"Santa left presents under the tree!"

That's what Peggy and I awoke to this morning at a respectable 7:15a. So we made our way downstairs to watch Chloe unwrap what was given to her by Santa, Rudolph, Chamberlain, and Peggy and me.

As coincidence has it, the first thing she opened was THE thing she wanted Santa to bring her: the Bratz girls house and dolls. (An aside: Neither Peggy nor I saw a toy with SO many little pieces. Some were just a little bigger than the head of a matchstick. I have a feeling the vacuum cleaner is going to be nabbing some of them over the next couple of weeks.) In addition to the toys and games (e.g. Uno, a basketball, science kit, RipStick, to name a few) Peggy and I also made a point of making sure Chloe received "experiences." To that end, she got a trip to the Denver Nature and Science Museum, trips to the observatory at CU, and a 1-hour glider ride over Boulder (I'll be joining her for that one!)

To our delight, the weather was nice enough for us to go outside in the afternoon for a family walk to the neighborhood park to let both Chamberlain run around and Chloe get used to her RipStick. Afterwards, it was back to the house to make dinner (ham, fish, and green bean casserole) and dessert (raisin pie).

(Pictures, top to bottom: Chloe giving it a go on her RipStick; my raisin pie.)


The Tradition Grows, and our Little Angel

With no reason to see we shouldn't just because we're in a different time zone, Peggy, Chloe and I continued the Christmas Eve Day Bowling tradition that was started about 20 years with my friend Phil and brother Eric. We were joined by friends who, like my and Phil's parents 2 decades ago, thought it was a good idea to get their kids out of the house for a couple of hours. (For a brief history of the tradition, go to the bottom of this post.)

The High Score Award goes to Eric for his 196, with honorable mentions going to Brad (176, Boulder high score), and Kevin (154, Yardley, PA high score)

Tonight was also the Christmas Pageant at the church we've been visiting. Chloe reprised her role as Angel and did a great job in singing "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night."

(Pictures: Chloe showing her winning form [l]; and in her Christmas dress [r])


The Bowling on Christmas Eve Day Tradition

It all started about 20 years ago when I was hanging out at my friend Phil’s house on Dec. 24. His Dad was the pastor at the church so he was busy. His Mom was prepping like most Mom’s on that day so she, too, was busy. And my friend and I, being dutiful teenage boys, were driving both of them nuts. His mom said we better find something to do or else… so we called around to different bowling alleys to see which ones were open (most were to our surprise), and then called my brother Eric to chauffeur us to the alley.

It was such a great way to get out of our parents' hair and bide some time before the fun/chaos ensued, we did it the following year, too. Even when we went our different ways – to college, for career – Phil, Eric and I usually found ourselves – jointly or individually – in a bowling alley on 12/24. And so, for almost every year since, I've gone bowling with family and friends.


Playing in Powder

Us Schrammels, along with our friend Carl, spent the day at Eldora. Chloe was enrolled in her 3rd lesson, which left, Peggy, Carl and I to go play in some 6" of new snow that fell overnight.

What became immediately obvious to Peggy and I is that these conditions are completely different than what we skied in in PA, NH or ME. How so?
  1. Less ice. MUCH less ice. Virtually NO ice.
  2. When you hit a knee-high pile of snow here, it dissipates because it's powdery. We're used to hitting a pile of snow and it being a lot denser, which usually causes one to brace for the impact and adjust balance.
After lunch, Peg traded in the skis for her snowshoes and did some trekking around Eldora's Nordic Center, and Carl and I went back out on the slopes. What all 3 of us noticed quickly is that the temperature dropped pretty significantly while we were inside. Carl and I did a couple of runs then found ourselves in a small summit cafe to warm up. (I don't know the temperature at the time, but when we left for the day 1 hour later it was 10 degrees.) We did one more run, and then met up with Peggy. She put her skis back on so we could do some runs with Chloe after her lesson.

And my, what a little skier we have on our hands! She's skiing on green (beginner) trails now, and is gradually progressing to longer and slightly steeper runs. And her stability/balance have improved greatly since her last lesson. She's not "snowplowing" as much and is pretty good at bringing her skis closer to parallel on the turns. Her big trick today was showing us how she skied through the woods... kinda. Right off the lift we were on there's a 50 foot trail that skirts through some trees before emptying back out on to the trail. There's still some practice to be done, but Peggy and I couldn't be more proud of her and how well she is doing.


A Day of Fun Hodgepodge

Today was a good mix of fun things.
  • It started off by Peggy and I dropping Chloe off at church for the Christmas Pageant rehearsal... she's slated to be an angel (insert own joke here.)
  • While she was there, Peg and I did some different things - she went for a run along the Boulder Creek Path, and I returned a book and checked out a new one from the Boulder Public Library. (Yes, I actually read a book, Phil.) The one I read/returned was called "Trail of Tears" by Gloria Jahoda, and chronicled the forced migration of eastern Native American tribes to lands West of the Mississippi River. The one I checked out is called "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown.
  • After picking up Chloe from pageant rehearsal, we grabbed some lunch downtown, and then strapped on some ice skates for some fun family time on at a local outdoor rink.
  • After skating, Peg went to volunteer at a local food pantry, and Chloe and I stayed home to play Crazy 8s. (She's pretty good, actually. I'll teach her Texas Hold 'Em next.)
  • Upon Peg's return from the food pantry, I drove her and Chloe around to neighborhood friends so they could deliver some holiday cookies they made over the weekend.
(Pictures, top to bottom: Chloe and Peggy at the local ice rink; the juxtaposition of the banner with the nature of the store was too good to pass up.)



