Done For the Year

That's it ladies and gentleman, as of today, October 31st, I am officially done working for the year. It was a great year, I authored another ten strategy guides (plus a small extra assignment), got to spend some time with a pre-release Xbox 360, got to play some really good games, and even found myself with about two months off in the spring and another couple months off at the end of the year.

I love this job.

Of course, it should be noted that I just completed a three month span in which I had authored over 5 books. I said it back in 2000 and I'll say it again today: I either work 0 hours a week or close to 100. It all comes out in the wash and although I'm not getting any younger, I am still young enough to endure this cycle for the foreseeable future.

Of course, I'm not going to simply vegetate till 2006. I have three more presentations to give this month to some high school freshmen, then it's off to Cincinatti for two days to get certified for another pair of presentations. I'll be speaking to Juniors and Seniors about life after high school in the spring. Not to mention a list of things I want to do around the house.

But for today, I will limit my exertion to deciding what videogame to play. This may take a while...

Strike a Pose

And stick with it.

Came across this link on a guy's sig at Gamers With Jobs today and I had to poach it. It's too funny not to. You've heard your parents say the phrase that making "a face" will cause it to freeze that way, right? Well, apparently it's true.

Top Ten Baby!

With tonight's 18 mile night-ride, I completed my 61st organized group ride with the Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club. Not too bad considering I only joined the club when I bought my new mountain bike (Giant NRS C2) back in March. Also not too bad given the horrific work schedule I've been keeping for the past three months and that my trend of riding 4 or 5 times a week has dropped to 1 ride every ten or twelve days. Fortunately, it's starting to come back up. Just in time for winter. Yippee! But I digress....

With that 61st ride tonight, I've cracked the top 10 for "most rides attended" over the past 365 days. So it was only fitting that we finished our ride at a brew-pub where I got to "celebrate" this unknown achievement via a couple of Dead Guy Ale's from the Rogue Brewing Company out of Oregon.

Click the following link and bask in my greatness...

Capturing Their Attention

Holding the attention of 360 ninth-graders at 2 o'clock in the afternoon isn't always an easy task. They've been at school for the better part of 7 hours, they're tired, and they're anxious to go home. And, let's face it, most of their attention spans couldn't bridge a small puddle.

But should you find yourself on a stage in front of said 360 ninth-graders and begin to wonder if they're paying attention, this is all you have to do to find out: mispronounce the name of their town.

I guarantee you all 360 of them will quickly -- and gleefully -- correct you. Every last one of them. And don't look to a guidance counselor or teacher for consolation, as their laughter will only serve to make this awkward moment that much more, well, awkward.

A Line in the Polygonal Sand

As much as I love the sport of football, I am as of this post refusing to ever buy another football videogame. I just don't enjoy the current offerings as much in reality as I do in theory. I've recently purchased Madden 2006 for the Playstation Portable and Blitz: The League for the Xbox and after roughly three or so hours with each, all i can say is that I want them out of my collection immediately.

Oh, sure, they're really shiny and fun when you first pop them in. And they look great on paper and they both carry fancy screenshots on the box and snazzy marketing slogans. But are they fun? No. In fact, they're quite the opposite. Madden 2006 on the PSP is entirely too slow, too buggy, and too awkward to be enjoyed. And then there's Blitz: The League. Funny, I thought I was actually getting a football game. Now, I know that it's going to be an arcadey experience -- and I was actually looking forward to it -- but not only does the game feel nothing like the sport of football, there's so much crap getting in the way of the game that it's almost impossible to root through the obstructions and get out on the field. And once there, the game simply falls apart into repetitive, yawn-inducing, gameplay.

I do, however, enjoy the NFL Street series of games and did spend a considerable amount of time with this year's second installment in the series. But if there was a third game to release anytime soon, I won't be buying it.

Looking over my collection of games and taking note of what I play the most often and what collects the most dust, I must confess: I apparently am not much of a sports gamer. I'm a total sports-junkie in the real world, but when it comes to sports videogames, you can keep them. In fact, please do.

From the Unbelievable File

According to recent reports on The Weather Channel, a small island town off the coast of Mexico, not far from Cancun, has received over 65 inches of rain in the past 48 hours from Hurricane Wilma.

65 inches of rain! That's more than 5 feet of rain. My wife is barely 65 inches tall. Actually, she's 64 inches tall.

In comparison, New York City receives roughly 32 inches of rain per year. That's 2 years worth of rain in a two-day span.

Oh, and as if that wasn't unbelievable enough, there's a new Tropical Storm forming in the Caribean Sea. They ran out of names so it's called "Alpha". This is a record for named-storms in a single year. They've never gone through the alphabet (not all letters are used, obviously) and, now with their 22nd named storm, they're onto the Greek alphabet.

Rumor has it that the potential 75th named storm, Lambda Lambda Lambda, will not bring torrential rains but will shower those in its path with pocket protectors, glasses, and asexual robots.

Buzz Killed

Drove into the city to have lunch with Kristin after another succesful presentation today. It's a beautiful day out in Seattle: crystal clear blue skies, a slight breeze, about sixty degrees, the sounds of leaves rustling, all that stuff I love. I'm driving back across Lake Washington, windows down, music blaring, got my cafe mezzo in my left hand, steering wheel in my right. You might even say, I had my groove on.

And then the song ends and a commercial comes on. The voice asks, "Can I speak to you woman to woman about menstrual bleeding?"

The sound you may have heard around 1:20 PST was my excitement for the day plummeting off a cliff. Yes, it did sound like the slide-whistle that often accompanies Wile E. Coyote during his many freefalls. The only thing missing was the little poof of dust generated on impact.

Now Tastes Better

Friends of ours are staying with us while they wait to close on their house and the other night they brought home a bag of Doritos snack chips. But there was something odd about their chips. The bag had a label on it that read "Now Tastes Better".

I thought Doritos always tasted pretty good. Why would you say "Now Tastes Better"? Doesn't that sort of imply that your product never really tasted that good? For a snack that's been on the market for as long as I can remember, that just sounds plain silly. And confusing.

I didn't taste the new better-tasting Doritos because, well, I'm scared I might like them. And then what? Then I'll have to live my life knowing that I was previously enjoying food that even its makers found to be unpalatable. That's a blow to my ego I don't think I can withstand. And what if I don't like it? Then I have to go on knowing that not only do I not mind eating crap-tasting food, but that I actually prefer it!

****dialing phone****

Hi babe, it's me. Can you pick up some Fritos on the way home tonight? No, don't get the Doritos, there's too much emotional baggage involved with them right now. I know I used to like them, but trust me, it's just not safe. Fritos. Yep, the small corn chips. Okay, love you too. Talk to you later. Thanks.

