Monday, December 21, 2009

Boots Can Dance

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner Revolution

Thanksgiving Dinner Revolution

~ Thanksgiving Dinner Revolution ~

... it all started out simple enough
a small and quiet supper
for her, for you, and for me
not so different from any other Thursday
but then it began, an evolution
taking on a life of its own
it exploded into a revolution
... and the damn chicken was now three!

... twas so simple in the beginning, before
piles of green beans and other things
clamored for space on the counter top
as sacks of potatoes sat on the floor
pots and pans lined up on the stove
the rebellion cheered, they roared for more
... and the damn chicken was now three.

... quiet of the day was shattered
a house to be cleaned
table leaves to be found
pies to be baked and salads prepared
relish trays and appetizers made
we were all scurrying around
extra chairs would need to be scrounged
... and the damn chicken was now three.

... valiantly we stayed our stations, as
knives were flying, onions were dying
bread crumbs soared high in a bowl
the soufflé exploded from the middle rack
showering eggs and sugar upon the burner
strafing candied oranges for flak
... and the damn chicken was now three.

... resolved to our new dinner order
plates and forks were marched around
the table filled with clinking glasses
wine was summoned from the cellar deep
as gravy flowed into the boats
the heaping platters took center place
... and the damn chicken was now three.

... it all began so innocently
it was never meant to be a feast
just dinner, for her, for you, for me
no turkey, not this year, just a chicken
and potatoes, some beans and dinner rolls
but word snuck out
they all began to shout
first two
then four
get another chicken
run back to the store
but hungry cries came
from a dozen more!
what else could we do?
trapped unable to flee

The one Damn had to become three!

2008 © MrBill

Damn Chickens This has been the tale of the 2008 Thanksgiving Dinner Revolution. For those seeking background on the Damn Chickens haiku, this may help explain why there were so many damn chickens.
Words to the wise: if you don't want to be found, get out of town!

Oh MY! and Other Mysteries of Fixin' Brekkie

Oh MY!
and Other Mysteries
of Fixin' Brekkie

Oh MY! ... can you believe it???
Three days running and nothing has !EXPLODED! during brekkie preparation!!!
The nuclurizer has been well behaved. As have the eggs and oatmeal. I am not sure how long this streak can last, so I will revel in it while I can!

Today I baked brekkie in my countertop oven. I do not have a real oven, so I bake, toast, and broil in a European style countertop oven, sort of an overgrown toaster oven. Today's menu was Cranberry-Walnut muffin bread. Yes, muffin-bread not muffins. I don't have any muffin tins that will fit in the smaller oven, but I do have a smaller sized loaf pan that does fit. So when I get a hankering for muffins, I mix up my muffin batter and plop it the loaf pan and bake muffin-bread!

This is your standard muffin recipe:

2½ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

To which I added:
1 cup dried cranberries (Crazins)
1 cup chopped walnuts

I make these substitutions:
1 cup milk and cut the oil to 1/4 cup
Splenda instead of sugar

I prefer using half unbleached flour and half whole wheat flour.

Mix the standard ingredients thoroughly,
stir in the cranberries and walnuts,
scrape muffin mixture into lightly oiled loaf pan,
Bake @ 375º for 30 minutes or until top is nicely brown.
!!! ENJOY !!!
I enjoyed mine sliced and toasted, with a thin spread of cream cheese, and a mug of my favourite super strong coffee grown in the rain forest of Guatemala!

So what did you have for Brekkie this morning?
Did you have any memorable mishaps in preparing breakfast lately?
Buon Appetite! ;-)

For more catastrophes "and Other Mysteries of Fixin' Brekkie" click below:
Exploding Eggs and Other Mysteries of Fixin' Brekkie

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gazelle: The Perfect Home Workout Machine!

The winter holiday season has a way of putting pounds on people and getting many folks thinking about their needing to exercise. This often becomes a New Year's Resolution, and brings requests for exercise videos, club memberships, and all sorts of crazy contraptions and home exercise machines on Christmas Wish Lists.

The current line-up of exercise bikes, treadmills, stair-steppers, and most other home exercise machines are just too gimmicky, and those machines take up way too much space at home. On top of all that, the majority of these mammoth machines end up collecting dust, being used as clothes racks, and cluttering rooms and stealing valuable floor space at home.

The biggest not-so-secret secret to a successful home exercise program is to do something you really enjoy doing, and then do it regularly. Unfortunately many people are suckered by advertising into buying exercise gadgets and machines that they do not enjoy using.

There seems to be an inverse correlation between the complexity of an exercise apperatus and the probability of owner usage - the more bells and whistles the machine has = the less likely the machine will get used! Easy to use machines get loved and used much more regularly by their owners.

My favourite way to exercise is to ride my real bicycle most of the year. When the weather is just too nasty outside, I have a Gazelle for working out indoors.

GazelleYes, a Gazelle! You probably have seen the goofy TV Infomercials with Tony Little for the Gazelle. Get past the TV goofiness and check out a FitnessQuest Gazelle at any of several major retail chains. They have floor models setup that you can try before you buy.

The Gazelle sort of mimics walking or running, and most important to me - it is much like cross-country skiing! In any of the modes the Gazelle works both upper and lower body (something that most treadmills or exer-bikes don't do). The Gazelle provides a good cardio/aerobic workout with resistance training in one easy workout while also being very low-impact!

The Gazelle adapts immediately and automatically to different users no matter their height or length of legs or arms. No need to make adjustments to seats or handgrips. Just step onto the foot platforms, grasp the cushioned handles at a comfortable level, and begin the striding motion to start you on your way!

In use, the Gazelle is almost silent. No need for earphones (and those tangled wires) to listen to your favourite tunes while working out on your Gazelle. It is easy to position your Gazelle in front of the TV and watch your favourite channel. Why be a couch-potatoe when you can watch your shows and still get a workout!

BIG PLUS -- the Gazelle folds flat and can be slipped under a bed or couch (or just leaned up against the wall) when you need to reclaim the floor space. To fold and hide or set the Gazelle back up takes only seconds and no tools!

Another consideration for home exercise equipment is cost. Many of the available machines cost hundreds, some of them thousands, of dollars! I got my Gazelle from a national retail store for only $79.00 (plus tax of course). The Gazelle also comes in a box that fits in the trunk of an average car making it easy to buy and take home. Many of the treadmills and exer-bikes require waiting for delivery. The Gazelle is also easy to set-up. Took me less than 30 minutes to read the directions and assymble my Gazelle, and it even included the wrench to tighten the bolts right in the box!

P.S. If you really must have a gadget with your exercise machine ... the standard Gazelle model comes with a digital read-out on the center bar that displays time, distance, speed, etc. However, for those folks that have to have a lot of gadgetry - Gazelle offers a more expensive version with a "thumb-pulse" heart-rate monitor gizmo - that model sells for about $169.00.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bagel Bungle and Other Mysteries of Fixin' Brekkie

Bagel Bungle
and Other Mysteries
of Fixin' Brekkie

... it's been about five months since the last time I reported being attacked by exploding eggs or the infamous Tahoe oatmeal avalanche ... during this time the nukloorizer has been well behaved (knock*knock*knock on a wooden spoon) ... but like all great sport streaks ... and I truly believe my streak was much more amazing and note-worthy than what's-his-face breaking the homerun record ... after all, there are no steroids used in my pancake batter! ... but as fantastic as my streak was ... it eventually had to come to an end ...

