Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Money Pit Update

The painting is finally done and as I write this, the tile guys are getting ready to put the finishing touches on my roof to floor renovation.

Yes - from a new roof, new ceilings, new walls, new A/C, 23 gallons of new paint, new lighting, and now a new tile floor. It's been a busy 7 months. Except for two full weeks, all the inside work was done on weekends and mostly by me. The outside of the house was painted by the home owners association last week and when I get back this weekend, the tile will be done. It's like I have magic elves working even when I'm away making money to pay them.

Um... Where's the kitchen
So does this mean I'm now done. Not hardly. I have no appliances, no kitchen and now no money. I will be able to at least start moving in the furniture, eat take out, and take a hot shower. Considering the state of things when I bought the place, that is a major advancement. I'm about 75% done at this point with just enough left in the bank for the appliances. The kitchen will be an old counter top salvaged from another house and two saw horses for the next year.

Oh  - so you noticed that my paint scheme is a bit....well pretty much like the inside of a sugar cube. Am I really that unimaginative? Well actually - NO!

DSCN0601This new house and my new life are blank canvases in the most literal way. I made the conscious effort to have the color of the walls not define the space. If you look closely at the blinds, they are the temporary paper kind from Home Depot. About $20.00 to do the whole house. Even the picture frames, a gift from my sister, are empty.

DSCN0594 This is the moment I will remember as the starting point of the next phase of my life. I have wood and leather furniture to ground the space with earth tones.  I have a few canvas prints and a few large photos I'm fairly proud of. I'll hang those then spend the next few years traveling, shooting, and printing.

It has been a dream of mine to live in my own art gallery. Since I don't have anyone to stop me, that is exactly what I will be doing. I may need advice on new blinds but I am pretty set on wood, the kitchen, when it arrives will be hickory, and the counters granite.

I still have plenty of small projects like renting a moving truck, repairing the front door, replacing the patio screens, yard work, and touching up the paint after the tile guys leave. Four weekends tops. You may have noticed there are no bathroom photos. They will have to wait till I sell my condo. It will be very tempting to spend some quality sledge hammer time with the master bath but I will just have to live with it a bit longer.

I have two kayaks sitting in my new garage just begging to hit the water. It will be great to actually explore my new surroundings then kick back with a cold beer from the fridge (I have yet to buy) and relax in my new back yard till the stars come out. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

So You Want to Write a Blog

Bergen Norway
As my new house is quickly becoming habitable, I have suddenly become aware I will no longer be the South Florida Guy. I won't be living here. I spent a lot of years just plugging away but recently I've used my blog to open doors and make some amazing friends, locally and around the world. A few people I know have expressed interest in starting a blog so I thought it would be fun to take a minute and reminisce about how I got started and figure out where I go from here..

The best bloggers write about things they know well. I don't know anything well. I go through life like it's a sample platter, taking a little taste and moving on. I like doing cheap, obscure things then telling my family and friends about my mini adventures. One day I happened upon Google's Blogger and thought instead of just telling a few people, it would be more fun to write about what I was doing and tell the world.

Arenal, Costa Rica
Arenal Volcano - Costa Rica
Like almost everything in my life, this blog pretty much started out as a joke. One of my friends once said to me "Who do you think your are -  South Florida Guy". That's as good a name as any.  I once dated a fine art photographer who told me I took great tourist shots. Not exactly a compliment but it made for a silly tag line so I threw it in. Boom - I was a blogger in five minutes.

I've never taken this blog very seriously but recently I've had reason to reconsider. I just passed 100,000 hits, 95% of which came in the last year. A show promoter friend of mine told me I should write a travel blog. I am no threat to my pro photographer friends but I've gotten some pretty impressive compliments on my captures recently.

I do not promote this blog in any way so what changed? The South Florida Daily Blogger and Groupon picked up my blog. I went from tens of hits a month to hundreds. Then I started writing about one of the few events I've had a long term passion for - The Florida Ren Fest. Suddenly I'm getting thousands of hits a month. I really had to step up my game with all the new attention. Then I bought a house and had no time to dedicate to my new found fame.
Hot Air Ballooning

My life is nothing like what I write about here.

