Waiting for Brown Santa

I set out for tonight's "Thrilla in Woodinvilla" ride with temps in the mid 30's, a crusty layer of snow and ice on the trails, and a thick blanket of fog rolling in. The weekly fast-paced training ride has really grown on me in the few times I've ridden it. Maybe it's that it gives me a chance to ride with folks I don't often see or maybe it's the simple fact that we finish the ride at the Redhook Brewery for, as the ride leader puts it, "an excuse to drink barleypop". Or maybe it's the simplicity of the ride. We ride through various gravel roads and highly groomed trails in the Redmond area for 21 miles and rack up about 1650 feet of climbing. The pace is always fast and we seldom pause for a breather. Yep, it's a training ride. Not a hammer fest. But close.

Accuweather said it would rain between five and six in the evening and then give way to clouds and fog for the remainder of the evening. I've grown to trust Accuweather, but my toes ached at the thought of being out for two hours -- wet -- in those temps. I ordered the Lake Winter MTB shoes the other day (20% off at www.LickBike.com) but they hadn't gotten here yet. The email I received said they were shipped on Monday and I woke up this morning with two thoughts on my mind: 1) work, 2) will my shoes show up in time for tonight's ride?

I ran to the window several times today. Whenever I heard a loud door shut or the sound of a delivery truck, I flew to the window to see if Brown Santa had come. In one twisted act of irony, the doorbell even rang. I ran down the stairs hoping to have to sign for a shoebox-shaped package. But no, it was Fed-Ex with another copy of the beta for "Lost Planet" on my doorstep. You know, just in case I have time to play through it for a fourth or fifth time (for the record my absolute, no-excuses, drop-dead date for the guidebook is Sunday).

I couldn't believe it. I didn't just want those shoes, I needed them. Did I mention it was going to be thirty-something degrees out? I racked my bike on the truck and loaded up my clothing and gloves and whatnot around 4pm, took one more glance out the window -- he hadn't come yet -- and got in the truck, resigned to the fact that I will likely suffer extreme pain in my feet tonight.

And then I saw him. As I was exiting my neighborhood, the jolly box truck of Brown Santa turned in. Could he? Could he possibly have a package for me? Does warmth come in a box? Tonight it might! I whipped my truck around when the light turned green and gave chase. When I noticed him turn down the street before mine, I flew past and went straight home. I'd wait for him on the sidewalk. And there I stood. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Nothing. He never showed. I was forgotten for another day.

It's not fun having your spirits lifted only to have them dashed for the umpteenth time in one day. But I was riding nonetheless. Frostbite be damned!

Halfway through the 21 mile ride I started to lose feeling in my fingertips and my toes were going numb. But I felt great. The steady diet of 2-hour rides on the stationary trainer and Spinervals workouts is paying off. It's only been a week, but this time I was at the front for most of the ride. Pushing the pace, Taking turns leading. And guiding us home with the bright white of my HID NiteRider headlamp. Last week, I was the waitee. Tonight I was the one doing the waiting. And when I finished the ride, I got inside my truck, cranked the heat, and stripped out of my soaked-with-sweat-and-snowmelt cycling clothing and smiled. My toes were indeed frozen and they did hurt like hell, but this was a breakthrouh ride as much as one can have one after just 10 days of regimented training. I know my body. And I know this was a breakthrough.

Nobody likes riding the stationary trainer in the garage for 2 hours every night. But it works. It most certainly works. Last week I posted that my performance last Wednesday erased any sense of confidence I had regarding TransRockies. It's a week and about 160 miles later and I'm here to say the confidence is back.

In moderation of course. I'm not crazy.

Normally I Would Care

A weird thing has happened this year. Thanks to this whole idea of doing TransRockies next year and ramping up my cycling volume and building a new bike, I just don't seem to care about snowboarding that much. I guess something had to give and that was it. But still, even though I've yet to wax my board up nor plan on buying a season lift ticket this year, I am amazed at the amount of snow that is falling. It's only November and check out this report on Mount Baker from Komotv.com:

Mount Baker holds the world record for most snow in a season and typically has one of the largest snow bases in the nation. They're easily the current snow champ now.

The ski resort just broke its own record for most snowfall in a storm cycle with a whopping 98 inches of snow -- that's over 8 feet! -- in the past five days.

Overall, since the snow began in mid-November, the resort received 12 feet of snow (144 inches)

"We've had snow conditions of a lifetime at Mt. Baker the past two days," said Gwen Howat of the Mt. Baker ski resort. "We've received 8 feet of new snow since Friday, which is the most snow we’ve ever received for a storm cycle in recorded history at Mt. Baker. And considering we hold the world's record for most snowfall (in a season) that is certainly saying something."

Officials there are recommending that if you ski in the ungroomed areas, to ski with a partner who remains in visual and voice contact at all times, and for the expert run on Chair 6, you must have a transceiver, a partner, and a shovel with you.

Temperatures were also very cold -- about 7 degrees Tuesday morning -- but Howat says the ski resort is shielded from the cold northeast winds coming out of the Fraser Valley, so wind chills were not too bad. Just be sure to bring appropriate warm clothing.

The Age Old QA Tug of War

An interesting post by Michael Russel, the QA Manager at Ritual Entertainment on his experience interviewing for the First-Party Quality Assurance Manager position at Sony. He cites some lax standards, lots of tension between testers and developers, and, a noticeable lack of backing from management as far as QA was concerned.

Click here to read.

As someone who is married to a QA Manager -- err scratch that, she was promoted recently to Operations Manager -- albeit in the pharmaceutical industry, I am all too familliar about the struggle between those in QA whose job it is to ensure the quality of the product/service and those who actually create the product who see QA as little more than a hurdle. I've always expected that my wife's too-frequent concerns weren't limited to just her industry, but would probably apply to just about any situation in which you have necessary, but non-value added personnel. And that's the problem. We as consumers expect the games to work perfectly, but at the same time we're not about to pay extra for it to be the case. Nor should we. But shortsighted management types chase the quick buck and since an extra month or two of proper testing doesn't cause the price of goods to go up, too often games are rushed out the door in a "good enough" state with the intentions that the public will let them know about bugs that pop up and hope for a patch later. And the nearly ubiquitous nature of broadband always-on connectivity makes it even easier for companies to get away with it.

But, as Russel points out, things can swing too far in the other direction to. If the QA department receives too much support and is allowed to install too many protocols and have too much say, creativity and productivity in the development areas can be stifled. It seems to me that the companies who understand this give-and-take the best and who routinely publish the best games -- both in terms of originality and quality -- are the companies who also set release dates as "when it's done" rather than shooting for some artificial deadline, which is all too often related to a movie's release in theatres or on DVD. Cough, Superman Returns, cough.

Unfortunately all we consumers can do is express our displeasure with our wallets. At $60 a pop, videogames are far too expensive to be purchased in an incomplete stage. And the current lack of a return policy and skeptical quality of the majority of reviews in which showstopper bugs don't receive more than a casual mention puts the onus on us even moreso to remember exactly who published what and not buy from them again. Gamers are wonderful at complaining. They are possibly the best at it in the world. But they need to put their money where the typing fingers are and instead of ranting nonsensically on message boards and in comment spaces, they need to simply remember. Remember the bugs. Remember the lack of originality. Remember whatever it is that made you wish for an honest way of getting your money back. And most importantly remember the developer and publisher of that game and don't buy from them again. If enough people do that then the shortsighted managers who didn't support their QA teams will find themselves with short-term careers and eventually these companies will catch the clue.

The Previous Level

If only it were that easy...

COLUMBIA, SC - Following a romantic three-day getaway to South Carolina's
Hilton Head Island, 32-year-old Matthew Sullivan said he is now "more ready than
ever" to take his 10-month relationship with girlfriend Carol Moag to the
previous level.

"After spending every waking moment with Carol for 72 hours, I know in my
heart that I'm prepared to see her face twice, maybe even once a week," said
Sullivan, who met Moag, 34, at a friend's New Year's party in January.

Read the rest of this hysterical article from The Onion here.

New Bike Parts Ordered

Thanks to Pricepoint.com's annual end-of-year sale, I was able to start buying the parts I'll need to build up my new bike. Wasn't looking to get everything just yet, but did want to take advantage of the sale to save on some of the primary components. This is all going towards the Ellsworth Evolve 29er which I'll hopefully be ordering next week sometime. If everythings goes according to plan, I'll have the bike built up and ready to roll sometime late January.

- Sram X.O Shorty Shifters w/X.O Rear Derailleur (32% savings)
- Sram PG 970 9-Speed Cassette (17% savings)
- Avid Juicy 7 185mm Front Hydraulic Disc Brake (48% savings)
- Avid Juicy 7 160mm Rear Hydraulic Disc Brake (48% savings)
- TruVativ Stylo Team GXP Crankset w/Bottom Bracket (32% savings)
- Mavic 719 29er Wheelset with Shimano XTM756 Hubs ($250 pair)

This leaves the frame, fork, headset, stem, handlebar, seatpost, seat, grips, pedals and chain. As well as cabling and any miscellaneous bolts, fasteners, etc. I have written down the parts I want, it's just a matter of spreading out the expense and shopping around. But this is a big first step towards building up one sweet bike. A bike that I'll have way too many miles on by this time next year.

What a Strange Sight

From the front page of today's Seattle Times:

Monday Night Lights & Snowball Fights

I woke yesterday morning knowing I had a mountain of work to do. In my pre-dawn, crusty-eyed, already-stressed-out haze I told Kristin to try and sell the tickets to the Seahawks game. But she should bring warm clothing just in case I changed my mind. I called her back around 10am and told her not to sell them, as I really didn't want to miss the game. But I was too late, she already sold them.

"Go downstairs and tell that lady your husband is an idiot and changed his mind and wants the tickets back. Tell her we'll buy her a hat or something as an apology."

