December 8 2008 - Racing Towards the Finish
2008 hits overdrive, racing towards its end. As far as I'm concerned, the sooner the better since it has earned a place amongst my personal worst. In the past month there seems to be no time to fit in a few simple posts, so here's a news blast. Since last time there has been a couple of mountain bike rides in the crisp winter weather and yesterday's inaugural tree climbing signaling the start of official ice climbing season - or at least the training for it. Some have asked of the mountaineering school this year: it is rolling right along and one of the Directors, Joe, has been snapping some pics of outings: http://picasaweb.google.com/jstahovicjr.
There was a family T-day gathering and early xmas exchange - T-day being memorable this year since the power went out in the last hour of cooking. Gas grills and ovens finished off the job and candles lit the dozen gathered around the table.
There was an annual card night with some old buds - a tradition that we've managed to keep alive for over a decade. A dozen or so birthdays, many new births, and further unfortunate losses. Just too many to detail here.
I've finished my first of five classes detailed in the Oct 6 post - grade yet to be revealed. More specific news coming soon I hope.
November 10 2008 - West Coast Cred
For those that don't directly follow Adam's blog, the man has been a bit busy churning out work that is making news. A fun little chess set project appears on Make, and serious endeavor that made, um, Forbes! Center for Internet Security Announces Industry's Only Consensus-Driven Security Benchmarks for Oracle(R) Database 11g. Congrats on what I'm sure are only early tremors of what's to come.
I've recently vetted and spruced up many on my Family and Friends page. Don't see yourself but want to? Let me know!
November 7 2008 - Macroscopic Damage
www.nytimes.com/2008/11/04/opinion/04tue1.html - This is why when you have someone at your party destroying your home and everything in it, you kick them out - immediately! You don't keep quiet and think to yourself "I'll never invite them to another party again" and let the carnage continue.
Trying so hard to not get political here, but it's been an eight years of anxiety and stomach-turning news. A very long nightmare and I just want dawn to break. Well, so much for neutrality here - I guess you now know where I stand. Sorry, I'll get off my box now.
October 31 2008 - Microscopic Storage
You really can't appreciate just how tiny the Micro SD cards are until you hold one in your...uh...on your fingertip.
<- click to enlarge
The thing is 1/2 inch (1.5cm) long, and 3/8 inch (1cm) wide, and 1 millimeter thick. You can't leave it lying around, it's likely to get get swept away like a piece of dust. This one is 4GB of storage, that's Four Gigabytes. For non-techies, that's a HUGE amount - four billion bytes on that little sliver. Put one way, all of my files, consisting of documents, spreadsheets, other miscellaneous things (not pictures, music, or video) fit on a little more than half of this thing. That's 3,400 files!!! With room to add about 3,000 more.
I could put 2,400 pictures on this thing - high resolution (5 megapixel), nice enough to make 8x10 prints from.
How much would you pay for such a miraculous piece of technology? How about 5 bucks? A five dollar bill. Yup. 1.2 gallons of gasoline or 4GB of storage, your choice. Insane. Had enough? One last thing...this is already old school. They are also available in (same microscopic size, mind you) 8GB and 16GB versions now. <head explodes>
October 29 2008 - Got Vote?
In less than one week we US citizens select (or at least go through the motion of selecting) our next president and congressional leaders. There can be no doubt of the widespread anxiety this time around as it is of majority opinion that the current administration hasn't made us very happy. Nor, I dare say, the rest of the world.
I've voted regularly for at least the past four elections and maybe five (I think I failed to exorcise my right at the onset of 18 but eventually got it together.) I know my key issues and write my congressmen often these days. I know my general alignment. I know aspects of candidates that excite me or turn me off (no, not their hairstyle or facial expressions.) Still, I feel we citizens should be much better educated on our choices. Fox News is NOT the pre-eminent source for all you need to know about your candidates! I steer absolutely clear of any TV or newspaper journalism and know my way around the Internet pretty darn well and still feel hungry for the facts.
