Friday, December 29, 2006

Back to Michigan For Christmas

I managed to make it safely out of the Colorado Blizzard and on to Michigan for Christmas without too much difficulty. I did miss my connection in Houston on the way out and ended up crashing on my sisters couch. It was good to see her, her husband, and her two kitties. Above is the result of me playing with my new digital camera that I got for christmas. Whee!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

By popular request

I got a comment requesting that I get around to posting a picture of the mercury transit. Here's one from It was taken by Howard Eskildsen of Ocala, FL. The dark area in the top left of the picture is a rather large sunspot that produced several CME's when it was around the limb and almost nothing when it was on the disk. The small spot towards the bottom of the image is Mercury. Man, I need to get a solar filter for my telescope.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Update - Percussion thingy

What is this called?
Evelyn Glennie learning the coolest thing in the world.

Shortly after posting the last entry I found this picture of Evelyn Glennie learning the instrument I wrote about. I still don't know what it's called, but this is what it looks like. Oh man, I really must learn this.

Stoopid cold, Day 5.

On my birthday I came down with a cold. Fortunately I wasn't scheduled to work that day or the next, so I could stay home and recover. But now it's day 5 of the cold and it's still not gone. Sure, I feel mostly better, but it's getting a little old not being able to breathe through my nose. And what a waste it was to have a couple perfectly nice days off and spend them in bed dreaming the feverish dreams of the ill. Grr. But now it is friday and I'm on the mend. Oh happy friday.

I was going a little stir crazy doing mostly nothing while fighting off the cold. I finished the book I was reading, "Pastwatch" by Orson Scott Card. I also finished watching all the netflix discs I had at home, Word Wars, a Deadwood season 2 disc, and "Touch the Sound", a biography of sorts of the deaf master-percussionist Evelyn Glennie. I can't honestly recommend "Touch the Sound" as it was quite slow paced and, at times, a little out there, but as a percussionist myself I enjoyed the footage of the music making. I had the good fortune to see Evelyn Glennie perform live and in person at Stetson Chapel back at good ol' Kalamazoo College in my school days. She really is amazing, but the movie, sadly, is not.

One thing about the movie I did find fascinating is a new percussion "instrument" I don't believe I've seen before. Imagine, if you will, a wooden ball, about the size of a softball, in this case painted red. Now imagine two specially designed wooden "sticks" such that you can balance the ball on the ends of the sticks in carved out shallow cups. The player holds the two sticks, one in each hand, and sort of juggles the ball in the air using various points on the sticks to make contact with the ball, thus creating different clickety-clack sounds. When done in rythm, this creates a percussion beat.

I must acquire this and learn to play it. If I knew what it was called maybe I could find it, but I don't even know where to start. Anyone have any ideas?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Transit of Mercury

NASA - 2006 Transit of Mercury

I just got back from watching the mercury transit on the heliostat we have at the observatory at work. Mercury was still in the solar disk as the sun set behind the flatirons. It was awesome to see in real light coming from the sun, rather than in digital images on a computer screen. The transit is in progress as I write this, so I don't have an actual photograph to link, but perhaps I'll find one a bit later.

T-Bird and Balanced Rock.

T-bird and Balanced Rock
Originally uploaded by thewbert.
Just got back from a trip yesterday that included a couple days of Arches National Park. This is our obligatory "interacting with the crazy scenery" shot. Click on the picture to view more from the trip.

We also spent a couple of nights in Glenwood Springs enjoying the hot springs. The hot springs were fun, but made me miss the summer days when I can enjoy my own (unheated, non-natural spring) pool.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Me Picking Giant Reagan's Nose

Me Picking Giant Reagan's Nose
Originally uploaded by thewbert.
When given the opportunity to pick the nose of Ronald Reagan's Giant White Head, I obviously jumped at the chance. I mean, who wouldn't?

Monday, October 23, 2006


A few entries ago I talked about the brilliant and hilarious NPR show "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me...", in which I mentioned that I like to listen to the podcast version of the show during my daily workout. Well, there's only one Wait Wait podcast per week and lots more days in which I like to do my workout, so I've been searching for other good podcasts. Here's my problem. One can go on a site like Podcast Alley and search for podcasts by genre, but that doesn't really work for me because really I'm looking for one that's interesting, not necessarily about a specific topic. My other requirement is that it be free. I'm interested in the Splendid Table podcast but in order to download it you have to pay for it. Dude. I'm a product of the internet revolution. Everything online is supposed to be free.

And so I finally found another worthy podcast, Filmspotting. Like Wait Wait, Filmspotting is based in Chicago, but I don't believe it's nationally syndicated. If you live in the greater chicago-land area you can hear it on Chicago Public Radio, or you can do what I do, and download their free weekly podcast. The show is great. The format features two film-nerd buddies who often dissagree about which films are instant classics and which are trash (For example, one absolutely adored The Illusionist, the other hated it). The typical show starts with a featured review of a recently released movie, ventures into some listener feedback, detours into a segment they call Massacre Theater in which they act out a scene from a movie and listeners are invited to figure which scene for prizes, and frequently finishes with their top five list. Each week's top five has a different theme. A recent favorite of mine had the following premise:

The Situation

Every film made between 1980 and 1989 is going to be wiped from the Earth. Your mission: save one.

The Request

Give us a call and leave a voice mail. The one film you'd save from the 80s and why.