Peggy and I ditched... work? No.

School? No.

Chamberlain at the house? Yes, but that's not very rebellious.

Anyway, we ditched something and stole away for a morning at Eldora. Not a lot of people so we could ski right on to the lift, and pretty good snow... gotta love midweek skiing!

We could only stay for about 2.5 hours and then headed back home so we could make it to Chloe's holiday party at school.


A Cycling Post

I learned a couple of days ago that I am now of member of the GS Boulder cycling team. (What does GS stand for? It's an Italian acronym for Gruppo Sportivo, or "Sporting Team.") The team is a nice of mix of cyclists, including avid racing types, enthusiastic recreationalists and those somewhere in between. I see myself closer to the latter category... lining up for a some road races here and there, but not planning on doing it every weekend from March through June. So does that mean I'll shave my legs? We'll just have to see about that one... with temps ranging from -11 to 11 today, it's tough to think about reducing the amount of insulation on my body right now. (For those who know a little about cycling, the club has some interesting folks in its history, which can be read about here.)

Another recent achievement is that I just passed the "3,000 miles" milestone for the year, a first for me in my 3 years of riding. Other personal bests achieved this year are max. avg. speed for a ride (19.9 mph), max. speed on a ride (48.5 mph), max. avg. climb gradient on a ride (5%), and max. feet climbed per mile – a measure of how "hilly" a ride is – (133). And after another 73 minutes in the saddle, I'll achieve a new record for yearly riding time (currently at 185.5 hours).

All of this might have some categorize me as "nuts," and, well, perhaps that is accurate... so be it. But, in Boulder, it might not even reach "par for the course" status... check this out.


Playtime for All!

Peggy's just 4 days into her "sabbatical" and to be honest with you, I've seen less of her now then when she was working from home. Today's adventure took her and Chamberlain hiking just North of Lyons, CO (which is about 13 miles north of Boulder). They did about 6 miles on mostly-snow-covered trails, not seeing a single soul all day, unless you count the 15 or so deer. (Interesting sidenote: the one trail they took is called Sleeping Lion Trail, and it got its name from a mountain lion that used to take a 45 minute nap there.) Unfortunately, the battery on the point and shoot petered out and she wasn't able to get pix of Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak. But she was able to get a picture of Chamberlain in the snow (right).

But, Peggy and Chamberlain weren't the only ones to have some outdoor fun today. Chloe and I were invited to join her friend Clay and his mom for some ice skating after school. It was the first time skating for both Chloe and Clay... each took their fair share of falls, the worst of which was less than 30 seconds before stepping off the ice to leave. But considering they've never tried to balance and propel themselves on two narrow slivers of steel, both did very well. Perhaps another Torvill and Dean in the making? Luckily, I recharged the battery on the point and shoot and was able to take some pix. (Right: Clay and Chloe waiting for the Zamboni to clear the ice.)


Another Great Day on the Slopes

Even though the warm temperatures this weekend did a number on the snow in Boulder (we were down to bare grass by Sunday afternoon), they had less of an effect at Eldora, which sits at about 9,200 feet above sea level. And it certainly didn't lessen Chloe's excitement for taking another lesson, or Peg's for wanting to try out her new skis.

Chloe spent the entire day's lesson on the bunny slope and did another great job. Peggy and I watched her a little before lunch, and she was a little wobbly on the steeper part of the trail. But when I checked on her at the end of the day, she was managing her way down the entire trail without any assistance... quite an improvement in 4 hours! Chloe also had her first taste of riding the chair lift, which Peggy and I thought she would be excited to talk about. Nope... she was all excited to tell us about riding the local shuttle bus from the bunny slope to the lodge.

Peg's new ski/binding/boot combo worked out well, though her legs were a little tired from the run she did this morning. She'll be heading back up to Eldora later this week to take a lesson... can ya' tell she's enjoying her time off?


Tea for Two

Peggy and Chloe had Christmas Tea together this afternoon, continuing a tradition they started when we lived in Richboro. This year's installment took place at the historic Hotel Boulderado (no, that's not a typo), a 100-year old Victorian hotel in downtown Boulder. While sipping their tea and eating their finger sandwiches and scones with clotted cream, they were entertained by a choral group in Victorian garb singing seasonal pieces.


An End. A Beginning. And a Month In Between.

Today was Peggy's last day of working for PharmaNet. For the last several weeks, she was being recruited by another consulting company called United BioSource Corporation. The offer she got from UBC was too good to refuse, so she decided to "give notice" to the folks at PharmaNet and she and they came up with today as being her last.

Her beginning at UBC, though, doesn't officially start until January 6, 2009. By doing some quick math, you'll notice that's about a month away. She plans on filling her days between now and then with hiking, skiing, volunteering at a local food pantry, and driving her husband batty.


