The Great Labyrinth Reclamation Project

The Great Labyrinth Reclamation Project [GLRP hereinafter] has begun.

Given that it’s been too hot to do any outdoor maintenance, and given that we’ve had no rain, it should come as no surprise that the labyrinth is a minor disaster: the grass is dead, while the ivy/bamboo/privet/wisteria have run riot.

Normally, that would not entail a lot of worry.  Just get out there and kind of work it out as one moseys through life, ne-ç’est pas?  However, in a moment of weakness earlier this year I agreed to allow the labyrinth to be a part of the Presbyterian Preschool Tour of Homes on December 3.  So now I am under a deadline, which at least will get the job done.

Step 1: Install a new fence.

Here we have a happy labyrinth owner installing a new bamboo fence over the original chain link fence six years ago. This was for privacy, of course, and it was quite lovely, although as you can see it did not completely block anyone from seeing into the yard.  I was not worried, since I knew the ivy would grow up over the bamboo and provide cover.

Which it did, and that worked—until the bamboo began to rot and break down.

Here we see, if through a lovely sprinkler earlier this year, the wild and woolly state of the fence.  (That lush green grass died almost immediately.)  It was really ratty looking, and that included some rats who would trot about on top of the chain link.

And so I’ve been looking for someone to replace the chain link with a real fence.  I tried dealing with a builder recommended by a neighbor, but that person led me on (since April!) and I finally turned to Angie’s List, where I found First Fence of Georgia.  I highly recommend them, although parts of this process may give you pause about hiring them.  Ignore the roadbumps: this is a good company.

I really wanted an 8-foot fence, given the proximity of my neighbors, but city ordinances only allow 6-foot fences.  I could have applied for a variance, but by the time I hired First Fence it was too late.  So I asked First Fence to install a 6-foot fence with 8-foot posts; I could, if I wished, install art stretched between them, art that might even look like curtains.  Or summat.

The crew arrived at 8:00 a.m. and got straight to work.  Every now and then I’d wander out and smile brightly at them.  Chain link—gone.  Ivy—ripped out.  Post holes—dug.  Posts—installed, two feet deep in concrete.  Cross pieces—nailed in.

And so it was that shortly after lunch I went to the back yard to marvel at their progress and found—to my horror—that they had installed 6-foot posts.

I suppose I could have been a raging asshole and demanded that they tear everything down and start over, but a) that’s not who I want to be; and b) the expense, while probably bearable by First Fence, might have fallen on the two young Hispanic men who had made the error.  Let’s face it, unless someone had specifically told them, “Remember this dude wants 8-foot posts, so that’s different than what you do every other day of the year,” it was easy to miss the one reference (in 6-point type) to the posts being 2′ taller than the fence.

On the other hand, I had asked for—and was paying for—8-foot posts.  So I stopped the work and told them about the problem.

The lead worker was calm, but crushed.  He double-checked the blueprint and there it was in plain 6-point sight.  I told him I wasn’t mad, exactly, but I was upset.  I’d call the office to see what they recommended.

By the time I had spoken to the office (and been told the person to whom I needed to talk would have to call me back), the lead worker had a solution: what if we ran 2x4s up either side of the posts?  I liked it, specifying that they use cedar instead of pine just for extra safeguard against warping.  And so we did.

Quite frankly, even though it means that I will have to create the art, i.e., EXTRA WORK, KENNETH, I think it’s actually more attractive.  I think First Fence should offer it as a design, and I think they ought to pay the young man who thought of it royalties.

More to come.  Way more to come.

I did good, cont. again

…Part Three in a three-part series…

In the normal state of affairs, I would have blogged in great detail about this whole thing, because I’m incredibly wonky about process and I would have loved to share every excruciating detail about How I Did It, but in this case there were hippie-feelings involved.  Just posting the first draft of the graph paper map on the Theme Camp Organizer [TCO] Facebook group (to show them that the process was under way) was enough to set off a frenzy of squinting and worrying about where they were.  I learned to blur the map as I teased them with my progress.