In the time Kristin took to drum up the courage to ask for the tickets back, I got some interesting news regarding work. And by interesting I mean soul-crushing. My workload suddenly got a lot bigger. My stress levels were rising. I hung up the phone with my editor and called Kristin back. "Don't buy them back from her, I can't go afterall." Too late. She already got them back. Well, as my occasional riding buddy Ross says, "there'll be plenty of time to work when you're dead". Guess I'm going to the game, after all.

The snow started falling by my house around 1pm, but according to Kristin it was blue skies in Seattle. What a difference 30 miles and 1000 feet of elevation makes! Armed with wool hiking socks, gloves, hat, a fleece pullover and a winter coat (and my Marcus Trufant jersey, naturally) I set off for the city at 2pm for the 5:30 game. I made good time and picked Kristin (already wearing her Lofa Tatupu jersey) up from work by 2:45. The sports talk radio station we listen to was broadcasting live from a bar near the stadium so we headed over there to fortify against the cold. A hefeweizen for the lady and a double Dewars on the rocks for me. From there, it was on to the awesome BBQ place we eat at before every game.

We left the restaurant at about 4:50 and while we were making the 1/2 mile walk to the stadium we saw the first snowflake. Then another. And another. And within a matter of seconds the patchy blue sky was replaced by an ominous blanket of clouds and the snow was coming down in buckets. There has never been a pro football game played in Seattle in the snow. Partly due to the existence of the Kingdome but most because, it's bloody Seattle! It doesn't snow here! In the mountains? Yes. In the city, rarely ever.

And wouldn't it figure that we were playing the Green Bay Packers? If we're going to have unfamilliar weather conditions, can't we at least have San Diego or Miami coming to town?

And the fears were founded. At least for the first half, in which our amazing kicker Josh Brown kept us in the game in spite of Matt Hasselback's four turnovers. Not to totally fault Matt, as you can't blame him for being tentative when playing his first game back in the snow after taking a month off cause of a knee injury. But man were some of those passes ugly. But that's okay, because we also have recently gotten Shaun Alexander back from injury too and he ended up rushing for 201 yards last night on 40 carries!

But despite the at-times sloppy play, watching the game live in the snow was surreal. It was fun to watch the groundscrew rush onto the field during commercial breaks and shovel the snow off the yardage lines. Eyes were fixed on the Sea Gals cheerleaders even more than usual as they impressively came out for the first quarter in skirts despite the weather -- and then later did splits in the snow once in their fleece pants outfit. And, of course, there were the idiots with no shirts on. But the game was exciting, with lots of turnovers, some exciting special teams play, plenty of good running, and in the second half some awesome receiving too. And the better team won. As we knew the Seahawks would.

And then came the drive home...

What we didn't realize while sitting at the game is that the snow was really piling up outside of the city, in the foothills, and places further to the south and north. When we left the stadium at 8:45, we immediately got in the car and drove back to Kristin's office where our other vehicle awaited. I told her to drive my Element since it had snow tires and all-wheel drive, and I would take her Hybrid Civic home, being that I had more experience driving in the snow.

Getting out of the city was a piece of cake, but by the time we got across the lake and hit Bellevue, the snow was back again in full force and really starting to pile up on the Interstate. I flipped to the am news station and caught wind that I-90 was closed near Exit 17 in Issaquah just as I was nearing Exit 15. I called Kristin who was already between the two exits and stuck in a parking lot. She was going to have to wait it out. I, however, did make it off the freeway and was able to inch my way through the snow-covered streets of Issaquah to the on-ramp for Exit 17. Only the exit was closed. There was a cop there helping give directions on how to get around the closure. Now, for those of you who live in the area, this is going to shock you. It took me over an hour from the time I turned left off Gillman to head to the entry ramp, turned around and made it back over to the intersection with Gillman. That's only about 150 yards of distance, roundtrip. And it took over an hour.

I eventually made my way back onto the highway at Exit 18 and crawled up into the foothills at about 25mph. The snow was coming down too fast to plow and based on the radio callers I was listening to, there were hundreds of accidents all throughout the region, with many drivers stuck in traffic for upwards of 4 or 5 hours. In one case, a professor from the UW took over 4.5 hours to go 6 miles. Making matters worse were people getting fed up and abandoning their cars on the roadway. Reports of jackknifed double-length articulated buses were rampant, as were cars sliding backwards down hills or sideways on ramps and side-streets. It was a mess. I had never in my life seen traffic that could possibly have compared to what I saw last night. And I'm sure having 70,000 people enter the roads all at once with no idea what they were in for didn't help matters.

I eventually made it home just before midnight and thankfully I-90 opened back up not long after I sneaked around the closure and Kristin made it home about 40 minutes after me. But it could have been worse. One of the members of the BBTC was in Seattle for club elections last night and left the downtown REI at 8:45 (about the same time we exited the game) and he didn't get home until 2:15 in the morning.

And if you're wondering, no Kristin isn't driving into work today.

TR Training: Week #1 Numbers

Total Saddle Time: 13 hrs, 24 minutes
Total Mileage: 162.3 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 3850 feet
Weight Loss: -1.2 pounds [edit: corrected]

Of the 13:24 saddle time, 6:05 was spent riding the trainer on my road bike and the rest was all on the mountain bike outdoors on trails and forest roads. It was a good week with 5 straight days of training, followed by a recovery day in which I just spun in a low gear on the road bike for 20 minutes to loosen up. I then capped the week off with a 2 hour trainer ride today in which I alternated low resistance, high cadence spinning for 20 minutes with 10 minutes of higher resistance, higher effort spinning.

Being that before this week I was riding only once or twice a week (at most), I'm pleased with how the week went. I can feel the leg muscles getting their life back and also feel a little fat melting away -- especially on those trainer rides! And I'm actually pleased that despite Thanksgiving and the inevitable gorging on snacks and food, I finished the week with a slight bit of weight loss.

Oh, and one more thing about riding the trainer today. I would have never thought my toes would get cold and start to go numb, but it was so cold outside that even riding inside my garage with the doors closed, my toes were freezing up. The rest of me was soaked in sweat, but my toes were like ice. And speaking of ice, my TR teammate rode for about three hours in what amounts to a windy, freezing, snow and sleet storm outside. Way to go, Ken! That's determination! As soon as I get the winter mtn bike shoes I ordered online, I'll be out there too!

1.9 Milllllllion Dollars

Holy crap! This is, like, right out of a videogame!

From DailyTech.com

Around $1.9M USD worth of Microsoft Xbox 360 game consoles have been stolen from a U.K. depot center located in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England. An initial shipment of consoles worth $1.4M USD was stolen from a depot center. Police later revealed that there was another theft on Thursday morning after two vehicles flagged down a truck that was carrying around $500,000 worth of Xbox consoles.

According to U.K. police, At least three men, believed to be driving a Range Rover and Rover Saloon, were involved with the truck jacking. Police have successfully recovered the stolen truck. An investigation is underway to see if the two thefts are related.

Police believe the consoles are being stolen so that they can be sold on the black market for the Christmas holiday shopping season. The Xbox 360 retails from $386 to $579 in the UK and is a top choice for consumers, according to The Times of London.

The police have made statements to the public warning them that anyone purchasing stolen consoles could find that their warranty is no longer valid. Also, the Staffordshire police department put out the following statement to viewers in the UK: "We are appealing for information from anyone who is offered games in suspicious circumstances, such as in a pub, at a car boot sale or off the back of a lorry."

Approximately 4,000 consoles were stolen in the heist by rough estimates.

That last sentence reminds me about the time my father bought some speakers from a guy selling them off the back of his lorry, err, truck. Yeah, my brother ended up having to break them down small enough so that the garbage men would take them. And what a strange coincidence, as I just told Bill Harris about that exact story the other day. It's like deja vu all over again.

Anyway, I digress, as far as stealing 4000 Xbox 360 consoles goes, that's a pretty ballsy move. I mean, sure, the thieves probably have some distribution channels and I imagine good ol Ebay will end up with more than a few of them on their site, but still 4000 consoles? I was beginning to feel pretty pathetic for owning a half-dozen of the blasted things. But the real victim in this crime is the hapless gaming enthusiast who visits Gametab.com tomorrow and is bombarded with all sorts of proclamations from such bastions of journalism as Kotaku and Joystiq proclaiming that the thieves stole the Xbox 360's because it "pwns all consoles"! Or because the Nintendo Wii and PS3 were so desirable there weren't any to steal but there were plenty of Xboxes sitting around in warehouses because nobody wants one. This will likely be said by at least 1000 fanboys, of course if not in the articles themselves then in the comments which, by the way, are often less intelligible than a random spoonful of alphabet soup. And the latter will be said -- and repeated -- in spite of the fact that the Wii and PS3 haven't been released in Europe yet.


Pretty cool looking documentary coming out in Spring of 2007 about 24-hour solo mountain bike racing and "one man's quest for a 7th world title". Looks to have some great cinematography and behind the scenes insight to what goes into this level of endurance racing. With any luck the little indy Uptown Theatre near my wife's office in Seattle will be showing it. It's going to premiere at the Sea Otter festival in April.

Watch the trailer here.

For the Love of Ice Cream

About a week or so ago I posted about how much Kristin and I support one another and how we're always there for each other. Apparently that love and generosity stops at the freezer door. Kristin was at the kitchen table doing some work and I came down from my office to have some ice cream. I grabbed our individual pints of Haagen Dazs from the freezer and put the hot fudge jar in the microwave to warm up. Being that my pint was of a blueberry cheesecake flavor and hers of a caramel and chocolate, I wanted to have a sampling.

"Can you take my ice cream out too?" Her back was to me when she asked.
"I did. I'm tasting it right now." I said with a spoonful of ice cream in my mouth.

She turns around and the horrifying look of a woman scorned suddenly appears on her face. Her brow creases, her jaw is set, her eyes wide.

