Making a hammock…

A friend of mine asked me to make him a hammock since he does some boy scout stuff, and apparently hammocks are popular now in the scouting industry.

Normally I just make single-color hammocks because they’re easier and cheaper (less fabric, less stitching). He asked for black and red, and let me pick so I put the black as the main body and the red as the outside. I used 1.9 ounce ripstop – mainly because the squares make it easy to cut straight lines.


Pinning up the sides is always the toughest part on these. I leave the selvedge on it (the funny looking 1/2″ edge left over from manufacturing) because it is a little tougher and makes rolling the hem easier. I went ahead and pinned both sides at once.


Once the sides were done, I rolled the end channels for the suspension ropes. This part is pretty easy and fast, you don’t have to be as precise with it as you do the sides.


The finished basic hammock blank. Just a big rectangle of black and red.



Now for the sacks – I usually make a storage sack for the hammock – you stuff the whole thing into its own sack during the day, and at night you have a storage place for a water bottle or headlamp or whatever. I hate making the sacks. I REALLY hate making the sacks. I always make them too big or too small. So I made one too small and sewed it on anyway, because who can’t use an extra storage sack?


The larger one is plenty big for the hammock, the suspension, and maybe a small toddler.


The finished hammock with the end ropes in place.

Hammock6So I had the red leftovers from the side pieces, and decided to try tie-dying it since my previous efforts have been less than pleasing. I used standard Rit Dye, added 2 cups of water and two cups of vinegar. I heated the mix to 180 degrees, tied up my cloth, and dumped it all into a ziplock bag for two hours. After removing and washing – here was the result:

TieDyeI also figured out something new this week after replacing my camelback hose. The camelback hose works great with the sawyer in-line. I made a video about it.

No, it’s not Halloween, but my fabric thinks it is.

A coworker asked me to make him a hammock (Abracadabra, you’re a hammock!) for use when he’s going into the woods with the scout troop. He wanted Garnet and Black for a certain sports team which shall remain nameless here. I got his fabric stuff, and took the opportunity to re-try something a bit different while working out his particulars, with a piece of fabric I ordered a while back.

Hammock Red and Black

My first experience with tie-dye and nylon was when I bought my hammock chair about a year ago from Trippy Gear on Facebook. It looks nice and works well, and I talked back and forth with the owner many times. I bought a second piece of raw fabric from him, and made what’s become my FAVORITE piece of backpacking gear, my tie-dye hippy hammock.

My own experience with home tie-dye has been rather lackluster. Most stuff I dye just doesn’t hold the color. It looks great before washing, then after washing it looks like I accidentally left some pens in a pant pocket, and they leaked all over everything leaving faint color marks.

On my first camping gear dye, I tried using some dye designed for nylon. I started with a base of Robin Egg Blue fabric, and tried to dye it dark green and purple. It looked AWESOME when I rinsed it in the sink, but when I washed it, it looked like the fabric equivalent of a week-old bruise. Still, it was better than the Robin Egg Blue base color. Apologies to the LGBT community but that color was GAYYYYYYYYYY. My wife asked me, “What the hell are making out of that stuff, a bridesmaid’s dress?” Yeah, it was that bad before dying. It looked much different online, more blue and less bluish-white. Why a blue base? Because I didn’t want any white left over at all – it was easier to start pre-colored than start with white.

But – Spurred on with a step-by-step technique someone posted on Hammock Forums, I figured I’d give it a try. First step – RIT dye. Plain, cheap dye from Hobby Lobby or Walmart or Target. Dump in a Big Old Pot with 2 cups vinegar and 2 cups water, turn the heat on and drop in a thermometer. Wait until it hits 180.

Orange Dye 2

While waiting, tie up the fabric. I used 5 yards of orange Nylon HyperD 1.6 ounce from I have made hammock chairs out of 1 ounce HyperD but I wasn’t sure about long term stability of the fabric, so I went with the heavier weave. It has a diamond-shaped weave instead of the typical square weave of most 1.9 ounce nylon ripstop fabric. It feels a bit different and stretches a little better, but it’s a pain to cut and sew for the same reason. At least with regular square-weave ripstop you can use the squares as a cutting guide.

