Thursday, August 28, 2008

DNC Tuesday, or return of the drunken picture taker

We had dinner last night at Pulcinella, a ristorante! The food was tasty but the wine by the glass selection was skimpy. I had the seared scallops over gnocchi in a lemon-caper sauce. Sandy had the crab-filled ravioli on a saffron cream sauce. Truly fattening foods. We were joined by our formerly urban friends Lisa and Tony. After I flushed my post-work aggression with a glass of white wine and told a too-long story, the general mood improved. Right after work can be a tough time...

After dinner proper, we strolled among the crowds to find a place to grab a drink that wasn't closed for a private party, wasn't packed/didn't have a 20+ minute wait. There was an interesting thing happening: crowds were stopped on the street to watch Hillary Clinton's speech on bar TV's. You could actually hear her voice on the sidewalk as you walked by places. I hadn't expected that.

As I've mentioned in my DNC Sunday blog, Denver is decorated with banners, Obama murals, and random red, white, and blue stuff. There are even "god bless america" posters in store windows:

The Appaloosa had some not-too-loud, live bluegrass music and free tables! These are the men with their "side car".

We milled about outside while taking in the active, lively Denver - this is almost never the case on a Tuesday night.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Beartracks Lakes Hiking

Friday night, after the happy hour, Sandy and I decided on a hike for us, Hillary and her friend (who, we'd find out the next day, is Liz). The timing of that selection (after a few drinks) might have been the first mistake...The Beartracks lake hike looked ok - close to Denver (in the Mount Evans wildness area), between 10-12 miles round-trip, pretty.

Here are the players (besides myself):

Sandy Hillary
First, we got a bit confused about the nomenclature of the roads - the gazetteer gave road numbers but there were actual "street" names. We had to travel through the Mount Evans State Wildlife Area by motorized vehicle to reach the trail head. We got turned around once or twice and then there was the whole "habitat stamp" thing! I don't know, it seems pretty harmless now but, at the time, the signs seemed to indicate that if we didn't have a habitat stamp somewhere, then we'd be trapped and skinned.

Once we reached the actual trail head (after many bumps on a dirt road in our 1994 Ford Escort station wagon with about 1/2 inch of clearance), the parking there was nearly full! In fact, we had to squeeze in just ahead of an older, Asian couple and their family members in a Toyota Tundra who drove all that way just to picnic.

Ok, once we started hiking it was amazingly fucking hot. We hiked at least 10 hours (well, probably 45 minutes at most) through this burn area that was completely exposed. We then went through some more green, moist forest for EVER to get to the lake. The last bit on the way to the lake was gorgeous - a sparse forest with almost a grassy bed. I spotted this fungus that appears to be sweating:

We spent about 15 minutes at the lake while it drizzled and then headed back...on a different trail. We went a good bit down the trail before more than two of us faced the fact that we didn't recognize anything. And the clouds were moving in.

At this point the thunder was getting a bit louder and there were occasional flashes of lightening. We turned around and walked back for almost a mile when we ran into an a old guy fisherman who told us that both trails go to the same place. So, we turned around and hiked back. This is when the rain and hail started. We took shelter under a tree until we realized it wasn't going to stop any time soon. Here is Sandy crouched under a pine:

We pretty much ran for most of the way back in the pouring rain. Near the end we saw a moose! It showed some signs of aggression (ears back, ridge of fur standing up on head and neck, kicking front leg) and we shuffled along.

There was fatigue at the end of the day. We'd hiked around 12 miles and we were drenched. We soothed ourselves at Woody's Pizza in Golden to wrap up the day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

DNC Sunday

Friday afternoon I was on my way to a CNU all committee meeting (or something like that), which was around 3:30pm. The quantity of people on the 16th Street Mall was way up. After the CNU thing, I found myself at a work happy hour at Dixon's on the patio on the corner of 16th and Wazee where we had a good view of the masses going by. Well, let me tell you, that was nothing compared to today! I don't know about yesterday because I was out hiking (more on that in my next post).

