on August 31 (the first day of school), and finished on March 27. Below are the 100 photos from each day (she turned out to have exactly 100 getups), along with a bonus one with the new outfit she picked out from Target. We love that she’s developing an eye for pattern, color, texture, and accessories, and really having a good time with it. As she outgrows this wardrobe, we’ll probably run this challenge again, because she really enjoyed it.

Becky in Victoria

When one of my favorite people contacted me for a 2-day rush visit to Victoria, BC, I instantly said yes. (This person was my good friend Debbie, who happens to be married to a cousin of mine.) One fine Thursday in April I hopped a train up to Tukwila and got to have dinner with their awesome family before checking in to an Airbnb for the night. Very early the next morning Deb picked me up and we boarded the Seattle Clipper for a 3 hour lovely cruise up to Victoria. In just two short days we:

  • Wandered around the gorgeous downtown full of spring flowers and orca art
  • Had fancy afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel with a beautiful window table
  • Spent three hours in a Zodiac on Puget Sound
  • Saw a dozen whales in a couple transient pods, and some babies!
  • Got caught in a storm (which was miserable, but the whales made it worth it)
  • Visited Miniature World (my third time!)
  • Walked the waterfront
  • Had donuts at Tim Horton’s
  • Managed to have tea one more time before catching the Clipper back home

Excellent trip, 10/10, would adventure with Deb again.

2017 Awesome 3000


In may of 2017, we drove down to Salem and worked as photographers for the Awesome 3000, a fun-run event for kids, and a great fundraiser for the Salem-Keiser school system. This was our sixth year working the event! Here’s proof: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. (We were out of town for 2016.) Of course, this is nothing compared to Grandpa Chuck, who was there this year for the 23rd time, and his firm has sponsored the event for 30 years.

The event runs all morning and part of the afternoon, and includes races of appropriate lengths for high-schoolers all the way down to pre-schoolers. The kids have a ton of fun, and the weather was perfect for an outdoor event. There’s also a village full of activities and food put on by the event sponsors. Ty, Lucy, Chuck, and Chuck’s superb neighbor Al all worked the finish line, handing out medals.

After spending most of the day behind a camera, I even got to run a 300-meter with my nephew Ty! Oh, and that mark you see by his right eye? Yeah, that was me being careless putting my camera back on my belt holster. He forgave me, but I’m not sure I’ve forgiven myself yet.

#18: Minimalism Game

A little while ago, Becky spotted a post on a blog she follows, entitled The Minimalism Game, and we decided to play along.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Here’s the full list. Click on the photos for a closer look!

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: on the first day, find a single thing in your house, and get rid of it. On the second day, get rid of two. On the third, three. And so on, until you’re evicting 31 things from your house on day 31. It works best if you have a buddy, so you feel guilty if you quit early.

We have no problem finding things in our house that we can get rid of, or letting go of them, so we just blasted our way through. It took about three days, off and on, but we managed to box up all 496 things to go somewhere else – some will become hand-me-downs for nieces and nephews, but most went to Goodwill.

It seems cliché to say it, but we feel lighter without all this stuff hanging around. If you like documentaries, check out Minimalism, which is about the two fellows who write that blog I mentioned earlier. You might find yourself lightening your load a bit.

Lucy’s Class Trip: Fort Stevens

In May, Lucy’s class went camping at Fort Stevens! This was hardly her first away-from-home experience, but it was the first with her Gardner friends, and she was super excited. And for good reason: this trip was really cool.

They threw paper airplanes off the top of the Astoria Column. They visited the Columbia River Maritime Museum. They built underwater robots. They toured a ship. They visited the wreck of the Peter Iredale.

Lucy was really proud of all her preparation. She leveraged all her traveling and Trackers skills to pack and prep, and borrowed Margaret’s hiking pack to get all of her stuff to her cabin.

Oh, and no parents were allowed to chaperone, which we’re sure changed the dynamic quite a bit. It looks from the photos like a really great trip:

#7: Surprise Date Planned by Ben

In our relationship, Becky is usually the planner. We work as a team, for sure, but she’s really good at researching and organizing our adventures, so most of that work generally falls on her shoulders. But once a year, we like to shake it up, and give her a turn at being a passenger.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Here’s the full list. Click on the photos for a closer look!

We set aside a night where nothing else is allowed to go on the calendar, and then I try my hardest to procure and arrange and map out a nice evening for the two of us. This year I discovered that one of Becky’s favorite comedians, Patton Oswalt, had a show in Portland on our designated night! Slam dunk.

So we stopped into Clyde Common for a table full of small plates, and walked down to Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. I managed to keep our destination a secret until Becky noticed the marquee, at which point she uttered a swear (which I will not repeat here), and started grinning uncontrollably. I count this as a success; most of the accounts we use to reserve things already forward to her email address, so I have to be extra sneaky.

Afterward, we decided to go to Pix Patisserie for some delightful desserts. The one on the left is a deeply rich chocolate thing, with a slab of moldy cheese on the side, and was delightful.

Another successful surprise date! I think I’m actually kind of good at this.

#90: Ben – Rum & Rockets

One of the items on sale at the Gardner School auction was spending an evening with other parents and the most excellent science teacher, Jared, making explosiony things and drinking rum-based beverages. Naturally, I signed up.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Here’s the full list. Click on the photos for a closer look!

Our theme was “rum and rockets,” and both were in ready supply. We concocted several kinds of beverage, including some foggy Kraken courtesy of Ken, who brought dry ice to the party. We spent most of our time trying to make a matchstick rocket fly as far as we could. I believe we reached 16 feet.

In addition to the dry ice, Ken also brought a 2-liter soda bottle, which makes for a nasty trick. Fill ⅓ with solid CO2, ⅓ with water, seal as tightly as you can, and leave it in an uninhabited area for about an hour, or until you hear a loud bang. If you’re lucky, and you have a big tractor tire to contain the blast, you’ll find about half of the bottle afterwards.

When I rode my bike to the event (the school is only about 2 miles from our house), I thought I was being smart (did I mention there was rum?), but coming home at 9pm I realized my mistake. There’s a ¼-mile stretch of road where there isn’t a bike lane, and an unlit pathway in our neighborhood that’s kind of treacherous. Fortunately I got some help with the first, and didn’t get lost in the second, so everything turned out fine.

I had a great time, and made some friends that night. If you have kids that go to school, consider putting something like this together, it’s a ton of fun.