Museum of the History of Paris – a MUST see

The Musee Carnavalet (The History of Paris Museum) is a hidden gem! It is off the normal well-beaten tourist path and within walking distance from St. Eustace Church and the Picasso Museam. It is full of treasures including an entire Alfonse Mucha designed jewelry store – see pictures below. It made me feel all funny inside when my wife drug me there. She tried to get me to go with her this summer , but I wanted to do something else that now escaes me. I should have listened to her. There are 100+ rooms of paintings and sculpture, models, furniture, and good stuff to gawk at.

Set in a series of old Parisian town homes and Orangeries that are all put together with walkways and joined gardens. One of the cooler aspects is that you wander through re-creations of rooms from the French Revolution to the Paris Commune, and enter into the private spaces of famous Parisians like Marcel Proust’s bedroom with his brass bed and his little table covered in pens, ink, and notebooks. As I said, I was drug here the first time, but it is on my list to visit now even if I am in the city alone for a few hours. It was not too crowded at all and the gardens are a really nice place to sit in and catch up on your travel journal entries. Did I mention that the admission is free?!

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The Grand Bazaar – Istanbul 2015

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is purportedly the largest tourist attraction in all the world. Maybe. We were there in the winter – snow on the ground – and it was still packed. After an accidental trip to the Egyptian Bazaar (cabby issues are the bane of every traveler’s visit to the city), we decided on the full Grand Bazaar experience: walking all the lanes, seeing the sites, listening to all the languages and the sellers hawking their wares. My wife, who is an expert haggler, attempted to buy all the scarves in Turkey. We bought a few little souvenirs for people we love (my mother’s and my father-in-law’s birthdays were coming up). I ate a significant amount of pistachio Baklava and honeycomb. We also had lunch and coffee at a kebab place hidden in the bowels of the market that was serving the market sellers when we arrived – a sure sign of authentic yumminess.

Stamps-With-Foot had a “No Pestering” policy and when one of the sellers started harassing her to buy or to come in his shop, she would move on. It seemed to work and she was left alone to browse and shop and got a couple of bargains. I was the designated pack mule and carried all the bags. I also assisted in the negotiations for some of the goods – playing the tired husband who’s wife is on a spending spree – they had no idea that the bags were filled with $1-10 dollar items. It worked great and she got a gift for her dad at 1/3 the original asking price as well as a couple silk scarves for a ridiculously low price. The scarf seller looked at me with knowing eyes and brought me apple tea while she tore through his stacks looking for “the right one… or five…”

Words fail me in describing all that we saw and did, but the images below should give you an idea.

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Turkish Honey

The Turkish know how to present a breakfast spread! My hotels on two recent trips to both Ankara and in Istanbul had a fresh honeycomb (Petek Balout in Turkish) for breakfast every morning. Slabs of raw, dripping, delicious goodness. Honeycomb was also available in the street markets and in a couple of places where I had dinner. I got to enjoy some pistachio baklava and honeycomb with my morning meal AND while walking down the street. Awesome!

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Matt Talley’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Paris

I get asked all the time (friends, colleagues, family, friends of friends, some girl on the interwebs who read a post on this site, Instagram, or Tumblr…) about a visit to Paris. Logistics: where to stay, what should they do or see in 3-5 days, what should they avoid… I have written 8 e-mails about the subject in the last 6 months alone. I have been to Paris maybe 30 times in the last 15 years, no joke, and have been to all of the sites that you can think of. I am not an expert, but I do have some experience to share that might be helpful. I decided to collect all my “wisdom” and opinions in one document and just put it out there. So, here is Matt Talley’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Paris.

A visit to the Musee Picasso and a little advice

I was never a huge Picasso fan. I love a couple of his pieces – mostly his stuff from Paris in the 1904 era and some additional pieces from the Early 1920’s. We have a print of Blue Nude hanging over our bed and I have a small print of El hombre da la Mancha in the upstairs bathroom, but I don’t really enjoy his sculpture of cubist paintings. Who am I though? My opinion about Picasso’s work matters very little to anyone but me.

All that said, the Picasso Museum in Paris is a must see for modern art fans. It is a couple of hours well spent with a few nice sidewalk cafes nearby. It has just reopened after a multi-year re-build (millions over budget) and it was on our planned tour of Paris this time around. After standing a a very long line, Stamps-With-Foot and I walked the galleries and I saw a couple of pieces that I had never seen before that I really enjoyed and I liked the new building itself almost as much as the art. Take a lesson from us: buy your tickets in advance though and the best way to do this is on the museum website. I will say this again: buy.your.tickets.in.advance. If you fail to heed my advice you will stand in line for 1.5-3 hours.