"Bitch!!! What the HELL are you doing with my ice cream?! Put it down. Put it down, right now!"

... I was speechless. Caught with my hand in the cookie jar.

She lets out one final "BITCH!" and promptly pushes away from the table and moves towards me, as if to try and threaten me into submission. Which is actually kind of funny since I'm about 8" taller than her.

"Fine. Mine is better anyway."

Karma won out in the end as she burned her hand on the jar of hot fudge.

Yahoo Pick 'Em Update

Okay, how about this? Would you believe that of the 225,323 people playing the NFL Pick 'Em game on Yahoo, that the top five states with the highest scoring averages are actually states that don't even have NFL teams? Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Iowa are ranked one through five. Of course, unlike more populated states, they don't have thousands of idiots weighing them down, but I still find that pretty surprising. In 6th place is Washington state, in which I'm currently ranked in the 95% percentile (I've had a few bad weeks since my last posting on this matter and am no longer in the top 50). What's especially weird is that international fans, as a whole, are collectively in 9th place. Who says the rest of the world doesn't care about the NFL. There are at least 9332 people who not only care, but know what's up too.

As for the rankings by fanbase, we Seattle Seahawks fans have slipped from 1st to 3rd place which only rubs salt in the wound after last week's horrendous showing by the team against San Francisco. Minnesota and Buffalo fans are ranked 1st and 2nd, respectively. Atlanta's fanbase is in dead last, a full 1.05 points behind "Fans of None". Way to go Falcon Fans!

Props to the BLM

Just wanted to say that I was very surprised to see the trail pamphlets and free maps I requested for the Kokopelli Trail in my mailbox today. I requested these items online late Tuesday night and the Bureau of Land Management got them to me within three days, depite the holiday. I'm shocked. And after going through the maps with my wife, we've already got the plan of attack in place for covering the 142 mile trail in 3 days starting in Moab and ending in Fruita. I'll be pedaling and she'll be providing support and moving camp. This is how we have the first few days of our Utah multi-sport trip planned. It'll be a ten-year anniversary celebration like no other!

Anyway, I just wanted to sing some praise for the BLM. Fast service, good info, and free! Thank you fellow tax payers!

Team Terminal Fitness is Assembled

Just want to say how I happy I am to hear that Kristin's sister Lindsay has confirmed that she will be joining our team as part of the support crew for TransRockies. This was a very pleasant surprise and one that both I and my teammate Ken are excited about. Neither Kristin nor Lindsay is a bike mechanic, but I'm sure we'll find plenty of other stuff for them to help with before and after each day's ride. And while we're out there grunting our way up and over the Continental Divide through the middle of nowhere, they'll be able to go hiking, enjoy the scenery, and visit the small towns of the Canadian Rockies and, in general, hang out with the other support crews and relax. It will be a great opportunity for everyone and sure to be an experience we won't soon forget. Thanks for wanting to come Lindsay! And you too, Kristin!

TR Training: Base Prep Week #1

For Peter who was kind enough to request a training update...

The training plan I've created is based on the periodization method and uses a periodization interval of 22 hours a week. The plan began 11/20 and goes for 39 weeks right up till the start of TransRockies. So, for Base Prep Week #1, the calculations spit out a scheduled 16.7 hours of riding, which for this phase I broke up into the following: 55% road cycling, 30% endurance trail riding, 15% technical trail riding. I thought it made sense, YMMV.

I set the daily schedule for two weeks at a time before the start of the plan and so far am on target.

Monday - 30 miles of gravel and dirt forest roads with 1210 feet of climbing. Very vanilla Mtn Bike Endurance day. The weather fortunately held, as I was able to beat most of the rain, and threw in a pinch of extra challenge on the way back by skipping the paved route back up to my house atop the ridge, and instead opping for the spongy, soaking wet, woodchip trail. Averaged 14.6 mph.

Tuesday - pouring rain outside so I set the road bike on the trainer and did the Spinervals "Enter the Red Zone" video. It's a 58 minute anaerobic workout session during which Coach Troy makes you (as much as anybody living in your DVD player can) get off the bike every 20 minutes and do prolonged sets of squats. It hurts like hell. I followed the video up with 50 minutes of spinning in the small ring at about 80-85 rpm while watching some Seinfeld episodes on DVD. This was to help loosen myself up after the workout and to also just add more time in the saddle.

Wednesday - Did a 21 mile fast mountain bike ride with a small group of people who really worked me over. The ride had 1670 feet of climbing and was a pretty even split between gravel road and forested double-track. A couple lengthy hills, some short steeps, and basically me overheating and trying to hold on and not get lost. Averaged 9.9 mph.

As for the rest of the week, I have another 2hr trainer ride planned for today (big ring 90rpm spin), two hours of technical singletrack riding planned for Friday, another 2hr trainer ride on Saturday (unless the weather gets me outside) and then a 15 minute recovery spin on Sunday.

Some of you may be thinking that all of these 2hr rides isn't really adequate preparation for a race that will likely consist of 7 8-hour days (if I'm lucky), but just like the race itself isn't a sprint, neither is training. In order to get to the point where I can handle back-to-back-to-back 6 hour days in the spring, I need to be able to handle a bunch of 2+ hour days right now. And besides, 2hrs on the trainer feels like 3 to 4 on the road.

That said, yesterday's ride really opened my eyes and removed any sense of cockiness or over-confidence towards the TR. Seeing how much I hurt tring to handle the pace of yesterday's 2hr ride was an eye-opener. Sure, it was the third day of riding in a row and one that followed an intense trainer ride, but still. The three days of consecutive riding that I have done so far this week doesn't even equal a single day at TR, let alone 7. I have a lot of work to do. I knew it all along, but now I believe it -- 39 weeks will fly by before I realize it and I am in no condition to slack on any of this training. I'm going to need every mile in order to finish. You'd think the moniker "North America's Toughest Mountain Bike Race" would have scared me into acknowleding that already. Oh well, better I realize it now than next August.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

My sister just wrote to inform me that I'm only 8 posts away from topping my record for most blog posts in a given month. So I figured I'd pad the stats a little and post a short Happy Thanksgiving message to my American readers. Hope you all have a fun holiday with nice weather, good company, and great eats. I'll be spending the day enjoying a nice snack assortment while watching football, playing on my X360, and working on the guidebook for "Lost Planet" Extreme Condition".

We have reservations for 6:30 at Daniel's Broiler in Bellevue which we haven't eaten at yet, but we've heard good things and their Thanksgiving dinner special came recommended from OpenTable.com so I decided to give it a try. As for the rest of the weekend, we're going to be laying low. Initially, we were going to finally paint my office and work on replacing the trimwork, but work is going to push that project back an extra week or two. So other than a daily bike ride, the holiday weekend won't be much of a holiday.

But that doesn't mean we can sleep in on Thursday -- there's a family from down the street coming to buy the 36" Sony Wega television I've had in my office the past two years. With the X360 set up downstairs to the HDTV and me not playing the other consoles anymore, there's no reason to have it. And besides, I can put the extra money towards the new mountain bike. Or at least towards the wheels for the new mountain bike.

Holiday E-Vite From Hell

Time to celebrate the holidays. Feel free to wear PJs and/or bring your handi-crafts. Bring your favorite movie snack or adult beverage.

Sounds good so far. If I told you that the invitation went out to about 6 women for every guy, you'd probably think it sounds even better, eh? Lots of women, very few dudes, everyone in their pajamas and getting tipsy and watching movies. Sounds like a can't miss, right?

I'll give you a minute to fantasize about the possibilities...

Take your time...

Okay, now it's time for a snap back to reality. My wife received this e-vite from a female coworker. Everyone that was invited is from the company. Many of the people invited are pushing 50 years old (one nearly 60), more than a handful are quite, shall we say, large. Make that obese with the potential for morbidly obese. The guys invited are a rather odd lot and the women aren't the funnest bunch to be around. We've gone to one of their parties in the past and it was odd. Everyone was nice, the food was great, but it was odd.

So, we take what is already a rather peculiar mix of people (who all work together mind you) and now we're going to put them in their pajamas. Do I dare imagine any of them wearing lingerie? I mean, after all, if lingerie passes for Halloween costumes and a "blouse" these days then surely it can be worn to a PJ party, right? But while there are a couple of enticing exceptions, this thought is primarily horrifying. And I can't shake it.

So the decision has been made to only go if my wife's good (and attractive) friends from work go. I can live with that. I'd be pretty much going just for material for my blog. And for the food. And to see my wife walk around in her pajamas with people she supervises. That ought to be a hoot.

Worst Person In the World

Daily "WPITW" medalist has really outdone himself this time. Bill O'Reilly has the following to say about us younger folks:

"Basically what you have is a large portion of the population, mostly younger people under the age of 45, who don't deal with reality — ever. So they don't know what day it is; they don't know temperature it is; they don't know what their neighbor looks like. They don't know anything... because they are constantly diverted by a machine. Now what this does is it takes a person away from reality because they've created their own reality..."

Now, you can either head to Slashdot and read the very funny comments people have made about this and try and follow the link to Gamepolitics.com to read the rest of O'Reilley's ridiculousness or you can just smile and know that Keith Olbermann already correctly pointed out on last night's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" that O'Reilly actively maintains a website (which uses a computer) and posts daily rants in the form of Podcasts. You know, for all those iPod-onwning folks he derides so vehemently. Watch Olbermann point out the obvious hypocrisy right here.

Child's Play

It's that time of year again and the good folks at Penny-Arcade.com are once again putting their Child's Play charitable toy/money drive together. The charity has expanded significantly over the years and now has nearly three dozen children's hospitals in four countries involved in the program. Charitable donors are encouraged to visit the site and click the icon for the hospital nearest their residence and either donate cash or purchase the pre-selected toys from the registries the charity has set up with Amazon.com.

