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Great Sand Dunes National Park

Here's a story I've been following for quite a long time. Today Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton officially reclassified Colorado's Great Sand Dunes as our newest national park. When I first heard about this a couple years ago, I had been to the dunes but had no idea that I'd soon be living a few hours away from them. It is an amazing place, and hiking to the top of High Dune is a must. I did it again earlier this summer, and if my plans hold for this weekend I'll be climbing Kit Carson Peak, a 14er that is now part of the park thanks to the purchase and annexation of the Baca Ranch. Now I've been to three of the four Colorado national parks - Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain, and Mesa Verde. Looks like I need to head down US 50 to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to complete the set!

High Country Hiking

What an excellent week! Last Monday I did a 7-mile loop over Medicine Bow in the Snowy Mountains of Wyoming, then Wednesday a 9-mile trip to the Isabelle Glacier in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, then Friday and Saturday a 14-mile climb of San Luis Peak (14,019') in the San Juans. Thirty miles of hiking, all above 10,000 feet. That's the best week of hiking I've had in a long time.

This week should be equally good. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I'll be at Coors Field watching the Rockies host the Cubs. Friday I'll be climbing Mt. Evans and traversing the Sawtooth Ridge to Mt. Bierstadt, weather permitting, of course. I've done Bierstadt before, but not Evans, and the traverse will be made possible by some good friends willing to shuttle cars from the Mt. Evans road to Guanella Pass.

After that, only one more week of summer before school starts!

Attention shoppers...

I used to be amazed at the variety of products carried by Wal-Mart; now I'm amazed at the variety of people who you can find there. It can be a very interesting place to people-watch. Today's Wal-Mart visit was highlighted by the following announcement over the public address system:

"If you have found a five-dollar bill with 'I own you' written on it, please turn it in at the customer service desk."

The mind can only imagine the circumstances surrounding such an announcement.

3022 Miles and More

I took the last couple of weeks of June to travel back to the Midwest to visit family and friends. It's 830 miles from Florence, CO, to Iowa Falls, IA, which would make a sub-1700 mile round trip. By the time my travels were done, I had taken side trips to Cedar Falls, Minneapolis, Duluth, Ames, and Iowa City. Six states in all, and many great hours with friends I haven't seen in far too long. Thanks again to all of you who made time for me, and my door is open for you should you ever come my way.

Last Monday my first guests of the summer arrived for several great days seeing sights and getting some outdoor exercise. Tuesday we went to the Great Sand Dunes, complete with a hike to the top of the High Dune. Wednesday we went to Leadville, highlighted by a visit to the National Mining Museum. It may not sound very interesting, and the endless display of interesting mineral specimens does get somewhat tiresome and redundant, but overall it is very much worth the $6 admissi…

Ronald Wilson Reagan

The first president I ever knew was Ronald Reagan, so his death today and the accompanying media coverage held my interest for most of the day. I don't know where I place him on the list of great presidents, but he certainly had some admirable qualities - the eloquence, the charm, the humor, and the ability to get Americans to believe in their country. I've recently read some about Watergate, and am currently reading David Gergen's Eyewitness to Power, and am gaining a better understanding of those times and how Americans had lost faith in their leaders. Reagan's stability and longevity in office helped restore confidence in the system, even for those who didn't believe in his policies.

I expected to spend most of the day watching D-Day specials. I remember the 50th anniversary of D-Day, but with this, the 60th anniversary, and the recent dedication of the World War II Memorial, I'm enjoying the focus we seem to be placing on those WWII vets still with us, …

54 Holes

Summer continued yesterday with 54 holes of golf at Appletree in Colorado Springs. My performance yesterday ranged from somewhere between horrible to embarrassing, but 11 hours of golf is better than no golf at all. Appletree has a very nice layout (not too short or long, plenty of bunkers, good use of water hazards) but is currently plagued with pretty poor turf conditions. Good price, too - golf all day with a cart and lunch for $29.