A Winter Blanket

We got visited by an early winter storm today. What was supposed to be a couple hour event putting 3-4" of snow on the ground turned into an all-day affair, leaving about 8-9" of light, fluffy snow to live with. It didn't have much of an impact on daily living here, but it did make for some pretty scenery. Unfortunately, though, it probably won't last long because temps are expected to be in the 50s (and possibly higher) over the weekend.

(Pictures, left to right: snow-dusted Flatirons; the blanket of snow in Boulder Canyon.)


"I'm Going to Rock This Place Out!"

Those were the words uttered this morning by Chloe as we headed out for our 1st day of skiing here, and her 1st time EVER on skis. (Nope... she is not lacking in confidence.)

We spent the day at Eldora, a ski area 40 minutes/25 miles away. We arrived in plenty of time, which allowed us to get a "lay of the land" and let Chloe take what ever nature breaks she needed before suiting up and spending the day in ski school. (Peg and I dropped her off at 9:30a, and under instruction of the ski school staff, we were asked to not interact with her again until 3:00p.) The instructors take the kids out for a little, come back in for snack, go back out for a little more, come back in for lunch, go back out for little, come back in for snack, and go back out again to finish off the lesson.

While Chloe learned how strange it is to stand on a slope and have slippery planks attached to the bottom of her feet, Peggy and I checked out the rest of the mountain. And that took all of about 1 hour. It's not a criticism of the ski area: the warm weather I wrote about over the last couple of weeks, while great for biking, didn't help the ski areas out. So, Eldora has only 4 trails open -- 2 beginner, and 2 intermediate. Perhaps it was a good omen of days and weeks to come, but the afternoon we spent skiing in a steady snow flurry.

At 3:00, Peggy and I met up with Chloe and her instructors to see how the 1st day went. In one word: Awesome. She was a little nervous at first, but he said as the day went along, she really improved and picked up the early basics quite well. She did so well that she progressed through the 1st three stages (of 5) they have for beginner skiers!

We celebrated in the lodge by planning her next lesson, and taking in some candy and soda. I thought the sugar from that, combined with a successful first day on the slopes, would have carried Chloe home. But 20 minutes into the trip back home, we looked back and saw Chloe slumped over in her car seat, asleep.

Mom and Dad are very proud of their Chloe for rocking that place out!

(Pictures, top to bottom: one bundled up snow bunny; Chloe and I celebrating a successful day at Eldora; the newest skiing family.)


Another family hike

KnPnCnC took advantage of yet another unseasonably warm day (temp in the mid/upper 50s) and headed to NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research), which is located in southwest Boulder. The destination: Mallory Cave. The distance: 1.1 miles O/W. The elevation gain: 920 feet.

For a good part of the year (from April 1 to October 1) entrance into Mallory Cave is closed in order to protect the Townsend's big-eared bat, a species of bat that uses the cave as a breeding place. The first part of trail has an interpretative section, with signage along the way informing readers about local weather patterns. One little nugget we picked up from this section of trail was that West Boulder gets, on average, 20 more inches of snow per year than East Boulder. (If you're a weather nut and/or would like to pick up some other little nuggets on regional Boulder weather, visit this site.) Once past the interpretive section, it was pretty normal hiking... rocks, trees, the occasional view of Denver, and Chamberlain sniffing EVERYTHING. Eventually, we got to a place in the trail where dogs were allowed to be off-leash, and Chamberlain looked like a pup again (whitening face aside.)

The final approach to the final approach (you read that right) was unlike any other we've seen... the trail became a series of multiple short switchbacks, many of which were less than 20 feet in length, as it worked its way up between two huge slabs of pink sandstone. Once done with the switchbacks, we saw the final approach to the cave... a 50-foot vertical scramble up a sandstone slab.

Considering she had never done anything like this, Peggy and I were surprised with Chloe's enthusiasm for scrambling up it. This wasn't like her time in the rock gym where there were ropes and helmet... one misstep here could lead to a pretty good "ouchy." With Chamberlain along, we knew it wouldn't be in his best interest to attempt the scramble, so Peg stayed behind. (Even if he could manage the scramble, who knows what the boy would get himself into in a cave where bat guano might be aplenty.)

So up Chloe and I went, her first with me close behind, pointing out where to put hands and feet, and putting myself in position to act as a net if need be. Thankfully, that part of my service went unused. In fact, she did GREAT! Grabbing and pulling and pushing and squeezing her way up to the top, and not thinking much of it. As we got to the cave, we realized we left the flashlight with Peggy, but no matter as the bats were gone and it was basically one large chamber and not really much else to explore. Now it was time to explain to Chloe that there's another half to the challenge of visiting the cave: getting back down the steep 50-foot slab.

So, now in reverse order (and me still preserving the roles of hold pointer and net) down we went. In order to keep her close to the slab and leaning back, we spent a lot of time on the descent scooting along on our butts. Chloe commented at one point, "It's just like going down a slide!" I didn't feel it was right to tell her there weren't cushioning wood chips awaiting us at the bottom if we started sliding, though. Just like her performance ascending, she did a great job coming back down... finding places to put her hands and feet so she can lower herself down and control her own weight. It was a great achievement for our 5 year old (and a pretty proud moment for Peggy and I), and one that I put up there with her learning how to ride a bike. Chloe was so bolstered by her performance that once we got back down with Peggy and Chamberlain, it didn't take long for her to start giving pointers to other hikers contemplating making the scramble!