I once met a woman on an online dating site and three weeks later we shared a glass of wine in a little French cafe... in Paris. I flew in a hot air balloon exactly one year after I was told I had an hour to live. I took my father on a trip, the highlight of which was to stand on the dock in Bergen Norway. The same one his mother stood on as a 14 year old girl with a one way ticket to Ellis Island. I took the most dangerous trip in my life to Costa Rica which included sleeping next to an active volcano and zip lining through the jungle. I made it back without a scratch then slipped in the tub and crashed through the shower door. I have plenty of stories loaded with passion, adventure, emotion, and stupidity. I may be at the point in my blog writing I could do them some justice. To get the most out of my next blog I will consider the following.

1) Take some time and figure out what I want my blog to be. I limited myself with this one. A clever name and tag line would have not taken very long to come up with. Something easy to remember is a great way to get repeat visitors.

2) Make sure the Google email I set my blogger account up with has the same or similar name to my blog. Mine does not and has always been a problem. I opened a new email later and forwarded the mail. Too confusing.

3) Once I have the perfect email account and blog name, lock down all the social media I care to use. So many people ask if the South Florida Guy is on Flickr, FaceBook, Twitter, etc. If it is, its not me.

4) Post on a regular basis.  Most of my blogger friends have 100 - 300 followers and those followers like regular postings. I was posting more regularly and now that people are looking, not hardly at all. The best way to gain an audience is to make comments on fellow bloggers with similar interests. Since a lot of my postings are travel related, I let the places I visit know when I post about them. Many times they add my blog to their website.

5) Keep learning - I recently learned how to attach my Flickr photos directly to my blog from a fellow blogger. Now if you click on them you go right to my photostream. I also learn about an abundance of places in this world I never knew about and hope to visit one day.

I'll be the South Florida Guy for a while yet but I look forward to starting something new.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

South Florida Steampunk

South Florida and Steampunk are nearly a contraction in terms. The fine look of well tailored Victorian fashion and South Florida's laid back, anything goes, shorts and a T-shirt standard are worlds apart.

In this country, rigid high fashion has given way to sloppy comfort. High standards of social etiquette have crumbled to the level of the Simpson's. Our dress and manners may fallen to an all time low but what of our wondrous technology.

Not very long ago, our highest technological advances were wrapped in cathedral quality industrial art. Now we bling and bedazzel it. The materials used to create the tech miracles of that age were steel, brass, glass, wood, and leather. Today it's plastic, plastic, plastic and plastic. A few hundred years ago, technological necessities were built to last for centuries and  meant to be passed down through the generations. Now we cry if our cell phones are over two years old.

Enter Steampunk. A genre dedicated to asking the question - What if we kept all the good parts of the Victorian age and moved them forward along with our technology? The Florida Renaissance Festival took the bold step of adding a Time Travel and Steampunk event this past weekend. I took the bold step of asking a few of the participants what they thought about it.

Some of the hard core rennies seemed a little confused but when I mentioned it was Steampunk weekend they at least seemed to know the concept. Most liked the look and more than a few thought it should be a regular event. A couple mentioned they missed "bring your pet" weekend.

I asked several of the garbed participants how difficult and costly it was to create a little Steampunk fashion. The answer was the same every time. Not very expensive and not very time consuming. It was immediately obvious to me that time travelers have all the time in the world and a lot of inside trading info. I had one of them give me an item by item price check and I stopped her when I couldn't count that high any more. Bottom line, many of these folks put in a tremendous amount of effort for a two day event. I can only imagine if they had all spent serious time and money manufacturing their look. The sad fact is there are not many other Steampunk events in the area. There are parts of the country that take their Steampunking to extraordinary levels.  I know of at least one family who cut their vacation on the Titanic short and came directly to the faire. By so doing they not only saved themselves a cold swim, they also won the Steampunk Garb contest. Most of the rest of the folks I spoke with were a bit more local in time and space. I would really like to see Steampunk take off in South Florida but someone will need to invent a corset as cool and comfortable as a bikini first I would imagine.
The Time Collectors - Steampunk Garb competition winners.  

Click Here for my photos from the event.
 I would like to thank the South Florida Pirates for giving me some insight into the Steampunk genre. They will be returning as their normal pirate selves the final two weekends.