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Art Nouveau Desks and Furniture at the Musee d’Orsay

We were recently in Paris and we had 4 hours to kill before our train left for Toulouse. We decided on a visit to the Musse de Orsay. Excuse me while I mount my soapbox: If you go to one museum in Paris, let it be this one. Go early, get the audio tour and plan on a half day. It is full of impressionists: Monet, Manet, Corbiers, Toulouse Letrec, Van Gogh, etc… the sculptures are breathtaking – on pare or better than those found in Florence or in the Vatican. Dismount soapbox.

We concentrated this visit on a couple of painting rooms and the Art Nouveau furnishings collections. I have a serious weakness for fine furniture. It is genetic – both side of the family. I have been to the exhibit before, but I wanted some quality time with it and my wife happily agreed. The downside to any visit is that whenever we go and Stamps-With-Foot sees anything remotely Art Nouveau related, she is almost unbearable for an entire day: “PLEASE build me a bed like that!?” “Can we PLEASE have a door just like that…?” The collection is on the second floor on the left, directly opposite of the Seurat gallery – an artist near to my brother-in-law’s heart.

From the photos below, I WISH I had the time and skill to do the little chest with the linen-fold drawer fronts and the carved mice pulls.

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Turkish Carpet Sellers

Carpet Sellers: I have purchased rugs and carpets from multi-generational vendors from Istanbul to Marrakesh, Casablanca to Chendu, Ankara to Toulouse. These men, always men, have spoken every conceivable language – especially the numbers – and have seen every bargaining trick known to man.

My wife is an expert haggler and has no qualms about walking away from a market seller and going to the next stall in full view of the first seller. She was in Marrakesh when I bought my first Moroccan Hanbel, but she didn’t do the actual bargaining – she drank the sweet mint tea and watched. It think this left a hole in the part of her soul that needs to haggle (the Burton side of her genetic pool) and she has been twitching to buy a carpet ever sense. I think that she wanted to bargain with the best of the best – to test her mettle and skill. Our recent trip to Istanbul provided her with that opportunity.

Our first carpet stop was at a 5-story establishment late one evening just before dinner near the Blue Mosque. We were handed off to a tall, greasy, smooth-talking seller that had spent lots of time in the US and was the picture of shady used car salesman. Seriously. We let him talk and lie and talk and lie. After about 2 hours and in the middle of what was probably his dinner time, we started negotiating prices. I really wanted a unique 5X7 kilim and Laurel was eye-balling a wool runner. The seller wanted BMW prices for the equivalent a small Honda with a tiny engine. Laurel gave him a final price for both and he unceremoniously ushered us out of the door. I really liked that Kilim and it became another “One that got away.” A shame that it did not go home with us… It will forever be like the hanbel (kilim is the Turkish word) in Essaouira, Morocco that I left folded on the floor there that still calls to me. Every so often my wife will say, “Remember that rug…” and we both get a little sad.

Our second stop was the next night and due to my schedule, we showed up 15 minutes before their scheduled closing time. No worries, three people stayed and tea and carpets and rugs appeared from all corners of the shop. My sweet wife busied herself inspecting a $3000 silk carpet that stayed in the store where it found her. Our seller was another guy that had spent some serious time in the US and although would also have been at home at any New Jersey used car lot, was more polished and a touch more upfront than our dealer the night before.

Laurel went to work on him. We were good-cop bad-cop right away. I was the bored, broke husband upset at my wife’s spending habits and she was the doe-eyed, sweet little girl who couldn’t make up her mind. She is awesome at that. We work the shit out of it and she was so good that she completely had me convinced that she wanted an entirely different rug – crafty that one is.

In the end she got an amazing small wool rug with insane knotting and detail for our bedroom and I got a small wool on wool rug for the living room. Now, we did not get the deal of the century, but we didn’t have to sell blood to finance our taxi ride back to the hotel either. We got a decent price, but make no mistake – the seller made good money.

My hope was that this one experience might satisfy her need to buy Turkish/Persian/Moroccan carpets… Nope. She talked about “the next one” on the taxi ride home. I have helped created a monster.

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A trip to Istanbul with my wife

I spend 1/3 to 1/2 of my work life on the road and away from my wife and hearth: Crappy food, shitty airports, empty hotel rooms, taxis, trains, assigned to the middle seat in the plane, another awful airport, missed connections, terrible coffee, jet-lag, missing luggage, etc, etc, etc… It was all very exciting when I started this 15 or so years ago, but it has gotten very, very old. Most of the time when I travel I get to see the inside of meeting rooms, lounges, and hotels, but every so often I get out to see some local attraction and one of my first reactions is ‘I wish Stamps-With-Foot was here to see this…’ Traveling alone when you love your wife sucks. There is a bright spot every so often though – when my schedule and our finances work out so Stamps-With-Foot can come along.