The end of this streak was spectacular. You could even say, "It went down in flames!" ... alas, very small flames ... but flames none-the-less! And there was smoke too! Actually more smoke than flames. You know ... come to think of it ... there really wasn't a whole lot of smoke either ... not enough to alarm the smoke detector just ten, maybe twelve, feet away. Which in retrospect is probably the preferred way for this streak to come to a blistering blackened finish.

I hate toasters! So much so, that I have not had one for years! I believe the last toaster to ever step one of its crumby little feet in my domicile was sent packing with the ex ... no doubt a magnanimous gesture on my part - "Oh, let's not quibble, you love PopTarts®, you should have the toaster!" ... ok, admittedly that was self-serving. My seeming acquiescence distracted her from my treasured convection oven ... it also got the bastard bread burner out the door!

So, I don't have a toaster ... but I also do not have an oven ... well, not the kind of oven most people think of when someone says they have a loaf in the oven ... This is the second loft I have lived in, that while having a kitchen, it does not have a typical stove complete with oven. There is a tight three burner gas cooktop with one of those overhead touchpad-nukloorizer-fan-light combos mounted over it. Instead of a normal oven, I have a European countertop oven. It's just right-sized for cooking for one or two - bigger than a toaster oven (and without that nasty word in its title), but just big enough to bake a chicken or small roast, a loaf of bread, or a sixpack of muffins. It has all kinds of twisty dials and settings, one of which is a timer.

This morning, my dear little countertop oven became possessed ... I doubt it was by evil spirits since I only drink 12 year or older single malt scotch ... so it might have been a GatherGlitchGremilin® on a late summer Tahoe holiday ... Whatever got into it ... my trusty little oven burnt the basis of my brekkie - the BAGEL! No, I don't mean it was a little well-done ... I mean burnt as in torched, cremated ... charcoal! I am a fan of Cajun cooking, but not even Paul Prudhomme nor Emeril has written a recipe for Blackened Bagels ...

I had slice the bagel, selected broil, and set the timer for 4 minutes, just like I always do for my bagels or English muffins. The coffee was ready so I poured a cup and sat down to read the paper until the oven's little bell would signal that my bagel was ready to be smeared and topped with lox ... becoming engrossed in article after article in the paper I finished my first cup of coffee ... it is a rather large cup ... a mug really ... and as I got up for a refill I thought to myself that I must have ignored the oven bell and my bagel might well be luke warm by now ...

Oh nO! the bagel was plenty hot! As I opened the oven door, I was greeted by a puff of smoke and two smoldering bagel halves. The oven was not broiling away, but was still on ... inspecting the timer dial I discovered the indicator to have settled in the position between the last tick and the off tock. I had not missed the bell, it never rang! In this half-assed/half-off/half-on dial position the oven was only half hot too. But hot enough with an extra fifteen minutes to render my bagel into two huge charcoal tablets!!!

bagel bungle

I turned on the nukloorizer's fan to clear the smoke, then grab the smoldering rings of black with my tongs and pitched them in the sink. A splash of cold water extinguished the last of their flame. Hmmm ... the garbage-gulping-thing under the sink seemed to enjoy the burnt bagels ... the charcoal even sweetened its breath ...

I then started the process again. I sliced another bagel and placed it split side up. Then gave the twisty timer dial a couple run-through twists, cherishing the sound of the little I'm done! bell each time I twisted the dial into the off position. Feeling that all of us were ready for the second inning ... I set the timer ... and crossed my fingers. I poured another cup of coffee and readied the cream cheese and lox to pass the time while maintaining a vigil on the oven timer and watching the bagels turn golden brown ...

breakfast,burnt,lox and cream cheese,lox,mysteries of fixing brekkie,bagel bungle,bagel,eating outdoors,bungle,bagel smear,brunch,burnt bagel,lox and cream cheese bagel,al fresco,outdoors,bagel smear with lox,alfrescoThe timer was on time this time. The bell rang and the bagels were perfectly broiled. I gave them each a loving smear of cream cheese, then decorated the tops with carefully arranged tidbits of smoked salmon. My Tigger cup full of coffee, the lox and bagels, and I then marched out on the deck to enjoy our brekkie as brunch al fresco di Tahoe!

I hope your Saturday brekkie was less eventful, but just as delicious and delightful!!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Exploding Eggs and Other Mysteries of Fixin' Brekkie

Exploding Eggs
and Other Mysteries

of Fixin' Brekkie

My eggs !EXPLODED! in the nuclurizer this morning. No no, I know better than to just stick whole eggs in the nuclurizer, these were scrambled eggs. In fact, they are the pre-scrambled type eggs, the ones that come in the milk carton like container. I have been using this particular brand of pre-scrambled eggs for a couple years now. I find it a greatly convenient product. Just twist off the cap and pour in skillet or microwavable container and cook! No cracking and looking for shell fragments (I'll leave that to the medics on the front line, we're discussing back burner issues here) plus no whisking in a bowl that has to also be washed. The pre-scrambled eggs make for quick and easy brekkie - plain old scrambled eggs, french toast, omlets; they also make a great base for quiche or simulated souffles.

During the couple years I have used this brand of pre-scrambles they have never before done this - !EXPLODE! - all over the inside of the nuclurizer. Ugghh! what a mess! Had to first scrape off and then wipe down the sides, top, bottom, and the inside of the door of the nuclurizer. Once the after-math of the nuclurizer melt-down was contained, I started over, and now I am enjoying a delicious trattata with my espresso.

So what did you have for Brekkie this morning?

Did you have any memorable mishaps in preparing breakfast lately?

Buon Appetite! ;-)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Long Weekend's Journey Into Extended Working Holiday

So here I am, at home! No, not Tahoe and the Sierras where you are used to me writing from, but home, the home where my heart and soul lives - the Rocky Mountains! Specifically I am in Denver, where my bestest of best friends live.

A week ago I pulled an all-nighter to wrap up a myriad of little projects I had going in Tahoe so I could catch a plane to Denver for a long weekend get-a-way. GinGirl, one of my oldest and dearest friends, cashed in some of her business miles largess to fly me out from Tahoe for a reunion of the Sick Twisted & Wrong, and as a surprise gift for NatureGoob's 40th birthday. Actually his 40th + ONE birthday if you are counting, because peoples, things, and schedules all conspired to nullify any birthday party plans last year for his real 40th birthday.

Not that this year was completely devoid of conspiracy and deceit ... oh no! once they got me here they sprang the trap! "Oh MeeesterBeeelll" ... as long as you're here ... how would you like to work on this project? ... and maybe this one?? Oh and by the way, Carol needs you look at this and fix that, and ... Hey! just how long can you stay???