We started today by taking the 48 bus to a warehouse at 41st and Brighton. The reason we were there was pretty good. We, and a bunch of other cycling folks from around Denver, were there to ride some of the Freewheelin' bikes to downtown. It was really a symbolic ride more than functional. I mean there are 1,000 bikes and our group took 100 - lead by Mayor Hickenlooper (introduced as the Mayor doing the most for bicycles in the country - I don't think so!! Look at Boston, Chicago, Portland, etc...).

So, after the obligatory remarks and thanks to the coordinators, we rode the 3+ miles to the Denver Sculpture park. It did feel like a momentous occasion and it was actually a lot of fun.

These are some of the bikes:

This is S, Tracy and Andy:

This is my man looking like a million bucks on the Freewheelin' bike:

The terminus of this ride dumped us right in the middle of a big hippie fest in the sculpture park! Just kidding, it was the "Green Frontier Festival" which was, you know, about sustainability and shit. We walked around there and saw an actual wind turbine blade - it was monstrous but we also saw a mini wind turbine - Sandy tried to intimidate it:

There was also some of that non-GMO food propaganda :)

We ran into a soon-to-be-hitched (to one another) couple we know! Kara and Scott - see below:

Our next goal was to check out the happening DNC Sunday. The first sign that something was different were the fire hydrants. The city re-capped ALL the downtown fire hydrants with these new little tops:

I, for one, am a little confused about why these are better but I suspect it has something to do with safety (!). On we went. Around the convention center there were lots of tee shirts and buttons and other Obama paraphernalia on sale, like this tee shirt:

As mentioned regarding Friday, the 16th Street Mall was just a wee festival of DNC. You can see here that the city has decorated nearly every vertical object with Denver2008 banners:

You can check out the Denver Post and other reputable news sources for better pictures of "protests" but there were several going on as we were about town. All were peace protests (i.e. make love not war kind of a message):

These were but some of the police around to keep the crowds at bay:

We also took in the other sights. Like the Union Pacific trains on display. Sandy wanted to show his safety skills:

We also did a ride by on the Pepsi center where we found the press queued up down the street to get in. We also found random other groups about, like the "Rednecks for Obama" - we saw them all over Denver today - I think they have a "get in the most pictures" goal. We gave 'em a hand with that:

After an afternoon of riding around town and observing the DNC humanity we rode the bikes up 18th and noticed a brand new mural:

We then went to our respective places of work for 3 or so hours then headed home.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Denver Cold Treats

In the past 7 days the 306 crew has indulged at 3 Denver cold treat establishments (pictures of us in October will be pudgier):

This place is definitely my favorite but I am biased because I can easily walk there from home and it's on a corner. They have a large selection of mostly ice creams but also have 1 or 2 sherbets and 1 or two frozen yogurts. They have a rotating and creative selection of frozen treats and have had choices in the past like Guiness ice cream. On our most recent visit S had a cup of two scoops 1) Graham cracker and 2) mocha cappuccino; G had 1 scoop of cookies and cream in a cake cone (their scoops are generous). We sat outside on the patio with a bunch of other Capitol Hill folks and Sandy listened to me rant about, what else, my job!