WWII Memorial

I watched the World War II Memorial dedication yesterday and thought it was an excellent event. In particular I was impressed by President Bush's speech; although he never mentioned Iraq, it was presented in such a way that it was directly relevant to current foreign policy and the war on terror. I think it's the best speech I've ever heard him give, although I'd be a lot happier to see him so eloquent at a press conference or debate. Tom Brokaw and Tom Hanks also did a nice job, and the memorial itself gives me yet another reason to someday visit Washington D.C.

I've started working out the kinks with Blogger's new system, but it might take a more major overhaul to get it all right. I think everything is at least marginally functional, and the comments work if you're willing to dig a little.

One last thing - I'm on summer break, the most schedule-free summer I think I've had since 1997. This teaching gig is working out great!

Last Week of School; New Blogger Features

We're down to the last week of school, which soon means I'll have a lot more spare time on my hands. I've come to the conclusion that school isn't always time-consuming, but it is focus consuming. That's okay...I actually prefer it that way. When I need some extra time I can usually find it, but there's always something to work on, to improve, to think about.

I see that Blogger has made some improvements and that means my site (particularly the archives) will be broken for a week or two until I get it fixed. They've added the ability to add comments to posts, something Blogger was noticeably missing compared to the competition.

Snow brings a three-day weekeend...

It didn't happen until late April, but we finally had a sizeable snowstorm here. It was a warm, wet, heavy snow, so heavy that only 3-4 inches was enough to break trees and branches around town, causing many brief electrical outages. After having the driest March around here since 1911, we've had almost 4.5 inches of precipitation this month, far above our 1.25-inch average. And don't worry about the snow being around long - by this afternoon we'll have temperatures in the 50s with 60s coming tomorrow.

I haven't been updating very regularly lately, and it isn't so much because school has been so time-consuming, but rather it's demanded most of my focus this past month or so. But that's a good thing - I like having a worth challenge around to keep my mind occupied. We have 5 weeks left in the semester, then I'll enjoy my first full Colorado summer. I'm looking forward to hikes and climbs, as well as plenty of Rockies games in Denver and min…

Play Ball!

Even though today is almost like the fourth Opening Day of the baseball season (due to the Yankees and Devil Rays opening the season with two games in Japan and the Sox-Orioles game last night), you'd have to call this the "real" Opening Day. I'm watching the Cubs and Reds on ESPN and Corey Patterson just hit a home run in his first at-bat. (I think he did that with his first at-bat in spring training, too.) So far, so good, and it will be even better when the Cubs are playing at Wrigley. I can't get either WGN or Fox Sports Chicago from my cable company, so I'll probably be tuning in to most of the games on MLB radio over the internet.

Enough typing...time to sit back and watch the game!

Radio News

I've always really liked Al Franken, although as he's gotten more political and argumentative he's lost a bit of his charm. Oh well, I'll probably try to catch his radio show anyway, so long as it's streamed on the net. I have his White House correspondence dinner speeches from 1994 and 1996 and listen to them regularly. Not only are they funny, but they are brilliant examples of what you can do when you know and understand your audience.

But if it's serious news you're looking for, it's hard to find a better voice than Bob Edwards of NPR. Unfortunately, he won't be leading Morning Edition anymore. He'll still be around, and I'm sure NPR has chosen his successors wisely, but it just won't be the same.

As for what you can and cannot say on the radio (or other mass communication mediums), I'm always interested in what George Carlin has to say. My fondness for George Carlin goes beyond being a simple fan; it's more interesting…

March Madness 2004

For those "basketball fans" out there, I've completed my bracket this year and posted it for all to see. Remember, I won an office pool several years ago, so I'm pretty sure my luck has been used up and I'll never win one again.