As we started making our way down the switchbacks, it became apparent that Chamberlain took the time waiting for Chloe and I to return to recharge his batteries. No sooner do we get past the first couple of switchbacks and he starts running around like a maniac. He goes charging down the trail to play with 2 Blue Heelers and had a display of energy the likes of which neither Peggy nor I have seen in a while.

By the time we got back to the car, Chamberlain's energy had waned, but Chloe's was pretty solid, for she knew the next stop was an ice cream shop. (Thanks Yardley friends... we finally got around to using the Glacier Homemade Ice Cream gift certificate!)

All in all, a great day in Boulder!

We didn't take a camera with us, but here are two pictures by others I found on the web of the final approach to the cave.


Report card time!

Chloe recently finished her 1st trimester in Kindergarten, and Peggy and I couldn't be happier with the report card she brought home.

Her school doesn't use A-B-C grades; rather, they report on a "progress scale" on certain broad-category standards, such as reading, writing, science, social studies, etc. For all of the standard categories, Chloe received either an "Excellent" for progress or "Good."

Then within each broad category, there are some more detailed achievement measures (e.g. for Writing, the teacher indicates Chloe's progress on 3 areas: writing and drawing to convey thoughts and meaning; printing in upper and lower case letters; and using letter/sound relationships to spell simple words.) Well, for all of these "more detailed" achievement areas, Chloe received either a 4 (advanced achievement) or 3 (proficient achievement).

The funniest achievement measure came in Music... she got a 3 (proficient achievement) for "Keeps a steady beat." Clearly, the music teacher hasn't seen the videos of Chloe I recently posted here!


So much for having a good day...

...for it appears as if I have a one-way, non-refundable, non-transferable ticket to h-e-double toothpicks. Here's proof.

MAN! I'm gonna really miss snow.




Need a stocking stuffer idea?

Well, do I have something for you! Maybe.

This whole bailout business has got me in a tizzy. The list of who got what (Exhibit A) and who is still looking to get public funds to save their hide (e.g. Detroit's Big 3, subprime lenders and borrowers, etc.) is long, and growing by the day. (Read this NY Times article about some interesting requests.) And it irks me that people who stayed within their means, took on less-risky loans, etc. are going to get kicked in the teeth over this for years to come.

So, I've come up with something that like-minded individuals might want to buy. A bumper sticker that has a short, polite yet not-so-subtle message to those whose decisions got us into this mess:

If I can get sincere requests for them – price point estimate right now is between $2 and $3/sticker (depending on overall quantity I get printed) including shipping and handling, minimum 5 stickers per order – I just might pull the trigger and get them printed. (I could sell it for less, but it would be at a loss. Which means, I guess, I'd be eligible for bailout money because I'm trying to stimulate the economy, yes?) The final image (e.g. font, color, etc.) may change, but I foresee the text staying the same.

Anyway, if you're sincerely interested in ordering at least 5, let me know. And by all means, pass this along to family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc.


Humor of the Economics/Tax/Political kind

Long story short, I was reconnected with a high school classmate of mine via Facebook (Holy Moly is that a time-killer site!) Anyway, we swapped blog addresses and I read his one post and HAD to point to it... I found it pretty funny, and hope you will too.

It's not something he authored; rather, it was something that has apparently made the e-mail rounds several times and in several iterations (so apologies if you have read it before.)

So, without further delay, read on.


Mom's Away So the Kids Can Play

It's Friday night here in Boulder, and with Peg away, Chloe and I felt it was a good time to play some music, namely the kind that Peg usually wouldn't want to listen to. And it was time to play said music loud, and let Chloe be Chloe.

So, for those of you who may have thought people can't (or shouldn't) dance to the likes of Metallica, System of a Down, or Velvet Revolver, I have a 5 year old that can prove you wrong. If you have speakers, please turn them on now... loud if you like such music, less loud if not so much.

Exhibit A:

If the above video player is not working, click here and hope you have something that can play *.wmv files (e.g. Windows Media Player)

Exhibit B:

If the above video player is not working, click here and hope you have something that can play *.wmv files (e.g. Windows Media Player)

Exhibit C:


Halloween weekend recap

Friday - Even though Chloe's school was closed today (staff professional development day), she was a busy girl. From late morning until mid-afternoon she had some friends over for a playdate. And then after they left, it was some scheduled down time before trick-or-treating. Well, as "down" as we could get her a couple of hours before going out.

Around 5, we headed over to the Finks, friends/neighbors who have 2 girls – 1 Chloe's age – to hang out and then make the T-o-T rounds with them. I'm not sure what time we started, but when we left, we were in a sea of kids and costumes... it was great! After a while, I went back to the house to see what kinda of traffic we were receiving. And it didn't take long to notice we had some while we were gone... the once-full bowl of candy we left on the porch was nearly empty. I refilled it, hung out with Chamberlain, and greeted about 20 more T-o-T-ers over the next 30 minutes. I then joined Peggy and Chloe at another friend's/neighbor's house for a post T-o-T-ing get-together. Peggy was tired, so she left after a while, and Chloe and I followed about 30 minutes later. When we got home, Peggy said she had about another 30 T-o-T-ers come!