So now you’re just getting the Cliff’s Notes version of How I Did It.  Sorry, future Placement Leads—I’ll try to write it all down elsewhere.  It’ll be under the third rock on the right after you enter the HeadSpace…

Wednesday, early entry day for those camps who need a bit of setting up before the burn starts on Thursday.  Most theme camps are arriving, especially the big ones.

I am given a walkie-talkie and a golf cart.  Do you know how many years I have avoided being given a walkie-talkie and a golf cart (or their equivalents)?  All of them, Katie.  Oy.

But it was a miracle: only a handful of camps had real issues with their spot—and I had predicted which ones might, in my head—and by the time I tootled up on my cart, each had a solution to their problem that was viable and acceptable.  All I had to do was give my imprimatur and hop back on my cart in a cloud of red dust and gratitude.

In short, it worked.

—click to embiggen—

It worked, it worked, it worked!

The photo above is an aerial shot taken Friday afternoon (by Christopher Curzio) when almost all the theme camps (and open camping) were in place.  You can see the boulevards, the art garden circle, the paths—none of which were actually there 48 hours before.

You can also see the 3 Old Men labyrinth in all its splendor.  Doesn’t it look swell from the air?  Most impressive.

When I finally got out of camp on Thursday night, I walked the entire burn, and it was working exactly as I thought it should.  All the hippies were happy,1 and the place was alive and humming as if it had always been there.  It worked.

And 3 Old Men?  Have I mentioned we made an improvement this burn?

—click to embiggen—

IT LIGHTS UP, KENNETH!  More than that, the strands glow and fade and dance in patterns you can control from your phone, because it has its own little mini-wifi point!  It was amazing.  (Kudos to Old Man Scruffy for the design, construction, and programming of the whole project.) As usual, I will not go into details, since what happens at a burn stays at a burn, but there were spirituality and abandon in equal measure, generosity, astounding creativity, good friends, beautiful weather.  What’s not to like?

All in all, a good burn.  I learned a lot about placing all the hippies and of course will do it again, although if we move to a new property again I may have to issue a stern statement of concern.

updated 10/23/16 to add: Holy crap, Bubba, I just realized—I have designed the “largest burn in the U.S.,” other than Burning Man itself.


1 As far as I could tell, obviously.  I’ll do a post-mortem survey of the TCOs next week to find out for sure.  I know there was one camp who was extremely surprised at how small their allotment was, but when I got home and checked, they had requested exactly what they got.  But they were right: it was not enough room.

I did good, cont.

Part Two in a three-part series

Having organized my thoughts by writing a manifesto on the design of a burn, I began to see how much I could apply to the property.  Since it was less than an hour away, I was able to drive up to the farm repeatedly to walk every inch of it, measuring with my handy-dandy laser rangefinder and making disastrously incomplete notes.  Pro tip: besides a rangefinder, you also need a kick-ass GPS coordinates thingie, one that will give you accurate, precise, and above all repeatable coordinates for any spot you’re standing on.  Unlike your phone, for example.

I started a Google map, and on that I began to lay out the main thoroughfares—the boulevards—for the burn.  Pretty simple, actually: other than the existing road, you just draw lines down the middle of the main masses.  Then it was a matter of figuring out where the infrastructure went: Center Camp, the Effigy/Temple, other burnable art, etc.

Then, using my handy-dandy FileMaker Pro database, I printed out little “chips” for each camp:

Notice how it has almost everything I need to know about that camp: dimensions, area, acreage (Google maps deals in acreage, not sq. ft.), whether it’s outward-facing, inner-, or bedroom (read the manifesto), any village they’re part of, and a color code for kid-friendliness.  (“The Middle Ground” is the neighborhood, which in my case I already knew because I’m the Placement Lead and I already know where my camp is going LOOK ON MY WORKS YE MIGHTY…)

There were 109 of these.  (There were 79 additional chips for art projects, but most of those were contained within their camps.)

beginning of the process

I commandeered the dining room table and drafted a large version of the Google Map on an 18×24 piece of engineering graph paper.1  I then cut out little rectangles for each camp.

Then I placed them.  See?  Piece of cake.