In the past year I've poured over sources of information and eventually made a list so as to have it for future years. Here's mine and please send me any others you've discovered and trust. Hope you vote. Hope it counts. Hope the world becomes a better place for everyone as a result of our new leaders.
www.vote-smart.org - Voting records, issue positions, interest group ratings. Political courage test.
www.opensecrets.org – Tracking money’s influence on U.S. elections and public policy
http://senate.ontheissues.org/Senate/Senate.htm - Voting history of Senator candidates
www.politics1.com - All parties listed
www.votegopher.com - Majority party bias
www.presidentialprofiles2008.org - Not all candidates represented
www.presidentialelection.com - Majority party bias
www.votechooser.com – Majority parties only
www.thirdpartywatch.com - Third party and independents
www.voter.com - Unknown (site not available)
www.election.com - Unknown (site not available)
www.fivethirtyeight.com – Excellent, aggregated polling data
www.ourvotelive.org - Voter assistance real time reports by Election Protection Coalition
www.electoral-vote.com - Polling data
www.govote.org – Simple: where to vote, what times, and what to bring, based upon your zip
October 17 2008 - Newborn
Congratulations to Emanuele and Francesca on their new daughter Teresa born on 08-08-08. She has more hair than me!
October 15 2008 - 17 Furry Years
Failing kidneys and not so much for playing, but still able to jump up on beds and still kind enough to wait until the alarm goes off before pawing for morning pet. Happy 17th birthday, KC! (For your present, I've updated your web page.)
October 14 2008 - No Words
The newspapers write: "A North Hills doctor who died Saturday while rock climbing will be remembered as enthusiastic and loving. Dr. Amy Ruth Stine, 49, of Ohio Township was killed in a fall at Seneca Rocks, a popular climbing spot in West Virginia." Full Article.
I met Amy and her husband Bill 6 years ago where over a dozen of us spent the holiday together as a friends coming together as family over Thanksgiving weekend in 2002 in Linville Gorge, NC. Strong, determined, kind, humble. Just a few words that describe Amy. May her memory grow stronger with time and her spirit carry on in our hearts and minds.
Our dear friend Bill is one of those guys I consider model of the person I'd like to be; an "8 years in the future" image to set your sights upon. A true pillar of strength you just know will find a way through this...impossibly.
October 6 2008 - Green Grass is Absolutely Not
Amen! http://www.cleantechblog.com/2008/10/how-green-is-your-lawn.html. I've felt this way about Americans' obsession with lawns ever since I first became a homeowner (1992).
In related news, I've decided to "go back to school". Universities have finally expanded their offerings and matured delivery modes to fit my desires. A completely on-line professional certificate program out of San Diego State University in Renewable Energy and Green Energy Management is the first post-grad education I've felt is worth the time and money.
One last environmental topic, the good folks from Kentuckians For the Commonwealth (website currently buggy) stopped by our campground this past weekend to show an important film and educate us as to the issue of mountain top removal. Dan, a fellow mountaineer and good friend blogged about it as well recently and gives the details and summarizes better than I can do, so take a sec and read his post. These are intelligent people, not radical tree-hugging activists. There is very real concern here. Pay attention to world around you being laid waste bit by bit.
September 25 2008 - Garbage Replaces Trash
My continual battle to remove unsolicited trash from my life and reduce my personal waste stream is sometimes way harder than it should be. Last year I waged war on Verizon's stack of dead trees delivered annually. After supposedly having been removed from their delivery list, I still received them this year. After several phone calls, being assured they would be picked up, they never were. I had to spend my time and gas money to take them to the recycler.
Alas I discover Yellow Book is a separate company. Again, the call to be removed, the assurance it'll be picked up, the follow-up call a week later to report it's still not picked up, and then a follow-up to the follow-up. Finally, it was picked up. And, left in it's place by the subhuman delivery person, a pile of their personal car trash:
I feel like the old Indian in the commercial from the 70s. It's so sad how ignorant and wasteful our species have become. I'll pull no punches - may a long, painful, and suffering disease come to this person. Boycott your printed directories. Fight the hard battle and get removed from their delivery list - call the number on their tomes to start the process. Put these foul polluters out of business forever.
September 24 2008 - Ties That Bind
Congratulations to cousin Carl and Amy, wed on July 5:
And my best to all my other friends that took the plunge this year: Dan and Dee, Jay and Elizabeth, Roger and Jennie, Marianne and Tom.
September 10 2008 - SMASH!
Congratulations Homo Sapiens! You've built the largest machine in your history, turned it on today, and it worked! This colossal achievement is to our generation what the Apollo program was to the previous. Aw hell, the Mars Exploration Rover Mission is incredible as well. And the Hubble Telescope, and the Human Genome Project, and...
