Anyway, instead of coming home with Kristin last night I, instead, flew to Twin Falls, Idaho. Got into the hotel past midnight. Woke up, gave a presentation to the freshmen at a nearby high school, and was back on a plane leaving Idaho by noon. A damn shame, too, because I really was just getting used to the scent of the place. Seriously. As odd as it sounds, a somewhat cozy Old West smell greeted me on the tarmac as I exited the twin-prop and the only way I could describe it was a mix of pipe tobacco, manure, and soil rich in iron.
I have a whole bunch of things to write about, and I'll start in on it tomorrow.
Sunday, September 18
Everybody started stirring around 8:30 or so in the morning. Not because it was time to wake up, but becaue John set off his car alarm while miraculously unlocking the door to his truck with a coat hanger. My first thought was that it was my dogs honking the horn of my truck (which they did several times on Saturday) but it was silenced within seconds and, well, we all needed to start getting up anyway. Chef Floyd got the day off to a wonderful start by cooking up some fantastic breakfast quesadillas with chicken apple sausage, roasted peppers, cheese, and a wonderful fire-roasted salsa. I'm calling dibs on sharing a site with Eric at Okanagon next month! Oh, and did I mention that there wasn't a cloud for miles and the temp was in the low 60's? Perfect. Fall. Weather.
The scheduled ride time of 11am worked out wonderfully as everyone had plenty of time to break camp, eat, and get over to the trailhead at their leisure. Due to the frame of her bike failing, Jennifer would join the newly-formed "Lonely S.O's" club and go hiking with my wife Kristin and Eric's girlfriend Jeanette. Not to mention my two dogs. Their club was supposed to have 2 other members this weekend, but Steve and Justin both had to unfortunately drop from the ride so their significant others stayed home as well.
The first 3 miles of Mount Muller are an unrelenting slog up over 2,000 feet of elevation. It's twice the elevation gain of the Tiger Mtn road climb in the same amount of distance. It sucks. Fortunately, I spotted Brian doing a little a trail maintenance on the way up and was able to use helping him as a partial excuse as to why it took me nearly a half hour longer than John to finish the climb. Needless to say, we were pretty spread out once again. But it should also bear mentioning that, despite only starting the climb about 10 to 15 minutes before us, the "Lonely S.O's + Jennifer" reached the top within ten minutes of myself. You know it's a tough day when hikers can almost keep up with you.
Looking south into Olympic National Park
BBTC President, Brian Jones climbing through the meadow
My ride buddy Eric trying to pick out Mount Olympus.
The "rolling" hills along the ridge to the Mount Muller summit afforded just as many wonderful views as they did muffled expletives. The upper portion of the ridge is actually quite similar to the beginning of the prior day's ride at Dungeness in that there are brief periods of downhilll elation followed by very steep, but not terribly lengthy, uphills. We ditched our bikes at the spur trail and basked in the meadow atop Mount Muller with views of the Strait of Juan De Fuca to the north and the impressive expanse of Olympic National Park to the south. Even Mount Olympus was slightly visible, rising up through the clouds.
Brian beginning the descent with Lake Crescent in the background
As if the views and sun and relaxation atop Mount Muller wasn't enough of a payoff, then we had the descent. Swoopy, tight, occasionally technical at the upper parts, and FAST. It's quite possible to finish the final 6 miles of this ride in about 1/10 the amount of time it takes to cover the first 7 miles. And while it is over pretty fast, it's worth the climb. If not for the chance to coast for miles, then for the time spent in the wonderful forest on the valley floor. With moss dripping from the trees, and sunlight shining through to light your way... it's simply beautiful.
Back at the cars, it took little time before the camp chairs, beer, and a football appeared. I, having spent the day in one of my Seahawks jerseys was pleased to turn on the AM radio and listen to the final 4 minutes of Seattle's victory over Atlanta. I hated having to sell my tickets to the home opener, but looking back, I can't think of a better way to spend a September weekend.
Driving home back over the Hood Canal Bridge at dusk
Waking up to news this morning that the levee in New Orleans has been topped and that the town of Port Arthur in Texas is protected by a seawall of merely 14 feet in height -- and expects a storm surge of 20 feet -- got me thinking back to a guest lecturer I had a brief run-in with in college. The Department of Geology at Lafayette College in Easton, PA featured weekly lunchtime presentations dubbed the "Brown Bag" series and as majors in the department, we were all but required to attend.
One such presenter was a hydrologist from the New South Wales area of Australia. He was there to talk about the Warragamba Dam that was built to protect Sydney's population from a 700-year flood. For those unfamilliar with this terminology, a 700-year flood doesn't necessarily mean that it will only happen once every 700 years (or ever for that matter) but that there is a 1:700 chance of a flood of that magnitude occuring during any given year. It is entirely possible (although unlikely) to experience a 700-year flood every year for 5 years in a row.
The way in which flood frequency is determined is through plotting the occurrence of all such events over time and extrapolating from there. For example, one could plot the measured flood stage of a given river against time. By determining how often a given flood stage is seen to occur, one could extrapolate a curve to show what the expected flood stage of a future catastrophic flood may be. In other words, by knowing that the river has risen to a height of 6 feet above flood stage every 10 years, and 12 feet above flood stage every 20 years, we could assume that a flood of 24 feet may be in order every 40 years. Of course, this would assume a perfectly linear relationship, but nevertheless it is a way of addressing and planning around our limited knowledge base -- we haven't been monitoring rivers (or storms for that matter) for hundreds of years so extrapolation is vital.
And this is where cultures collide.
Our speaker that day argued that building a dam to protect from a flood with a 1:700 chance of occuring wasn't good enough. He felt the data should be exrapolated further and that the Australian government should have determined what the flood stage for a 1500-year flood would be and built the dam to hold it back. To illustrate his point, he had drawn a quick graph on the overhead transparency showing a perfectly linear relationship between rainfall and time and extended the line out and up off the graph to where he felt Sydney needed to be in order to guarantee the public's safety.
He took this opportunity to critique the United States for allowing all of our safety decisions to be too heavily influenced by cost-to-risk analyses. He commented that many of the levee systems and dams constructed in the United States were built to protect against a 100-year storm or flood and only a scant few projects offered protection against an event with a 1:250 chance of occuring. He made several comments about the Army Corps of Engineers placing too low of a value on American lives.