Girls Next Door

My longtime friend James Trevenen just returned from spending a few days in New York City photographing Hugh Heffner and his gorgeous gaggle of girlfriends. They were seeing the sights and doing some promo work for their television show "Girls Next Door" which airs on the E! network.

James works for and you can view the photos he took of these lovely ladies visiting the Statue of Liberty and signing autographs at the Virgin Mega Store here:

NOTE: One or two photos do contain nudity, as does the ad banner at the top of the page. If you're viewing this at work, consider yourself warned.

New Guidebook: Tony Hawk's American Wasteland

Those who know me know that I pretty much owe my career as a strategy guide author to this series. Not only did I base the writing sample I submitted to BradyGames on one of the levels in the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, but I did so just as the series and its various spinoffs were really taking off. As such, I've authored the guidebook for every game in the series since the release of Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3. In other words, five books for five different Tony Hawk games. So I'll forgive you for thinking that I'm a bit biased in my opinion of the series. I love it.

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland is what I would consider to be a bit of a mix between the original "Pro Skater" formula and that of the recent "Underground" installments. The game features a far more compelling story than the recent games in the series, but still retains the sense of humor and expansive levels that Neversoft has always included. In THAW, players are free to skate all over Los Angeles (without any load times) by skating through small tunnels and corridors that connect one neighborhood (i.e. level) to the next. The individual levels are quite large and feature tons of objects to trick on, with each area resembling a distinct Los Angeles neighborhood.

Although I've already played the game through to completion, I'm still going to buy a copy of the game for one reason -- Xbox Live. I've played the THPS series online with the PS2 in the past and always found the experience fun, but the act of getting online cumbersome. Now with Xbox Live compatibility, it will be as simple as popping a kickflip down a ten-set.

I definitely recommend Tony Hawk's American Wasteland to those who are either big fans of the series or those who haven't purchased a game in the series in a few years. If you know for a fact that you don't care for skating games, then it's probably not for you. But if it's been a while since you last played one, you might want to give it a go. As far as my personal ranking of the game within the series is concerned, I still hold THPS4 as the very best in the series, but this may knock THPS2 out of second. If for no other reason than the Xbox Live functionality.

Indigo Prophecy

I've been spending the past couple of days playing Indigo Prophecy on Xbox and have to say that it's something everyone with a modicum of an attention span should play. The game best falls into the adventure genre, and is not terribly unlike Syberia, but also contains a blend of action that borrows heavily from Shenmue, my personal favorite game series. Action isn't done through jumping and fighting, but rather through a series of choreographed quick timer events, to borrow Shenmue's vernacular. At key points in the game a simple simon-sez like display appears and players match the colors by moving the Thumbsticks in the corresponding direction. Success and failure are then displayed via the game's pre-rendered cutscenes. The action also occasionally requires the player to alternately tap the Left and Right Triggers in a frantic manner, but fortunately this isn't terribly common.

But the real star of the game is the story. The game begins with the player viewing a murder in the bathroom of a diner. You are thrust into the role of the killer and must immediately set about covering your tracks and escaping without being apprehended. Your decisions made in these opening moments will dictate later on how likely you are to be caught. And herein lies the catch. You will also play as the two detectives investigating the murder. You can play hard and truthful as all three characters or you can play poorly as one or the other to see to it that the killer is either caught or free.

It's not just a simple murder mystery, however. The game borrows heavily from movies like The Matrix and Silence of the Lambs, among others, and to be certain the story gets pretty deep. A bit convuluted and rushed at times, but deep nonetheless.

One of the interesting aspects of the game is that during dialogue scenes, you only have a couple of seconds to select the direction you'd like to take the conversation (or how you'd like to reply). Not only does this feel more real, as opposed to lazily delving through an entire dialogue tree as in most games, but you can ensure yourself different conversations each time you play. Theoretically.

As engrossing as it is, Indigo Prophecy isn't without its flaws. For starters, the camera and movement control is horrible. So horrible it reminds me of the original Resident Evil games. Although a flick of the Right Trigger will rotate the camera, it's not uncommon to have a large object (such as a beam or wall) obscuring your view of the player. This, compounded with the extremely stiff controls and occasional time limits can make for a frustrating experience. Fortunately, it's not terribly common and the game's merits are enough to overlook the occasional frustration. But players may have a harder time overlooking the overly generic, stereotypical characters. In addition to the overly featureless, loner, IT guy, murderer, you have a pair of detectives who seem to have been ripped straight from the set of Starsky & Hutch, police chief included. The only difference being that one detective is female (obligatory enormo-boobs present and accounted for) and the other is a black guy who, for some reason, is accompanied by porno-esque funk music wherever he goes.

But as odd a mix of seriousness and silliness as the game is, it's still worthwhile to play. The only serious complaint I have about the game is that it's only 8 or so hours long. And while the game's makers will lead you to believe you can play over and over and get different stories, this isn't entirely true. There's only really one way to get the best ending and once you've done that, you're pretty much done. Sure, you can play again and maybe direct some conversations a bit differently, but nothing that is worth ignoring other games for.

Media Blitz The League

I was just flipping through the various news networks (Fox outstanding, of course) while eating some left over pizza and just happened to come to MSNBC as the news lady was introducing the Executive Producer, Mike Bilder, in charge of the Midway's new unlicensed pro football game called "Blitz: The League". The game contains an entirely fictitious football league, composed entirely of fictitious teams and players, and features gameplay and story elements that are unsavory to say the least. Not only is the gameplay spectacularly brutal, but players are able to run the gamut of off-the-field discretions. Steroids, boozing, drugs, prostitutes -- it's all in here. The game's mantra is "win at any cost" and allows you to do whatever it takes to win and have fun doing it.

Needless to say, the game is rated "M" for Mature. And unfortunately even more needless to say is that the game and its makers are being taken to task by the media who still think only kids play videogames.

The brief interview on MSNBC went like this:

MSNBC: What about the children?
Bilder: Well, the game is rated "M" for Mature which is just like an "R" rated movie and it's up to parents and retailers to keep the game out of the hands of children.

MSNBC: But isn't the game good enough on it's own, why do you need the extra stuff? It only hurts the children.
Bilder: We wanted to create a game for adults. Just like an R rated movie or things on the Internet, it's up to the parents to monitor their kids and protect them from things that they aren't old enough to view. A lot of people are still under the misconception that games are only being played by teenagers, when the average age of a gamer is about 26 years old. We created this game for that audience. An older audience.

MSNBC: What makes you so sure they want this type of stuff in their games?
Bilder: The success of games with similar content suggests it, not to mention the popularity of R-rated movies and what's on late-night television. But ultimately we'll have to wait and let the consumer tell us by deciding whether or not to buy it.