“I don't try to imagine a God; it suffices to stand in awe of the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it” -A. Einstein
August 25 2008 - Ride the Wild Wind
Another friend "bites the dust". I jest when I say that about Roger his chosen one, Jennie - they're a great couple and there really is no gnawing on the ground about it. I've had my share of stereotypical bachelor parties, and certainly enjoy them when they still occur, but the trend towards more involved adventures of all-male camaraderie without emphasis on dance poles is refreshing. A long weekend in a distant big city, rafting, camping, other outdoor trips, or a getaway to a ski resort or lake can be the right vehicle for a proper celebration and sendoff from singeldom.
It was the latter that Rog chose, graciously opening his own (and Jennie's!) lakeside cottage to be the base of our operations. Canadohta Lake is one of those quiet little-known treasured spots that are so rapidly disappearing from our country's landscape. It's holding tight to its 1950s traditions of smaller cottages of varied styles - a clutch of quaint and humble shoreside holdings. Limited use of lighting makes for a more peaceful and moody night, and the 10hp motor limit keeps the usual ridiculous sprouting of large and/or noisy boats upon this smallish body of water as has happened at so many other lakes. Though we made occasional use of friend Mike's pontoon boat, I found moments dreamily imaging the scene without any motorized craft. The time when all that could be heard is the soft thunk of wooden oars propelling the only watercraft, splashes from divers off the several float platforms, and laughter ringing freely across the lake.
Roger has two single-sail catamarans which he foolishly had no qualms about us non-sailors taking out for unsupervised use. I've long wanted to learn to sail, with no specifics in mind: any size craft, any level of experience. The only goal is to ensure I'm ready when I retire to the open waters of the Caribbean, so I have time to ease into this sport. Well, who knew this celebration of and about our bachelor would afford such a personal satisfaction. I feel guilty.
Rog introduced me to art by piloting us both out into the middle of the lake at which point I took over and had to somehow get us back. The challenges are many: though you have the right of way, try to avoid direct collisions with the other crafts including those still moored to the shoreline. Execute turns well or lose the wind - as he pointed out and I learned why, races are won or lost on the turns. Try not to get tangled up in your own minor rigging. Try to not turtle or flip - a very real possibility.
Aside from all those stressors, when you're tacking a good line, the feeling is quite sublime. The mixed senses of peace at slow speeds and anxiety at high speeds provide an odd but satisfying blend of adventure and relaxation. Playing with two natural elements under the sun and blue sky certainly plays a big part into the experience. Being in in the minority amongst the mostly motor-driven boats and realizing you're able to move yours anywhere you want with the simple method of catching the wind in a big ol' piece of fabric is a bit of a mental rush. It helps that I have complete naïveté of whole sport - ignorance truly is bliss.
Dropping Rog off at the dock and striking out solo provided another bump in joy. Rog would later handily beat me in a couple of races, but just being able to actually navigate the course by the end of the weekend was a wonderful feeling.
So, though we certainly abused our bodies through usual binge drinking (necessary to ensure you've toasted every possibility for the groom-to-be), we also dined on fine foods, enjoyed plenty of the finest in backyard entertainment Cornhole, told loads of fireside stories, and laughed enough to forget the worries of world. In short, lived the life that celebrates that which surrounds Roger as he is and will be, I'm sure even more in paradise with the lovely Jennie. I say congratulations to you Roger, but also thanks so much for making it just as special for us all.
Ride the wild wind (dont sit on the fence)
Ride the wild wind (live life on the razors edge)
Gonna ride the whirlwind
It aint dangerous - enough for me. -Queen
Dragonfly w/cottage in background
Cottage at night
View from ront lawn - Roger sailing
Ron sails off on first solo run
Roger and Mike living the life
August 17 2008 - Trapped Let Out of the Box
www.trapped-themovie.com (click on the words Premier Pictures for just that)
July 15 2008 - Delayed Firsts
When you've accumulated enough years on this planet you start to run into those things you "just haven't gotten around to yet". Sometimes they're self-realized, sometimes others bring them up. Some are minor, like foods you've never eaten, movies never seen, or books never read. For instance, I once new a guy in his 30s that still had never eaten a Funyun! OK, maybe that's minor (not to me). Sometimes it's a little more impressive. How about someone also in the same age range that has never left the borders of the state they were born in? Or never seen an ocean or flown on a plane. Yup, sometimes it takes longer to get around to things than you ever expected. Anyway, I think we can all agree they can be exciting times if you ever get around to them if it's not one of those minor things.
As a kid, I was privileged enough to visit the YMCA pool regularly. Took swimming lessons too (one of those hated it but glad I did it experiences - another topic for another time). Remember the first time you went in the deep end? How about touched the bottom of the deep end? And the inevitable next step of going off the diving board. The low one. That high one was another whole big deal often done much later. I even remember doing an actual head-first dive was a proud moment. And then progressing to a running approach, then a spring launch.