The NCAA Divsion I wrestling tournament starts tomorrow, and while I don't have brackets filled out for it (330 wrestlers in a double elimination tournament? Get real...), I will predict the finals:

125: #1 Jason Powell (Nebraska) over #2 Luke Eustice (Iowa)
133: #3 Johnny Thompson (Oklahoma St.) over #4 Foley Dowd (Michigan)
141: #6 Dylan Long (Northern Iowa) over #5 Cliff Moore (Iowa)
149: #1 Jesse Jantzen (Harvard) over #2 Zack Esposito (Oklahoma St.)
157: #3 Jake Percival (Ohio University) over #2 Ryan Bertin (Michigan)
165: #2 Troy Lefters (Lehigh) over #1 Tyrone Lewis (Oklahoma St.)
174: #5 Eric Hauan (Northern Iowa) over #2 Tyler Nixt (Iowa)
184: #1 Greg Jones (West Virginia) over #2 Ben Heizer (Northern Illinois)
197…

The Shield - Season 3

I just caught the season premiere of "The Shield" on FX. As a traditional Nick @ Nite kind of watcher, it takes a little mental and emotional preparation to watch The Shield. It's just plain intense, with a lot of well-written plot twists that keep you hanging from episode to episode. Good stuff, even if it's over the top reality-wise.

The Colorado Football Recruiting Scandal

Although things have quieted down in the past week or so, I don't think we've heard the last of the bad news from Boulder. Today ESPN is running a feature during SportsCenter about the use of sex and alcohol to lure recruits, and I think we can all be sure this type of recruiting isn't restricted to one school. Boys will be boys? Sure, if coaches and administrators choose to turn their heads and pretend things like this don't happen. But as Gary Barnett and others are finding out, when things go this wrong heads are going to roll, guilty or not.

Colleges and universities are going to need to find ways to protect themselves. After all, these are very young men and women they recruit, usually only 17 or 18 years old, and during the their visit it is the expectation that the university is responsible for the recruit's well-being. I think the next step is for the university to provide a full-time chaperone for each recruit. This chaperone would accompany the rec…

Cassius Clay ---> Muhammad Ali

Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of Cassius Clay defeating Sonny Liston to become boxing's heavyweight champion. If my Ali history is correct, then that makes today the 40th anniversary of Cassius Clay publicly announcing his joining of the Nation of Islam and becoming known as Muhammad Ali. It wouldn't have meant much without winning the title, but in hindsight it is the event that now allows us to see Ali as an icon - something much greater than boxing or of sport. Feelings about the Nation of Islam aside, Ali's step into the civil rights controversies of the 1960's, his refusal to be drafted into the Army on the basis of his religious beliefs, and the faith he still carries with him today puts him into rarefied air. Some suggest his lifelong contribution is equaled only by Nelson Mandela, and most agree that the fact Ali was never assassinated is a miracle. For a time Ali was one of the most hated sports figures in American history, but attitudes toward Al…

Maddux

I'm guessing that I"ve checked ESPN.com 20 times a day the past month (I know that sounds like a lot, but when I'm home hitting the refresh button is somewhat habitual) and the first thing I've looked for is the news that Greg Maddux was going to the Cubs. I just got my wish! Yeah, he's in the twilight of his career, but there aren't too many other guys out there who can almost guarantee you 15 wins a year. This offsets Houston's acquisition of Roger Clemens and relieves me of the grief I'd felt had Maddux gone to the Yankees.

Speaking of the Yankees, I think their trade for A-Rod is a good thing for baseball based on the fact that it puts one of the best players in a major market and frees up a lot of money for the Rangers. There might be reasons to hate the Yankees, but when it comes down to deals like this I agree with what Jason Giambi said after he went to the Yankees - "The boss wants to win." Hard to argue with that. Now the Yank…

Rebuild Finished

Last night was one of those nights where you just start working on something and then suddenly realize, "Wow...is it 5 am already?" I finished all my major code alterations today and got everything uploaded. Like I said, it doesn't look all that different, but I'm much happier with what's going on behind the scenes. It didn't all go perfectly, of course - I broke some links by moving and renaming my archives, but it wasn't all that often that I linked to myself anyway.

