Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Our New Super-Awesome T-Rex Kite

Kite flying.... and kite chasing...


A depth-of-field study using the kite's string... came out very minimalistic and pretty cool


Jonmikel looking happy in front of the New Belgium Brewery with his kite




A feed mill in Ft. Collins.... so West


Jonmikel trying to chase the kite when he accidentally let go... he swears he fell into a fox hole.
We had to chase that thing a quarter of a mile through an open field, a baseball diamond, across an extremely busy street where it almost got caught by a mini-van, through a gas station (where I pooped out) and into the parking lot of In-Situ, a GIS company, where Jonmikel was able to catch it with a burst of high-altitude energy

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Home Brew!

14 April, 2009

Ahhhh the first glass of our very own (and my very first!) home brew... Jonmikel couldn't wait any longer, but it turned out great! It both carbonated and fermented, and has a nice, cloudy amber color!


Beer Cat!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Why I hate Colorado

This is why: http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20090424/UPDATES01/90424006/1002/rss


A woman meets a black bear on a trail and decides to run, and wonders why it "chases" her. You're NEVER supposed to run from a bear, but people in Colorado are not that bright. So Fish and Wildlife has to hunt it down, and once the woman (who obviously has no idea how to handle wildlife in the first place) says that yes, that's the bear (because she knows so much about bears, she can OBVIOUSLY tell the difference between them), they kill it.

I mean, how lame! A bear gets curious because a stupid woman is doing something stupid, so they kill the bear? Maybe they should publicly cane the woman for being an idiot and freaking out when she saw a bear and running away and getting herself hit by a car.

This is the problem with Colorado. It's a bunch of people from New York and DC who come out here because it's "wild" and then turn it into New York and DC and have no idea how to really handle anything remotely wild. A curious BLACK bear is apparently a big threat to these people. I can't imagine what they would do in Gardiner, where you have to live side-by-side with grizzly bears, wolves and bison. Freak out and demand that they all be euthanized, I guess. Coloradoans hate it when they can't control their wilderness.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I took that silly "What part of Cincinnati are you really from?" Facebook quizzes yesterday (I got Northern Kentucky, which I find interesting...), and one of the questions was the following:

I grew up...?
  • Presbyterian
  • Catholic
  • Baptist
  • Methodist
  • Democratic
I found this particular question to be telling and interesting in a couple of ways. I believe this quiz to have been written by a Christian, Republican West-sider. Here's why.

1) In a list of religious affiliations, "Democratic" comes up as a choice. Perhaps Democrats do cling to political affiliation as a religion, as many of us tend to be non-religious, non-practicing, or Only-Religious-on-Holidays kind of people. Or perhaps the assumption is that we're all Godless and lost, which is what the Christian Republicans generally think of us. :-) I also know that many Democrats (as many Republicans, but that's neither here nor there) follow their political affiliations blindly, as do many religious believers. So what was this author trying to get at?

2) Of the religions noted above, nowhere does "Jewish" appear. I find this particularly strange, as Cincinnati is one of the birthplaces of Reform Judaism. This leads me to "West-sider" because, by and large, the temples in Cincy are located on the East Side (where more of the "new money" is, perhaps coincidentally and perhaps not), so Judaism may not have been nearly as prevalent on the West Side and it is on the East. And, we can also assume that the author was not Jewish or Agnostic/atheist, or these possible answers would have inevitably been listed.

3) Also, nowhere in this quiz was there anything about living downtown (NO not around UC!) or Over-the-Rhine, as I guess most Cincinnatians still don't realize that people actually LIVE there...

Also, in a list of Cincinnati-style chilis, "Chili from Wendy's" was listed, but Gold Star was not?!?!? Any insights??

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why Willie Scot is a Feminist...

I was reading over an interview with Kate Capshaw about her role in The Temple of Doom (an older interview). In it, she expressed a dislike of her character, Willie, saying that all she did was run around screaming and whining. Kate, being a classic feminist, really though the character was useless, the anti-feminist.

But as I read the article and watched the movie, I thought to myself, why is Willie useless? Why do we—or you, as feminists—look down on her? Sure, she has an annoying habit of squealing in a high pitch and complaining about, well, everything. But did she ever let Indy down? When she had to stick her hand in the whole full of really freaky bugs, did she back down? No! I certainly would have… I’d have cut my losses and booked it outta there. But not Willie.

