27 October 2007

Dismembering gourds

So last Saturday a group of us got together over at Brian's & Christy's and partook in the annual tradition of pumpkin carving. I nearly canceled twice the week leading up to the festivities for emotional reasons. Not that I draw any affinity to squash, rather pumpkin-carving parties were what Tasha and I did together for the past seven years, and it didn't feel right to do it without her.

Nonetheless I went and happy I did. I continued my streak of carving a Star Wars-themed Jack-o-lantern; choosing to etch out the visage of a stormtrooper.

Mine is in the middle, thanks for the pic Sandi:




Here are some of the ones I did in the past couple of years:





ARTIST OF THE POST

Dave Matthews Band - It's just where I am at in my life right now.

21 October 2007

They have a bouncy castle

I know it's quite odd for a 32-year-old single guy without kids to have so many pictures of children. What can I say, I love my niece and my friends' kids. Good people with good children and this is what happens when you get older; everybody propagates.

So Saturday was Hannah's 2nd birthday party back at my mom's place in Chicago. I actually think my mother is unable to move out if she ever wanted to. I believe it's in the family clause of the contract, but that yard is used so much for family functions I'm surprised it hasn't been zoned commercial yet.

I think you can get the picture of what the scene was like. I can. Lots of decorations, lots of kids, lots of screaming, lots of things going crash and, wait a minute...



They got a bouncy castle! Nobody told me they were getting a bouncy castle! I would have flown in if I knew there was a bouncy castle involved. And hold on a second...



Cupcakes! I love chocolate cupcakes! I supposed you had stuffed pizza as well. Ah...stuffed pizza!

I digress. Everybody had a wonderful time. I mean really, does that not look like content cuteness right there:



I guess I also have to fess up to a statement I made in the last post about my mom and sister making Hannah too girlie. One of her birthday gifts from me was this:



So yes I am just as guilty and my mother let me know about it as well:

The jacket you got Hannah is adorable - she will look great in it. And don't talk about Mommy and Nonna putting her in pink and purple - you got her pink too.


Thanks mom. Realized the hypocrisy when I ordered it. Also found out that Nonna is not Nana. Teach the kid pronunciation will ya! Any ways, do you know how impossible it is to find girl clothes which don't have the colors pink or purple in them? Darn near impossible. And I have to confess I do feel very awkward when I go to the store and am perusing through the kids clothing section. I get this ESP feeling that all of these mothers think I am some sort of sick creep.

As for life in Colorado, I'm musing on the memory of trail-running yesterday in shorts and a tanktop as I watch the snowflakes whisk by out the window. The Jack-o-lantern I carved yesterday at my friends' party appears to have a bad case of dandruff as I can measure over three inches of freshies on my balcony.

One more good storm and I'll be heading out to the backcountry in search of some powder stashes without worrying about giving my skis a bad case of talus-burn.

Think today will be spent doing some chores, drafting a couple of cover letters for a pair of jobs in South America and maybe some work on my novel.

ARTIST OF THE POST

Linkin Park - It's an addicting song for some reason.

20 October 2007

Happy Birthday Hannah!

Yesterday was the second birthday of my niece Hannah, who many of you know I am very fond of. While she lives in Chicago, I talk with her about once a week. The key phrase there is I talk. Hannah talks but she does more looking at the phone, surprised that there is another voice on the other end other than Mama or Dada or Nana.



Her favorite past time when on the phone with me is naming everybody who she knows. It's quite funny actually. I know she can make sentences because I hear her in the background when I call either my sister or mom. But for some reason she gets phone fright and only gives me words.

Also I am not Uncle Ryan. When I was back visiting Chicago in July, you could see the mind working but the mouth doth protest with so many syllables. I had a simple solution. Just call me Dude. So on that humid, hazy Midwest afternoon, we each took a moment of silence to bury the short lifespan of Uncle Ryan. And out of the ashes and overturned syllabaric dirt arose Dude.