I've spent a little time rebuilding the pages for my 1998 trip to the Superior Hiking Trail. That was my first real web project - I remember being in the dorms that summer, scanning photos and making the pages in Word. I figure that if I'm choosing to rework the code from my trips because I'm not satisfied with the job done by Word and FrontPage, then it's only fair to remove all the Microsoft-generated graphics as well. I have to admit that some of the sites look pret…

Site Progress

The improvements to this website that I mentioned a few posts ago are going pretty well. All my pages are PHP and XHTML 1.0, I've stripped out the layout tables in favor of CSS positioning, and the main task that remains is to polish this page and the archives. My moving the archives to their own directory I may be creating a number of problems, but those will just have to be dealt with. Perhaps the most visual change to the site is my changing of font sizes - now, instead of specifying fonts in pt values, I'm using the generic "medium", "large", "x-large" values in CSS. Anybody using Internet Explorer will certainly tell a difference - your fonts are now bigger and their size is controllable by your browser. Oh well, you should be using Mozilla anyway...

Thoughtsbrief

Meet The Press - On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say President Bush's performance Sunday on Meet The Press ranked about a 5. I can't say I really learned anything, or have a keener insight into our president's decision-making processes, but it was good to see him take the questions. His responses were consistent, if not repetitious, and his appearance took back some of the attention lost to John Kerry and the other Democrats trying to put him out of a job. He may have survived Tim Russert, but he'll have some work to do when real debates come around.

NFL Pro Bowl - I passed on the Grammys this year to watch the Pro Bowl, and I'm very glad I did. Instead of being the usual "Let's Hope Nobody Gets Hurt Bowl", this one featured some great individual performances and was a great game to watch. Plus, being an NFC fan, I was greatly pleased with the outcome. The NHL All-Star Game was also yesterday, but I'm just not a hockey fan. Given that the Av…

Ah, so that's how you compete against the "Lingerie Bowl"...

The Super Bowl was a great game, but nevertheless overshadowed by the halftime show. I can add this incident to the already long list of reasons to dislike Justin Timberlake, N'Sync, boy bands, lip syncing, MTV, and The New Kids on the Block. (Yeah, I've been around this block too many times already.) All you need to know about Justin Timberlake's musical ability is that he cancelled a concert due to a sprained ankle. Bet that never happened to Al Green.

I came in dead last with my Super Bowl picks. Blame it on a "wardrobe malfunction", whatever that means. I got the dome being closed right, and then it kinda went downhill from there. Next year we'll have to bet on more non-game related items, like the over/under on the length of the national anthem and the result of the coin toss.

Since I'm not really an NBA fan, I don't find much to follow in the world of professional sports during the month of February. February is a good month for college …

Super Bowl Sunday

I don't have any particular interest in this year's Super Bowl, but you can bet I'll be watching. This will be the first year in a long time that I won't be watching with my college buddies, Chris and Ecker. Chris was my college roommate, and Ecker (that's Dr. Ecker to you) is a professor in the math department. Every year we'd get together for the Super Bowl, the NFL Draft, and other random occasions, but now that I'm 800+ miles away that's not going to happen this year. We still keep in touch and make our sports picks, and I've put this year's Super Bowl picks for all to see:

ChrisEckerMeFirst 1st DownCarolinaCarolinaCarolinaFirst FGCarolinaCarolinaNew EnglandFirst TDCarolinaNew EnglandCarolinaFirst PenaltyNew EnglandCarolinaCarolinaFirst TurnoverNew EnglandCarolinaCarolinaA Safety?YesNoNoTotal Punts131010More Offensive YardsNew EnglandNew EnglandNew EnglandMore PenaltiesNew EnglandCarolinaCarolinaMore TurnoversNew EnglandCarolinaCarolinaA…

One Whale, Contents Under Pressure

The weird news continues. Exploding whales? I could comment on the story, but I think it'd be much more entertaining to read it and let your mind wander without any guidance from me. Besides, I could hardly be considered knowledgeable on the subject of large exploding sea-going mammals on flatbed trailers in Asian countries. And if anybody is an expert on such a thing, it looks like you've got your work cut out for you.