A couple of weeks ago the stars aligned and we bought a super cheap (somewhat uncomfy) flight to Istanbul for her to spend a couple of days there while I was working. It was fantastic. We got to tour some sites together after work, do a little shopping, make some memories, and neither of us was all by ourselves waiting on the other.

Istanbul was on both of our bucket-lists and we only had a few hours each day to cram stuff in and although it was cold the whole time and pouring rain one day, we made it all work out:

A tour of the Blue Masque
Raw honeycomb every morning with breakfast
Tour of the Hagia Sophia
Late night Carpet shopping
Criss-crossing the Bosphorus – back and forth between Europe and Asia
An accidental trip to the Egyptian Bazaar
The full Grand Bazaar experience – sites, sounds, and lots of haggling
My wife attempted to buy all the scarves in Turkey
Little souvenirs bought for people we love
I ate a TON of pistachio Baklava
Great food was eaten
Serious snuggling in a king-sized bed sans puppies

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The Deed is Done!!

I have spent 5 years hating my neighbor’s tree – 5 years, but that time is at an end. My 50′ foot nemesis is dead. Its corpse has been rendered, chipped up, and the big bits have been given to another neighbor to chop up and burn at their leasure. It took a huge chunk of my yearly bonus check, but is worth every penny of it. THIS is a fine day!

No more moss on my roof, no more easy roof access for the squirrels and rats, no more pine needles & cones littering my yard and tracked into the house. My flower beds and grass will grow. My tiny sliver view of Mt. Rainier is visible. I now get to clean my gutters ONCE a year instead of 5-6 times :-) We can use the fireplace without fear of burning the house down. No more worries about wind storms and branches/the whole tree falling through the roof. The breakfast area and kitchen are filled with sun in the mornings, birds are singing, and I am all giddy inside.

My neighbor was sad to see the tree go, he actually was. I will spend a little money and send him something nice and also send him a ‘thank you’ note. This also means that I am in his debt and I will probably have to do all sorts of stuff for him in the foreseeable future and ignore all sorts of annoyances. Fine. Worth it!

New stools from an oak tree

This weekend I finished up a “little” lathe project I started in early February – I made a couple of stools out of a hunk of oak tree that was cut after a storm in our village. They are about 15.5″ (39cm) tall and 10″ (26cm) around and getting it that way pushed my Chinese lathe to its absolute max. It walked all over the floor when I first started it up – hence the kettle bells thrown on the middle shelf to add mass. It super did not like the out of balance logs. It would have been fine at a slower speed, but the slowest my lathe goes is 400 RPM and that is too fast for this size project. I managed, but there was lots of starting and stopping.

I really like both how the turned out and how comfy they are to sit on – just the right height for a quick stop-and-rest. I will add bow-tie joint if needed as they dry out and split, maybe out of some walnut that I have. They will make a nice addition to my home office.

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Used my workbench today!

Today was the official first use of my workbench. I used it as a work table to lay out the shape of the leg vise, I cut the dados for the tail vise, cleaned them with a chisel, and after spreading plastic used the bench top as a glue-up table for the vice pieces. I had enough room at the other end of the bench to put together a French-cleat mounted battery drill organizer that I cut the parts out for yesterday afternoon. I have trouble staying with one project and do 3-5 at a time. It makes my wife crazy.

The bench top height is perfect and I am super stoked to have a real workbench here in France. I can finally get down to serious business and make some moldings and a small linen-fold panel chest.

Happy!

In Paris For Valentines Day – 2015

We had to go to Paris the week of Valentine’s Day for the final meeting to renew my French Work Visa. It was a bit of a Keystone Cops affair, but in the end we are all good and get to live and work (just me for that one. Stamps-With-Foot no get to worky…) in France for another year. Since we we in the city of Love & Light, we stayed over an extra night to celebrate the occasion like champs. We made a last minute reservation for dinner, tried to see a show at the The Folies Bergère (nope), and spent the day storming to and from museums around the city: The Rodin, The newly re-opend Picasso, The Orsay and the amazing History of Paris Museum, which we showed up to 20 minutes before they closed and made a mad dash for the Mucha designed Jewelry store exibit.

It was fantastic. We got to tour some beautiful sites together, view amazing art and furniture, buy some postcards, do a little shopping, make some memories, and hold hands while walking across the Seine at night with Notra Dame lit behind us. Very Romantic. Not many people can say that they ‘Spent Valentine’s day in Paris…’ We both feel really blessed!

A few pictures from the trip:

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No Truck Required

When we left Seattle for Southern France, I sold my truck and it felt like I lost a hand. I toyed with the idea of bringing mine over, but it would have been impossible to park and the money that I would have had to spend for gas would have been astronomical. My very first vehicle was a truck and I have never not had a truck to drive. There have been other vehicles, but I have always had a pick-up.