Here is a character that may not be what classic feminists call “strong,” but she is an independent woman who knows how to get what she wants. She is young and beautiful and living in 1930s Shanghai alone, by herself in her own little house. What woman in the 1930s had the guts to do that? VERY few. She up and left whatever life she had in the States and became a successful singer in a totally foreign country. How many of us women, even today, would do that? How many of us “strong” woman COULD do that? And she never gave up and ran, like so many of would do. She always came through in the end, and, perhaps surprisingly, never lost her head, even as her beloved Indiana was getting ready to rip her still-beating heart from her chest. How is that not the epitome of a strong, independent woman?

So, because Willie complains and whines and enjoys a generally clean and high standard of living, that makes her weak, anti-feminist? Is feminism really about how annoying a woman is and not about how independent and strong she is? Isn’t the whole point of feminism to move beyond thinking women are lesser because of superficial attributes such as being annoying or having a whiny voice? Isn’t it ironic that to describe why she doesn’t like her character, feminist Kate Capshaw uses the same pejorative and stereotypical language that feminism seeks to stamp out?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Normally, I agree...

... with the web comic xkcd. But this time, I have my own thoughts...

Check the comic out here.

I get it that in Firefly, you really don't see too many Asians. Except when their shenanigans take the crew of Serenity to some of the larger planets, such as Persephone, in which episodes you see plenty of Chinese people.

There is a simple explanation for the otherwise lack of Asians in Firefly. A majority of the show takes place on the outer planets, where one can logistically do smuggling and not be caught, and also where the poor people live. In a 'Verse in which the American government broke down and was more or less replaced by the Chinese, and so in this world of Firefly, the poor people are the white people, the old Americans. All the Asian people, being the rich people which the xkcd guys claim to be "missing" from the show, in fact spend all their time on the inner planets, being the rich planets. Mal and his crew don't spend much time on the rich planets, because rich planets mean better-paid police and a higher likelihood of being caught.

Ergo, you rarely see Asian people in Firefly.

Jeez.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

4.7.09

RIP Montana license plates...


Monday, April 13, 2009

Kazakhstani Diplomats

No, I don't mean Borat. Everyone has been asking me that, as if the only guy in Kazakhstan is Borat because it's really a mystical land full of unicorns and angry central Asians in ninja suits.

This is totally legit.

We had three guys, important guys, from Kazakhstan come to our office here in Ft. Collins specifically because though there are 23 national parkish-type places in Kazakhstan, there is no independent oversight of the park service. It's all government run, and we all know how secretive and not-so-benign governments can be. The head of the Department of Natural Resources and Resource Regulation was there, as well as two dudes who are the Kazakhstani equivalents of park superintendents. So I got to hang out with some pretty important dudes. We had a little pow-wow in which our director, Gail, discussed who we are and what we do (something that, perhaps, other NPCAers could benefit from), and then allowed our visitors to ask questions. They seemed particularly impressed that 1) so many of our park superintendents are women and 2) that our program receives no (official) government censorship. From what I understand, Kazakhstan is relatively democratic, but like many blossoming democracies in Central Asia and East Europe, as hot quite grasped the concept of free speech. People have to be willing to be insulted and live with it before they can really embrace all that is Western media. Also, the structure of their park systems is similar to ours in many ways: they have areas that are off limits to anything but hiking (wilderness areas), preserves, and national parks. But like many national parks outside of the US, there is an emphasis on sustainable use (versus pure conservation), and there are many farms, villages, homes, and pastures to be found in most protected lands (except the three that are "wilderness" areas). We never got the chance to ask our burning questions, such as what kinds of problems do they have with poaching? What are the various regulations inside protected areas? What are the policies on cultural resources (they do have parks dedicated to cultural resources, but they are run under a different department, probably the Department of Culture or "Positive Patriotic Propaganda" Department).

We also should have recorded the part when one of these guys told us that he felt our program was extremely useful because we provided commentary that the government cannot control and that the parks may not hear from anyone else. All three felt our program was doing great things.

Or maybe they just liked our pretty pictures.