Obviously yesterday (coincidentally a month after my birthday) was a big day for Hannah and my family. Really it is the first birthday she is what I would consider to be a human. She's got personality now and more than just a pooping, sleeping, bumping into things little baby.

Hmm....does she love Lamby more than Dude?!



As you can see, my mother and sister are having a bad influence on the poor little girl. All pink and purple. I have my work cut out to make sure she ends up being a tomboy who can throw a crisp 12-6 curve, can spit at least 10 feet and enjoys the outdoors. She does love water though.



Her big gift from her parents was a brand new push-car coupe. And apparently the little tyke is so attached to it, I wouldn't be surprised if she slept in the thing last night. She also has an affinity for animals - which is well understood since she doesn't quite live in a house but more of a mini-zoo: two dogs, three cats and a cranky old Cockatiel. Not quite sure how she feels about frogs though...



While I am proud to share these photos of her, this posting also has a dual purpose; just some embarrassing material whenever she brings a boy to meet Dude, which hopefully will be about 20 years down the road!!

Boys?!



ARTIST OF THE POST

Feist - Just something light and irreverent for such a pink post

16 October 2007

Well I'll be damned

Congratulations to the Rockies. I have to say when they got to within five outs of advancing I kept on thinking back to 2003 and the Cubs. That's how close they came until they had their monumental collapse blamed on an overzealous fan.



When Colorado got past that hurdle, I knew they were in the clear, though they added a little drama in the 8th as Arizona came back. I dropped off my friend Brian at Coors Field after the show last night. He's credentialized through the World Series and got into the park in the 7th inning. After the game, he was down on the field and went back into the locker room and had a blast.

I'm glad for him because he had one of his worst days he's ever had at work, so it was a good reward after dealing with such melodrama in the newsroom. I'm sure 10 years from now he won't remember the undermining that a couple of coworkers were doing, instead he'll look back on this:



I watched the end of the game with my friend Dana at our usual place at our usual table during one of our every other week night out. The poor women gets to hear me vent. Had plenty to vent about Monday night as I got into a heated argument with one of our photographers and was actually shaking from adreneline - the two cups of coffee didn't help. It's hard to speak logically while all the time preparing to pummel somebody.

Gotta run and meet somebody for coffee.

12 October 2007

Is this thing on?

So my shoot in Boulder went well. Got up at the early-to-me (still trying to acquire a sleep schedule after two months of alternating between early morning and afternoon shifts) time of 7:30 am, got lucky with a no-traffic window and got out to INSTAAR (Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research) just off the University of Colorado campus early for my interview.

Wasn't sure what to expect. I never talked to my victim, er, interview on the phone, only corresponded via a few emails which were terse on his part. My biggest fear is he would be one of those types that have allowed their education go to their head. You know, the ones that earned their PhD and demand to be called "Doctor".

Sure I'm a bit rusty out in the field. Considering much of my time is behind a desk, it's not like I haven't done this before. Hell, I've interviewed everybody from senators to 4-year-old children. I just didn't want what could be a fun story to be ruined by somebody who was stuffy.

However I felt he couldn't be that bad of a guy after checking out his personal page. C'mon, can this guy look intimidating?



The interview went well and Mark wound up being a guy I could go have a beer with. The interesting part was also being the videographer as well. During the interview, I constantly was thinking about framing and if I should zoom in for a vistage shot and what kind of lighting do I have, is the bloody thing recording? You know, the important stuff.

But this is really only for the sound that might be overlaid on some B roll I get next week. So we set up an appointment to meet Tuesday morning and head up to Niwot Ridge so I can get the money shots.





It is interesting what they do. For instance, they have discovered their is more nitrogen release in the winter and that level has quadrupled in the past 20 years. Why? They discovered life. Seriously! They discovered microbes that only exist predominately in the winter time that like the insulating effect of the snow. If I lived up in the Indian Peaks I would want to be insulated as well. The wind blows on an average at 25 mph. That is gale warning speed. One researcher has discovered that at just over 100 mph, one can actually fly! Might have to take a few more sojourns back to the area this winter!!