I didn’t really plan to do much heavy hauling during our time in Toulouse, so we got a 5-door diesel Suzuki Swift and I added a roof rack – just in case I needed to road trip with a bike or grab the odd 2X4 at the lumber yard… Reality is often brighter and more interesting than the initial plan. We have abused our little Suzuki. I have treated it like a farm hauler and overloaded it again and again. The rack has a 100 pound weight limit, yeah about that… In my own experience, 250 pounds has ridden just fine. I still miss my truck, but we are making due.

All the things I have hauled in or on the car that have been questionable:

400 pound wood lathe
The cut rounds from 4 trees (to date)
A 200 pound 7′ X 6′ x 2′ Wardrobe
3 large work benches
9 bookshelves
~1500 books in boxes
10+ sheets of plywood
Enough lumber to build a garden shed
2 beds
9 rolled carpets
A buffet hutch
A garden table, 2 side tables, 8 chairs, and a umbrella
250 pounds of gravel for lathe ballast
A huge antique armoire
300 pounds of wet lumber
A Canoe that was wider than the roof
5 people and all their crap

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Being the proprietor of a urban wildlife kibbutz

I was home in Seattle taking care of a couple of things and my mom mentioned skratching noises on the roof… hmmm… DAMMIT! WE HAVE SQUIRRELS IN THE ATTIC!! They chewed between the gutter and the shingles and have been living the easy life all fall and winter in my attic. I called a contractor to fix the initial damage and the secondary water damage on the soffet.

In addition to the squirrels, I also have the urban wildlife equivalent of a kibbutz in the attic: Rats and bees have also decided to move in. There was a swarm on the eve of the front porch this summer, but my mother said that they sort of went away. What that actually meant is that I have a small colony that has settled in the eyebrow eve above the front door.

Then there are the other furry residents…

While going over yard design plans with my gardening contractor, I noticed that we were being observed from above by two beadly little eyes. I tagged a medium brown rat (8″ body) with my son’s pellet rifle as it was making a run at the hole in the soffet – Headshot. It makes my heart happy that I could send him off to his eternal reward.

I almost welcome the bees, but rats and squirrels…  I bet they had dinner parties, board game nights, and cross species orgies to cement the truce and draw up the boundaries of their respective territory in MY attic.

I swear by the GOT god’s, old and new, and by the hairy feet of Bilbo Baggins, that if I build another house it will be concrete and steel.  I found myself cruising for property again this morning and there is an old titan missile silo for sale near Yakima that is speaking to me.

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The contents of my checked luggage

Every time I come back to the US for work or vacation, I go back to France with maxed-out checked luggage.  Not smuggling contraband or anything, just comfort food, hand tools, and stuff we cant get there. I have only been stopped at customs once and it was an hour long “what is this” game.  All sorts of fun explaining what an 8TPI lathe chuck was….

If customs decides to stop me this time they will find the following in my 2 huge duffle bags:

1 thermarest mattress pad
4 bags of Vashon Roasters Coffee
2 Starbucks mugs from home
1 giant 5/8″ bowl gouge (lathe chisel)
3 sets of Queen sheets
1 end grain lathe chisel tool
New snowboard boots.
Found pocket knife
2 jars of Coconut oil
Multi Vitamins
1 ziplock bag full of shelled pecans from my aunt.
Bottle of Tums
Christmas presents from my mom for my wife
A new hat (Heisenburg-ish and green)
17mm combo wrench and 17mm socket
2 sets of workshop/garage plans
Specialty hardware from Woodcraft
A second notebook computer
4 months worth of mail
7 books
End grain specific lathe chisel
75mm bowl jaws (for previously mentioned lathe chuck)

Diabolical plans for arborcide are coming to fruition

Holy sh1t, my neighbor has finally agreed to let me cut a pine tree out of his yard that has been the bane of my existence in Seattle for 5 years! It has been my 50′ foot nemesis.

It hangs over my roof – branches like spiky swords of Damocles, waiting to fall into my living room.  Pine needles and cones litter my yard and get tracked into the house.  My view of Mt. Rainier is obscured.  It has grown a fine crop of moss on my roof, a secondary crop in my front yard, and fills my gutters to the point that they have to be cleaned 6 times a year.

The thing has now grown over my fireplace and it is a fire hazard for our house and his.  That is what won him finally over to the Dark Side – the possibility that his house could burn.

Now, I have to pay for 100% of it, but it is a check that I will gladly write. And if nothing else, this revelation has made my trip home 100% worth it.

