GoodBye Dakota, You’ll Be Missed Buddy

Today, the family made the tough decision to say goodbye to Dakota.

Dakota was a pitbull, a gaurd dog, a family member, the welcome committee, the protector, old dog, a friend, and my holiday decoration model. He was a great dog, great with kids and women (hated dudes which I didn’t always mind), and always happy to see us.

He was also, the only other boy in the house and we farted so much that the girls would get grossed out. LOL.

Yet over the last few weeks, Dakota slowly stopped eating, stopped barking, and stopped walking around. Joy took him to the vet and after two visits a large blockage was found in his stomach.

We elected for surgery this morning, that went well, but a lot of cancer was found.

That’s when we decided to let him go and be at peace. I sat with him while he went to sleep and we took his body home.

Dakota now rests in a backyard grave that Joy helped me with.

Goodbye Dakota. You’re missed and will be missed. Bye buddy.

prayforpilchuck - marysville school shooting-mphs

Friday’s Shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School

prayforpilchuck - marysville school shooting-mphsToday I am writing, not out of excitement and success but out of pain and sorrow.

Friday, October 24, 2014, at 10:39am, a young man opened fire upon classmates and family members at Marysville Pilchuck High School. I was listening to the Snohomish County scanner after a colleague’s daughter sent a text message stating there had been a school shooting. The audio can be found on YouTube.

Two students died at the scene (one being the shooter) and four students are still in grave condition.

Reports are still unclear as news outlets, MPHS students and alum, family and friends are stating different information, my Facebook feed is full of conflicting information. I’ve seen posts stating Gia has passed away but can’t confirm. Also, it is still too soon to know if others will perish, and I surely hope not, and to understand the shooter’s motive. Here is a Tweet from this morning.

The Everett Herald’s writer Andrew Goblin wrote a fantastic piece School shooter raised in Tulalip traditions; his actions defy explanation. I grew up with many of the family names mentioned: Goblin, Fryberg, Hatch, Pablo, and Chuckulnaskit though we didn’t regularly hangout, we weren’t enemies by no means. Andrew’s article is probably the best I’ve read and depicts a lot of what is known and shared about Tribal traditions and heritage despite what’s traveling through national and social media.

Jaylen was grounded in the traditions of the Snohomish people, his people, on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. He was a star wrestling and football athlete since he was young, competing with his cousins. He was an avid hunter and fisherman, from a place where rites of passage include those skills.

Jaylen came from a traditional family with a strong presence not only at Tulalip, but with tribes up and down the Pacific Northwest coast. He sang and drummed with the men of his family, learning to lead the group at a young age. His father and grandfather were dedicated to grooming Jaylen to be a strong leader, like so many of his elders.

Andrew’s account points to nothing on the horizon for Jaylen’s actions even though media outlets are reporting something different. A troubled kid with a vendetta to serve. I don’t know what to think and agree that high school can be hard, challenging, and troubling at times.

According to reports, the shooting happened in the cafeteria, a place were square pizza, cheesy bean burritos, and a potato bar formed strong memories in my head. From the description of the events, its appears the shootings were at close range (speculation on my part) and later stopped by a courageous lady named Megan Silberberger.

In a blog posted by Kim’s Korner title Her Name Is Megan Silberberger. And She’s No Lunch Lady!

Here is my favorite part:

She is young. She is petite, and she was unarmed.

And I’m sure, even given her bravery, she was scared shitless.

But … she acted anyway.

Her name is Megan Silberberger, and she’s no Lunch Lady!

It takes great courage to fly against the thought of protecting one’s self and hiding. I would love to think we would all act so bravely.

Being a graduate, class of 1996, from MPHS the situation got very real, very quick; especially since former classmates now have kids at MPHS, I still work in the area, Joy’s girls take swim class at MP, and I see our favorite Cow Pie High virtually every day while working.

Another alum, class of 97, The Faithful Geek blogged a piece about the tragedy titled An open letter to the students of MPHS.

In the blog Nic penned:

First, and most important: this is not the end. When tragedy strikes, it’s easy to feel as if your world grinds to a stop. While there is a sense of finality that surrounds you, there is much more life ahead of you than anything that lies behind you. Today might have been the closing of one chapter, but tomorrow is a new page in your story – the beginning of the next chapter. You still have the power to achieve greatness. Despite the horrors of today, I believe that your futures hold many wonderful things.

This brings me to this thought: I’m not sure what has happened in society that has made young people feel the need to bring, and use, guns at school.

I’ve talked to friends, colleagues, kids, parents, and family about the continuous shootings happening in school environments.