It was at this time that I spoke up. I pointed out to him that assuming an indefinitely linear relationship between expected rainfall and time was senseless. I inquired if his plan for protecting against a 1500-year storm also required the government to provide each citizen with an ark and a pair of llamas. Obviously, a reasonable scientist or layman could come to the conclusion that eventually you will reach a point when it simply has to stop raining. That the curve is not linear, but rather asymptotic, and that a limit will inevitably be reached. We will eventually see the curve flatten and that there would be no measurable difference between a flood or storm that occurs once every 600 years and one that occurs every 2000 years.
My thesis advisor, and nationally recognized geomorphologist and hydrologist, nodded his head approvingly. He agreed with me. And if he felt that the US was off-the-mark with its conservative flood protection policies, he didn't let it show.
The presenter that day simply shook his head understandably to my comments as if he had heard them everywhere he went, and simply replied by stating that he doesn't think a 1500-year storm will occur, but he couldn't help but feel the lives of those living in Sydney were worth the construction expense. Even if it was just for peace of mind.
Watching the horror unfold in New Orleans over the past several weeks and seeing another low-lying area on the Gulf Coast brace for more of the same from Hurricane Rita, I sit here wondering if perhaps our Aussie presenter was on to something. It's highly understandable for us as a nation to allow construction costs to enter into the equation, and certainly nobody wants 50 foot seawalls marring the landscape. But obviously our plans are flawed. We are spending far too much money rebuilding areas than simply protecting them. The answer must lie somewhere between our current standards and those of the whatever-it-takes presenter I listened to that day. When tragedy strikes we mustn't simply rebuild what was broken, but rather improve on it. Learn from it. Extrapolate further into the future and build to protect against that.
And then when the construction is complete and everyone is safe, find yourself an Aussie and give him a big hearty American "good on ya' mate!'
Back then, in the 8-bit days, a "strategy guide" for a game consisted of no more than a few pages of tips in the back of a magazine. There were no online guides or FAQs. Heck, there wasn't even an online period. There were the 1-900 tipe lines and that was about it. I recall Nintendo releasing an all-black soft-cover "strategy guide" that contained all you needed to know for 30 games. Imagine that. 30 games covered inside and out in under 200 pages. I know it was under 200 pages because I made photocopies of every page and put each game's info in a different manilla folder. Yes, when it came to collecting, I had an OCD streak a mile long. Baseball cards, stamps (don't ask), videogames, and even videogame information was organized meticulously. I was a 90-pound Felix Unger.
Despite covering 30 games in a single tome, that book had full-color maps for Goonies II. And that made it indispensable. I actually spent an entire night on the phone with my step-brother playing that game with the maps in my lap. My step-brother and I both beat the game that night with me guiding the way over the phone. We were on the phone for over 6 hours but I had the book and he didn't. He needed my help and we both loved Goonies II and neither of us had beaten it yet.
The year is now 2005 and I'm up all night once again. Not playing a game over the phone, or even online for that matter, but wrapping up my latest official strategy guide. This one for the upcoming Tony Hawk's American Wasteland. Like that book in my youth, it too is under 200 pages in length and contains full-color maps. But that is where the similarities end. As I write this, my computer is in the process of burning over 3 gigabytes of data to a DVD so as to free up room on my C drive. Despite having zipped and compressed my finished map files and the hundreds of screenshots and text files involved in authoring a guidebook, the "THAW" folder on my desktop was still weighing in at over 3 gigs.
To think that the amount of data generated in the process of fully documenting and illustrating the goings-on in, what some would say is "just a skateboard game", could possibly equate to the actual file size of the game as it appears on disc is frightening.
But only because I'm naive. It actually seems, now that I think about it, that strategy guides and the games they cover may have always had a 1:1 byte ratio. Thinking back to Goonies II and the several pages of text and two color maps that got me through it, they couldn't possibly have occupied less than 1 meg or so of space on someone's early IBM computer. A little searching revealed that the largest NES game in terms of file size was apparently Dragon Warrior 4 which was, you guessed it, 1 megabyte.
This shouldn't come as any surprise, as the technologies and quality of presentation in both games and the books that cover them have increased exponentially over the past decade or two. But, as someone who finds himself with ever shrinkening deadlines, the increase in game size -- and therefore guidebook size -- has me concerned. Three gigs of data generated by 1 person in 2 weeks for "just a skateboarding game" is all but at the limits of time and physical endurance.
It's 4:21 am and I'm done working for the night. But my next guidebook for the upcoming western, Gun, is even bigger and my deadline for it is October 8th. I'd go to sleep but I'm afraid how much game data might be on that disc sitting beside me.
And no, I don't normally go mountain biking in a Marcus Trufant jersey, but it was Sunday and I felt bad about selling my tickets to the Seahawks home opener, so I wore it.
And I would add that this goes doubly true (and isn't even much of a choice) when one is attempting to lead a ride with the likes of John, Stephanie, and Art. Not to mention all the other fasties who signed up for this weekend getaway to the Olympic Peninsula. Several of us had endured a frigid, rain-soaked, trip to the peninsula back in June and we were hoping that karma would reward us for giving it a second try. Besides, we had BBTC Prez, Brian Jones, with us on his first mountain bike trip to the Oly Peninsula so the weather had no choice but to be nice. It was perfect.
Saturday, September 17
Nearly a dozen weather-watching BBTCers gathered on board the 8:40am ferry out of Edmonds and headed straight across Puget Sound to the Lower Dungeness trailhead for the Dungeness/Gold Creek loop. The trail's first four miles or so offer a pretty vicious wake-up call, as brief sections of dowhill cruising do little to refresh the legs spent powering up the hike-a-bike stretches that litter the early goings. The group got pretty spread out right away, but everybody waited to regroup at all major intersections and at the river camp shelter 5 miles into the trail. This was several people's first time riding this particular loop and at about this time, everyone had one question on their mind: Is the climbing over?
Catching our breath at the river camp
Oh, if only it was. We rode along the valley floor to the forest road about 6 miles into the ride, hung a left, and descended like a stampede for nearly a mile before beginning the lengthy road climb to the Gold Creek trailhead. My speedometer hit 38.4 mph on the descent, as I was in John's one-handed-for-aero draft. We all got pretty spread out again on the several mile road climb, but the faster riders didn't seem to mind having another bite or two of their sandwhiches while waiting for the rest of us to arrive.