You truly have no idea how happy I am about this!  I wish my wife were here – This make me so giddy, that I want to conceive a child to commemorate this victory!

In Seattle taking care of house related stuff

I am in Seattle working this week and have taken a couple of days off to take care of some stuff with the house.  We are trying to decide whither we need to invest and build an addition or to sell and look for something already done and dusted.

I have met with our estate agent, a builder, a draftsman, an architect, a landscape company, and a second builder in our quest to make a decision. At this point, if we want to to buy something else and stay in our neighborhood, then we are looking at $650k to $750k and would still have to build a $40K garage/shop.  If we stay put, then we need about $250k to build a garage, update systems, finish the attic, and move an interior wall.

Stamps-With-Foot and I are going over it all and trying to decide what is best for our finances, future possible family expansion, and quality of life.  The weight of love we feel for our house and the blood I have spilled so for in the kitchen and basement adds a little weight to the decision as well.

I hate being a grown up…

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What I want Thursday

I love wearing overalls , a leather apron, and work boots in the wood-shop.  During the summer, I spend my time at home in flip-flips and t-shirts, but I do clean up fairly well.  My J-O-B requires me to spend a good deal of time in front of customers and I have to look good: be well dressed, properly groomed, and present appropriately. Along those lines, there are a couple of things that I would like to add to my work-related accouterments:

A Moore & Giles Portfolio
Porsche Design TecFlex Fountain Pen (F or EF Nib)
A few pairs of two-tone wing-tip oxfords: brown and tan,  tan and green, brown and black, etc… 
Brooks Brothers grey or subtle pattern sport coat – slim cut.
Filson Medium Travel bag.
Rimowa Carry-on
A fine set of Cuff-links
Cobalt blue, Tiffany blue, purple, orange solid and patterned silk ties.

Throwback Thursday: Mark Flood – The TOUGHEST man you will ever know

So, I have this buddy who is by nature and temperament a hard-man. Sweetest guy in the world, super humble, would give you his last dollar in the pocket of the shirt off his back, salt of the earth sort of a guy. Seriously. This same friend is also physically and mentally toughest person I have ever personally met. I have only seen him mad twice and thankfully neither time was at me. I was very happy about that. Flood is one of those Old Testament, walked forty years in the desert and killed and army with a mule jaw bone sort of guy. Really, really.

All my climbing buddies and I TRY to get together once a year and spend a week in the mountains. One year (maybe 2009), Mark couldn’t come and it was the most relaxed trip ever – soft beds, video games and *GASP* a rest day! We all talked about how Flood would have hated the wasted time when he could have been wedged into some shitty, moss filled crevice, 40 feet above a manky piece of protection, giggling with glee. At the time, “Chuck Norris” jokes were just getting popular and while sitting at a bar one evening we started telling Mark Flood true-isms. At one point these two girls who had over heard us, came over and asked with willful intent if Mark was at the bar or in town. Dr. G looks them up and down and slyly says, “Nah baby, your would KNOW if he were here…” They got all giddy. True story.

Anyway, the list below is some of what came out of that evening and 10 or so follow-up e-mails after the trip.