The hosts, Adam Kempenaar and Sam Van Hallgren typically reveal their runners-up (numbers 6 through 10) before alternating between them as they reveal their top five. In this case, the five movies from the 80's they would save from destruction. Which five movies from the 80's would you save from destruction?

The discussion is often interesting and the analysis is often real and heartfelt. They tend not to clinically analyze the films but truthfully acknowledge how the film hit them at an emotional level. And it's always fascinating to listen to two intelligent people disagree on a film and hear why one of thinks it's a masterpiece and the other a piece of trash.

I will admit that the podcasts can tend to be long-winded, frequently going over an hour. But this is why I like them for my workouts, as it inspires me to keep going just a bit longer on the elliptical trainer.

Here's my list (off the top of my head, I might have forgotten some classics):

1. The Princess Bride
2. The Empire Strikes Back
3. Back to the Future
4. Ghostbusters
5. The Right Stuff

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Punch Bowl

The Punch Bowl
Originally uploaded by areageek.
This picture has achieved legendary and classic status among my family. In the picture, I'm the cute one.

This was taken at my Grandparents' 40th wedding anniversary celebration. I remember a few things from the party, but I don't remember being around the punch bowl while this picture was being taken. I do remember eating some red grapes that I thought were disgusting because I wasn't expecting them to have seeds in them. And getting locked in the bathroom with my cousin Kim.


Originally uploaded by thewbert.
Some of you may have noticed that my Flickr account was updated weeks ago with pictures from my vacation to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, but that I haven't blogged about it yet. Well here's the blog entry. Over on the right you can see a picture from the top of Mt. Washburn. We, being my parents and I, hiked up to the top on our first full day at Yellowstone. The veiw from the top, a mere 10,243 feet, was spectacular. There was a bit of haze in the air from all the nearby forest fires as it was forest fire season when we were there but the weather was perfect, warm and dry without being too hot. Click on the picture for more select pictures from our vacation.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fun is awesome.

On friday I attended the Great American Beer Festival in glorious Denver, Colorado. This festival is apparently in the Guinness Book of World Records as the event with the largest number of beers on tap.* Guinness was not in attendance. Here are some random observations.

  • Every damn brewery in the US thinks they're clever and unique. They're not. Seriously, every brewer had some clerverly punny-named IPA or Porter. They pretty much all tasted the same. I stopped sampling anything with a clever name after the first 10 minutes.

  • I want a pretzel necklace. I didn't get the memo on these. About half the people in attendance had a pretzel necklace. I guess so they could snack on pretzels between 1 oz. samples of beer.

  • Some brewery in Alaska makes a smoked beer. The rep said they actually smoke the barley used to make the beer the same way one smokes salmon. It was better than it sounds, but I can't imagine what one would pair this particular beer with. I certainly wouldn't want smoked beer with my smoked fish.

  • Surprisingly, my favorite new find came from a brewery in my own backyard, the Wynkoop in LoDo. I've been there a few times and always noticed the "Patty's Chili Beer" on the menu. Intrigued, I was thrown off a bit by the menu's promise of ancho and annaheim peppers. Don't get me wrong; I like peppers and peppery foods. But I wasn't so sure it would make a good addition to beer. Beer isn't supposed to be spicy, it's supposed to be what you drink when you're eating something spicy. Turns out, this beer is delicious. In the sample I had the pepper aspect wasn't spicy per se, it simply contributes an organic and earthy freshness to the beer. Drinking it was like the smell you get when you take a ripe, fresh pepper and make that first cut into it on the cutting board. The smell overwhelmes you, not in a spicy\hot way, but in a flavorful smell of nature itself way. This is what the beer tastes like.

  • Another favorite of mine was called "Orange Blossom" from Papago Brewing in Scottsdale, AZ. It pours a cloudy golden color and, as the name would imply, has a slight aroma of citrus. The taste is smooth and slightly sweet, the kind of beer you can quaff rather quickly without realizing it but has enough flavor to hold its own.

  • I'm apparently allergic to the Colorado Convention Center. About two hours into the tasting my nose started running like crazy and my eyes were itchy as hell. I didn't realize immediately that it was an allergic reaction (I thought I was getting a cold), but it must have been. Not long after leaving, my symptoms started going away and I awoke the next morning feeling fine.

  • Fun is awesome. So read a sticker handed to me by a guy manning some kind of "beer glove" booth. I'm inclined to agree with said sticker.

  • There was a booth there by the Mormon Drinking Team, also known as X-communicated. They had several hilarious t-shirts for sale, my favorite being the one with a picture of a happy jesus holding a glass of beer with the words "What Would Jesus Drink".

A fun time was had by all. Props to my beer-drinking cohort Lynne who came all the way from Atlanta to attend the beer fest with me. We got a couple of pictures of us at the fest on her camera. She left it on the bus when we came back to Boulder but rumor has it that she retrieved it from RTD's lost and found this morning. Huzzah! I'll post a picture if/when I get one.

*This is unverified. I personally have no idea whether or not this event is in the Guinnes Book of World Records.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The George Allen Insult Generator

Slate's latest Low Concept column features The George Allen Insult Genertor. As the column says:
George Allen has spent all summer with his foot in his mouth. On Sunday, Salon reported that a handful of the Virginia senator's former football teammates claim he repeatedly used the word nigger. The New York Times wrote on Tuesday that two of Allen's former acquaintances recall that he said the word. Allen has denied the allegations. "The story and his comments and assertions in there are completely false," he told the Associated Press. "I don't remember ever using that word and it is absolutely false that that was ever part of my vocabulary."