I went with the classic Spiral, folded the fabric in half and tucked the ends back so it was more or less a square, and twisted from the middle. I put lots of rubber bands on, because I didn’t want the dye to coat the WHOLE piece of fabric. So I had a big orange ball.

Orange Dye 1

The vinegar Hell mix hit 180 and really started killing my sinuses. I plunked the ball into a gallon size Ziplock FREEZER bag (they are tougher than the cheap-o off brand non-freezer bags), and poured in the dye. I mushed all the air out, and then slipped it into another bag in case the first leaked. I put the whole thing back into the big old pot, in the sink, again in case of leakage. Then I set the clock for 90 minutes and took a nap, because the pollen is killing me and I took a Benadryl.

Orange Dye 3

I think I had the ball rolled TOO TIGHT, and put too many rubber bands on the thing. After the time was up, I rinsed the fabric until the dye running off was a very light purple, and dumped the whole mess into the washer. When it came out, I could tell there was less dyed than plain. Since I folded the fabric and tucked the ends, the ends are nearly completely dyed a very dark purple, almost black against the orange fabric.

There are two spider-web patterns in the fabric, equally spaced from the ends, Shroud of Turin style because it was doubled over. I’m not sure which spiral I like better. One looks closer to a tie dye spiral but the other is this awesome spider web looking thing, just a jumbled mess. But instead of a purple/orange piece of fabric I have a mostly orange halloween looking piece.

Maybe I’ll make something for use during deer season, so I have less of a chance of getting shot by hunters.
Orange Dye 4

Bring us gifts! But only the ones on this list:

I get it, second time parents have a lot of baby shit already. Not the brown smelly kind of shit, but you know, pacifiers and diaper bags and bottles and little socks and onesies and all the other crap that goes along with having an infant. All the stuff that takes up 2/3 of the space in the car when you go on a trip somewhere foreign, like Wal-Mart. Because if you have a kid you know that at some point leaving the house required as much equipment and planning as a summit of Everest.

So, I understand that second-time parents might not need more of that stuff. What do they need? Diapers for one, because babies shit a lot. Liquor, for dad because he has to put up with another kid screaming for the next two years. Ritalin, because based on what I know of Elementary school kids, Ritalin is a LOT easier than parenting, especially when there’s two or more of them. iPads, because no one wants to share their iPad, and sometimes its hard to remember to clear the history.

So a relative of mine is having a second kid. We stopped at one, because one was the deal. No way in Hell was I going through that again. The announcements to friends and family, the buildup to the birth, the hormones, the hospital bills, the 327 doctor visits, the birth, the hospital bills, the sleepless nights, colic, illnesses, constant bottle washing, expensive formula, buying completely new wardrobes every six months…

NO! I was NOT starting over. After my kid was born I got fixed. One and Done. Best, Operation, Ever. And we had it EASY. Facebook wasn’t invented yet. Now you’re expected to chronicle every aspect of your pregnancy. Cutesy gag-me pictures of the happy parents, time lapse photos of mom standing in one spot in the same pose every week getting bigger and bigger, showing off all the baby shower goodies, the silly “hands shaped like a heart over the big belly” closeup. It just never ends. It’s hard enough being a working parent without making a constant documentary of the pregnancy.

My wife gets this party invitation the other day in the mail. I can tell its a party invitation immediately. First of all, it’s from someone we don’t know. Whenever you get a card-shaped letter in the mail from someone you don’t know or haven’t heard from in years, it’s best to just throw it away without opening it. It’s usually an invitation to something, and introverts like me prefer to avoid those things. Weddings, Funerals, College graduations, Baby and Bridal showers, stuff like that. Second, there’s this mistaken idea that lots of women have that says, “If you get an invitation to something, that means they expect you to send a gift.”

My thoughts are, if you GO, you take the gift, but surely no one expects a gift for just INVITING you? Your gift is your ticket in, and that’s it. According to my wife, that’s not how it works, “If you get an invitation, you’re supposed to send a gift.” I asked her why don’t we just start sending invitations to random people west of the Mississippi, and see what kind of gifts we get?