Since 2003, gamers have banded together through registered Seattle-based charity, Child's Play. Over a million dollars in donations of toys, games, books and cash for sick kids in children's hospitals across North America and the world have been collected since our inception.

We collect no administrative fees or other charges, 100% of all gifts and donations go directly to our partner hospitals, to help make life a little brighter for a sick child.

This year, we have continued expanding across the country and the globe. With over 25 partner hospitals and more arriving every month, you can be sure to find one from the map above that needs your help! You can choose to purchase requested items from their online retailer wish lists, or make a cash donation that helps out Child's Play hospitals everywhere. Any items purchased through Amazon or DStore will be shipped directly to your hospital of choice, please be sure to select their shipping address rather than your own.

When gamers give back, it makes a difference!

Follow the link to the charity website: www.childsplaycharity.org

The famed cartoonists are also putting on their Child's Play Dinner & Auction on December 13 at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Washington. We went to the 2004 Child's Play Dinner and had a great time. Not sure why we missed last year's event, but we already have our tickets for this year's event and are looking forward to attending. I'm especially happy to say that autographed copies of my guidebooks for Gears of War, Okami, and Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus will be among the items included in the silent auction.

Wrinkle-Free Irony

Is it just my wife, or is it kind of odd that I wash my mountain bike clothing -- pieces of apparel I routinely get muddy and wet, not to mention slam against the ground and trees -- on the washing machine's "delicate" cycle. I think it's appropriate and don't see anything really that odd about it, but Kristin thinks the irony is pretty comical.

Now what I think is rather ironic is that the warmest base layer (i.e. "wicking" for my sisters-in-law) I have closely resembles cheesecloth. The shirt is practically see-through, but man is it warm! Go figure.


If you're in the grocery store or near a magazine rack and happen to see the December issue of "Bicycling" magazine, open it up and flip to page 24. There is a 6-page photo essay on the 2006 TransRockies and the photos are pretty spectacular, especially the spread on page 24. I'm putting together some motivational posters for my garage for when I'm riding the trainer and you can be sure that I'll be posting those photos up.

And it Begins...

Yesterday saw the close of registration to the 2007 TransRockies race (a record length of time) and today, through coincidence, brings the official start of my 40-week training plan for said race. Unfortunately, I'm back up to my post-crunch period weight (197.4 pounds) after spending the first half of the year about 10 pounds lighter, and exactly 20 pounds lighter after my dehydration-ified day on the Mountains to Sound course. So I have my work cut out for me. I won't bore you with the details other than the plan revolves around an average of 22 hours a week spent on the bike, with a couple of weeks approaching 35 hours in duration. The old axiom "quality over quantity" isn't really all that appropriate in this case. For this, it's quantity, quantity, and more quantity.

Ken came over Saturday and "window shopped" online with me for the Ellsworth Evolves were both going to be getting and helped me decide on components and other parts. Their prices seem ridiculously high, but the Competitive Cyclist website has nice drop-down menus for all of the parts you would need to build a bike up, complete with weight (in grams) and pricing. I wouldn't buy a bike from them for several reasons, but price is definitely the biggie. They're selling the Ellsworth Truth with Shimano LX componentry for $4095 whereas the Seattle REI has it built up with SRAM X-7 for $3295. All other parts seemed similar. So when their website spit out a pricetag of nearly $5k for the bike Ken and I configured, I took it with a grain of salt. I have no intentions of paying that much for a bike. Nor will I have to thanks to the ability to get better prices from REI (not to mention 10% back in store credit) plus all of the other great wholesale shops online like Pricepoint.com. Nevertheless, it was good to see that the 29er Evolve can easily be built up for our purposes and weigh only 26.4 pounds. That's sweet!

Reports from the Trail

Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie Trail

Drove over to North Bend with Randomly Generated reader and BBTC "webchump" Maarten on Friday afternoon to inspect the damage to the trail from last week's flooding. The road suffered a lot of scouring and was extremely potholed -- far moreso than normal -- and judging by the damage to the road and abuse my Element's suspension was taking, we knew the trail couldn't be in good shape.

We hiked in from the main trailhead near the bridge and hiked a total of 3.7 miles upstream before turning back. The early couple of miles of trail weren't in terribly bad shape. A few blowdowns and some soft spots and sediment-choked drains and culverts, but in general the trail was in good shape. This all changed where the trail bends closer to the banks of the river. The river flooded the southern bank, thus depositing tons of debris, fallen trees, and sediment on the trail. The powerful current also toppled several large trees, yanking their entire root ball into the river and thus leaving gigantic craters in the trail. It seemed to both of us that the trail will likely need to be permanently re-routed further away from the banks of the river and at a higher elevation to prevent having to address this problem again in the future. Perhaps. Then again, these were record floods so perhaps the trail could follow the new bank and not need to be significantly relocated.

Maarten near one of the larger craters left behind from a tree being toppled. Where'd the trail go?

Another blowdown and root-ball gone missing. The trail used to run between the hillside and the toppled tree.

Further upstream, the river completely overran the banks and flooded the trail with mass quantities of forest debris.

Tolt-MacDonald Park Trail System

Was out the door by 6:40 this morning to meet Erik, Ken, and several others in Carnation to position some newly-built bridges out on the trail (what, were you expecting me to be in line for a Wii?). I have to say that as a stay-at-home worker with a penchant for sleeping in, I had no idea it would still be dark at 7am. I didn't bring my light system, but fortunately we stood around and talked for long enough that daylight started to pierce the canopy of the forest by the time we started the climb up the perfectly-named "It's a Bitch" trail. Proving true to its name, I broke my chain immediately after clearing the always-troublesome sandy S-curve near the tree stump.

While Ken and Eddie and I pedaled up the trail, the others drove around the backside of the forest to drop the bridges off with a truck. I didn't quite understand why we had to be out so early in the morning, but I soon found out. The road to the gate at the back of the forest is private property and it was learned that the homeowner attends early mass on Sunday mornings. Nothing like a group of 30-and-40-somethings sneaking around people's property like a bunch of school kids.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Come see Ken piloting his mighty Ellsworth as he pulls 70 pound bridges through the muck!

With the bridges unloaded and the bikes gathered up, it was just a matter of dragging them down the main gravel access road to the trails where they were needed. There were six bridges in total and five of us playing tractor. Surprisingly, the bridges weren't too difficult to drag. It wasn't easy -- especially since I hadn't had any coffee yet -- but they slid relatively well over the wet leaves and gravel for the mile or so we dragged them. Once at the appropriate trailhead, Erik and I carried two bridges in while Ken, Eddie, and Mike continued on with the others. The warm air we felt in the parking lot was soon replaced by a cold breeze and, eventually, a driving rain. With the weather deteriorating by the moment and the need for additional bridges, supports, and hardware exceedingly obvious, we decided to hide the bridges amongst the ferns and call it a day.

Now that I've seen one particular stretch of trail that needs seemingly 60 or more feet of bridge, I can't wait to go to the lumber store and start building my own to contribute to the cause. The Tolt trail system is one of my favorites; I can't let all these other guys pay for all the bridges up there. I've actually begun drawing up some plans for a banked corner bridge. Now that would be sweet!

Obligatory PS3 Launch Day Post

The PS3 launched today with roughly 150,000 units to go around for North America. Having followed many of the popular articles circulating on the greatest hits parade, here's the summary:

1) People have been camped out for several days in hopes of getting one. Few stores took the cue from concert promoters or Japanese retailers and handed out a raffle ticket or did a lottery, thereby giving rise to line cutting and, in some cases, fistfights.

2) A Wal-Mart in California was ransacked by angry PS3 consumers who got asked to wait outside. They ran through the store knocking down everything and everyone they encountered.

3) A Best Buy in Maryland decided to suspend launch day activities, citing concerns for safety as the reason.

4) Some dudes drove by a store in Kentucky and opened fire with a BB gun on the crowd of people waiting for a PS3. Several campers and a reporter were shot, but not injured.

5) Few people waiting in line seem interested in actually playing the console. They are camped outside purely for economical gain as they look forward to selling the console on Ebay.

6) The $599 console is fetching as much as $3500 on Ebay. But not for long.

My prediction is that at least 1/5 of the 150,000 PS3s being sold in North America are going to end up on Ebay or other auction sites and those who wait a couple of weeks will be able to get one for under a $1000. Especially if any future shipments are delayed or cut.

I must say that it was rather fun checking the online news posts between games of Gears of War and work. So I guess in a way, you could say I had reason to look forward to the PS3 launch after all. Who knew?

Best Michael Scott Line Ever

Last night's "The Office" featured the merging of the Scranton and Stamford branches. Michael, trying to play the consummate host, tries to make small talk with each of his new employees and impress them with his unique style of managing.

As Karen walks in the door, Michael is obviously impressed by her looks and says, "Wow, you're really exotic looking. Was your dad a G.I.?"

Her and Pam's reactions were priceless; they both totally sold it and whoever came up with that line for Michael really outdid themselves. There isn't much non-sports television watching in our house, but I look forward to Thursday nights all week thanks to this show.

Warning: Sea Lion May Be a Jerk

According to the paper today, there's a sea lion in a popular public swimming lagoon in San Francisco that has so far bitten 14 people and chased 10 others out of the water. City officials closed the lagoon to swimming "until the testy marine mammal has moved on."

Now, at this point in the story I was pretty much distracted by the fact that people are doing much swimming in San Francisco in November. Ahh, but the story continues...

"Experts say the rogue sea lion could be protecting his harem of mates or might have brain damage from toxic algae.

What? Isn't that kind of an extreme hypothesis? Sure, he probably is just protecting his harem. If I had a harem I would certainly fight to protect it, that goes without saying. But to blame biting people on toxic algae-induced brain damage? Does it really have to be that dramatic? Is there no chance that this one sea lion isn't really just an asshole? Couldn't that be possible too? Or, come to think of it, maybe he just doesn't like humans. We homo-sapiens are always saying how dolphins are so much cuter than sharks, or that some of us are dog-people while others are cat-people. Maybe this sea lion just prefers chimpanzees? Maybe he just doesn't like the hairless-human version of bipeds. Or maybe every time he goes swimming, humans are constantly trying to pet him and tickle his whiskers. That shit would get old quick. If everytime I went swimming, some creature from another species tried to give me a wet-willy or rub my belly, I'd get pissed off too.