Last week, Allen accused a reporter who asked about his mother's Jewish background of "making aspersions about people." He later remarked that his newfound Semitic heritage hadn't brought about any dramatic changes: "I still had a ham sandwich for lunch." Allen also drew attention over the summer when he referred to one of his opponents' campaign volunteers as a macaca—an ethnic slur in some North African countries. What was his excuse this time? "I don't know what it means."

We know what you're thinking: When's George Allen going to insult me? That's where Slate's George Allen Insult Generator comes in. Are you black? Fat? Allergic to wheat? Sen. Allen's got an insult—and a rationalization—waiting for you.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wait wait...

Wait Wait
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me...(Image stolen from

don't tell me...

A while back I became addicted to the wonderful Word Nerds podcast. It's published by a teacher in Virginia along with his colleague from the same school and his brother, who teaches at a school in North Carolina. Each week's show has a theme where they discuss, for example, puns or the particular idiosyncrasies of locker room lingo. But this only sated my podcast thirst, which I usually listen to while working out on the elliptical trainer, once a week, so I went looking for another good weekly podcast or two.

People kept telling me about how good the NPR show "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me..." was, so I went looking for a podcast version of the show. Sure enough, they publish the weekly show as a podcast which can be found here. Let me tell you that it is an absolute joy to listen to this show. And the podcast format is beautiful. It actually makes me look forward to my monday workout as it provides the best opportunity to listen to this brilliant show. I'm sure most of you have at least heard of it and many of you probably listen to it broadcast on your favorite NPR station, but if you're looking for something to make your workout routine a little less routine then download this podcast!

p.s. I'm looking for more good, entertaining podcasts to listen to during the remaining days of the week. Does anyone have any good suggestions?

This just in...

After a kickball season of being co-captain, I willingly handed the reins over to the other co-captain, KA, to be the single captain for the fall kickball season. She took it upon herself to see if she could find a sponsor for the team -- and guess what? -- she succeded! The Chotchkies are officially sponsored by the Boulder Beer Company! This means that we get Hazed & Infused T-shirt uniforms and cheap beer at Boulder Beer Company! Hoo-ray!!!

By the way, we triumphantly finished the summer season with 5 wins and 2 losses, but becuase of the strength of our schedule we ended up in 5th place out of 8 teams. I'm sure we will kick much ass in fall league. Come cheer us on every Monday night at the Mapleton Ballfields behind Whole Foods (right by Boulder Rock Club).

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Friday, July 14, 2006


Me and Merica

Me and Merica

Go Team!

Go Team!

A while ago I joined a kickball league as a co-captain of a team composed of a bunch of people who had never met each other. We just had our third game on monday, in which we dominated to the point of the game being called on mercy rule grounds. So now our record is 2 and 1. We won our first game in sudden death overtime, lost our second game in a mercy rule route, and, like I said, dominated our third game. We will not lose another game this season.

Before our game on friday we were pretty riled up by BBQing and drinking our teammate Michael's house. We took the field and were "warming up" when two of our players collided as they were both going for a fly-ball. One ended up with a very bloody nose. And we hadn't even started playing the actual game yet! We didn't let that stop us, though.

The games are pretty fun. Mostly nobody takes it too seriously, although it is pretty competitive in an all-in-good-fun kid of way. As you can see from the pictures, our team color is green. Our team name is Chotchkies, after the fictional restaurant in "Office Space", and so we wear aprons with flair as our team uniform.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Diesel Dilemma

The Diesel Dilemma

When I bought my first car about a year ago I honestly believed I was making a choice that at least partially minimized the impact of driving on the environment. I considered getting a hybrid, but for several reasons I chose a Jetta TDI. The TDI means it's a diesel. Diesel's have long had a reputation for being noisy, smelly, and polluting, but those opinions always seemed rather ill-informed. I knew, for example, that diesel passenger cars are far more popular in Europe than in the US, and Europe tends to have more progressive environmental laws. It's also a fact that diesel engines are more efficient than gasoline engines. This is an undisputed truth that comes as a result of the way diesel engines function; that is, by compression rather than spark ignition. Due to the diesel engine's popularity in Europe, car manufactures there have been modernizing and improving the design of the diesel engine for decades. Americans tend to associate diesel engines with industrial vehicles like busses and construction equipment, which spew out thick clouds of black smoke, but the modern European diesel passenger car emits almost no visible smoke whatsoever.

Being the proud owner of a new car I often found myself in a position to talk about it. I would mention that it's a 2005 model year (the redesigned Jetta was introduced partway through the 2005 model year, so my car really is officially a 2005.5) and that it's a diesel and therefore gets almost 50 mpg (also true). If I wanted to be even more of a tree-hugging environmentalist I could run it, without modification, on bio-diesel. When I tell people it's a diesel, I usually get one of three reactions. People either don't care that it's a diesel because it means nothing to them, think it's cool that it's a diesel and therefore efficient and environmentally friendly, or say something about how awful diesel emissions are. The fact that environmentalists would give me two conflicting responses says something about the misinformation out there concerning the environmental impacts of diesel exhaust. If given the third response I would usually try to defend it by saying that it emits far less greenhouse gasses but more of the smog causing compounds, and since I'm using less oil to run it, the net effect is slightly positive.