Does a shooting hurt more if it is in a school environment? Are shootings outside school environments somehow different? Will passing, or not passing, gun control measures improve the safety and mindset of school aged children? Can implementing new policy trickle down to kid’s world?

We’ve talked to the girls, they are 7 & 8, and sadly they didn’t get the full meaning; however, it was the intention that matters. I feel we should talk to youth regarding their challenges, encourage them to share their struggles, make them feel free to report concerns, take their concerns serious, and not be scared to have teachers and parents get involved, despite how uncool it is.

My thoughts are with our community, our friends, our children, our schools, and our future. #PrayforPilchuck


Picked up a Drone (DJI Phantom 2)

Here my first flight with a DJI Phantom 2 H3-3D and filmed using the new GoPro 4. It was such a blast and can’t wait to tomorrow with a full battery. The girls have cheer in Granite Falls but doubt I’ll bring it. It’s a bit loud.

Side note: if people think spying can be accomplished with a Phantom 2 then they haven’t heard the blade noise. Listen to the video … just not too loud LOL.

GoPro 4 Settings: 1080p @ 60fps and the rest all default settings

I live in a neighborhood and was worried about the close quarters. The DJI Phantom proved to be easy to fly and control. There is bit of initial setup yet some handy videos (below) made it easy. I had thoughts of publishing my own tutorial but why re-invent what’s already done.

The 5 Steps to a DJI Phantom 2

  1. Un-do box
  2. Install Gimball
  3. Install GoPro 4
  4. Set the GPS
  5. Take Off

Best GPS Locking Tutorial

Best Gimball Install Video

DJI Phantom 2 Zenmuse H3-3D Gimbal modifications

I really enjoyed this video but wasn’t necessary for my application.

Transmitter Installation


I’m a Stock Holder

I’m watching Seattle Shut Up & Drive on On Demand and noticed some GoPro’s inside then cars and immediately I yell, I’m a stockholder.

On June 25th GoPro launched its IPO, and despite my reservations regarding Loyal3’s share allocation decision, I was issued shares and even purchased more through a brokerage account.

I’m pretty stoked to be apart of GoPro’s future and their continued success.

Friday, 4th of July, Joy and I spent the day and evening at her dad’s bbq-ing and having fun awaiting nightfall. I setup 3 cameras; a Hero 1, Hero 2, and a 3+ to film the action.

I’ve yet to watch any footage due to an external drive going out. So instead of watching killer footage, I’m stuck transferring 439g at a sales pace.


Pan Handlers and Bums in Smokey Point


Living around the Smokey Point area I’ve noticed many changes for the better. Costco, Target, Bostons, Petco, IHop, Red Robin, and Buffalo Wild Wings have opened up on the Marysville side with new construction going in on the Arlington side. The area is really blooming.

Now it seems Smokey Point is now becoming a stomping ground for pan handlers and drug addicts. Virtually every street corner harbors folking with signs “needing money” “homeless” “anything helps” and all the while the look on their face speaks of tales of long days and even longer nights.

I live off 172nd near SR9 and on my way I see a lady and man, better described as grandpa and grandma, who are homesteading in the bushes just off the sidewalk – east of Panda Express.

It saddens me to see people in such plight as well as see the area brought down by folks leaching off others for self destructive purposes. Believe me, I am no Saint nor am I free of personal vices but the area is suffering.

Hope something changes to Smokey Point to discourage pan handling.

Is it illegal?

If it is then it does no good to lock people up for it either as it just costs tax payers money since those folks have no money to begin with.

Maybe I’ll do some more research on the topic and see what I can do.


The Oso slide outside Arlington Washington

osomudslide-APhouseflag-largeImage from KUOW.org

On Saturday March 22nd, just outside the city of Arlington, in a small community called Oso, happened a landslide of massive proportions. The single largest natural disaster in Snohomish County’s recent history, the 530 mudslide has impacted families & friends alike with deaths and injuries, raised homes and structures in the slide path,

A landslide of such magnitude, and the single largest natural disaster in Snohomish County in recent history, that has claimed 24 lives as of yesterday, raised man homes, and is still causing so much pain and heart ache for our community.

How Can We Help?

The United Way of Snohomish County has set up there United Way Disaster Recovery Fund for Mudslide Relief:

“As the search and rescue effort in Oso, Washington continued into its fourth day, United Way began the process of establishing a community-wide recovery fund to assist those affected by the mudslide. United Way seeded its Disaster Recovery Fund for Mudslide Relief with $25,000 from its endowment and JPMorgan Chase added $50,000” – Donate Here.