Well, Mike, I bought your game. And I'd like to commend you on taking the lemons that was EA's exclusive license with the NFL and making some pretty good lemonade. I'd also like to commend you on keeping a smile on during that ridiculous interview on MSNBC. It was totally clear from the start that she was on a witch hunt and I enjoyed watching you calmly explain that the game wasn't meant for kids and that videogame publishers shouldn't be held to a higher standard than movie studios.

Mike Bilder's response to the accusatory tone of the interviewer should be repeated like a mantra throughout the industry when confronted by these grandstanding journalists and lawyers.

The response should consist of these 3 parts:

1) The game was not made for kids.
2) It's the same as an R rated movie. Why should games be treated differently?
3) The average age of a videogame player is in their late 20's.

I'll have more to say about "Blitz: The League" after I spend some more time with it. I purchased about a half-dozen new games in the past 10 days and will get more time in with it soon.


You know ever time you see coverage of Hurricane Wilma on TV, you can't help yourself from bellowing her name in your best Fred Flintstone impersonation. It's okay, you can admit it, we're all doing it.

Joking aside, this storm is one bad mother. Just last night we were watching the news and it was a Cat 1 with potential to be a Cat 4 by late Wednesday. A couple pharmaceutical commercials later and, as my friend Brian would imitate Chris Farley saying, whammy! -- Wilma was already a Cat 4 and rapidly gaining strength.

As of this morning it's the strongest hurricane on record and headed straight towards the Yucatan Peninsula. For those of you who look at a map and think Hawaii and Alaska are actually near one another (think about it), I'll help you out. The Yucatan Peninsula is that portion of eastern Mexico that sticks out towards the Gulf of Mexico. It's where Cozumel is. Or, for those who still consider empty beer cans stacked on a windowsill as art, it's where Cancun is.

As if that wasn't bad enough the computer models are split in their predictions of what will come next. Half the models show Wilma getting drunk in Cancun and sort of stumbling about for a while before finally heading back east towards Cuba and the Caribbean. The other half of the models show her bee-lining straight to Florida. Likely somewhere between St. Petersburg and Tampa.

The lack of humanitarian outcry in our nation over the 70,000+ dead in Pakistan and India from the earthquake was somewhat predictable. After all, we have the Viking Love Boat to focus on. But it will be very interesting to see if our "ally" to the south, Mexico, gets a more sympathetic response after this. Then again, the cynic in me expects it to, if for no other reason than because the area likely to be affected is a tourist destination.

Happiness Is...

- Waking up Saturday morning and knowing that for the first time since August, I didn't have to work.

- Going to the stadium and watching your team rack up 320 rushing yards (and nearly 500 of total offense) on national television and blowout the opponent 42 to 10.

- Playing a videogame (Indigo Prophecy) all morning for no other reason than for relaxation and personal enjoyment.

- Getting hungry, wondering what to eat, and finding a bowl full of left-over sloppy joe in the fridge.

- Getting hungry and coming across a small bowl of Reese's peanut butter cup candies set for Halloween on the way into the kitchen.

- Not having my favorite afternoon shows on ESPN pre-empted by some meaningless golf tournament.

More I-5 Collonade Info

This was a quote from BBTC Executive Director, Justin Vander Pol that I thought summed up the project wonderfully and sheds light on how the club was able to get such great support from the city and local busineses.

The area beneath the freeway is "a bunch of dirt and some weeds, nasty litter, some needles, a little bit gross," Vander Pol said. "We're taking an underused and not really safe place and turning it into a really cool, funky park with views of the mountain and Lake Union."

Quote care of Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Complete article here:

City of Seattle, BBTC Break Ground on Urban Mountain Bike Park

Thanks to Eric Stobin for passing this along from I'll be photographing the ground breaking ceremonies later today in Seattle. The club is doing a lot of great things lately and this is just the start of it. BBTC is making an already excellent place to be a mountain biker into one of the best spots in the country.

OCTOBER 14, 2005 -- SEATTLE, WA - Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club (BBTC) and Seattle Parks and Recreation are teaming up to build an urban mountain bike skills park. The park will be an open-air, fully sheltered facility-the first of its kind in the country.

The skills park is part of the city's larger I-5 Colonnade project, a 7.5-acre facility located under the deck of the I-5 freeway that in addition to the 2-acre bike park will have an off-leash dog area, a public art component and an ADA-accessible walkway that will reconnect the Capitol Hill and Eastlake neighborhoods.

The mountain bike skills park's two acres of trails will have skill building features for mountain bikers such as switchbacks, log rides, rock gardens, skinnies, wall-rides and small jumps. Unlike traditional Northwest mountain biking, the I-5 colonnade will allow riders to guide their mountain bikes through the freeway support columns, the "colonnades," in a rain-free environment. The trails will simulate natural terrain and obstacles while reflecting the urban character of the park.

Mountain bikers, led by BBTC, are designing, funding, constructing and maintaining the mountain bike skills park. All aspects of this project rely heavily on volunteers and donations. To date, $115,000 has been raised from sources including private donors Vulcan, REI, King County Youth Sports Facilities Grant, the City of Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund, Seattle Parks and Recreation, the Pro Parks Levy and Bikes Belong.

The NFL's Real Ironman

I can't believe it's already week 6 of the NFL season and I haven't been to a home game yet. We've had to sell our tickets once on account of a camping trip and a second time on account of a brief trip to Las Vegas. We didn't need to skip that second game but someone, who shall remain nameless but does happen to have her name on my checking account, forgot about the game and bought morning airline tickets. Sigh...

But, nevertheless, the Seahawks are 3-2 and atop the NFC West and have the number 1 ranked offense in the NFL, and look to host the Houston Texans this Sunday night on the nationally-televised game. The Texans are winless so far this season, and nobody knows this more than their quarterback, David Carr.

The poor guy has already been sacked 27 times in four games.

He set a record for most sacks in a single season in 2002 with 76 sacks, and he's currently on pace for 108 in 2005. So far, in his brief 3+ year career, he's lost more than half a mile in yardage.

Yet he never gets hurt. Never seems to complain. And was apparently joking about the situation with reporters yesterday. According to Seattle Times reporter, Greg Bishop, Carr jokes that his wife cooks well enough to overcome the pain and that "a lot of people are praying for [his safety] back home." As I've said before, I'm not a religious person but even I know that it's never a good sign when people start praying for you. Especially if you're the rich NFL quarterback who most people envy.