One activity we didn't take part in on this night was this.

Saturday - It's been nearly 3 months since we've been here, and we haven't really visited Denver as a family. So after lunch, we drove in to see some sights. The first stop was the zoo. It was deceivingly big... in the nearly 4 hours we were there, we didn't get to see all of it. We had a great time, though Peggy and I think Chloe's favorite part was the soft-serve ice cream with sprinkles.

After the zoo, we made our way over to the 16th Street Mall, a popular pedestrian mall in downtown, for dinner. We walked around a little bit, but it didn't take long for all 3 of us to realize we were hungry. We checked out a couple of places and ended up going to a place called, coincidentally, "Earl's." After dinner, we realized we had a pretty tired girl on our hands so we headed back to Boulder.

Sunday - Our 3 month "anniversary" of being Boulderites. So how'd we spend it? By doing some Boulderite things. We went to church in the morning (not sure if that is uniquely Boulder-ish or not). But after coming back and changing around, Peggy and Chloe rode their bikes down to Pearl Street to stroll around and get some shopping done, and I jumped on my road bike for a 59-miler, which put me just shy of 1,200 miles since moving here.

(Pictures, from top to bottom: Chloe the Genie; Peggy and Chloe on Halloween night; our pumpkins.)



Chloe... reached a mini-milestone recently: She is now tying her own shoes! We were surprised to see how quickly she picked it up. (Insert joke here of her helping her old man how to learn to tie his shoes.) Speaking of Chloe, here's her school picture.

Constitutional Right to Vote... was exercised today by both Peggy and I. We took advantage of the early voting sessions primarily because a) Peggy's going to be traveling on Election Day next week and b) it will hopefully cut back on the phone calls and knocks on the door. In addition to the myriad political and judicial posts up for grabs, there were an additional 23 state/county/city ballot questions. I'm thankful the one question involved making it (slightly) more difficult to get a question put on the ballot.

Chamberlain... I haven't written too much about him lately and, well, that won't change much now. (There's really not much to write about when 80% of his day is spent sleeping.) But with this post is a recent photo of him. Notice how excited he is to be getting a bath?

Philadelphia Phillies: World Series Champs... pretty amazing! I'm not much of a baseball fan, but over the last week or so I found myself watching and rooting for the Phillies more often than I did the whole time when I was in PA. (The fact that the games were over at a decent time here in the MDT time zone helped, too.) I'm happy they won not because I directly get a joy out of it, rather because certain segments of my family are huge fans and I know they directly will. (Go to the parade, Mom and Eric... it'll be fun!)


The "P" word...

Well, we're somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 days away from the General Election, and it's got me in a Politics kind of mood. I know this sort of post isn't something one comes to this blog for, so I'll try to make it enlightening, entertaining and/or quasi-educational.

For those unaware, Boulder city is a VERY left-leaning town. And a right-leaning independent like myself is kind of an oddity around here. I was a on a bike ride a couple of weeks ago with some friends and their friends, and I was talking to one rider (who happens to place himself near the Libertarian part of the political spectrum) who has lived here a while, and his comment was: "It's pretty funny telling people you're something other than a Democrat. They look at you like you're some kind of rare zoo animal... they didn't think that non-Democrats existed in Boulder."

"So, who are you voting for?" you might be thinking. Well, I'm not completely enamored with either of the major candidates, but I do have a weak frontrunner. It's not like there's a dearth of choices, either, because on the Colorado ballot there are sixteen – SIXTEEN, count 'em, 1-6 – candidates for President! Despite my penchant for making things up to get a laugh, I assure you, the following are honest-to-goodness candidates (and parties) on the CO ballot:
  • John McCain / Sarah Palin - Republican
  • Barack Obama / Joe Biden - Democratic
  • Chuck Baldwin / Darrell L. Castle - Constitution
  • Bob Barr / Wayne A. Root - Libertarian
  • Cynthia McKinney / Rosa A. Clemente - Green
  • Jonathan E. Allen / Jeffrey D. Stath - HeartQuake '08
  • Gene C. Amondson / Leroy J. Pletten - Prohibition
  • James Harris / Alyson Kennedy - Socialist Workers
  • Charles Jay / Dan Sallis, Jr. - Boston Tea
  • Alan Keyes / Brian Rohrbough - America's Independent
  • Gloria La Riva / Robert Moses - Socialism and Liberation
  • Bradford Lyttle / Abraham Bassford - U.S. Pacifist
  • Frank Edward McEnulty / David Mangan - Unaffiliated
  • Brian Moore / Stewart A. Alexander - Socialist, USA
  • Ralph Nader / Matt Gonzalez - Unaffiliated
  • Thomas Robert Stevens / Alden Link - Objectivist
Did you catch the news that the Obama campaign raised $150 million in September? Not through September, in. This news was accompanied by this plea from a campaign manager, "Even though we had such a great September financially, we need to ask you to continue to contribute." Astounding? Oh my, yes. Good astounding? Well, I guess that's open to debate. Personally, I would never give money to any political campaign, largely because I feel a) there are more important and needy organizations/charities to fund and b) there's already too much money in politics. So, yes, I disagree with the notion that donating to a campaign is a form of free speech. Obama and McCain (and their 14 competitors here in CO) were speaking freely before they started accepting donations to their presidential campaigns, right? (No sarcasm intended, but if someone can explain -- or point me to -- why giving money to a political campaign is protected free speech, I'd love to read it.)