The Northwest Music Scene Announced Oso Landslide Benefit Shows:

“As most of you know, the area around Oso in eastern Snohomish county was hit with what will likely be the worst landslide disaster of modern times in U.S. history, at least in terms of casualties. One thing we have always done in the northwest is that when people are in trouble or need our assistance, we roll up our sleeves and we do what we can. No where is that more true than the community hit hardest by this horrific event. Everyone knows everyone out there and that makes it all the more harder to deal with. Benefit shows to raise money for the all those affected are now starting to be organized. Here’s the first five than we know of so far” – See the List..

The Snohomish County Red Cross is involved as well with Helping Families As They Wait For Word on Loved Ones:

“The American Red Cross is helping the families near the site of the weekend’s tragic mudslide, providing food, shelter and emotional support.

Red Cross workers are providing food and shelter to residents and first responders. Since Saturday, the Red Cross has mobilized several response vehicles and nearly 100 trained workers to provide support” – Donate Here.

Where to Follow the 530Slide?

– Follow on Twitter at #530Slide.
– Follow on Facebook at #530Slide.
– Follow the Herald on Storify.
– Follow on King5.com
– Follow on KiroTV.com
– Facebook page Mudslide Info and Relief effort
– Facebook Group 530slide Donations
– Facebook page #530slide Photography Auction
– Facebook Group Oso Fundraisers

A 24-hour crisis line has been set up for anyone feeling grief who needs to talk to someone: 800-584-3578. If you have been affected by the slide and need help please email Jesse Jones: getjesse@king5.com.

Where is Oso Washington?

From the City of Arlington, travel northeast outside of town towards Darrington on SR 530 to the small town of Oso. If you blink, you’ll miss it. An older town that is quiet, quaint, and reminiciant of years past, Oso is familar who travel 530 for fun, living, hiking, fishing, photography (Glacier Peak and White Horse are highly photographed), and just enjoying the beautiful Cascade foothills.

How Do you Get to Darrington Right Now?

Since SR 530 is closed the Snohomish County DOT has opened the Mountain Loop Highway. Travel too Granite Falls, WA and turn onto The Mountain Loop Highway. The MLH is not at all a highway but a gravel road connecting Granite Falls to Darrington. Here is what the Mountain Loop Highway looks like after opening.

How Many Households Are Effected by the 530 Mudslide?

In my line of work I tend to see a lot of real estate, from helping folks purchase and help people purchase, and naturally I’ve been looking at property maps of the slide area and the homes impacted. A colleague had contractors in one of her listed when the slide happened – I don’t need to go into details. Devastating for anyone and the emotional impact with loss of life coupled with the loss of memories makes all that more tragic. Recently, I have been showing homes on the SR 530 corridor and the biggest concern has been flooding and where do home sit in the floodplain and floodway, never a landslide. Here are some maps on the mudslide.

In a map published by NYTimes.com shows the structures and household in the slide area.


Here is the County’s Online Property Information lot line map. Lot lines are approximates.


The Snohomish County Government released topography map showing the slide area.


Washington Department of Natural Resources Posted:

On Saturday, March 22, a massive landslide occurred near the small town of Oso, along the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River and State Route 530 in Snohomish County, Washington. Numerous lives were lost and many people remain missing. As search-and-rescue teams continue their important work, geologists are monitoring the landslide and the lake that formed behind the landslide debris blocking the river to ensure the safety of first responders and those living downstream of the impounded lake. Here, State Geologist Dave Norman of the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides information about the landslide from a geological perspective – Read More.

The USGS Has Posted:

A large landslide occurred in northwest Washington at about 11:00 am PDT on Saturday, March 22, 2014. Recent rain conditions and soil saturation led to the onset of the landslide.

Landslide debris covered about 30 houses and 0.8 miles of State Route 530. Flow also dammed and partially blocked the North Fork Stillaguamish River, creating a potential for flooding at the blockage. A pool of water is forming behind the natural dam, also creating a flood hazard downstream if the natural dam is breached. Currently, the pool is approximately 20-30 feet in depth – Read More.

Snohomish County Washington Has a Page:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 27, 2014 – – SR 530 crews keeping an eye on rainy weather today
Because of the size of the slide, we’ve divided our rescue and recovery efforts into two sections – east and west side…Number of missing in SR 530 slide declines to 90: East-side crews faced some challenges with the condition of the service road leading into the slide site, but were able to enhance the service road and get a lot of work done. Read More.

I cannot stop watching and following the media, probably the reason why I blogged about it, and as I finish this post there is a Live press conference with the National Guard. The 530 mudslide is an event that will not soon be forgotten because everyone I know and talk to in the County knows someone that has family, friends, coworkers, students, and community members someway impacted.