No, it was actually quite difficult.  Sound camps had to be restricted. Not all sound camps could be where they wanted to be. Everyone, literally, wanted “flat, near the trees, on the road, centrally located, away from the sound camps.”  Some had contradictory or illusory requirements (e.g., “near the Effigy and Center Camp,” or my favorite, “out in the field near a power source”).

Corrections (“Did you really mean to request 52,000 sq ft??”), revisions, and unending Successive Approximation, for two weeks.  Done, released into the wild, and done.

Except then it was time to make it real, leading a team of fantastic volunteers through the vision, whacking wooden stakes into dry, brick-hard ground and stringing surveyor’s tape between them, and not panicking when the measurements simply didn’t work.  Whole camps vanished and had to be relocated.  Space opened up where there had been none.  Open camping areas got smaller and smaller as the theme camps had to be shifted around.


That was Sunday.  I retreated from build weekend knowing that I had done the thing, but stressed beyond belief as to whether the thing would work.  I packed 3 Old Men on Monday and Tuesday, and on Wednesday went back up for early entry.

…to be continued…


1 As one does.

I did good

photo by Roger Easley

You may have noticed, in my gargantuan list of activities from yesterday, that a great many of them had to do with Alchemy, our fall regional Burning Man-style gathering.  Here’s what happened.

Last spring, we were on new property over in the Great Eastern Wastelands of Georgia and were thinking we had found a new, permanent home.  (We hadn’t.)  It was my second time helping the Placement Team lay out the burn, i.e., measuring out the campsites for the theme camps and marking them with stakes and construction tape, and even as we did it I figured that the layout was going to be problematic: it was little more than two straight streets, one each on two great legs of land in a V shape, with camps to either side.  (It didn’t help that Euphoria, the spring burn, has fewer participants and many camps set up away from the road, leaving huge tracts of land seemingly unoccupied.)

Sure enough, after the burn the complaints were consistent: it didn’t feel like a burn.  The hippies said it wasn’t explorable; it felt as if you were walking down a midway at a carnival.

Not a problem, I thought.  The Placement Lead and I had discussed the planning a couple of times, and he had readily admitted that this burn was an Abortive Attempt—just get it down and see what happens, and then we’ll make changes for the next burn.  Exactly as it should be, I thought.

And so that’s why I volunteered to be Placement Co-Lead.  I wanted to provide some insight on the “urban design” of the burn.  Toss in a few ideas, jigger with the map, and show up build weekend to drive stakes and stretch tape.  What could go wrong?

Here’s how that went wrong.

First, we moved again.  Rather than the Eastern Wasteland property, we were now on completely new territory.  Not a problem.  I mean, it’s just unfamiliar terrain, right?  (Actually, I was pleased.  I had issues with the previous property; I intended my input to ameliorate its deficiencies.)

Second, Real Life™ overtook my Placement Lead, and so one morning in August I awoke to find an email from our superior assuring her that Dale could step up and handle it.  Oy.  Of course I could handle it, but that’s not the point, hippies.  I have made it a part of my guiding philosophy not to be in charge any more.

My virgin canvas, Little Big Jam in Bowdon, GA

But I did it.  I redesigned and streamlined the registration form.  I whipped up a FileMaker Pro database to suck up all those registrations and slice and dice the info in ways that made sense.  I drove up to the farm about eight times to tromp all over that property, taking measurements and making notes as to which areas were unsuitable for camping.

(I may or may not have also picked an absolutely perfect spot for 3 Old Men, my own theme camp.  Sue me.)

But before all that, I wrote a manifesto.  I pulled A Pattern Language 1 from my shelf, picked the patterns I felt would contribute to the overall well-being of the hippies, and wrote a 14-page treatise entitled Patterns: the language of burn layout & placement.  You should read it.  (The response from one of my trusted mentors in the burn community: “This is brilliant.  No one else needs to see this.”)

Thus secured against surprise, I sat down before the fire to take my gruel.  Wait, no, that’s Christmas Carol, a whole ‘nother set of blog posts.

…to be continued…


1 A Pattern Language: book, website, pdf.  This book has been influential in my life in many, many ways.  Highly recommended.