So here I sit, with the Garden Guarding Gargoyle nearby, pondering "How Long" ... ummm ... well ... luckily I'm rather footloose and fancy-free these days ... seeing as how GinGirl has a firm grip on my return ticket, and it's a thousand mile walk back home to Tahoe, I will be in Denver with my favourite friends, in my home of homes, until the middle of November on, shall we call it, an extended working holiday.

P.S. My captors have agreed to give me access to Gather ... 15 minutes twice a day ... this limited access will impact publishing as will the lack of access to my files and images back in Tahoe; however, I will try to get the Weekend Qwiki Quiz back online for this weekend and post what I can when I can!

P.S.s. Those of you that were planning to Trick or Treat at my Tahoe place, sorry I won't be there to pass out the candy bars; likewise, to any who are scheming to TP and egg my house for Halloween ... I may be gone, but my neighbors the bears and coyotes are still there!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

... ghost story ...

Ghost Story

... Mac Abre wiped his brow, it was getting late.
The sun was slipping beyond the trees, and in the
twilight the shadows danced as the evening breeze
rustled about the graveyard. He had finished the
hole, the final resting spot. It would be filled
tomorrow with a coffin, but this evening, it was
a gaping gash in the earth, a wound that would not
heal 'til filled with a body in the 'morrow.

Mac Abre stepped up close to the edge to admire
his handiwork. He blinked his tired eyes. Had
something moved in the darkness of the pit?

Mac peered deep into the waiting grave ...
suddenly! a fluttering specter rose up from the
bowels of the earth and flying past him escaped
into the dancing shadows of the surrounding woods.
Mac clutched his chest & ducked his head in fright
... and then ...
old Mac fell head long into the grave he had dug
Ghost Story
... one spirit leaves, making room
for the internment of the next ...
- such is the life of a ghost.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I am a Monkey’s Uncle

~* I am a Monkey’s Uncle *~

That’s right folks; I am a Monkey’s Uncle. Truth be told, I am really a Monkeys’ Uncle three times fold! I have three monkeys. There is firstly my oldest niece, my biggestfileId:3096224744284430;size:full; Monkey. Then lastly youngest niece, my littlest Monkey. This leaves, well, my nephew in the middle, who of course is my middlest Monkey! My brother and sis-in-law have bestowed on me two beautiful nieces, the bookends of my monkeys, and an energetic and inquisitive nephew in the middle. To brag a bit, I am their favourite Uncle (ok ok, so I’m their only uncle…let me enjoy my celebrity) and they love being my monkeys. So much so that they take pride in introducing themselves as “hi, I'm [their name] … and I’m UncaBill’s Biggest/Middlest/Littlest Monkey!”

We have played lots of games, but the Monkeys longtime favourite is Hop on UncaBill . This game’s origin begins with their grandmother, yes that would be my Mother. One time when I came out to Tahoe from Colorado to visit, their grandmother told the Biggest Monkey, at that time my only Monkey, to run down the hall and wake me up for breakfast. Monkey #1 took this to mean she should fling open the door, bound across the room in three giant Monkey steps, launch herself into the air and belly flop onto a still slumbering UncaBill. Oh yes, it worked. UncaBill was definitely wakened! … my Mother possesses an uncanny wisdom, though I’m often left to ponder the madness of her methods … This game has grown as more Monkeys became players, and as the Monkeys themselves have grown. Together, the Monkeys can now pull a sleep deprived UncaBill out of bed and half carry, half drag him to the breakfast room.

fileId:3096224744284427;size:full; A couple years ago during one of my journeys, I was staying in Lamai on Koh Samui in the Gulf of Siam. One rainy afternoon I ventured up island to the village of Chaweng. In Chaweng I stumbled across this cute little café/bar just off the beach. I really had to go inside and check it out, if for no other reason than the café’s name – The Three Monkeys – and to see if they had any t-shirts for sale.

It was getting to be around Happy Hour time (well yeah, in Koh Samui Thailand it is pretty much "happy hour" all the time) so as long as I was there, I grabbed a seat at the bar. I order a plate of Monkeys in Bed and a Tiger beer, while the waitress checked on the shirts for me. No, Monkeys in Bed is not made out of monkey meat! It is stalks of celery stuffed with a mixture of spiced chopped prawns. I also had a Sack Full of Monkeys and some Flying Monkeys , the sacks being like Dim Sum and the flying monkeys are the Thai version of Buffalo Wings. The Tiger beer is one of the local Thai beers, medium colour and flavour, it was good with the hors d'œuvres. While all my monkey snacks were being prepared the waitress and I shuffled through the cafe's t-shirts for me to take home as gifts for "my" Three Monkeys. After sorting through almost all the shirts the two of us were able to piece together three different sizes, three different colours, and each with a different saying printed on the back ('cause each of my monkeys is different and unique!).



Here are my three Monkeys:

See No Evil,
Hear No Evil,
Speak No Evil

All wearing their Three Monkeys t-shirts from Koh Samui.

Friday, June 19, 2009

You've Been Evicted!

You're Evicted!

... but...but ...

I paid the rent ...


It is not a pleasant topic.

Not a pleasant topic for people known as the tenant on the lease or rental agreement. Not a pleasant topic for the other people on the lease known as the landlord.

Most renters genuinely want to, and do, pay their rent. They don't want to be tossed out on their butts into the street ... especially this time of year as we head towards the rain or snow and frigid temperatures that accompany late fall and winter. And trust me, hardly any landlord relishes the thought of evicting a tenant. Eviction means more expenses - legal, damages to the property, remodeling, reletting, advertising, etc. - plus the house or apartment will be vacant for at least a short period of time and not generating any revenue.

That is the familiar, if unpleasant, realities of eviction.

However ... Thousands of people and families are coming home to their leased house, condo, or apartment to find eviction notices plastered to their doors! They are very, very confused by these eviction notices. After all, they have paid their rent. Always paid their rent, and on time too! Why are they being evicted?

Why? Because their landlord/property owner has been foreclosed on and the rental property has a new owner. Often the new owner is the mortgage lender.

As the current mortgage crisis continues to unfold, renters whose landlord purchased properties with creative financing are discovering too late that the owners have been caught up in the failure of new-fangled mortgage schemes. Lending programs utilizing interest-only, pick-a-payment, subprime ARMs, and other mechanisms are collapsing like a house of cards as interest rates have steadily risen.

The subprime mortgage market failures and the effects on homeowners has been well documented in alarming headlines for several months. But individual homeownership is not the only lending market that employed subprime mortgages to feed the gluttonous appetite of the real estate buying binge that swept the nation. Subprime mortgages were also issued to finance purchases of additional homes, condos, duplexes quads, and other small rental properties.

Just as multitudes of primary residential home owners have been squeezed out of their homes by the sudden increases in their mortgage's interest rates, so are many rental property owners. Renters are often unaware that their landlord is facing foreclosure of the rental property, or has forfeited the property, until they find the ugly eviction notice plastered to their door.