Of course, all the while you watch others more advanced than you. Those ones that could flip just blew my mind. I could not fathom how you could plan for and execute the exact amount of rotation to land. And I remember hearing about (or maybe even seeing one or two) hitting your head on the board...and how it could knock you out or even break your neck. That added a heap of fear on top. I held those flipping divers in high regard and never did bother to figure out how they did it. It was simply magic and without a guide, it never gets approached.
I had friends that had pools, and ones with diving boards too. I just didn't see many flips done after my teens. It passed out of mind.
Now, I've skied quite a bit in life and did my share of hot-dogging. Love the jumps and did the basic tricks. Never did a "helicopter" (AKA 360) and never did a flip. Had the same sort of reverence for it, but a different perspective coming to see it and understand it many more years on than the first diving board days. I know how to approach it if I ever want to...and that's training over water. Don't think I ever even did a flip on a trampoline. Oh, I've been flipped in martial arts, but that's sort of different.
So sometimes those never done things spring up out of nowhere and the spirit strikes you take it on right there and then. Such as it was on Saturday July 12. One of those hot sunny summer days just perfect for pools. One of those spur of the moment decisions to abandon all plans and head to Johnny's pool. It is equipped with a 6' long diving board, fairly low to the water. About an hour into the casual shallow end pool time I eye that thing up and say out loud, "you know, I've never done a flip". I take in a few verbal pointers, get in my mind that I really just have to go for it, and decide its time to learn how to do this thing.
Upon the advice given, I am to attempt a back flip first. Now this is counter to all I ever imagined when I was young - I thought those back flips were for extra-advanced flippers. But, I trusted the advice, and gave it a go. I believe I got somewhere between halfway around not quite nearly enough of the way around. Still, the smack wasn't painful at all, and surprise: I didn't hit my head on the board and die instantly. I was amazed at how fast you're in the water from the time you take off. I had always envisioned a sense of protracted time in the air and visual observation and consciousness of your position the entire time. Nope. It's pretty much sprong, uhhh, sploosh. It's over so darn fast.
Well, I had to go again. And again. After 6 or so, I was supposedly getting pretty close. I was still amazed at how few inputs there were and therefore things to work on to improve. The learning process of a 3D body move between a springy solid object and liquidly object is very odd.
Eventually, I decided I was going to jump way ahead of the learning curve and try a front flip. Well, hell, wouldn't you know it, it was way easier for me. Either they lied or I'm a freak. The day progressed, and I picked away at it and improving by bits. I'm no graceful flipper, but I can now do it. And I still haven't hit my head and knocked myself out.
I had one of those deeply satisfying feelings drifting off to sleep that night and the next morning. Such a small thing, but seemingly special to me. That childhood envy finally got put to bed.
Save your old dog, new tricks comments. Hell yeah we can. Keep on trying...start with the funyons first.
Proof horribly compressed by BooTube):
Thanks to Robbie for the filming and Johnny for the camera and processing! And all the small children harmed in the training for this performance.
July 10 2008 - Unrest in the Forest
One of the more enjoyable books I've read recently was Bill Bryson's A Walk In the Woods. Entertaining but sometimes sobering with the hard truths of the environment he explores in this novel. I bookmarked a section when reading and now return to it and present here [edited] for reflection. By myself, and perhaps you.
About 240 million acres of America's forests are owned by the government. The bulk of this - 191 million acres, spread over 155 parcels of land - is held by the US Forest Service under he designations of National Forests, National Grasslands, and National Recreation Areas. All this sounds soothingly untrampled and ecological, but in fact a great deal of Forest land is designated 'multiple-use', which is generously interpreted to allow any number of boisterous activities - mining, oil and gas extraction, ski resorts (137 of them), condominium developments, snowmobiling, off-road vehicle scrambling, and lots and lots and lots of logging - that seem curiously incompatible with woodland serenity.
...mostly what the Forest Service did was build roads. I am not kidding. There are 378,000 miles of roads in America's national forest. That may seem a meaningless figure, so look at it this way. It is eight times the total mileage of America's interstate highway system. It is the largest road system in the world in the control of a single body. The Forest Service has the second highest number of road engineers of any government institution on the planet. To say these guys like to build roads barely hints at their level of dedications. Show them a stand of trees anywhere and they will regard it thoughtfully for a long while, and say, 'You know, we could put a road in here.' It is the avowed aim of the US Forest Service to construct 580,000 miles of additional forest road by the middle of the next century.