Mark Flood uses Tabasco Sauce for eye drops.
As a child Mark Flood ate transformer toys in vehicle mode and shat them out transformed into a robot.
Mark Flood’s penis is so big that it has a penis of its own and it is still bigger than yours.
… doesn’t open no can of whoopass. He makes his own with farm-fresh eggs and dehydrated onions.
… can get Blackjack with just one card.
… once screwed up his knee, purely for the sake of winning the Special Olympics.
… can sneeze with his eyes open
… once fucked a sheep ‘till it was a sweater
… once took a lead-fall so big that his clothes burned off on re-entry
… uses a rattlesnake as a condom
Mark Flood’s penis is so TALL it has never been mounted without the use of oxygen.
… eats live Billy-goats as a light mountain snack.
… started a pirate mutiny in the south china sea.
… is hung like a woolly mammoth.
… keeps live cobras in his sock drawer.
… once snorted cocaine off Jenna bush’s titties in the oval office and made W watch.
… has a +92 Ape index.
… secretes Serin gas from his rectum.
…once used a spork as an ice axe and tire chains as crampons.
… whittled his own skis.
… can write in beautiful Victorian script cursive ambidextrously with his feet.
… once killed and gutted a grizzly bear with toenail clippers to have a warm place to sleep
… carries a pack so heavy he can rightfully call Atlas himself a pussy.
… always has sex on the first date. Always.
… is capable of lactation.
… once took a bubble bath with Rosie O’Donnell and made her straight.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse actually live in Mark Flood’s nutsack
Mark Flood makes his women wear gaiters and crampons to bed.
… can eat a hammer and poop nails.
Mark flood can climb any 14er using only echo location
Mark flood can play “the devil went down to Georgia” better than Charlie Daniels AND the Devil using a violins
strung with his pubic hair.
Mark flood pulled so hard on Castle Rock in Eldorado Canyon that the climb is now 12.3 feet shorter.
… makes MacGyver look like Steve Erkel.
… does not procreate – he breeds…
…  raped Blackbeard for using Argh! in an incorrect grammatical supposition.
… once climbed to heaven and he did it all in one linked pitch.
Mark Flood once stated “The double rope system is for newbie’s. I only climb using a sextuple rope system!”
… can piss directly into gale force winds and not get a drop on himself.
Mark Flood has to live in the Midwest because his gravitational field screws up the tides.
… felt that the ‘Jolly Mark” was egotistical, so he let some fruity guy named Roger take the credit.
… is no longer allowed to climb at Indian Creek because his hand jams have widened all the cracks.
… simply decided to start producing spider silk from his anus so he no longer had to use ropes.
… only dates climbers because only they have the necessary grip strength to give him a hand-job.
… is not afraid to climb any route but all climbing routes are afraid that Mark will climb them.
… once gave a new meaning to peak enchainment when he added Mt Elbrus, Long’s and Pikes to his key chain.
… feet are sooo big he doesn’t need snowshoes.
Mark Floods’ dick is so big that the AAC listed an all female ascent the latest American Alpine Journal
… can literally talk to snakes
… is so energetic that routes get tired of HIM.
… climbed every peak west of the Mississippi in two days with only a Mars Bar, the September 1980 issue of
Playboy, an ice axe, 1 box of Pop-Tarts, and a can of tuna.
… masturbates to pictures of used climbing gear and Alpenglow.

Workbench Progress

Progress on the Cornebarrieu Bench is coming along.  It has been slow going – I have been swamped with work, travel, lack of allowance (I spent it on Christmas and a classic fiddle/violin…), more work, etc…

Stamps-With-Foot gave me a gift card for our local Home Center/hardware big-box as a Christmas present that took care of the price for the last section of the top. I got a lot accomplished this last two weeks:

  1. The final sections of the top were glued up just before New Years eve- using every single clamp I brought to France and more than a little ingenuity.
  2. Installed (2 hours of cutting, drilling and chiseling) a pricey German-made cast iron end vice that I got on 65% sale – was missing two small metric bolts and the wood handle.
  3. Made final leg cuts: the tenons that go inside the bench top.
  4. Put 5/16 oak dowels in to the pieces that have cracked, even a little, to make sure that the cracks do not spread.
  5. Gave all the base parts an 80 grit sanding.
  6. Really like the sawmill marks on some of the pieces.  Am going to put clear poly on the base instead of milk paint to preserve the marks.
  7. The legs and stretchers shrunk and warped just a touch in the six months since I cut them even though I had it all clamped together.  It will be fine and could have been worse.
  8. Made the first dry-fit of the base to the top: Everything lined up , fit perfectly, and is as square as I could ask for.
  9. Drilled holes for connector bolts and lag screws.
  10. Installed base shelf cleats
  11. Cut the 12 sections of 5/8″ tongue & groove pine that will be the base shelf

Cornebarrieu Bench 08-2014 Cornebarrieu Bench 09-2014 Cornebarrieubench 12-2014 Cornebarrieu Bench 1-2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before I head to the US in a couple of weeks, I hope to have installed the end-vise block, given the base a 120 grit sanding, polyurethane the base &shelf, cut the hole for the leg vise screw and the rectangle cut for the vices’ parallel guide. I also want to install the leg vise nut in a pocket behind the leg while the bench is upside down.

Gluttony: Deadly Sin #2 accomplished.

We spent Christmas at a friends’ parent’s house near Pau (pronounced “Po”), France. It is in the middle of the Jurançon wine region and near one of the historical centers for mountain pasture fed sheep and goat cheese. Our hosts were incredible and the amount of food we consumed was staggering! Below is a semi complete list of the things that we enjoyed:

Aged local Brebis (sheep) cheese
Steak grilled in the home’s fireplace
Prosciutto
Coffee
Herbal tea
Cured ham
Roasted Rabbit
Strawberry preserves
Roasted potatoes
Rice pilaf
Pate
Christmas cake
Croissant with honey
Baguettes
Wild Boar
Foie gras
pumpkin soup
3 types of Jurançon wine
Saucisson
Aged Pyrenees goat cheese
Boudin
Swiss and German chocolate
Dutch Stroopwafel
Bottle after bottle of amazing 2008 and 2006 Bordeaux wine

 

I am old, whiskered, and fat, but I can still ride!