Regardless, I could go on about various cultural idiosyncrasies, but I won't. Feel free to ask if you want to know more about these Kazakhstanis. Really, I'm just hoping they invite me over to Kazakhstan to assess the condition of their cultural resources... that could be way fun.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I read a blog post this morning in which this person wonders what he can do about world hunger. Is selling all your possessions and donating all the money to charity the answer? He wonders. If not, is donating just $100 a month really getting to the root of the matter? And he continues to mention the large number of beggars he encountered on the streets of Cincinnati during Opening Day.

This made me think of my own opinions of world poverty, which I will mention here, piecemeal and incomplete, a stream of consciousness, more like.

so...
1) I really am disturbed by ethanol. Here in Ft. Collins, everybody wants to use it, all the "Greenies" think that they are being so socially and environmentally conscious by buying gas with ethanol in it. But the truth of the matter is, it's not at all socially conscious. Perhaps it burns cleaner, but it is made from corn. This corn, largely, comes from Mexico. This corn used to be used to make tortillas for people to eat. Now, farmers can make a better profit selling the corn to fuel makers than selling it to locals or tortilla makers. Corn used for food is running low, and people are starving in Mexico because they're sole source of corn is now being used to run rich people's cars in the United States. In an international food crisis, we're using someone else's food to make gas. Does that seem at all fair? At all socially conscious?

2) I brought this up at Thanksgiving this year, and its still something I think about. Beggars. In the US , we look around at all the beggars and wrinkle our noses and take the long way to avoid them, and then go home at night and wonder aloud what can be done to put a stop to this beggar "problem." Whether "problem" means you hate the way they smell and look or you feel the utmost compassion for their plight and want to help, almost everybody in the US has had this conversation at some point in their lives. We see beggars as something to be fixed. But is it? In many parts of the world, begging is a way of life for many people. In places in the Middle East, beggars are considered to be protected by Allah, and they must be respected, and Muslims are required to give a certain percentage of their income to charity for them. In Cambodia, begging is considered a valid occupation, especially for victims of the Khmer Rouge who may not be able to hold down other jobs in this largely manual-labor-based economy. There, too, beggars are protected by the government as any farmer or tour guide or lawyer would be.
So for many, begging is a way of life. If you can move up in the world, then you do, but begging is not a "problem" until (usually) Western tourists enter into the picture and, bringing with them Western ideas that if you do not live in a $300,000 house with electricity and plumbing and an HDTV, you are poor and should be "helped." We have trouble fathoming that other people may have other happiness that we never know, living our lush lives.
Maybe it's not the begging that's the problem; maybe it's the way we see begging in the US. Maybe, instead of trying to end begging, we try to make sure that beggars are treated with respect and cared for; if they express a desire to move up in the world, that should be respected, also.

3) People believe that by giving up all their worldly possessions, they are somehow saving the world. They believe that by giving up everything, they are experiencing the world like no other Western person has ever experienced. Isn't that a little arrogant? Isn't that a little self-centered, to give up everything that people in India or Zimbabwe or Azerbaijan would love to have, just to feel like you are more spiritual than everybody else? I believe that 99% of the people who do things like that (there are, of course, exceptions), do it for personal gain, to look better in front of peers, to be emotionally and spiritually better than everybody else in the Western world who has electricity and plumbing and HDTVs and cable and fancy clothes and ridiculous shoes. I think that doesn't make you more spiritual, it makes you supercilious and self-absorbed and ignorant of the real world. I'm not saying over-buy completely useless thing, not at all. If you want them and can afford them, get them; if you don't want them, don't. Though I suppose I'm a true cynic, but I've known plenty of people who have helped save the world in their own ways, and most of them have nice TVs and nice houses and they eat hamburgers and drive cars, and they don't try to be better than anybody else by being an ascetic. People throughout the world would love to have modern medicine and plumbing and clean water, so how are you helping anyone by shirking these things?

So, Daron, do I still sound like Dick Cheney? :-)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chances are, your perception of me is wrong...