The reason the Forest Service builds these roads, quite apart from the deep pleasure of doing noisy things in the woods with big yellow machines, is to allow private timber companies to get to previously inaccessible stands of trees. Of the Forest Service's 150 million acres of loggable land, about two-thirds is held in store for the future. The remaining one-third - 49 million acres, or an area roughly twice the size of Ohio - is available for logging. It allows huge swathes of land to be clear cut, including (to take one recent example) 209 acres of thousand-year-old redwoods in Oregon's Umpqua National Forest.
...By the late 1980s - this is so extraordinary I can hardly stand it - it was the only significant player in the American timber industry that was cutting down trees faster than it replaced them. Moreover it was doing this with sumptuous inefficiency. Eight per cent of its leasing arrangements lost money, often vast amounts of it. In one typical deal, the Forest Service sold hundred-year-old lodgepole pines in the Targhee National Forest in Idaho for about $2 each after spending $4 per tree surveying the land, drawing up contracts and - of course - building roads. Between 1989 and 1997, it lost an average of $242 million a year - almost $2 billion all told, according to the Wilderness Society.
July 9 2008 - Spring Gone, Summer Swells
Egads it's been a long while since posting. How to quickly pick up the historical pieces?
Highlights since last post:
July 4th - massive blowing up party at Glen's parents house. A blazingly great time. He's posted on his site on the prep, perhaps will have a follow-up, and we have around 20 min of video footage to enjoy now. Once my retinas heal enough to view it, that is. Adam also covered the West coast explosives responsibility and blogged accordingly...impressive field of mortars are featured in the pics.
Viewed a bit of the film Trapped in a cinema yesterday...preparing for private release party. Sitting at 103 min TRT and fully blogged on Gavin's site.
Some good mountain bike riding in the past month, despite the wet weather.
Attended 3 weddings so far, and have 2 more to go.
A fine trip to the Adirondacks, adequately reported upon and mentioned under What's New.
Fun little radio show aired on our climbing at McConnell's Mill.
Another successful graduating class of the ECP Rock School.
Too many birthdays, friends parties, and other events to mention.
And, unfortunately, the Lowlights:
The epic job search continues, many stones turned, and many more to go. Hell, I think I'm in the right riverbed at least.
Another good man lost: George Carlin
As we celebrate the founding of our independence, horrid final acts by the current government continue to do enough damage in the past years as to undo much of what was accomplished in the first 225. I won't rant here, if you're tuned into proper news sources, you already know. Most Americans can now be easily classified as "terrorists", unjustly searched and seized, and whisked away without a trace never to see trial or light of day again. The stress of success- and consumption-driven living, media-brainwashing, and corruption in this country is an ever-thickening carpet of anxiety upon which to trod about daily.
A good old rascal from HS and my first D&D days taken much too soon: www.observer-reporter.com/OR/Story/07-07-Double-Fatal-in-W-Va-. We shared many great old adventures and mischief. His was a wondering soul, now continuing its ride into the great mystery. RIP friend. John Maimone, Jul 12 1967 - Jul 7 2008
St. Patrick's Day. Already 9am, and I haven't had a beer or whiskey yet! I must be getting old.
I'm about three fourths of the way through a book I must recommend to all: In Defense of Food - An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan. This is his fifth book, and sort of a follow-up to its predecessor: The Omnivore's Dilemma, a book many are familiar with and supposedly enjoyed. Two of the absolute necessities we take in large quantities of in our life are sleep and food. I've always had a peripheral interest in sleep (I practice a lot), and IDOF is one of those books that addresses the other so well that it opens eyes to the food you eat so well that it likely embeds its teachings into your everyday thinking for the rest of your life. He's a talented writer, able to organize and deliver the information sensibly, with intelligence, and not be preachy about it. The reader comes away with a history of food sources, nutritionism, the affects of industrialization, and others that sum op the evolution of the Western diet.
It's spooky. And though we all have some sense of it, I doubt the average person has the comprehensive picture that Pollan delivers in his book. It raises awareness of so many components of our everyday life (diseases, modern medicine, capitalism, marketing) are interconnected and rooted in our food, and has you wondering just how close we've really really come to the world of Soylent Green! It's not alarmist and it's superbly well researched and backed -- there are over 30 pages of references! It's a short read, comprising only 200 pages not counting the references.