Well, this is getting kind of long, so I'll close with these two hypothetical questions I heard recently.
- The first I heard on NPR. Why is it we have only 2 choices when it comes to picking a President, but 50 when it comes to picking Miss America?
- The second came from my brother. Why is it our government can force all broadcasters to go digital by February 2009, but can't force auto manufacturers to make more fuel efficient cars?

Now go vote!


Weekend Recap - He Ain't Heavy...

Thursday - The weekend got off to an early start as my brother Eric arrived this morning. We grabbed some lunch on Pearl Street (a popular pedestrian mall in town) and I gave him a brief tour of the neighborhood and surrounding hills. He had been up for quite a while, so prior to heading out for tonight's "fun" he caught 40 winks. After catching some zzzzs, he and I headed into Denver to watch the Flyers play the Avs (and hopefully put an end to their losing streak.) Well, those hopes were quickly dashed, and the guys in black and orange were, well, embarrassed. Final score: 5-2. We left hoping the rest of the weekend would provide cheerier times.

Friday - Today began with another trip into Denver, this time to take a tour of the US Mint there. We arrived in downtown a little early, so we took a walk around Civic Center Park and up the steps of the State House (where, on the one step, is the marker indicating 5,280 feet above sea level.) What we found surprising was the monument to Colorado's Civil War dead. It not only had quite a few names on it, but also on it were where the various regiments had engagements... New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri were all listed. Who knew Colorado had troops in the Civil War and that fighting took place this far West? Certainly not two East Coast-raised kids.

After that brief history lesson, it was time to tour the Mint. We got in line, and after being inspected for any contraband (weapons of any kind, cameras, aerosols, combs or hairbrushes... not kidding about the last two) we were given time to look around their exhibit on the history of money. We both found the following three related items to be the most impressive:
- A coin minted by Pontius Pilate
- A Roman coin similar to the one shown to Jesus which prompted his response: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”
- A Shekel of Tyre, which is widely believed to be the same kind of silver coin paid to Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus.

As for the tour of the actual coin-making facilities, they, too, were pretty impressive. Everywhere one looked were coins at some point of the production process. Interesting fact: it costs about 1.5 cents to make a penny, and nearly a dime to make a nickle. For the numismatists and budding capitalists alike, the tour must be akin to walking through Wonka chocolate factory. Unfortunately, though, there were no opportunities to sneak off with a sample or two.

After the Mint tour, we toured another local landmark: the Coors Brewery in Golden, CO. Unlike the tour earlier in the day, there were free samples. (However, at the risk of offending the occasional reader and Coors consumer, let me just say, that given my druthers and assuming free samples are provided, I think I'd much rather prefer a tour of the Guinness brewery in Ireland.) The best part of this tour was the "kettle room." It's where the various grains and ingredients proceed through various steps (which for the purpose of this blog, aren't important.) What made this room so great was the smell... no it didn't smell like beer; rather, a huge, warm loaf of freshly baked bread.

After the Coors tour, it was a scenic drive up Lookout Mountain (which is the final resting place of William "Buffalo Bill" Cody), and then back to Boulder to have a birthday dinner (Happy 42nd Eric!)

We were lured to downtown Boulder tonight to witness the CU Stampede (a pep rally/parade that takes place on the Pearl Street Mall the night before home football games.) What lured us there if we're not CU alums? Peggy had read earlier in the week that Ralphie (the living buffalo mascot) was to make an appearance. After listening to the various school songs and walking behind the band to where Ralphie was to be penned up, we had our expectations dashed — no Ralphie. So, to soothe our sorrow, we went home and had birthday cake and ice cream!

Saturday - This morning was Chloe's last soccer game of the season. She and the TigerBears played well, and were able to score a couple of goals. It was a great way to wrap up the season. After the game and end-of-season cupcake and juice box mixer, we went home and changed around for an afternoon visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. For mid-October, the weather could not have been any better... upper 60s/lower 70s at the park's entrance, and sunny upper 40s/lower 50s at the higher elevations. The aspens were a little past peak but the clear skies provided some outstanding views. As for wildlife, we saw some HUGE bull elk resting outside the park, and a Steller's Jay.

Sunday - It was back to the airport again this morning to send Eric off back to PA (not without some gentle lobbying first to have him move out here... he'd get to see the Phillies at least once a season, right?)


Poll Results

By a razor thin margin, it appears as if the masses (or at least 12 of you) believe there is a better chance that I will shave my legs before I shave my head. Though I didn't vote, I must admit that I'd side with the minority in this case. (Don't expect it any time soon, though.)