This friendly debate, plus the recent press around low-sulfur diesel fuel and "clean diesel" technology inspired me to try to get some facts so I'd know what I was talking about when it came to diesel emissions. The truth, whatever it is, is not easy to find. Do a web search for "diesel exhaust" or "diesel emissions" or "clean diesel" and all the results are organizations with agendas. Obviously the site makes diesel engines out to be the earth's best friend. Obviously, makes diesel out to be the biggest polluter this side of coal-fired power plants. So which one is correct? Like most things the answer seems to lie somewhere in between, but is still very unclear.

I finally found an article that mostly spelled it out like it is. I'm still curious about some of their claims. In an effort to find an unbiased opinion I turned to the website for the Union of Concerned Scientists. I often respect this organization for being unbiased and fair. They readily admit to having an agenda, which is sound environmental stewardship, but they back up their claims with hard, scientific fact. They published a paper in 2004 called "The Diesel Dilemma: Diesel's Role in the Race for Clean Cars." The paper's authors, Patricia Monahan and David Friedman, try to objectively analyze the best and cheapest technologies for achieving high-efficiency and low-emission vehicles. In their executive summary, linked to above, they basically say that gasoline-powered vehicles, gasoline-electric hybrids especially, are the technology worth investing in for a variety of reasons and that diesel will never be as clean or efficient as the best gasoline-powered cars. I think most of their points are valid, but I would like to offer some counter-arguments, not because I think I know better, but just to illustrate my questions and hopefully spark some more debate.

One of the paper's major arguments against diesel engines is that they are more expensive than gasoline engines, especially when emission controls are taken into account. They argue that the increased upfront costs of the diesel, combined with the emissions control technology necessary to make diesel exhaust as clean as gasoline exhaust make diesel impractical. They argue that there are more gains to be made investing this money on improvements to gasoline engines. Here's an excerpt from the paper:

Today’s diesel cars are just one
of many strategies available to increase fuel economy.
A variety of technologies—more efficient
engines, better transmissions, improved aerodynamics,
and high-strength materials—can
give today’s diesel a run for its money.
It should be noted that the fuel economy advantage
of diesel does not translate into equivalent
reductions in oil usage and heat-trapping gas emissions.
Differences in the production, energy content,
and formulation of low-sulfur diesel fuel
and federally reformulated gasoline come into
play. Relative to conventional gasoline vehicles,
the energy security and global warming benefits
from diesel are lower than gains in fuel economy,
even accounting for diesel’s higher energy density.

Here they list technologies that can be used to make gasoline-powered vehicles more efficient, and thus catch up to the inherent efficiency of diesel; more efficient engines, better transmissions, improved aerodynamics, and high-strength materials. Well, these are all technologies that can make the already more efficient diesel car even more efficient. Take two otherwise similar cars, one with a diesel engine, one with a gas engine. The diesel starts out with an efficiency advantage because it's diesel. Now, give them both a better transmission, improved aerodynamics, high-strength materials, and more efficient engines. The diesel is still way more efficient.

The second point, about the efficiency of diesel not translating into equivalent reductions in oil usage and heat-trapping gas emissions seems suspect. Later in the article they go into more detail about this point, normalizing a gallon of diesel to "gallon of gas equivalent". They do this by itemizing all the components and energy that go into making a gallon of gas vs. a gallon of diesel. They rightly take into account that a gallon of diesel takes less energy to refine than a gallon of gas, but also that it takes slightly more crude oil per gallon of diesel than gallon of gas, due to diesel's higher energy content. Where they go astray, I believe, is in accounting for the ethanol content of gasoline. In their tabulation of the energy requirements for formulating gasoline, the ethanol seems to suddenly appear magically, fully formed. No mention is made of the energy requirements of producing said ethanol, in the from of petroleum products needed to fertilize the corn, refining it into ethanol, or shipping it. Even after all this calculation, they still come to the conclusion that diesel engines use less oil and produce less greenhouse gasses than a gasoline engine, just that the difference isn't as extreme as simple comparing miles per gallon of the two vehicles might lead one to believe.

As an aside, I'd like to point out that part of the up front costs of a diesel engine translates into higher durability. Diesel engines last longer than gasoline engines because they are built more robustly to withstand the compression ignition cycle that defines a diesel engine. This translates directly into less waste; fewer cars need be built and fewer cars ending up in junkyards.

But what about emissions? So a diesel engine lasts longer and is more efficient than a gasoline engine, but everyone can see that gross, black smoke that come out of a diesel tailpipe. That must be bad, right? Well, the short answer is yes, it is. There seems to be plenty of information out there saying that diesel exhaust is bad. The sooty particulates that you can see are a known lung irritant, and diesel exhaust is known to contain NOx, a major producer of smog. But burried deep in the Union of Concerned Scientist's report is the following,

While the toxicity of diesel has been well
researched, there is relatively little information on
the toxicity of gasoline. New studies indicate that
today’s average gasoline and diesel vehicles have
the same toxicity per unit of mass (Seagrave et al.,
2002), but the exhaust from high-emitting gasoline
engines may be more toxic.


