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A Glimpse of 2018

It’s the time of year where I review my goals from the previous year, assess the results, and begin goal setting for the new year. 2018 wasn’t my finest year for successes, I came in under 50%. Of course, as a year progresses, some goals shift in importance or interest, but I still did fairly poorly despite that. I’ll aim to do better in 2019.

Above is my annual GoPro video collecting only footage I shot with my GoPros throughout the previous year. A lot of footage from 2018 was shot using the GoPro Karma drone or Karma Grip stabilizer. Locations include: Idyllwild, Chorreadero in Mexico, Red Rock in Nevada, Yosemite, Shaver Lake, the Jump Canyons, Los Padres Forest, Mussel Shoals Beach, Kennedy Meadows, Big Tujunga, Santa Clarita, Florida Panhandle, Arizona Trail, North Rim of Grand Canyon, Big Sur, Texas canyon, Big Falls in San Bernardino, OC beaches, Monkeyface Canyon, Tujunga, and various Western highways.

Below is a video that I procrastinated on finishing for nearly three years. You can read more about that in the Dreaming of a White Canyon post from 2016 or on the G.O. Get Outside website.

Unintended Journal Sabbatical

So it seems 15 months have passed since I last updated this journal. Much has transpired in those months, though this corner of web-space would seem to insinuate otherwise. Embedded above is my annual GoPro compilation that I usually post at the start of a new year. I’ll be compiling the newest one over the next week or so to post on the heels of this one. I am also going to attempt to put a few entries together highlighting some of the events of this year.

The biggest news of the year: Erika and I are engaged. After 12 years, I finally broke down and asked her to marry me. Then promptly disappeared on my bicycle for 4 days.

Below is a quick list of some of the events from this year that I may delve into further in additional posts:

  • My broken wrist never fully healed, but appears to be fully functional despite that.
  • A group of us had a grand adventure in Chiapas in January descending a cave/canyon, trashwhacking, deciphering a Mexican emergency room, shirtcocking, and failing to navigate customs properly.
  • I finally swallowed my pride and joined a bouldering gym (and promptly injured my ankle a few months later).
  • My 12 year old car died and I finally bought an AWD SUV.
  • We (Butcher Bird Studios) released our first feature, Better Off Zed.
  • I rode my bike lots of miles including a 4 day solo bike tour from Big Sur to Los Angeles (technically Fillmore).
  • I took a rad 3 week roadtrip around the West taking me places such as a fiery Yosemite, numerous bike trails, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Jump Canyons, and the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
  • We at Butcher Bird premiered an 8 week live sci-fi series called Orbital Redux.
  • I climbed some cool routes and backpacked some cool places.
  • My buddy Snog visited and was introduced to the badass outdoor options in California
  • I finally bought 2 surfboards and am slowly learning to surf (a lifelong dream since childhood).
  • I’m converting part of the garage into a small stop-motion animation studio.
  • Season 4 of the G.O. Get Outside Podcast began (episode 75 landed a couple of days ago).

If any of that sounds moderately interesting, stay tuned for future posts.

Unexpectedly Eventful Week (On Deadline)

This week began as many do—looming deadline approaching with promises of long workdays/nights to meet the target date. A previous project had me starting the week behind schedule, but toiling into the night Monday and Tuesday allowed me to catch up. Thus far, it was a week like many before. Wednesday morning brought roadblock one—a surprising voicemail:

“This is Christine from Dr. Kamajian’s office. Please call me back. It’s kind of urgent. Thank you. Bye bye.”

I was awaiting x-ray and MRI results for my left wrist. I suspected this message was regarding those findings. Despite my usual morning grogginess and sluggishness, I called back immediately. Soon I would learn that my wrist had been broken for the past three months.

The History of My Wrist & Bicycle:

April 29 – I drive away from a bike shop with a brand new Surly Cross-Check squeezed into my trunk. After months of research and advice, this seems like a good choice for a bike that can do a bit of everything for a price that isn’t ridiculous. I start riding pavement and trails regularly, but mostly trails.

May 24 – One of my bike goals has been to build up the stamina to cycle from our place in Tujunga, over the Verdugos, and into the Butcher Bird office in Glendale as a semi-regular commute (roughly 13 miles each way and up to 2500 feet of gain). I’ve put about 100 miles on the bike at this point, but haven’t been able to reach this goal yet. I drive the bike to the office this day and decide to ride 15 or so miles at lunch around the Glendale Narrows and Griffith Park. As I head back to the office, passing through town, I decide to ride on the sidewalk for a portion to avoid dealing with the vehicle traffic at a specific intersection. A car pulls out of a parking lot just before me. I hit the brakes. I rotate over the handlebars and arrest my fall onto the concrete with my left hand. My bike crashes down behind me. My sandwich launches over my head. I stop a few feet short of the car’s passenger door. The driver never notices and pulls into traffic. I gather my belongings and continue to the office.