She fails to follow my instructions, and instead of tossing the unopened card into the burn box, she opens it. Now she’s committed. She can’t say, “I never got that card”, or “I had no idea I was missing such an important life changing event taking place on one of my only days off on the weekend.” Now we have to deal with it. Drive 45 minutes out of the way, waste several hours, and drive 45 minutes home. Yes, it’s a baby shower. But not just ANY baby shower. It’s a “Books and Diaper Party”. Remember what I said about second-time parents having all the baby stuff? Apparently they want to make sure they don’t get more of the same.

But this makes it really inconvenient on the party-goers. How do you invite someone to something but give them a shopping list? “Hey my bachelor party is next week, make sure you only bring Redheaded strippers, no blondes!”

And I know it’s not the parent’s fault, it’s the party planner’s doing. But for what she spent on the invitation, she probably could have bought a good deal of books and diapers herself. There was a fold-out die-cut diaper in three color ink, with a thin opaque paper insert with a little flower gem at the top, with a couple of different colors of ink. I want to take it down to the printers in town and say, “How much to make this?” Because I’m sure it wasn’t cheap.

But as shopping goes, books are easy. We have a kid, I’m sure we can find some old books around the house to give up. There’s also Amazon, which has some great children’s books, like

Go the F*ck to Sleep

That’s not your mommy any more: A zombie tale

K is for Knifeball – an alphabet of terrible advice

Goodnight Goon

And of course, a big box of Cloth Diapers. Because nothing says disgusting like washing poo-coated cloths in the same washer as your work clothes. Everyone you pass will be well aware you have a child at home or in the car in the mall parking lot.

Dashing through the snow…

Over the weekend I had my first hiking trip since my child broke her leg. It was a trip that was moved because the wife’s grandmother died. One would think this would be an omen, but it turned out pretty good anyway.

The trip was our first to Damascus, VA. We had 8 scheduled to attend, but one got the stomach flu the night before and dropped out. Another said she would meet us in town, so Saturday morning we loaded 5 of us in the van. One was late, so we left. The late one called us and met us up the road from our usual spot in Columbia, still in PJs. New trail name: PJ. Her alarm went off, she just went back to sleep.

So, now that we had everyone – Sunshine, Jim (NoTrailName), Cowboy, Mouse, PJ and I were headed to the most famous trail town out there, Damascus. It was a 4 hour drive. They need to move this AT thing closer to home. We covered 4 states though, pretty cool, SC, NC, TN, and VA.

So we arrive right on time at the store, and the guy is really anxious to get us on the van. I don’t know if he had another shuttle, or if he just wanted to shuttle us up and go home. I’m guessing it was the latter, because it seemed like we had the trail totally to ourselves all weekend. He drives us through Shady Valley, drops us off with a wave and rumbles off, leaving us looking across the field at the cow pasture.


So begins 10.5 miles of walking to Abingdon Gap shelter. We soon spread out like normal, with the racing group shooting on ahead, and the slower, out of shape ones in the back. The scenery was beautiful, wide open spaces with dustings of snow here and there from a recent trip. It was supposed to snow 4-6 inches, but they didn’t get much of anything. We were hoping to make camp before it rained, as it was supposed to rain in the evening, a last minute weather change posted the night before our trip. Cold isn’t bad. Rain isn’t bad. But cold AND rain just sucks, plus putting up a tent in the rain is just terrible.

We passed one shelter and stopped for a bite to eat and water collection. There weren’t many water sources along this section, some parts we’ve done, there’s water EVERYWHERE. This trip just had two decent sources, and one really crappy one. Even though I had some water, I filled up my two liter bag as a spare.

As the day rolled on, the blue sky dwindled and it got cloudier and nastier looking. About a mile from the shelter, the wind started picking up and it seemed to get colder. I could hear stuff falling in the trees and figured it was raining. Instead of rain though, I soon started getting hit with sleet of some type, large white balls of what looked like styrofoam pellets. I think that was nature’s way of saying, “you better hurry, dumbass”. I redoubled my efforts to reach camp, and the sleet/snow stuff stopped after a just a minute or so. When camp came into view though, it started back with renewed vigor. I picked a spot to hang my hammock as the sleet/snow mix picked up, and got my stuff hung just before the worst of it. By the time I was done, there was a quarter to a half inch covering in some places.