The Seahawks should have zero problem winning the game on Sunday. And I hope it's not even close (fantasy football considerations), but I do hope Carr doesn't get hurt. While sacks are always good for firing up the home crowd, not to mention often pretty comical, I admire Carr's determination and outlook and I'd hate to see the guy get hurt. At least not in person.

Late Night Ego-Surfing

Ever Google your name to see what comes up? Of course you have, admit it.

I check every now and then just to see if my recent guidebooks are being picked up under my name or if this blog shows up. So far, it's mostly just my books. I used to have the first full three pages of Google links all to myself. It was actually kind of odd, given that "Doug Walsh" isn't a very original name. I mean, when you think about it, that's about as vanilla as a name can get so having the first 75 google links was something I was proud of. Oh, those were good times. I was flying high back then. I could have been a contender.

Now I find it more fun to Google the names of people who have come and gone in my life. You know, to see what they are (or aren't) up to. I highly recommend doing this if you ever want a little pick-me-up. These are the first relevant hits I found for the two names I Googled tonight.

1) I typed the name of a friend who my wife and I had a falling out with sometime last year. The link that came up for her? To a site of people passing bad checks. They had everything there: her and her husband's full names, their address. Even how much the bounced check was for. The sad part was that this was the only link in the first 100 that was related to them. Being that it was the very first link in that list, I gave up looking.

2) Next I typed in the name of a former girlfriend. A girl I dated in high school and then briefly one summer while in college. She had it all going for her -- looks, smarts, good family. Everything. We ended up having a falling out in college because, well, I met my future wife. Anyway, want to know what she's up to? Me too. The only link I found relevant to her is to the results of a 5K road race she ran back in 1996. I don't know what's worse, the fact that there's a website out there actually wasting bandwith with 9 year old results to an 80-person 5k or the fact that Google doesn't think she had done anything more interesting than an 8th place finish in her age group in almost a decade. I'd chalk this up to her getting married and suffering a name change, but my brother ran into her in a bar earlier this year and she introduced him to her boyfriend. Besides, she was defiitely going to be a hyphenator. Google would have still got her.

So there you have it. If you're ever feeling a bit run down or tired or just feeling like crap. Log on and Google some blasts from the past. Your miserable existence might not be as miserable as those you once envied.

New Guidebook: Sniper Elite

The annual fall crush of videogame releases is upon us and many of you are probably looking at the cover shown below and wondering why you would possibly want another WWII game. Well, I'll tell you why. Because this one is different. Sure, you've played the Medal of Honor games and the games in the Call of Duty series, and they're all fun, but this one is different. Sniper Elite is a sniping simulation.

The game takes place in Berlin during the final days of WWII and your character, a recent Westpoint grad who spent his youth as a diplomat's son in Berlin, is sent as an elite sniper to keep the Russians from getting hold of Hitler's nuclear secrets. In other words, although the game is of a WWII setting, you are in fact a soldier in the early days of the Cold War.

What sets Sniper Elite apart from the crowd is that the game attempts to accurately model the effects of gravity and wind speed and direction on the bullet's path, as well as the soldier's breath and heartbeat. And in my opinion the game succeeds. And while this may sound a bit too technical, do note that there are a variety of difficulty settings and a feature that allows you to turn certain criteria on and off based on your skill level. My biggest concern when beginning the guidebook for this game was that a game featuring wall-to-wall sniping would get repetitive. I can honestly tell you that I don't believe it does. The level design and overall game design and pacing does a very good job of keeping things fresh, not to mention it also allows for more of a run-and-gun style should you want it. Additionally, the expansive scoring system that allows for the posting of mission scores to online scoreboards is sure to please the old-school High Scores fanatics out there. And, yes, the game does feature online multiplayer as well.

Recommended to fans of war games and first-person shooters.

If you own this game and would like a free copy of the strategy guide, signed by yours truly, send me an email with your mailing address and full name at

Damien Rice's "O"

I bought a new album last week based on a pair of songs I heard a few times via my Yahoo Launchcast service. It was Damien Rice’s “O” and it’s one of the best discs I’ve bought in a long time. Damien Rice is an Irish musician with a really soft, yet masculine (and not heavily accented) voice and the skill to play a variety of instruments. He sings the lead vocal on most tracks, plays guitar, bass, clarinet, piano, and even some drums and percussion. If this list of instruments hasn’t tipped you off, the entire album is acoustic.

Damien isn’t alone of course. He gets help from a cello player named Vyvienne (I love the spelling) and female vocalist Lisa Hannigan, as well as a small army of others, although it’s these three and a drummer named Tomo who are the most prominent.

I say it’s good fall music because it’s the perfect album to listen to while relaxing on the couch during a cold rainy day. It’s rather slow, somewhat haunting, and emotional. Best of all, it’s really tight. The vocals and instruments never get in the way of one another and remain easily identifiable throughout each song. Also, after listening to it repeatedly each day for over a week, I can safely say that there’s only one song that I usually skip past. I won’t mention what it is, as some will no doubt love it, but I will say that it's one of the two were Damien seems to be M.I.A.

Regardless, stop by your favorite indie music store and pick this one up. Highly recommended.

Commander in the Sack

The following conversation took place between Kristin and I while watching tv on Sunday. A commercial for the show "Commander in Chief" came on. For those who don't know, it's a show in which a female Vice President is elevated to President.

Me: You know, it would be awfully weird having sex with a woman President.
Kristin: How so?
Me: Well, you'd probably always want her on top, right? To let her be in charge.
Kristin: I see what you're saying... you definitely couldn't give it to the President doggy style. That would just be wrong.
Me: Glad you're not the President.
Kristin: Me too.

Guilt-Free Binging

Tonight I'll be wrapping up the guidebook for one of the best videogames of 2005 (I'll tell you about it in November) and although I'm bummed out that I had to cancel tonight's mountain bike ride -- the inaugural ride with my new HID lights will have to wait till tomorrow -- I do get to partake in a tradition of mine.

Kristin is stopping by Krispy Kreme on the way home to deliver me a dozen donuts: 6 raspberry filled and 6 iced kreme filled. She'll have maybe two or three of them, but you can bet that other 9 or so will be gone by mid-afternoon tomorrow. I will probably eat a half dozen of them tonight. I do this on the final all-nighter of all my big projects.

This is my reward. I will be up most of the night working and I need to be in Bellevue by 7am tomorrow to give a pair of presentations to a couple high schools there. I'm tired. I'm worn down. And I need this.

And I'm not going to feel guilty. After all, it's tradition.

For some people, tradition means watching the Rose Bowl Parade every year. For others, it means never missing the home opener for their favorite baseball team. For me? Donuts. I'm all about the donuts.

Sony is the New EA. Or are They?