The fine print in mortgages for small rental properties typically allows the lender to unequivocally evict any tenants in the event of foreclosure. State housing laws vary across the nation, but in foreclosures generally allows the lenders to give a 30 day notice to vacate regardless of leases or rental agreements. And unlike stipulations in leases that transfer deposits and associated responsibilities to a new owner in the event of a private sale, in a foreclosure the lender does not receive a transfer of deposits and assume the fiduciary responsibility for returning deposits. Tenants must deal personally or through the courts with the former landlord/owner to recoup their security deposit.

So, you are a renter who comes home to find an eviction notice plastered on your door ... what do you do? Start by calling the numbers listed on the notice to determine authenticity and validity - make sure the notice was not hung on the wrong door (it happens).

  • If the property has been foreclosed and the notice is valid, contact the now previous landlord in a calm manner and try to arrange return of your deposit. (this is usually a futile action since the former owner probably has improperly spent your deposit trying to fight the foreclosure, but if there was a management company involved, you may be able to get the deposit)
  • Start looking for a new residence. Your chances of continuing to reside past the 30 days are slim to none. The lenders want the property cleared so they can get it ready for sale, and you really don't want to use up your precious resources trying to fight this kind of eviction.
  • Play your cards close to the vest in dealing with the mortgage lender. Try to keep it civil, but do not let them walk all over you by any means. You do have a hand to play to your advantage and it has some trump cards in it! The lender wants possession as quickly and cleanly as possible. Get them to help you help them. They want your abode, you need a new abode.
  • Ask them to help you find a new rental. If they won't do any of the leg or phone work (some lenders have a rental subsidiary), get them to help you get into the new rental financially.

You may need first & last month's rent, deposits - security, utilities, etc - plus the expenses for moving your belongings across town. Very often the lender/evictor will help get you out property quickly and having it clean and undamaged. Lenders have what the industry calls - Cash 4 Keys - programs, and the lender will pay you a significant sum to get the foreclosed property in good shape and without a lot of hassle. Be realistic, but be firm and knowledgeable about what you need to relocate and be willing to vacate the property sooner than 30 days. A Cash-4-Keys agreement should cover your reasonable expenses to move, a sum equal to any outstanding deposit paid the previous owner, and deposits related to your new rental, and maybe just a little for the inconvenience factor. A couple or few thousand dollars is not out of the question depending on the type of current rental property, the market in your area, just how bad the lender wants possession so they can start trying to recoup their investment, and avoiding a protracted legal fight over the eviction. If the lender does give you a Cash-4-Keys deal, you still can go after the original landlord for any deposits made with them.

I hope none of you have to experience an eviction, especially one like this where you are the innocent by-stander. But if you are unfortunately caught up by your landlord's mortgage problems, I hope this helps you survive the ordeal.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Best of My Coffee & Books Photos

The Best of My Coffee & Books Photos

[Click any of the thumbnail images below to view the full size photo]

CoffeeBookPhotoWhat can I say?
This image just had to be done!
The definitive CoffeeBookPhoto

GatherSized CoffeetiniFrom "Never Enough of Too Good a Thing" - the Gather-Sized Coffeetini - beyond Gather-sizing super-sizing many of the items I took advantage of the low angle late afternoon sun to capture some colouful orbs in the flare of the lens ... something you just might see yourself if you actually make the Gather-sized Coffeetini and drink it!
the RunwayComing in for a landing at Gingirl's Cafe. Be it midnight or daybreak, you can't beat a cuppa joe at an art deco cafe!
From the original Coffee-tini Recipe, this image was created by first making a grayscale copy and then adding back the selected colour objects that had been edited to punch-up the intensity of their hues to highlight the coffee and books.
My sentimental favourite.
Nothing like a lazy Saturday morning enjoying another unseasonally warm Indian Summer day with a friend out on the patio with an urn of coffee while smoking one of Habana's finest hand-rolleds.

My favourite from the Fiesta Ware series. The steel-topped table at Gingirl's Cafe turned out to be a wonderful backdrop to work with. The brushed steel provided an unexpected variety of reflected light. The rising-sun-like glow in this image enhances the uranium oxide glaze of the cup and saucer and adds to the feeling of morning, a time many enjoy their coffee.
Another al fresco scene and one that many wanted to ditch work to attend. Coffee from a French Press, a biscuit and book, all served up in the park.
!Sh!t Happens!
- a COF-tastro-FEE -
Another of those images just begging to be done. The Comedy of Errors photo is real-life tradgety for many coffeeholics. No worse way to start the day than spilling coffee on the book you are reading!
Dog Reading. Yes, besides playing cards dogs love to read! Dogs love coffee too, but their masters rarely share and with no opposable thumbs it's almost impossible to get the coffee filters separated to make a pot of their own. I know y'all loved the one with the cat book, but I like deep-in-thought hound dog look in this pic from the Dog Reads series the best.
1st Place award winng photo in
2008 CoffeeBookPhoto contest.
Bean Reading is my personal favourite, and that of many other folks as well, of all my Coffee & Books photos. It's almost surreal, a bit funny, and the specter of the empty coffee carafe makes you wonder if the beans will ever finish reading the book and get on with business and turn into a fresh pot of coffee.

Thank you for enjoying my series of Coffee & Book photos!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

If I Were A Book

Another "getting-to-know-you" theme from that crazy lady Miz Frantastic - If you were a book, what would your title be?

You know how this sort of thing works: If you're reading this, consider yourself TAGGED. Post your own book following Frantastic's formula: If you were a book, what would your title be and what would be the titles of each chapter?

Be sure to stop over at Miz Frantastic's and read her post!

Rocky Mountain High -or- Tripping With MrBill

Section One -- The Early Years

Chapter 1 - Breach Birth ... Life has been Sideways Ever Since
Chapter 2 - Clothes - Who Needs 'em!
Chapter 3 - Friends ... They always want to play with your favourite truck
Chapter 4 - School Days (Why are all the other kids slow learners?)
Chapter 5 - The "Green Bench" (Why you don't ask "Why the other kids are slow")
Chatper 6 - Driving School (No more chauffeuring your Grandpa in his Caddy, You're only 8!)

Section Two -- Tweens and Teens (My Parents Barely Escaped the Mental Ward)

Chapter 7 - Cigars, Poker & Cocktails - more Time Spent with my Grandparents
Chapter 8 - Voice, Hair in Strange Places & Other Changes
Chapter 9 - Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts ... forget it! I want to be a Girl Scout!
Chapter 10 - Sex Ed -or- Having a Best Friend with an Older Sister ...
Chapter 11 - Moon Shot & the Secret Service Can't Catch Me!
Chapter 12 - The Vice Principle is an Asshole, so I Decked Him!
Chapter 13 - Jazz Band and My New Girlfriend Mary Jane
Chapter 14 - Graduation (Whaddaya mean we're suppose wear clothes under the gown?)