The Washington Post on the Caucus Process

Not a bad speech by Kerry tonight, but Edwards was still probably the best. Mike Barnicle said it best about Dean's speech: "After that speech, not only do I not want that guy president, but I wouldn't want him as my doctor in an operating room."

Here's a good article about the Iowa caucus process:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26071-2004Jan17.html

Iowa Caucuses

I have great pride in my home state, and I think I missed Iowa more today than any day since I left. It happens only once every four years, but today all the national media focuses on the Iowa and its caucuses. Caucuses have to be one of the most fun political processes out there - a bunch of people gather in a gym, listen to a few speeches and discussions, then the "voting" begins. "Okay, everybody for John Kerry in this corner! Dean supporters to this corner! Edwards supporters over here!" And it continues on down the line. "Hey, you five people back there for Sharpton - your group's too small...either join a bigger group or drop out! Same with you Lieberman folks!" What a great process...I wish I could have been there.

My thoughts:
John Kerry - Great comeback and great win. Even if people don't know your policy, your war record and what it says about you is undeniable.
John Edwards - The trial lawyer turns out to be the nicest, cleane…

Pete Rose, WMD, and things people aren't talking about...

So Pete Rose finally admitted that he gambled on baseball. As a late-80s Mets fan who watched guys like Dwight Gooden and Darrell Strawberry practically throw away their careers for drugs, only to get a slap on the wrist, gambling never sounded all that bad as long as no games were thrown. So I've been quietly pulling for Pete all this time, and now that he's admitted he bet on baseball (with less-than-ideal timing, given the announcement of the new Hall of Fame class yesterday), I guess I'm still hoping he gets his lifetime ban from baseball lifted.

But what if Pete Rose is lying now? He doesn't seem any more or less sincere in his apology now than he was in denying he bet on baseball, so isn't there some chance that he figured his only opportunity to get back in the game was to tell people what they wanted to hear, regardless of the truth? And isn't it a productive way to cash in on a book deal? I imagine he's telling the truth now, but without any f…

HOF

The new baseball hall of fame class was announced today, and for the 2nd year Ryne Sandberg didn't make it. Hall voters are certainly a particular bunch, and I can only take solace in knowing that Ryno will make it eventually. ESPN.com's baseball writers have done their usual great job covering all the ups and downs of hall voting, especially in regards to all these great players of the 80s whose stats seem to be overshadowed by the stats of the offensive explosion of the 90s. I'm of the camp who believes players should be judged as a part of their own era, not necessarily against current hall of famers or against the statistics of other eras. From 1982 to 1992, was there a better second baseman than Ryne Sandberg in all of baseball? No. Time will prove this one, if it isn't proven already.

As a Cubs fan I'm certainly pulling for Andre Dawson, Bruce Sutter, and Lee Smith, three guys who could be hanging around on HOF ballots for a while. I could enjoy the …

It's Official...

...I'm a horrible blogger. Maybe it's because I've never warmed up to the term "blog". But it's probably just because I'm too busy/lazy/uncreative to write often, then too guilty/embarrassed to write when I haven't in a long time.

I'm also a little annoyed by New Year's resolutions. Why wait for an arbitrary date to decide to improve yourself? I guess if that's what it takes for some people, then so be it. For me, I expect whatever good habits I have will continue, and the bad ones will drag on as well. IF that changes with the new year it will be entirely coincidental.

I finally finished reading Walt Unsworth's "Everest: The Mountaineering History". In a previous post I had accidentally referred to it as "A Mountaineering History", but it's definitely "The", as in the "Big The", meaning I can't imagine another single book containing more breadth and depth on the subject. Last nig…