Sony Computer Entertainment will be releasing "Gretzky NHL 2006" for their Playstation Portable tomorrow. This is despite the fact that the handheld console only released in North American on March 24th of this year -- barely 6 months ago -- and debuted with "Gretzky NHL" as one of its featured launch titles.

So that's two hockey videogames bearing the same name, made by the same company, for the same system in a span of 6 months. For a sports league that essentially failed to exist for the better part of the past 16 months.

Sure, the NHL finally did iron out their problems (for now) and the action returned to the ice last week, but two hockey games in half a year? Is this Sony imitating E-flogging-A? Being that the PSP version of EA's Madden 2006 features such lengthy load times as to be virtually unplayable, I can only hope not.

Aside from the obvious fact that few people seem to remember who the last team to win the Stanley Cup was (time is up, it was the Tampa Bay Lightning), it would seem that given the short development cycle, the only difference between this game and that released in March would be the rosters, right?

Actually, no. I was prepared to write a brief sarcastic rant about how Sony ought to have just finally threw us a bone and used their WiFi connectivity to allow us to download roster updates instead of having the nerve to charge full price for this rehash.

And I would have been very wrong. It turns out that "Gretzky NHL 2006" not only features a couple of new modes, but also allows for -- drumroll please -- worldwide multiplayer. Finally. A game that takes advantage of the one feature those of us with wireless home networks have been waiting for. Sure, I'm not much of a hockey fan, and I probably wasn't going to buy this game. But you know what? Given how crappy Madden 2006 for PSP is and how the stream of games releasing for this system has all but dried up (was it ever flowing?) I think I'll give it a go. After all, games that contain features that we'd like to see get used more often have to be supported. I'm not saying Sony needs our charity, but simply saying that we want worldwide multiplayer gaming via the PSP isn't going to help our cause if we don't buy the games that do contain this feature. Think o

A Perfect Morning

Barring exotic plans, I'm not a morning person. It's been well over 5 years since I've worked outside the home and during that time I have completely forgotten what it's like to be among the masses who are not only awake, but out the door before 7 o'clock in the morning. I'm more apt to stay up till 7 than I am to wake up by then. My brain hurts just thinking of what Kristin endures each morning, waking at 5:30. For crying out loud, the sun isn't even up yet!

But today, I did something different. Despite working through the night, almost long enough to hear Kristin's alarm clock ring, I got out of bed at 6:30, quickly showered and shaved, and walked to the coffee shop several blocks away. The sights I saw...

People walking their dogs. People jogging. The sun rising over the mountains to the east and painting the sky pink and gold. Who knew sunrises could be so beautiful? Not me, obviously.

I felt the autumn breeze blow through my hair and beneath the collar of my fleece pullover. I strolled silently along the sidewalk listening to the faint noise of distant leaves tumbling down the road. I breathed deeply, took it in, and awakened.

My venti americano was almost too hot to carry the half-mile back to my house and I had to switch hands often, despite the corrugated protective huggy designed to insulate my hands from the espresso's heat. But I didn't mind. I arrived home and cracked the windows to let the fresh air in. I sipped my coffee, cracked two eggs, and cooked some bacon.

And I sat and smiled, knowing that I was exhausted but that I was well-fed, well-caffeinated, and awake. And, even more important to my overall health, that I've already seen a splendid sight -- a colorful sunrise cast above silhouetted mountain tops. A sight I could see from my bedroom window, but was made all the better by simply taking a walk.

Today will be a good day.

Photo Friday #5

Boiling Lake

I took this photo while mountain biking in the Okanagon National Forest, near the small mountain town of Twisp in October, 2005. We encountered thiss serene location after 16 miles of difficult riding and it proved an oasis of sorts, before our final big climb of the day. The reflection of the larch on the lake combined with the brilliantly blue sky and smattering of larch on Sawtooth Ridge in the background make for a wonderful photo.

To order print copies of this image, please click the following link:

Leave Racketeers

Two young boys just rang my doorbell. They were probably each about 11 or 12 years old -- I can never tell any more -- and one of them had a rake in hand. They wanted to know if I would hire them to rake my front lawn.

I used to do that when I was a kid growing up in New Jersey. I made a lot of money raking leaves in the fall, as a matter of fact. Often $20 or more per yard, despite living in a neighborhood where most everyone had a simple 50'x100' lot. Fond memories I have of that time.

I told the kids to scram.

You see, I don't live in a neighborhood like the one of my childhood now. I live in what they call a "master planned community". We have a nice moderate-sized house on a relatively small lot (only slightly larger than that of my youth) and the previous owners did a very nice job landscaping the front yard.

But we only have one tree. It's between the curb and sidewalk and is probably about 3 inches in diameter and about 16 feet tall. Most of the leaves it did have long blew away and those still on my yard could be raked up with a single pass of the rake.

Who do these kids think they're kidding? Raking leaves in my neighborhood for money? They might as well try and shovel driveways in Georgia. Sure, the south might get a dusting of snow every now and then, but nothing that won't melt if you breathe on it. I can't believe I'm going to say this but, here goes...

Back in my day... we spent all day raking leaves to earn that $20. Leaves from hundred-year old chestnut trees piled three inches deep and soaking wet. You couldn't even see the ground below. We would need a dozen Hefty sacks to bag them all and then when we were done, we'd have to pay the older kids in the neighborhood half our earnings to move the bags, cause they were too heavy for us to budge. Okay, I made up that last part, but you get my point. Looking out my window, I can probably count the leaves that need to be raked up on two hands.

Nice try kids. Next time throw in a car wash, maybe an offer to mow the lawn, and fetch me a capuccino from the coffee shop and I'll think about it.

Not Your Father's Videogame

In completely unrelated news as to the article I posted earlier about Seattle joining the Bible Belt, I wrote the following sentence today for the guidebook I'm currently working on.

Colton must kill the three thugs before she sustains too much damage and the Whore Meter is emptied.

I can honestly say that in the 40+ guidebooks I've written, I've never once made mention to a "Whore Meter" before. I'd make a sarcastic reference to alerting your Congressman, but I don't have the little eye-rolling smiley face to accompany such remark.

What's kind of funny is to juxtapose this with the fact that when writing guidebooks for first-party Nintendo games, authors aren't allowed to use the word "kill". My how we've come a long way...

37% In Terms We Understand

A CBS News poll conducted on October 3rd revealed that President Bush's current approval rating is at an all-time low of 37%. Please hold your applause till later. Considering that securing 51% of the vote in last year's election was spun into being deemed a "mandate", I can only imagine what adjectives the Republicans would come up with, should for example, Bill Clinton's approval rating have been this low. It's not hard to picture Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, and other members of the conservative media taking to the airwaves and spilling every vile word they (i.e. Karl Rove) could invent.