Section Three -- Old Enough to Vote a.k.a Old Enough to Drink

Chapter 15 - College - I Thought Lectures & Labs were Optional
Chapter 16 - Co-Ed Dorms ... the Best Part of Higher Education
Chapter 17 - First Job, First Paycheck, First Reality Check
Chapter 18 - "Honey, We Should Get Married" ... Does this Mean You're Pregnant?!?!?
Chapter 19 - What's Yours Is Mine & What's Mine Is Mine ... the Lawyers Get the Rest

Section Four -- Old Enough to Know Better - Young Enough to Do It All Again

Chapter 20 - Single Again ... and Loving It!
Chapter 21 - Changing Lanes Changing Careers - Advent of the Internet Super Highway
Chapter 22 - Hooking Up Online - Adventures & Misadventures in Internet Dating
Chapter 23 - Dot.BOMB! - 2001 and More Career Changes
Chapter 24 - Sick Twisted & Wrong - Meeting GinGirl and ScotchBoy
Chapter 25 - ¿Where the Heck are You? - the Journey Begins
Chapter 26 - Wandering and Pondering - the Journey Continues
Chapter 27 - Lost In Space - the Journey Reaches New Heights
Chapter 28 - Life's Been Good To Me (The Joe Walsh Years)

Section Five - The End

Chapter 29 - Valhalla, 77 Virgins, and the Happy Hunting Grounds
Chapter 30 - My Obit (you'll have to wait for this chapter!)
Chapter 31 - There is no 31st Chapter 'cuz you can't trust anyone after 30!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Do You BLOG???

The term "Blog" is attributed to the late 90's use of the word "weblog" to describe online personal diaries and journals. The early Blogs were also derided by tech elitists as "Blather Logs". Either way the term was later shortened to just "blog" and have become ubiquitous across the net.

Before 2000, personal communication on the internet took different forms depending on the person's internet skills. Email was of course the most prominent. The earliest community forums were dialup text-based bulletin boards, allowing the posting of statements, but comments were in unlinked following statements. With HTML, came the first webpages, where those skilled enough to create a website began keeping online personal journals. This was soon followed by sites hosting communities with a new type of bulletin boards that threaded the conversations and displayed the comments sequentially below the original post, and similarly guestbooks began showing up on personal webpages where visitors could leave a short note to the owner. Guestbooks became threaded and soon many individuals were using them for the beginning of blogging.

As mentioned earlier, user-skills determined the forms that people could utilize on the net. During the early days of the web HTML was hand written, the large communities would come later and bring templates that allowed people to more easily post a homepage, and in 1999 three major site releases targeted the "bloggers" with easy to use applets for writing online. Over the next eight years CMS (Content Management Systems) would improve and expand and bring forth the countless options of online commnuties like MySpace, Mylot, and Gather, and also the explosion in blogging sites.

I began writing webpages shortly after HTML guidelines were released in 1993 and launched my first website in 1994. The site centered on photography and specifically the new digital photography. I also had a personal sub-domain in which I wrote short stories, poetry, keep travel journals, and displayed both my own digital images and those of friends.

Because of other projects, my personal website has laid fallow the past couple years. Currently I'm working on some concepts for a new style "BLOG".

You can find all my current blogs here.

So, back to the title question - Do You BLOG???

If so, what is your blog about?
Where do you post your blog?
On your own website or a blogsite like Blogger or Wordpress?

If you don't blog, what are your thoughts about blogging?
Do you regularly read any blogs?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bouquet of Columbines - Remembering the 10th Anniversary of the Columbine High School Massacre

Today is an ominous day. We generally think of anniversaries as joyous events to celebrate life. This is not one of those anniversaries. This is an anniversary of destruction, dismemberment, and death. Today is the unfortunate 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School Massacre. The following is my personal memoir written on the eighth anniversary of Columbine.

A Bouquet of Columbines

deceiving delicate appearance,
yet strong and hardy
it more than survives,
it thrives,
in extreme alpine regions ...
bell-shaped petals
match the mountain sky
trailing sweet nectar-filled crescent spurs,
and shoulder a mantel of snow white inner petals
crowned with gold stamens
a Colorado Columbine ...

Earlier that afternoon I had hobbled across Speer Blvd to LoDo, the historic lower downtown area where Denver bumps up against its rail yards. Conveniently located across Cherry Creek from the three colleges that share the downtown Denver Auraria campus, LoDo is now filled with curious shops, cafes, brew pubs, and extending up to the Coor’s Field ballpark. LoDo’s quirky coffeehouses were my Tuesday and Thursday afternoon refuge and study hall. They were where I recharged from my slate of morning classes and hid out until the start of night classes. In my early thirties, I was the odd daytime student, but during night classes was surrounded by peers, returning students we were called. Rehabbing a knee crushed on the job, I was looking for a new direction and seeking another degree to point the way.

It was an accidental meeting.
He was a big kid.
He was a clumsy kid.
No, actually, he was a typical teenage boy.
You have met them, you may have been one. A kid who was still adapting to the size 13, or maybe they were 14 , sized shoes ... I don’t know, they looked a lot bigger than my size 12’s. They were huge feet that had sprouted at the bottom of long lanky legs that were also not quite yet under his full control. He was looking up at me. Sprawled on the floor, laying next to the soup bowl sized coffee cup, the horrified look in his wide open eyes said it all. They had to. Splashing one hand in spilt coffee, he clutched my fallen cane in the other, he tried to get up off the floor of the coffeehouse while attempting a stuttering apology.

It was an accident. In the tight and cluttered confines of the coffeehouse, those huge new feet of his had caught the funky, twisted, metal rod leg of the shaky deuce table. A flailing hand had found my coffee cup instead of composure steadying support. He went down hard, knocking my cane off the back of the vacant chair in the process. I wasn’t mad. I was startled! Buried in the pages of a textbook, I was snapped out of my study stupor and back to the here and now. It was an accident. I was trying not to laugh too much, but this was real-time slapstick.

He stood there, holding out my cane, still stuttering apologies. In between smirks and snorts of laughter, I unsuccessfully tried to stifle, I took back my cane saying, "No Worries." A waitress appeared with bar mops for the spill, and scowls for the perpetrator. The big clumsy kid disappeared. He returned a few minutes later with a fresh cup of coffee for me that was sloshing over the brim as he shakily placed it on my table, making a now calmer apology to me. A typical teenage oaf, but he had manners even if they too, were clumsy and awkward.

He asked about my books piled on the table. At first he was concerned if they had been victims of the spilled coffee. Assuring him that the books had escaped drowning, he then took interest in their subject matter. I was studying system design and network architecture, and he was curious. I moved my cane and knapsack from the other chair and motioned for him to sit down. We chatted about computers and networks.

Through the semester he would occasionally bump into me in the coffeehouse. Since he was curious, and always approached me with the offer of another coffee, I kept welcoming him to my table. We talked mostly about tech stuff, a little mentoring on web design, but also about life, travel, the world. A couple of times he had a friend in tow. His friend irked me. He had heard I "knew" things, things about computers and more specifically about networks ... this other kid pestered me for code, about system backdoors, how to get into networks ... "get lost kid! I’m not helping you hack someone’s system!" The big awkward kid still came around once in awhile, but after the semester ended I didn’t see him again.

I forgot all about the kid. I finished school, and in the fall of 1998 I moved to Littleton, a suburban area just to the south of Denver. An area of middle class and upwards neighborhoods, filled with many newer homes, new malls, new schools. Suburban sprawl at its finest. The area is a prosperous and attractive community, a delicious slice of modern American Apple Pie. Soccer fields, SUVs, and along with it, that strangely suburban sense of safety and security.