Then again, I know my wife occasionally wonders if I too have brain damage. Or at least been dropped on my head. Hmm, maybe the scientists are onto something with that toxic algae...

What is Wrong With You People?

Amidst reports of Japanese PS3's going for less than the retail price on Asian auction sites, we have Americans bidding PS3's up to $3500. That's right. $3500 for a $600 item with one piece of compelling software that you couldn't get on other systems.

Check Ebay for yourself. One such auction, set to close in less than 5 minutes, has received 37 bids and is about to go to the user "Forza_1980" for $3,551.00. Nevermind the fact that the Ebayer's screename closely resembles an Xbox exclusive videogame, but he's about to spend nearly 6x the retail price of the item. I guess he really, really, really doesn't want to wait another month or two for the next batch of shipments from Sony.

Actually, most every auction that has much action or is about to end is going for over $2500. Another just a moment ago closed for $3,550 after receiving over 50 bids. To the seller's credit, he started the auction at $10. That's $7k for two PS3's in a matter of minutes.

Do I dare ask how much they'll be fetching on Ebay at Christmas time?

Utter Destruction

Thanks to Steve for forwarding me this link to a 47-photo slideshow of the extensive damage that occured at Mt. Rainier National Park earlier this month due to the flooding. For those who haven't heard, western Washington is in the midst of the rainiest November on record and if just 3 more inches of rain fall this month, November 2006 will go down as the rainiest month of all time for the region.

If you've ever wondered just how damaging significant rainfall can be, then be sure to download this 4.5 megabyte PDF file. The photos are absolutely amazing, and dare I say heartbreaking as well.

Click here to view the slideshow.

Wallace Through 2007

That was fast. Earlier this week I posted about how the Seahawks have to make signing backup QB Seneca Wallace to a contract extension a top priority and apparently I wasn't the only one who thought so. They signed him to a one-year extension through 2007 season. At the least that gives them time for their other young QB's to develop. You can't keep a good QB as a backup forever, eventually he's going to spread his wings, but at least for another year those wings will belong to the Seahawks.

X360 HD-DVD Drive Earns Praise

There's a great write-up of Microsoft's new external HD-DVD player ($199) over at PCperspective.com today from a contributor who already owns a dedicated HD-DVD player. He provides a step-by-step photo guide to getting it up and running on both the X360 and your PC (so long as you have compatible video card) and seems very impressed, especially considering the price.

I'm definitely waiting out the next-gen movie format wars for the time being, but it's good to hear such praise for the HD-DVD player. Now we just need more movies to watch on it. Read about it here.

GOW Strategy Videos by Yours Truly

Those of you with Xbox Live accounts can head to the Marketplace and download videos for Gears of War that show how to get through the toughest spots in the game. Lead Designer Cliffy B from Epic narrates, but the gameplay you'll see in those videos is actually all me. BradyGames and Epic teamed up to produce these hi-def strategy videos for Xbox Live and flew me back out to Epic's offices in North Carolina to record the videos on their high-definition capture station. Pretty impressive equipment, I must say.

Anyway, the videos are going for 100pts on the Marketplace ($1.25) and seem to becoming available one at a time. Once all of the videos have been released on the Marketplace, owners of the strategy guide will be able to also download the videos straight from BradyGames.com by registering their copy of the book with the site.

The first video available is for the "Angry Titan" chapter and shows my expert tactics for defeating the Corpser as fast as can be, without getting hit. Truth be told, I actually had to dance around a little in the beginning and not beat the Corpser as fast as I normally do so as to give time for the voice-over.

Every Step of the Way

I'm going to divert from the typical conversations about videogames and mountain biking to talk about my wife, Kristin. Moreso than any person can imagine, I've seen how hard she's worked on a daily basis to get where she is and am so happy to see her decide to take the next step. Since the opening days of our freshman year in college, I've seen her dilligently studying night after night for her degree in biochemistry. Four years later I saw that dedication of hers transfer to the work place where she quickly advanced from an entry-level Lab Tech to a Senior Chemist in a few years time. And now, after a couple of years in a new company as the QA Manager, she's ready to move on to bigger things once again.

Those who work with her praise her professionalism and ability to get things done constantly and she's made it clear that she wants a larger stake in managing the operations of the facility. Her wish was granted. In addition to being put in charge of large facility projects, she was given quite a vote of confidence from her company's CEO recently. She's always had the good fortune of having supervisors who saw to it to be a mentor as well as a boss, and this one is no exception. He called her into his office the other day and told her that he felt it wouldn't be long before she was running a company like theirs. That he knows she wants to be an Operations Officer, but that he also knows she needs an advanced degree to reach the executive level of the company. Any company.

He then went on to tell her that nobody in the company had an MBA and that she was the only one who he felt was suited for getting one. So he made the offer: the company will pay for her to get an MBA in exchange for an equal number of years of service after the schooling is completed. Of course the hope is that by the time she completes the program, an officer position in the company will be available. Or created.

It's an amazing offer, but in true Kristin fashion, she didn't want to accept it because of the time it would take her away from me. I told her she was crazy. No, actually, I reminded her that it was something that she thought about years ago and that this is a great opportunity and that she had to decide whether or not she wanted to continue advancing through the company or continue as-is indefinitely like so many of her peers. She's at a crossroads. With so many people getting advanced degrees these days, it's unrealistic to expect to reach the officer level of a company without one, regardless how great and experienced you are. Most company's Boards won't allow it. And yes it will be very hard to handle a stressful full-time job and be a student, but if anyone can do it it's her.

So she decided she's going to apply to the University of Washington's Executive MBA program for fall of 2007. She made the decision yesterday afternoon after talking with a friend of mine in a similar program. We had dinner in the city last night with some former co-workers of hers who were in the area on business from NC, but it felt like a celebratory dinner. Of course, she hasn't actually accomplished anything yet, but sometimes you need to simply celebrate the end of a stressful decision-making process.

Last night while laying in bed, Kristin had something to say but didn't know how to spit it out. She wanted to know if, more or less, her success was threatening to me; or if I would feel pressure to go back to school now that she is. Not at all. For starters, I already did the grad school thing. Secondly, I'm very happy with my current standing professionaly -- my work is rewarding, entertaining, and lucrative -- and I know Kristin understands how hard I have to work to keep it going. I work hard and play very hard and while a lot of people only see or hear about the latter, she knows the truth. But mostly, how could I possibly have any reservations about her striving for more. Even though she's only 30, I've seen her working towards this day in and day out since before our 18th birthdays. Everything we do, we do together and for one another. She's the reason I stay up all hours of the night in crunch time and I know she'll do the same for me. And if it means we see each other a little less for two or three years or that I do the lion's share of the housework, so be it. The sacrifice now will be worth the rewards in the future. By both of us and for both of us.

Magnitude 8.3 Earthquake

The quake was located near the Kuril Islands, 1030 miles northeast of Tokyo. The magnitude 8.3 quake (incredibly strong) was followed by no less than 4 aftershocks that registered over 6.0 on the Richter Scale and 7 aftershocks that registered between 5.0 and 6.0. Any one of those aftershocks on their own would be considered a significant earthquake. Fortunately, it is currently believed that the displacement along the seafloor was mostly horizontal and not vertical, as major vertical displacement would have likely resulted in catastrophic tsunamis that could impact anywhere from Japan to Russia to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest all the way down to California. There is thousands of miles of open ocean between the location of the quake and the western US. We are lucky.

Link to the earthquake location at Google Maps. You may wish to zoom out to see the region better.

Concentration Fading Fast

She uttered the magic words in the car last night. The words any mountain biker loves to hear from the one they share a checking account with. "I guess it does make sense for you to get a second bike." Ahhh, just typing those words and knowing she said them makes me all warm inside. Or is that just the coffee? Nope, definitely the thought of bike shopping...

I've spent the past two years beating the hell out of my Giant NRS C2 and while I'm in no way looking to retire that bike, I know there is little chance of it withstanding the punishment of what I have planned for the coming year. It already has over 2000 very hard miles on it -- the bike is a carbon-fibre xc bike and I don't really ride it in the manner it was designed for -- and while I'd like to try and sell it, it makes more sense to keep it for the muddy, foul-weather rides. This way I'll be able to keep the new bike in prime condition.

So what am I looking at getting? Haven't quite made up my mind yet, but I'm strongly leaning towards the Ellsworth Evolve 29er. Or possibly the Intense Spider 29er. I'm very interested in testing the new 29er's out as I think those big wheels will not only be a lot of fun on rooty, technical trails, but I think the extra cushion and greater momentum will really come in handy during TransRockies and some of the other endurance races on the calendar for 2007. I'm not completely sold on the 29er though. If I go traditional 26-inch wheels, then I'll likely get an Ellsworth Truth, Intense Spider XVP, or Santa Cruz Blur. We'll see... basically I want a good 4" travel bike that can handle the tight twisty stuff, but also be able to handle a bit more "trail riding" than my 3" travel NRS.

The jury is still out though. The Ellsworth Evolve doesn't release at retail till mid-December. Thanks to a local BBTCer who works at the Seattle REI, the store now carries the Ellsworth line of bikes and I may be able to get one in to demo/buy by year's end. This way, even though I won't likely take it on singletrack till the spring I'll be able to get 10% back from the purchase as part of the REI dividends in February. And that and our other purchases this year will go a long way towards buying Kristin's kayak.

In the meantime, there's so much to think about. Components, wheels, fork, paint colors, etc., etc. I feel like a schoolkid daydreaming about what Santa might bring...