Unfortunately, there are few people in the media who either have the desire or cajones to stand up and question Bush, let alone criticise him. Since so many seem to be at a complete loss of words in this regard, I thought I'd turn to professional critics to see what words they use when something is only 37% good. Newsmen take note.

The following excerpts are from professional movie reviews and are representative of things with 63% suckiness. I've taken the liberty of adding the words in brackets to further demonstrate how these critiques can be applied.

"Packed with enough crates of red herring to feed a starving of the lamest [Presidents] to come along in a while" -- Les Wright's review of "Flightplan", 36% at

"It might not seem quite so awful, even reprehensible, if [he] didn't waste a pretty good [amount of good will], or if [he] didn't trot out that ultimate poor-taste cliche, [threat of WMDs]." -- Jeff Vice's review of "Flightplan", 36% at

"[The Bush Presidency] is essentially a story about how appearances aren't everything, but unfortunately, there's little to perceive beneath the surface." - Kevin Courrier's revie of "Shopgirl", 38% at

"Pretty much a disaster on all counts." - Shlomo Schwartzberg's review of "Elizabethtown", 43% at

"This isn't a [Presidency]. It's a miscarriage of [democracy]." -- Stephen Witty's review of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose, 43% at

"You'd never know it by the ads, but this is faith-based [dictating] and one of the most manipulative [men] ever put [in the Oval Office]." Alex Sandell's review of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose, 43% at

"Even the brain-dead [Richard Nixon] tried harder than this." - Jeffrey Anderson's review of "Sahara", 38% at

"If [President Bush] weren't quite so dumb, [he] might have been a lot of fun." - Rob Blackwelder's review of "Sahara", 38% at

"How many leaps of logic do you allow a [President] before that thin strand of [hope] snaps?" - Robert Elder's review of "Sahara", 38% at

"No one [in the Bush Administration] seems to know what they're doing, or worse, much care." - Josh Bell's review of Sahara, 38% at

"Yawn. Is the [war mongering] over yet? Wake me when it's time to [vote]." - Boo Allen's review of "Kingdom of Heaven", 39% at

"[Bush] once again proves himself an inept director of action." - Robert Butler's review of "Kingdom of Heaven", 39% at

and last but certainly not least...

"[President Bush] does what any self-respecting politician would do: sidestep the issues, soft-pedal mortal costs, talk a fat game, and divert your attention away from history with exercises in spectacle and power." - Michael Atkinson's review of "Kingdom of Heaven", 39% at

So there you have it, mythical liberal media. Take notes and use them. There will be a test.

Super Bowl? Nope. Hand-jobs? You betcha!

Earlier this week, Seattle made national news -- so I'm told -- for becoming the first major city in the country to all but outlaw strip clubs. The city had a 17-year ban on the opening of new strip clubs, but when that law was ruled unconstitutional (finally!) the Mayor and City Council quickly acted to not only discourage new clubs from opening, but to all but kill off those who were doing business for years.

The new laws, which include no direct tipping (they actually want "tip jars" on stage now) and brighter lighting are pretty bad. But the big one is the new law mandating that dancers and patrons keep a minimum of four feet of separation. In other words, no more lap dances.

Aside from this being a case of legislating morality that should be ruled unconstitutional, it's also quite hypocritical. This is Seattle. It's one of the great un-churched, liberal bastions left in this country. It's a place where the annual Hemp Fest all but encourages the mass smoking of marijuana. It's a place where the city helps organize an annual nude-bicycling event. The Seattle Gay & Lesbian parade is enormous! Yet, we can't get a freakin' lap dance?

Well, aside from the knockout blow this delivers to bachelor party planners throughout the region, it also means the city can all but kiss their hopes of one day hosting the Super Bowl goodbye. And the All-Star Game? Sure, it was just here in 2001, but despite the world-class sports complexes, it won't be back again. Men like women. Athletes love women. And like it or not, when guys go away to conferences or for sporting events, more than a few finish their night in a strip club. Don't think for one second that this isn't going to factor into the decision making process of the NFL's head honchos when they're deciding whether or not to bring the big game up here. Last year, all we heard for a week from the sportswriters covering the Super Bowl was how boring a place Jacksonville was. This matters. Especially now that the Super Bowl (and All-Star Game) is essentially a giant corporate party where average fans aren't invited.

Oh, and as if on cue, yesterday the NFL announced Miami as one of the upcoming Super Bowl hosts. Yes, Miami of South Beach fame, where topless women are as common as imported palm trees.

But aside from sporting events, these new laws have already had a serious effect on the local police force. It seems the men in blue have no, shall we say, outlet anymore and have decided that simply getting a prostitute to agree to perform a sex act for money wasn't convincing enough. They need to actually have her perform the act to be really, super-duper, beyond-a-doubt, you-wait-till-your-father-gets-home, guilty! That's right, area police thought it best if they allow the prostitute to masturbate them before making the arrest.

And these tactics were supported by the Lynnwood city police chief. After all, if they can't get a 20-year old college student to grind on their clothed crotch off-duty, the only other option is to have a 40-year old crack addict jerk them off while they're on-duty.

So, next time you're on the west coast and feeling a bit horny. Come to Seattle and find yourself a whore. Sure, she might have a disease and be a bit more expensive than the lap dances you're used to getting everywhere else. But you'll have the peace of mind knowing that if she was clean enough for the Lynnwood Police Department, she's probably clean enough for you too.

Gunplay: Imaginary Vs Real

I could probably link to a great article over at Gamers With Jobs ( every day if I so chose, but today's posting is something that really deserves mention. A couple weeks ago I posted about an article in PC Gamer magazine that rebuked (or at least, did so in my mind) the notion that violent videogames have led to an increase in violent crime amongst youths.

Well, there's an article today over at Gamers With Jobs about how an ordinary person feels about using guns as a child, as a gamer, and then as law enforcement professional.

It's a good read:

I Came As I Was

I was -- and still am to a lesser extent -- a big fan of the band Nirvana throughout my high school and college days. I even got to see the band play live at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania during their "In Utero" tour. It was the only time I travelled to Lehigh, my college's centuries-old rival, for something other than a track meet and I still recall the stage design, as well as my car breaking down on the drive home and stranding four of us in the sub-freezing Pennsylvania weather. It was a good night, nonetheless, and like many fans of the band, I shed a tear or two when news of Kurt's death was made public several months later.