My thoughts and prayers to all.


Beautiful Family Day at Mt Pilchuck

Today Joy and I got a call from Bryan & Michelle to hit up My Pilchuck, outside Granite Falls, and rip the sleds with the kids. Not passing up the opportunity we loaded up quick and hit the road.

We drove up a road just on the Westside of Red Bridge for a few miles until Joy’s Denali couldn’t make it anymore and even Michelle’s jeep couldn’t, which a hundreds yards more than us – Bryan and I were driving.

The kids had fun making a bobsled track from the tire tracks and we did races, which there is video, and threw snowballs. Aiden just douches my face with snow, he still needs some payback, and Michelle even filled up Bryan’s neck with snow. He went light on the payback. Joy and I have an unwritten rule against because she hates getting cold.

We got off the mountain right before dark and hit Playa Bonita for dinner where the kids were surprised with the bills – priceless.


A Letter from a Family Member in Malawi

I am not a religious person yet I do believe in doing well to others in society and at home. Being a good person is much more than a cloth to hide behind, its the act of doing good when no one is watching. I try my best, yet not perfect. I received an email from my cousin who is in Malawi at a Jesuit Refugee camp and his perspective makes me think. Do I live in excess? Can I do better? Who can I help?

Hello Family,

I hope everyone is doing well. As you are all preparing for winter – putting on the boots, bundling up and sipping hot coco – I want you to know that I am sweating my ass off and swatting mosquitoes. It is the beginning of the hot season here and people are now preparing their fields for the first rains.

I know I haven’t written in awhile, so I thought I would sit down and give everyone an update. A lot of what I have included comes from my journal, so please forgive me if it is too introspective, heady or manifestoish. I spend a lot of time alone here. Besides, writing is how I process my experience and it gives you some insight into how I see the world. When studying philosophy in Chicago, it was taught that a rational thinker is supposed to be as clear, unbiased and objective as possible. To a certain degree I think this is true. But here, in the real world, outside the university, it seems the tables are turned. It seems that we all see the world through different lenses. The question then, for us, is: What lens are we wearing to see the world? Here is a view through my lenses.
My first two months here have been an emotional rollercoaster—up, down, up, down, down, up. I am not sure what the final ratio of ups to downs is, but, thank God, I think the tracks are starting to level out, or at least not be so dramatic. It is amazing how human beings can adapt to almost anything (I’ve certainly experienced this with the refugees). The question for me, though, is not about adaptability – whether or not I can survive (I can) – but rather it is about flourishing – whether I belong here or not. Or spiritually put, whether or not this is where God wants me to be. I have struggled with this question a lot because (a) it can become extremely narcissistic, quickly devolving into a sporadic or fleeting quest for personal happiness (different from grace, joy or consolation); and (b) it can become a question of codependency: does the overwhelming need of others keep me in a place that I do not belong? In Jesuit language we call these “questions for discernment”, and to avoid the pitfall of the ego (narcissism and codependency), we ask not where am I supposed to be but where does God want me to be. And as subjective as God can sometimes be (we mistaking ourselves for God), if we ask this question honestly and are open to the response, then at least we can replace the “I” of the ego with the “Other” of something beyond ourselves. To do this, I think, requires interior freedom and time, both of which I am struggling to find. So until then I am just hanging out, doing what I can and enjoying my time.

The hardest part of this discernment is that I love the work – kicking it with the refugees – but do not feel very Jesuit. Politically, JRS Malawi is complicated beyond belief. It also has a history of hostility towards Jesuits, which makes it feel more like a NGO than a Jesuit institution. The good news, however, is that the new country director is pro Jesuit and very supportive. She is my best friend here.

Hanging out with the refugees has been a heartbreaking and humbling experience. Most people couldn’t imagine the suffering that goes on inside a refugee camp, because if they could they could never live the same. I’ve seen more suffering than you can shake a stick at: a seven year old physically and mentally disabled girl who had been raped; orphans whose parents have been killed; a child who fell into pot of hot cooking oil and whose private parts are burned and chin is fused to his neck; thousands of people starving to death; and people dying senseless deaths because they do not have adequate access to healthcare or food to take their medication. Recently I have made it my mission to visit an older man who suffered a stroke and is now dying. I have no idea what I am doing or why I should choose him out the thousands who are suffering, but I am trying to nurse him back to health and lift his spirits so that he can at least die with some dignity. The saddest part is that he has lost control of his bowels and is trapped in his mud wall room, and when I go to lift him up, his blanket is soaked in shit. In a refugee camp you certainly get over your phobia of germs.