The Red Trolley:
This place just opened in the Highland neighborhood (recently reviewed in the Westword). We both had one scoop of the great gorge ice cream (chocolate ice cream, peanut butter, cookie dough...other decadent stuff) in a waffle cone. Our tiny trolley was mocha crunch gelatto. From the decor to the selection, the simplicity of the shop was a big winner with us. There are way too many choices in life. I mean the other day I was shopping for replacement razors for my Venus shaver and I spent a few minutes determining which was the most simply/least frilly. I finally got to the "original" after looking at the features of the "divine", the "embrace" (5 blades with ribbon of moisture!), the "vibrance" (soothing vibrations - what the hell does that mean!?), and the "breeze" (2 in 1! razor plus shave gel bars). There were only about 6 or 8 ice cream selections and about 10 or 12 gelatto selections. We were there for ice cream. As the Westword review points out, the toppings are few and wholesome - hot fudge and caramel (maybe nuts also), not like the Cold Stone Creamery with all that gummy bear, skittles crap. We sampled one or two before our final selections and the ice cream itself is a little...I don't know, not as smooth as Liks, it was a little too much with the mint in particular but a nice crunch there. The big winner is the "tiny trolley"- a mini ice cream cone for $1. This is a nice way to get a good taste but not feel like a fat ass. The interior: Sandy felt it was sparse, that it was too open and they could have fit in a few more tables. I thought it was just right and that was their point to be simple - there were these dark metal tables a booth seat an amazing stained glass light fixture and, get this, lots of early Denver trolley pictures! This feature I think really connected the place to the neighborhood. There is also a little model trolley that goes around the shop.

Also a new place but in Cherry Creek North. This place specializes and only offers non-fat frozen yogurt. Like the Red Trolley, it has just a few selections but this is mainly attributed to the yogurt being soft serve - Sandy thought this lent a sort of generic feel to it but I thought it was just the way frozen yogurt was done. S had a cup of the original (vanilla) frozen yogurt with chocolate chip topping, G had a cup of chocolate with fresh strawberries on top. Sandy thought the furniture was eclectic but I actually only casually noticed it. I thought the option for fresh fruit toppings (other than pineapple chunks and cherries) was great - they had fresh strawberries, blueberries and others. I don't know that this place has a long life in its future but it is perfect for the Cherry Creek health-nut crowd but isn't exactly the place you'd go to impress a date on your hipness knowledge.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Denver Urban Day

So, last weekend I was laid low by my back and neck. This weekend it rained! I mean the rain was actually kind of nice and soothing but it did prevent any mountain hiking. Today (Sunday), I felt the need to get out of the house. Happily, we've spend a lot of weekends hiking this summer but that means leaving on Friday, getting up early on Saturday, hiking at least 8 hours (mostly at altitude) and driving home. Sundays are usually filled with catch up and work work. Having done most chores, today was an exploration day. We set out for the day entirely on foot.

We walked from our building to the Botanic Gardens Mushroom Show, which, for fungus nerds like Sandy and me, is a fun and educational event to be with other nerds. It is also a show of mushroom specimens that are identified and about which information is provided (toxicity, places to find them, etc.). There is also a variety of mushroom stuff - tee shirts, books, posters...

After seeing the "show" we took a spin around the gardens which are in full freaking bloom after the rain. There were also a bunch of hummingbirds at the gardens. I mean there must have been 4-6 buzzing around the entrance and almost no one noticed them. Sandy chalked this up to our knowing what the birds sound like. Once you know their little snippy sounds when they chase each other off, you can't miss them. I chalked it up to most people being completely blind to the details in life and the external environment. I know this because I am so often blinded and deafened by my internal environment. I didn't get any pictures of the hummingbirds though.

After the gardens we were fairly close to Cherry Creek North and went there. We walked through the nice neighborhoods and pointed out all the small, cute houses and fantasized about moving. Even though I dislike sushi, we had lunch on the patio at Hapa Sushi (there are these tasty - but pricey - shrimp dumplings in a yummy sesame sauce, "shumai", that I ate instead of sushi). We had dessert at "Chill-in" (more on this in my next post on dessert). Anyway, blah blah blah, we did more white people stuff after this - visited Crate & Barrel and Whole Foods and walked home. My life is, why couldn't I make it in to work on Friday? This day and this weekend have been a real antidote to my stress mismanagement related to work. I'm fairly early in my career. Most jobs in my life have been characterized by boredom. This one is great in that it offers constant challenges but some of those are in the form of other stressed people or lots of them. I've been wondering lately what a "normal" job is like, meaning what is it like to work with folks who aren't under a shit load of pressure and who have normal workloads and to have a normal workload of my own. Again, I do have a good life but stress is taking a toll. Oh! I just learned that in addition to external stressors , my nature can cause stress. Below is a quote from a web page on stress - I think I have all of these except the last two bullets on the right:
"Not all stress is caused by external pressures and demands. Your stress can also be self-generated. Internal causes of stress include:
  • Uncertainty or worries
  • Pessimistic attitude
  • Self-criticism
  • Unrealistic expectations or beliefs
  • Perfectionism
  • Low self-esteem
  • Excessive or unexpressed anger
  • Lack of assertiveness"