Recent European measurements indicate
that gasoline spark-ignited engines running at high
speed and load may release as many or more nanoparticles
as typical diesel engines (Kittleson et al.,
2003). Unfortunately, because it is not yet clear
whether today’s technology can accurately measure
nanoparticles and there is no accepted testing
method to ensure consistent measurement, comparisons
between different studies are nearly impossible
(Andersson, 2001). Different transient
cycles, operating conditions, and exhaust temperatures
also affect nanoparticle generation.

So, what's the conclusion? Diesel exhaust is toxic, smog forming badness. But gasoline exhaust is toxic, lung irritating badness, too, which may be much worse than diesel exhaust. The jury is clearly out. A major theme running through the paper is that hybrids should be encouraged because the technology is a stepping stone to zero-emission vehicles that need no fossil fuel whatsoever. I completely agree. Like I said at the beginning of the article, I was close to getting a hybrid, but chose not to for a variety of reasons, one of which was their availability at the time. My only vehicle for several years prior to getting the Jetta was my bicycle, and when I decided to finally buy a car I didn't want to be on a waiting list for several months for a true hybrid. I wish I could have supported the development of cleaner, more efficient hybrid technology with my consumer dollars, but it just wasn't a good fit for me. Until then, I will continue to drive my Jetta TDI, which gets 50 mpg on the highway, produces fewer greenhouse gasses, and may or may not have more harmful emissions from a public health perspective. Purchasing the TDI in the first place might not have been as environmentally friendly as I thought it was at the time, but clearly there are worse choices I could have made.

If anyone knows of a good source of information concerning the harmfulness of diesel exhaust vs. gasoline exhaust I'd be very interested in hearing about it. As I mentioned earlier, almost all information available on the web has an agenda attached to it and any unbiased information is hard to come by. Thanks!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Carfree move in Boulder Colorado

A photostream on Flickr has pictures from a car-free move in Boulder.

I love Boulder.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I'm addicted to it. I want to sail all the time. Last saturday was my first time sailing in the sense that I was doing the sailing rather than simply being a passenger on a sailboat. I took a basic sailing: sunfish class at the boulder reservoir. Sunfish are 14 foot one-man sailboats. They boil sailing down to it's pure essence, and are the classic boat used to teach sailing. They're also really fast for their size and are one of the most popular racing classes ever.

The sailing class consisted of me, the instructor, and three young children ranging in age from approximately 11 to 13. I helped the instructor launch the boats for the kids. They scrambled into the boats and took off like the salty skippers they were. I then got in my boat, took off, and instantly capsized.

Once I learned what not to do, I was able to open the boat up and see what she could do. We had our best winds of the class period right then in the beginning, so as I was learning how to handle the boat the wind was gradually shifting and lessening. But I was able to get the boat heeled way over so I could take advantage of the foot strap in the bottom of the boat, making the boat momentarily reach its top speed! Rah-hoo!

Sailing on the Boulder Reservoir is exhilarating. Being on the water, under the sunshine that Colorado is famous for, within view of the flatirons, foothills, and the snowy peaks beyond, is a thrill that I'll keep coming back to.

Updates from my Alaskan Correspondent

My friend is in Alaska for the summer to be a mountain bike guide for tourists coming off cruise ships. I've been getting sporadic updates from her about getting to Alaska and settling in there. The most recent had this snippet in it.

There is a slow bike race here for 4th of July- it's 2 blocks long. Last person across the line without putting a foot down wins. I'm gonna enter and probably get creamed.

I love it. I so want to take her on in the slow bike race. She'd probably cream me.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Memorial Day Party Antics


I had an extravaganzathon of doom at my pad on memorial day. A good time was had by all. Especially me, as evidenced by this picture. We played the "How Many People Can We Fit on my Sofa" game. This was after we played drunken badminton and, my personal favorite, the "Jump in the Pool with my Phone in my Pocket" game.

I think of all the people in the picture, Fuentes is obviously having the best time.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gamblin' Thew

Here's a picture of me, circa 1991, that my dad just scanned and sent to me.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Poplar Forest and the Declaration of Independence

Poplar Forest
Poplar Forest

One of the places I visited on my recent trip to Virginia to visit Nancy Drew of ReallyTopDrawer fame was Poplar Forest, the retreat home of Thomas Jefferson. He designed the building and grounds to be completely symetrical, with the octagonal structure designed to offer eight vistas instead of the usual four.

Our adorable and elderly tour guide shared with us the fact that Thomas Jefferson died $100,000 in debt and was too poor to provide a wedding present to one of his granddaughters so he gave her the desk upon which he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Appropriately, copies of the Declaration were available in the gift shop. Maybe it was the historical and somewhat patriotic mood of the setting, but it made me think about what an important document the Declaration is and how inspiring it can be to actually read it.

I didn't buy the copy they had available at the store, but I did just order a copy that comes with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in one volume. I can't wait for it to come.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cruisin' by New London Light

Sailor Thew

I was inspired to get out my camera this morning by the beautiful sunrise-reflected glow coming off the snow-frosted flatirons. I finished up a roll of film that had been in my camera forever and took it to get processed today. This is one of the discoveries I made from the roll. This picture was taken while transiting back to the ship after a long day of survey work in Long Island Sound. In the background is New London Ledge Light, marking the entrance to the channel to get into the harbor of New London, Connecticut. That's my official NOAA Corps float coat I'm wearing -- something that doesn't see the light of day much now that I live in Colorado. You can see a few other pictures from my first sea tour over at my flickr page.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Let us then be up and doing...