Now that I've ridden this loop twice, and this time a much better technical rider, I can say that with all seriousness that the Gold Creek trail is every bit as scary and fun as Devil's Gulch, and probably moreso. Sure, there are a couple of steep uphills on the way down, but for the the most part, this is you and your bike riding on a razor's edge at speeds too fast to even think of admiring the views across the valley. I glanced left at the mountains for a split second once and nearly plummeted off the trail. Lesson learned. What's even scarier about this was the speed at which John and Art descended. After a brief stop at an intersection I jumped on their rear wheel and tried to keep up. I was way beyond my comfort zone, inching close to 20 mph on very narrow singletrack with seeming hundreds of feet of exposure to my left, and after about 20 seconds, I couldn't even see them. Most impressive.
After the first brief creek crossing, the Gold Creek trail drops down a series of a dozen or so very tight switchbacks. Like Kachess Ridge, but tighter. They were a lot of fun and while I probably owe it to following Shane's perfect lines, I'm happy to report that, despite walking all 12 of them in April, I cleaned every single one of them except for the uppermost left-hander which caught me completely by surprise. At the base of the switchbacks was where the real fun began, however.
First, John eyed a huge downed tree -- on the order of 100ft in length and over 2 feet in diameter -- and hoisted his bike onto it and rode the entire length of the tree. The tree was snapped in multiple spots, but he made it look so easy.
John demonstrating his balance
Before you knew it, Art was over near a similar blowdown -- this one even larger in diameter -- and he was thinking of trying to ride over it. The log was about waist-high so several of us rolled some other logs into position to give him a ramp on the backside so he wouldn't flip off the log. After watching John and Art come closer and closer to making it up and over the log, I decided to give it a try. I was pretty nervous due to the height of the log, but was pretty sure it was doable. Man, was I excited when I was the first to clear it--thanks for the photo Eric! Art eventually cleared it as well -- even adding a trackstand on top of the log for good measure.
Rolling some smaller logs into place on the downslope side
That's me clearing the monster blowdown
The car's weren't much further and we all finished up strong with a big smile on our faces. There was, however, one casualty for the day. Jennifer was soldiering on intent on completing the loop by herself and noticed a creaking noise while pedaling the forest road up to the Gold Creek trailhead. After a brief inspection of her bike, she found that the upper portion of the seat tube, just above the top-tube weld, had cracked roughly halfway through. In the worst case of trailside misfortune I've yet to see, she endured all of the hard climbs, and lengthy hike-a-bikes, just to have her bike fail her before the fun began. Rather than risk the descent on the singletrack, she was able to turn around on the road and follow it eight or so miles back to the trailhead where Art, Lisa, Brian, and Jeff awaited her return.
Piset crossing Gold Creek
Some dined at the trailhead while waiting for Jennifer and the rest of us returned to the thai restaurant in Port Angeles where we stopped after riding Mount Muller in June. Once again, the food was very good, and we all left sated and happy. Some of us even had some left-overs. From there, we drove to Klahowya Campground, about 9 miles west of Lake Crescent, and just 4 miles past the Mount Muller trailhead. I picked this campground out of a book based on it being cheap and close to Muller, and although I definitely sensed some trepidation on the part of the other riders -- nobody had ever stayed there before -- it all worked out very well. The campsites were both immaculate and very large. We arrived in the dark, but it didn't take long before we were sitting round the campfire, beers and wine in hand, and passing around Joseph's 5 pound bag of pistachios.
The story continues tomorrow...
Parsippany (N.J.) High's game last Saturday was postponed for 24 hours after a player's father threatened the coach for benching his son because he arrived five minutes late to the team bus, the Newark Star-Ledger reported.
According to police, Robert Stanel told coach Gerry Moore, in front of Moore's staff: "I'm going to ... kill you. ... I'll be coming back for you."
Stanel, in defending his actions, told the Star-Ledger: "I work construction. This is just the way we talk. It's a wake-up call."
Here's another one: Prosecutors have charged Dad with making a terrorist threat, and police guarded the team bench for Sunday's makeup, a 41-14 loss to West Essex.
You know, I actually totally agree with this guy. Sometimes it's really hard to censor yourself -- especially after a hard day on the job. Like just last night for example. I spent a long hard day working on the strategy guide for Tony Hawk's American Wasteland and, well, I was kind of fired up. We were out to dinner ordering some sushi and I said to the the sushi chef, "You call that plate a combo? 4 pieces? Get your noob ass back to the valley before I stomp you." My wife was so embarrased but I couldn't help it. It's how we talk at work. Sometimes it's hard to turn off.
My wife and I moved into a 6-year old house last year and the biggest challenge upon moving was figuring out where to put the television. At the time we had a 36" Sony Wega -- a hulking monstrosity in girth and weight that sticks out nearly three feet from the wall. The shape of the living room didn't allow for such a television, unless we were to block a window with it or push the couches into the hallway to avoid sitting on top of it.
My answer? Well, we just spent several hundred thousand dollars on the house, why not another three on a television? Okay, so actually, that's not really how it went down. But in the end, we did end up getting one of Samsung's new DLP tv's. It's 48" in viewing area, but only about 14 inches deep and about 60 pounds. Too wide to hang on the wall, but thin enough to not dominate the room. But then came the question of what do we put it on. Everywhere we went there were big traditional television cabinets and armoires and small, flimsy, tables or little chests of drawers that were either too low or too high. Most with a higher concentration of glue than wood.
Finally, we came across a company called Salamander Designs (www.salamanderdesigns.com) who not only ships direct to the customer, but has a bevy of awesome television tables that seem perfectly made for DLP and LCD tv's and you can actually customize them with different doors and drawers and whatnot. Those of you with plasmas can enjoy your wall art, but may want to look at their site anyway as the tables hold all of your components as well, and probably look pretty good under a hanging plasma too.
Anyway, I mention this because the article in the paper only name-drops a couple of companies who specialize in very high-dollar stuff. Salamander's "triple 20" table wasn't cheap (nearly half the cost again of the tv) but it'd be a shame not to see them get mentioned. And for what it's worth, we get as many compliments on the table as we do the tv. I'm obtrusive enough, we don't need the furniture piling on.