I am not a walking contradiction in the standard, “I want to be different” kind of way. I do have certain contradictory ideas… for example, I 100% believe that the federal government should fully sponsor education and that everybody under the age of 18 should have free healthcare, but my views on welfare are considerably more conservative (an argument for another time). I think non-violent criminals (drugs addicts, etc.) should not be put in jail, but I don’t think that the conditions in US prisons are bad: these guys did crimes, and they don’t deserve to have access to a weight room and a big screen TV. I believe that voting is an obligation, but I have trouble condemning people who don’t vote because I generally believe that the system has failed them. I don’t think our financial crisis can be completely blamed on banks or lending companies; yes, they were greedy, but that is no excuse for people to be complete morons. I want a reward for paying my taxes and my loans appropriately, instead of having the government reward people for poor judgment (also an argument for another time…). And so on.

But I do seem to confuse people. I don’t fit into any stereotype, not even remotely, and I think it kind of freaks people out. They don’t know how to read me or what to do with me. I often find myself wondering what it is about me that is so hard to fit into a category… Is it that I seem so well-traveled to so many people, and yet I am happier in a small town in the middle of nowhere than I am in the big city? Is it that I enjoy wearing suits and knee-high boots as well as clunky-hippie jewelry and peasant blouses? Is it that I study international politics and have rubbed shoulders with diplomats but I can also be found dancing to bluegrass music on the weekends? Is it that I love shoes and make-up and jewelry, but have no qualms about rolling around in mud and smelling like horse for weeks on end?

I guess one thing that I like about myself is my adaptability… my ability to be at home anywhere and with anyone. I am just as comfortable sipping wine and debating foreign relations with the former ambassador of Britain to Jordan as I am pounding beers with football fans as I am hippie-dancing at outdoor music/Pagan festivals as I am hanging out in a rundown redneck town. I can get what I want from National Park Service personnel as well as managers of CRM companies as well as professors as well as bar owners as well as people in biker bars. When I first showed up at NPCA for my interview, I wore a fitted suit, very professional, and I usually dress well for work. Dress-casual. My co-workers’ first impression of me was that I was a liberal, but a conservative one, that I was someone who drank fine wines and went to the opera and must have lived in Europe in a fancy flat and worked in offices, not the outdoors. Then I mentioned one day that I spent all night hippie-dancing at a club downtown known for its bluegrass dance tunes, and now they have the impression that I am granola and ultra-liberal, that I love coffee-shops and only eat organic food. People learn that I am well-traveled and immediately translate that to “cosmopolitan” and assume that I would be unhappy anywhere but in a big, international city; I am questioned a lot about how nobody thinks I could find fulfillment in a small town.

But the reality is, I’m none of that, and yet all of it. I can move and change and switch tactics. I can be a flaming liberal at times, and then suddenly change direction and see the world from a Republican viewpoint (drives my mom NUTS!). I’m not afraid to spend days at a time unwashed for the sake of a great outdoor concert or adventure, but I prefer to shower frequently. I will always wear uncomfortable shoes because I like the way they look on me, but I love being barefoot. I love my professional look, but won’t blink twice at the chance to wear something summery and hippie. I love my flowy summer dresses but will jump at the chance to wear something slinky and super-classy. Yes, I have traveled, but I have lived in youth hostels and 300 sq. ft apartments that I shared, and in tents and in cars and even in an army barracks with 15 of my closest buddies and open showers, and in a 2-room flat in a poor neighborhood that I shared with four other people and in which I slept on the couch. Not exactly cosmopolitan, eh? I can Ballroom dance in a cocktail dress, I can Latin dance in a slinky outfit, I can line dance in tight jeans and a cowboy hat, I can hippie dance in a peasant skirt and tank top, and I can look natural doing all four. I want a big wedding and a white dress, but I don’t want the wedding to be in any way formal. I can identify a good Shiraz but I can also pound Bud Lights at a baseball game. I can argue foreign policy and talk WB Yeats with the same breath I use to laugh at blond jokes and Family Guy.

Are any of these things any more me than any other?