I've recently renewed a friendshind with an old college friend of mine, Cathia, and even more recently discovered that she keeps a blog over at livejournal, called "Let us then be up and doing..." I added a link to it over on the sidebar, as well. She tells her story better than I possibly could over on her blog, but let me just say that she was a wicked and ruthless sparring partner back when we took fencing at good ol' K college.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sunshine Canyon Animal Tally #2

Rode my bike up Sunshine Canyon just now.

Horses: 1
Deer: 8
Dead Deer: 1
Crows Feasting on Dead Deer: 1
Bears: 0

Friday, April 21, 2006

The most delicious thing in the world ever invented by the hands of man

For at least a couple years I was thinking in the back of my mind that a cool, refreshing peppermint drink would be about the best thing ever, but I never did anything about it. I mean, sure, there's peppermint tea, but turning it into iced tea seemed a little strange, and wasn't exactly what I was looking for. Time passed, and I became addicted to the bottled Arizona brand green tea in various flavors, like green tea sweetened with honey or with plum. This is good, I thought to myself, but it would be so much better if it was sorta a green tea/peppermint blend. Thus a brilliant idea was born.

Thew's Most Delicious Thing Man Has Ever Known

In a 2 quart pitcher, brew four teabags of your favorite variety of green tea (I use the basic Celestial Seasonings green tea) and four teabags of peppermint tea. Sweeten to taste. I use about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sugar for each 2 quart pitcher. Chill or pour over ice, and enjoy!

This is such a cool, refreshing drink that now that spring has sprung and I've begun to get out on my bike again I've been brewing this stuff like a madman. So good. You should make some, but everytime you drink it or serve it for others you must refer to it as The Most Delicious Thing Man Has Ever Known.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Sunshine Canyon Animal Tally

Deer: 1
Dead Grasshopper: 1
Live Grasshopper: 1

Explanation: Whenever I ride up sunshine canyon, like I just did, I ALWAYS see animals, usually deer. One time I even saw a bear.


Ozomatli - Coming Up

Ozomatli became one of my favorite bands back in the day, prolly circa 2000. They continue to be on heavy rotation in my car's cd player, and nary an mp3 mix gets made without a track from my beloved. Their music is best descibed as latino middle-eastern hip-hop party funk. I loved it from the first horn blast and I continue to love it to this day. I highly recommend checking out their self-titled debut album and the more recent "Street Signs". You can skip their sophomore slump "Embrace the Chaos."

But recently I've been seriously digging their Austalian Exclusive Tour EP "Coming UP". Best known as a hyper-energy live act, they somehow manage to distill that energy into its essence and fill an EP with their happiness. Released in 2003, I recently discovered it and have been listening to little else since.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I just received an email from my cousin saying that he was inspired to start a blog based in part on my blog and my sister's blog. Check out his burgeoning blog, sea_pea_tea. I also added a link to it at left. My cousin was at least partially responsible for me taking up drums way back when. He was the older, cooler cousin and he had a drum set in his basement!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Another Austin Pic

Largest Urban Bat Colony in the World?

Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in either North America or The World, depending on who you ask. Here's a picture of the bats leaving their roost, the Congress St. Bridge spanning the Colorado River just south of downtown proper in Austin, TX. The bats are Mexican Free-Tailed, and the ones that migrate to Austin for the summer are pregnant females. This photo is taken from on top of the bridge. Notice the head boats down in the river on bat-watching detail.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Thomas Jefferson

John F. Kennedy apparently said this at a White House dinner for Nobel Prize winners:

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.

Friday, April 07, 2006


thew yo-yoing at E-rock
yo-yoing at Enchanted Rock

Just got back from Austin yesterday where I had a most amazing trip. I'll write more about it later, but for now I just wanted to share this one pic.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

I never used to get emails like this in Michigan...

The following warning was in my inbox:

An employee found a small rattlesnake by Building 8 this
morning. Please be careful when hiking or walking around the site. Thank you

Dating Eval Form

My friend over at ReallyTopDrawer came up with a Date Evaluation Form. I wish I was that clever and funny and generally all around witty.

Real life is better than sitcoms.

An actual exchange that took place tuesday night:

Me: You climb? Do you have your own stuff?

Female Friend #1: I have shoes.

Me: And a harness?

FF#1: No harness, just shoes.

Female Friend #2: I have harness, but no shoes.

FF#1: Well, together we're still a naked person with a harness and shoes.

Female Friend #3: I'm uncomfortable.

Me: I'm excited.

FF#3: I'm more uncomfortable.

Old News

This is pretty old news by now, but I think worth posting anyway. This is a blog entry by one the law students at Georgetown who protested Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' speech defending the president's illegal wiretapping directive. The blog entry is obviously from the point of view of someone who disagrees with the current administration, but he does a good job of linking to media coverage of the event by the likes of CNN and Fox News. I recommend reading the blog entry yourselves, but the upshot is that members of the audience, during Mr. Gonzales' speech, stood up and silently turned their backs to him, while some were holding a banner paraphrasing a Benjamin Franklin quote as "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither." This is protest at its finest. No shouting. No violence. Just a simple and very effective way to get across a message.