There is minimal swelling, mild discomfort, very little pain. I ice the wrist for several days, occasionally wear a fabric brace, and continue my life as normal. I only limit or stop those activities that will most stress the arm such as climbing and eventually gym training. My assumption is that I have a sprain. When I finally see a doctor on August 16th, he suspects the same. The x-ray proves us both wrong.

I had given it 6 or 7 weeks to heal. When I found myself still experiencing problems, I attempted to see a doctor. This eventually turned into a convoluted process of  changing my medical group and primary care physician and finally visiting my new doctor weeks later. By the time I saw him, I was feeling very little discomfort and thought I may be wasting my time. I fortunately agreed to the x-ray and MRI.

Back to the Present:

Much of Wednesday is spent visiting an Orthopedist and ultimately having my arm wrapped in a fiberglass cast. He is surprised that I was able to function for 3 months with a broken wrist and worried that it hasn’t healed. Afterwards I reflect on the things I did during those months that helped impede that healing: 200 miles on my bicycle on bumpy trails sprinkled with a few falls and steep terrain often in intense heat, whitewater rafting, standup paddle-boarding, rollerskating, a few canyon runs (rappelling, hiking, a little swimming, and some down-climbing), gym work-outs for the first month until I decided to pause, A week-long shoot in Roswell lugging camera gear all over the city, a Yosemite visit with my parents, a 2000 mile drive to Wyoming for the eclipse, a dinky 5.4 climb, and the various day-to-day tasks that stress a wrist. Now, I am attempting to use it as little as possible. The cast is a good reminder. Oddly enough, I have had a cast twice in life: at ages 7 and 39. Both times on the left wrist.

Spending half of my day at a doctor’s office was not good for my deadline. Thankfully, working into the early morning allowed me to catch up. Heeding my doctor’s advice not to drive (despite driving back to the office immediately after receiving the cast), I decide to work from home for the rest of the week. Thursday moves along smoothly and we are still on schedule until nightfall when Luis, my other business partner working on this project, announces his wife may be going into labor. Babies don’t tend to be complete surprises and Luis had prepared for this possibility. Thankfully, Adam and Steven are able to help out from the office. Still on schedule.

Then, Friday afternoon,  the Verdugos ignite. Plumes of smoke grow in the distance as a fire spreads up and down the mountain range less than 2 miles away. Winds had been strong since the night before and were currently helping spread the fire in multiple directions simultaneously. Much of my afternoon shifts to watching live coverage, calculating where the fire is in relation to us, and determining if it is likely to become a concern for our immediate area. The winds eventually worked in our favor, but have made it stronger elsewhere. We went to sleep last night with the horizon painted red.

The fire has now encompassed an estimated 8,000 acres and the LAFD have been struggling to contain it. Helicopters have not stopped flying since the blaze began and water drops continued throughout the night. Three homes have burned and many more are in danger. Mandatory evacuations have displaced several communities. The path through the Verdugos I was hoping to ride in the future as an office commute is now ash. The fire may still be growing.

For what it’s worth, we did still meet our deadline.

Finally Reflecting on 2016

If the number of 2016 posts in this journal were representative of productivity, it would appear to have been a mostly uneventful year. That certainly wasn’t the case. January felt like a continuation of December and only now is it beginning to feel like the new year has begun. And so, the time to grade myself on goal completion for the previous year and to set goals for the current year has finally arrived. I am a proponent of annual goal setting. When I make a solid list, refer to it regularly, and hold myself accountable I tend to meet many of them. Oddly, last year I didn’t make a solid list. Apparently I forgot to or lost it on my perpetually chaotic desk. Despite that oversight, several non-specified goals came to fruition and a number of pleasing events occurred.

  • I have been wanting to travel for work more frequently. I had three opportunities. 1) A producing/shooting gig in Costa Rica (mentioned in my last post to this blog nearly a year ago). 2) A Facebook live-stream overnight trip near Joshua Tree for AirBNB. 3) A 2 month roadtrip around the U.S.with Erika (55 days—42 states—13,510 miles) creating a web-series for TYLT that will be releasing very soon.
  • We at Butcher Bird funded and shot our first feature film. It is now running through the final stages of post.
  • I convinced my mother to try a tandem sky-dive
  • I lead some great climbing routes including the 1500ish foot Solar Slab, the unique Tunnel Vision, and the imposing Matthes Crest (which turned into a bit of an all-night epic because of a foolish attempt to retrieve a fallen camera).
  • I descended a few undocumented canyons (some with the ever beloved Scott Swaney).
  • I finally got to shoot video of a snow covered San Antonio Falls canyoneering descent (something I had been trying to do for quite some time and posted about here on this blog) and put together a 360 VR video of the Seven Teacups.
  • Erika and I finally made it to Alaska and toured a glacier. We also made it to several National Parks we hadn’t visited before and attended Halloween in Salem, MA. We have now been to 45 of the 50 states.
  • I got to do some great social things with friends like multiple game nights, an awesome bachelor party weekend in Zion for the Merrill wedding, visit my family multiple times, and introduce multiple people to their first ever multi-pitch climbs.
  • The podcast continued (currently 46 episodes) and featured guests from all over the country recorded in their respective locales.
  • Erika and I celebrated 10 years together touring the treetops of Wrightwood.