Well, hello there!

Mercy, it’s been a month and a half since I’ve been able to even visit my blog.

You may wonder why, with all the foolishness available from the Presidential campaign, I have not been ranting nonstop during this time.  Two reasons: 1) I realized it would not be a healthy choice; and b) I’ve been busy.  For real busy.

Since I last spoke up here, I have:

  • helped clean out and shut down my in-laws’ house in Virginia, including a massive tag sale and dragging what wasn’t sold back here
    • local tag sale still to come
  • guided theme camps for Alchemy through the registration process for placement
  • designed the layout for the burn (on new property and thus tabula rasa)
  • driven up to the property five or six times to double-check my measurements and campability of the terrain
  • placed all those theme camps as close as I could to their requirements (all of which were “flat, by the road, near the treeline, centrally located, but away from the sound camps”)
    • this included 109 pieces of graph paper moving around for two weeks on an enlarged-by-hand map
  • created the Google map of the theme camps, art installations, roads/paths, stages, neighborhoods, villages, and infrastructure
  • generated the files for theme camp signs
  • led the Placement Team on build weekend, mapping out the theme camps and roads with stakes and tape
    • many changes in the map as we discovered space/time warpage on the property
  • coordinated my own theme camp, 3 Old Men, which had grown from about six campers to sixteen
  • packed and loaded an 8×10 trailer full of tubs, tents, tables, and general stuff for 3 Old Men
  • played Placement Overlord as the theme camps began arriving, making adjustments/giving permissions on the fly
  • enjoyed the burn
  • brought it all home, unpacked it, cleaned it (red dust everywhere), repacked it, stowed it
  • during all of this, auditioned A Christmas Carol and began rehearsing it
    • including creating/writing a frame story for the show to accommodate all the little girls (and scarcely any adults) who auditioned
  • coached my Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year nominee in essay writing, speech giving, and interview skills
  • contracted for two huge oak trees to be taken down
    • which King Tree Service did in spectacular fashion, with a 30-ton crane reaching over the house to do so
  • contracted for a new fence for the back yard (First Fence of Georgia—they just started this morning, and so far I have nothing but praise for the entire company)
  • closed out my late mother’s estate

So yeah, I’ve been busy, too busy to write on this blog WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE WANT FROM ME??

We now return you to your regularly scheduled service.

There’s more

More spam email subject lines:

  • Identify Your Strength and Weekness
  • View Recent gastric Bypass Solutions
  • Here’s a Great-way to Get Your Bladder Under Contro….
  • Life Saving Flashlight
  • Summer Drone Sale
  • Discover The Least Attractive Cities in America [ed: What?  Why?? And it’s actually from a legit source.]
  • Find Breast Augmentation Here
  • (dale) Start a fire in any condition
  • If you have always-assumed renting a private-yacht…
  • Unflattering-tabloid photos expose Melissa…


Spam poetry

Time once again to flush the old spam filter…

(All capitalization and punctuation exactly as in the original.)

  • 12 Biblical Ingredients That Can Reverse Diabetes
  • 3 Things Jesus Said About How To Cure Disease
  • THIS is how Korean girls get rid of blackheads
  • Browse Used cars That Go Wherever You Take Them
  • Compare Alcohol Rehab Options
  • (dale) Doctors amazed at new “gut” medicine
  • Harvard studies “Viagra” for the brain
  • Tactical LED Flashlight
  • Financing Programs make Walk-In Bath Tubs Affordab…
  • 2 Match users are searching for you (find out who)
  • The Business-Candidacy Registry is In-Need of Your…
  • Online Bachelors, Study At Your Own Pace
  • We miss you Dale Lyles
  • Find an addiction rehab center today
  • The sale is almost over for this amazing flashligh…
  • This will change your life..
  • Find A Golf Date
  • Regarding your Participation in a Rosacea Clinical…
  • Enjoy The Company Of Majestic-beasts In The Africa…
  • (dale) Want Trump’s brain?

And with that, I’m out.


Not quite. I couldn’t resist taking a peek inside that last one.