This is on the Gold Creek trail, near Sequim, in the Olympic National Forest. That's me clearing a monster blowdown blocking the trail. There were no logs on the up-trail side of it and we rolled the smaller ones you see up against it to decrease the odds of someone breaking their collar bone on the descent. I watched some of the veteran riders give it a few unsuccesful tries and finally figured that I might as well at least attempt it. Who would have thunk it, but I cleared it on my 2nd attempt.
The photo was taken by my friend Eric Floyd and although I love the shot, it's hard to get a feel for how big the log was. I'm 6 feet tall, and the log came up to my waist. The smaller log that my front wheel is about to hit is about 14" in diameter.
No, I had never attempted to just ride up and over something that large before. But there's even better shots than this coming in the next day or two, as soon as I find time to get them off my camera. Promise.
Yours truly on the Gold Creek trail.
In his first full length movie, crazed baby genius Stewie Griffin (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) sets out on a wild journey to find the man he believes is his real father (not that bumbling nitwit Peter). During his cross-country trek, the enfant terrible makes some shocking discoveries while searching for daddy dearest in this unrated, full-length animated film.
Also, here's a link to a sample clip from the movie. Can't wait to buy this.
So imagine my surprise when this older, bearded, and slightly disheveled guy walks in 5 minutes later and sits at the table next to mine alongside the window. Not really a problem, but he sat down on the side facing me. There were 15 tables in the restaurant and he sits down in a chair that essentially forces him to stare at me from 5 feet away while I eat. This is just rude. And a bit weird. This is like two guys walking into a restaurant and sitting side-by-side at a table (not that there's anything wrong with that). Or like talking to a stranger at the adjacent urinal when there's an entire row of vacant ones nearby (definitely something wrong with this). Can't we just spread out and let people enjoy their solitude?
But lunch, as always at this place, was excellent. And since I was out, I stopped at the nearby coffee shop for my drug of choice -- the venti americano. Which reminds me; babe, if you're reading this, I had to use the left over milk from my cereal bowl in my coffee this morning. Can you please pick some up on the way home? Thanks. Love ya.
The message boards are awash in praise and cynicism right now. And the truth is, is that nobody but a few select journalists at the Tokyo Game Show have any idea how good this controller actually works. And even they only got to play it with tech-demos. It will be a year before the consumer (American ones at least) can weigh in with hands-on experience.
Right now, I'm not even concerned about the quality of the product and experience it will afford gamers. I've been saying for years that Nintendo has got to embrace its uniqueness and either go in a completely different direction or simply sever its ties with older gamers and aggressively pursue the youth market. My exact words were for it to "become the Fisher-Price of interactive entertainment". With this controller, Nintendo has clearly decided to step away from the mainstream console wars and while not necessarily giving the cold shoulder to adult gamers, it's clear they are marching to their own drum.
One of the most often heard comments in gaming forums these past few years was how nobody but those who only own a Nintendo Gamecube ever buy the Gamecube version of a multi-platform title. I have a Gamecube and own roughly two dozen games for it--most of them are first party titles. I have over 120 combined PS2 and Xbox titles--very few of them published by either Sony or Microsoft. With this controller, Nintendo is acknowledging this trend and giving all third-party developers the go-ahead to cease porting Xbox and Playstation titles to their system. From now on, if a publisher wants to sell a game to a Revolution owner, it's most likely going to be an original title made specifically for the Revolution's unique controls.
This is a very daring and bold move by Nintendo. Although they will all but guarantee extremely high penetration rates for every Revolution game they publish -- despite flogging their franchises nearly as bad as Capcom they don't release games all that often and as a result their fans can afford to buy everything that is released -- they will take huge losses in the realm of licensing fees. I predict this because I foresee very few companies spending much time and money developing titles for a system that is all but cetain to have a home in much fewer households than the other consoles on the market. Factor in development dollars being diverted to PSP and DS development, and the available slice of pie going to things other than Xbox 360 and PS3 gets even smaller.
This is Nintendo taking the road less travelled. It's going to get pretty bumpy, so please make sure you buckle up.
In honor of the weekend I'm about to spend camping and mountain biking on the Olympic Peninsula, I thought I'd shed some light on a photo I took this time last year out there. This was taken near Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, on the southern tip of Long Beach. Just hours prior to this photo being taken, my wife and I were enjoying a clear, sunny day on a small sandy cove all too ourselves. Temps in the 70's, a cloudless sky, and just a small breeze blowing in from the ocean. And then on our hike to the lighthouse, the fog rolled in from the nearby Columbia River mouth and the sky went flat white and visibility shrank by the minute. Normally, I wouldn't bother with the camera with such a drab, featureless sky such as this, but I was drawn to the pair of tiny trees on this small island in the middle of the cove. Watching them stand tall as the sea and salt swirled in around them was rather inspirational.
Follow this link to order prints:
Their just-released November, 2005 issue is one such time.
If you have a pulse -- and a television -- you've no doubt heard the banshee-esque screechings of misguided lawyers and politicians of late. Their cause du jour has been, according to them (and I'm paraphrasing here) the alarming increase in youth violence due directly to the sale of violent Mature-rated videogames to underage children. And by under-age we're referring to anyone 16 and under.
Up until this issue of PC Gamer sitting next to me, the response from gamers, the court system, and all-around level-headed Americans -- not to mention the gaming industry's Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and International Game Developers Association (IGDA) -- has basically been one of denial, name-calling, and a reiteration of the First Amendment.
As pointed out by Duke Ferris in this article in PC Gamer, this conversation shouldn't even be taking place. Why, you ask? Because, in his words, "There is no epidemic of youth violence in America."
Now, before you call me a liar and suggest Mr. Ferris pull his head out of the sand, it should be known that his conclusion is based on something that witch-hunting lawyer Jack Thompson and politicians Hillary Clinton and Joseph Lieberman (among many others) were obviously far too busy to look at -- the US Department of Justice's statistics.
Mr. Ferris shows that the violent crime rate for those 12 and over is currently at the lowest it's been in 30 years and -- more importantly to the conversation -- this rate has dropped by nearly 50% since the release of the Playstation in 1995. Mr. Ferris then goes on to break the data down even further by isolating the rates of homicide in the US by age group. What do you know? In 1994, before the launch of the Playstation, there were over 30 homicides committed per 100,000 14-17 year olds. Today: eleven years, 2 Playsations, and multiple Grand Theft Autos later, the rate is down considerably. Last year, there were less than 10 homicides committed per 100,000 14-17 year olds. That's one third of the pre-Playstation number for those who hate math.