Bikin' Dirty: The Sequel

From today's Seattle Times:

Hackers might have stolen data from computers at the French anti-doping lab where tests are being challenged by American cyclist, Floyd Landis, police said. The Chatenay-Malabry laboratory, which is accredited by the Internation Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency, analyzed the samples that indicated Landis had elevated levels of testosterone in his system when he won the Tour de France in July. Police are investigating a complaint that computers at the lab were breached by hackers.

I think it's finally now safe to say that we're never going to know conclusively what did or did not end up in Floyd's body.

Weather or Not

"The Hits Keep Coming!"

I kid you not, that is the headline on Accuweather.com for the article about the next round of storms due to slam the PNW this week. This follows closely behind one of their other articles titled "Thunderstorm Violence". I have no idea what that article is about, but I'm guessing it's about an increase in gang activity during electrical storms. After all, if videogames and movies has taught us anything, it's that the rumbling of thunder can easily conceal the sound of gunfire. And since all videogames do these days is glorify gang violence that must be it, right?

I digress (as usual)...

Nevertheless, here's the latest blurb on the weather for the PNW region. I'm so glad my training for TransRockies kicks off next Monday -- nothing like riding the trainer for hours at a time.

This has not been a particularly cold November, but it has been very stormy especially in the Pacific Northwest. In Seattle for instance, the total rainfall is nearing one foot, which is nearly 500 percent of normal. In the Cascade Mountains, snow is being measured by the foot and not by the inch. At Stampede Pass, Wash., over 3 feet of snow has fallen in the past three days alone. The bad news is that the Pacific storm track still has its sights on this part of the country. The next storm in the series will arrive Wednesday bringing widespread heavy rain and winds up to 75 mph on the coast. Will that be it? Hardly. It appears yet another mammoth storm will crash into the Northwest late in the weekend.

Oh Glod, What Have You Done?

Seems not everyone finds "Borat" as funny as the rest of us.

From Breitbart.com:

"These people are poor and they were tricked by people more intelligent than us," he said. "They took one of our 75-year-old ladies, put huge silicone breasts on her and said she was 47. Another man they filmed to look like the poorest person in the world, and one of our men who is missing an arm had a plastic sex toy taped to his stump."

"We are suing because they were not truthful," added Staicu, who said he saw parts of "Borat" and was disgusted.

So let me get this straight, the impoverished gypsies of Glod, Romania (where the movie's opening scenes were filmed) are suing the makers of the film because they weren't truthful; because the residents were underpaid, and because it turned out that it really wasn't a documentary after all, but a comedy.

They didn't realize the movie would be untruthful when the director had someone tape a sex toy to the guy's stump? Or when they paid a family to house a cow and let it crap on their floor? It took hearing of the movie's success for them to realize that it wasn't a documentary? They really aren't that bright, are they?

At least one person saw it for what it was... a chance to make a little money without having to really do anything.

Not everyone in Glod is upset. Sorina Luca, 25, excitedly described how she was given $3.30 to bring a pig into her home and let the producers put a toy rifle into the hands of her 5-year-old daughter for one scene.

"I really liked it," she said. "We are poor and miserable. Nothing ever happens here."

The entire purpose of the movie was to make us laugh at stuff that we simultaneously know we shouldn't be laughing at. The movie forces us to squirm in our seats and make us feel awkward while simultaneously laughing so hard that tears stream down our cheeks. It's possible to laugh at someone's misfortune in a movie and simultaneously pity their situation. This is new experience for many of us because most comedic writers suck at their craft. Some get it and Sacha Baron Cohen gets it better than all of them.

That said, it would be a nice gesture if Fox or Cohen did donate some of the profits from the movie to the people of Glod to help them out. Imagine what a $100,000 would do for their situation.

You can read the rest of the article about the many groups and people suing over "Borat" via this link.

R.I.P. Skookum Suspension Bridge

One of my favorite technical trails in the Greenwater area suffered massive flooding and has likely been obliterated in many areas. It was a rocky trail that paralleled the White River not far from its headwaters at the base of Mount Rainier. One of the coolest features of the trail was the suspension bridge that crossed the river, giving riders a way to connect the Skookum Flats trail with the White River trail on the other side. My personal favorite way to ride this trail was to ride "up" Skookum Flats, cross the highway, descend the White River trail to the suspension bridge, and then cross back over the bridge and continue back down Skookum Flats to the trailhead.

But not anymore.

The following pic was taken by Tim Banning, a fellow BBTC member and all around good guy.

A logjam caused the river valley to flood and washed this bridge away.

New Look

Went through the new Blogger upgrade this morning and believe I have the site sorted out and looking the way it should. Apparently the big change (other than drop-drop layout) is that the site now works with Google accounts so if you used to post comments with a blogpot account, you may have to switch to a Google account in order to do so now. Or, as has been done in a post yesterday, just sign your name in the comment and use the anonymous posting option. I'll leave it like that for the time being so long as it doesn't get abused.

The New Norm

Microfleece-lined cycling tights... check
Wool socks and Gore-Tex outer socks... check
Microfleece glove liners and Gore-Tex outer gloves... check
Long sleeve base layer and short-sleeve jersey... check
Water-resistant/windproof jacket... check
Microfleece skull cap... check
Fenders... check
Helmet, Camelback, and charged HID light system... check, check and check!

All systems are go. Mount the bike. Countdown to winter riding in three, two, one... clipped in... they're off!

Thirty-nine degrees, a light mist in the air, and trails that look more like streams. Welcome to winter riding in the Pacific Northwest! Last night's ride took us up a rocky, slippery, leave-covered trail in Issaquah to the base of Tiger Mountain. The going was tough as we climbed several hundred feet over extremely slick trail in the opening mile. Once on the plateau above town, we encountered puddles so deep we would unclip from the pedals and hold our feet up near the bike's top tube to keep them dry as we coasted through.

From there we ducked under I-90 and started up the forest road towards the base of the Grand Ridge trail. Even the forest road was soupy. As we drew closer to the trailhead we heard a noise and noticed an increase in the water... there was a startlingly new waterfall cascading right off the hillside and onto the road, at least thirty feet in height. The trailhead was saturated, but the trail is rocky so we continued.

It was tough to go more than 30 or 50 yards at a time between dabs in the early goings due to the incredible slickness of the rocks and the two inches of flowing water running down the trail. It's a pretty tech trail in dry conditions, but this was ridiculous. Finally I realized I forgot to unlock my front fork. Ahhh... much better now. Still a challenge, but better. We soon came to the tiny stream we always dismount for (it's in a wide trench), only this time it is a raging torrent of water. Using the bike to brace myself against the current, I gingerly rock-hopped across the stream without getting pulled in. Phew!

As we climbed, we found the trails to get increasingly wet. The two-inches of flowing water deepened and numerous puddles required more of the unclip-and-lift technique. Then the mud came. Thwuck is the sound of one's front wheel sinking in quicksand-like mud up to the hub. Over and over. Yet we continued on. The bridges on the trail were as slick as could be, but conditions improved beyond them. Soon we came to the residential road the trail crosses. The decision was made to continue climbing to the top of the ridge, but not descend the other side (as it crosses a swamp). And so we did. The trail near the top of the ridge was nice and rocky and offered good traction, but the way down wasn't quite as fast as normal.

At one point, I wheelie-dropped off a small root or rock and my front wheel got sucked into the mud and I, full of momentum, found myself balancing precariously on my front wheel staring down into a foot-deep puddle of muddy water. I was able to shift my weight sideways and unclip and avoid a total soggy faceplant, but Ross wasn't so lucky. I yelled back to warn him of the mud-suck but he got swallowed up nonetheless and fell sideways into the mud. With my feet soaked and Ross' leg a muddy mess, it was good that we were heading back to the cars. We rode fast through the rest of the ride to keep the heart rate up and to get back to dryness sooner.

The big concern for me with winter riding is my toes and fingers. My torso and legs never get cold, nor does my head. It's always the toes. Last night was no different. The Gore-Tex sock liners definitely helped a lot and it was only in the final 5 minutes of the ride that my toes started to get really cold. Had I not have stepped in that puddle I probably would have been okay. Nevertheless, it's only November. If I'm to ride all winter long outdoors, then I need a winter cycling shoe. There's no way around it. If you have a suggestion for a good winter riding cycling shoe, please share. The toes you save might be mine.

Commercial Free Zone

The PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii release at retail in the coming days and so far we have the following with regards to television commercials.

Sony: A couple of 15-second spots showing the PS3 hovering in an empty room alongside a baby and a rubik's cube. Nothing about price. No gameplay footage. No details whatsoever.

Nintedo: n/a

I noticed on EBgames.com this morning that EB has stopped taking pre-orders for Nintendo's flagship title "Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" citing a lack of supply from Nintendo. That's always a good sign. On that same site, they mention that the PS3 will not be sold online until all of the in-store pre-orders have been filled. They expect that to be sometime before Christmas. Nice to see that the folks who camped out overnight for a pre-order might not get one until a month from now. Congratulations.

These new consoles come out this week and for the first time in over a decade, I have no interest in buying either of them. And it's not even that I wouldn't mind having a PS3 eventually, it's just a general overall feeling of disgust with how all players behave during console launches that makes me very happy to cozy up on the couch with my Xbox 360 this fall. Everyone from the console manufacturers to the retailers to other gamers carry themselves in such ridiculous ways during console launches that the fun and excitement has been ripped from the process. Throw in an utterly underwhelming lineup of games for one console and a completely gimmicky control mechanism for the other, and I can't help but sit here in wonder at why so many people seem to care. I really do.


Here's a must-watch to add to your Netflix queue if you haven't seen it already. It's simply titled "Shackleton" and stars Kenneth Branagh. It's the 2002 two-part movie about Ernest Shackleton's 1914 expedition to Antarctica. With the South Pole already reached by other explorers, he set out to be the first to cross the entire Antarctica landmass. The movie details the early financing of the expedition and crew-selection, the sailing to Antarctica on the famed ship Endurance, and the amazing struggle to keep all 28 crewmembers alive after the ship is crushed in pack ice.