By the way, the blog does have the full Benjamin Franklin qoute; "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Friday, March 24, 2006

McSweeney's Exhibit D

Fine, check this out, you philistines.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

In case you're wondering

the reason I haven't kept up with my updates is because I've been sick. Last week it was the flu, now it's strep throat. Hopefully I'll be better soon.

Monday, March 20, 2006

There is justice in this world...

From an article in slate:

Embattled Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., badly trailing in his re-election race, has decided to call in Bush to campaign for him in Pennsylvania. Problem is, Bush is one of the few politicians more unpopular in the state than Santorum. The senator, according to a recent Pennsylvania poll, has the approval of just 42 percent of Pennsylvanians and trails Democratic challenger Bob Casey by 14 points. The president, by contrast, enjoys the approval of 35 percent of Pennsylvanians.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Pants Are Vetoed

I was invited to be a contributor to Pants Are Vetoed, a community blog started up by some cool and creative friends of mine. Check it out.

Motown Remixed

MOTOWN remixed
MOTOWN remixed

The first of my scheduled weekly posts about music.

I just received another indulgent batch of music from amazon. I'm trying to cut back. You see, I used to throw down some serious cash on music every month or two. Now I get most of my fix supplied by rhapsody, a wonderful subscription based service that interfaces nicely with my Sonos and allows me to put subscription-based tracks on my portable mp3 player (not an ipod; apples' draconian DRM doesn't allow playback of subscription-based music). But I can't help it. I still have to own cd's. So every once in a while I'll still order a few cd's here and there, usually stuff that I either like so much I want to own the cd, or stuff that's a little more obscure and not carried by the music services like Yahoo Music Unlimited, Rhapsody, or even itunes. Sometimes I end up with something lame, and sometimes I stumble upon a true gem. The latest gem is Motown Remixed.

Before I go on I should clue the reader in to my general preferences when it comes to music. These are not absolute by any means, just general things that typically draw me toward a certain song or band. Keep these in mind as I write more reviews down the line. Good things: horn section; good rhythm; unique instrumentation; international sound; funky, bouncy feeling. Bad things: guitars; wankery; twang; traditional instrumentation (meaning your typical rock band consisting of singer, bassist, drummer, and one or more guitars). Indifferent: lyrics (meaning I will almost never like or dislike a song based entirely on it's lyrics). I could write a whole essay on what I mean by wankery in the dislikes section, but for now let's just say that in general almost any solo, whether it be guitar, drum, or, I dunno, tuba, almost always counts as wankery. The classic example in my mind is the hair band guitar solo. I don't want to listen to it. I don't care how good you are at playing the guitar/trumpet/drums/accordian/triangle. I don't want to listen to your wankery.

Anyway, this post is about Motown Remixed. I generally like classic motown songs. I would even go so far as to say that Michael Jackson made some really good music, until he went through puberty. Most of the songs on this album were just fine in their original version. I was a little wary to see what the remix artists, such as king britt and z-trip, would do to these fine motown classics, like Marvin Gaye's "Let's get it on" and The Temptations' "Papa was a rollin' stone". I was worried they were going to simply rip out the vocals and lay them down over an overbearing beat. They didn't. Most of the remixes are delightfully understated. They maintain their power and soul while being subtly and sometime appropriately not-so-subtly updated and modernized. The remixes are, if anything, true to their sources. Standouts include "The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson &
the Miracles (remixed by Double D & Disco)and "abc" by Jackson 5 (remixed by Salaam Remi). Highly recomended for any fan of motown or imaginative remixing in general.

Actual content

So I've been thinking lately that I need to make a better effort to put actual content on my blog. I was close to deleting my last two posts because they don't say anything worth saying and amount to blog wankery. But, I posted them, and posted they shall remain. In an effort to bring some structure to this blog I am going to impose on myself a schedule. We shall see how well it works. You may be wondering why I'm imposing a schedule on something like a blog, which should be rather free form and a labor of love. Well, I like the effect that writing about events has on me. I like having to think about a situation and finding meaning in it enough that I have something to say. When I don't write about the significance of events it's almost as if there is no significance. I've also been on this kick lately where I've been thinking about transfering traditionally oral histories into text. More about this later. Without further ado, here is the rough schedule I'm imposing on myself.

Every Tuesday: A post about music. Maybe a new cd, maybe a show I went to, maybe random musings on music in general. Basically, I like music and it is a great source of joy in my life. I would like to share that joy.

Every Wednesday: A movie review. I am not a professional movie reviewer. I don't go to early screenings so that I can have the review out by opening weekend. But I do like movies, and also would like to share my experiences with them.

Every Thursday: Book talk. Not necessarily a full-fledged book review, just musings about whatever I happen to be reading at the time.

Every weekend, at some time during the weekend: A story, a chronicle, some event from my past that I'd like to put in writing. Hopefully you will find them interesting or entertaining in some way.

This is my self-imposed schedule. You are all allowed to hold me to it and give me grief if I'm late. Email me at or preferably my yahoo account that you already have if you know me to give me a swift, spiritual kick to the head that makes me get back on my schedule.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What american city am I?

You Are Austin

A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.
You're totally weird and very proud of it.
Artistic and freaky, you still seem to fit in... in your own strange way.

Famous Austin residents: Lance Armstrong, Sandra Bullock, Andy Roddick

Funny, considering I'm planning a trip to Austin in the near future.

Your Power Color Is Red-Orange

At Your Highest:

You are warm, sensitive, and focused on your personal growth.