So where's the beef? Sure, we all remember Columbine and the copycat incidents that followed, but this public outcry is not only misguided but a very blatant witch hunt. Mrs. Clinton and the others are merely looking for an opportunity to sidle up alongside the more conservative swing voting public and tuck some bullshit "family values" feather in her cap.
Thank you to Duke Ferris for finally setting the record straight and for PC Gamer magazine for having the sense to give a real journalist 2 pages of space. It's amazing what a few minutes spent searching the government's website will yield. The politicians we elect ought to try it sometime.
Despite the sweat running down the inside of my Men's Wearhouse sportcoat, the presentation went pretty well. Naturally, there were a few girls who were hell-bent on playing the too cool for school routine. Little by little, they tried to be more disruptive but it was clear the class wasn't really paying them any attention. And besides, the class had Spazmonkey to chear on. Nothing like asking for two volunteers and having one of them proclaim that his name is Spazmonkey. No, what's you're real name? Okay, but I don't want to call you Spazmonkey. Can we call you something else? Please? The first kid I picked was named Hunter and everyone thought that was funny and laughed. Including him. Little did he know I would trot out my boy Spazmonkey moments later. Nothing like trying to demonstrate the importance of your freshman year grades on your overall GPA when a kid named Spazmonkey is your example.
At least the three chatty kathy's knew they had been upstaged and were content on being quiet for the remaining 25 minutes.
It looks as if a massive underground chamber may be slowly filling with magma or water, and causing a 100-square mile bulge in western Oregon. Make no mistake about it, this is the same type of process that very slowly forms continental volcanoes, just like the Cascades. The bulge is imperceptible to humans on land and is only growing 1.4 inches per year.
The nearest volcano is South Sister, located just a few miles away, and is believed to have last erupted 2,000 years ago. The nearest major population center is the city of Bend, roughly 25 miles away.
Having studied volcanoes in the classroom and in the field as a geologist, this is the type of thing that gets me giddy with excitement. I was ecstatic when Mount St. Helens came back to life last year -- on my birthday no less -- and the thought of us possibly seeing another tiny volcano come to life during our lifetime is amazing. Of course, the rate of growth will have to really increase for it to amount to anything more than a bump in the landscape by the time I'm 90 years old, but if it does? Wow.
Read the article at CNN here: (http://tinyurl.com/b4ba2)
The sad part of this story is that despite the first slide taking place at 1am, three women just happened to be travelling by at the exact moment the slide took place and were crushed to death. They were returning home from a concert in eastern Washington.
Seattle Times: The collapse began about 5 or 10 feet up the cliff, above a 30-foot-wide ditch designed to catch falling rock. A chunk of granite about 60 feet high, 20 feet wide and 10 feet thick shattered, sending about 300 cubic yards of rock — the equivalent of 30 dump-truck loads — into the ditch and onto the shoulder and all three westbound lanes, a distance of about 70 feet.
Despite teams of geologists being sent to the scene to investigate nearby areas for potential slides, another one occured less than 48 hours later, and less than a mile away. This second one, like the first, was at a spot deemed safe by the geologists. The scary part of this story isn't that this could happen -- we all know it could -- but that the state's transportation department has reported that they receive 13 million dollars a year to investigate and armor against potential slides and that there are over 100 areas in Washington state deemed more likely to fall than the one that took the lives of three women this weekend. They reportedly have over 100 million dollars worth of slope stabilization work to do.
One of the first things you learn as a geologist in the US is that there is a huge difference between the east and the west coasts. The east coast has experienced hundreds of millions of years of weathering and, by and large, most "catastrophic" change has already occured. The environment is dormant, for lack of a better word. Out west, where the landscape is far younger, geologic change is constantly happening all around you. And like a hurricane or tsunami, it can't be stopped. And for one reason: water. One can no sooner hold back the sea than we can keep water from eroding a mountainside. And just as people will always yearn to live near the ocean, so will we need and want to travel through the mountains. This weekend's rock slides are just a reminder of another thing we need to worry about. As if we didn't have enough already.
Photo by Seattle Times: http://tinyurl.com/8pnex
Story by Seattle Times: http://tinyurl.com/8zdn8
I'm not one of the people who find movies to be too expensive. Sure, they're 50-70% more expensive than they were a decade ago, but a decade ago we didn't have 1080p digital theatres, nice reclining seats, and incredible surround sound with stadium seating. I'm fine with the cost. $9 for 2 hours of escape? Sounds fair to me. But only if the movie is compelling. We're not sheep (anymore) and aren't going to just go and see everything. Movies must do more than stimulate our eyes and ears -- it must also stir our minds and hearts. And redundant sequels and pointless action flicks do not do this.
And you'll find the same excuses being flung around in the videogame industry. Companies have been blaming the relative drop in sales of late on the economy, pirated copies, alternative forms of entertainment, nice weather, and even on consoles that aren't even out yet. Now I agree that the economy does play a factor here, as most videogames retail new for $50 and that is a hard pill to swallow for many, but primarily it's been about the games not being worth our time. I can't tell you how many games I paid $50 for, played for 2 hours and threw it on the shelf in disgust. Oddly enough, most of the games I've enjoyed the most over the past 6 months have retailed for under $40 brand new.
But I don't mind paying $50 for a videogame. So long as it doesn't suck.
Game makers and movie houses will find millions of Americans with disposable income looking to spend their money if the product is worth it. No matter the cost. But gone are the days where we buy everything thrown our way. The quicker everyone understands this and accepts it, the sooner we can all get what we want.
You see, it's because unlike most other three-month periods of my life, I had only been to theatre once in a very long time. And that was to see the independent documentary, Murderball. My conversation with the caller went like this.
Him: How many movies have you seen in the theatre in the past 3 months?
Me: Just one. Murderball.
Him: Oh. Is there someone else in the household that has seen more?
Me: Nope. My wife and I usually go once or twice a month, but there hasn't been anything worth seeing.
Him: Tell me about it, hopefully there will be some better movies in the winter. Mind if I call you back later in the year?
Me: Not at all, although I wouldn't get your hopes up.