Dinner was quick in the open-sided shelter, which happened to be facing into the wind. I didn’t feel like eating a lot, but nice warm mashed potatoes and Chai tea felt good in the cold. It’s not often you sit outside in the snow drinking hot tea. Myself, Jim, and Sarah had tents we put up. Cowboy, PJ, Kim, and Mouse elected to sleep in the shelter itself. I’m not really into shelters, myself. They’re open sided so the roof is about the only advantage. Wind and cold still get in. Mice tend to congregate in them as well, and then there’s the ever present possibility that one of your sleeping partners may be a chronic snorer. I retired to the hammock after dark, intended to try and stay awake for a while.

That Wasn’t happening. I tried playing on my phone, and found I had a cell signal. I told the wife it was snowing on us and she said “you’re going to freeze!” I was already warm and snug in my 0 degree under and top quilts, so I was happy (just not looking forward to getting out in the morning).

Somewhere around 830 I realized I had forgotten to take my GORP bag (nuts and raisins) out of my pack and stick it with the rest of the food in the bear bag. It was still right next to me in the pack. I wasn’t about to get out and untie the frozen bear bag, so I just picked the GORP bag up and slung it as hard as I could, out into the woods (It was still there, untouched in the morning). The sleet and snow would come and go. It was funny to listen to, as it would build up a little on the hammock’s rainfly, and then something would shake it a bit and it would all slide off the side like a mini avalanche. Either that or I would smack the side with my hand and knock it off on purpose. I fell asleep before 9, exhausted.

Around 2am I was awaked by a rustling sound, that sounded like something was tearing through my tarp or pack. I turned the headlamp on, and it turned out one of my tarp end flaps had come loose and was blowing back and forth across the leaves. I was able to inch to one end to the hammock, trap the offending flap, and tie it crudely into place. I woke up again about 4 am to find my face cover had been removed (i must have done it in my sleep), and my face was cold. I pulled it back on and slept peacefully until 6 am, when I started hearing voices.

The nice thing about putting up the hammock in the snow was I pitched the tarp really low, to keep out blowing snow. Therefore my hammock was pretty low, too, which meant I could just roll to the side and reach out and put stuff in the pack without even getting up. I packed what I could and put on my down jacket and went to eat breakfast.

The problem was, even though the ground was warm enough to melt a good bit of the fallen ice, the tree upon which I hung my bag was not. The knot froze in place. I had to breather on it and work it loose with my teeth, which looked pretty silly, I’m sure. The bag was semi-frozen in the shape of a large ham, so even when I got it to the shelter’s table, it was tough to get the food in and out of it. I needed water, having used up the last bit of mine. As I was getting ready to leave, Sarah (who Sunshine had given the trail name “Bouncy” for the way she just seemed to bounce along effortlessly  in front of us) asked if I would just take her bag, and I could fill mine from hers, at it held 6 liters. So I did… and soon figured out why people were making bargains with each other to get water.

Water was two tenths of a mile way the hell down a hill. Just getting there was difficult, then I filled a 6 liter bag with water and lugged it back up. By then I was plenty warmed up to hike, I took my 2 liters and went to pack the last bit of my stuff.

Mouse and PJ left first, Followed soon by Cowboy. Sunshine had just woken up and had to make food and pack her stuff. She threw up at one point and we got really worried about her, but after she threw up she said she felt better. I know that feeling – Hello Hot Springs trip.

Once Sunshine was packed, Jim and I headed off just in front of her and Bouncy. I expected to see Bouncy pass us in a flash at any moment, but she and Sunshine stuck together. It seemed like a LONG trek out of the woods. I guess it felt that way because we had to get back to town and drive home, so we were sort of racing the clock. I much prefer relaxing easy second days, so maybe I’ll plan a shorter mileage second day in the future. We finally hit the Tennessee/Virginia line, and Jim had waited on me, so we could take pictures at the sign on the trail. The sign said Damascus was only 3.5 miles ahead, which was a relief, and I knew that after this point, most of the trek would be downhill towards town.