Plans for the weekend? None really. Probably try to fall off some rocks on Saturday. Been invited out on Sunday but my place is in desperate need of a cleaning. Plus I have yet to put my books back up after staining my downstairs bookshelf. It'll be much easier to put on the apron with cruddy weather outside.

ARTIST OF THE POST
Elliot Smith - Many know him from his song from Good Will Hunting. Took his life in 2003. Hope it was poetic and he found peace.

09 October 2007

White strip of death

October 10th!! October 10th!! These resorts are taking this race to be first a little too far. So on Wednesday, October 10th, 2007, Arapahoe Basin will officially become the first ski resort in the nation to open for the season, which is news to me because I didn't realize ski season began when there are still green leaves on the trees and I will probably be out doing something in shorts and a T-shirt.

But in the never-ending challenge to be the initial provider of something, be it skiing, news or a laundry detergent that actually does get out red wine stains, the blurring wheels of technology revolve at blinding speed to churn out what the masses want. Never mind the fact that outside of the ONE strip of snow, the high country is bone dry.

Take a look for yourself

My friend Dana will keep alive her streak of four consecutive years of snowboarding on the first day the first resort opens. She knows it is flippant but it just helps crave her Jones for carving some turns - even if the snow beneath her board has the tensile strength of a Slushee that has melted sitting on a park bench and then stuck back in the freezer.

The race to offer the first chance to ski in the year has been an on-going battle between Arapahoe Basin and Loveland. But as a member of the esteemed (cough) media, I can tell you being first isn't always being the best.



Facts change, stories change, and quality gets tossed out like an overripe banana in the race to be first to bring you (insert said product that you can't live without yet somehow managed to for the previous X amount of years of your life) before anybody else did.




Never mind substance, let's just stick with flash, that will distract the audience long enough. Until they realize they have been flimflammed too long.

ARTIST OF THE POST

Laura Veirs - funky, folksy and bizzare imagery.

07 October 2007

Elk, dogs and elevated heartrates

A shower has never felt so good. There is credence to the simple pleasures of a hot shower after several days camping, after an irksome day at work or after a good cardio workout.

Started the day with designs on completing a trail run followed by a bouldering session at Pence and O'Fallon parks up in Jefferson County. Parked at the trailhead, put on some gloves to afford some protection from developing handsicles in the chill and turned on the iPod. I never took the trail up out of the parking lot at Pence Park and now seemed like a good time.

It started off well; a nice rocky trail that broke up the tedious monotony that occasionally accompanies running. Then things got steep. How steep? Those in the know will understand the description of "climber trail" steep.

Why is my heart pounding? Looking down I can see my legs still churning; why aren't I going anywhere quickly? Maybe because I can see the ground at eye level four feet in front of me.

According to the bouncing altimeter on my wrist, I scampered up over 300 feet in about six minutes. The aftershocks were any small incline after that felt like scaling K2. When I saw a couple of downhill bikers donning their protective armor, I understood why my heart was pounding, why my lungs were resperating as if the fast-forward button had become stuck and why my rib cage felt constrictive.

Running down the hill was not any easier. The nice thing is it makes you adopt quick feet to avoid sliding down on your backside, rolling an ankle or spiraling through the air in a manner reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes sledding.

For some reason, my legs ignored my mental urges to stop and I continued over to O'Fallon Park, up the trail and onto the Ridge Trail. Finally when the way began it's long descent, my body listened to my executive decision to savor a few minutes to break, enjoy the view over to Bierstadt, Mt Evans and the Sawtooth Ridge.