I was working from home the morning of April 20th 1999. The TV was absent-mindedly playing in the background while I was logged into the servers at work to run diagnostics and a couple reports. It was an odd compromise of a day, sort of like a consolation prize from my supervisor for previously working some extra hours. It was a half-hearted attempt to imitate work while also being a half-hearted attempt to escape the daily grind. The TV was just loud enough to dim the silence, not loud enough to be a distraction, and from my desk I couldn’t actually watch the screen.

... huh? It was a subconscious response. The network talking head squawked again. My ears perked up. Huh!? It’s not time for the noon news, its only like 11:00 ... "shots are being fired at Columbine High School!" Now standing and staring at the TV, "We are getting reports that a gang of gunmen have attacked the school!!!" Shaking my head I continued to stare at the TV trying to figure out where this is happening. "The gunmen are heavily armed and possibly have grenades! We are hearing explosions coming from inside the school!!!" Some images on the screen look vaguely familiar. "There are multiple gunmen having a shootout at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado!"

Stepping out on the patio I could hear the sirens of the police and ambulances responding. This is happening in my backyard! That school is just ... a few blocks away! Back inside the reporter is now saying there are reports that some of the shooters have fled on foot towards neighboring houses, and police and sheriff’s officers will be searching the area house to house. Scenes of groups of kids running from the school buildings play across the screen as the reporter says that the gunmen have been identified, but to me the names mentioned are just names.

A short time later the broadcast reconfirms the names of the gunmen and then displays a school photo of one of them. Well, it’s a high school kid. Looks like any of a couple dozen or more that I have tripped over at the mall, trying to get into the movie theatre, or that have asked me if I wanted fries with my burger. It was just a name, now with a face, both anonymous and ubiquitous at this moment. After some bureaucratese non-information from the sheriff department’s PR person, the reporter announces the name of the second gunman as his picture flashes on the TV ...

... I’m not sure if I was even breathing. The reporter repeated the name. I was dumbstruck. The reporter was still jawing away. I just stood there and stared at the face on the TV ...

I know that face!
It looked a little different.
The baby-face had matured some.
It had been, what? a couple years ...
The features were more defined now.
Yes, this face I knew.

With the pictures displayed side-by-side on the screen the reporter again repeated their names, and then the reporter continued, "...they are seniors at Columbine High School and they are shooting their classmates ..."

. . .

I still wonder what happened.
Today, it is eight years that have past since the shootings at Columbine. I know the face. The face that two years earlier had looked up plaintively, eyes filled with the horror and embarrassment of being a clumsy teenager. A face I saw several other times. An inquisitive face whose eyes widen when I told him tales of far away places or when he grasped a new concept when we discussed computer programming. That was the face and the person I knew.

. . .

The photos on the TV were of strangers, and the accounts of what was happening at Columbine were beyond surreal, they seemed like a B grade movie at the time. When it is being told on the TV it is just not real, not real at first.

The confusion fads as you quit fighting it.
You begin to comprehend that it is real.
It is very real,
and very terrible!
It was similar this past Monday watching the tragedy unfold at Virginia Tech. I didn’t know anyone in Virginia, there were no conflicting personal images to reconcile this time, it became real much quicker.

There are reports that Cho Seung-hui cited the Columbine killers or possibly claimed an allegiance to them in the notes or video he left behind. In journals, videos, and webpages Harris and Klebold partly attributed Columbine to McVey and Nichols and their bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City four years earlier on the 19th of April 1995. The Oklahoma City bombers claimed their act was in remembrance of and to avenge the ATF and FBI raids of the Branch Davidian ranch near Waco,Texas, which after a 53 day siege culminated in the fiery destruction of the compound on April 19, 1993.

... the bouquet has been tossed again ...

A Terrible Roll Call:
2007 Virginia Tech - 32 killed, 29 wounded
1999 Columbine high School - 12 students and 1 teacher killed, 24 wounded
1995 Murrah Building Oklahoma City - 168 killed, more than 800 wounded
1993 Waco - 79 died inside the Branch Davidian compound
1966 University of Texas - Charles Whitman shooting from the campus clock tower killed 15, wounded 31
1927 The worse massacre carried out on a U.S. educational campus was the Bath Michigan School Bombing - Andrew Kehoe, a farmer and local school board member facing tax foreclosure on his property, bombed the school with dynamite and other explosives he had hidden in the school’s basement and inside his car that he drove up to the school during the emergency response. Additionally, 500 pounds of undetonated explosives were found in another section of the school. The blasts killed 44 and wounded 58.

Unfortunately, and disturbingly, there have been far too many school, religious, and political massacres, both here in the U.S. and around the world, to mention all of them in this space. Each one, a horrible event.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Own Hundred Acre Woods

My Own Hundred Acre Woods

I grew up in the woods, about a mile and a half out of town. Valverdant. German for green valley. Our actual yard was the two and half acre woods. Set on a hillside in a dense grove of quaking aspen and thickets of choke cherry and service berry bushes, it was its own little forest. Beyond the willows that lined the little creek was Hoefer’s timothy meadow ... home to herds of deer and elk ... on the other side of the back fence was my real Hundred Acre Woods, even if Lodwik’s ranch stretched over a thousand acres.

When you are eight, be it two and a half acres or a thousand acres, you are Christopher Robin and know it is your very own Hundred Acres Woods. You search endlessly for Pooh and Piglet, and at first worry it was a Heffalump when you spook a deer while wandering through the scrub oak of the hilltop. After home and school, I probably spent more time in my woods than anywhere else.

All my Heffalumps turned out to be deer and elk. I never did find Piglet, came close once on Pooh ...but turned out to be more like Smokey Bear... I did meet several Owls, some ptarmigans, and the yearly parade of grouse in the sage flats. The creek was home to frogs and snakes. Trees to climb and foxes to chase, what more could a boy want?

Whenever my Hundred Acre Woods was not enough, there was the Thousand Square Miles Woods just another mile up the road - Routt National Forest - and a short walk to Fish Creek Falls. Continuing up the trail there is something past the Woods, even beyond the Forest ... if you keep going ... you will find the ... Wilderness!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I Searched the World Over and Thought I Found True Love ... TTTHHHhhhbbbpppT! ... But, You Spammed Another and !Poof! You Was Gone!!!

I Searched the World Over and Thought I Found True Love ...
... But, You Spammed Another and !Poof! You Was Gone!!!

Dear Miss Eden,
I was so very excited upon finding your love letter in my email ... I thought it had finally happened to me, that we were about to embark on a precious internet romance just like those other couples, you know, the ones pictured in the ads for all those internet dating sites ... that soon we would posting our picture and success story about finding true love, our long sought after soulmate, and finding each other on the lonely internet.