I thought I did pretty good, keeping Jim in sight for a ways. We would leapfrog each other at some points. Finally about a mile from town I had to sit and rest and eat something. He went on ahead and that’s the last I saw of him. Coming into Damascus was quite a treat. I was relieved to see flat ground, I was tired and smelly and my feet hurt. But when I walked under the “Welcome to Damascus” arch, I felt a connection with all the trail hikers before me that had come the same way. It was a surreal experience. My final half mile was through town back to the parking lot where the car was. I changed clothes and sat for about fifteen minutes, and Bouncy and Sunshine walked into view.

After a short rest in the sun and packing the car, Bouncy chose a place to eat and we had some pretty good post-trail food. We all must have been a bit dehydrated, because for the whole drive home no one had to stop and pee. Winter hiking is like that – you don’t seem to feel thirst as much for some reason.

Finally home, and now everything that had been frozen (bear bag, tarp, etc) in my pack had thawed out well, wetting a lot of my stuff. Time to dry out and plan the next adventure.


Video is Here:

Get me some Pi.

So I started playing with this Raspberry Pi computer thing. The first thing I realized? Computers are hard. There’s a reason people say “If you need help with a computer, call a teenager”. I guess I’m getting old in that respect.

So far I’ve had it a week, and I figured out how to stick a flash drive into it, and make it play a movie. I was actually surprised at it’s ability to play videos. After all, its a little bigger than the palm of my hand. My old XP machine is two feet tall and weighs 20 pounds and it chokes on video (it really needs a rebuild – but it runs all my pirated software and I hate to have to mess with it).

I’ve learned a few things about Linux though. Most of what I learned is that Linux is REALLY picky. I spent 3 hours trying to figure out why it wouldn’t recognize my wifi adapter. It turns out there was a space on the first line. There wasn’t anything ELSE on the first line. Just a space with nothing else there, the second line was where the real information was. But because there was a space, I had wifi.

I also finally got my keyboard off “UK”. When I push Shift+3 I expect the # symbol. That’s “pound”, not “hashtag”, you damn millennials. But when you try to type # on a UK keyboard, you get a funny wavy L with a line through it.

It’s kind of fun playing with a bare-bones system like it, though. There’s all sorts of stuff they say it will do, First I have to figure out how to hook it up to my shared drive on the old XP machine where I keep all my pirated music and movies. My wife’s MacBook found my shared drive in like three seconds. It will probably take a week to get it on the Pi. But it’s better than wasting away looking at Facebook.


A Conversation with Adele

People have fallen in love with that Adele “Hello” song, and I struggle to see why. Sure, its a decent song, and she’s got a good voice, but it’s a really weird song. Basically Adele (or whoever wrote it for her) took a drunken 2a.m. text from an ex-girlfriend and turned it into a love song. It reminds me a lot of that “Baby it’s cold outside” Christmas song that seems pretty “rapey” when you really look at the lyrics.

Back in the 80’s I had a radio scanner, which most people used to listen to fire, police, and even airplanes. With a simple modification it got cellular phone frequencies. It was sometimes fun to catch someone’s phone conversation, but often they were one-sided for some reason. I could only hear one person talking, and although they came in clear, the other person couldn’t be heard. I would have to infer the responses of the unheard person by what the one person said. Modern cellular frequencies have changed, so the scanner isn’t much use any more. But:

Since Adele’s song only covers her side of the conversation, you have to use a little imagination and imagine what the responses might be. It’s something my daughter and I like to do with songs on the radio in general. So the other day we’re driving down the road and “Hello” comes on, and we found ourselves holding a conversation with Adele. A conversation that seemed really appropriate for the lyrics of the song, if not for the music and the way she sings it.

A Conversation with Adele:

Hello, it’s me
Yeah? What do you want?
I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet
To go over everything
Not really, why drag up all that old crap?
They say that time’s supposed to heal ya
But I ain’t done much healing
That’s not really my concern any more

Hello, can you hear me
Barely. You must still be on Verizon
I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be
When we were younger and free
Look, I’ve moved on.
I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet
That’s all over with now.

There’s such a difference between us
And a million miles
That’s why we broke up, that and you’re a cheating whore

Hello from the other side
Please stay over there.
I must have called a thousand times
470. My lawyer made me keep a log of them.
To tell you I’m sorry for everything that I’ve done
Thank you but please stop calling.
But when I call you never seem to be home
It’s called CallerID. You’re the reason I have it.