A day of football, American and otherwise

Woke up to another brisk, sunny Saturday morning, and a pretty full slate of athletics.

Chloe had another soccer game in the AM. Thankfully, this game was more competitive than ones in recent weeks (i.e. Chloe's team scored a goal this week.) It doesn't bother the girls too much, but us parents do like to see the joy in their faces when the TigerBears score a goal. Scoring aside, the coach and I are beginning to see some gains and we'll have to take pride in that.

After an afternoon of relaxing (me) or getting manis and pedis (Peggy and Chloe), it was time to head down to Folsom Field on CU's campus to watch the Buffs take on the Longhorns of Texas. We got there a little earlier than anticipated, which provided several benefits: it allowed us to get a bite to eat, watch the marching band do their pregame pep rally in the field house, and see the scoreboard showing a 0-0 tie (because that's as good as the score got for the home team.)

The most anticipated event of the night, though, was watching Ralphie run. Ralphie is the real, live buffalo that runs out onto the field before the game and after halftime. There are handlers tethered to her (yes, despite the name, Ralphie is a girl) that in theory are there to guide her around the field and into her trailer. But in all practicality, after watching this event one clearly sees the handlers are largely along for the ride.

In addition to those tethered to her, there are handlers I've termed "the human guardrail." They position themselves around midfield in an arc, creating the "outer barrier" to where Ralphie is supposed to run. As Ralphie runs towards them, they "guide" her through the turn by running in the arc they formed, and if everything goes right, she runs safely to her trailer. The video below isn't the best quality (it was taken with a digital point and shoot) but it does somewhat capture the spectacle.

(Pictures, top to bottom: Chloe in action on the pitch [x 2]; Chloe waiting for Ralphie to run; a view of Folsom Field with the Flatirons in the background.)


11,897... 11,898... 11,899...

With some of her recent business travel having taken place on weekends, Peg felt it was high (no pun intended, as you will soon read) time take some comp time.

The activity of choice: hiking.

The location: the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area of the Roosevelt National Forest. (Where's that you ask? Short answer: about 35 minutes west of here.)

The lucky person who got to join her: me.

After getting Chloe on the bus, we jumped in the car and headed to the trailhead. As we approached it, we noticed a couple of things: 1) it was about 10 degrees warmer back at the house, 2) the road was closed about 0.5 mile before the trailhead, so our hike just became that much longer (times 2) and we may not have time to reach the summit of Mt. Audubon (13,221 ft.) and still get back in time to meet Chloe at the bus stop and 3) man, it sure was a beautiful area. Because 2/3 of the trail was to be above treeline, we weren't too concerned about reaching the summit because we knew we'd have views for most of the hike. And we couldn't have been more right.

Even when amongst the various evergreens, the views were great as we went through a couple of switchbacks. The trees not only became more sparse as we climbed, but as we continued on, we noticed they also became noticeably smaller and twisted. We learned from the hiking cue sheet that these latter characteristics are indicative of a krummholz formation. And indeed, as we approached the timberline, we felt more wind hitting us, but also more sunlight. Once in the alpine tundra, the views were everywhere... plains to the East, and mounts and peaks everywhere else.

After about 2.5 hours of uphill, we found ourselves at 11,900 feet and beginning to notice the effects of it, too. Rather than rush to do the final 1.25 miles/1,321 feet and risk missing Chloe getting off the bus, we felt it was a good place to take a break and eat our lunch before heading back down.

(Pictures, top to bottom: Brainard Lake and some of the Indian Peaks; some of the views as we headed back down; a pretty good place to have lunch; one happy hiker.)


2 months in, I revisit the Dewey Decimal System, y se habla espanol?

It's our 2 month anniversary here in CO, and so far so good... no cowboy hats and/or boots, no country music presets on the radio, no wrangler jeans, no altitude sickness, and no (visible) body piercings. We've been meeting a good number of families in the neighborhood, and by way of Chloe's soccer team and common acquaintances back East.

Today was also my first day volunteering at the library at Chloe's school. (I know, the irony is amazing... me, a person whose collection of books would fit in a milk crate with room to spare, is volunteering in a library of all places.) I'm there to help the kids check books in and out, and do some reshelving.

Another "first" today was Chloe's first Spanish class. She heard a classmate talking about it last week and became interested in taking it herself. I looked into it and, since it wasn't too late to sign her up, got her enrolled in the after-school class. Que divertido!


One If By Land...

For the last 5 days we've been giving a big ol' Colorado welcome to my Uncle Skippy and Aunt Dotty. They're here from PA visiting us as part of their 3-stop (MO, WY and CO) tour. Tour by car, that is. That's right, they put about 2,500 miles on their car between leaving PA and arriving here, and have probably about 1,700 miles ahead of them beginning today on their return home. At the risk of sounding like ageists, Peggy and I feel that the traveling they've done (and are about to do) is a good amount for anyone (who isn't a truck driver). But when you factor in that the younger of them is a septuagenarian, well, we feel that's pretty darn special. Our (terry cloth) hats are off to both of you! Now, on to their visit...