Videogame makers, please take note. America is finally getting some sense of taste and self-respect. At least the movie going public is. Hollywood box office numbers are down this year big time and it's because people are finally refusing to pay their hard-earned money to see whatever drek is being shoveled onto the screen. Dukes of Hazard? Herbie the Love Bug? Bewitched? House of Wax? The Pacifier? Fantastic Four? The Island? No, I haven't seen these movies, but thanks to www.rottentomatoes.com I don't have to. Here's why: when only 2 of every 10 critics in the country recommend your movie, it sucks. There's no need for me to verify its suckdom with my own two eyes.
And it's really obvious why nobody is going. Movies these days all seem to be either a decades-old retread of a license that was barely entertaining in its prime, or a bloated action movie that does more to showcase current special effects capabilities than provide an entertaining movie-going experience. What do you know, this sounds exactly like videogames. Millions of dollars are being spent on securing exclusive licenses that remove competition, and even more being pumped into every [marketable] aspect of a game aside from gameplay. Case in point: those Fantastic Four commercials look great last month -- but I can't help but wonder why a single second of gameplay footage wasn't shown?
The only difference right now between the games industry and Hollywood is that not every movie carries a number between 3 and 7 on it. But I'm sure Hollywood has learned nothing from The Matrix and is ready to treat us to the final chapter in the Deuce Bigalow trilogy. Who knows, maybe even another Police Academy movie is in the works too. I wouldn't be surprised. They're gradually working on ridding the cinemas of original material, just as game publishers are moving more towards spectacle and sequels and further away from fun and originality. Nothing is allowed to be simple and fun anymore, everything must be complex and eye-popping, and controversial.
But there is hope.
The answer lies in independent and foreign films. Thanks to the Internet, Americans (myself included) are slowly becoming more and more knowledgeable of things outside the mainstream. Some of the best movies I've seen in the past year or two-- whether on DVD or in the theatre -- were care of movie houses that aren't household names. Seek out these movies. Rent them. Buy them. Support the theatres that show them. The major movie houses are taking notice.
Go see The Constant Gardener and the March of the Penguins and Murderball if you can find it still playing. Head to the video store and buy a copy of House of Flying Daggers, Whalerider, Bend it Like Beckham, Swimming Pool, and Life is Beautiful if you haven't already. Watch the foreign language ones with the subtitles -- a little reading is good for you and you'll be surprised to see how little it interferes with the movie.
And the next time you're looking for a videogame to purchase, consider passing up the latest installment of Madden or Gran Turismo or Insert-Generic-FPS-Here and instead, grab a copy of something original like Shadow of the Colossus or Killer 7 or even one fo the cheapie titles like Ribbit King or Dai Senryaku VII. And it doesn't have to be from a small independent company, but rather just an original title that is a little off the beaten path.
Companies don't spend money on Nielsen Ratings and NPD Group market data for nothing. Regardless of the industry, everyone feeds off imitation. Loyally (and blindly) purchasing every year's installment of Madden is only going to get you more Madden. Support the companies willing to take a risk -- you might just stumble on some really great stuff that nobody else is talking about (because nobody is paying them to) and if enough people do it, it could make a difference. When you vote with your wallet, everyone listens.
When we moved from North Carolina to the west coast 3 years ago, there were essentially just two things that made adapting a bit tough. First, there was the challenge of flipping my inner-geographer to understand that the ocean is now to the west and the mountains are to the east. I can't tell you how many times my trips to the mountains began with me heading west on the interstate and ending up in downtown Seattle. My second challenge and one that proved harder to overcome, was dealing with the fact that NFL games begin at 10:00am. We are not early risers--we love sleeping in after a late night--but for the NFL? We are up and about by 9 o'clock every Sunday. And now we have a pattern.
9:00 - wake up, brush teeth, shower, and take the dogs out.
9:30 - Kristin makes us french toast for breakfast while I print out our fantasy sports lineups and read the sports page out loud.
9:40 - we eat while watching the Fox pre-game show. Oh how that silly Terry Bradshaw slays me. Kristin wants to have Howie Long's baby. Well, maybe not his baby, but I'm pretty sure she would, well, you know...
10:00 - we retire to the couch, where we use our Sunday Ticket DirecTV subscription to watch as much of every single game there is coast-to-coast. So long as it's in HD. I can't bear to turn off a game in HD to watch one in analog anymore. Unless it's to watch the Seahawks on the local station. Those games are usually pretty ugly no matter what resolution they're being broadcast in.
4:30 - we order a pizza so that we'll be recharged for the ESPN Sunday night game.
8:00 - okay, enough of football for one day, time to watch The Simpsons, that new show with Michael Rappaport (who was awesome in Beautiful Girls -- one of my all-time favorite movies), and The Family Guy.
And then I make another pot of coffee and climb the stairs to my office -- usually with a stomach ache by this time of the day thanks to the crap I've been eating and drinking for 12 hours -- and I try to get some work done.
This will never change. You can set your watch to it.
But wait until after next week if you do, because we'll be camping on the Olympic Peninsula. Oh, and don't set your watch to it the week after that either, because we'll be in Las Vegas. Crap, forget about the first week in October too, as we'll be camping in the Northern Cascades that week. But, dammit, you bettter believe that come October 8th, we'll be on that couch all day just like always.
Not too far east of my house the major interstate in the area splits to straddle a beautiful little river valley, home of Franklin Falls. Those travelling westbound on the highway can actually catch a glimpse of the upper portion of the falls by quickly looking back over their shoulder at the right time. A better way to view the falls is to simply hike the trails that lead to their base. On this chilly October morning in 2004, I did just that. Armed with trekking poles and gators, I hiked along the edge of the cliff near the falls and splashed my way out into the middle of the river. This is one of my favorite photos in my collection and, with fall rapidly approaching, I couldn't help but select it for this week's Photo Friday.
Follow this link to order prints:
I picked up "All Families Are Psychotic" by Douglas Coupland a couple weeks ago in the Toronto airport out of shear boredom and to be perfectly honest, I wasn't expecting much. But after nearly 30 minutes of nonstop book-blurb reading, I decided to buy it. After all, I don't read much fiction and my book shelf could use some flourescent pink and orange. So, why not, right?
Rather than try and tell you how funny the book is, or how absolutely ridiculous and disturbing the plot is, I'll just repeat the blurb. After all, if not for the blurb-writer, where would be?