From:misseden iconeden mkeden (misseden)
© MrBill (mrbill)
Sent:Jan 04 2009, 06:47 PM EST
Message:My Dearest,
My name is Miss Eden Majzoub al-Khalifa. i am a female I was impressed when i saw your profile and will like to establish a long lasting relationship with you. In addition,i will like you to reply me ( .This is because i don't know the possibilities of remaining in forum for a long time. please If you are interested in knowing more about me and for me to send you some pictures of mine,
Thanks waiting to hear from you .
With love,
Miss Eden Majzoub al-Khalifa

But even before I could reply. Before I could tell you how wonderful it was that you searched, searched high and low, searched far and wide, searched the whole dang internet just so you could find me, and tell me just how much you were impressed by my profile, and that you wanted to have a long lasting forever and ever relationship with someone just like me ... I discovered that you are ...

a trollop !

a tart !!

a tease !!!

I was not your one & only! I was not your true love!! I would never be your soulmate ... I could never be those things to a two-timing four-flushing booting-licking wench that had not only emailed me her can of love spam, but had pasted the same love letter all over this online community and perhaps all over the entire interenet! You pasted it in comments. You pasted it in pings. I am sure that you pasted it in emails you sent to other guys too! For Pete's sake! you even pasted it to other women!!! (well, that part might be a little bit intriguing ...)

Well Miss Eden, the answer is !!!NO!!!

NO! I won't email a yaahoo like you!

NO! I'm not interested in a relationship, of any length, with you!

NO! I don't want you to send me any photos of you! ... umm, wait ... what kind of photos? What are you wearing in the photos?? What aren't you wearing in the photos??? OH never mind! Don't send me any dang photos!!!

Go back to the garden Miss Eden!
I seriously doubt you are Eve.
Actually, I think you're probably a snake!!!

P.S. If you happen to have been left $30 million dollars by your dearly departed husband, and your riches are now stuck in some Nigerian bank account and you need help transferring the cash ... please have your bank send a wire transfer to my numbered account in Strahan Liechtenstein and I will add you to the long list of widows and orphans who I am currently helping launder their money.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

DVD Dispenser - 3rd and Final Act

By now, many of you are well aware of my recent fascination with a particular machine ... the infamous DVD Dispenser! This will be the third and final act of this play.

For those that snuck in after the lights came down and curtain went up, the infamous DVD Dispenser is a pop machine sized automated DVD movie rental venue located in my local Safeway supermarket by the DVD Play company. I have thoroughly enjoyed the slick operation and convenience of said dispenser.

However, today I had to face the music, along with a new and less than pleasant transaction with the DVD Dispenser. I do accept full responsiblity for the actions that predisposed me to the unenjoyable interaction with my beloved DVD Dispenser. I had previously rented two movies. The movie rental period is until midnight the following day. I watched only one of the movies the night that I rented them. I watched the second movie early the next evening, fully intending to hop in the truck, drive to town, and return the movies well before midnight.

The Road to Bali (and to Rome and Rio and ...) was paved with all kinds of good intentions. As some may know, it was colder than a ...well you know... here last night. So I stayed in my sweater and warmth of my loft in front of the roaring fire ... instead of venturing out into the frigid night to return movies, and instead wrote an article about Stock Show Weather. By my missing the pumpkin hour, when I arrived this afternoon to slip the DVD cases in their automated home, I incurred the bane of movie renters everywhere -- the dreaded late charge!

Unlike other movie rental venues, the DVD Dispenser is utterly non-discriminatory and it's clock is rather reliable, and I know that I am late returning these movies. I know I deserve the late charge and with bowed head and red face accept my punishment (sir, may I have another). But I also know that on time returns have been properly credited and future returns will be logged in promptly. Not like Blockbuster or the local video library, where oftentimes the pre-occupied teenage clerks are too busy dissin' friends, parents and teachers or playing grab-ass to check-in the movies correctly. Too many has been the time that at other rental shops I have sauntered up to the counter to rent a flick only to be asked, "are you ever gonna return such and such movie?" HUH!?!?! brought that back a week ago! Further queries to their database reveals that the movie is still checked out to me, but it was also rented to Dick & Jane last night... Anyways, slick delivery and prompt returns gets the Academy's nod for the DVD Dispenser! Plus the DVD Dispenser doesn't call it "late charge" it prefers the kinder gentler term "Extra Night's Rental".


Movie rental - $1.00
Extra Night rental - $0.99
Getting to stay home in the warmth of the fire = Priceless!

Morale of the story - Best to brave the bitter cold and darkness of night if you want to avoid the Extra Night Rental Fee boondoggle!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Follow Up: DVD Dispenser

I returned my videos today to the DVD Dispenser (the fantastic new machine I found, and told you about, yesterday at the grocery store). It was about the same as returns at other rental venues, just slip the movie in the return slot. However, the slot on the DVD Dispenser is a lot smaller ... just large enough for the disk case. It's not like the mail slots at most places, but then the DVD Dispenser is only about the size of a pop machine. So you have to slip it in with a modicum of care and make sure the barcode is face up. I didn't want to tempt fate and slip it in upside down to find out if the DVD Dispenser would spit it back out. Since no one's paying me to does this, it's just personal research, I did not want to risk it swallowing the disk wrong-side-up and not crediting me for returning the movie!

DVD PlayI was slightly disappointed upon arriving back home and finding no email message for the return of the movies, but oh well. I did rent two more movies and tried using the same 2-4-1 promo code as my first rental. It flashed a message stating that was an unknown/invalid code. I canceled the order and started over, selecting the same two movies and used the same promo code, but this time switched to a different bank card...BINGO! So apparently I will be able to get 1st time 2-4-1 rentals until I have run through all my different debit/credit cards. Nice bonus, but I only have so many cards and will eventually have to pay the $1.00/movie. Which around here is still a really good deal for movie rentals. I think selection will always be limited to newer releases because of the size of the machine, but that too is ok. It's convenient to pickup a movie while grocery shopping, and this is a innovative way to provide at least new releases, in a slick easy to use process. ALL THUMBS UP!

Here's a link to the vendor's website if you want more information or to see the machine, and there is a "location" tab to find out if there is a DVD Dispenser in your neighborhood - DVD Play

Sunday, January 4, 2009

DVD Dispenser

I went grocery shopping this afternoon at our local Safeway store. Vegies, milk, cheese, and a nice tuna filet for dinner. Just the usual kind of stuff. On the way out I noticed a new "machine" next to the customer service counter.

Along with the ATM, lotto tickets, movie tickets (this one is new for this store but have seen them around), and the machine that turns your mason jar full of pennies into folding money, was this new machine - DVD Dispenser!

Ok, I'm sure lots of you use Netflix or Blockbuster's similar dvd-by-mail delivery systems, but some of us (well me anyway) have to really "go get the mail" ... go get it at the post office, because the mailman don't ring twice in our neighborhood! Which means the Netflix or Blockbuster in-the-mail thing just doesn't work out all that well.

Back in Colorado most of the big chain supermarkets have very large video rental departments, plus there was a Blockbuster or similar video rental joint on every corner that isn't occupied by Starbucks. But here in Tahoe it's a different story. The supermarkets don't rent videos, they do have a few for sale but they are older flicks and cost about double what Wally World charges. There is a Blockbuster in town and two other local video shops, but the selection is limited and it runs about the standard $5.00 a movie to rent, and if you are a couple days late ... well you would have been better off to just have bought the movie!