Monday, August 11, 2008

youtube eats my spare time

I find myself somewhat brain dead at the end of the day sometimes. When I realize this is when I realize I have been watching youtube for about 30 minutes. Tonight's youtube exploration is typical: I'm caught in a string of kitten videos.

Occasionally this leads to other videos, like this one (sound is key):

Or this one (sound is definitely key here):

And then sometimes I get to watching the dachshund videos. I hope none of you thinks this is cruel, I've seen dogs with socks on.


Is nothing sacred!?

FAA bans model airplane flights during DNC

I mean jesus! Is it not enough that "they" shut down our roadways, set up free speech zones, and police our every move in black suits on street corners? Now there's no model airplane flights! This is seriously trampling on my human rights.

Alright, anyway, fulfilling my role as a white person in society, today I worked far too long at my office job, had dinner at an Indian Restaurant (the downtown Little India is nowhere near as good as the 6th Ave location), and bought some Dansko sandals online. Now I'm home, annoyed, listening to booming cars drive by - you know, the kind that are 1/2 mile away but your house shakes with the bass. It is truly disturbing. Probably equally as disturbing as the motorcycles with the straight pipes.

So I'm not going to rant but I will share this with you (having the sound on is good):

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Spoiled Colorado Hiker

So, I'm not hiking today because I've tweaked my neck and back in a painful way. That sort of tweak where you can't really look around because it makes you want to yelp. Now, I'm using my free time in an extremely productive way and posting on my somewhat blah blog.

Since Castle Peak, I've hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park and Climbed Mt.Shavano and Tabaguache Peak. I haven't remarked on these because, compared to Snowmass, these didn't seem that interesting. If I lived in Virginia, however, I would fall over myself to do any hike in Colorado. Heck, when we first moved to CO we would go to Roxborough State Park and just be blown away.


This hike was really a slow 10 miler wherein our goal was to identify plants and mosey along (as opposed to 14ers where the summit time is somewhat critical due to the weather). The better pictures of the plants we saw are here:

You may be wondering why I'm not telling you the names of these plants. The answer is simple, my sieve-like brain has lost that information. Just enjoy the pictures and, perhaps, make up your own names.

For the first two or so miles this hike was jammed with people going to the falls - this destination hike draws casual vacation hikers who smell perfumey and look clean and fresh.

Oh! I do know this one. This is a fungus and it is called purple club coral.

The next weekend (this would be last weekend), we hiked Shav and Tab near Salida (this town has an excellent pizza place with outstanding beer: Amica's). We hiked Shav last year but were not successful in climbing Tab the same day. So, we went back this year and were successful.

On the way, Sandy got lunch at that Coney Island hotdog place - DO NOT STOP THERE unless you've got 20-40 minutes to spare waiting around for your order. We waited 40 minutes. The draw is that it's shaped like a hot dog.

We drove down and camped the night before in order to get up at the nightmarish hour of 4:30am to get started on the 11-12 mile hike. This is the sort of scenery on the way:

Camping in an aspen grove is lovely...

This is a photo of Shav taken from the summit of Tab.

Sandy on the summit of Tab
This is a macro of moss campion.
Saturday afternoon - on the way home.

But our day didn't end there! We went over to Lisa and Tony's for the strongest margaritas ever (very tasty though) - pics below. Please note: when I drink with a camera around, I start to mess with the settings. I'm not sure which setting I used but it's some color replacement setting, which explains why they seem to be glowing yellow in some spots.

Anyway, we had such a good time that we ended up camping in the backyard.