A moment of drama presented itself on my way back. I took a way trail up a ridge that passes underneath a bouldering area I've been frequenting lately. Along the skyline I spotted a canine running. Coyote? Too big. I realized it was a fairly burly dog, which was now running towards me, barking viciously during its intercepting sprint. I shouted authoritatively at it to no avail. Finally its owners feebly began yelling at the dog with no effect.

Either it ultimately heeded its owners' calls or realized I wasn't blenching when it got within 10 feet of me. As I ran pass the languid owners, they shouted out apologies for their overprotective dog. I didn't bother sharing with them that I had my climbing knife out and open and was going to put an end to Fido if he attacked.

Mind you, I love animals - more so than people to be truthful. But I wouldn't lose sleep killing somebody's pet if it means protecting myself or somebody I care about.

Anyways onto Saturday:

FLYING J RANCH

video

SIDENOTE: It's interesting to hear my downstairs neighbor moan about some play which happened on whatever NFL game he's watching. How about you shift your beer-fed paunch, get off your haunches and do something yourself that might be memorable one day? I'm off my sanctimonious soapbox now.

I finally fulfilled a months-old pledge to take my friend Brian out mountain biking. He bought a nice Fuji bike a few months back and truthfully it was looking too shiny. Not a single speck of dirt or scratch on it. We were going to have to change that and get him off pavement for his first time.

I'm not a sadist so I took him to the most mild singletrack I knew of: Flying J Ranch outside of Conifer. Gave him some pointers about shifting, looking ahead and bike balance.



Several times he informed me I was trying to kill him and there was one occurrence I heard the tell-tale sound that signifies "We've got a biker down"! Well, you're supposed to get scraped up and a little bloody from time to time; that's how you know you're alive.



I have to say I'm proud of the guy. I told him the first time on the trail is by far the hardest and he made it the entire 5 miles.

Afterwards we drove up Hwy 73 to my second home, Alderfer/Three Sisters Open Space Park. On the way to my favorite bouldering area, we came across some natives.



One elk quickly multiplied into nine as we searched the surrounding forest and discovered the heard on both sides of us, including the patriarch.



When we got to within 25 feet of him, he bugled his displeasure, making each of us take a step off the trail away from him.

Finally we got to the Big Boulder - that's at least what myself and a couple other climbers call it - and I forced Brian to endure about an hour of my playtime.





I tried not taking too long, even though I warned him about my intentions. Still my energy was getting sapped by cutting out the rests. I found enough reserves to get in a traverse into a highball.



Padding to the top after the 30-foot climb felt good, especially after an exposed smear of faith up high.



Tetzler's torturing continued afterwards as we made our way up the trail to the base of two of the sisters. Scrambling up, I pointed where he wanted to put his feet and hands. Finally we got to the top of one of the formations and looked out onto the vista.



A treat of some Chicago hot dogs in Evergreen concluded a fun afternoon. Now we just have to see if Brian ever answers any calls from me again.

ARTIST OF THE POST: Tori Amos - Randomly came on while online. I enjoy the juxtaposition of the high note melody on the piano accompanied by occasional forceful drum.

06 October 2007

Looking back at the Cotswolds

While it's been months since we spent time across the pond in England, I thought I would share some of the trip, especially since I teased it four months ago.

When Americans envision the English countryside, the drummed-up sight could best be found in the Cotswolds. We were lucky enough to spend two days in this area and for me, it was what I was seeking when I got off the plane sleep deprived at Heathrow.

It seems like our sojourn there was a lifetime ago, not that four months have passed since. Actually looking back on the entire trip is a surreal experience. It feels like I was never there, or that it was from another life, which in many senses, it was. But for the sake of posterity, here is a quick visual tour:

Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe. There has been a castle on the grounds since the 11th century

On-site monastery



More of the grounds







After the tour of the castle, we proceeded up for a hike in the wold up to a Neolithic barrow.





Since the trip was somewhat last minute, we were lucky to find room in a B&B in a hamlet nearby, Broadway. It's not often one sleeps in a 13th-century building that was once a granary.