But now I can get at least new releases right at Safeway! No waiting for a clerk to find a disk for you, just touch screen your selections, swipe your credit card, and a moment later your selections slide out the slot below the screen and you're on your way. And the price is right! The DVD Dispenser rents new release movies for just $1.00+tax, plus I got a promo code that made it 2-4-1 so I rented two movies. The DVD Dispenser is kind of like a jukebox for movie rentals.

P.S. I got a new bag beans for the coffee grinder so maybe I won't get quite as wired tomorrow.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Five Things I Love About ... the Mountains

Five Things I Love About ... the Mountains:


I love living in the mountains. I have always lived in the mountains; or at least in their foothills when I lived on the Front Range in Denver and Fort Collins. I could always see the mountains, even then.

I love the fresh air in the mountains. The mountian air is always charged with purifying negative ions; from the winds swooping down the valleys and crashing against the granite peaks; from thunder and lightning that flashes and booms from the afternoon's gathering clouds even without ever raining. It is clean, crisp, fresh and yes, very thin; and for some people it is almost impossible to breathe the mountain air.

fileId:3096224744041587;size:inter;I love the unpredictable, even confounding, weather of the mountains. I have been snowed on every month of the year in the mountains. At one time or another I have been snowed-in at least once in every month of fileId:3096224744041585;size:inter;the year except for July. I am sure if I continue to live in the mountains, that some day, in some future July, I will get snowed-in. I have seen it snowing, yet there be not a cloud in the sky; and I have seen it rain, then hail, then snow, and then the clouds break into brilliant sunshine all in a matter of a few passing moments.

I love the fresh, clean and clear, sparkling crystal water that runs swifty down the steep walled canyons that crease the mountains. The mountain water is cold; so cold it numbs your lips when you bend down and touch them to a stream in hopes of slaking your thirst on a hike. In those frigid waters live the most beautiful and succulent trout of all, the cutthroat, with a blood scarlet chevron painted just under their maw. If you are skillful enough, or lucky enough, to trick one into biting the fly you have carefully tied to the thinnest of line, they will try their damnedest to pull you in the icy waters with them.

I love the forests and woodlands that blanket the slopes of the mountains. Forests filled with pine and spruce and fir, ever green throughout the year. I love the meadows, filled with wildflowers, they are the landings of the mountain staircase as it climbs to the sky. Places where the streams slow and meander with thickets of willows in the crooks of their bends. I love the gentle slopes covered in glades of aspen, always quaking in even the slightest breeze. The forests shelter the animals - bears, coyotes, wolves, the deer and elk, beavers that dam the streams along with otters who slide on their bellies into the pools and eddies. And on the rocky crags above mountain goats and sheep, rams with twist and a half horns teetering on precipices looking over their realm.

And I love this song ...

"O beautiful for spaceous skies, for amber waves of grain. For purple mountains majesty, above the fruited plain..."

Katharine Lee Bates poem, later set to music, came together while she was atop one of Colorado's most famous 14'ers - Pikes Peak - on the 4th of July.

Note: There are 54 peaks over 14,000 ft high in Colorado, 70% of the land mass above 10,000 ft in the continental U.S. is in Colorado, making it the highest average altitude state in the union.

Yes, I do love my mountains.

This is written for a friend and her Five Things Group give the group a

!!! Free Celestial Show !!! -- Quadrantid Meteor Shower Tonight!!!

If you missed or could not see the Celestial Show on New Year's Eve, you have a second chance to witness one of Mother Nature's spectacular sky events!

Tonight, or more correctly at about 3:00 AM EST Saturday morning, there is a chance for glimpsing some falling stars in a spectacular display by the Quadrantid Meteor Shower! With the moon a mere sliver, the sky should be quite dark and show off the meteors very well. So if you are out late Friday night, or up early Saturday morning don't miss this chance to start off the new year by making a big wish on a falling star!

You don't need for tickets to this celestial event, but the best viewing location is with a clear view of the southwestern horizon without buildings, trees or mountains, and as far away from city lights as possible.

On New Year's Eve there was a Lunar Alignment with three planets - Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter. This display of planets and the moon occurred on the southwest horizon just after sunset. The Moon rises a little later each night and now is quite far above the horizon at sunset. I was still able to see Venus Thursday night, but both it and the Mercury-Jupiter pairing were obscured by clouds at sunset. You might still be able to glimpse the pair just above the southwest horizon a little after sunset tonight. Mercury and Jupiter will be the brightest objects in that part of the sky.

Venus is the planet that shines brighter any of the other planets and brighter than most stars (what we call the Morning or Evening Star is actually Venus depending on whether it is shining in the eastern or western half of the sky). Venus will dangle just below the thin crescent moon in the southern sky. It'll be visible and almost impossible to miss just as the sun goes down if the skies are cloud-free in your area.

Just after sunset Mercury and Jupiter can be seen hugging the southwestern horizon (just above where the sun went down) and will be right next to each other. Jupiter is very bright and easy to spot, Mercury is fainter and more difficult to see, but it'll be just to the left of Jupiter. Jupiter and Mercury will set less than an hour after the sun sets, and you will need to time your viewing for just after sunset.

What a great way to begin the new year with these celestial events!

Click here
or on the thumbnail to view
the photo I took New Year's Eve
of the Crescent Moon Over Venus.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Almost Like Stock Show Weather...

t Like Stock Show Weather...

Tonight is our first sub-zero night this winter here in Tahoe. It is 4 below outside and 60 inside. I have opted for a sweater instead of cranking up the fire. This will be my fifth Tahoe winter, and I have been enjoying them for the most part, except for shoveling the Sierra Cement as the snow here is known. Tahoe winters are ... well ... almost balmy and tropical! Coming from the Rockies where a -4 night is common, I could probably count on both hands the sub-zero nights of the past four winters in Tahoe. However, these nights of negative numbers bring back memories of this time of year in Colorado and the yearly fortnight stretch of successive way-below-zero temperatures known as Stock Show Weather.

Stock Show weather??? Yes, Stock Show weather. Mid January is when Denver hosts the National Western Stock Show. The National Western Stock Show is a 103-year-old two-week affair of stock shows & auctions, equestrian shows, rodeos, and western galas celebrating ranching and the western lifestyle. Coinciding with this yearly extravaganza is the Arctic Express cold front that flies down from the arctic circle of northern Alaska and Canada that plunges overnight temperatures into the 30's ... below zero that is. It is not unknown for some of the high mountain areas, such as Gunnison or the Frazier Valley between Granby and Winter Park, to dive to 45-50 below during this time, giving credence to their bid for the coldest towns in the contiguous 48 states.

Do I miss the -30 nights and daytime highs of ten below? No, not really, but I do remember gathering with friends around the fire, guests camping out on the living room floor because their cars would not start, letting the faucets drip so the pipes would not freeze and burst, and the jubilation on the day that the high finally crept back over zero.

I salute Stock Show Weather from my now balmy realm of only four below!

National Western Stock Show