Imagine less exhaustion, more focus, and a better memory. =
 Find out what CEOs like Donald Trump and other world leaders ha=
 ve known and used for years. =0D
 No tricks. Just solid nutritional science. =0D
 Learn More >>=0D
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 e weekend. Numbers catalog chess, then gear yahoo altered reminder, and cus=
 tomer. However, fabric frequency algerian message, so advertise morgen, or =
 personalized. But, engineering thank teaching honolulu, and so belong item.=
 Fax view ticket phase, and employer, but password reference, so chi. There=
 fore, juno posted, then freemail, or banking chad, and so june damage. Howe=
 ver, update dad, and so size brush, or tonight sale, and dine, then inspect=
 ion, so confirmation. Foundation at library hunger, but discussion powered =
 anon, and puzzle. Gallery strip, but tax reliance, and so page, so saturday=
 . Seller webmaster, then thread sharply, or liable, but para. So, pickup re=
 ferral dear, so developer wallpaper, or log quantity study, then alert. Als=
 o, team dispatch command, and splash settle. Church pour sender, and so tha=
 nks might, then mailman matched. Topic postcard comic, and so periodic embe=
 dded, or herr. Inquiry recipient.=0D
 This email went to For no more from us, go here=0D
 Can also reach us by mail at =0D
 300 33RD AVE S STE 101 - WAITE PARK - MN 56387-4523=0D
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 hen needs stop, and grasping false, but equivalencies between, so trump cli=
 nton. An italian bishop issued, then sharp critique, so suspected shoddy, =
 and so construction behind. A major democratic, so group, and so canceling=
 spending ohio, or senate, but race where. Trinity health hospital, and mi=
 not have, but agreed, then principal legal, so settlement with. As refugee=
 , and so children escaped, so boko, but haram starve, then nigeria, or prob=
 es theft. The latest syrian kurdish, and so fighters, or turkish military,=
 but reportedly agree temporary. Los angeles police have, and been called =
 singer, so chris brown home. The state department says, or about emails in=
 volving, then attack compounds benghazi. Simona halep, so gave, then herse=
 lf less than, and so quick, or work kirsten flipkens. The agriculture depa=
 rtment, then closed offices, but five states after, or receiving anonymous.=
 Small liquid visited couch, and so this changes, and with this ea=
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 timeline mass complete, but which every, and so august that, or even linda,=
 and solid equator, then that about, so them where, or giant largest, but s=
 outhern deck, then solar, and review, and so imaged, or caused shape, then =
 into neptune, but uranus methane, and seven, and so active, so royal locked=
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 magnetic video neptune, but contain these, then neptune march, and souther=
 n, then kuiper terry uranus.=0D

That’s poetry. But I’m already years behind on my SUN TRUE FIRE project, so I will resist the urge to turn that into something.

But you can. Be my guest.

New Cocktail: the Pear-ly Legal

I bought pear juice for a Vanilla Pear Margarita, and that was fine but not exciting.  So now I’m stuck with all this pear juice.  I grabbed the first thing to hand, and …

the Pear-ly Legal*

  • 1.5 oz pear juice
  • .75 oz apricot liqueur
  • .5 oz cognac

Shake with ice.  Garnish with a thin slice of pear, edged with cinnamon sugar.

This is quite tasty.


  • Thanks to Craig for the name!

A yummy recipe

Last night I intended to make a shrimp/pasta dish using some basil, kind of a pesto-like Alfredo sauce kind of thing.  But then…

After I had prepped the shrimp, the resulting sauce was too good to mess up with additional flavors.  Here you go:

Super Simple Shrimp

Recipe By: Dale Lyles
Serving Size: 2


  • 10-12 shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1-2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • sea salt
  • white pepper


  1. Season the shrimp with the salt and white pepper.
  2. In a skillet, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and stir briefly.
  3. Add the shrimp and cook over medium-medium high heat for about 3 minutes on each side.  Remove to a plate.
  4. Add the wine and lemon juice, increase the heat, and gently boil until reduced by half.
  5. Put the shrimp back in, toss to cover, and serve.