It was a rewarding year, but there are certainly places I fell short:

  • Happy Canyoneering (my puppet talkshow short) did not move forward.
  • Scuba Climbers (my Class C canyoneering documentary) did not move forward.
  • I slacked on a proper physical fitness routine in the last half of the year.
  • I didn’t make the strides towards big wall climbing I’d hoped to and climbing El Cap for my 40th birthday is seeming increasingly less likely.
  • I still haven’t started work on a Death Valley Mars short I want to do.
  • My office is still a disorganized mess.
  • I didn’t try cross country skiing, dogsledding, or solo backpacking.
  • I haven’t gotten back into a regular illustrating routine in years.
  • And various other projects, responsibilities, etc. languished while my pile of books to read increased faster than it depleted.

And so now I sit compiling my list of goals for 2017. I look at where I succeeded and failed in 2016 and attempt to course correct. Where do I want to be in a year and how do I get there? Life is too damn short to squander.

Leaving a Legacy


As we age, our thoughts often drift to hopes of leaving the Earth a better place than we have found it—wistful dreams of establishing a legacy that cements our place in the masonry of history. Most find ourselves flitting through life seeking that purpose, searching for a grand reason. Few of us stumble upon the roots of that glorious edifice awaiting our illustrious direction. Today I unearthed that seed, I experienced a brief glimpse of my lasting legacy. I coined the term “fecollate.”

Fecollate | fee-koh-leyt | verb [ no obj. ] expel large unsavory quantities of feces from the body. similar to defecate, but more disgusting. predominately used as a tasteful way of describing a most distasteful excretion of solids and fluids.

fecollation   | fee-koh-ley-shen | noun
fecollator     | fee-koh-ley-tor | noun
fecollatory   | fee-koh-ley-tory | adj.

early 21st century, a neologism created to pompously describe the excretions of an elephant upon a fornicating couple used as an example while discussing the merits of censorship. No other term carried the appropriate gravitas.

Sample sentence
Donald Trump spat out his thoughts and verbally fecollated upon the audience.

My destiny has been discovered. I must assure that this most useful and delicate of terms become an integral part of the lexicon. It must find its way into the dictionary alongside other mellifluous neologisms such as “bling-bling”, “cray”, “selfie”, and “YOLO.” This is to be my indelible mark on history. Thus, I turn to you all. Become a part of history. Weave your fecollations into conversations, become a purveyor of fecollate. The Earth will thank you.

ALS, Ice Buckets, and Grandmothers


    The above is me with my great-grandmother & grandmother in 1997.

The internet has been inundated over the last week with videos of people dumping buckets of ice water on their heads in support of ALS research. Like any trend, it has had its staunch supporters and vocal detractors. Criticisms range from cries of wasted water, slacker activism, and that this inane activity is distracting people from more pressing concerns. I even came across a comment where someone asked why we care about a disease that afflicts so few.

In the summer of 1998, ALS killed my grandmother. She essentially drowned in a recliner when her lungs ceased to function ending her healthy mind’s imprisonment in a functionless body. She was 55. The best case scenario for someone with ALS is to end up like Stephen Hawking—completely paralyzed (unable to move, unable to speak), but mentally alert and alive. The most likely scenario is to become increasingly paralyzed until the body can no longer support itself and the patient dies. Usually within 2-5 years. ALS is death in slow-motion.

My grandmother was a fiery Cuban immigrant who struggled to raise six children while adapting to life in a foreign country. She was tough, feisty, and loud. She was loud when she was happy and loud when she was angry and she adored all of her grandchildren even though I came along sooner than she would have liked (She was 36 when I was born). She’d ask you to buy “hamburger bones” and to put “the shits” on the bed. She had a nice couch in the dining room no one used covered in plastic we weren’t allowed to sit on and ceramic frogs with genitals. She always had a closet full of 3-Liter Pepsis. If the city would have converted the kitchen tap so it dispensed Pepsi, I’m sure she would have been ecstatic. She drove a huge Buick and refused to take crap from anyone. She was tough and she loved to laugh. Loudly.