Hello from the outside
Seriously? Get off my property. My girlfriend’s calling the police
At least I can say that I’ve tried
To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart
Too little, too late. Have you been drinking again?
But it don’t matter it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore
Just let it go, please? I’m getting married in six months.

Hello, how are you?
I’m fine. Please, find another boyfriend.
It’s so typical of me to talk about myself I’m sorry
It’s just the Tequila talking, you were always a sloppy drunk.
I hope that you’re well
Yes. I’m fine.
Did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happened
I’m not giving you my address, there’s a restraining order on you.

It’s no secret that the both of us
Are running out of time
What? What the Hell are you saying? Is that a threat?

Vive’ la Evolution!

No – not of people. Of computer stuff.

When I was young our first computer was an Atari-800. Basically a game system with the added benefit of being able to program in BASIC. It wasn’t much but it was fun to mess around with. Computer programs came printed out in magazines, because there was no internet. If you were lucky, you had someone to help call out the program for you while you typed it in.

Conversations would go something like this:

Okay new line – 5400 If x is greater than number string plus y then go sub 2300

For hours. Then you had great fun finding all your errors before finally getting to play a text-based game with no graphics. If you were REALLY unlucky, the game code was bigger than your computer memory and 3/4 of the way through it, the computer would pop up a message “memory full” and all those hours of typing went for crap.

People these days will talk about the computers they build in terms of terabyte drives and Gigs of memory. But for the most part it’s just plugging in a few parts and everything works. The first modern computer I built took days, because I had to manually set com ports and software interrupts with little DIP switches. The PC builder in the early 90s would turn the computer on, figure out what still didnt work, and then turn it off and tinker around in the case. It still took kind of a nerd to do it. These days almost anyone could build a computer, given a shopping list of parts.

But the FIRST computer I ever built was nerd heaven. It didn’t really DO anything. At least, I never could make it do much other than count forward or backward.

My father brought home the kit from a business trip. It was the type of thing in the 70s that engineering students would build and use in school to learn about electronics and computing and programming. It came as a green board and a bag of parts in various little bags.

You had to know how to use a soldering iron. Now THOSE were the days of computer building. So after hours of searching through little baggies and breathing in fumes from lead-based solder, we came up with something that pretty much looked exactly like this:


It had a display of a whopping 7 digits, three more than the average clock, today. I never really understood most of the stuff in the included books. Programming the thing was through “assembly language”, two digit hexadecimal codes that you punched in, in order. Like trying to type in BASIC but in Cantonese. I didn’t understand a word of what I was doing, but I could follow a list of instructions. A8, Next, B9, Next, 3F, Next. The books below weren’t much help. I was in elementary school, these things were designed for engineering students. But the PROCESS was fun, even if I never really got the kit to do much.


So imagine my surprise when computing escalated into gear that cost thousands, and then slowly started coming down. I remember when laptop computers could only be affordable for doctors and lawyers. Now you can go to Walmart and snag one for a few hundred dollars. Building a decent PC is for the most part more costly now than buying one, but you get to choose what you want, at least.

Then along came a revolutionary little device, the Raspberry Pi. The Pi just turns the whole computing industry around. Instead of bringing a computer home, plugging it in, answering a few questions about where you live and license numbers, then playing WarCraft for 37 hours, the Pi is a tinkerer’s device.

It’s no bigger than a pack of cards, and as thick as two decks stacked together. It comes with 1GB of Ram, ethernet, USB, and HDMI out, as well as a number of software-defineable input-output ports, and a complete Operating System. The incredible thing is, it only costs $35. They can be had cheaper without all the excess ports, perfect for someone building an imbedded device (a computer designed to do one function and nothing else – such as run a security camera or intercept iPhone commands and turn on lights and open a garage door).

raspberry-pi-2-sd-card-100569129-origPeople have done all sorts of things with them so far – even built a “supercomputer” cluster from a few dozen Pi’s and some LEGO cases.


They’ll play some video games (mine craft included), act as media players, work as controllers for network storage, robot brains, etc.

imagesBest of all, you get to get the old soldering iron back out and add stuff to them. There are a number of extra pins to let the Pi interact with the outside world. I really can’t wait to get one and see what it can do, just for the heck of it.

It’s come a long way since the Intel SDK85 kit…