Each disk is 1:43 in length, but the cinematography, acting, and script is first-rate and I definitely recommend the movie to anyone who enjoys a good adventure tale. I doubt Netflix has many copies of it, and I'm mailing mine back today so grab it when you can. Or, for those who like to purchase their movies, there's a three-disc collector's edition including A&E's biography on Ernest Shackleton as well as several features on Antarctica and the making of the movie.

I Call Him Mini-Vick

You might think that campaign season is over, but I'm here to speak otherwise -- it's only just getting underway. And my candidate of choice? Seneca Wallace, the 5'10" speedy backup quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. In the past month he went 2-1, including last night's defeat of the rival St. Louis Rams, for his first three starts of his four-year NFL career. Three starts that featured a team without League MVP running back Shaun Alexander, without starting wide receiver Bobby Engram, and with an offensive line reeling with injuries.

And he should have been 3-0 if not for the nauseating performance of the defense during the game in Kansas City, Wallace's first start.

The problem is that Wallace's contract is us this year and while there may have been little interest in him around the leage a month ago, everything has changed. Wallace could easily replace the current starting quarterback for at least a half-dozen teams around the league, and that's why the Seahawks need to keep him. They need to act fast before he becomes a free-agent. Make him the highest-paid backup in the league if necessary, but do something. Anything. Just keep him.

Matt Hasselbeck is the unquestioned leader of the Seahawks but having the piece of mind of knowing that a capable QB lies in the wings just in case he goes down is invaluable. For Wallace to win a back-and-forth game against a tough rival like the Rams without the starting running back is a huge testament not only to Wallace's ability (passer rating of 115 last night) but to his ability to command the team and understand the offense. Starting quarterbacks in the NFL don't last forever. We have no reason to think that Matt's recent knee injury will be his last. And so long as this team is a viable Super Bowl contender, they need to have insurance. Wallace represents that safety net.

Two years ago, the Seahawks committed to long-term excellence with enormous contracts for Walter Jones, Shaun Alexander, and Matt Hasselbeck. They've since added key pieces in the receiving corps and on defense. This is a team built to win for the remainder of the decade. It's time to take out the insurance policy and protect what has been built.

Look around the NFL and look at how many winning teams are built on a house of cards. We saw what happens to Cincinatti if Carson Palmer goes down, but he's far from the only one. What about New England, San Diego, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, the New York Giants, or the Chicago Bears? These teams -- each of them very good -- all have unproven backup quarterbacks. When Matt Hasselbeck went down, we in the stands did suck the air out of the stadium with a horrified gasp. And Seneca Wallace put our fears to rest the following week. How many of these other teams will be that lucky?

The previous weeks have given the Seahawks proof of what many always thought, or at least hoped was true. The Seahawks have one of the best quarterbacking situations in the NFL. Matt is a proven leader who led the franchise to its first Super Bowl last year. And Wallace is a speedy pocket-passing quarterback with the moves of Barry Sanders. There is no doubt in my mind that had Wallace have been starting for four years that he would be every bit as good as Michael Vick, if not significantly better. That is how good he is and that is why he must remain a backup. In Seattle.

Nobody Likes Freebies?

I just Googled "Gears of War guidebook" and a link to my giveaway contest popped up on the second page of results. I can't help but wonder how many people may have seen that and just thought they weren't eligible or that it was a hoaxe. I mean, really, it's a $30 collectible item for the X360's most high-profile game of the year -- a game that's probably already sold 200,000 copies since Tuesday -- and nobody bothered to send an email asking for a copy.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that I'm actually friends with the winners, but that definitely seems a little strange to me.

And Now for the Real Winners

Maybe it was the timing of the contest, maybe it was because I only have a handful of readers, and maybe it was because nobody wants my stinking books, but for one reason or another I only received two entries for the LE Guidebook Giveaway contest. And you know what, they both win! I ended up with a third copy of the LE version of the guidebook and rather than keep a copy shrinkwrapped for all eternity, I'd rather see it get some use.

So Eric and Erik, you guys both win a copy of the Gears of War Limited Edition Strategy Guide. The catch is that since I see you both fairly regularly, I'm not going to mail them. Erik: feel free to walk over and claim your prize whenever you want. And Eric, I sent you a copy of the other version the other day so that will have to hold you over until I see you again -- hopefully on one of Erik's Tuesday night mountain biking adventures.

Dear Winner,

We happily announce to you the draw (#1112) of the UK NATIONAL
LOTTERY, online Sweepstakes International program held 20TH
September, 2006.

Your e-mail address attached to ticket number: 56475600545 188 with Serial number 5368/02 drew the lucky numbers: (6) (29) (31) (34) (40) (48). Winning Numbers Breakdown Bonus Ball [04] which subsequently won you the lottery in the 2nd category i.e match 5 plus bonus.

You have therefore been approved to claim a total sum of £750,000(Seven Hundred and fifty thousand pounds) in cash credited to file KTU/9023118308/03.

You know you're having a good week when you win the lottery in a country you've never been too through an agency you've never bought an entry from! Perhaps I'll be able to use the winnings to send money to that poor Nigerian man who asked me to invest with him...

Crystal Mountain to Open Wednesday

Well, so much for El Nino supposedly meaning a lack of snowfall and an unusually dry winter for the Pacific Northwest. Aside from the fact that there has been record flooding in this area over the past week, but Crystal Mountain has gotten over a foot of snow already and is expected to receive quite a dumping throughout the weekend.

Now if only the places I actually like to go snowboarding at would open, then we'd be in business. Nevertheless, it looks like our tradition of going snowboarding on Thanksgiving will be in tact. Hopefully.

White Friday is Coming

Shopping is for suckers. When you wake up the morning after Thanksgiving Day, head right to your Xbox 360 and download the Lost Planet: Extreme Condition multiplayer demo. It's 16-player snow-covered goodness with foot soldiers and mechs known as Vital Suits. And take it from me, you will want to pre-order this game.

Speaking of which, should you be dragged to the mall by your significant other and have shopping thrust upon you, stop by your neighborhood game store and pre-order a copy -- if you're one of the pre-ordering types, which I'm not. If you do, you'll get a disc with a bonus multiplayer map to play on Xbox Live while you wait for the January release of the game.

From 1up.com:

In the December issue of EGM (the Halo 3 issue), Capcom took out a two page advertisement to promote the multiplayer demo on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The advertisement has the demo releasing on Nov. 23.

In a press release that went out this morning, Capcom confirmed the November 23 release date, but also announced a promotion they are calling "White Friday." On Nov. 24, pre-orders for Lost Planet will include a special version of the demo that includes a bonus multiplayer map.

As someone fortunate enough to be playing the full version of the game for work, I can safely say that you will not want to miss this game. And if you haven't already, head to Xbox Live Marketplace and download the "E3 Demo" for the game. It has two missions and is quite a lot of fun to play.

Lastly, if you're wondering what all this Lost Planet: Extreme Condition jazz is about, head over to the official site to get up to speed. At the very least, the music is pretty cool.

Gears of War: Limited Edition Guidebook Giveaway

My publisher sent me two copies of the Limited Edition version of my book for Gears of War and I'm going to give one of them away here on this site. The LE version of the book contains the full 176 page strategy guide and also a 96 page full-color art book, designed by the guys at Epic. They did a great job on the art book and it's definitely a nice collector's piece. The books are contained in a single volume within a softbound outer shell.

Contest Rules: Send me a blank email to hgi_doug@yahoo.com with "LE Guidebook Giveaway" in the subject line by Saturday evening, 6pm PDT. I'll mix the emailers addresses up in a hat and pick out a winner when I get home. At that point, I'll email the winner to get their mailing address. If you don't hear from me, you didn't win.

Bring Full Winter Riding Gear

So was the edict passed down from Mark, the leader for the ride I'm scheduled to attend this coming Saturday on the Olympic Peninsula. And as if that wasn't ominous enough, how's this blurb from Accuweather.com:

This continues to be the top weather story. During the past 10 days, several storms, both major and minor, have slammed into the Pacific Northwest. They resulted in a huge accumulation of rain and unprecedented flooding. Many rivers through the region have reached or exceeded their all-time record flood stage. Another storm of moderate to strong intensity will ram into the Northwest Friday, bringing another round of heavy rain. This storm will move rather quickly and probably will not match the excessive rainfall totaled from this past Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. To make matters worse, the storm that strikes Friday will not be the last. Another big one will come in later Sunday and Monday.
The graphic below clearly demonstrates why the flooding has been so severe in this part of the country. Just look at these November rainfall totals, which have been as much as 30 inches on the west slopes of the Cascades.

I'm not a huge fan of riding in the wet but there's no way around it this time of year and I can't afford to not begin prepping myself for the ramp up in mileage when my official training plan for TransRockies kicks off on November 20th.

Memo to self: buy waterproof socks and shoes pronto!

Book Giveaway Update

Both my shipment of books for Okami and Gears of War arrived today and my lovely wife is probably mailing them out as you read this -- assuming you read this Thursday morning.

Soooo... Eric, Jessica, Frank, Tim, and Jason can expect to get their copies sometime next week. Hopefully by Tuesday. And, again, for those waiting for a copy of the Okami book, I apologize for the delay. It was an oversight on the part of the publisher.

Trust Your Neighborhood Grocer

Sunday might be "Emergence Day" but Gears of War shipped yesterday. Some of my friends in NJ and IN were online with it last night but nobody in western WA seemed to have it in stock yesterday. I should know, I went to four stores looking for it.