We watched her body deteriorate and no one could do anything to stop it.  A woman who could bean you with a slipper from across a dark house with a sniper’s precision became unable to feed herself. My mother and aunts had to bathe her. On multiple occasions, as her teenage son lifted her onto a portable toilet I would duck out of the living room so she could have some semblance of privacy. This tough independent woman became dependent on other people for every tiny aspect of life the rest of us take for granted. She insisted on signing her own checks for as long as she could, but eventually that too became impossible. ALS stole away her body and her dignity. Eventually all she could do was sit on a recliner and watch Spanish TV. Many years later, I appeared briefly with Moodoo Puppets on a Telemundo station in Los Angeles. It saddened me that my grandmother was no longer around to see that because it would have made her so happy. When I started pursuing filmmaking, She constantly encouraged me to move to Mexico where I could make it big on Univision “like Erik Estrada.”  She also constantly pestered me to go to Spanish dances with her when I was a teenager. I regret that I never did. The last time I saw her, she was sleeping in the recliner. The next morning I was startled awake by the phone. I ran to it already knowing what I was going to hear. For years, I dreamed she could walk again. She would barely be in her 70s if she were still alive.

ALS doesn’t just affect a small number of people, it affects everyone that cares for those people. I hate that my grandmother had to spend the end of her life confined in a useless body confined to a chair. I hate that my great-grandmother had to watch her only daughter slowly wither away powerless to stop it. I hate that her youngest son, Steven, had to shoulder this experience during his high-school years. I hate that the world is a little less loud now.

Regardless of any qualms you may have with the Ice Bucket Challenge, it is working. A week ago, most people wouldn’t know the difference between ALS and anti-lock brakes. As of this writing, over $40 Million has been raised. If people get to have a little fun at the same time dousing each other, I’m okay with that.

Nerdist asked me to work on their Ice Bucket challenge video a couple of days ago. As I was compositing Chris Hardwick onto Tatooine I realized it would be ridiculous for me to accept payment for the job. I asked them to instead donate additional money to the charity. They gladly did so in my grandmother’s name. A few hours ago I received a video from Steven (my younger uncle) challenging me. It wouldn’t be right for me to walk away from that challenge, would it? Where’s my bucket?

The Power of the Internet

When we were in Hawaii, I found a 4GB SD card on the Captain Cook Trail while hiking down to Kealakekua Bay. It was lying in the dirt along the edge of the trail twinkling in the sunlight. I picked up the lonely card and set it in my camera bag where it could socialize with my various SD cards. If there were any photos on it, I would try to hunt down its owner. The card had many photos on it—three months worth.

A few days ago, I sat down and scoured the photos for an hour looking for clues. The plan was to make a list of potentially useful clues and post them (alongside a few photos) here and on Facebook. I hoped people would share the posts and eventually the owner would find out and contact me. That was not necessary. Instead, using the clues in the photos and various Google searches, I was able to find a name and email address for one of the people in the photos. As of this morning, the card is in the mail on its way to its rightful family.

Sometimes the internet can be used for good.

2010 Goals Report Card

I don’t foresee this post being especially interesting to anyone other than myself. It’s the last day of the year so I feel obligated to take a look at the goals I set for myself for 2010 and see if I passed or failed.

I created two lists: priorities and optional. I fully completed 12 of the 15 items under priorities. Of the remaining 3, I made valiant strides for 2 of them (Finish Current Video Projects + Become Adept with environment creation in Vue) and failed completely at 1 of them (Start drawing on a regular basis again). 2 items on the list were taken to an extreme: Take Rock Climbing Lessons + More long-distance backpacking. I ended up taking nearly every rock climbing class available to me and managed to go climbing at least twice each month. I also backpacked the West Coast Trail over six days (I was really only thinking of 2-3 day trips when I set my goal). I am also happy to see I ticked off 3 rather large goals on the optional list: Backpack the West Coast Trail + Backpack Zion Narrows again + Take a trip out of the country. Although I didn’t fully succeed in attaining my priority goals 100%, I feel pretty good about my overall success especially when factoring in the achievements in the optional category. 2 huge things left off my goal lists entirely that were achieved this year were becoming completely self-employed and starting a new business with friends (Butcher Bird Studios).

In the end, I feel comfortable giving myself a passing grade.
Sitting down earlier this year and creating that list of goals made it much easier for me to attain them and allowed me to gauge my progress throughout the year. I doubt I would have done all of those things if I hadn’t set up a list of this sort. I highly recommend forgetting about the New Year Resolution bullshit and instead setting Annual Goals. It worked for me and I need to sit down over the next few days and start compiling a list for 2011.