At Your Lowest:

You become defensive and critical if you feel attacked.

In Love:

You are loyal - but you demand the respect you deserve.

How You're Attractive:

You are very affectionate and inspire trust.

Your Eternal Question:

"Am I Respected?"

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Totally amazing get-down party action.

The dap-kings are the new sound of funk & soul.

So read the sticker on the packaging of "Dap-Dippin' with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings". I ordered the cd and did not get the pleasure of reading said sticker until I already owned it, so it did not sway my purchasing decision, but how could one not buy an album advertised as "totally amazing get-down party action"?

I must say, it lives up to the hype.


Yesterday afternoon I found out that I was not selected by the board to go to Antarctica. This is mildly disappointing, but I'm not heart-broken. The possibility of going to Antarctica was, like other actually significant events in ones life, a unique opportunity for introspection. The chance that I might leave my current life behind for a year in one of the most remote corners of this beautiful planet made me think about what I'd be giving up. In, short, I like it here. When I was about to rotate off the ship and into my first land assignment I fought to get here (Boulder, the Space Environment Center, Colorado, all of the above) and was given my first choice of assignments. For this I am thankful. Also, I've been planning fun trips and stuff for this summer, and if I had been selected to go to Antarctica I likely wouldn't have been able to do any of them. Of course, I would have had adventures of a different sort.

I am also thankful for all your support and concern as I was making the decision as to whether or not to apply for Antarctica and as I was awaiting the board's recommendation.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

This is from Slate's coverage of the olympics, or rather their ongoing discussion of said olympics.

Seth Stevenson had this to say:

This morning, I watched the U.S. men's curling team pull off a stunning win over the Swedes. My boys are still in medal contention, and I could not be more excited. Meanwhile, it's come to my attention that there is a curling movement right here in D.C., where I'm writing from. A group of folks has realized that U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico and Guam get their own Olympic teams, but that D.C. (which, like those territories, has only a single, non-voting delegate in Congress) has no team of its own. So (mostly as a protest over voting representation), they've formed a curling club and have demanded Olympic recognition. I am strongly in favor of voting rights for the D-dot-C, and also strongly in favor of curling. Thus I wholeheartedly endorse this mission. Let's go for the gold, and also for a senator.

I love it. That's exactly the kind of non-traditional protest I love.


My mom's been reading Icebound, the book by the physician stationed at the south pole who had to operate on herself due to breast cancer. The book is relevant in that a) I'll likely be going to the south pole (stop asking me about it, I'll let you know when I hear) and b) my mother is a brave and courageous breast cancer survivor herself.

She just sent me the following in an email:

I just have to let you know what Dr. Nielsen says in her book. "Very little about any of us was conventional. If there was, we wouldn't be here." I just thought that sounded like you. You always wanted to do the unusual or something different than anyone else. I think that is a good thing and I am proud of you for that.

Love ya mom.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

East Coast vs. West Coast

If you haven't seen the SNL chronicles of narnia rap yet, check it out right now.

Then watch this.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ok go

This is the best music video ever.

Edit: Also, check this out.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

My sister rules.

I added a link to my sister's blog over on the left. Check it out.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Gotta take the bad with the good...

An example of a good thing about being a NOAA Corps officer: Being offered the chance to go to Antarctica.

An example of a bad thing about being a NOAA Corps officer: Having my boss tell me I'm due for a shoe shine after a visit by a VIP.


Friday, February 03, 2006

I am the arbiter of funny.

In the world of humor, McSweeney's is consistently funnier than even The Onion. As proof, I present these as exhibits A, B, and C.

Monday, January 23, 2006

If santa's at the north pole, then who's at the south pole?

South Pole Station
South Pole Station

I was recently asked if I'd be interested in going to Antarctica for a year.


Sunday, January 22, 2006


Mike Doughty
Mike Doughty

A couple weeks ago I went to a live taping of a radio program called E-Town. From what I gather, they normally tape it at the Boulder Theater and it typically includes a couple musical guests and some do-gooder type that they give an award to. The night I attended, one of the musical guests was Mike Doughty. He used to be the lead singer for the now-defunct band Soul Coughing, one of my favorite bands of all time, and has three solo albums out, the most recent of which is called Haughty Melodic. The album is hard to describe exactly. On the surface it seems like any of a number of singer/songwriter guitar-driven albums, but he has a sound and style that are distinctly his own. Whatever you call it, I love it.

The other musical guest was a band called Uncle Earl, an all-female old-time string band. They had an infectious energy and an amatuerish charm that made it imposiible not to like them. The whole show had an intimate and personal sitting-around-the-kitchen-table feel to it, and it was more enjoyable because of it, even though the musical set was shorter than what you'd see at a typical concert.

In the grand finale, where they had everyone on stage: Mike Doughty and his accomplished bassist Skip, the members of Uncle Earl, and the E-town house band, Mike starts out by strumming the opening strains of Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf. I kid you not. Now, I had seen him and his band perform this song when I saw them at the Fox Theatre on the hill, but this time it's accompanied by banjo, mandolin, fiddle, contra-bass, and a little tap dancing. Unbelievable! It was one of the most inspiring and infectiously fun musical experiences I've ever had. I left the theater totally in love with the world and everyone in it, and really wanting to make some music. I need to go beat on my drum set for a while...