One thing you come to realize is that most of this suffering is manmade. In philosophy the problematic question for believers is why does an all-powerful and all-loving God allow people to suffer? This, although valid, I think, is escapism, because it fails point the finger of responsibility at who is really to blame. Poverty is created and imposed by man. And as far as material suffering goes, which is most of the world’s suffering, the onerous is on us humans, not God.

That said, the camp is also filled with an unquenchable joy. When I walk down the narrow paths between the mud and grass thatched houses, the kids run up to me, give me a hug and yell masungu (white man) while their mothers stand at the door waving with smiles as big as the African sun. If you ask them where their joy comes from, without exception, they will say from God. Marx said that religion was the opiate of the masses – a drug to keep the social order of injustice – and my response is: So what. Who am I to doubt the faith of so many toothless smiles? I think Marx would have had a hard time looking at these people and saying that you are all wrong, you’re addicted to a drug. As one refugee said, “For exiles, our only hope is God, divine providence.”

It is hard not to lose hope here. Every day, when you think you have seen it all, you are sucker punched in the gut with more suffering. When people ask if I am optimistic that things will change or get better, I say “No.” I am not optimistic that things will change, especially because the refugees aren’t even the poorest of the poor. Malawi is expecting a food shortage this year and it is estimated that 1.5 million Malawians will experience famine. When the whole system is fucked – corruption, greed, exploitation, etc. – and no one in the First World is willing to sacrifice or change their consumption habits, how can one be optimistic? I am a “hopefulist”, not an optimist, which I define as working you’re hardest to kick injustice’s ass and praying harder that God will take mercy and “fill the hungry and send the rich away empty.” If this sounds like a revengeful indictment on the rich, it’s not. It’s just hard to see other human beings live with so little when you know that, because of no making of their own, others live with so much. I often find myself praying for both rich and poor: “Lord, I pray for those who go without and for those who live in excess.”

As you can probably tell, there has been a lot interior activity going on and there are lots of lessons I still have to sift through. When I get on a role, it’s hard to stop. This, I know, can come off strong and I can tend to overstate things a bit. But hopefully this reflects more passion than fanaticism.

Going back to the discernment question, where does God want me to be? For now, I think it is here. How do I know this? Well, it certainly is not because I’ve heard the voice of God say “Travis, I want you in Malawi working with refugees.” (When people say things like this I usually think they are crazy, because in my experience rarely [okay never] does God speak with such certainty. And the only people I know who would say God does are fundamentalists and suicide bombers, both of which I think are the two sides of the same coin.) Rather, I know that God wants me here because, besides not having interior freedom to make a good discernment, the refugees aren’t done teaching me the lesson I was sent here to learn. What is the lesson? Well, awhile back I wrote this in my journal:

Depravity makes you grateful for everything. These are the words that echoed through my head as I walked to work this morning, kicking up the red dusty soil in three day worn clothes. I was happy and grateful. I have come to believe that it is simplicity, not things, which our consumptive spirit needs. But how hard do we bite, claw and fight for a little larger piece of the pie, thinking that this is what really satisfies our hungriness. Pope Francis said it best when warning of the lures of consumerism: “You may be full but you’re not nourished.” Nourished by simplicity, the substance of happiness and gratitude, now that’s a thought.
I haven’t learned the lesson of simplicity yet. My fear is that if I came back tomorrow I would pick up right where I left off, and I don’t want to do that. Why? Because when I am living simply I feel centered and connected.

There is a saying by Newman that goes “He who has seen a ghost cannot be as if he had never seen it.” Well, the refugees have shown me the ghost, the haunting ghost of poverty, and because of this I cannot be as if I’ve never seen it. But unlike Newman I have never had good vision (My eyesight is 20/220.I am damn near blind). I think it is going to take me some time to really see the ghost here.


Dealing with another person’s kids

One thing I don’t understand, especially since I don’t I’ve kids of my own, is the little attitudes of defiance. Take my girlfriend’s neice. Now this little one just turned 5 so I get it she is still young. However, when you talk to her or ask her to stop doing something unsafe then all of a sudde  she will stop talking to me.

Drives me crazy beyound imagination. Not sure why but it does. It happens all the time to more than just me. I have no clue what to do since I’m not technically family yet but with her dad skipping town I’m the closest thing to a father figure around.

Guess I will hve to work on my responses as tonight I asked her if she wasn’t going to respond to me and she stared at me and I said “whatever”, turned around, and walked away. Not the best bug when a kid doesnt respond what you supposed to do?