I mention this because my job as a speaker for the Making It Count program took me someplace pretty interesting last week. Last Thursday I took the stage and talked with freshmen at two different high schools, located just 7 miles apart. One was in the town of Hoquiam, birthplace of Kurt Cobain, and the second was Aberdeen High School, the school that Kurt attended and place where he met former Nirvana bandmate, Chris Novoselic.

As one drives into the town of Aberdeen, the town's welcome sign carries the phrase "Come As You Are". I don't know which came first, whether it was the Nirvana song bearing that slogan or the town motto, but seeing the sign sent a small chill up my spine. Having just returned the night before from 2 days in Las Vegas and one Idaho, I hadn't really thought about where it was I was headed. I knew the town of Aberdeen sounded familiar to me for some reason, though I couldn't tell why. Seeing this sign made it all very clear.

So later that morning, when I was delivering my presentation from atop the stage in the auditorium, I couldn't help but wonder if Kurt had ever performed a school concert here. Was I perhaps standing on the same rickety stage that Kurt Cobain once used? Did the floor of the stage ever sag beneath his Doc Martens as it did my Rockports? I didn't dwell on this thought too much given the well-documented distaste for popular culture Kurt had throughout his life -- even if he would later use it to his monetary gain. Instead, I envisioned a myriad of scrawny blond-haired, scraggly, students staring back at me. Each time I turned my head and noticed a male student with blond hair, my mind's eye would superimpose Kurt's face on his and I would try and wonder whether or not he would have paid attention. Or, better yet, even thought my presentation interesting.

I highly doubt it.

And that's what made him Kurt.

Lighting My Way

A big part of the reason why I've struggled to keep up on the ascents during my recent mountain bike rides is because I simply haven't been riding as much. There are two explanations for this: 1) Far too busy with work, and 2) I can't see in the dark. With the days getting shorter, it's just become impossible for me to ride during the week after work. And with the fall videogame crunch period, there hasn't been any time anyhow.

Fortunately, this is all coming to an end. I'm in the midst of my fourth book in what has been a very busy 2 months and things are finally settling down. I can now sleep for more than 4 hours a night without suffering too much guilt and I can definitely find time for an occasional 2 to 3 hours on the bike. And as for the visibility problems, I received new mountain biking lights for my birthday.

In order to safely ride at night in the woods, one needs a very powerful light. And if one can get an HID (high intensity discharge) light without breaking the bank, all the better. Thanks to a local bike shop ( agreeing to give BBTC members a one-time 25% discount on these lights, I was able to score one monster of a system.

The NiteRider "Rage" is a HID + LED light system that has a 4 hour burn time (on max setting), a 2.5 hour quick charger, and can also run the HID lights at less power for 5 hours or 6 hours if necessary. Being that I don't plan on soloing any 24hr races anytime soon, this will be fine. The light also contains 3 LED bulbs that can burn for 80 hours per charge. While LED lights are worthless as far as night riding is concerned, they are great to have for snack breaks or for while operating on the bike or fixing a flat tire. Having them built into the main bike light means that I can toss my various little Petzl headlamps into the closet of forgotten sports equipment. Right next to that badminton set we received as a gift last year.

I'd put these lights to use tomorrow night, but I can't. For my other new bike purchase -- Avid's Juicy Seven hydraulic disc brakes -- are being installed and the shop is closed on Tuesdays this time of year. Oh well, until then, I'll just have to settle for blinding my wife with them when she comes to bed.

New Guidebook: Ultimate Spider-Man

As you may or may not have known, I author videogame strategy guides for BradyGames publishing ( and the latter part of this summer was spent working on the guidebook for Activision's Ultimate Spider-Man.

The game brings the re-telling of the Spider-Man story that is the Ultimate Spider-Man series to life on the screen through the use of comic-styled graphics, cinematics that feature comic panels and action text, and some pretty darn good voice acting. Not only does the game feature an ensemble cast of characters -- both Wolverine (X-Men) and Johnny Storm (Fantastic Four) make cameo appearances -- but it also introduces several never-before-seen characters as well. The real hook to the game, however, isn't just the tremendous presentation values, but the fact that you actually alternate play between Spider-Man and his much more sinister nemesis, Venom. That's right; you can be both good and bad. One second you're saving innocent citizens, only to be hurtling cars at them minutes later.

Those who played and enjoyed last year's Spider-Man 2: The Movie should consider picking up this year's similar, but different, Ultimate Spider-Man. Although the actual size of the city has been shrunk, and some of the web swinging tricks you could do in the previous game have been removed, the story and action sequences have been improved upon and the addition of a second playable character -- an evil one no less -- makes it all the more enjoyable. And if nothing else, the presentation values are off the charts.

If you own this game and would like a free copy of the strategy guide, autographed by yours truly, send me an email with your mailing address and full name at

Fun at the Derby!

As much fun as hitting a Straight Flush twice in Three Card Poker was (40 to 1 payout, thank you very much), the most fun in the casino during last week's trip to Las Vegas was definitely had playing Sigma Derby. This antique horse-racing machine sits about 6 feet by 10 feet in size and features 5 mechanical horses racing around the track. It can be found on the main casino floor of the MGM Grand, near the lion habitat. Prior to each race, a list of odds appear for each 2-horse combination and bettors are given time to place their 25-cent bets on any of the 10 possible 2-horse combinations. You're betting on which horses will finish the race first and second and the odds change every race. You needn't get the order correctly, only the horse numbers.

The catch is that although each bet is only a quarter, you can bet up to 20 quarters per race and, yes, you can cover all 10 combinations if you so choose. Odds ranged from 2:1 to 200:1 and everywhere in between. Some races were loaded with longshot combinations while other races features a much closer grouping.

Playing this game takes a certain amount of self-confidence as more than a few people walked by, looked at the machine, and then made snide remarks about those of us playing it. The game looks like an antique toy and when you factor its appearance in with the 25-cent bets, it looks like something only a novice gambler would bother with. Or a pauper down to their last buck. Fortunately, I am neither.

My strategy was this: place a 2-quarter bet on one of the favored combos, another 2-quarter bet on one ofthe combos with middle odds (17:1 for example) and then another 2-quarter bet on the longshot. At first people were questioning why I would bet on the 200:1 combo, and my response that risking 25 cents to possibly win $50 seemed reasonable only made them snicker.

Until the 200:1 combo came in. Twice in 30 minutes.

After having lost most of my Three Card Poker winnings back on the Craps table, I was happy to report that I turned three dollars in quarters into $180 in about a half hour playing Sigma Derby.

But, aside from the fact that I did win some money playing this, the game was actually fun. Those who appreciated the machine for what it was knew that it had several qualities many of the table games lacked. For starters, it was fun to yell at the horses, despite feeling like a dork in the process. Secondly, you weren't risking much money, which made it a perfect way to wind down a Vegas trip. And lastly, I couldn't think of a better way to while away the time while Kristin was in her conference that would not win only me a little money, but keep the free booze flowing as well. Gran Marnier & black coffee for those curious.