Their visit got off to an unceremonious start on Thursday as within a couple of hours of arriving, we were at the local Emergency Room. My aunt had been experiencing some heel pain for several days and wanted to get it looked at. After being unable to set something up with local podiatrists, we set off to Boulder Community Hospital to have someone look at it. After seventy five minutes and an X-ray or two, she was told that she has a bone spur and that she'll need to take it easy over the next couple of days. So, we adjusted plans to accommodate and things worked out really well.

On Friday, while Peggy worked and Chloe went to school, I took them for a driving tour of Rocky Mountain National Park. Trip highlights were the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park (which inspired such pop icon phrases "Redrum" and/or "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"), the Old Fall River Road, reaching the Continental Divide, and Trail Ridge Road (which, if you remember from a reference in a previous post, is the highest continuous highway in the US.) Except for the occasional snowflake and/or rain sprinkle, the weather cooperated quite well, as did the aspens and some of the local elk.

On Saturday, we took a quirky local bus tour of Boulder in the afternoon, and went out for a nice dinner.

Sunday was another road trip, this time to the cog railway near Colorado Springs of that summits Pike's Peak. As was the case on Friday, the weather couldn't have been better and the aspens in the higher elevations were brilliant. Taking the cog railway up to the summit is wonderfully relaxing and educational way to get to the 14,110 foot summit, even if some of the 25% grades made it tricky trying not to slide out of one's seat. And the views... well, after seeing them, it's no surprise Katharine Lee Bates penned those famous words back in 1893 when she saw the same views we saw today.

Yesterday day was a day of rest and prepping for the trek back East.

RMNP Pictures

The visitor's center sign where Old Fall River Road meets Trail Ridge Road.

Poudre Lake at Milner Pass & The Continental Divide

View of Horseshoe Park (grassy area in the center), the Alluvial Fan (fan shaped boulder field at the bottom end of Horseshoe Park) and part of Trail Ridge Road (bottom right of picture). The bright yellow trees are aspens.

An RMNP elk.

Looking West at the Continental Divide.

Views from Trail Ridge Road

Aspens near Hidden Valley

Pike's Peak Pictures

View from Inspiration Point

Your's truly...

Peg atop Pike's Peak, with spacious skies, purple mountains and fruited plains as a backdrop.

View from cog railway (note track zig-zagging from left side of picture.)


I'll Take "Potpourri" for $800, Alex

1) Driving out here in the beginning of August gave me a better understanding of the proportionality of the US. And now that I'm in a different part of it, I underwent an exercise to give me an idea as to where I am based on how far away I am from where I was. Here are some places that are as far away from Boulder as Richboro (i.e. about 1,600 as-the-crow-flies miles):
  • Utica, NY
  • Ottawa, ON, CAN
  • the northeast tip of Polar Bear Provincial Park, ON, CAN
  • Yellowknife, NT, CAN (base of operations in the show Ice Road Truckers)
  • Terrace, BC, CAN
  • Metlakatla, AK (which is near the infamous Bridge to Nowhere)
  • Acapulco, MEX
  • Cancun, MEX
  • Jupiter, FL

2) With the new surroundings comes a new weather event: Chinook winds. Rather than try to explain it myself, I'll refer you to what the contributors to Wikipedia have to say about Chinook (or foehn) winds. What I can tell you, though, is that this is no slight breeze. I mentioned in an earlier post about the somewhat common mid- to late-afternoon shower. More often than not, you can see them forming off in the distance. Some, however, seem to stall out and never make it over the mountains. When they do you can witness the eastward advancement of the clouds seemingly stop and then "pile up" as if hitting a wall. The wind that ensues from this change of events is amazing, and usually comes on quite rapidly. We don't have an anemometer, but neighbors have told us it is not unheard of for winds to go from slight breezes to 80 mpg within the span of several minutes.

3) I've been amazed over these last several weeks about how careless some people in and around Boulder are when they are on their bikes. I think every ride I've been on I've seen people that aren't wearing helmets and some that are wearing headphones for their MP3 players. What's just as striking are the moms and dads riding without a helmet while going out for a ride with their kid(s). Do they think their skull is harder? (Thankfully, I haven't seen too many kids riding without helmets.) The large majority of people, of course, due take the proper precautions and exercise prudence. But given how widespread cycling is around here, a lot of people know the risks involved. As such, I would have expected to see fewer people who purposefully stack the deck against themselves.


It's Never Too Early to Think About One's Career

Chloe's been discussing "community helpers" (e.g. doctors, nurses, dentists, police officers, firefighters, etc.) in Kindergarten lately, so I thought I'd put some different hats on her (literally and figuratively) to see what she might want to do for a career. So, from left to right we have:
- (Mad) Scientist: While this may look like "The Ol' Volcano Simulation" whereby one mixes baking soda, dish soap, and vinegar in a soda bottle, she assured me it isn't and that I'll find out soon enough. To quote her: "In due time, Daddy Dearest... in due time."
- Ski Bunny/Bum/Instructor: We're in Colorado now... this is at least a 4 month gig.
- Nurse: Of the three, this is the one I said would seem to benefit her the most. Not only could she attend to both the nasty chemical burns scientists sometime incur and the calamities that sometimes befall skiers, she could also attend to her own scrapes, bumps and bruises (like the nasty scrape she has on her left knee.)