Just after New Years 2015, two friends and I drove south from Toulouse to the Principality of Andorra to spend three days skiing and boarding in the mountain passes there. It is like the whole country turns into a Ski basecamp for the winter – there were lifts everywhere, the back-country is patrolled, the apres-piste activities available swing from shopping for Lux goods, to a tame evening in front of a fire, to hedonism at the Irish corner in Pas de la Casa. The groomed slopes were really well maintained and the lifts were great.

I took it easy on the first day, being a grandpa and all, but I got some really good riding in: a few small jumps, a couple of really fast descents, and one aerial 360 just to prove I still could. After the 1st day of riding, I noticed that my boot soles were de-laminating, but figured they would be good for the rest of the weekend… Nope. They came apart as I was walking to the 1st lift the next day. Dammit. I had to go and rent boots for the rest of the trip. The only ones available were either 1 size too small or 3 sizes too big. I crammed my toes in the little ones and didn’t lace them too tight. All was good until about an hour later when I busted the toe-strap on my left binding – DAMMIT!! I made a MacGyver worthy repair that lasted the rest of the weekend, but I will need to get a new strap before I ride again in February.

The second day it was on and I hopped on a few technical routes, popped over jumps and bumps, bombed down hills, and threw snow with my board edges like a champ. We had an amazing dinner at a local place that was a converted mountain house/barn where they cooked all our food over hot wood coals: a perfect end to a day of fine boarding!

All told, I ended the trip with broken boots, a wonky binding, and a big smile! I was so glad to be on my board again and if I may say so myself, not too shabby for an old-guy!  We ended the trip with no serious injuries and I only had a single bruise – on my butt. A kid went down hard directly in front of me at the foot of a lift – I had to either bail ass first or hit him and I chose the former.

Boarding 1-201520150104_12155720150104_121609Boarding 2015phone1 (2)20150104_16315820150103_16154720150104_13290320150103_161816

Boarding 2015phone1 (1)

 

Boarding 2015phone1 (3)

 

 

 

 

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Side Note:
Stamps-With-Foot stayed home and snuggled the puppies as sitting on a cold ski-lift is her own personal version of Hell, but she said the pictures of us were pretty. I am grateful to have a wife that doesn’t fuss when I go outside and play. :-)

2014: My year in Review

Moved into house in small village near Toulouse France
Started running and lifting again
Set up office at home
Had to deal with broken furniture from move – Insurance company was fairly easy to deal with
Fixed some stuff, got other new stuff
Flight to Florida for work
At least 10 hours a day spend at J-O-B
Work Laptop stolen in Paris hotel Room – Super pissed!!
Met friend both new and Old in and around Toulouse.
Trip to China for a week
More work, more coffee
Cut down a deceased cherry tree and made 3 big bowls
Gave two away
Played Pétanque with the old guys in my village
Built 5 benches for the house over a 5–week period
Work crazy hours
Flight back to Seattle for 2 weeks work/vacation
Visit to Carcassonne and Limoux
Found amazing French junk shop in the middle of nowhere
Joined a French beekeeping group
Bought a wood Lathe
Worked more crazy hours
Rode my bikes a little – not enough.
Made stuff for house: instrument hangers, book shelves, lids, kitchen island, etc…
Running and lifting again somehow stopped and work increased…
Got a new Banjo
Horribly addicted to coffee
Blogged a good bit
Started setting up small hand tool work shop in garage
Son in France for 2 months
Got a canoe for Father’s Day
Bastille Day in Carcassonne
Began building 450# traditional work bench
Quit Facebook
Spent way too much at local wood supply house
Made 4-5 small pieces of furniture for the house
Father in law in France for a month
Fixed some furniture for a co-worker and another piece for a neighbor
Adopted new puppy – Truffle
Flights to Germany, Marseilles and Paris
Super stressed – J-O-B
Getting fat(er)
41st Birthday trip to Porto, Portugal
Got an awesome watch as a gift from sweet wife
Trip to Morocco for J-O-B – bought 2 fantastic carpets while there
Thanksgiving in Turkey – sort of funny sounding. Was working
Grew a beard – wife disgruntled
Flight to Arkansas
Became a Grandfather!!
A beautiful baby girl!
Feel super-old
Tried to bribe a Friend’s parents into selling me his old jeep
Enacted a diabolical plan to make the jeep mine
Spent 14th Birthday with Son
Got most of Christmas shopping done in US
Came home to France with new mandolin and vintage violin
Cut down another cherry, and apricot and a plum and started making bowl blanks
Back to work and back to more 10-12 hour days and calls until 10pm
Christmas snuck up on me again.
Read 20 books in 2014 – almost shameful. Will read more next year
Spent holiday in Pau, France at a friend’s parent’s place and ate and drank until I was ready to pop
Finished top for new work bench – only took six months
Had two friends from London come over for New Years
Spent first weekend of 2015 snowboarding with two friends in Andorra