I've tried to find some photos of the Sigma Derby machine that the MGM Grand has, but I can't. All I wind up finding are futuristic versions and photos of Sigma something-or-another fraternity parties. Which, are probably more fun to look at anyway. I did, however, find a very similar looking version at a Tahoe casino but the folks appearing in the photo with the machine are too ugly to post here so I won't. You can thank me later.

Riding Cooney Lake to Horsehead Pass

Spent one final weekend this year camping and riding to celebrate my 30th birthday. This time we were out in the Okanagon National Forest, just to the east of North Cascades National Park in Washington. This would be my toughest ride yet.

Friday, September 30
We pulled into the Riverbend RV Park outside of Twisp around 7:30 Friday night, right behind Doug St. John. Once at the group camp area we met two other former BBTC members who decided to join us. One named Ricardo, the other was yet another Doug. I go my entire life not knowing another Doug and here I am with 2 of them. Cool. The temps alongside the Methow River Friday night were balmy and I was walking around in a t-shirt until nearly 10pm. This campground charges $8 per person per night, but in my opinion it was worth it. The group camp area was both large and clean, and had multiple picnic tables. It was also near the very clean bathrooms, where one can buy a 5 minute hot shower for $0.50. Ellen and Piset showed up later Friday night after enduring rain storms much of the way. It stayed dry in the Methow valley and we slept well.

Saturday, October 1: Cooney Lake to Horsehead Pass
25 miles with over 5,000 feet of climbing

It was a 40 minute drive to the Crater Creek trailhead from our campground. Once there, we met the other riders: Dave, Bob, Igor, and Paul; each of whom camped in the frigid temps at the trailhead. Two other riders, not from BBTC, were venturing off just as we were and we would see them frequently throughout the day. We were off.

The climb to Cooney Lake is 9 miles long and climbs steadily much of the entire way. A few of the riders took off immediately and were pedaling very fast, but several of us took it easy and paced ourselves for the lengthy day. After about 6 miles of climbing, we started to really gain some elevation and the effects of the high country were starting to take their toll on me. The final 2 miles to Cooney Lake were pretty slow going, as the cold air (by now, it was flurrying) and being over 6,000 feet started messing with me. I stopped often to take plenty of photographs of the golden larch trees, and by the time I and the others at the tail end of the pack reached Cooney Lake, it was clear that the band was about to break up.

Climbing to Cooney Lake

Encountering a bit of snow amongst the larch

My bike and the larch trees... perfect together

Some turned back for medical concerns, others because of the cold and altitude (we were now above 7,000 feet and headed to 8,200) and when all was said and done, our group of 10 was reduced to 6. I personally didn't care whether I went on or not, but as the "ride leader" I figured I would go along with the majority. Nevermind the fact that I felt as if I couldn't take three steps without collapsing over my bike gasping for air. From Cooney Lake, the trail turns vertical and involves pushing & carrying your bike for the better part of a half mile as you make the ascent to 8,200 feet. Igor and the two other Dougs were up ahead yelling words of encouragement to Piset and I who were reconsidering the sanity of our decision.

Piset enduring the climb from Cooney Lake

The climb levels off briefly amongst the larch

Piset enjoying the tremendous view from above Cooney Lake

The views on the ascent from Cooney Lake were nothing short of spectacular, but by the time we made the traverse to the top of Angel's Staircase, the view was much different. There we stood amongst the clouds with a strong snowfall blowing around us. We all piled on every last stitch of clothing we had with us, paused to eat some food, and hydrate, and then straddled our bikes for the technical descent. Some hikers who had just climbed the Staircase paused in disbelief at the sight of us. They took pictures to show their mountain biking friends who, apparently, aren't nearly as tough as they think they are. Then they smiled and said, "I hope the descent is more fun than terrifying". Just what I wanted to hear.

Shrouded in snowfall and clouds atop Angel's Staircase

Descending Angel's Staircase is not for the faint of heart

The descent proved to be both. I was experiencing a noticeable delay in my reaction time due to the conditions and made the descision early to unclip at each switchback. As my photos will testify, an error at this part of the trail will come with a very hefty price. Helmet or no helmet. So while I knew I could negotiate most of the switchbacks, I decided not to even try. I rode what I could and walked the rest for safety. Once we regrouped at the bottom of Angel's Staircase, we all had some fun zipping along the valley on the west side of Sawtooth Ridge. It was about 2pm now and we had been out in the cold for several hours. It was good to finally get some fun, flowy singletrack to ride through.

Off the Staircase and across the valley

We eventually came to the wonderful site that is Boiling Lake. There we basked in the sun, ate, talked, and took photos. We were there for a while, but it felt so good to relax and regain some strength for the final push to Horsehead Pass (elevation 7,600). The climb from Boiling Lake to Horsehead Pass was slow and arduous for me. I was now at the point where if the ground wasn't flat, I had to push. The elevation had really cooked me good (this despite having once ridden 50+ miles above 10,000 feet with nary an effect) but fortunately for me, Piset was also experiencing some unexpected adverse effects and was there to keep me company most of the day. Hence, most of my action shots being of Piset -- nobody else was around.

Yours truly catching some Z's near Boiling Lake

The final climb of the day -- up to Horsehead Pass

Once atop Horsehead Pass, I was ready to get the final 7 miles over with. We had struggled all day, and now it was time for the reward. The temps were dropping as was the sun, but the snow had stopped, and we had plenty of light left to rip down the final few miles. And what fun they were. I did my best to try and keep Igor in sight, but that was to no avail. That guy can ride! We regrouped a couple of times on the descent -- it was nice to not be the one everybody was waiting on for once -- but mostly just let rip back to the cars.

Everybody was pretty cold, hungry, and exhausted so there wasn't much hanging around the trailhead after the ride. We all drove back to the campground and made a mad dash for the showers. A hot shower never felt so good. Later that night, we all had dinners at the campground and then my wife Kristin (who had hiked to Martin Lake and back, just 3 miles shy of Cooney Lake) lit the candles on my marzipan-covered birthday cake. I was turning 30 and as if that wasn't bad enough, Doug St. John went and bought those magical candles for me to suffer with. In case you skipped ahead, let's flashback for a moment. I already spent 7 hours on my birthday gasping for oxygen and now Doug thought it funny to put non-extinguishing candles on my cake. Yes, it was pretty funny. We hung around the campfire pretty late and had a great time.

Sleep came easy Saturday night, despite the below freezing temperatures.