The last time the wildly dysfunctional Drummond family of Vancouver got together, gunplay was on the menu. Only the fact that their one shining star, Sarah the astronaut, is about to be launched into space at Cape Canaveral tempts them to try togetherness again - though the state of Florida may never recover from the Drummond version of fun in the sun. Adultery, hostage-taking, a purloined letter, a heart attack at Disney World, bankruptcy, addiction, AIDS, black market baby negotiations - this is clearly destined to be the most disastrous family reunion in the history of fiction.
The book is both smart and funny and although it's not nearly as much a piece of acclaimed literature as Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections", which I also highly recommend, it's a worthwhile read. Especially if you ever need a pleasant reminder that your own strained family relations aren't that bad after all.
Saturday, September 3
I picked up Ellen at 5 am and together we made the nearly 5hour drive north to Whistler, home of North America's best ski resort, Whistler-Blackcomb. Along the way, we stopped at Shannon Falls and Brandywine Falls. The latter of which was a big, wet, disappointment.
Once at Whistler, we looked at the pouring rain slam against the windshield and realized that we would never live it down if we drove to Whistler and didn't ride due to a little (okay, a lot) of rain. So we geared up and took off down the highway to ride the cross-country trail known as "Kill Me Thrill Me". We would miss the trailhead while wincing from the raindrops tearing at our faces and decided it was probably best. We would just ride some less-technical trails.
After a very soggy ride at Whistler, Ellen and I met up with Kevin and Ken who were putting their burlier bikes to use in Whistler's mountain bike stunt park. After a brief pasta dinner and some grocery shopping, we hit the road. The trip north included a 40 mile stint on a dirt road that switchbacked up and over a mountain. This road is open only to snowmobiles after November. Fortunately, my Honda Element made it up and over without a problem.
Climbing the road to Goldbridge
Once at camp, nearly 3 hours later, we promptly set up our tents in the dark while the skies opened and the rain came down. I dove into my tent and lied awake much of the night listening to the rain hammer down on my tent, wondering whether or not a trip of this magnitude could be enjoyable in a downpour.
Sunday, September 4th
I awoke at 5am to the incredible sound of a wolf howling across the valley. After nearly 15 minutes another wolf -- this one with a much higher pitch -- answered back. The two alternated calls for 5 to 10 minutes while I laid in my sleeping bag with an enormous grin on my face. I've dreamt of a moment like this since first reading Call of the Wild and White Fang in elementary school. Hearing wolves in the wild was one of the highlights of this trip. Scratch that -- one of the highlights in my life.
Despite being excited about hearing the wolves, I was almost just as excited to not hear something else. No rain. It was on...
Loading up the bikes and wheels
View from the backseat
I took a ton of photos from my window seat in the second row of the plane, but the tremendous morning glare rendered most of them rubbish. We departed Tyaughton Lake near Tyax Resort with a silky-smooth takeoff and flew 25 minutes to Warner Lake. Many other groups had tried to fly to Warner Lake earlier this year, but were forced to take a shorter route via Spruce Lake. We got lucky. Our pilot, Dale, flew past Spruce Lake and, decided to temp the weather gods and take us to Warner Lake. We were only the second group all season to get the green light to land at Warner Lake. More miles of singletrack would await!
The plane begins to leave us behind
And just like that... we're stranded
Our guide, Ian, quickly showed us how to use his satellite phone in case he should suffer a serious injuy. He informs us that the trail is very rocky, hilly, and technical for the first several miles. I slip on my neoprene gloves, consider the dusting of snow I'm standing in, and shoulder my Camelback. It's time to ride.
Ken enjoying some early singletrack
My bike on a rocky section of trail
Ellen keeping her eyes on the trail
Some views are too nice to ride past
Ken's chain broke... his wouldn't be the only one
Our guide, Ian, leads us into the meadows
Stopping for lunch amongst the birch
Ellen and I on a bridge over Gun Creek
Kevin cruising along the riverside
Ken rapidly approaching the end of the trail
Me finishing up the Gun Creek Trail and heading home
The ride was 25 miles in length and took 6 hours to complete including numerous photo stops and a couple brief breaks for mechanical problems and to snack. Although Ken broke his chain less than 3 miles into the ride, it was me who suffered the worst mechanical problem. Just 4 miles into the ride my chain snapped and sent the derailleur cage into the spokes of my rear wheel. The derailleur hanger was bent and, despite the advice given to me earlier in the week, I hadn't a spare with me. I fixed the chain and Ian was able to bend the derailleur back and adjust the cable tension to get me 4 or 5 good gears. I completed the next 21 miles with 1/4 of my normal drivetrain functioning, but I kept the problem in mind and made sure not to apply too much tension. Needless to say, there were quite a few hills later in the ride that would have been completely rideable with a functioning derailleur, that forced me to hike-a-bike.
As if a sign that I should perhaps start believing in a higher being, the hanger broke and the derailleur shattered into pieces just as I pedaled up to my tent. It held together as long as absolutely necessary and not a single pedal-stroke more.
It held long enough to get me home and not a second longer...
Saturday night, we treated our ride organizer, Kevin, to a buffet dinner inside the Tyax lodge and also enjoyed a half hour of relaxation inside the hot tub out by the lake. Despite a twelve-pack of beer in my cooler, none of us were long for this world that night and all quickly retreated to the warmth of our respective tents.
Monday, September 5th
Monday came and it was time to break camp and head home. The drive from the Tyax Resort's campground took nearly 8 hours, excluding a lengthy breakfast stop in Pemberton, BC. We avoided the lengthy lines at the main border crossing on I-5 by heading east a bit and crossing at Sumas. It was great to get back to the US, where even the expensive gasoline is considerably cheaper, but the memories of my first trip to British Columbia will live with me forever.
Thanks for reading.
But I digress. The purpose of this post is to reveal the draft results of my fantasy football team. This league carries a $100 entry fee and with 12 teams competing for the money (split across the top 4 in the winners bracket) it gets pretty fierce. Oh, and did I mention my wife plays also? She zipped out of work a couple hours early to accomodate the 7pm EDT draft time -- remember the Taylor ham discussion? We're all from Jersey.
Without further ado, the draft results for my team, currently named "Ranch Tooth" because I love those commercials.