We then proceeded to take another walk on the greenway - a series of right-aways through various fields and properties. Our destination was an old church outside of Broadway.





The next day we decided to hike up more pastures to Broadway Tower - a whimsy built by somebody with too much free time and money several centuries ago. The site was used traditionally for signal fires; the vista provides views for many miles over the Cotswolds.



Of course the night before we went to a pub in the town for food, pints and entertainment. But something strange happened.

video

ARTIST OF THE POST


Snow Patrol - Not Grey's Anatomy!!

04 October 2007

Somebody call a doctor



Because I had no emotions at all during the first game of the NLDS between Chicago and Arizona. I didn't flinch anytime when the Cubs went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Nor did I get excited when they finally scratched out a run against Brandon Webb.

I just witnessed a very good baseball game that Arizona deserved to win. They got clutch long balls when they needed them, some good defensive plays and Webb had his nasty sinker working.

Also the pundits who say manager Lou Pinella cost his squad the game by pulling Zambrano after six innings are just nit-picking.

Last I checked Carlos Marmol was one of, if not the best reliever in baseball. Him giving up a monsterous shot to Mark Reynolds in the seventh caught me be surprised as well.



Pinella is an old-school type of manager who relies on his gut (which is ever-expanding) as much as match-up data. Would it been better if it was Zambrano who gave up the go-ahead run in the seventh inning instead of Marmol? Then he would have been criticized for leaving Big Z in the game too long.

The game I was watching had Chicago losing because of situations like the third:

Top 3rd: Chi Cubs
- C. Zambrano doubled to left center
- A. Soriano struck out swinging
- J. Jones struck out swinging
- D. Lee struck out looking


I have a feeling one of the next two games will be a slugfest. We'll see who comes out on top.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

I am rooting for the Rockies. However my allegiances will switch today when Philadelphia trots Kyle Kendrick to the mound. When I say that I have watched the kid grow up, I'm being literal. I remember writing a story about him when he was a stud Little League player.

The thing I always noticed about Kendrick is he was always humble, even if he was by far the best athlete on the baseball or football field. I interviewed with him the day he got drafted by the Phillies. He thanked every single coach he played for and his family. No ego whatsoever. It's hard not to root for a professional athlete like that.

ARTIST OF THE POST


Cat Power - Hauntingly powerful.

03 October 2007

Guaranteeing rain on Friday

Now I try to stay positive most of the time. However there are just some forces that are beyond your control. Maybe after years of planning, I finally am getting wise to the predisposed fact that if I make plans to climb on a given day, the weather will not cooperate.

I'm not trying to be gloomy - though the skies will be on Friday. However I think my personal joke of "I should move to the Sahara because I could make it an Eden." actually has some truth to it.

When you live in Washington, rain is inevitable - in fact it is a given. For years on our drives north of the border to British Columbia, we would fictitiously sell our souls in order to appease the puissant powers that play with us like marionettes in order to garner favor for a dry day at Squamish.

It worked, and the soul mercantile continued, until we ran out of souls. So we would put the spirits of people we knew in hock - we're sorry, we're paying off the Beelzebub Pawn Shop for the return of these pristine animes.

After the move to Colorado - a locale that boasts about 300 days of sunshine a year, we thought our struggle was over. So much for assumptions. Time and time again the weather spirits laughed at our folly, and if it wasn't rain, it was snow or heavy winds.

So Friday I have plans to go to The Flatirons for a quick romp before work that afternoon. I mean this looks fun doesn't it?



A nice easy 3-pitch climb on the textured goodness that is the Flatiron's sandstone - and it even has a rappel tree to boot.



So with this in mind, I do not have to possess the meteorological acumen of my friend Jason to inform you to turn off your automated sprinkler system on Friday. A wet front will swoop down from someplace near Boulder and bring a steady drizzle through the early part of Friday into the early afternoon.

Though I do have some friends whose souls I haven't bartered with...

Devil laugh