A Life Well Lived

In February of this year I got a call from Nan sea Metts telling me that a book was now available: Stories for My Friends by Robert L. Metts. Bob had passed away the previous year and he left a gift of this book. It’s well worth reading, chronicling a life well lived.

Bob was a classmate of mine at San Lorenzo High School. After high school I went off to college and lost track of many of my high school friends. That was 1968. Then in 2004 I got a phone call from Bob and we reconnected. I was astounded to learn what he had accomplished in the years that had gone by.

In the mid 1970s Bob had become somewhat of a legend on the Stanislaus river with his good friend and rafting partner Dennis Fantin. You have to understand that Bob was crippled from polio. He could not row. Dennis was blind. Somehow the two of them learned to work as a team to guide a raft down a raging whitewater river. You have to read the book to get a sense of how they worked as a team. Once you get into the stories you won’t be able to put the book down.

I bought a copy of the book shortly after Nan sea called me. I read a few pages and put in on the coffee table. Before I could get back to it my wife picked it up and read it. She passed ot to my son, who then passed it on to his father-in-law who was also a river rat on the Stanislaus River in the mid-70.

Not wanting to wait for the book to come back to me, I ordered a second copy to read on my Kindle.

From his rafting adventures Bob went on to become a professor of economics, and he helped develop policies and programs to assist disabled people all over the world. His travels took him to Viet Nam, Yemen, Indonesia, Lebanon, Switzerland, Chile, Kenya and Russia.

Bob also liked a party. He was known to host parties at his house, a log cabin that he and Nan sea built in Chilcoot. Parties would go on for days with musicians jamming and everyone eating delicious food.

One quote from the book that strikes me is the mantra one of the river guides gave Bob: “Focus on the channels, not the rocks.” Good advice for any life journey.

Get the book. It’s a great read and a source of inspiration.

Blog to Book

Not too long ago I found myself revisiting blog posts from the past year and thinking it would be fun to turn the posts into a book. To that end I asked my wife Joann if she would be interested in tackling the project. We started with a few posts from early 2018 and used those posts to put together a “proof” to see how the process would go. From there we decided to break the posts for 2018 into two volumes, each about 50 pages.

We looked at several options for creating the book and decided that Shutterfly seemed to be well suited to the task. We’ve used Blurb for past projects but the book building tools for Shutterfly are easier to use. We also looked at some of the options that let you import your blog content directly into a book, but those platforms seemed to compromise on the quality of the photos and have limited options for formatting. We wanted a book that would represent the content of the blog with high quality photos and the flexibility to deal with some complex formatting issues. Some blog posts have only one photo some have a dozen or so. Sometimes a post would just have a short paragraph and sometimes they’d ramble on.

Needless to say after two and half months of massaging text and pictures we hit the “publish” button. Two weeks later the books arrived. They are now on the coffee table, and it’s a treat so be able to pick up a book and revisit past adventures. Amsterdam, Africa, Santa Fe, Chicago, Frank Lloyd Wright, Kayaking around the San Francisco Bay Area.

I’m not sure if the books will be something the grandchildren find years from now when they’re sorting through dusty belongings, but I expect the books will outlast the bits and pixels of the blog once those have evaporated into the ether.

What can we learn from Leonardo?

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I just finished reading Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. Isaacson paints a picture of a man that was truly a creative genius. His curiosity and his powers of observation were simply astounding. From observing the beating wings of a dragon fly to the finest brush strokes of the Mona Lisa, a painting which was still in his studio waiting for the master to provide the final brush strokes.  I’m not going to give you a book review. The book is worth the read if you have an interest in the workings of the creative mind. This is one book you’ll want to read in the hard copy version, given the many illustrations. Isaacson does provide a chapter with concluding remarks. Here are the things Issacson suggests are a requirement for living a creative life:
  • Be curious, relentlessly curious
  • Seek knowledge for its own sake
  • Retain a childlike sense of wonder
  • Observe
  • Start with the details
  • See things unseen
  • Go down rabbit holes
  • Get distracted
  • Respect facts
  • Procrastinate
  • Let the perfect be the enemy of the good
  • Think visually
  • Avoid silos
  • Let your reach exceed your grasp
  • Indulge fantasy
  • Create for yourself, not just for patrons
  • Collaborate
  • Make lists
  • Take notes, on paper
  • Be open to mystery

Any one of these could be a subject for future exploration.

Book Review: The Oyster War

 

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I just finished reading The Oyster Wars by Summer Brennan. I was drawn to this book when my brother left it with me following a visit a few months ago. I’ve had some interest in this story for some time. The location where the Oyster farm was is one of my favorite locations to go kayaking. I have a brother who is himself an oyster farmer (not the one with the book), and having studied marine biology myself, I was quite interested in science behind the story.

This turns out to be quite a compelling story about the fate of the Drakes Bay Oyster company. And also an intriguing analysis of how various interests can play into commerce and environmental issues. The author provides some background, going back to the oyster pirates of 1897 and the days of Jack London.

To be honest, I have followed this issue only remotely while it was developing, aware of some of the issues, and hopeful that the oyster farm and the National Park service would find a way to live together in harmony, protecting the natural resources while permitting aquaculture to continue. After all, if you can have cattle on the land, why not ousters in the Estero? Nevertheless, Having read Summer’s book, I’m inclined to believe that the oyster farm had no future operating in a wilderness area.

If you have any interest in environmental issues, commerce and culture and how those forces might collide, I recommend this book.

The biggest lesson I learned from this book can be summed up in a quote Brennan provides from Tom Strickland:

“I think that the situation has been hijacked by interest groups with different agendas who have spun out narratives that have no relationship to the facts.”

This seems to apply to any number of issues we face.