- Edgerrin James, RB, Colts
- Trent Green, QB, Chiefs
- Marvin Harrison, WR, Colts
- Chris Brown, RB, Titans
- Darrel Jackson, WR, Seahawks
- Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
- Chad Pennington, QB, Jets
- Buffalo, DEF, Bills
- Marcell Shipp, RB, Cardinals
- Ryan Longwell, K, Packers
- Jerramy Stevens, TE, Seahawks
- Dominic Rhodes, RB, Colts
- Chester Taylor, RB, Ravens
- Jesse Chatman, RB, Chargers
- Doug Jolley, TE, Jets
I got permission from my wife, Kristin, to post her draft results as well. For the second year in a row, because a league with 11 people would suck, she proudly calls her team "The Twelth Beotch". Yes, she is the token female in the group. I don't recall the order in which she drafted these players, so I'm just going down the list according to her roster. I know she snapped up Akers eye-raisingly early though.
- Dominick Davis, RB, Texans
- Rudi Johnson, RB, Bengals
- Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks
- Jerry Porter, WR, Raiders
- Isaac Bruce, WR, Rams
- Michael Pittman, RB, Buccaneers
- L.J. Smith, TE, Eagles
- David Akers, K, Eagles
- Atlanta, DEF, Falcons
- Brett Favre, QB, Packers
- TJ Houshmandzadeh, WR, Bengals
- Najeh Davenport, RB, Packers
- Chris Perry, RB, Bengals
- Keary Colbert, WR, Panthers
- Minnesota, DEF, Vikings
There you have it. Three hours that I'll never get back. Live drafts are a lot of fun... if you're in the room. But when you're doing them via IM 3,000 miles away, they really suck. Big time. Anyway, feel free to post a comment rating our drafts and whose you think has a better shot.
Months pass and I hear nothing. Then, one day this past April I receive a phone call. They've gone through over 7,000 auditions and selected about 120 people to invite to a training session. I was one of the 120. So, after a hasty phone interview, I get sent the script to the 45 minute long presentation titled "Making High School Count". It's a program designed for 9th graders and not only gets them thinking about their options regarding life after high school, but it also provides them with some very useful study techniques and a lot of other information that, quite honestly, I wish someone would have told me when I was in 9th grade. Ahhh... if only we knew in the 80's what we know now.
So, after an intense 48 hours of training and certification back in July, I was officially offered the job and I gave my first presentation today. Of course, I hadn't looked at the script once in the past month, but a cram-session last night quickly refreshed my memory.
And now that I got my first speaking gig under my belt, I can honestly say that I don't think it could have gone any better. There were about 190 ninth graders in attendance, as well as some of their parents -- one of which sat right up front and stared at me the entire time -- but fortunately most of them were pretty well behaved and they didn't talk too much.
I got some laughs, some applause, and the coolest moment of all was while going over this very useful studying technique. The room was silent and every pair of eyes was focused squarely on me. Now, for those of you who don't have a clue as to how your kids behave at school, let's just say that for me to have 190 thirteen-year-olds' undivided attention -- even if just for a minute -- was a major triumph and total verification that the material is useful.
Now it's up the guidance councelor to give me a good recommendation. Or else.
But I have a couple hours worth of work that absolutely must get done asap. Not to mention the live fantasy football draft for our money league later this afternoon.
By the way, you want to know how you can tell if your wife is cool? She leaves work 2 hours early to make sure she's home in time for a fantasy football draft.
Only if I had enough time to sort through the stacks of football stats like she has...
Check back later -- awesome story about B.C. complete with photos. Promise.
Bush wanted to make sure that when he did arrive, it looked as if progress was being made. Clearly he didn't want to have to face the questions directly so he stayed away. Why no government officials simply told us it would take 3 days for the National Guard to get there with supplies is beyond me. Sure, some may have still wondered why it took so long, but at least knowing would give people hope and a goal. Nobody likes being left in the dark. Neither literally nor metaphorically.
Either way, the important thing is that they are there now (along with dozens, if not hundreds of buses) and the evacuation can finally get underway. Let's just hope their delays -- be for whatever reason -- hasn't resulted in too many additional deaths.
"They indicated that they had lost everything and didn't feel that it was worth them going back to take fire from looters and losing their lives," Whitehorn said. Col. Henry Whitehorn, chief of the Louisiana State Police, said he heard of numerous instances of New Orleans police officers - many of whom from flooded areas - turning in their badges.
I guess that's why their shirts and hats say "NO PD".
Sorry folks, but I've been holding onto that one since Tuesday. Gotta smirk a little when you can.
"They don't have a clue what's going on down there," Mayor Ray Nagin told WWL-AM Thursday night. "They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kind of goddamn - excuse my French everybody in America, but I am pissed."
Come friday morning, Bush had a response.
"A lot of people are working hard to help those who've been affected. The results are not acceptable," he said. "I'm heading down there right now."
Well it's about time. To put things in perspective, the CEO of the biotech company my wife works for spent Tuesday flying supplies to New Orleans (via Baton Rouge) and that was just under his own ambition and desire to help. He wasn't paid to help. He's never lived there, and certainly never held office or governed there. He just knows that not everyone has a pilot's license and felt compelled to put his to use. I believe he was held in a holding pattern for over 3 hours after flying from Seattle. But he got the supplies on the ground three days before our President can find the time to stop and take a look.
In the days immediately following 9/11, a lot of people took solace in the speech President Bush made at Ground Zero. He showed all the traits of a good leader that particular day and even made some blue-bloods like myself wonder whether or not Gore could have met the challenge. But just as we sit and listen to people banter about racial stereotypes regarding the lawlessness in New Orleans,we could easily cast these verbal hand grenades at Bush.
Was he on the ground right away in New York City because the affected where corporations and white-collar business people--those suffering the most in New Orleans are almost entirely black and represent much of the city's 28% who live in porverty. Was it just because the city had a conservative Mayor in Giulliani--Nagin is a Democrat in a Democratic state. Was it because Bush knew he could don his invisible cowboy hat and talk tough about exacting revenge on a foreign enemy--in New Orleans the only person to blame is our own hubris. Was it because New York has more electoral votes?
Or is it just because the man is in his second term and simply can't be bothered anymore?
I'd like to think not on each of these charges. But, until Bush provides the answer we hope to see and stands side-by-side with the people on the streets, Mayor Nagin should go on using all the French he'd like. And may the first talking head Republican to correct him and call it "Freedom Language" be forced to spend just one night in the Convention Center.