On the way to Fred Meyer in Issaquah, I got a call from my buddy Eric who said that the Gamestop/EB he checked at in the area said that the shipments of the game for Washington, Idaho, and Oregon were all delayed in a Fed-Ex facility in Memphis. Yippee! Nevertheless, I went to Fred Meyer and asked the guy in the electronics department if it had come in. He mentioned nobody getting them -- said the nearby Gamestop was phoning everyone saying the delivery was delayed till tomorrow. I persisted. I asked him to call the back warehouse and see if any games came in. He did. They didn't know which ones, but I should walk around the store for a while and make my way back in 20 minutes or so.

And so I spent the next twenty minutes browsing the produce aisle, inspecting the array of organic trail mixes, and squeezing mangos. I wandered through the paint aisle and looked at the fishing rods in the sporting goods section and even smelled some lovely scented candles in the home decor area.

I eventually made my back to the electronics department and lo and behold, who did I see? The lady who in the past has put a PSP and X360 aside for me. She was on the phone and nodding her head in an up and down motion. She told me they had gotten a few copies and I should wait a few minutes longer. No problem. Five minutes later she came back with an opened cardboard shipping box with twelve copies of Gears of War. It looked like five of them were of the Collector's Edition variety which I didn't want. So I snagged the first copy out of the box and am back home and ready to fire it up.

So while the boutique gaming stores failed to get their deliveries, the grocery store got theirs. And this is why I refuse to preorder a game. Just yesterday the guy in Gamestop was trying to talk me into pre-ordering to guarantee I would get my copy today. He was as condescending as could be when I told him I make a practice of never pre-ordering games (really, why do you want to guarantee your money to a store like Gamestop?). Well lookee here, jackass. Look who has a copy. Me. And who doesn't? Everyone who pre-ordered one at your store.

Now I'm Terrified -- TransRockies Related

Ever since getting serious about endurance sports back in 1999, I started using a book titled "Endurance Athletes Edge" by Marc Evans to help design my training programs. The book provides a step-by-step way to develop your own periodization training program and includes dozens of pages of tables and data for various intensity zones for swimming, cycling, and running. The book is complex, features numerous calculations (some with numbers containing seven decimal places) and is extremely scientific. It's a book that only a real number-loving data-geek could ever understand or put to use. And it works. Although it would often take me several days to design a plan for the upcoming season, I used the book for several years and not only never got injured, but saw steady improvement and actually started to achieve a decent amount of success at the age-group level.

I dug the book out of the closet the other day and sat down to use it again for the first time in several years -- the sole purpose being to design a training program to help me prepare for TransRockies. The only problem I ran into was that I couldn't complete the first step in the process: deciding on a weekly training volume. The book has min/max suggested volumes for each of the triathlon distances (sprint distance up to Ironman) that you might be training for. But TransRockies is uncharted territory. You can't train for it as a standalone 350 mile race, but you also can't train for it like a 50 mile race since you're doing 7 of them in succession. Furthermore, ten miles on a mountain bike is often equivalent to twenty miles on a road bike. I think you begin to see my dillema.

So I Googled the author and found the website for his coaching service. Marc Evans is a former World Champion triathlete, director of the IronMan world championships, and a coach for over twenty years. He's one of the premier names in the sport, and author of several books. Was there any chance he would answer an email from some no-namer like me who was, essentially, soliciting free coaching advice? You betcha.

I wrote to him this afternoon, explaining my situation. I told him briefly about TransRockies, that I could train up to 25 hours or so for the race per week, and that I loved his book. Then I asked him what type of weekly volume should I use for calculating my periodization plan and, if he wouldn't mind, could he suggest a percentage of time I should spend on the mountain bike versus the road bike.

He replied within three hours. And, to be perfectly honest, his reply has me terrified. Here it is for full impact.


You're really training for the Tour de France... I'd think in terms of hours---not distance. And your plan should condense workouts sequentially over time. That is workouts that are bunched together---day after day like the event.

Look at what your time each day will be and design from this estimate. I don't think you need to match it exactly but getting some workouts close would be beneficial.

I'd do most of my work on the mtb with the longer recovery work on the road.


You're really training for the Tour de France... You're really training for the Tour de France... You're really training for the Tour de France... You're really training for the Tour de France...

Those words have not stopped flashing before my eyes since opening the email. A siren is going off in my brain, and I've broken out in a sweat. One of the biggest names in endurance sports, the coach of the best and most legendary triathletes, and holder of patents in some of the best-selling training equipment is telling me that I need to think as if I'm really training for Le Tour. Oh #%&@!

Moving past the Tour comment (as if that's possible), he really provided some great advice. I was thinking that I needed to base the plan more on time and not distance, but I've always hated that approach to training. Time I learn to adapt, I guess. Also, it's good to see him recommend spending more time on the mountain bike -- it's not always as convenient as hopping on the road bike, but it is more fun. Anyway, as ridiculously awkward and uncomfortable as I feel right now, I do feel a little relieved too. I now have the answer towards moving forward with the creation of the plan (oddly enough, using time instead of distance in periodization training is the foundation of Evans' competitor's book "SERIOUS Training for Endurance Athletes" which I never liked) and now I know that there's really no way I can overtrain for TransRockies.

Gears of War: Strategy Guide Giveaway

The Xbox 360's first must-have title releases today and I'm happy to say it is definitely worthy of the hype it received. Normally I wouldn't bother to mention review scores from the major gaming sites, but IGN gave it a 9.4, 1Up gave it a 10, and I believe Gamespot gave it a 9.6. And all are justifiable. If I was to grade it, it would definitely be in that range.

Having authored the official guidebook for the game, and spent several weeks at Epic Studios' offices in Cary, NC, I can say with certainty that this was one of the best games that I've written a guidebook for. And I've authored about 50 of them at this point. The game oozes next-gen quality. From the incredibly intuitive and easy-to-master controls, to the pacing, to the difficulty curve, to the incredible eye and ear candy, the game is in a league of its own. And while I readily admit that I am a little biased, I can assure you that I seldom buy a game that I've written a guidebook for, yet I hope to have a copy of Gears of War by tomorrow. I played through the single-player campaign several times alone, I played through it on Hardcore mode cooperatively with an assistant, and I've played over 20 hours of multiplayer. And I still want more. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the sign of a good game.

It's got my stamp of approval!

Now for the giveaway part. First I want to express my sincere apologies to those who requested copies of my Okami book as I have still not yet received them. I was assured yesterday, however, that they were on the same truck as my Gears of War book and I should have them this week. So you will be getting them and, again, I apologize for the delay. As you may or may not know, there are two versions of the Gears of War Official Strategy Guide. One is the regular "Signature Series" version of the guidebook which retails for $19.99 and that is what I'm offering to give away -- just email me your name and address at hgi_doug@yahoo.com and the first three people to do so will get a copy. Then there is the "Limited Edition" version of the book. This $29.99 version is soft-bound and contains the strategy guide along with a 96 page art book. Unfortunately, I only have one copy of the LE version and am most definitely not parting with it. They are relatively rare and will not receive a second printing (hence the word "limited" in the title). However, should I see a copy, I will pick one up and hold a contest for it here on this site.

In the meantime, if you're interested in having a signed copy of the Gears of War Official Strategy Guide, just email me a request with your name and address. If you're one of the first three people to do so, I'll send one out to you.

And stay tuned: the next guidebook givaway won't be until January, but I think there will be plenty of X360 owners looking for help in navigating the extreme condition of the lost planet E.D.N III. Hint, hint.

Voting In the Dark

Got a phone call early this morning from Erik, a friend who lives in the same neighborhood as I. He was warning me that the voting center had a power failure and we now had to go to a fire station and vote by hand, as in writing everything out the long way. He recommended getting a head start as the lines were starting to grow.

On my way out the door, I stopped and looked at the paper and saw that the other voting center in our town was closed due to flooding and all the people in that part of town were also being sent to the fire station. Uh oh.

So I splashed my way to my truck and drove down to the fire station, noting the dimmed traffic signals along the way. The fire station had power and according to the people there, so did my real designated voting location. "They just got the power back on, so please head up there to vote, it will be easier for you." Or so the lady said.

I hop into my truck and drive back towards my neighborhood and notice that all the traffic lights are still out. Nevertheless, I head down the road towards the ecumenical church that serves as our voting station -- Is it wrong of me to be disturbed by the fact that we vote in a church? Can't we at least pretend to have separation of church and state anymore? -- and instantly notice the loud rumbling of a generator. Uh oh...

Once inside, I find that the generator is being used solely for powering the ballot collection machine. I see a row of tables staffed with various seniors from the community. Some are holding pen-lights, others are wearing the kind of Petzl headlamps that I use when reading at night in a tent, others are holding an assortment of battery-powered flashlights and lanterns. It's extremely dark inside. Finally, the elderly asian lady I check in with realizes that my name, Walsh, doesn't start with a D (Doug is my first name) nor an M (the book is facing you, maam, not me) and hands me my ballot.

I cozy up to one of the pop-on dome lights you see advertised for closets on tv and find a ballpoint pen. My head hurts from trying to read in such darkness. Finally, my eyes adjust to the limited light and a couple minutes later -- sorry Dave -- I'm done. The generator-powered machine is still running on all cylinders and my ballot is sucked into its depths. I'm free to leave.

On the way home I got to thinking about the efffects the flooding is going to possibly have on election results. Obviously nobody would ever wish for towns to suffer significant flooding or for people to experience a loss of property (or worse) but most of the flooding is in rural, small-town areas of western Washington. And rural small-town residents tend to vote Republican. For some towns, there is likely to be a lot fewer voters making it to the polls -- if there are polls left -- and that could prove to help the Democrats. Especially in the case of the Burner/Reichert race as that one was pretty close. On the other hand, there's a pretty big property-rights initiative up for vote and the opponents of it need all of the rural voters they can get to see to it that Washington doesn't end up making the same mistake Oregon made. Just an interesting sidebar. I'll return to talking about gory videogames after my next cup of coffee.