On some level, I understand that though I’ve spent years searching for somewhere to belong, part of who I am is that perhaps I don’t belong anywhere. On another level, though, it sometimes bothers me that, because I don’t fit anywhere, nobody seems to know what to do with me, how to talk to me, what to think about me… I tend to receive uncomfortable glances, blank stares, awkward pauses and a great deal of well-meaning but ill-placed advice from those who try to fit me in somewhere comfortable and well-defined. Sometimes I just want people to know that I’m not as liberal or as conservative or as confident or as insecure or as worldly or as ignorant or as na├»ve or as cosmopolitan or as politically-minded or as apathetic or as motivated or as lazy as they think I am...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pawnee Buttes

Driving driving through the unending nothingness of northeastern Colorado. It feels like a movable stereotype of the wrong place... shouldn't this be Kansas, not Colorado? A rolling hill in the distance traversed by three pronghorn, lazily eating their way to birthing grounds or homes or safety. The ripple of grass and grain, crispy and brittle and brown from the dry winter, waiting for the torrential downpours of the plains that never come. The wind picks up and dies down and dies out, and is reborn again to tear across the grasslands with an intense directive: make this place as desolate as possible.

It's lonely out here, without a windmill or a barn or a cow for company, only a dirty and dirt road to nowhere, to nothing, to Nebraska.

You don't even feel the hills, see the hills, notice the hills, until you come up over a ridge, camouflaged within the monotony of burnt yellow waves, and the world drops away in front of you, giving way to a mini-Badlands and two imposing yet unassuming buttes, the Pawnee Buttes, rising from the weathered and worn plains. They stand out from the landscape by several hundred feet, yet you can only see them, wrap your mind around them, when you rare close enough that you can actually reach out and touch them. They stay hidden in the emptiness of the Colorado Plains.


The Pawnee Buttes from the car


Jonmikel exploring our very own mini-slot canyon


A windfarm from the Buttes


The buttes are made from mud, not rock, and every time it rains, new little trails of water are created in the soft exterior



Can you see the nothingness???


Thursday, April 2, 2009

The REAL Colorado...

For most people, “Colorado” is synonymous with “Breckenridge” or “Vail” or “Aspen.” Rugged mountains, frigid air, lots of money. Nobody thinks unending plains, rippling grasslands and emptiness at its best. The “Amber Waves of Grain” belong in Kansas or Oklahoma, not where the skiers go to revel in their controlled descents of controlled mountains.

Most people miss out on the whole eastern side of Colorado, the very lonely parts that, if they were separated from the state and attached to Kansas, nobody would ever know the difference. The Might-As-Well-Be-Kansas half of Colorado.

When you head out toward Nebraska from ft. Collins, you start to feel very lonely. You can see the mountains, to the west, in the distance, if it’s a clear day. And to the east…. An unending shelf of browns and tans, broken only by a wayward windmill at a water trough or a beaten up and falling down water tower marking an old cemetery and an old foundation and the lost souls who have nowhere else to go, an old ghost town. What’s left of the oil hunters and homesteaders and miners, some remnants eerily new and abandoned, rusting not so much with age as with a depressed neglect, new toys left to rot in the sun.

The bustling town of Keota only lost its incorporated status in 1990, and the last real residents left in 1999, though stragglers who haven’t received the memo still haunt the dusty dirt roads near the old grocery store, people who hang on to the homesteader lifestyle. Homes looked to have been newly painted when abandonment took place, as if people left with little notice and little forethought. The newest grave in the cemetery dates to 2007, and the graves are cared for and marked and adorned with dollar store stuffed animals. It looks like people just one day up and left, instead of letting the town wither and die.


Windmill!

Fields of windmills! They completely surround several nuclear missile silos, too!
Courtesy of Jonmikel


Lonely roads in northeastern Colorado... loved how the colors turned out, too


Old-Fashioned Windmill! I think these guys are so much cooler than the big new ones, though probably not nearly as efficient... they're used to pull water up from the ground to fill water troughs for cows, sheep, and horses used to herd cows and sheep.


Lonely Keota Cemetery


Grave in Keota Cemetery


A beehive marking a grave in the Keota Cemetery


Jonmikel wearing clothes that are way too warm for this near-80 day in the cemetery at Keota; the kid couldn't take a hint when he saw I was wearing a tank top...


Someone maintains the graves as well as possible, marking this old one with a tire and a teddy bear... very sad and rather eerie, actually


Plants!


Ah yes, the bustling metropolis of Keota, CO... there's one other building in town, not pictured... yep, that's all of it!
Courtesy of Jonmikel