Becoming a Grandfather…

I am a 41 year old Grandfather.  I am still letting that fact/reality sink in…

My daughter, LOL, had a baby girl just after Thanksgiving and my wife and I flew from Toulouse to Arkansas to be with her for the birth.  We had scheduled the trip for a week before and a week after her due date.  Our timing was impeccable as she had the baby the day after we arrived.  Being there for the birth, at the hospital was amazing and scary!  LOL did great and mother and baby are doing super.  The baby is putting on weight, is a good eater and sleeper, isn’t fussy, and makes the sweetest faces.  WE are all very much in love with her.  Her mother is reveling in motherhood and seems happier than I have seen her, maybe ever.

Granddaddy 2

LOL and Baby

3 generations

granddaddy 3

gilf 1

Granddaddy 1

I HATE CDG

I try really hard to keep things on DRIVENOUTSIDE positive, but I must now take a moment to ascend my soapbox and bitch:

I spend 1/3 to 1/2 of my work life on the road. I have been to airports all over the world: third world countries, Eastern Europe, Central America, tiny American towns, western China, etc… and the one I hate to fly through the most is CDG in Paris. Seriously.  I have been stuck in Terminal 2E for 6 hours today with a grumpy, jet-lagged wife and had to deal with super un-helpful staff.  Not feeling the love right now.

I have never met a single soul that likes to fly through that particular Hell airport, even my colleagues from France would rather connect through Amsterdam, Madrid, or Brussels. Really, it has been the topic of at least 3 discussions since I have lived in France and two of them were not anger induced or alcohol fueled.

Why? Well, glad you asked…  Here is my $0.02 worth:  Lack of forethought in the layout of the international arrival area, making it hard for through travelers to negotiate from gate to gate, poor signage and limited announcements (even in French) concerning last minute gate changes. Lots of last minute gate changes! Chronically understaffed security and customs checkpoints. Why should they have more than one border gaurd asigned first thing on a MOnday morning?  So what if a Trans-Atlantic flights come in at the same time. Getting on a plane is a mob experience where no form of order is either expected or imposed. You need a spell book to find the public restroom in some terminals, and last but not least, every single time I have gone through CDG in the last 12 years, something in my checked luggage has either gone missing, gets lost, or is damaged! Seriously, that is not an exaggeration.

You need examples? OK: in 2004 I had a bag left out on the Tarmac, in the rain. It was completely soaked all the way through and dripping when it met me at baggage claim. In 2008, 2 bags of Cheetos were taken from my wife’s suitcase, in 2010 my bag was opened for inspection and mixed with someone else’s. Never got one shoe back. My bags were lost in January of 2014 and I didn’t see them for 3 days.  You can bike from Paris to Toulouse in three days…  I lost 3 dress shirts 6 months later while in transit to Hamburg. In 2013 I had a suitcase that came out on the baggage belt with shrink wrap barely holding it in one pile. It looked like it had been sucked into the engine of a plane. I was informed that Air France “Is not liable for normal wear and tear…” and my bags condition was normal for CDG. Really.

Ok, done venting. Dismounting my soapbox now…

Buying a Moroccan Rug: How-To

Below is a link to a PDF document that contains The VERY little I know about Moroccan carpets and how to buy them in Morocco. I put it together of multiple trips and years and thought I would share with the general public on the interwebs. Disclaimer: This work is not 100% mine. I have kludged together some of the knowledge and wisdom of others that has helped me in the search for my own carpets and have added my own thoughts, ideas, and text here & there.

I will say that the statements contained are not purely academic: I have perused Medinas and souks in Marrakesh, Fez, Casablanca, Essaouira, Rabat, Dubai, Ankara, and Abu Dhabi. I have purchased rugs from multi-generational vendors who spoke every conceivable language – especially the numbers – and who have seen every bargaining trick known to man. You have not lived a full life until you have seen a mustached Moroccan man and a tiny Chinese lady in serious heated discussion over the quoted price of Beni-Mguild, wildly gesturing with their hands while barking in Mandarin at each other.

I have also walked away from deals after bargaining for a couple of hours. There is a hanbel (kilim is the Turkish word) in Essaouira that I left folded on the floor there that still calls to me. Every so often my wife will say, “Remember that rug…” and we both get a little sad. I do not claim that I am the world’s greatest negotiator or that I have never been taken advantage of by a market seller – I have.

If there is someone out there reading this that feels my info – any of it – is wrong or misleading, write me, tell me what I need to know/change. I will update this doc and list them as a primary source in an endnote/footnote.

Buying a Carpet in Morocco V3