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Rent the Italian Villa from Under a Tuscan Sun

Rent the Italian Villa from Under a Tuscan Sun

Turns out you can rent the Villa used in the movie ‘Under a Tuscan Sun’. It’s about $2000-$4000 per night and has a minimum 7 night stay, but it does sleep 20 comfortably. Breaking that down, if you found 20 friends for a week, it would only cost about $1000. That’s not a bad deal.

So, who’s with me for a stay at Villa Laura in Cortona?


What all the markings on ocean-faring ships mean

What all the markings on ocean-faring ships mean

Tugboat crews easily read a vessel’s size, shape, function, and features, while deciphering at a glance the mysterious numbers, letters, and symbols on a ship’s hull. To non-mariners, the markings look like hieroglyphs.

Hakai magazine on coastal science published a really cool article that helps you decode all the interesting markings, paint schemes, and functions of the interesting and strange things you see on big ocean-going vessles. I had no idea there was so much interesting information – and that paint schemes are far, FAR more complicated than marking water lines. Give it a read.

plimsoll lines on the side of a ship



Hebocon is a robot contest for people with no skill. It’s a 32 player contest in which people are penalized for trying too hard or using proper technology. One of the previous year’s winners actually apologized for winning because the thought maybe he tried ‘too hard to win’.

Check out these amazingly horrible, but hilarious robots:

Oregon as a Ghibli film

Oregon as a Ghibli film

Wow – just wow!!! Amazing job Travel Oregon! Apparently the paired with Psyop who brought on an additional studio Sun Creature to assist.

Almost everything in the video is a real place/thing in Oregon. Here’s a breakdown – let me know if I missed anything, or you think I got it wrong. Click on the images for larger versions!

1. Ramona Falls:

2. Could be any lake near Mt Hood, but likely is Trillium Lake:

3. Woodburn Tulip Festival:

4. Willamette Valley:

5. Willamette Valley Wineries:

6. Willamette Valley Wine & Balloon tours:

7. Cannon Beach – Haystack rock:

8. Cannon Beach from Ecola Park:

9. Crater Lake:

10. Black Rock Mountainbiking trails near Falls City:

11. Portland:

12. Dragon Boat Racing in Portland:

11. The Wallowas – almost exactly this shot:

12. Kiger MustangsSteens Mountains/Kiger Creek:

13. Whitewater Rafting is many places, but it looks like it might be the Rogue River (top). It might also be the Deschutes (bottom pic). Some have suggested it is the White Salmon River (but that is in Washington):

14. Think this is Tom McCall Preserve (top picture). Or it might be a from Dog Mountain(bottom pic), but that is on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge:

15. Three Sister’s from around Sisters, OR:

I’ll be spending 4 days at Gold Butte fire watchtower

I’ll be spending 4 days at Gold Butte fire watchtower

Despite many adventures, my Oregon bucket list never seems to shrink. As soon as I knock an item or two off, it grows by 5 more. Last year saw horseback riding with Kiger mustangs and summitting the snow-covered Steens mountains. It also saw me hot-spring soaking and finding pianos on the playa of the Alvord Desert. This year is shaping up to knock another item off my list: staying at one of the few remaining mountaintop fire watch towers.

Due to their harsh and remote locations, fewer than 20 are left in Oregon and many are only open short portions of the year. Reservations are required, and getting a reservation is hard as they are almost always booked solid for the 6 month window of dates the moment they become available. One must diligently visit the reservation site very early every morning (east coast time no less) when dates are opened. After getting one of the rare reservations last year, I was thwarted when the road to the Lake of the Woods tower washed out and closed it for almost all of 2017 and 2018. This year, after about 2 months of on and off trying, I managed to get a 4 day reservation for the exceptional Gold Butte lookout. It’s located via hike out onto the summit of the butte and is known for having some of the most spectacular views of all the watchtowers.

It’s also a historic building. It was originally built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and usually manned by a married couple. During WW II, it was part of the Aircraft Warning System as an early invasion watchtower. In the 1970/80’s it was heavily damaged by carpenter ants. It might have been demolished like other towers if not for the efforts of the Sand Mountain Society – a fire tower preservation and restoration group. They painstakingly numbered pieces then rebuilt and replaced damaged sections exactly as it was first built, making a stay there almost exactly as it would have been in the 30’s.

Staying at one of the fire towers requires that you backpack in everything you need: water, food, and supplies. Firewood, a bed, table, fire stove, pit toilet and a few small items are provided – but there is no power, no phones, and it’s miles to your nearest neighbor. During the day you can read, hike, swim or fish at the nearby lake, or greet other hikers visiting the summit. The evenings you can watch the unbelievable sunsets and cook in the woodburning stove, then drift to sleep miles from civilization.

I’m personally looking forward to it more than my next trip abroad. I can’t wait.

Here’s a good write-up and video about the lookout

Jason really is at the bottom of a lake

Jason really is at the bottom of a lake

Remember the end of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives where Megan and Tommy manage to trap Jason in the bottom of Crystal Lake? Well, it seems that some random person has recreated this scene by planting a Jason statue, complete with mask and machete, 120 feet deep in a Minnesotan lake that is supposedly very popular with divers!

Astronomical clock in Prague sees 600 years in 10 minutes

Astronomical clock in Prague sees 600 years in 10 minutes

The Macula gives the astronomical clock situated at Old Town Square in center of Prague their usual augmented treatment on it’s  600 years anniversary.

Considering I was just there last week, I found this kind of fun.

Travel for Work

Travel for Work

When you’re in college, many people fantasize about getting a ‘travel job’. Well, now that I’m in my 40’s, I’ve done a lot of business travel over the years. Most of the time I have at least one overseas trip a year – sometimes two. I also have any number of domestic flights – maybe 5-10. That’s about the max I’m happy with. It seems very romantic to travel for work, but in the end, it’s really work you’re there to do. You might get a few hours a night after work – but that’s not the time many things are open – or the sun even up if it’s winter.

There were times, however, when I was flying once every week for months on end. That is a completely different thing. You start entering this different state of living – a sort of half-living in an altered state. You waking wherever you are with just what fits in a day pack, run to an airport, parking and security, flying somewhere, eating airplane and hotel food, then perhaps catch a brief nap while flying. Then you wake again – on a plane this time – what city? What time zone? Then collect your stuff and unload, rental car and transit to the site where your day really starts. Work 8 hours with new folks while the clock ticks on you until it’s time to leave for the airport or maybe a hotel. Everything is institutional and commercial – with fancy designer metal, leather, 800 count bed sheets and hotel restaurant food – all pretending to be like a home. Maybe you work another day, then it’s in the rental, return to the airport and figure out returns. Getting to the terminal, security, and a flight back home. Another brief chance at rest before you unload as you awake – where again? What time? Collect things, unload, take airport transit to your car, then home. Home? Is it just another room?

One of the best clips that captures the experience is from the movie Fight Club:

But now there is a new player. The video for the song ‘Let It Happen’ by Tame Impala does another great job. It appears to be about a business traveler that is having a heart attack, but it captures that constant sense of going to sleep and not knowing where you’ll wake up next. I found it fascinating. I think there is something interesting here that might make for a good writing/art project…