At the end of section II is a simple statement that conveys so much that it could be easily passed by without grasping the profundity of it: "...capitalism is marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problem it creates into new business opportunities...". Grok it!? This feeds into thoughts I've been having on and off over the past decade. In short, is the great American dream really the great American folly? A false paradise? But, I digest [sic]. This post is a plug for the book. To me, it's one of those "important" ones. It seems as though everyone loves nearly every book they read these days - recommendations seem endless. Sure, I can recommend the Harry Potter series, however you should choose this one over those because Potter is junk food and Pollan's book is damn good food.
March 4 2008 The Master of All Dungeons Dies
Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons, passed away today. Gygax was known, along with Dave Arneson, as the Father of Role-playing. The hours of sheer pleasure, imagination, and camaraderie this man brought to my life are innumerable. (See Indoors for a brief description of my D&D days.)
Gary, you will be missed and remembered forever as the highest of all powers in the world you created for us all. Thank you for the world often better than the real one. Well played, Sir!
Update: Very good Wired News article
February 21 2008 Rising Stars
Jesse Malin, a NY musician and recent rising star with his Glitter in the Gutter album featuring a duet with Bruce Springsteen and which he is touring worldwide just released a new music video. But this news isn't about Jesse, it's about Harry who directed the video!
The just-released video is featured prominently on Jesse's MySpace page and also on YouTube. The real rising star here is Harry, who also handles guitar, stage, and film for Jesse when on the road and in the studio. Harry gets props in Jesse's MySpace "Back from the Spirit Farm" blog entry of Sept 03, 2007: "..."In The Modern World" will be directed by guitar tech and super roadie Harry Greenberger (props) ..."
Way to go, Harry!
A big long-distance (Japan) congratulations to Keith and Miho on the birth of their new baby boy, Riku. Respecting personal information, I won't post the pic here or link to Keith's Facebook (if you know him, you likely have inside track to his personal info). In his own words, "He's got his mother's eyes and my [Keith's] ears," and he's "happier today than he's been in a very long time."
Several milestone birthdays this (and previous) month...cousin Joe turned 21..again (40 in Earth years, but who the hell counts those!?) Cousin Mike celebrated his 30th birthday - still rolls like a teenager, so numbers clearly don't affect him. And this just in from New York: Harry takes out milepost 40 as he speeds on by seemingly out of control but heard laughing widely above the roar of the engine.
January 18 2008 Heart of the Winter?
Last weekend was the Alpine Climbing and Bivouac outing of the Mountaineering School. As has been the trend for many years now, it was unseasonably warm. It's tough enough to teach and train mountaineering in Pittsburgh, PA, but worse when you really don't have but about 2 weeks of winter any more.
Well, the students did great even though they got off easy. And fun was had by all. Here are some pictures graciously provided by others:
January 5 2007 ...uh...2008. 8. Yeah.
Another month of typing and writing the wrong year ensues. Hello all, and happy next year!
Some news from Christoph sent in last month (edited): I'm back in Germany times became pretty busy. I'm now working at the University of Essen in a Head and Neck Surgery program. Essen is close to the border to the Netherlands (where dope is legal - but that's no deal for me now) and quite comparable to Pittsburgh, because it has a big steal and coal mining history (actually the biggest in Europe). And it is the hometown of Vanessa's parents and where my girl grew up. Vanessa is just an hour away in our former capital, a town called Bonn. We manage to see each other every weekend. So the long-distance became reduce to a short distance relationship. Vanessa and I did a great high altitude hiking trip in the Alp last august. The trip didn't include any ice climbing or vertical climbing - but everything besides that. She is such a brave girl. But you know that.
Some Highlights from the holidays:
RJ and Leslie had four of us over for an amazing meal of homemade lasagna, linguini carbonara, and salads, accompanied by wine and a digestif I can't speak of, and volcano cake for desert. It was a treat served with apparent ease for these two kind and industrious souls.
Adam corrupts my Christmas by forcing me to drink entirely too much vodka and red bull and play Tempest for 6 hours. He's Evil Santa. See his Dec 26 post: www.shadowflux.com/blog. Truly nice to catch up with the man.
Santa dumped an entire sleighload of gifts off at the 'rents this year. I think I got as many toys as the boys (which is how it should be!) A homemade lasagna lunch followed by a steak dinner was really just too awesome, combined with visiting and gift-giving all in one day made for a crazy holiday.
New Years was spent in the 'Dacks -- see Excursions for details on that.